Spider-Man 2099 appears on a 3-page poster inside Web of Spider-Man #90, a month before Amazing Spider-Man #365 was published.
Australian Newsstand Edition, Direct Edition vs. Newsstand Edition Comic Books, Rare Comics To Collect

First Appearance of Spider-Man 2099: Don’t Forget Web #90!

By Benjamin Nobel, October 16, 2021

Earlier this year, I updated my lists of key comics by year with updated census counts/rankings and with CGC label notes included. For those who have explored the 1992 page, you may have noticed three books mentioning Spider-Man 2099 on the CGC label made the toplist (here they are in the order of how they ranked by highest census count):

Amazing Spider-Man #365, published 8/1992, has this CGC label note: 1st appearance of Spider-Man 2099. Gatefold Venom/Carnage poster by Mark Bagley. Hologram cover.

1st appearance of Spider-Man 2099 CGC label note credit
The CGC label for Amazing Spider-Man #365 credits this 8/1992 issue as containing the first appearance of Spider-Man 2099.

Spider-Man 2099 #1, published 11/1992, has this CGC label note: Origin Spider-Man 2099 (Miguel O’Hara). Red foil cover.

Origin of Spider-Man 2099 CGC label note credit
Published three months after Amazing Spider-Man #365, Spider-Man 2099 #1 is credited only as the Origin of Spider-Man 2099, but not his first appearance.

Web of Spider-Man #90, published 7/1992, has this CGC label note: Gatefold Spider-Man 2099 poster by Rick Leonardi. Hologram cover. Mysterio appearance.

Pre-dating ASM 365, Web of Spider-Man 90 has a CGC label note pointing out the inclusion of Spider-Man 2099 poster
Note that Web of Spider-Man #90 PRE-DATES Amazing Spider-Man #365 by a month, and contains a Spider-Man 2099 poster!

Interestingly, as circled on the above labels, you can see that Web of Spider-Man #90 actually pre-dates Amazing Spider-Man #365 by a full month, and inside its pages we see Spider-Man 2099 appearing on a large 3 page gatefold poster! Let’s have a look at that poster, shall we? Here it is:

Three page Spider-Man 2099 poster appears a full month earlier than ASM 365
Three page poster inside of Web of Spider-Man #90 featuring Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2099!

That’s a huge poster — spanning 3 glossy pages — and the sheer size of the Spider-Man 2099 artwork (overlapping 2 of those 3 pages) is thus quite “satisfying” in the sense that this isn’t just some small one-panel cameo on newsprint, this appearance spans multiple glossy pages within some extraordinary (and physically large) artwork!!

Here’s a question for you: would you consider that poster you just saw to be an advertisement? The thought that this could be possibly considered an ad hadn’t even occurred to me; yet, when Googling the first appearance of Spider-Man 2099 one of the first results (and the #1 result for the search shown below) is a page on keycollectorscomics.com which credits Spider-Man 2099 #1 with the first appearance and then mentions the 5-page preview in ASM #365 and finally says “and an advertisement in Web of Spider-Man #90″:

So apparently keycollectorscomics.com is taking a stance that deviates from that of CGC and instead considers Spider-Man 2099 #1 to be the 1st appearance of the character; and that view “demotes” Amazing Spider-Man #365 to being a “5 page preview” (versus a 1st appearance credit) and meanwhile they apparently consider the Web #90 poster appearance to be merely an ad.

Certainly the poster is included to promote the upcoming Spider-Man 2099 #1 release (and we could say the exact same thing about the preview/mini-comic inside of ASM #365 being promotional…). But, I completely disagree with the stance that this is an ad; there aren’t even any words on it! No, I consider this Web of Spider-Man #90 poster to be an appearance inside a comic book of the Spider-Man 2099 character; and if you see things the same way I do then it is quite interesting indeed that this poster’s publication actually pre-dates Amazing Spider-Man #365 by a full month, making it a book to definitely add to your list of early Spider-Man 2099 keys to collect (and your list of books where the industry is not giving the book its due credit)!

The Overstreet guide does point out the existence of this Spider-Man 2099 poster within Web #90 (and the guide does not refer to it as an ad but rather as a gatefold poster), but does not state that the book contains the 1st appearance (or 1st cameo appearance) of the character. However, Overstreet’s listing does give us some additional interesting information including that issue #90 went to a second printing (with a gold hologram instead of silver), and, that the first printing was distributed in polybags:

While Overstreet points out the Spider-Man 2099 poster, the guide does not specifically point out that Web of Spider-Man #90 pre-dates Amazing Spider-Man #365.

First Spider-Man 2099 Appearance: “It’s Complicated”

Looking at the 1st appearance credits across the hobby, we can already see that there is disagreement — keycollectorscomics.com having a different view from CGC for example.

First appearance credits can often fall under the category of “it’s complicated” — and this Spider-Man 2099 situation reminds me a lot of the 1st appearance of Invincible in that there is also a “preview” / mini-comic involved. In the case of Savage Dragon #102 though, the Invincible mini-comic was not advertised on the cover; yet sure enough, that book contains an Invincible preview inside and pre-dates Invincible #1.

However, in that case the preview is not credited by CGC with a “first appearance” label note the way ASM #365 is credited with Spidey 2099’s first appearance — it is Invincible #1 that is given the first appearance credit by CGC. Had Spider-Man 2099’s previews been treated the same way, then it would be Spider-Man 2099 #1 treated as the 1st appearance of Spider-Man 2099.

Are there any differences between the Invincible/Savage Dragon #102 preview comic situation and the Spider-Man 2099/ASM #365 preview comic situation? One major contrast I notice immediately is that whereas the preview comic inside of Savage Dragon #102 is not advertised on the cover, meanwhile Amazing Spider-Man #365 does advertise the Spider-Man 2099 preview comic on the cover:

Five page preview appearance of Spider-Man 2099
In contrast to Savage Dragon #102, where the cover does NOT mention the Invincible Preview mini-comic inside, over at ASM #365, the cover DOES advertise the preview of Spider-Man 2099.

Perhaps this added visibility helped to set the industry’s current 1st appearance credits for Spider-Man 2099; and perhaps like in many other situations it was the influence of the Overstreet guide that led to CGC and much of the hobby at large crediting the book this way. Here is how Overstreet lists Amazing Spider-Man #365:

Overstreet 1st Spider-Man 2099 appearance credit
The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide credits Amazing Spider-Man #365 with the 1st appearance of Spider-Man 2099, saying: “30th anniversary issue w/silver hologram on cover; Spidey/Venom/Carnage pull-out poster; contains 5 page preview of Spider-Man 2099 (1st app.); Spidey’s origin retold; Lizard app; reintro Peter’s parents in Stan Lee 3 page text w/illo (story continues thru #370).”

As you can see above, Overstreet notes “5 page preview of Spider-Man 2099 (1st app.)” in its description. (And by the way, like CGC, Overstreet’s note for Spider-Man 2099 #1 only credits that later book with his Origin).

So let’s take a look at that Spider-Man 2099 “first” appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #365, shall we? Here’s the initial page of the preview comic inside of ASM #365 — where we see there are flying cars in 2099 — with the heading, Here it is! A Sneak Preview of the first Marvel Futureverse title! Spider-Man 2099!

Spider-Man 2099 Preview app. page 1
“Here it is! A Sneak Preview of the first Marvel Futureverse title! Spider-Man 2099!”

The preview continues: Stan Lee Presents Spider-Man 2099!

Preview of Spider-Man 2099 first app.
Stan Lee Presents Spider-Man 2099

And here are the final two pages of the Spider-Man 2099 preview:

Spider-Man 2099 preview comic concludes
“Like what you see? Intrigued? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet! Spider-Man 2099: on sale in September! You saw it here FIRST!”

Earlier I used the word “satisfying” to describe the Web of Spider-Man #90 poster, and I’ll use that word again here — this preview comic indeed gives a satisfying glimpse/teaser, and I can definitely see why much of the hobby has elected to ascribe the all-important “first appearance of Spider-Man 2099” credit to Amazing Spider-Man #365 instead of Spider-Man 2099 #1.

In addition to Overstreet and CGC, CBCS also credits Amazing Spider-Man #365 with the first appearance of Spider-Man 2099:

Newsstand Edition label shown — unlike CGC which currently “lumps together” newsstand and direct edition copies as if they were one and the same (which they are decidedly not), CBCS meanwhile differentiates the types on their census and on their labels! Way To Go CBCS! 🙂

As does GoCollect (and note that their 9.8 market value for the newsstand edition is ~2.5x that of the direct edition)…

For comparison, here’s GoCollect’s view on first print copies of Spider-Man 2099 #1, where no 1st appearance credit is given (interestingly, while their direct edition 9.8 value is much much lower compared to ASM 365, their newsstand 9.8 value for Spider-Man 2099 #1 edges out ASM 365 by $100 currently):

And as far as ASM #365 getting the 1st appearance credit for Spider-Man 2099 throughout most of the hobby, in addition to GoCollect, ComicBase also agrees with that stance as well…

As does ComicLink…

And I could go on and on with examples of this agreement (here’s two more — MyComicShop: “80-page giant 30th Anniversary issue, with the first appearance of Spider-Man 2099!” … ComicsPriceGuide: “30th Anniversary Special, (Silver Hologram). 1st Appearance of Spider-Man 2099. Fold out poster by Mark Bagley.”)…

Point being: the consensus across the vast majority of the hobby currently is to treat Amazing Spider-Man #365 as containing the first appearance of Spider-Man 2099 — almost everyone is overlooking Web of Spider-Man #90 as Spider-Man 2099’s true first appearance.

Don’t Forget Web of Spider-Man #90!

Almost the entire hobby overlooks Web #90 as Spider-Man 2099’s true first appearance… but not everyone!! My fellow CPV Price Guide collaborator Doug Sulipa is one of the few who gives Web #90 its due credit. Here’s what Doug Sulipa’s Comic World has to say about the issue:

TRUE first appearance of Miguel O'Hara AKA Spider-Man 2099
WEB OF SPIDER-MAN (Marvel Comics Pub; 1985-1995) #90 (7/1992; FIRST PRINTING; Three Page TRI-FOLD Gatefold Centerfold Poster of SPIDER-MAN 2099 by Rick Leonardi and Al Williamson; TRUE FIRST appearance of SPIDER-MAN 2099, Pre-Dates Amazing Spider-Man #365 (8/1992) by One Month; HOLOGRAM cover; Mysterio appearance; GIANT 30th Anniversary issue; Spider-Man Prelude: The Spider’s Thread; Spider-Man vs MYSTERIO in Sleight of Mind! Appearances by; Max Schiffman; Mary Jane Watson Parker; Cameo illusions of; Galactus, Venom, Green Goblin, Hobgoblin, Demogoblin, X-Men, Avengers, and Fantastic Four; Howard Mackie story; Alex Saviuk and Sam de la Rosa art; John Romita cover;
——————————————–
TRUE FIRST appearance of Miguel O’Hara aka SPIDER-MAN 2099, Pre-Dates Amazing Spider-Man #365 (8/1992) by One Month; *** Miguel O’Hara is the first LATINO character to assume the identity of Spider-Man; ** Spider-Man 2099 appears in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018 Animated Movie), voiced by Oscar Isaac.  (Fans Speculate he might appear in Spider-Verse Movie #2);  He makes an appearance in the film’s post-credits scene, along with his A.I. Lyla, where he learns from her about the events that have transpired during the film. He then decides to use his new device he has been working on: a watch that allows him to travel to different dimensions on a whim. He decides to use it to “go back to the beginning” (Earth-67), which is revealed to be a universe based on the 1967 Spider-Man cartoon and immediately gets into an argument with that universe’s Spider-Man, the style and topic of the argument referencing a popular meme.

As you can see, Doug calls Web of Spider-Man #90 the TRUE FIRST appearance of Spider-Man 2099. Doug is spot on with this call in my view, and based upon what we’ve reviewed thus far in this post I hope you’ll agree too!

Thus, I feel that the Spider-Man 2099 poster appearance in Web #90 — pre-dating ASM #365 by a month — deserves way more attention than it is currently getting across the hobby… While we do see mentions of the existence of the poster, none of the primary “authorities” in the hobby are specifically pointing out the July 1992 publication month, vs. ASM #365 at August 1992; in other words the typical collector is not being informed that Web #90 pre-dates the book currently the most widely credited as containing Spider-Man 2099’s first appearance!

A “first cameo appearance” credit on grading company labels would arguably be warranted here; or at the very least I feel the grading company labels should be noting that this poster pre-dates the book currently credited by the hobby as Spider-Man 2099’s 1st appearance. (CGC does a version of a “predates” note like this for Gambit, so I picture the possibility of something similar here for Spider-Man 2099).

Collectors themselves seem to be paying much less attention to Web #90 currently, versus ASM #365 and Spider-Man 2099 #1, judging by the fact that a still-sealed polybagged 1st print newsstand copy of Web #90 can currently be acquired for under $10 shipped which strikes me as a bargain given the book’s importance (this recent example below went for $8.99 with free shipping):

Even the gold hologram (2nd print) newsstand copies of the issue are going for a song, despite being dramatically harder to actually find out there (regardless of grade) than the 1st print newsstand copies:

GoCollect, meanwhile, has seen so few newsstand sales in 9.8 that their newsstand fair market value is still “pending” for 1st print copies of Web of Spider-Man #90:

And arguably, the low 9.8 newsstand sales volume in the marketplace is due in part to the fact that Web #90 isn’t currently getting the credit it deserves with regards to Spider-Man 2099, by the authorities in the hobby — and in turn collectors aren’t sending their copies in to be graded to the degree they would be if the labels were properly crediting the Spider-Man 2099 appearance. (And another part of the low 9.8 newsstand sales volume puzzle arguably has to do with the polybags themselves making newsstand 9.8’s incredibly difficult — more on that in a bit). But turning to ComicLink’s presentation of Web #90, we actually find something cool and unexpected (it surprised me anyway when I saw it)…

Bonus Galactus Venomization!

With all the focus on Spider-Man 2099, ComicLink, meanwhile, has noticed a 1st appearance within Web of Spider-Man #90 which others in the hobby seem to have overlooked. Remember Doug Sulipa’s listing earlier? It had included a note about “cameo illusions of Galactus, Venom” (etc.). ComicLink has studied these illusions and noticed the following:

As you can see, they state “1st Appearance of a Venom/Galactus Character” — which I find to be an interesting way to state it. I would have gone with “1st Appearance of a Venomized Galactus” because that’s how collectors seem to consistently refer to “Venomization” of other characters (like a Venomized Wolverine appearing on the cover of New Avengers #35 and a Venomized Mary Jane on the variant cover of ASM #678).

Let’s take a look at that Venomized Galactus character, shall we? The scene opens with Spidey battling Venom:

Although in the story above while what we saw may all have just been an illusion, it is still very cool indeed to have seen this “Venomized Galactus” portrayal introduced into comics, marking another reason beyond the Spider-Man 2099 poster to find Web of Spider-Man #90 appealing!

Web #90 vs. Marvel Age #114

But there’s another “competing” July 1992 book which Overstreet Advisor Bill Alexander brought to my attention, that also pre-dates Amazing Spider-Man #365 and also contains a Spider-Man 2099 appearance: Marvel Age #114:

Presently, the CGC label has a “blank” key comments note for Marvel Age #114.

Marvel Age is a title that was published by Marvel Comics that was essentially a “preview publication” — in that the entire point of the title was to preview upcoming content. In that sense, even though they produced it in comic book size, it is more akin to preview magazines (like those from Fantagraphics) as its peer set. Here’s how Standard Catalog of Comic Books referred to the title:

In the view of Standard Catalog of Comic Books: “Marvel Age – Not a comic book…”

But ultimately it is a Marvel publication and many collectors are paying attention to this title (see Marvel Age #97 as one prominent example). And as we saw circled on the CGC label example, just like Web of Spider-Man #90, issue #114 of Marvel Age also shows a July 1992 publication date on its label (but with no current mention in the CGC key comments of anything special or important). And inside, the following glimpse of Spidey 2099 appears:

“Everywhere the original Spidey zigs, Spider-Man 2099 zags.”

