Direct Edition vs. Newsstand Edition Comic Books

Applause to CGC Now Recognizing Newsstand (And Multi-Pack) Comics!

By Benjamin Nobel, September 28, 2022

“CGC is pleased to announce the identification of newsstand editions and multi-packs, beginning September 26, 2022. Because of their rarity, newsstand editions and multi-packs have been increasingly sought out by comic collectors in recent years, making the recognition of this attribute an important component of certification.”
— CGC Comics, 9/26/2022

I would like to publicly applaud CGC for their announcement that they will now differentiate newsstand comics (and multi-pack comics) as distinct census variants and on their labels! I know that for a great many of us newsstand-focused collectors, we thought that after competitor CBCS announced their own recognition of newsstand comics in 2017, that CGC was bound to follow suit, but 2018 passed without action, then 2019, then Covid hit, and it started to feel like CGC might never take this much-needed action… So to see this week’s news is an exciting thrill that felt like it came out of nowhere!

But in reality — based on the highly detailed CGC article accompanying the announcement — it strikes me that instead of “coming out of nowhere” that CGC has actually been quietly working on this for some time, and the impression I get is that CGC really wanted to “get it right” and understand the full spectrum of newsstand comics, start and end dates for all the different publishers, “quirks” like issues where there aren’t actually two distinct versions (e.g. Sensational She-Hulk #1 “appears” to have a newsstand edition but the reality is that Marvel printed only the one type for that issue, i.e. direct sales orders were fulfilled with the same copies as were sent to newsstands; there are not two distinct types for that particular issue — and other such quirky examples exist out there), and that CGC also wanted to take a stance on the pre-June-1979 direct-sold/non-returnable books that were created for multi-pack distribution and have always been the subject of differing opinions in the hobby about what to call them (I myself weighed in on that subject here).

As announced in their article, CGC will be labeling such books as “Multi-Pack Edition” going forward across both Marvel and DC, which sounds like a fair and good choice to me (although direct-sold and non-returnable, leading some to want to call them “direct editions” I always felt that such books fell into a different “bucket” and I support “Multi-Pack Edition” as CGC decided to go with).

“Between 1977 and 1979, just prior to Marvel’s move to direct distribution, numerous issues from several Marvel titles were printed with altered covers and distributed in pre-sealed multi-packs. The main alteration consisted of placing the price and issue number within a diamond, rather than the traditional square box. These variants have sometimes been referred to as “Whitman variants” in the community … In addition to acknowledging newsstand editions, CGC will also identify both Marvel and DC multi-pack copies with a notation of “Multi-Pack Edition” on the label.”
— CGC Comics, 9/26/2022

I have to imagine that CGC felt that in order to get the labeling right internally, they had to first spend the time to document and understand all the differences so that their team could properly identify such books; otherwise it might have caused a mayhem of mis-labeled books and “mechanical error” returns. So I’m hoping that the long delay in making this important move forward reflects that CGC’s internal documentation is now really solid and their team will have no trouble identifying when a newsstand edition (or multi-pack edition) passes through their doors and properly label it (fingers crossed)! I also have to imagine that CGC wanted to have all this internal knowledge and documentation in order to go “full spectrum” out of the gate — one of the criticisms many of us had about CBCS’s 2017 announcement is that they chose an arbitrary time window of 1977 through 2000 (why end at 2000 many of us including myself asked?) for their Newsstand Edition recognition.

And having taken the extensive research time, there is now a huge added bonus to all of CGC’s internal work: they’ve now taken on the role of teacher — because their newly-published article covers so many of the important basics of understanding why newsstand comics are so desirable that the link to their article [] is bound to be passed around for years to come:

  • CGC’s article talks about the returnable versus non-returnable difference (direct sold comics being discounted but non-returnable): “Unlike newsstand editions, direct editions could not be returned for credit…”

  • They give several graphical examples of newsstand versus direct edition comics, teaching collectors how to tell them apart at the different stages of the timeline as comic designs changed.

  • They talk about the difference in who was buying newsstand comics and how they were treated: “… most newsstand buyers were casual readers who did not preserve their comics, and in most cases threw them away after they were read.”

  • They talk about the print run difference: “As newsstand editions diminished throughout the 1980s, their survival rate diminished as well … By the 2000s, the number of newsstand editions within a print run was miniscule, making them true rarities compared to their direct edition counterparts.”

