Direct Edition vs. Newsstand Edition Comic Books

CBCS Population Report: A Quick Guide To Understanding Newsstand, Direct, and CPV Census Numbers

By Benjamin Nobel, 2/12/2021

Here’s a quick guide to demystifying the CBCS census when it comes to 1980’s comics that were published in three different types (direct edition, regular cover price newsstand, and higher cover price newsstand for the Canadian market), using Wolverine Limited Series #2 as an example. The same overall concepts discussed here can be applied to any 1980’s comic that was published “as triplets” (where the publisher produced one direct + two newsstand first print types for a total of three variations), but obviously the cover prices may vary issue by issue, and the census proportions among the three types will naturally vary as well issue by issue (all depending on factors like publication year, newsstand sell-through for that specific title/issue, comic shop order levels of the direct edition, etc.). I should also point out that the CBCS census numbers for the price variants may also “run high” as a percentage, on account of CBCS having been chosen over CGC for grading services for the WaWa collection which really was the first time a huge collection of professionally graded high grade 1980’s price variants hit the market (consigned to MyComicShop).

Below I’ve made a graphic with cover price “legend” at the left of each CBCS census row, for their Wolverine Limited Series #2 census result as of the time of this writing:

Let’s go over these five rows. It is easiest for me to explain them from bottom to top so let’s start at the bottom row: “Newsstand Edition” refers to the 60 cent cover price newsstand type. They started differentiating newsstand from direct at CBCS in 2017.

Moving up, to the second row from the bottom: “Canadian Edition” is the old way that CBCS used to refer to the 75 cent cover price newsstand type, from inception until they changed their Type 1A variant labeling terminology.

They then changed their terminology in 2018 to instead use “75¢ Canadian Price Variant” as the label name for these, which is our next row up in the census result…

Why are both of these different names listed in the census record? Because instead of “porting over” the old entry / doing a simple “rename” (like CGC did when they made their own change to “Canadian Price Variant” terminology in 2019), CBCS meanwhile left the old entry in place and then started a second new entry with the census numbers for the new entry starting at zero. So these are not two different variants of the issue CBCS is listing, rather, they are two names for the very same 75 cent variant newsstand copies, with the difference being when in time they were submitted to CBCS (pre-2018-change recorded as “Canadian Edition” while the very same book submitted post-2018-change would be recorded as “75c Canadian Price Variant”).

Moving up again we have the row with variant name “Direct Edition” — this entry is counterpart to the “Newsstand Edition” row, and once again these census numbers started from zero when they made their 2017 decision to break out the types:

And finally, we move up once more and we’re at the top row, the one with a “blank” variant name. This one is the original census entry from before they started breaking out newsstand from direct edition, where we can’t tell exactly how many are direct edition and how many are newsstand, because they were lumped together. The icon at the left of the row is a blend of the direct edition picture and the 60 cent newsstand picture — because this original entry encompasses both types:

So… How do we go from the five entries walked through above, down to an “apples to apples” count of the three actual types published? Here’s how I approach it:

STEP ONE: First, since the Newsstand Edition and Direct Edition entries have the same inception, those two rows are directly comparable when studying them. Even though the CBCS data set is still relatively small, and ideally we’d have larger numbers to work with, we can still calculate a ratio of newsstand-to-direct among this sample, and we can calculate the percentage of each. With 28 Newsstand Edition (bottom row) and 125 Direct Edition (second row from the top), that’s a total of 153 “broken out” 60 cent cover price copies. Calculating the percentages, that’s approximately 18% newsstand, to 82% direct edition:

STEP TWO: With these percentages calculated, we can now extrapolate how many of the 140 “lumped together” copies from row one are likely newsstand and how many are likely direct edition. In this way, we can estimate that row one most likely adds 25 newsstand and 115 direct editions into our numbers:

STEP THREE: We basically now have six different counts: a pair of numbers for each of the types. So now we just add together the two numbers for each of the pairs: For 60 cent cover price newsstand, there are the 25 extrapolated copies from the first row, plus the 28 “broken out” copies from the last row, for a total of 53. For direct edition, there are 115 extrapolated copies from the first row, plus the 125 “broken out” copies from the second row, for a total of 240. And finally, we add the 4 “old label name” (“Canadian Edition”) 75 cent cover price newsstand copies from row four to the 7 “new label name” 75 cent cover price newsstand copies from row three, for a total of 11. Having “collapsed down” the rows into the three types in this way, we can now directly compare the three numbers in “apples to apples” fashion:

FINAL RESULT: Of the 304 CBCS census copies currently on record, the extrapolated breakdown into the three published types for the issue looks like this:

Direct Edition: 240 copies = 78.9%

60 Cent Newsstand: 53 copies = 17.4%

75 Cent Newsstand: 11 copies = 3.6%

The way CBCS presents their report into five rows has confused some collectors into thinking there were more than three types actually published, and I hope this walkthrough helps people understand how to read into the numbers and work out estimates for the three actual types.

EXTRA CREDIT: Armed with the newsstand and direct edition percentages from step two, another extrapolation exercise we can do is to carry that information over to the CGC census. As direct competitors offering the same type of grading services — and at similar cost — I think it is fair to presume that the behavior of their customers (decision-making about which books in their collections to pay to get graded) would be similar. Thus, I think it is fair to assume that the ratio of newsstand-to-direct edition books submitted to each grading company is likely to be similar. (Although I do think it would be fair to argue that CBCS’s newsstand labeling could be a “draw”, i.e. they could potentially be attracting business away from CGC for newsstand comics and thus possibly seeing a higher proportion — but we have no current way of knowing for sure).

Whereas CBCS has “too many” census entries (five), compared to the actual number of types (three), CGC’s census meanwhile has too few entries — just two. CGC, as of the time of this writing, has not yet caved in to the huge collector demand for “broken out” newsstand comics broadly. (Instead, CGC only breaks out newsstand comics in certain special circumstances, such as manufacturing differences and cover price differences [more on this here]).

So when it comes to Wolverine Limited Series #2, their census looks like this today (with my icons added):

The first section at the top, with the 5,439 total count, lumps together both the 60 cent cover price newsstand type, and the direct edition type — just like the first row of the CBCS census did. Suppose we now perform our same type of extrapolation: If the proportion within that first CGC section follows the breakdown we discerned from Step One earlier, then ~18% of those 5,439 books would be newsstand: 979 copies. Meanwhile ~82% would be direct edition: 4,460.

FINAL RESULT: Of the 5,483 CGC census copies currently on record, the extrapolated breakdown into the three published types for the issue looks like this:

Direct Edition: 4,460 copies = 81%

60 Cent Newsstand: 979 copies = 18%

75 Cent Newsstand: 44 copies = 1%

Both the CGC and CBCS breakouts calculated in this post are pretty much right in line with the estimates given in the CPV Price Guide for surviving 1980’s comics, with the guide’s estimate at 80% direct edition, 18% regular newsstand, and 2% price variant newsstand:

These exercises are only meant to give us a good “big picture” / ballpark sense of the proportions, and issue-by-issue variation always needs to be studied individually due to all of the variables that can skew the proportions one way or the other for a given issue. And as more data accumulates onto the CBCS census the results should get better and better with larger data sets.

But the very fact that we’re even doing these exercises in the first place exposes some of the flaws in the way these grading companies are tracking our comics… In an ideal world, CGC would start to break out direct edition from newsstand and then we can see some actual future numbers on their census, instead of being forced into estimating. So I hope you’ll join me in requesting of CGC that they do this! Contact CGC here and add your voice to those of us who have asked that they follow CBCS’s lead and start differentiating newsstand comics from direct edition! 🙂

Happy Collecting! 🙂

– Ben

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