So: do Web of Spider-Man #90 and Marvel Age #114 “tie” in publication order? Or did one come out demonstrably before the other? For many collectors the July 1992 “tie” for publication month will be enough to want to collect both books… similar to how many collectors will collect both Amazing Spider-Man #252 and Marvel Team-Up #141 (which carries the same 5/1984 publication month and CGC labels with the note, “Ties with Amazing Spider-Man #252 for first appearance of the black costume.“). [See Spectacular Spider-Man #90 as well, from the same month].

However, I’ve also seen some collectors debate those two books and try to “break the tie” by pointing to shipping dates listed in preview publications such as Amazing Heroes, Comic Reader, and indeed Marvel Age itself. In issue #11 of Marvel Age, the shipping date for Marvel Team-Up #141 is shown as January 24, 1984, while ASM #252’s shipping date is shown as January 10, 1984… two weeks earlier.

To some, that small shipping difference matters a lot to their collecting decisions. Some collectors even go after all the various preview publications themselves — including Marvel Age #12 which previews the black costume [and incidentally MyComicShop has chronicled that book as only the 6th “preview appearance” of the black costume overall — here’s a link to their great page on the subject (where Comics Journal #85 is cited as the “winner”/earliest among the preview publications).]

So for those who would prefer to see a true “winner” declared between the pair of Web of Spider-Man #90 and Marvel Age #114 based upon shipping dates, then let’s have a look at the “Coming Attractions” page inside of the previous issue of Marvel Age, issue #113:

Web of Spider-Man #90 shipped May 5th, whereas Marvel Age #114 shipped May 19th.

As you can see, Web of Spider-Man #90 shipped first. However, personally, I feel that there is no “right way” or “wrong way” to decide which comic book issues to collect and each collector should go after the issues they are most drawn to for their own reasons. For me, when it comes to the black costume I happen to own both the 75 cent variant of ASM #252 and MTU #141 … and similarly, when it comes to Spider-Man 2099 I wouldn’t hesitate to collect all of the issues I’ve mentioned thus far — Spider-Man 2099 #1, Amazing Spider-Man #365, Web of Spider-Man #90, and Marvel Age #114. Why limit yourself to just one issue important to a character when you can collect them all? That’s the way I see it anyway! 🙂

Collecting Web 90, ASM 365, Spider-Man 2099 #1, & MA 114

Each collector should figure out on their own which of these issues appeals to them (maybe one, maybe more, maybe all). But, when collecting any of these, I do want to make sure to encourage everyone who cares about rarity and collectible value to approach each of these issues with a newsstand-focused mindset, because the direct editions are just way too prevalent out there to interest me at all, and I know that with all the growing newsstand awareness out there, more and more collectors feel the same way I do and now prize only the more-rare high grade newsstand copies, while panning their prevalent direct edition counterparts.

To get a sense of how many copies Marvel sold for issues of this time period, I’m going to turn to the Standard Catalog of Comic Books which helpfully lists circulation statement numbers — for instance Marvel Age #114 at 81,567 — and also lists order levels made by direct market distributor Capital City (a competitor to Diamond which Diamond eventually acquired in 1996), which can be used to extrapolate a total. That’s possible to do because the authors also researched the market share Capital City represented for each publisher by year, i.e. what percentage of Marvel’s comics were sold through Capital City in 1992? And the answer, according to the Standard Catalog of Comic Books, is 19.9% for Marvel in 1992. Let’s round that to an even 20% for easier math: that means for example that for every 20,000 copies we know were ordered by Capital City, we can estimate that an additional 80,000 copies were sold elsewhere — for a total of 100,000.

Looking up these numbers in the Standard Catalog of Comic Books, for ASM #365, Capital City orders are shown at 221,700. If that number represented 20% of the pie, then the total pie would have been a whopping 1,108,500 copies for Amazing Spider-Man #365! For Spider-Man 2099 #1, the numbers are even higher: Capital City alone is shown to have ordered 300,000 copies… which extrapolates to a total of 1,500,000 copies for Spider-Man 2099 #1! With sales numbers like these, it is all the more important to say “pass” to the prevalent direct editions, and instead zero in on the more-rare newsstand copies.

By contrast to ASM #365 and Spider-Man 2099 #1, Web of Spider-Man #90’s sales numbers — while still “impressively high” — were more modest by comparison. Capital City is shown to have ordered 114,000 first print copies (silver hologram) and 44,600 second print copies (gold hologram)… which extrapolates out to 570,000 1st print copies and 223,000 2nd print copies in total for Web #90.

With these big-picture sales numbers in mind, let’s now take a look at the newsstand:direct disparity. For that, the CBCS census really helps to illustrate the massive disparity in high grade survivorship, because CBCS has helpfully been “breaking out” newsstand from direct edition since 2017. Although their total census numbers are much smaller than larger competitor CGC, we can still learn a lot by looking at the ratios within the books that have passed through CBCS’s doors, so let’s take a look into CBCS’s census (aka “population report”). For Marvel Age #114 they’ve only graded two grand-total copies to date, and both of them have been direct editions, so there’s not enough data to explore a ratio for that one. But newsstand editions are indeed out there; here’s what they look like:

Turning to Spider-Man 2099 #1, for that issue CBCS has graded 175 total copies in the 9.4-and-up grade tiers to date since 2017 when they started differentiating the types, 12 of which — just 6.9% as a percentage — have been newsstand copies, with just 5 of those newsstand examples in the coveted 9.8 grade tier:

CBCS has also graded 21 second printing / “Toybiz” copies of Spider-Man 2099 #1 from 2001. CGC has a distinct census entry for the 2nd print copies as well, and as of this writing has graded 233 of them:

‘”Included with Toy Biz Spider-Man 2099 action figure. Indicia reads “Second Printing”‘

Here’s an example CGC-graded copy to show what these second print 2001 versions look like slabbed — the cover has a white background with black border instead of the red foil that 1st print copies have, and there is a newsstand barcode at the bottom left corner:

Here’s an example of how such copies were originally distributed — the KB Toys price tag on this one reveals that its buyer paid $7.99 for it initially:

Turning next to the CBCS census for Web of Spider-Man #90, CBCS has graded just 38 total broken-out copies in the 9.4-and-up grade tiers to date, only 2 of which — about 5.3% as a percentage — have been newsstand copies, with the highest newsstand grade to date being 9.4:

While the (false) default expectation/perception for polybagged issues might tend to be that the polybag would help preserve the condition of the book inside (and that’s certainly true for some kinds of condition damage — hard to imagine a dog-eared corner for example, for a comic still sealed in a plastic bag), something we saw with poly-bagged copies of Spider-Man #1 (1990) was that the plastic “ridge” in the back actually presses a bend into the paper over time. And along that ridge there can even be spots where the variations in the plastic seal formed larger/heavier points which press even deeper into the paper and can even cause color breaks.

This “polybag bend” phenomenon, combined with the rough handling that the newsstand distribution channel was notorious for, actually caused newsstand-distributed polybagged copies of Spider-Man #1 to have a dramatically lower CBCS census percentage in 9.6-up, compared to both the direct-distributed Silver “no cover price” polybagged copies, and the “regular” Silver copies. See that past post for a more detailed discussion, but here’s a chart to illustrate this phenomenon, showing the percentage of copies within each census entry that received a grade of 9.6 or higher, for Spider-Man #1:

So essentially, what this chart is showing, is that if you’re a polybagged UPC copy of Spider-Man #1 (originally distributed on newsstands) that was sent in to CBCS, then you have only a 13.5% chance of being a 9.6 or higher; if you’re a Silver polybagged (“no cover price”) copy of Spider-Man #1 (also distributed in polybags but via direct sales to comic shops) sent in to CBCS then your odds of being a 9.6 or higher copy almost double, to 25%; while finally, if you’re a “regular” Silver copy (direct-sold to comic shops but not originally distributed in polybags) sent in to CBCS then you’ve got a whopping 75% chance of being a 9.6 or higher copy — that’s triple the odds of the polybagged no-cover-price Silver copies, and over 5 times the odds compared to the polybagged UPC edition!

So not only do we need to think about the stark difference in sales numbers between the direct edition and newsstand types (where by one industry insider’s estimate, Marvel’s newsstand percentage was just 15% by 1990 — see newsstand rarity discussions and estimates), we also need to think about what percentage of the newsstand copies originally sold are actually still surviving today in the top grades!

And just like the the polybagged UPC copies of Spider-Man #1, the back of the Web #90 polybags have this same exact “ridge” feature where the plastic forms a seam down the middle and presses a bend into the paper over time:

And if stacked one on top of another, this ridge then also presses into the front of the copy underneath it too… which in this case means bending the hologram itself:

Ouch! Thus, this polybag-exclusivity in turn should make top graded newsstand copies all the more difficult to find out there for Web of Spider-Man #90 — which adds to their appeal as collectibles (especially those newsstand copies that manage to grade in the coveted 9.8 tier — and perhaps this is the other piece of the puzzle to explain why GoCollect has seen so few NM/MT newsstand sales).

Indeed, the CBCS census presently shows zero newsstand copies on record there to date in 9.6 or 9.8, just two in Near Mint 9.4, and fully 74% of the census copies within the newsstand census entry for Web #90 are below 9.0 in grade. Stop and think about that for a moment… nearly three quarters of the census copies (which were presumably already selected by submitters as their top grading candidates) for newsstand Web #90 are VF+ or lower!

The second print (gold hologram) copies of Web #90 do not have the polybag problem, but CBCS does not appear to have graded any newsstand 2nd print copies yet (I could not find any broken out on their census), just direct edition. But the gold hologram newsstand copies do indeed exist out there, and if your experience matches mine you’ll find that they are a far more challenging find than the 1st print newsstand copies. The 2nd print copies can be identified by the Gold background hologram (instead of Silver) but also by the November cover month; here is a second print newsstand example — or dare I call it, with a wink and a nod to Spider-Man #1, the “UPC Gold Edition”?:

Why November, when the first printing was published in July? Well, I suspect that before putting 2nd printings into the market of their hologram issues, Marvel wanted to wait until after they had finished selling the first printings for all four Spider-Man scheduled titles with holograms that were set to come out: Spectacular Spider-Man #189 had come first in June, followed by Web #90 in July, ASM #365 in August, and Spider-Man #26 in September. Only then did Marvel subsequently put out second printings with gold holograms (instead of silver) for Spectacular #189, and for Web #90… but for some reason they stopped there… I.e. there are no 2nd print / gold hologram versions of ASM #365 nor Spider-Man #26. Could that be an indication that the 2nd printings for Spectacular #189 and Web #90 didn’t sell as well as Marvel had hoped? Perhaps the market was already fully satiated by four first print hologram issues plus two second print hologram issues??

And finally here’s the CBCS census result for Amazing Spider-Man #365, where to date they have graded a grand total of 160 copies in 9.4-and-up, of which 9 — or about 5.6% — have been newsstand copies:

So I say “skip over” the direct editions when collecting any of these issues, as they’re just far too prevalent; instead, concentrate on collecting the highest grade newsstand copies you can find. (And you may need to be more patient & ambitious to find that 2nd print Gold hologram newsstand version of Web #90, or the toy store 2001 bar coded version of Spider-Man 2099 #1, in highest grades).

And if you’re feeling really ambitious, then I have a further challenge for you. Notice in the census screenshot above for ASM #365 that CBCS has an “Australian Edition” census entry with 1 copy on it — that’s actually an entry left over from before they updated to the “price variant” nomenclature for Type 1A cover price variants in 2018 [so apparently they haven’t been submitted any further Australian Price Variant (“APV” for short) newsstand copies since then for #365]. But while the old census name may give off the false impression that it is a foreign reprint, in actuality, that single book on their census is a first print original newsstand comic, published right here in the USA, at the same time and on the same equipment as the other types they produced, by Marvel as the publisher… but distributed in Australia.

APVs: “The Even Rarer 1990’s Newsstand”

Have you heard of Australian Price Variant newsstand comics, aka APVs? Here’s why I for one am the most drawn to them as my preferred variants to collect for Spider-Man 2099 #1, ASM #365, and Web #90:

Within the newsstand “pie slice” published by Marvel here in the US for each book, during a short “price variant window” in the 90’s, a small batch was printed with subtle differences (the biggest of which was a higher cover price and cover month advanced to account for shipping time to actually reach the Australian newsstands) and loaded onto the slow boat to Australia. See my prior posts on these awesome variants for more background info: Part I, Part II, and most recently Part III where I discuss the 2019 article published by Alternate Worlds revealing the print run for APVs was 2000-4000 per issue, that they were collated and shipped first — before the other editions — so that they could be rushed off to the boat; and the confirmation that unsold newsstand copies were pulped… Leaving precious few APV survivors out there in high grade.

Like CBCS, CGC “breaks out” these higher-cover-priced copies printed for Australian newsstands too, i.e. gives them their own unique census entries, and as of this writing CGC has seen 4 grand-total APVs for Spider-Man 2099 #1, has seen 2 grand-total APVs for Web of Spider-Man #90, and has seen 9 grand-total APVs for Amazing Spider-Man #365, as screen-captured below. Now that is the kind of census rarity that gets me excited as a collector!

Some collectors out there, when they get a “collecting idea” for a given Modern Age issue they want, have told me they will go after 10 or more CGC 9.8 copies of the issue and really make it “an investment” if they have the conviction. Which makes some sense given how prevalent Modern Age comics tend to be generally — someone who is used to paying thousands for a single Bronze or Silver Age key might think “why bother” about a Modern book that costs a small fraction of that sum… so it makes some sense that they might start thinking in multiples (10x of a given Modern at $100 each would be an equivalent dollar investment compared to 1 older key at $1000). And in the world of direct editions that’s certainly possible to do… (indeed when you have an issue where a MILLION direct edition copies were sold, it should be quite easy to find near-unlimited availability of CGC 9.8’s or “9.8 contenders” raw).

But things change when you enter the world of newsstand Modern Age comics, and especially when you delve into the Type 1A price variant newsstand books: I find it incredible to think, that if someone wanted to accumulate 10 CGC-graded APVs for ASM #365 as their goal, they could buy every single census copy that presently exists and still be one short of ten. And in 9.6-and up there are just three… and in 9.8 only one!

Something else to ponder is the super-high cover price on the copies printed for Australian newsstands, for these hologram issues, and what that may have meant for actual newsstand sales. For ASM #365, as an 84-page anniversary issue, even the regular (North American) newsstand copies were pricey, at $3.95 US each. That compares to prior issue #364 at just $1.25 US… So kids in the USA were asked to pay more than 3x the price they were “used to paying” for the typical ASM comic of the time, for #365. For a “casual newsstand reader” that’s a big price difference! And over in Australia it was even more stark. At ASM #364 the regular price kids were used to paying was $1.80 (notice the price box below):

And then at issue #365, the cover price for the APVs come in at a whopping $5.95! How many kids in 1992 in Australia could actually find the pocket money for that purchase? Did the super-high cover price in turn keep newsstand sales lower than normal? Or did the appeal of the 30th anniversary and the hologram counter-balance sales by generating higher demand? The answer is in the survivorship of the variants and I for one can only observe that from the time I began hunting for an ASM #365 variant in nice enough shape to clear a hurdle of 9.0, checking eBay at least weekly and using eBay alerts, it literally took me over five years before I had actually landed a suitable APV copy into my collection. I found that they hardly ever appear for sale — and when they do, typically they are in beaten-up shape, and often with price stickers affixed by the retailer.

Over at Web of Spider-Man #90, the APV cover price was a bit less but still a very big ask for 1992, at $4.50. And the APVs did apparently get distributed in polybags just like their North American newsstand counterparts, which means they too have that polybag ridge problem; as of this writing the CGC census shows there are zero APVs in the top grades of 9.6-up, with both of the current census copies coming in at 9.2. (By the way, I’ve yet to see a Gold / 2nd print APV, so I’d be shocked if they exist [if you’ve seen one please let me know]).

And finally, here’s an example of what the Spider-Man 2099 #1 APV looks like, with $2.65 cover price:

As shown earlier on the census screenshot, there are just four of these on record at CGC to date, with two lucky 9.8’s!