  • Between all of this, new-to-newsstand collectors will most certainly “get it” that between the lower sales and lower survivorship, copper and modern newsstand comics are way more desirable than their direct edition counter-parts, especially in top grades; let’s repeat CGC’s newsstand description from the above sentence one more time: “true rarities compared to their direct edition counterparts.”

They could not have spelled it out any more clearly, and how nice is it to see these words published by CGC themselves! I wonder how long will it be before CGC 9.4 & 9.6 newsstand is more desired and valuable than CGC 9.8 direct edition among modern comics?? Have we reached that point already for some of the later-published issues (like ASM 607 below — top is a recent CGC 9.8 direct edition auction result; bottom is a recent CGC 9.4 newsstand auction result)?

So to conclude, yes, this CGC announcement is a “milestone moment” for newsstand-focused collectors; for years we’ve watched newsstand awareness build in the hobby much like a snowball rolling down a mountain. If anybody had any doubts that this snowball was unstoppable this announcement should remove all doubt. Applause and congratulations once again to CGC on this milestone Newsstand Edition labeling announcement, this is truly a giant step forward for the hobby; I’ve been publicly and privately pushing for this for a long time so I wanted to make sure with this post that my public thanks go out to all those at CGC who were involved in making this happen!!

Happy (Newsstand) Collecting! 🙂

– Ben p.s. I felt that seeing CGC use the phrase “true rarities” was a highly quotable moment, and I’ve updated my Newsstand Rarity Discussions & Estimates and Educational Images pages with the below graphic:

1/23/2023 UPDATE —

Hi everyone, submitting newsstand books post-CGC’s-announcement, several of us have noticed that CGC has apparently implemented their “Newsstand Edition” labeling roll-out using the “Pedigree” data-field: the labels themselves look just as if “Newsstand Edition” was the Variant name, but when you actually look up the book by certification number you can see this is not the case. Here’s an example: Incredible Hulk #377 (I love that Dale Keown & Bob McLeod future-classic-cover-contender!)…

As you can see this is a newsstand copy, and the label shows “Newsstand Edition” exactly as we’d expect it to look, but as it turns out, CGC has not actually created a new census entry for the above book — one giveaway to this fact is that the “key comments note” on the right side of the label says, ‘Direct Sales have “Tiger Electronics” insert included.’ Here’s a close-up of the label:

Why would a newsstand-labeled book have a special note on it about the completely-separate Direct Edition/Direct Sales version?!? That seems both unnecessary and confusing; and the reason for it is that they have not actually created a separate variant census entry for newsstand copies of the issue… Instead, they’ve utilized the “Pedigree” field for the “Newsstand Edition” notation and categorized it under the regular/main census entry for issue #377. Here’s a screenshot of the Verification Lookup page for the above book to illustrate what I mean:

See how the circled Newsstand Edition wording is under the “Pedigree” data field? Illustrating the data-field difference even better, below here’s another example, for a book that has both a Variant field utilized and the Pedigree field utilized (this being a Web of Spider-Man #90 newsstand copy that was submitted inside its sealed polybag and thus was categorized under the “Polybagged Edition” census variant entry, but was also a newsstand copy as opposed to a direct edition, and so CGC utilized the Pedigree field to denote the newsstand edition information):

Here’s how that information ends up looking on the label for Web of Spider-Man #90 (true first appearance of Spider-Man 2099):

So what’s the problem? Perhaps you’re reading this and wondering, “so? They’re still labeling it distinctly as a Newsstand Edition just like they promised, so what’s the problem?” And you’re right, they’re distinguishing newsstand comics just as they promised… but the problem is that the “Pedigree” data-field is — currently — not visible anywhere on the online census.

In other words, CGC is tagging all newsstand copies now (which is great) but the data-field they’re using means the data is currently only visible to them internally; i.e. the problem is that the public cannot see how many newsstand 9.4’s / 9.6’s / 9.8’s etc. have been accumulated onto the census for the above… that data exists, but it is invisible to collectors.

That’s the bad news. But the good news is that apparently this situation is going to change! I wrote to CGC and inquired as to whether their use of the Pedigree field was just a temporary stop-gap measure, a mistake, or actually their intended roll-out of their new newsstand labeling, and I pointed out the problem with the data not being visible to the public. Here’s what they wrote me back:

"Good Afternoon, Benjamin, I wanted to update you regarding the Pedigree/Newsstand on the comic labels. The President of Grading replied the location of the Newsstand information on the label is intentional and we’re waiting on programming for it to populate on the census. "


So that’s welcome news indeed: while we can’t see the newsstand data online now, apparently it is “on deck” for their programming team to implement at some time in the future.



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