I realize that in general, collecting high grade APVs would test the patience of a saint. So most collectors reading this will probably stick to the highest grade North American newsstand copies they can find… But definitely “keep an eye out” for these Type 1A Price Variants, set those eBay alerts (near the top of the eBay page click where it says “♡ Save this search”), and who knows, maybe you’ll get lucky?

Happy Collecting! 🙂

I hope this post has helped you to explore the collecting opportunities among the comics associated with Spider-Man 2099’s first appearance. For me, Web of Spider-Man #90 newsstand copies in the highest grades — and especially those “Gold UPC” (wink and a nod to Spider-Man #1) 2nd print newsstand copies with gold holograms, and those rare APVs if you can find them — stand out as a great relative value, on account of the Spider-Man 2099 appearance on that 3-page poster pre-dating Amazing Spider-Man #365 by a month, and with the “added bonus” of the 1st appearance of a “Venomized Galactus” (or as ComicLink put it, “a Venom/Galactus Character.”) Special thanks to Bill Alexander for encouraging me to write this up, helping with research, and helping to proofread.

Happy Collecting! 🙂

– Ben p.s. I find the four Spider-Man 30th Anniversary 1992 hologram issues (the other two being Spectacular Spider-Man #189 and Spider-Man #26) in general to be a really neat part of 1990’s comics memorabilia. They marked the very first time holograms were ever incorporated into Marvel comic books — a really big deal at the time (which in turn means that Spectacular #189 from June 1992 gets the trophy for the “1st appearance of a Marvel hologram”). 🙂 So to see how these holograms were discussed / promoted back in 1992 within the pages of Marvel Age 114 was a fun read for me and I wanted to share the below article with you too:

Spectacular Spider-Man #189, Web of Spider-Man #90, Amazing Spider-Man #365 and Spider-Man #26: The Making of the Holograms
“Marvel is celebrating Spider-Man’s 30th anniversary with state-of-the-art holograms scheduled to appear on each of the character’s four regular titles. This is the first time that holograms have been incorporated into a Marvel book. They will appear on Spectacular Spider-Man #189, Web of Spider-Man #90, Amazing Spider-Man #365, and Spider-Man #26. No effort has been spared in making Marvel’s hologram debut a major success.”

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Rare Comics To Collect

Mis-Listed Variant Opportunities Page

By Benjamin Nobel; JUMP TO RECENT OPPORTUNITIES (and scroll all the way down) or read the below introduction.

Hi everyone, from time to time I spot an eBay listing for a book on my watchlist, where the seller has pictured what is clearly a price variant (or other type of variant)… but where the title and description of their listing make no mention whatsoever of this fact — making their listing unfindable in refined searches (in other words, the usual buying competition may not find it!).

For example, here was a mis-listed $1.50 cover price variant copy of Amazing Spider-Man #275 which was recently auctioned for a starting bid of one dollar (plus shipping) on eBay.ca and sold for the opening bid:

The same seller also mis-listed a 75 cent variant copy of Amazing Spider-Man #265 which ended on the same day:

There are basically two possibilities to explain such situations:

(1) [Typical] The seller simply had no clue that the cover price of the book they owned is any different from the rest, hence they didn’t know to include those relevant keywords in their title; or,

(2) [Atypical] There is a purposeful bait-and-switch happening.

Fortunately, in my own experience anyway, most mis-listed variant situations are the former (where the owner simply has no clue they own a variant), and the latter can be guarded against by (a) messaging the seller before you bid and asking “hello, can you let me know if the winner will receive the *exact* comic pictured?” and if you receive this assurance, then, upon package arrival (b) making a cell phone recording at the time you open the package, just in case.

This way, if you don’t receive the variant in the picture, you can let the seller know that unfortunately the pictured comic was not the one you received, and that you recorded the package opening (you could include one screenshot/still showing the book you received). Chances are, you’ll find they simply made an honest mistake, such as having multiple copies available and pulling a different one from inventory than the intended one, by accident.

But, if they’ve purposefully teased a variant only to send you a plain ole direct edition as a bait-and-switch, then your video showing what was in the package should prove to eBay that you are due a refund or return, i.e. should you receive something other than the picture and the seller is not cooperative in resolving the problem, then you can open a case with eBay together with your documentation.

Going after mis-listed variants in this way does require more work on the part of the bidder, but can also be a great opportunity, because such listings don’t come up in a refined search (i.e. since the seller left out the variant keywords and went with a plain-vanilla [Title Issue#] style title, any competing bidders searching on keywords like “Canadian” or “Variant” or “CPV” or “Newsstand” etc. will not find it).

Less competition means better chances you’ll be able to win for a better price at auction, or negotiate a better price on a best-offer listing! Just the other day I myself won a book at auction for under $10 that has recently been going for $30, simply because the seller “mis-listed” it!

Going forward, my plan is to share the occasional mis-listed variant opportunity with you, in the Comments Forum section of this very page. Clicking any of the links I post here will pass an ID to eBay that will associate that click/”lead” with the CPV Price Guide through their affiliate program — so if you win any of these after clicking my links, then we’ll in turn earn a small commission from the sale which will help towards offsetting the recurring domain/SSL costs necessary to bring you the CPV Price Guide each year as a free service!

JUMP TO RECENT OPPORTUNITIES (scroll all the way down for the latest links)

Happy Collecting,

– Ben

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Grading

The Overstreet Grading Guide, Staple Replacement, and ASM 238 Tattooz

By Benjamin Nobel, June 13, 2021

I picked up a copy of The Overstreet Guide To Grading Comics, Sixth Edition from Amazon (and I left a review there) because fellow CPV Price Guide collaborator Jon McClure contributed a featured article for it: an updated version of his epic variant article that first appeared in the Overstreet Price Guide (OPG) #40 in 2010. Entitled “A History of Publisher Experimentation and Variant Comic Books (2021),” the new article starts on page #338 and runs through page #381 of the grading guide.

Although I wouldn’t have been prompted to buy a grading guide from Overstreet otherwise, once I had it in my hands (to get hold of Jon’s article) I actually really enjoyed the entire book, from cover to cover. But one thing in particular that I read in the grading guide left me “with more questions than answers” and that was Overstreet’s official stance on staple replacement and how it effects the grade:

“Any staple can be replaced on books up to Fine, but only vintage staples can be used on books from Very Fine to Near Mint. Mint books must have original staples.”
— Overstreet Grading Guide, Sixth Edition, Page #23

(The individual grade definitions then clarify that original staples are also required in 9.6 (NM+) and 9.8 (NM/MT), not just Mint and Gem Mint).

In forming these rules, much like the presence of tape is “counted against the grade” in Overstreet’s definitions, so too is staple replacement apparently being “counted against the grade” whereby if the staples are replaced, with vintage ones, that “dings” an otherwise-perfect book down to NM capping its potential grade there at the near mint level; but if new/non-vintage staples are used instead of vintage ones, that meanwhile dings it down to FN.

This stance surprised me: many times I have come across a comic book in the wild that looked to me like a great find except for rust on one or both staples… How did I not know, all this time, that in “Overstreet’s world” it would have been totally fine to simply have those bad staples replaced!?

And: would CGC (and CBCS) have the same view as Overstreet? A strong clue on the answer to this was found on pages #51-52 of the very same grading guide publication, in the CGC article about comic book restoration: staple replacement was cited both under Restoration and under Conservation, listed among other line items.

“Conservation repairs are performed with the intent of preserving the structural or chemical integrity of a comic book using professional techniques and materials. It excludes aesthetic repairs such as color touch and piece fill.”
— Overstreet Grading Guide, Sixth Edition, Page #52

I wanted clarity about treatment when staple replacement was the only element in question, so I wrote to both CBCS and CGC to ask them, hypothetically, if I were to submit a book that is otherwise Near Mint and otherwise UNRESTORED, but in this hypothetical scenario I have had a professional remove and replace one of the book’s two staples, either with a vintage staple, a new staple, or just re-inserting the original staple — but aside from just this one staple replacement the book is otherwise unrestored and otherwise NM — how would such an example be treated/labeled? Would the label be Universal Grade (and the staple replacement “counted against the grade” as Overstreet’s grading guide definitions do), or, would the label cite this as Restoration (or Conservation)?

Here were the answers; first CBCS (note especially the highlighted portion):

“Hi Ben, CBCS & Overstreet do differ from time to time, & this is one of those cases. We do not cap the grade due to staples being replaced per se. If staples are replaced in the same spot with vintage staples, it would receive a Professional Conserved grade & label notation. If staples are replaced in the same spot with new staples, it would receive an Amateur Conserved grade & label notation. If the original staples are removed & staples are put into the book in totally new spots, it would receive a universal grade with the label notation, “Original staples removed. 2 staples added.” The book would then be downgraded significantly for missing staples & 2 additional staples added. The act of removing staples & reinserting them in the same spot does not constitute restoration or conservation. The only downside is if damage is caused by that action, the grade of the book could be lowered. I hope this helps clear things up!”
— CBCS, via email, June 2021

And here is what CGC said (note especially the yellow-highlighted portion):

“Hello Mr. Nobel, Thank you for your email. CGC does not factor replaced staples into the physical grade of a comic book. A 9.8 comic can still achieve a 9.8 with replaced staples, vintage or otherwise. Instead, CGC classifies a comic book with replaced staples as either conserved or qualified; If only the staples have been replaced, the book can receive a conserved grade, but if tape is also present (which is not allowed in the conserved category), the book will instead receive a qualified grade. Disassembly (and reassembly) of original staples will not affect the category of a comic, although this practice can often cause damage or enlarged staple holes to the paper, which can adversely affect high-grade comics.
— CGC, via email, June 2021

I found it particularly fascinating to consider the varying treatment of staple replacement by Overstreet, CBCS, and CGC, in the context of Jon McClure’s controversial stance on the Tattooz inside of Amazing Spider-Man #238. Long-time blog readers may have already read Amazing Spider-Man #238: The Tattooz Situation (October 2017) on this subject, as well as Jon’s updated 2021 advisor note within the CPV Price Guide on the Amazing Spider-Man #238 value page.

Whether you’re new to this tattooz debate or already familiar with it, when it comes to how staple replacement would be viewed in my hypothetical scenario posed to CBCS and CGC, there are actually wider implications to the answers than just the ASM #238 tattooz situation itself, as I’ll walk through next — consider for example how Mark Jewelers inserts would be impacted, as well as “Double Covers” (and other such manufacturing mistakes), under similar thinking where staple removal/reinsertion is permitted under the guidelines.

And I find that a great way to initially approach the thinking about this subject it is to first consider the idea of “Frankenvariants” / home-made variants. Perhaps you will agree with the following statement: If you or I can theoretically “create” a given “variation” at home then collectors should not be prizing such doctored comic books nor considering them as legitimate variants.

A really basic first thought experiment towards this notion would be the idea of adding a sticker to a book (like the example at right). I.e. if we affix a sticker to the cover of a comic book, have we just created a new “variant” of that comic book? To my way of thinking, no way… That’s something we can do at home (for example we could create a new sticker of our own — or replicate or scan one of the other stickers found in the wild — then print it out at home on sticker paper, peel, and stick). To my way of thinking, there’s no possible way that doing this hypothetical “stickering” should enhance the appeal of a given comic or render it a legitimate variant.

Creating a Frankenvariant from tattooz-shuffling would be a similar hypothetical home-made variant situation: For example, suppose we “harvest” the Tattooz insert from a copy of, say, Captain America #279. (The tattooz advertised on the cover of ASM #238 were not unique to that specific book, but instead appeared in several different comics that month including the aforementioned Captain America, and also in Star Wars #69, and Fantastic Four #252; and as per MyComicShop’s listings, tattooz were also distributed in Spectacular Spider-Man #76 and Uncanny X-Men #167). These tattooz were stapled in, but only loosely at the top staple (and as reported by original collectors, some literally fell out onto the floor when the books were originally for sale).

If we are free to remove and replace staples with entirely different ones from the same vintage — as in Overstreet’s grading guide definitions — and remain in NM territory, then surely removing the original staple temporarily (either to “harvest” the tattooz insert or to shuffle one in) and reinserting that original staple again is implicitly acceptable in terms of conforming to Overstreet’s grade definitions, as far as the staple is concerned. So in our hypothetical scenario, let’s do just that, with our Captain America book.

Now, suppose we have carefully harvested the tattooz insert in this way from our Captain America book, and next instead of re-inserting it into the same book, we instead transfer it from the Captain America over into a different book by removing and replacing its upper staple. Now suppose, for this hypothetical, that we insert it into some other issue which wasn’t supposed to have tattooz to begin with? Have we just created a new and desirable variation of that other issue, one that collectors should prize? A new “tattooz variant” of a book that “shouldn’t” have them? Nope: in this hypothetical we’ve created yet another example of a home-made Frankenvariant.

But notice that in our above hypothetical, if we were careful enough as to not cause other damage to the books we used (damage like enlarging the staple holes), then technically we’re actually within the boundaries of not just Overstreet’s grading guide definitions, but also CGC’s and CBCS’s answers as far as remaining in their Universal grade tiers with our Near Mint Frankenvariant [“Disassembly (and reassembly) of original staples will not affect the category of a comic, although this practice can often cause damage or enlarged staple holes to the paper, which can adversely affect high-grade comics.” And, “The act of removing staples & reinserting them in the same spot does not constitute restoration or conservation. The only downside is if damage is caused by that action, the grade of the book could be lowered.”], although I didn’t ask either of them specifically about insert-shuffling and the unexpected insert in a book where it didn’t belong would most certainly raise eyebrows if we were to submit it.

To now circle this concept back to the ASM #238 debate, what if instead of creating a Frankenvariant by inserting the harvested Captain America tattooz into a book where they didn’t belong, what if we inserted them into a book where they do belong but happen to be missing from the particular copy we have found? I.e. what if we insert them into an ASM #238 where they are missing? Before you answer that hypothetical question, consider that if submitted to CGC without the tattooz, the submitter would get one of these (the dreaded green qualified label, with a note “TATTOOZ INSERT MISSING. INCOMPLETE”):

One way of thinking about the green label — and the following line of thinking provides the main “counter-point” to Jon’s stance — is that every copy of ASM #238 was manufactured with the tattooz included, and since the tattooz are thus supposed to be there (as confirmed by the “Bonus Feature: Free Lakeside Skin Tattooz Inside” printed on the front cover) it makes the book incomplete should they be absent: hence the green qualified label is totally appropriate, and collectors who made the smart choice to preserve their copy exactly as it was originally distributed should be “rewarded” while those who removed the tattooz should be “penalized” (via the qualified label).

But now consider the following important point made by Jon, which in my view is one of the strongest parts of his argument:

“Ideally, the Tattooz are absent due to the slow degradation of the contents that will eventually affect the paper quality inside.”
— Jon McClure, Overstreet Grading Guide, Sixth Edition, Page #349

And this point really hits home in the context of some of the Grading Guide content I read when going through the new Sixth Edition: there are entire articles in the grading guide on proper long-term care and preservation of comics that certainly made me think twice about whether I’ve taken enough care for my own collection; and it certainly seems to me that a collector who carefully removed the tattooz insert (perhaps even storing it separately) under the thinking that the tattooz could harm the book itself in the long run, and then carefully stored the book separately in archival quality materials and acid free boxes, has arguably made a thoughtful and considered choice…

Should such thoughtfulness really be “penalized” when the collector was merely thinking critically about what is best for the preservation of the comic book in the long term? It seems to me that if you and I were charged with setting up rules/standards for the hobby, then in an ideal world we’d want those rules to incentivize behavior that is best for the comics themselves, the collectors, and the hobby. We wouldn’t want collectors who were that thoughtful about preservation to be penalized (nor would we want to incentivize insert-shuffling or other forms of doctoring books).

Yet, with the green label carrying a stigma in the marketplace, arguably it is hurting the market value of copies where the tattooz are absent. Indeed, in the latest Overstreet Price Guide (OPG #50), guide value in NM- for ASM #238 is listed at $180 with tattooz and $85 without. Some quick math here: $180 – $85 = $95… In other words, the listings in OPG #50 are implying that “the book itself” is worth $85, and the tattooz are worth $95, for a total of $180. Yet, Fantastic Four #252 is given an NM- value of $8 with Tattooz and $6 without… implying that the tattooz in that case are worth just $2…

But they are the same tattooz insert in both cases. And in theory they can be “shuffled” from book to book… introducing a clear financial incentive to “harvest” from a cheap source and reap the added reward of shuffling them into ASM #238. [Buying a book where the tattooz are worth $2, and transfering them to a book where the same exact tattooz are now worth $95, hypothetically yields an immediate $93 uplift in guide value]. Behavior which, according to the note in Overstreet’s price guide page for this issue, is exactly what is happening out there:

Jon’s solution — his controversial stance — is that ASM #238 should not be considered “incomplete” if tattooz are absent (should not be given a green label), but rather, that such inserts should be considered an extraneous and unnecessary item that is not part of the book; he advocates that grading companies should change their treatment to use a blue/Universal label and simply include a note:

“All any grading company would have to do is say ”no Tattooz” on the label and have a blue label, leaving it to the collector to decide on the relative importance of its inclusion.”
— Jon McClure, Overstreet Grading Guide, Sixth Edition, Page #349

Having learned about Overstreet’s official stance towards staple replacement in the new Grading Guide (Sixth Edition), I feel that Jon’s argument becomes even stronger: because if Overstreet is saying that an entire staple can be replaced with a vintage one in grades up to and including Near Mint, then surely it is implied that the original staple can be temporarily removed and reinserted — and that in turn opens the door wide open to tattooz shuffling while staying squarely within the Overstreet grade definitions, i.e. a tattooz shuffler doesn’t even need to have their work with the staples go undetected (the way pressers need to ensure their work isn’t detectable) because even entire staple replacement is specifically allowed under the Overstreet Grading Guide definitions!

And based on CGC’s and CBCS’s answers to my inquiry, disassembly (and reassembly) of original staples will not affect the category of a comic in their eyes either — i.e. it would still be categorized as Universal, but with any resulting damage inflicted to the book during staple manipulation then being counted against the grade.

The implications surrounding how staple replacements are treated by the “authorities” in our hobby are far wider than just the tattooz situation. Consider for example a few other scenarios:

(1) Temporary cover removal.

Suppose you like to bring books to conventions to be signed. Suppose you don’t want to have to lug the weight of all those extra interior pages, when really the only part of the book you’re interested in having a creator sign is the cover.

At home, you could temporarily open and remove the staples, take the cover off, and leave the rest of the book behind — later returning the now-signed cover into place once you return home from the convention. For one or two books this wouldn’t be worth the effort, but multiplied by dozens or hundreds of books that you want to get signed, well, carrying only the covers like this could save you a huge amount of weight.

And indeed, if you search YouTube you can find this exact cover removal technique, for this exact purpose, shared in tutorial-like fashion, such as the example tutorial pictured above where he walks through popping a cover off and on again within minutes.

(2) Other types of inserts.

We talked about tattooz (which involve just one staple) but what about Mark Jewelers inserts, which involve both staples? These were inserted only into a portion of the print run, targeting military personnel on government bases in the US and/or overseas. That relative scarcity makes them interesting as a relative value opportunity. But the same insert found in one book will have also appeared in multiple other books — they are not unique to one given issue (much like how the same tattooz inserts are found in many different issues and not just ASM #238) — so, might someone be tempted to try to “shuffle” an insert from a low-value book into a high-value book?

18 years ago, back when I first got “re-hooked” on the hobby as an adult, my initial goal was to acquire high-grade copies of a handful of my all-time favorite keys that I had originally owned as a kid (but had owned in very low grade). One of the books I decided to “re-collect” was one that I happened to notice also existed with a Mark Jewelers insert. I liked the idea of having a version that was more rare, and so I decided to seek out copies with the insert, and my strategy of the time was to message every listing’s seller who didn’t specify, and ask them if their copy had the insert or not?

I figured that with enough messaging effort, this strategy would eventually lead me to a copy with an insert, because mathematically, if I messaged enough sellers, then some fraction of the sellers should have one, i.e. roughly in proportion to the slice of the print run that received the inserts. Little did I expect that one of the answers I would receive along the way would entirely change my approach to this type of variant. One of the dealers I had messaged answered me with, to paraphrase, “If you really want an insert, buy my copy and I could put one in for you from another book; it is no problem.”

That struck me as “cheating” and I would only have wanted to collect a book with its own original insert… Clearly this dealer was just trying to “make the sale” and there was zero indication that he would have “pre-shuffled” in an insert ahead of posting a listing; but this experience still led me to conclude that if I was to make a real push into collecting comics with inserts, I’d always need to be on the lookout for ‘insert shuffling’ and I’d have to gain expertise regarding how to spot this type of manipulation (for a shuffler to find a perfect match where the staple holes line up would be a big challenge, and under magnification an expert should be able to notice if the staples of a comic book have been manipulated).

But it occurred to me that even if I gained such expertise, most of the buying I intended to do was Internet-based, where seller pictures would be less-than-ideal as a baseline and could also be “carefully controlled” by the seller (if they were trying to pull off a shuffle scam, they’d leave out any pictures that might reveal what they had done, or take pictures at “just the right light angle” to disguise flaws) — it was not like I could hold their book in my hands and examine it when buying online; most of the time I’d be relying on pictures that someone else snapped.

Therefore, I might one day come across a book where, upon examination of the pictures, I wouldn’t be fully sure if the insert had been manipulated or not… That scenario sounded stressful to me and I quickly decided that that stress wasn’t compatible with my re-entry into the hobby… so that’s why I never got into collecting Mark Jewelers inserts, although I definitely understand their appeal and I applaud those who do put in the work necessary to collect these. [Thankfully I found many other types of variants that would scratch the itch for something more rare than the ‘normal’ copies, but where the difference is printed in rather than stapled in. Like newsstand comics and cover price variant comics.]

(3) Double Covers.

Suppose someone has a couple of copies of a given comic. Might there be a temptation to “merge” the two, in order to create something that could be marketed as rare and valuable? And by “merge the two” I mean the idea of mimicking the double-cover manufacturing error by purposely affixing a second cover. I could especially envision this happening in the case of an otherwise-nearly-valueless issue, i.e. where alone it might be impossible to sell the books, but meanwhile a Frankenvariant hawked as a “rare double cover!” might get found right away online by those who routinely search for double cover listings.

Here once again it would seem that with careful screening, one could be able to detect such a homemade creation, and that it would be exceedingly difficult to get a perfect line-up when both staples are involved. But much like with the Mark Jewelers vigilance, there’s always the chance of coming up against a situation where you are not fully sure if what you’ve found is a true manufacturing error or a frankenvariant, and that could be a stressful situation, especially if you are thinking about shelling out big bucks, and especially if you are relying solely on photos posted to an Internet listing versus being able to examine the book in person. As Jon McClure warns on page #342, under the definition for Type 6 Variants (cover printing errors):

“Books with double covers fall under [the Type 6 Variant] category because the item is not defective, but beware bogus variants that do not snugly fit the staples and the entire book if you collect these.
— Jon McClure, Overstreet Grading Guide, Sixth Edition, Page #342

As all of these various examples make clear, the way the “authorities” in our hobby approach staple replacement can have a large impact on us as collectors; and Overstreet’s grading definitions in their new Grading Guide (Sixth Edition) definitely caught me by surprise in this regard, leaving me with more questions than answers. I thought that the answers to my inquiry from CBCS and CGC were both highly interesting, and worth sharing here.

Bottom line: It is definitely worth knowing about these approaches by Overstreet and other authorities, because for one thing, any dealer out there could — without lying and with a completely straight face — market a book with replaced vintage staples as Near Mint, saying that they have graded it strictly and in accordance with the Overstreet Grading Guide. And given that such a staple replacement stance in turn “opens the door” to being able to shuffle in/out items like tattooz inserts while remaining within the technical boundaries of the definition, I find Jon McClure’s “controversial” stance on ASM #238 has in turn grown less controversial in my view, i.e. within the Grading Guide context Jon’s viewpoint now stands even stronger.

If you haven’t already done so, I’d definitely recommend picking up a copy of The Overstreet Guide To Grading Comics, Sixth Edition (here’s its Amazon page) both in order to own a reference copy of Jon’s variant article (more like a variant reference encyclopedia than an article), and also for the other content included.

Happy Collecting! 🙂

– Ben p.s. It was also very cool to see our CPV Price Guide promoted on page #381!

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Technology

Will NFTs Be Part Of The Future Of Comic Book Collecting?

By Benjamin Nobel, 4/16/2021

In a recent discussion with one of my fellow CPV Price Guide collaborators about the broad market for collectibles, I made an off-hand mention of “NFTs” … and the response was: What are NFTs, is that something I should know about? With this post, I will explain what NFTs are, and why I believe there is a good chance we may see them become part of the future of the comic book collecting hobby in some form.

To begin the explanation, I want to first start with “cryptocurrencies” for background. The main one everyone has heard of by now is, of course, Bitcoin. Within every article about Bitcoin, it seems they always want to include some kind of picture, and usually it is something similar to the picture at right, i.e. a visual of an actual coin — which is quite funny when you stop to think about it, because it isn’t like you can buy a Bitcoin, then pick up the phone, call some number, and say “I’d like you to send me my Bitcoin now, here is my mailing address.” No, these “coins” are actually entirely virtual, they exist only in the realm of zeros and ones, and, there is nothing “behind” them — no country, no government, no economy, and no tangible attribute whatsoever is backing these virtual coins.

So if they exist only in a virtual realm, aren’t backed by anything, and when it comes to something you can touch or hold in your hands these are basically “nothingness,” then why do they have value? As I write these words, one Bitcoin costs in excess of sixty thousand US dollars. Clearly that’s not nothing; in fact, if you multiply all of the bitcoins there are, by today’s per-coin price, you get a total market value of… I swear I’m not making this up… 1.2 TRILLION dollars (yes, that’s Trillion with a ‘T’).

To put some perspective on this, a quick thought experiment: would you rather own all the bitcoins, or would you rather own all of the company ExxonMobil? At current prices for bitcoin, and current trading prices for ExxonMobil shares, you could actually own five ExxonMobil’s in this thought experiment, not just one. In other words, if I held out two hands for you to choose from, and in one of them was all the bitcoins and in the other hand was five ExxonMobil’s, then based on the current market values Mr. Market is saying that those two hands, those two hypothetical choices, are equal.

How is it possible that something with zero “inherent value” can be worth this much? One answer I see a lot is, “it has value because everybody agrees it has value” (but that’s not a very satisfying explanation). The best explanation I can give as to why Bitcoin (and any of the myriad others that came on its heels) has any value is: (1) there is nothing that prevents it from having value, and, (2) people are allowed to trade it. The rest just boils down to supply versus demand… And while there may be restricted supply of coins within each coin type, there is no limit on how many types of coins there can be — the successful introduction of new ones kind of all comes down to “brand marketing” and how capable the creators of a new coin type are at drumming up demand for it.

[Sometimes the building of a brand can even start as a joke: apparently the “DogeCoin” coin type was created AS A JOKE based on a “meme” that was circulating at the time… And today, the current market value of that coin type, multiplied by all of the coins outstanding for that coin type, is now 34 BILLION dollars today (Billion with a ‘B’)… that’s right, it went from a joke to a market value greater than that of the Clorox company.]

As basic as this supply-versus-demand and “we’re allowed to trade it” explanation sounds to explain what is happening to these cryptocurrency values, we must remember that while today it feels like we have practically unlimited freedoms about what types of assets we can own, the past is filled with counter-examples; for instance, individuals weren’t always allowed to freely own gold in this country:

While hard to imagine today, back in 1933, “Executive Order 6102” had made it a criminal offense for U.S. citizens to own or trade gold, albeit with exceptions for collectibles and jewelry. These prohibitions would only begin to be relaxed decades later in 1964, and then by 1975 we were once again free to own and trade gold to our hearts’ content. So it is probably something that people take for granted that the trading of cryptocurrencies is allowed by our government; if the government ever came to decide that it is bad for us or bad for the country or bad for the planet then the government could easily step in with regulations and/or restrictions.

But absent any restrictions, right now there is unlimited freedom in buying and selling all of this “nothingness,” AND there is no limit to the number of new cryptocurrency types that can enter the market. In fact, some years back I half-jokingly shared the following idea with some friends: what if we introduced new cryptocurrencies to correlate with the top 1st comic book character appearances — a coin for Action Comics #1 as the first appearance of Superman, a coin for Amazing Fantasy #15 a the first appearance of Spider-Man, etc. etc., and we limit the number of coins for each appearance relative to the actual scarcity of the actual comic book.

This idea was met with three reactions: (1) who on Earth would pay real money to own one of your coins when they are not backed by anything? (2) Since anybody can introduce new cryptocurrencies, what would stop a potential “competitor” from saying, “no no, don’t buy those coins for the 1st appearance of Superman from Ben, buy these coins, from me.” (3) Would it even be legal given that these characters are owned by someone else?

And that third point is the real deal-killer isn’t it — for anyone to take a comic book “coin” seriously, for everyone to agree that it is legit, it would really have to be issued and backed by Marvel/DC/etc. The actual creator/owner of the character, the artwork, etc., is really the only one who could legitimately sell “coins” tied to such characters or artwork and stories about those characters.

Artwork: in the old days it was all done on paper or canvas, but nowadays, there are actually a lot of artists who do their artistic work completely digitally, i.e. they are creating their art on the computer… So in these cases the “original” artwork isn’t on a physical piece of paper; rather, it is saved in a file somewhere.

What if there was a way for an artist to sell their digitally-native artwork, as a coin — i.e. since it is possible to create an unlimited number of new cryptocurrencies, suppose a new “cryptocurrency” was created but instead of having many coins, that new currency just had one coin… And suppose that the actual original artist is the one who makes the initial sale of that coin, and does so in a way that legitimately transfers ownership, such as an auction via a legitimate auction house like a Sotheby’s or a Christie’s?

The scenario I’ve just described above, is basically what an “NFT” is… NFT stands for “Non-Fungible Token” and I think the best way to wrap your head around it is that it is basically using the same underlying “blockchain” (“digital ledger”) technology that powers cryptocurrencies, but applying it to single coins/tokens — the “non-fungible” part of the name just means “this token is unique, it is not interchangeable with any other coin.” And then from there, the whole world just needs to agree that “this particular token/coin — this ‘unique serial number’ in essence — represents ‘X'” and voila, ‘X’ can be a piece of digital artwork, a video clip, even a tweet!

[Right now, many of the NFTs making the news are traded on platforms that are “piggybacking” off of the “Etherium” (“ETH”) blockchain (to buy one of these NFTs, much like if you enter a casino you’d turn your cash into chips before sitting down at a table, in this case you’d turn your cash into Ether and then buy/sell NFTs with the prices denominated in Ether); another cryptocurrency blockchain being used is “Flow.”]

And as you either guessed by now, or actually saw in the news, last month the very first NFT representing a piece of “digital artwork” to be auctioned by a major auction house, was sold by Christie’s… it was this work, by the artist Mike Winkelmann who goes online by the name of “Beeple” and the opening bid was one hundred dollars:

Before the idea of selling digital artwork via NFTs came about, the best this artist had ever done was to sell a print of his work and the most he had ever achieved selling a print was $100. And on March 11th, after the NFT auction ended, news outlets would report the results. If you haven’t seen this news before today, then before I tell you the number, I’d like you to wager a guess first… Do you think it fetched more or less than 50 grand? What about a quarter million dollars? More? Or less? Half a million? A million? Five million? Ten million?

Nope, those guesses were all too low. The NFT for the above digital piece of art auctioned, at Christie’s, for SIXTY NINE MILLION DOLLARS (that’s Million with an ‘M’). That marks the third highest amount ever paid for a piece of art by a living artist.

With a result like that, suddenly everyone who owns anything digital is now thinking about what could potentially be monetized, using NFTs. The CEO of Twitter auctioned off the first tweet … and it went for $2.9 million. The NBA is now selling “video highlights” as NFTs, calling the platform “Top Shots.” Eli Manning just announced he is launching a line of football NFTs. Mark Cuban is reportedly thinking about turning Dallas Mavericks tickets into NFTs. Even the New York Stock Exchange is getting involved — would you like to own “the first-ever trade” of, say, Spotify? Soon you can.

But what I find particularly interesting about NFTs, especially as it relates to comics, is that the technology has a built-in way for the original seller to earn royalties on any and all future sales of those NFTs. The seller can decide to charge a percentage of all future secondary sales.

Let’s stop to think about that for a moment, as it relates to comic books. Suppose that tomorrow Marvel creates a new character and sells 50,000 printed copies of the comic that contains that character’s first appearance. The new character becomes popular, and that comic starts to rise in value… $20, $40, then $60 per copy in marketplace trading. Who currently benefits from those sales at higher prices? For one thing, the collectors who bought the book when it was first released can profit if they sell. Comic shops that reserved some copies for their back issues stash can profit. Then there are the trading platforms — e.g. under the basic eBay account, eBay charges sellers 10% of the value of any collectibles sold on their platform. But where is Marvel’s share of those future comic book collectible sales? Sure, they benefit from the increased popularity, but when it comes to profiting off of the original 50,000 copies, where is the money for Marvel? Nowhere, that’s where!

But with the idea of NFTs and royalties on those NFTs, if I was an executive at Marvel or DC, I’d be practically salivating over the future potential: Suppose instead of selling 50,000 printed copies of a new issue, Marvel decided this particular comic was not going to exist as a printed issue, just as a digital one, and it was going to be 50,000 coins/tokens (or perhaps even a split; perhaps 25,000 tokens and 25,000 printed copies — there are no rules here whatsoever, the rules can be invented). [I realize this idea of a purely-digital collectible comic book sold via NFTs is a very scary thought for anyone whose business is based on selling physical copies of new issue comic books]. And now suppose a 5% royalty was placed on future trades of those newly-issued NFTs.

Think about the additional franchise value this could potentially build over the years: the royalties on each new NFT are basically a new asset that would add to the total value of the business. Can you imagine if, hypothetically, Action Comics #1 had been issued as an NFT instead of a comic book, and that you could own a 5% royalty on any future sales of Action Comics #1? What would you pay to own such a royalty? In this hypothetical suppose you would have earned $162,500 from this single recent $3.25 million sale alone so based on this, probably you’d have been willing to pay way more than $162,500 to own that royalty interest on not just the active sale but any and all future resales of the collectible, right? In actual reality, Action Comics #1 of course already exists as a printed comic so this is purely a wild hypothetical, but it does illustrate the idea: if the publisher had a way to earn a royalty on all future sales of a given comic book issue in the collectibles market, that royalty has a ton of value.

And that is the main reason I think we could see NFTs become part of the future comic collecting landscape in some way shape or form… It is just too lucrative a concept for comic book creators to ignore, from small creators who might view NFTs as an alternative to raising funds for their creations on Kickstarter (how about making it digital-only and selling a fixed number of NFTs instead?), to the executives at Marvel, DC, Archie, etc… Whether it is the more-radical idea of entire comic book issues getting sold as NFTs, or whether it is digitally native comic book artwork getting turned into NFTs, this technological development is something that definitely has the potential to creep into our beloved hobby — and in an extreme scenario potentially even to “disrupt” it.

Can you imagine buying a comic as an NFT? What a strange world that would be: There would be no “grade” on a digital token… you wouldn’t submit such a thing to CGC, nor need to “preserve condition” in any way… it wouldn’t have a smell that brings back childhood memories… you wouldn’t need to find a place to put it / store it since it doesn’t take up any physical space… you could look at it and thumb through it but only on via a screen… you could print out and frame the cover and hang it on your wall but you could never hold the original paper in your hands because there’s no original paper anymore… It would be an entirely different collecting experience than any of us are used to…

All existing comics ever printed would still be physical comics of course — it is hard to imagine cryptocurrency-based coins/tokens ever competing directly with our beloved tangible/hold-them-in-your-hands comic books of the past. Much like my half-joking coin idea was “shot down” by friends, it is hard to envision Action Comics #1 actually existing as a crypto collectible let alone catching on (although I definitely wouldn’t rule out such a thing if DC was behind it!).

So I don’t think the sudden rise of NFTs means our hobby is suddenly headed for a major change in the short term nor are our pre-existing collections “threatened” by the new technology; but in the long term I expect that we’ll eventually see NFTs crop up — in some way shape or form — in connection with our hobby, in the future. [Or on the other hand, maybe, as many believe, all-things-crypto are part of a gigantic “bubble” that will soon pop, and that bubble-burst will in turn kill new NFT ideas before they get a chance to leave the idea phase.]

– Ben p.s. To be clear: none of this new technology changes my approach to collecting comics (and I have a very hard time envisioning myself ever buying an NFT), but I do think it is something to know about, and to keep your eye on!

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Direct Edition vs. Newsstand Edition Comic Books

Spider-Man #1 (1990): Newsstand Variants Versus The Rest

By Benjamin Nobel, March 23, 2021

A quote from John Jackson Miller, from The Standard Catalog of Comic Books, 4th Edition: “Believe it or not, the first comic series called simply Spider-Man didn’t appear until 1990. It made a serious splash. Todd McFarlane, who had become a comics superstar for his very spidery-looking renditions of the title character of Amazing Spider-Man, was given the chance to start a Spidey title that would be all his own: “adjectiveless,” as it would commonly be called. Retailers would call it a license to print money, as sales on the first issue went far beyond the wildest expectations. The issue came with special “bagged” editions — the logic being that if you opened the bag, you destroyed the resale value of the comic book. That particular bit of lunacy didn’t survive the end of the 1990’s speculator glut, but it had a good deal to do with getting it going in the first place. (It should be noted, in fact, that there is no such thing as a CGC-graded copy of the “bagged edition.” CGC has to unbag comics to grade them, making them just like all the others that people — horrors! — opened and read.) McFarlane eventually left the series to form Image, and the title became more closely related to the other Spider-Man series. It was cancelled in 1998 and restarted as Peter Parker, Spider-Man.”

Today I’m going to dig into the various versions of Todd McFarlane’s 1990 classic, Spider-Man #1 (a “Classic Cover” if there ever was one!). Between our various go-to sources of comic book information, it seems we have a fairly good picture of how many copies of each different original August 1990 version were sold… except for the newsstand version, which the hobby doesn’t seem to have a good handle on, almost as if its sales were a mystery (which in many ways they were) — so in this post, I hope to explore further, in order to learn more about the relative rarity (and relative high grade rarity) of the newsstand copies versus the other types.

To begin, let’s review the various types out there (and we’ll stay in the 1990s — various reprints subsequently occurred including a flood of them last year, and I will be ignoring those). This review can be more complicated than it needs to be, simply because each different comic book “authority” has their own internal categorizations (and the prominent comic shops have their own categorizations as well). Often this can mean that distinctly printed types can be overlooked/ignored by a given authority: In fact, if we went just by the variant names that appear on the CGC census for example, we might (falsely) conclude that 1st print newsstand copies don’t even exist!

CGC’s census has the following entries for Spider-Man #1 (as of this writing):

  1. “Regular” copies (no variant name on the label) = 6,458 copies presently on census.

  2. “Gold Edition” copies = 3,980 copies presently on census

  3. “Platinum Edition” copies = 1,727 copies presently on census

  4. “Poly-Bagged Edition” copies = 922 copies presently on census

  5. “Poly-Bagged Silver Edition” copies = 1,136 copies presently on census

  6. “Silver Edition” copies = 9,415 copies presently on census

  7. “UPC Gold Edition” copies = 571 copies presently on census
But as I’ll get into around the middle section of this post, this list is incomplete because it completely ignores the presence of 1st print newsstand copies. It does, however, include the second print newsstand copies…

“UPC Gold” Copies — Let’s Start By Looking At These

Interestingly, CGC does recognize one type with a newsstand bar code on it… and that’s the second print (gold cover) newsstand/UPC type… which for years CGC denoted without any indication that it was actually a second printing!

The terminology “UPC Gold Edition” was entirely of CGC’s own choosing, as this terminology appears nowhere in the indicia itself. Rather, CGC appears to have chosen it to delineate the Gold cover copies with newsstand UPC codes, as being distinct from the direct edition “regular” Gold cover copies (i.e. the ones with logos in place of the bar code — if you are unfamiliar with the difference between direct edition and newsstand comics, then I suggest you pause here, and read this post first before you continue). To show you what the indicia looks like for the Gold UPC copies, below is an eBay listing I found of a Gold UPC copy, where as you can see from the row of picture icons, the seller has helpfully included an indicia photo.

Below is their indicia photo, where as you can see, it says nothing about “UPC Gold Edition” anywhere; and it is clearly denoted as a “Second Printing”:

Here’s a zoom-in with the Second Printing notation circled:

Despite being a second printing, for years CGC’s labeling treatment had zero indication anywhere that the Gold UPC version of the issue was indeed a second printing (which unfortunately led many collectors to falsely assume that it was a first printing). Below is an example of CGC’s old/past labeling treatment:

Years later, CGC began to place the note “Indicia states ‘Second Printing'” on the right-hand side of the label:

[The same goes for “regular” (direct edition) gold copies as well: CGC used to label them without any second printing indication, but then added the same note shown above, onto those labels as well.]

At this point, you may find yourself asking, “why does CGC give gold cover copies with newsstand UPC codes their own census entry (but meanwhile no census entry for first print copies with UPC codes)?” I’d wager that part of the answer to this question has to do with what appears in the Overstreet price guide. Let’s explore that further, in the next section.

Second Printing (“Gold”) Copies — The Print Run Numbers

Although the newsstand bar code would lead us to assume that such gold-cover copies were distributed on newsstands, as it would turn out, Marvel inked a deal with Walmart whereby Walmart took the entire print run of these for themselves as an exclusive, and therefore none were distributed across the traditional newsstand channel. And according to Overstreet, the size of this run given to Walmart was a mere 10,000 copies (leading Overstreet to include a distinct high-value entry in their price guide for such copies — and that distinct entry and high value perhaps helps to explain why CGC, in turn, would create a distinct entry in their census):

I find this absolutely fascinating to think about from the “business perspective” of imagining Marvel weighing the decision to make this deal with Walmart (versus going to the traditional newsstand channel with their second print Gold cover copies printed with UPC codes). To Marvel, a firm sale of 10,000 copies to Walmart as an exclusive (at whatever price they negotiated) must have been judged as a “superior” deal versus going the traditional newsstand route. Perhaps this helps shed some amount of light on what sales “might have been” had they gone the newsstand route instead — i.e. if Marvel had expected they could sell 20,000 or 40,000 or 60,000 second print copies on newsstands, would they have still made this Walmart deal??

Newsstand copies we must remember — unlike their prevalent direct edition counter-parts — were returnable copies by the very nature of the newsstand distribution channel: publishers would print out a distinct print run batch for newsstands (to distinguish them from non-returnable direct editions) and then send them out to newsstands where each copy would sit waiting for a buyer to come along. And if no buyer ever came, then the unsold copies were then returned for credit, and typically pulped/recycled forward.

This fascinating dynamic also makes newsstand sales issue-by-issue a fun mystery: how many newsstand copies did the publisher ultimately sell for the issue in question?? That all depends on the sell-through for that book on the stands, which could vary considerably issue by issue. Based on newsstand rarity discussions and estimates we have seen, we might look at the 1990 estimate given by Chuck Rozanski (who played an important insider role in the advent of direct editions) for Marvel’s 1990 direct edition sales (overall) at 85% in that year (versus newsstand at 15% of sales). This estimate would imply, for example, that for a given typical issue with total sales of 500,000 copies, 425,000 of those sales would be expected to be direct edition, and 75,000 would be expected to be newsstand.

As it turns out, second print (Gold cover) direct edition sales of Spider-Man #1 fell right in that range of 425,000 according to Overstreet:

So therefore I would interpret the situation as Marvel giving up the chance for newsstand sales of “an estimated up to 75,000” second print (gold cover) copies, in exchange for a firm sale of 10,000 copies to Walmart as an exclusive. While part of any business decision is non-monetary (Marvel may have seen value in “building a relationship” with Walmart), this situation still leaves me wondering just how well 1st print copies sold on newsstands given that Marvel gave up the chance to sell their 2nd print newsstand copies the traditional way, in exchange for the firm sale at 10,000 copies.

Green/1st Print “UPC” Copies — What Were The Numbers??

So while we have good information on the second print copies that carried newsstand bar codes, how about the 1st print newsstand copies… how well did they sell? Unlike the gold UPC coded copies, the first print newsstand copies were sold in polybags, and they look like this:

Unfortunately, Overstreet gives no estimate whatsoever for the sales numbers on these first print newsstand copies with UPC codes; however, they do give us some “clues,” in the form of print run numbers for other poly-bagged versions. In addition to their sales of regular unbagged direct edition copies, Marvel apparently printed 125,000 direct edition copies and stuck those in bags too — and the “webbing” on the cover looks to have been given a slightly different shade of color (more purple). Overstreet gives the polybagged direct editions their own line item in the guide, and reveals their print run as follows:

Interestingly, Overstreet has separate value lines for: the polybagged regular direct edition copies; the un-polybagged regular direct edition copies; and also for UPC coded polybagged copies. And, perhaps tellingly — since Overstreet appears to be factoring in print run differences into their guided values for other types — they give the “UPC polybagged” copies the same guided value as the “regular polybagged” (direct edition) copies. Interesting, right? Already, that leads me to wonder if the UPC coded polybagged copies had sales in the same 125,000 neighborhood, in-line with the “regular” (direct edition) polybagged copies?

The “regular” polybagged direct edition copies look like this (notice the logo in place of a bar code, and see if you agree that the color of the webbing looks more purple):

And then Marvel also sold a known number of silver copies in poly-bags as well; and interestingly in the case of those, rather than bag some number of copies out of the regular silver direct edition print run, instead, Marvel cleverly (greedily?) sold those special silver polybagged copies for 25 cents more… and to do this, they placed a $2 price on the plastic bag and then did a distinct print run batch of silver copies with the cover price edited out of the cover itself:

Here’s a close-up of the price box comparing a polybagged silver copy like the above, versus a regular silver copy:

And according to Overstreet, Marvel sold 125,000 of these silver polybagged copies too:

So if we know that Marvel sold 125,000 direct editions in polybags, and we know that they also sold 125,000 of these no-cover-price silver copies in polybags via direct sale, we’re still left with the question of how many newsstand copies in polybags were likely to have been sold — but it is really starting to seem that Marvel liked the number “125,000” for these polybagged batches, does it not?

Further Clues: CGC’s Treatment & Marketplace Observations

As it so happens, CGC’s bizarre treatment / organization of their census entries for Spider-Man #1 actually has a “side-effect” that should help us explore the newsstand sales numbers mystery, because referring back to the list of census entries shown before, they have both a “Poly-Bagged Silver Edition” census entry and a “Poly-Bagged Edition” entry; and as it turns out, that “Poly-Bagged Edition” entry encompasses (lumps together) the direct editions that originally were sold in poly bags and the newsstand editions with UPC codes as well!

When CGC was asked about how to submit polybagged copies to them for grading, this was their answer:

A CGC representative explained that submitters should note on their submission forms that comics may be removed from their polybags, and then CGC will remove them before grading, with the empty plastic bag probably to be returned (“we try our best”).

This creates a comical situation where CGC does not discern direct edition versus newsstand first print copies with distinct census entries, but, CGC will encapsulate a given copy under the “Poly-Bagged Edition” variant census category if they know it used to be in a polybag; whereas the exact same comic could be categorized under the standard census category if its polybag-or-not origin is unknown to CGC!

And this polybag-vs-un-polybagged treatment appears to be the same for both direct edition as well as newsstand copies (even though all newsstand copies originally would have originated in polybags), i.e. looking in the marketplace, it is readily possible to find CGC graded newsstand copies both with the “Poly-Bagged Edition” label and also without it… Presumably with the former having been submitted to CGC still inside the polybag, and the latter having already been snipped out by its submitter. Here’s a side-by-side example of two newsstand copies I found listed — remember the comics themselves are 100% physically identical to each other because they are out of the same print run batch — and yet they received two different CGC labels based on “polybag status” at submission time:

I want to talk a bit more, later on, about the treatment of polybagged comics in general; but for now, when it comes to the exploration of the newsstand numbers, what this CGC treatment does for us is to actually help us out quite a bit… Because knowing that CGC will lump together both the newsstand and direct edition types under the “Poly-Bagged Edition” category for books submitted to them in poly-bags (and that unbagged copies can be given regular/non-variant labels) means that we can study the marketplace availability of CGC graded copies that were given the Poly-Bagged Edition variant designation and then among those, observe how many are newsstand, versus how many are direct edition; and since we know from Overstreet that the print run of direct editions that were polybagged was 125,000, and we also know that that the silver polybagged copies were also given a print run of 125,000, this print run knowledge for two out of the three, combined with a study of marketplace availability under the Poly-Bagged Edition label, can in turn help us to calibrate our thinking about the newsstand numbers!

I searched eBay for CGC graded poly-bagged copies using the search string “Spider-Man 1 CGC Poly-Bagged”, looking both at the active listings and also the sold listings sections. While today is just one point in time, this study should provide helpful ratios of recently sold plus currently available copies, that originated in polybags. Here below are my screen-captures, followed by my counts.

I count as follows: 20 Silver Polybagged CGC copies, 13 Direct Edition Polybagged CGC copies, and 12 Newsstand Polybagged CGC copies. Keeping in mind that for the silver copies the lack of a cover price makes them discernable to CGC as that type regardless of whether the submitter opens the polybag or CGC does (versus with the green-cover polybagged copies where CGC can instead categorize them under the main/regular census entry all depending on submitter behavior), this would argue for the silver polybag census count to be “naturally elevated” versus the regular polybag census count. Thus it is not surprising to me that I counted 20 of these silver ones, versus 13 direct edition poly-bagged copies, even though both are known to Overstreet to have had the same 125K print run — I think part of the explanation for the difference here is that some of the direct edition poly-bagged copies are simply not making it onto the polybag edition census entry.

But the comparison that is the most important to us here, in the context of our exploration into the newsstand numbers, is that I counted roughly the same number of direct edition and newsstand copies that had been labeled under that Poly-Bagged Edition census category — thirteen versus twelve, pretty much right in line!

To me this all suggests that a good best guess would be that Marvel printed out 125,000 silver copies for polybags, printed another 125,000 copies for regular direct edition polybags, and then I’m going to wager a guess that they polybagged 125,000 copies for newsstand distribution as well. It could also be the case that they sent more than this to newsstands and some portion never sold. [Ultimately what we really care about as collectors is how many were sold (and the survivorship characteristics from there) — if Marvel printed and sold all 125,000 copies that would leave us in the same situation as if they had printed 250,000, sold half, and pulped the other half, or printed 375,000 and only sold a third of them, etc. etc., you see what I mean I hope].

And I’m going to further guess that Marvel experienced a well-above-average sell-through on the newsstands for this particular issue, between the gorgeous cover artwork, the big “#1” and the fact that the polybag looked so enticing as a point-of-purchase item… I’d bet that lots of newsstand-goers who wouldn’t have normally bought such a comic to read it, would meanwhile have grabbed one or more of these Spider-Man #1’s figuring they’d squirrel it away in hopes of future collectible value.

But unlike direct editions which would have been handled with great care by the comic shops that received them, and stored away in comic bags and boards by the collectors who took them home, the polybagged newsstand copies would have experienced the rough handling that newsstand-distributed comics are notorious for — and indeed, many of the newsstand copies of Spider-Man #1 that I have seen that are still within their original polybags are nonetheless creased along the spine (typical crease spot I’ve seen is usually at the top left within the orange Marvel Comics box), and/or have indentations where they hit the rack along the cover edge, and, I even spotted the below copy advertised as “brand-new, sealed, never opened!” but with obvious water stains on the back cover:

And please notice something else, too, about that back cover picture shown above: notice the “ridge” of plastic that sticks up along the center, where the plastic comes together and forms a seal. For even the most well-preserved newsstand copies where the original buyer placed the whole polybag into a comic book bag with a backing board, this plastic ridge still presses a bend along the entire back cover. This back cover bend is the case for every newsstand copy I have examined so far, and I really don’t see how any of them could have avoided it. Worse, for any copies stored in a stack, the plastic ridge also presses into the front cover of the copy below it! Here’s an example back cover that I am holding at the right angle against the light, so that the bend is illuminated:

Above: example newsstand copy back cover, which has a “polybag bend” running the entire length of the page.

So although the “natural temptation” would be for any owner of a still-sealed polybagged newsstand copy of Spider-Man #1 to think along the lines of logic of “it is still sealed in its original bag, therefore it is still in mint condition” (and many owners are indeed advertising their copies for sale as mint or near-mint), the reality of the situation is that most of these are likely in a more-realistic 8.0 and under; I think that Comics To Astonish has it right, with their method of listing their own polybagged newsstand copies, which are all still sealed and yet are (truthfully) advertised as “7.5 or better”:

As for the lucky newsstand copies that received the very best possible storage from their owners, and those owners are later tempted to send them in for grading (thinking to themselves, this is still sealed, and I’ve kept it in a comic bag with backing board since 1990, so it must be mint, right?), I have to imagine these are most likely going to be actually surviving “as is” at 9.2 grades at best. I found the below CBCS example (CBCS happily makes its grading notes public, enabling us to see them) and the single note inputted by the grader for this example is: “poly-bag bend front & back cover” (so apparently “poly-bag bend” is so common as to be a grading industry term):

Note that CBCS denotes as “UPC Poly-Bagged Variant” — this might have been useful in terms of studying their census for relative rarity except that they only began recognizing newsstand copies as variants a few years ago, and it is not clear from their census entries which ones are “directly comparable” to each other — different variant names appear to have been created at different times, so their census counts may encompass not just the rarity difference of the type itself but also the timing of how long copies have been accumulating onto each entry.

Given these condition challenges for surviving newsstand copies, how is it that 9.6 and 9.8 CBCS and CGC-graded newsstand copies are sometimes seen in the marketplace? I think the answer is either that (a) the original owner removed the book from its polybag back in 1990 and carefully stored it in a bag and board ever since, or, (b) probably more likely: the book has undergone a “pressing” to straighten out the polybag bend, ahead of being graded.

CBCS has a census of their own, and it is interesting to note that their entry for “UPC Poly-Bagged Variant” shows just seven copies in the top two grades of 9.6 and 9.8, and meanwhile their entry for “Gold UPC Variant” shows just six copies in those grades. Not much of a difference there between the first and second print newsstand copies, when comparing the highest grades! That being said however, CBCS’s census does not indicate when (in time) the “UPC Poly-Bagged Variant” census entry was created (it is possible they may have only added it once they began to recognize newsstand comics broadly, back in 2017), so it may not be fair to compare those two census entries against one another, if one of the two has only been accumulating copies since 2017.

However, what is definitely fair to look at with regard to this “UPC Poly-Bagged Variant” CBCS census entry, is the breakdown of the various grades within the census entry — for example, the ratio of 9.6-and-up copies, to the total submitted. And here, we find that just 13.5% of total copies submitted that have been given this “UPC Poly-Bagged Variant” classification by CBCS have received a 9.6 or higher grade. For contrast, fully 74% of the direct edition silver copies on CBCS’s census are 9.6-and-up!

And to add to the overall picture for comparison, how about the polybagged silver copies, the ones with the cover price edited out? These would have had careful handling via their direct sales distribution and similarly would have been handled with care by the collectors who took them home — but they’d still have that “polybag bend” condition problem if stored in their original bags. And with no cover price, presumably it is much less common that these get mis-labeled as regular silver copies. And for these polybagged silver copies, the CBCS census shows that 9.6-and-up copies make up 25% of the CBCS census total.

Bottom line: all signs seem to point to first print newsstand sales being “in-line” with the other two poly-bagged “known numbers” (which were 125,000 as per Overstreet), but having been distributed in polybags means that surviving first print newsstand copies are going to face condition challenges. Layer on the rough handling that was typical of the newsstand distribution channel, and the condition challenges are even more steep — as the above CBCS census comparison shows quite glaringly.

Next, let’s review and compare all of the different 1st and 2nd print types that Marvel created for Spider-Man #1 in 1990.

Green, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Oh My! — A Look At All The Types

Now that we’ve tackled the “newsstand mystery” as far as the numbers and have come up with a guesstimate, let’s next compare each of the various other types (from 1990 — I’m not going to review the myriad reprints that came later) for Spider-Man #1, and review the print run numbers shared with us by various sources.

First, let’s talk a little further about polybags in general, and what they mean to us as far as comic books being “variants” or not. While it is totally understandable that comic book shops — like Mile High Comics or MyComicShop — would want to have different entries in their systems for polybagged versus unbagged copies of the same version (so that customers know what is going to arrive to them), to me speaking as a collector who likes to send my comics to CGC to be graded professionally, the important criteria that makes for a distinct version is in the printing of a given version, and whether it is distinctly marked / discernible in some way from other types.

Given this view, the idea is absurd and comical to me that that you and I could each start with polybagged newsstand copies of Spider-Man #1, and then do as follows: suppose you decide to submit your copy to CGC inside its polybag and choose the “Poly-Bagged Edition” variant notation on your submission form, along with a note giving CGC permission to snip open the bag; meanwhile I take my copy and I snip it out of the bag, set the bag to the side, and then submit my copy with no variant notation on my submission form. At the end of the day, you will have a first print newsstand copy inside of a slab marked “Poly-Bagged Edition” in one hand, and you will have the empty plastic poly-bag that CGC “maybe” has returned to you in the other hand; and I, meanwhile, will have a first print newsstand copy inside of a slab with no variant notation on the label in one hand, and in my other hand I will have the empty plastic poly-bag I set aside earlier.

Each of us now have newsstand copies that both used to be in poly-bags but are now in CGC slabs. Our two copies are 100% physically identical, and came out of the same print run batch. And yet they carry two different CGC labels. Yet meanwhile, CGC will not tell newsstand and direct edition copies apart with their own census entries and labels?!? To me that’s a situation that can only be described as just plain silly… I think that CGC has it wrong, and should be going by the physical comic itself when creating unique entries.

And when it comes to the physical comics themselves, the following versions exist, as laid out by ComicsPriceGuide, which, in my opinion, among all the various sources I will refer to today, is the one that has organized these in the most logical way (to my way of thinking; and I’m not saying I agree with their guided values, just that I agree with the layout of their entries — although possibly the “purple” color of the webbing of direct edition regular polybagged copies arguably makes them discernable in which case they should have an entry too):

Referring to the above, first, they have the “green” cover copies, which exist as both a direct edition — for which they are estimating over 1,000,000 copies produced — and a newsstand edition (where, like Overstreet, they give no information about the numbers).

Next, they have the “silver” cover, which exists both as a regular direct edition — for which they are estimating over 1,000,000 copies produced — and also the “no price” version (which as we saw earlier was distributed in those polybags with the $2 price on the outside of the bag), which they indicate at 125,000 copies produced (their number matching that of Overstreet).

Next, they have the “platinum” cover, estimated at 10,000 copies produced. Here again they match the information given in Overstreet (which says as follows — and also, their note about new McFarlane art and editorial material instead of ads is a particularly interesting tidbit):

And finally, they have the “gold” cover — correctly identified as the second printing — where they estimate over 450,000 regular direct editions were produced (in-line with Overstreet’s range), and they echo Overstreet in stating a 10,000 (or less) print run for the gold copies with the newsstand UPC codes on them.

In summary:

  1. Green Direct Edition: 1,000,000+ per CPG

  2. Green Polybagged Direct Edition: 125,000 (per OPG)

  3. Green Newsstand/UPC Edition: 125,000 (our estimate)

  4. Silver Direct Edition Regular: 1,000,000+ per CPG

  5. Silver Direct Edition No Cover Price: 125,000 (per both CPG and OPG)

  6. Gold (2nd Printing) Direct Edition: 400,000 to 450,000 (per CPG and OPG)

  7. Gold (2nd Printing) Newsstand/UPC Edition: 10,000 (per both CPG and OPG)

  8. Platinum: 10,000 (per both CPG and OPG)

But it is also useful to see how Mile High and MyComicShop break them out into different listings — and from this we actually learn of a few interesting additional things!

Let’s look at Mile High first. For their green cover listings they have entries for both the poly-bagged and unbagged versions, and I found it interesting that for the poly-bagged versions, they list Near Mint newsstand copies at more than double the asking price of Near Mint regular copies in poly-bags:

Similarly, for the Silver listings, they value the polybagged no-cover-price version higher than the regular silver version (and a little under the polybagged newsstand copies):

The Gold listings bring no surprises, except that their asking price for regular gold copies seems extreme relative to that huge print run…

And lastly, the platinum version:

Moving on to MyComicShop, there are a number of additional interesting details among their listings. For one, they have listings for “signed and stamped” versions that may include “a letter of authenticity from Todd McFarlane’s own comic shop he ran back in the 90’s, ‘The Spider’s Web'”:

I found an example copy on eBay complete with the referenced letter. Here’s what the stamp looked like…

…and this is the “letter” shown in the listing:

Moving on to MyComicShop’s “regular”/green-cover listings, as expected they have both a polybagged and unbagged listing in their catalog for direct editions…

… and also for newsstand copies:

The listings for Silver cover copies start out as expected:

… but then there is a nifty surprise as well:

Apparently, some unknown number of regular silver copies show the Lizard in blue instead of green on a certain page. I went looking for a copy, and here is the page in question:

While CGC does not recognize these as variants with their own census entries — and this is reminiscent of the Secret Wars #1 “blue Galactus” copies — much like in the case of Secret Wars, CBCS meanwhile does have a variant census entry for these. Here is what a CBCS copy looks like (with a label note that reads: “7th and 10th page color plates transposed”):

Interestingly, as of this writing CBCS’s census shows ten of these Blue Lizard copies in the top two grades of 9.6 and 9.8, which is a higher count than the six Gold UPC copies on their census, and also higher than the seven UPC Poly-Bag copies on their census, in those same two grade tiers. This relative count makes me question just how many Blue Lizard copies are truly out there? In any case, I think it would be frustratingly hard to try to find these “in the wild” because of the necessity to check interior pages for the error.

Moving on to MyComicShop’s “Gold” cover listings, there is another interesting surprise:

The surprise (to me anyway) is that last entry: at least some number of gold 2nd print direct edition copies were sold in polybags too! How interesting that Overstreet doesn’t mention these given that they do mention each one of the other polybagged types. And why no CGC entry either? If someone was to submit one still in its polybag, then “by precedent” considering how they treat the regular direct editions, shouldn’t they have created a “Poly-Bagged Gold Edition” census entry too? And yet, no such entry appears!

And finally, MyComicShop’s Platinum cover listing:

The platinum copies were distributed to retailers along with the below letter. As you can see, it isn’t so much a “retailer incentive variant” as it is a “thank-you gift variant” after the fact:

Below is an example of what a CGC-graded Platinum copy looks like:

And here’s the back cover of the Platinum version (note the artwork in place of ads):

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Marvel Collectible Classics: Spider-Man

I also want to make mention of the 1998 title, Marvel Collectible Classics: Spider-Man, because eBay sellers will often list issue #2 of that title as “Spider-Man #1 Chromium Edition Variant” or similar. This title re-printed two of McFarlane’s Spider-Man classics, with special chromium wraparound covers: issue #1 reprinted Amazing Spider-Man #300, and issue #2 reprinted Spider-Man #1. Here’s what it looks like, front and back:

Front (based on the Spider-Man #1 cover):

And back (based on the Spider-Man #13 cover):

Since the cover of issue #13 is an homage to the cover of #1, but this time with Spidey wearing the black costume, many Spider-Man #1 “set” collectors also want to collect the original issue #13 from 8/1991 as well when assembling their sets, an issue which exists both as a prevalent direct edition and also with the newsstand UPC code which is far more rare. Here is an example newsstand copy:

Something neat to notice about these #13 copies, is that underneath where McFarlane signed the cover artwork, there is now a number: 71. In the original #1 issue, there was a question mark:

McFarlane famously hid spiders in his cover artwork, sometimes writing the number of hidden spiders next to where he would sign his name on the cover artwork; but for the 1990 issue #1 of Spider-Man, there were so many spiders hidden that he put a question mark instead of a number. Fans rightfully took this as a challenge! Many wrote in with the answer; and then with the issue #13 cover-swipe of #1, in place of the question mark there is now a number — 71, beneath his name.

The CBCS census happens to be much more helpful when it comes to Spider-Man #13 than for #1, because here instead of a mess of different entries, there exist the two expected entries of “Direct Edition” and “Newsstand Edition” which we know are directly comparable to one another, with both starting at the same point in time following their 2017 decision to start recognizing the types distinctly. Comparing the 9.8 grade counts, 87.5% of the current census copies are the prevalent direct edition type, while just 12.5% are newsstand, for issue #13:

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Current 9.8 Market Values

Having now reviewed the various 1990 versions of Spider-Man #1 that you can expect to find in the marketplace, let’s next take a look at recent sales examples. But first, let’s form an expectation of what we’ll see. Based on the known print run numbers as revealed by Overstreet and other sources, and based on our own estimate for the first-print newsstand sales, my expectation would be that if the market is responding to relative rarity then we might see the following relationship:

Starting with the lowest reported print runs, we have a tie between the Platinum and the 2nd print (Gold) newsstand UPC coded copies, at 10,000. Since Platinum copies were presented to comic shops as a “retailer reward/thank-you variant” I’d expect that each and every copy was handled with extreme care once it arrived; the only damage/loss I’d in turn expect would be of the accidental variety (lost in the mail or bent up — which a lot of these were apparently, as they were shipped in simple envelopes like this one, dropped accidentally, etc.).

The UPC coded gold copies, however, were sold to the general public through Walmart. Many would have been read; some would have been thrown out. Thus it seems only natural to me that coming from the same “starting point” of 10,000, we’d end up with fewer surviving gold 2nd print newsstand copies, versus platinum ones. And the current CGC census counts support this notion, with 1,727 platinum copies currently on record at CGC, versus 571 Gold UPC/newsstand copies. Based on this, I’d expect to see the 2nd print (gold) newsstand/UPC coded copies in “first place” when it comes to market value; I’d expect platinum copies in a close second place.

Next, there’s the types at 125,000… The polybagged direct editions I mentally “group together” with the regular/unbagged direct editions because I’m not sure whether the “purple” webbing often seen on polybagged direct editions is actually a physical feature unique to the polybagged version or just a matter of being printed earlier in the run and having a more “rich” color for that reason (anybody know the facts surrounding this?); and it would seem that copies having webbing with regular color shade were also polybagged, judging by this CGC-graded polybagged copy below:

I wouldn’t expect to see the market give any premium to a copy like the above just to know that a copy now living in a slab used to live in a polybag. That leaves the silver “no cover price” type and the first print newsstand copies. I’m going to give the edge to the first print newsstand copies on account of survivorship bias strongly favoring comics that were distributed as direct editions. Thus I’d expect first print newsstand copies in “third place” followed by the no-cover-price silver copies in 4th place.

In 5th place, despite the high CPG value (and Mile High’s high asking prices) I’d expect to see the direct edition 2nd print (gold cover) copies, given the print run at 400,000-450,000, a huge number (but still less than half that of the silver direct edition and green direct edition types). And this just leaves the direct edition regular/green and silver copies in last/second-to-last; I don’t have an expectation of one having notably more value than the other, since both are reported to have had print runs in excess of a million copies, meaning there’s no shortage whatsoever out there of either of those types.

Let’s see how these expectations match the reality, by looking at two of the most recent auction results for each type, in eBay’s “sold” section. As expected, green direct editions in 9.8 don’t seem to be noticeably far apart from silver direct editions, with price differences that can very easily come down to shipping rates and seller preferences:

And the market does indeed seem to reward the no-cover-price silver direct editions with a premium over the regular silver copies:

First print newsstand copies do indeed seem to get a market premium, and are the next-strongest among the recent auction results:

But the next result is a surprise to me… beating both the 1st print newsstand copies and the no-cover-price silver copies, are the regular direct edition gold copies! Given the huge print run difference, this comes as a surprise to me (although given the Mile High listing noted earlier, and the CPG guided value, I suppose I should have been prepared for it):

This seems out-of-whack to me, with the gold direct editions looking overvalued to my way of thinking, and the 1st print newsstand copies undervalued by comparison (the no-cover-price silver copies looking undervalued by comparison as well). I realize that gold “seems” better than silver (and better than regular) if you’re ranking by the perceived “level” of the metal, but given the stark difference in print run, I’m still surprised!

With the newsstand/UPC code gold copies we now go up an order of magnitude higher in market value than the types seen so far, with the last two 9.8 sales at auction being these:

And then for platinum copies, I was surprised to find no 9.8 universal grade auction results in the sold listings section at all; the closest results I found were a Signature Series 9.8 (so part of the the market value will reflect the signature value), and a best-offer-accepted result where all we know is that the transaction took place somewhere under the seller’s crossed-out asking price:

[6/2021 update — there have just been a couple of CGC 9.8 platinum copies that sold at auction; while separated in time from the rest of the examples in the post by a few months, I thought it would still be worth posting these as an update:]

And then just in case you were curious, here’s where Marvel Collectible Classics #2 has recently been selling:

Let’s also take a peek at sales of Spider-Man issue #13 — direct editions in 9.8 are selling not far off from where direct edition regular #1’s have been selling at auction:

Newsstand copies of #13, on the other hand, are selling at quite a notable premium (and also much higher than newsstand copies of #1):

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Conclusions

For those collectors focused on collecting just the most rare versions of Spider-Man #1 from 1990, I think the two clear stand-outs are the Platinum variants sent as a “thank-you” to retailers, and the 2nd print newsstand/UPC coded Gold variants — both of which had the lowest reported print runs among the various types, of 10,000 each.

I also know that there are many collectors out there who like to collect sets and will simply want one of each possible version of Spider-Man #1 from 1990 (and possibly beyond 1990 too). But there are also those of us who look for relative value within the comic book marketplace and act accordingly. And having explored Spider-Man #1 today, I’d argue that what we’ve seen has exposed some strong relative value opportunities.

For one thing, I’d rate both the direct edition green and direct edition silver copies as an avoid — with print runs reported to have exceeded 1 million copies each, to my way of thinking spending $75-$85 on a 9.8 copy of one of these exceedingly-common types is just way too high a price tag for something so common, when that same money (with just a little more on top) could go toward one of the more-rare versions of each of these cover variations: for the silver cover, there’s the “no-cover-price” type which would be my clear preference among the silver copies (and for those who find the “Blue Lizard” copies intriguing one could go after those), and for the green cover variations, I’d strongly prefer the more-rare newsstand/UPC coded copies, which also have such an extremely low 9.8 percentage on CBCS’s census.

In particular, I think the relative value opportunity for first print newsstand copies looks particularly strong because it has a possible future catalyst: if CGC ever were to follow in the footsteps of CBCS and come to embrace newsstand comics as distinct census variants (c’mon CGC, it is way past time to do this!!), then we could go from the current situation — where going by the CGC census alone you might (falsely) conclude that only second print UPC coded copies of Spider-Man #1 exist but not 1st print ones — to a situation where suddenly lots of collectors will check the census and realize that not only do 1st print newsstand copies of Spider-Man #1 exist after all, but their surviving numbers in the highest grades are smaller than the marketplace seems to be giving them credit for!

Happy Collecting! 🙂

– Ben

Standard
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

Standard
Canadian Newsstand Edition

Welcome to CPV Price Guide #4!

By Benjamin Nobel, December 2020

Hi everyone, this is my market report for the 2021 edition of our CPV Price Guide, marking our 4th edition!

I’m thrilled to welcome Tim Bildhauser to the advisory team this year; Tim was formerly with CBCS as their International Comics Specialist, he is a renowned expert in his niche, and he was instrumental in making possible CBCS’s 2018 labeling change for how they treat Type 1A price variants. If you like those “75¢ Canadian Price Variant” labels (versus the old highly-misleading “Canadian Edition” treatment) then please give Tim a thank-you the next time you see him, for the key role he played in making that happen. And surely the fact that CBCS “took the lead” on improving their Type 1A labeling helped, in turn, towards ultimately convincing CGC to follow suit as well (they too changed to “Canadian Price Variant” labeling, in 2019).

A big thank-you as well this year to all the fantastic contributors towards our Market Reports & Articles section, your insights are so valuable, from Salvatore Miceli’s observations about Cartoon Books, to Tony LeBlanc’s great article From a Seller’s Perspective, and James Gilbreath’s insights into Collecting CPVs for Profit. And many more authors contributed some incredibly insightful stuff; you should definitely check out their full reports here.

And one more thing before I dive into my own report: Applause and congratulations to the two recipients of this year’s John Verzyl Overstreet Advisor Award: Michelle Nolan, and our CPV team’s very own Doug Sulipa! Below is from pages 94-95 of the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide #50:

The John Verzyl Overstreet Advisor Award is presented annually to Advisors whose knowledge, contributions, ethics, and reputation are held in the highest esteem by their peers. As mentioned in the above-pictured award presentation pages, Doug Sulipa has most certainly influenced and advanced the worlds of comic books, their creators, and their fans, by actively sharing his knowledge with others.

I’ve said this before about Doug and I’ll say it again: he has contributed absolutely encyclopedic knowledge towards our CPV guides; there’s that old saying about super-knowledgeable people, and it certainly applies to Doug, that he’s so knowledgeable about comics that he’s probably forgotten more about comics than I’ll ever know!! To think that as a Senior Overstreet Advisor he’s been contributing to the Overstreet guide since edition #2 in 1972 and now they are at guide #50… Remarkable contributions over the decades, that most certainly have greatly enriched the perspectives of comic book enthusiasts everywhere.

So I say Bravo Doug!! Well deserved! We never could have created and contributed our CPV guides to the hobby if it were not for you, Doug; I am so glad to see you getting this award! And I’m glad to see others in the hobby, such as Steve Borock, applauding you as well:

“On a great note, speaking of John Verzyl, I would like to congratulate my longtime friend and hobbyist, Michelle Nolan, and fellow hobbyist and friend, Doug Sulipa, on being picked this year for The John Verzyl Overstreet Advisor Award. This is a real honor and well deserved by these two fantastic hobbyists who have done so much for our hobby spun out of their love for it. It’s not easy to win this prestigious award, so CONGRATS!”
— Steve Borok, CBCS President; OPG #50 page 107

OK, on to my report for the 2021 Edition of our CPV Price Guide! In today’s age of a zillion-and-one different 1-in-whatever “manufactured-rarity” retailer incentive variants we could choose to take home, many of which collectors are asked to shell out $25-$50+ to own, it is so nice by contrast to have a universe of “naturally-occurring” Type 1A price variants within the world of 1980’s (and 1990’s) newsstand comics, where we can hunt down the dramatically-more-rare cover price variant newsstand copies of some incredible books from our childhoods — many of which we can often land for that same $25-50 cost (or even much less)!

The rarity characteristics of CPVs have been easy for most collectors to grasp, but meanwhile hard for certain critics to understand and embrace; yet I think the thought process is really quite simple and can be understood after learning just two “big-picture concepts.” The first of those concepts is understanding how small the population of Canada actually is, compared to the United States, both today and historically. One collector likened the comparison to that of a mouse versus an elephant!


Canada looks huge on a map!
Understanding this disparity in population size is not necessarily a “natural instinct” for most Americans, because when we look at a map of North America, Canada seems absolutely huge by total land area… But the reality is that there are far fewer people living on that huge land area up in Canada versus the number of people living within the borders of the USA — looking up the actual population data, we can see that the USA:Canada population ratio actually works out to about 90:10. This statistic surprises a lot of American collectors, who generally just haven’t put thought into it before.

Another way to think about this, is that California alone overtook Canada by population size, in the year 1982 (which happened to be the year our “price variant window” opened for our 1980’s CPVs). Google presents a nice chart of this size comparison, when you search on the phrase “population of Canada“, citing Statistics Canada, the US Census Bureau, and the World Bank as data sources — I’ll repeat their chart below:

If market size difference by population was truly one of the primary drivers of 1980’s CPV rarity characteristics, then it would be natural for us to also expect that the 90:10 USA:Canada population ratio would similarly be a rarity driver for comics of other decades as well where there was a distinct version created specifically for distribution in Canada. For example, according to this Statistics Canada page, the 1950-1960 population count was approximately 13.7 million to 17.9 million people living in Canada. Meanwhile, the US Census Bureau reports on this page that the 1950-1960 population count in the USA was 151.3 million to 179.3 million.

So as a ratio of USA:Canada by population, we’re once again looking at approximately 90:10 here during this 1950’s decade. Said differently, comparing the 1950’s population of the two countries with a pie chart, the two “pie slices” of the population pie are a monster-size slice taking up 90% of the pie representing the USA, and a tiny sliver of a slice taking up the remaining 10% of the pie representing Canada. And this 10% figure happens to be exactly the number that Overstreet Advisor Ivan Kocmarek cites for the Canadian reprint period lasting up to 1954, in his OPG #50 market report (highlight and bold added for emphasis):

“There does seem to be a resurgence of interest in comics from the Canadian reprint period that came after the period of original Canadian war time comics (1941-46). This reprint period, in which American comics were published in Canada as reprints and mash-ups, ran from 1947 to about the period of the Comics Code (1954). These comics were published at about 10% of the rate of publication of their American Golden Age counterparts and correspondingly are difficult to find, yet crop up in the market in greater number than the original Canadian war time comics and at prices that are more attainable than those original Canadian war time comics.”
— Ivan Kocmarek; OPG #50 page 139

In the quote above, Ivan also mentioned the 1941-1946 period of “original Canadian war time comics” as well. Looking into the population data, the 1940 census numbers are even more stark as far as the population difference, with Canada at approximately 11.38 million people versus the USA at 132.2 million. The Canadian War Exchange Conservation Act dubbed US comics as ‘non-essential imports’ during war time, meaning that from 1941 to 1946, imports of US comics into Canada were banned. The “Canadian Whites” originals filled that hole, and those comics happen to be a specialty of Walter Durajlija, who wrote about them for our 2019 guide here and included a very memorable chart which I’ll repeat below:

“In the case of both the Canadian Whites of the 1940’s and the Canadian Price Variants of the 1980’s, collectors should keep in mind the relative size of the market where these comics were distributed: By population, you can fit about ten Canadas inside the United States!”

— Walter Durajlija, Canadian Whites and Type 1A Variant Perspective

The portion of CPV rarity characteristics that were “market-size-driven” really should be just as easy for collectors to grasp as it is for these comics of the 1940’s and 1950’s, because the purpose for creation, behind all of these various groups of comics distributed in Canada, was essentially the same: that the population of Canada demanded comics to read! And the last word in that sentence (the word “read”) brings me to the second of the two “big-picture concepts”: By the 1980’s, Marvel and DC were actually selling comics through two distinct channels instead of just one: the historical newsstand channel, and the newly-invented direct sales channel.

Comics printed for the direct sales channel were sold on a discounted but non-returnable basis to specialty comic shops, and this type of comic — known as a “direct edition” — was “multi-country” in purpose, with one print run batch covering all three of the USA, the UK, and Canada, in one fell swoop (if you took home one of these in the 80’s in Canada, your direct edition copy was indistinguishable from the ones sold in comic shops in the USA, because they came out of the same print run batch):

But, if you instead shopped at your local newsstand in Canada during the 1980’s, then you would have taken home a Canadian Price Variant, because during the “price variant window” instead of placing a large-print US price and a small-print CAN price on a single newsstand batch (as they would eventually do), Marvel and DC ran off two different single-price newsstand batches during the window! [Note: there have been a great many anecdotal reports of “imperfect distribution” near the border, where the 75¢ type was for sale in the States and the 60¢ type was for sale in Canada — but for the “big-picture-thinking exercise” we need to think about the publisher’s intention (the market they had in mind) when they sized the print run batches, and the 75¢ newsstand type was intended for newsstands in Canada.]

And that is the second big-picture concept needed to understand the main rarity drivers of Marvel and DC’s 1980’s CPVs: the variants were sold not to the entire Canadian comic book market (which was already just the size of California alone so that alone would already have made them incredibly interesting given the 90:10 population ratio — which is before considering the “Quebec Effect” which makes the skew even more extreme), but rather, they were sold just to a portion of the Canadian comic book market… The newsstand portion of that already-tiny 10% pie slice!

But we must also keep in mind that this wasn’t a just a “simple division” of the market into the two distribution channels, rather, it was a sorting of the market: comic shops tended to serve collectors who would take home their direct edition copies and preserve them in plastic bags in the hopes of future collectible value. Meanwhile, newsstands tended to serve readers, who paid their 75¢ purely as an entertainment purchase, to actually read the comic! A collector preserving these price variant newsstand comics was the exception, not the norm.

So it is really the intersection of these two different “big-picture” rarity drivers — (1) the market size difference by population, and (2) the newsstand-exclusivity of the price variants — that drives them to be the most rare of the three first-print types published, not by a little, but by a country mile when it comes to high grade collectible condition. Which makes collecting them a challenging and in turn rewarding endeavor.

But pick your spots… the CPV window was multi-year and multi-publisher and as a result there are over 5,000 issues with variants in our latest guide, many of which are issues where the baseline direct editions have very little value. Had the price variant window been shorter and had the number been, say, just 50 issues with variants, then perhaps it would be the case that finding any Canadian Price Variant comic would be an incredible find… But with so many thousands of issues with variants, my advice is to think about the CPV rarity characteristics in the context of driving your collecting decisions within the 1980’s issues you have already chosen to collect due to their appeal: first select the issues that appeal to you, and then target the CPVs for those issues (although that being said, there are also a handful of CPV titles that are so impossible to find that after so many years of looking unsuccessfully, I would call them incredible collectibles just based on their rarity alone; like the Zatanna Special variants — if they really do exist that is, as I think they must!).

A few of the high grade CPVs I personally landed this year were Incredible Hulk #300 ($1.25 variant) for a winning bid of $23.12, Thing #35 (95¢ variant) for a winning bid of $32.05, and Fantastic Four #258 (75¢ variant) for a winning bid of $14.41.

When I compare these example wins against today’s modern “manufactured-rarity variants” competing for my collecting dollars, the prices I was able to pay for these CPV examples feel to me like a relative bargain by contrast, for what is truly a purely naturally-occurring type of cover price variant — with rarity that came on its own arising from the distribution circumstances, with that extreme relative rarity only to be “discovered” by collectors decades later.

Unlike today’s modern 1-in-whatever cover artwork variants which are treated as coveted collectibles to preserve and protect from the get-go by those who buy them, the initial typical buyers of our CPVs paid cover price for them as an entertainment purchase! Those buyers may not have even kept the books, let alone preserve their condition! The contrast against today’s modern cover variants, which have been cooked up by publishers to appeal directly to (and make money off of) collectors, could not be more stark!! Can you imagine one of today’s retail incentive variant buyers actually reading the variant they just paid $25-50 (or more) for? No way! When thinking about these modern manufactured-rarity cover artwork variants, we should expect that excepting accidental damage, every single copy printed is now out there somewhere in a collection with its high grade condition being preserved.

I recently was doing a CGC census lookup for Marvel Comics #1000, and I was astonished how far that page scrolls down, with cover variant after cover variant… it is hardly possible to count them as you are scrolling without getting dizzy and losing track of how many you have counted, so I did a “find-in-page” on “Country/Variant” and the web browser counts forty-one occurrences. And the census entry page for Amazing Spider-Man #800 has even more: fifty-nine occurrences! That’s literally 100 different cover variations across just two modern issue numbers.

The publishers need to sell comics, and I get it; but for my collecting dollars, the true treasure out there is the naturally-scarce comics, not the myriad different cover variants (each one “artificially-rare”), of today’s modern comics. I really like how Dr. Steven Kahn put it, in his OPG #50 market report, discussing this very topic:

“I don’t begrudge these companies for trying to make a profit. I do, however, resent when a company creates demand by calculus, whether it’s through variant covers, special editions and the like. In the long run, value is rarely created and the collector is left holding the bag. Just think for a moment about comic books in general. Where has lasting value come once first appearances are removed from the equation? What has risen to the top was certainly not intentional. Value came when the company made a small change that was not expected to be noticed. It was usually due to a mistake in manufacturing a book or an attempt to test something new. Sometimes it came from reducing production. The most valuable Bronze Age comic today is a 35¢ price variant of Star Wars #1. Recently, later prints of popular issues have taken off. Look at the third print of Hulk #377 as a prime example of that. Fifth prints of Superman, Man of Steel #18 are what people are now looking for. Newsstand variants are also stirring the pot these days. Double covers, printing errors, and the like are what caused prices to rise, not calculation by the company as to how to make more money. Created scarcity seldom translates into long term value.”
— Dr. Steven Kahn, Inner Child Comics And Collectibles; OPG #50 page 135

Just as the 35¢ price variant of Star Wars #1 is 100% identical to its regular 30¢ counter-parts except for the cover price, so too are our CPVs 100% identical to their regular US newsstand counter-parts except for the cover price. And just as the 35¢ price variant of Star Wars #1 had “naturally-occuring rarity” due to its distribution being geographically restricted to certain test markets within the full North American market for comic books, so too did our CPVs have geographically targeted distribution to a vastly smaller market area. And just as the initial buyers of the 35¢ price variant of Star Wars #1 had no clue they had just been sold something different or special, so too did the initial buyers of our CPVs have absolutely no idea there was anything different or special about the copy they picked up from their local newsstand in Toronto, or Montreal, or elsewhere…

And since knowledge of CPVs is still not fully widespread in the hobby sitting here in 2020, many sellers who own CPV treasure actually have no clue they are selling something different or special — and all too often they will simply turn to the corresponding page of the Overstreet guide, find the 9.2 guide value for the issue number in general they are selling, and then use that guide value as their asking price (as the seller of The WaWa collection did when forming their asking price for their collection)!

Tim Bildhauser remarked in his latest report that in 2020 he saw more mis-listed CPVs than ever before, saying:

“Oddly enough, I probably saw more ungraded CPVs listed for sale that weren’t notated as such than I can recall ever seeing before, most commonly with the .75 cover price books.”
— Tim Bildhauser, Amazing Spider-Man #238 Remains the King of CPVs

Think about the unbelievable opportunity this situation affords us as collectors today: with some “hunting effort” we can land the dramatically-more-rare CPVs, at direct edition prices, for issues we already wanted to collect on the merits of the underlying issues… in this way we get Two Ways To Win instead of just one — the underlying issue itself may rise in value if we chose wisely, and, we may see collectors of the future willing to pay ever larger premiums for the CPVs on account of their extreme relative rarity.

What would drive a future expansion of CPV premiums from today’s levels?

For one thing, collectors are waking up to the appeal of newsstand comics in general, like never before. As Bill Alexander remarked below, sites like GoCollect are now starting to separately track newsstand sales, which in turn are opening collectors’ eyes to the ever-growing market premiums being paid for the best-grade newsstand copies:

“Direct edition copies are perhaps 50X to 100X times easier to find in high grade compared to their newsstand counterparts. As an example, GoCollect now separately reports newsstand sales for many comics, and for Uncanny X-Men #266 gives a current 9.8 newsstand value of $900 based on 88 recorded sales. They meanwhile give a 9.8 direct edition value of $475, based on 5,989 recorded sales.”
— Bill Alexander, Market Report + Dell and Archie CPVs 1951-1959

As more and more collectors become newsstand-aware, it is only natural that they are going to notice the existence of CPVs when searching for newsstand copies of those issues where CPVs exist as a collecting choice… And having already made the decision to collect newsstand over direct edition for relative rarity reasons, such a collector will certainly recognize the appeal of CPVs as an even-more-rare newsstand version they can go after! One way the expansion of the collector base for CPVs will become evident, is by seeing a rising percentage of new online CPV sales going into the hands of US-based collectors. As Tony LeBlanc reports, that percentage has been rising notably, but still has a lot of room to run:

“I started classifying comics as CPVs about 12 years ago. At first, I was surprised to see that roughly 80% of all my sales were predominantly from fellow Canadians. Now that CPVs are more mainstream, I would estimate that about 65% of my CPV sales goes to the States and this percentage continues to rise.”
— Tony LeBlanc, From a Seller’s Perspective

With each passing year, more and more people are becoming interested in CPVs… One way I know this for certain, is from our own guide usage statistics: Each edition of our CPV guide has gotten more hits than the prior year’s edition; and with the launch of our 2020 edition the guide was “carved out” from the blog itself, onto its own domain (cpvpriceguide.com) with its own separate stats, giving me even more usage data than before. Overall, between the November 2019 launch of the new domain and the end of November 2020, that new domain has gotten 1,054,018 total hits over the course of that first year, and that number has recently been increasing by an additional hundred thousand plus hits with each passing month:

Among other things, carving out the guide onto its own domain also allowed us to have individual pages for each and every issue in the guide. What this means for usage statistics is actually pretty interesting, and I’d like to share some additional statistics with you now. Suppose, using the prior editions of our guide, you had wanted to look up the value for, say, New Mutants #18 (1st appearance of the new Warlock, and a book where as of this writing the top CGC grade is below 9.8). To do that, you would have clicked to the New Mutants page. As far as usage statistics go, I would have seen, simply, another hit to the New Mutants page. I wouldn’t have been able to know that you were interested in issue #18 specifically.

But now, with individual click-through pages for each issue, we’re able to see not just the hits to our page for the New Mutants title, but also the hits to the individual guide page for issue #18 specifically. These hits in part come from people who went to the New Mutants page and then clicked through to issue #18, but we’re also seeing people come to individual issue pages directly, coming from search engines. All together, these usage statistics paint an interesting picture of which particular issues (and titles) are being looked up the most out there.

The most looked-up title in our 2020 guide is Amazing Spider-Man. I’ll bet that surprises no-one. Other top titles won’t surprise you either: Batman, Uncanny X-Men, Detective Comics, and Thor. But how about this one among the top titles: Master of Kung Fu. Surprised? I was at first. But then I realized that the surprisingly-high number of hits to that title may be driven by interest following the movie announcement.

And to me, even more interesting than the hits-by-title data, is the individual hits by issue, which I view as being, in essence, a measure of popularity. I ranked each of the issues in our 2020 guide by their individual hits, and I found it particularly interesting to compare the hit rank, versus the value rank… here’s what that comparison looks like:

IssueHit RankValue RankDifference
#1#32
#2#108
#3#96
#4#117
#5#5
#6#1812
#7#1912
#8#6▼2
#9#1▼8
#10#3525
#11#165
#12#2▼10
#13#5441
#14#4▼10
#15#15
#16#4125
#17#203
#18#8▼10
#19#3213
#20#5333

So to explain what you’re seeing above, I’ve taken the 20 most popular issues in the guide and ordered/ranked them by number of guide lookups in the past year. The first column is the picture of the issue, the second column is the popularity/guide-lookup rank #, the third column is the value rank #, and then the final column shows you how much higher or lower the popularity rank is, versus the value rank. So over the past year, Amazing Spider-Man #238 was the most looked up issue in the guide (versus #3 for value), Amazing Spider-Man #252 was the second most looked up issue in the guide (versus #10 for value), Secret Wars #8 was the third most looked up issue (versus #9 for value), etc.

I find this comparison very interesting (and I hope you do too), and perhaps the biggest stand-out here is Web of Spider-Man #1, which is wildly popular on hits as the #13-most-looked-up issue in the entire guide, versus #54 in value. Similarly, Batman #404 is the #20-most-looked-up issue in the guide, and sits down at #53 for value. ASM #265 marks another stand-out. Does this popularity portend future upward movement in value for these issues? Time will tell!

What factors drive the hits/popularity of different CPV issues? As part of the Bronze and Copper ages, part of the answer — whether we like it or not — may be movie hype and speculation (and when speculators go after particular issue numbers, that inevitably impacts the market value of the price variants of those same issue numbers). As Marc Sims of Big B Comics put it in his OPG #50 market report:

“Bronze and Copper Age sales in my view are, more than any other sector of the market, driven by speculation and movie/TV hype. This also means that there is a big focus on CGC 9.8 copies. The two seem to go hand in hand. I have said it many times in my reports over the years, and I will say it again. I think it foolish to pay huge premiums for 9.8 copies when you can have a nice tight 9.4 for a fraction of the price. More often than not you are paying for an arbitrary .2 or .4 on a label, not the comic itself. Always buy the book, not the label!”
— Marc Sims, Big B Comics Barrie; OPG #50 page 161

I really like Marc’s advice here about the relative value of lower-than-9.8 copies. Witnessing some of the sales in the CPV niche in 9.8 over the past year, versus the same issues in 9.2-9.6, it really is quite remarkable how much more money people are willing to pay for that 9.8 label. Yet, one of the things I’m sure many of us have all experienced, when having a book re-graded (whether switching from one grading company to another, or getting an already-graded book signed under Signature Series, or just “trying for an upgrade” by having an already-graded book re-graded) is that 9.6’s often become 9.8’s, and 9.8’s often become 9.6’s (or even lower!), sometimes in seemingly arbitrary/luck-based fashion.

Most of us seem to try to continually upgrade our collections of CPVs, trading out of lower grades and into even-better copies, but perhaps it is time to have a serious conversation about the merits of the idea of purposely downgrading, i.e. selling 9.8’s for the huge market premium, and holding onto (or acquiring new) near-mint-range copies of the same issues? This strategy might be especially rewarding when there is a surge of TV/Movie-driven demand for a given issue. I haven’t done this myself, but it is something to think about!

As far as specific books with future TV/movie potential, Angelo Virone has some great discussion in his report here. There were also a lot of titles and issues that were specifically mentioned in Overstreet #50 market reports in connection with movies and/or television. One example of such an issue with a CPV is Star Wars #68, which Joseph Fiore reported on as follows:

“The hit TV series The Mandalorian has created a seemingly unending buzz of interest for Boba Fett’s first appearance in comics, original art, and toys. … I can’t seem to ever stock enough copies of Marvel Star Wars #42 or any 75¢ cover priced copies of #68.”
— Joseph Fiore, ComicWiz.com; OPG #50 page 124

Thor #337 was another issue getting specific mention in the OPG #50 market reports, for example in Steve Mortensen’s report:

“Marvel and DC Canadian variants have also sold well. Thor #337 Canadian Variant sold in CGC 9.8 for $700 in October of 2019 while a U.S. edition sold in November of 2019 for $480. Canadian variants generally sell for 50-100% more than their U.S. counterparts.”
— Steve Mortensen, Miracle Comics; OPG #50 page 147

Recent strong sales of Thor #337 are no doubt driven by Beta Ray Bill’s first appearance, with speculation about future Thor movies. In Russ Bright’s market report, he mentioned Moon Knight books as another character being increasingly sought after:

“Fringe characters (Moon Knight, Werewolf by Night) are more sought after than ever. Some of this can be expected by the age of the consumer. The average comic book consumer is in their mid 30s to mid 40s which leads to… Strength in ’90’s comics!”
— Russ Bright, Mill Geek Comics; OPG #50 page 108

His point about age groups is a great one; certainly part of the growth in demand for Bronze, Copper, and now early Modern age keys is driven by nostalgia for comics (and cartoons) experienced during childhood, by people who now are reaching the age where they have extra income. And as an adult, a collector is more likely to comprehend the direct edition versus newsstand difference, and what that means for the specific copies they should target when re-collecting old favorites (which naturally will lead them to discovering newsstand comics and in turn CPVs). This same age group also has nostalgia for the video games of their childhood too, a trend mentioned in multiple OPG #50 market reports, including the report by Doug Sulipa, who wrote:

“WATA has started to professionally grade video games, with many already bringing record prices. This trend has transferred into all the video game related comics. Blip is now a red hot title from Marvel. All the Nintendo titles (Mario, Zelda, Game Boy, etc.) now sell Raw in the $10 to $40 each price range, and $100+ graded by CGC. Other titles to buy now while they are still cheap are: Atari Force, Double Dragon, Knuckles, Mortal Kombat, Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Sonic the Hedgehog, Street Figher, and Tomb Raider.”
— Doug Sulipa, Doug Sulipa’s Comic World; OPG #50 page 166

Another trend that received a fair amount of attention in the Overstreet #50 market reports, which certainly seems like it has “spilled into” the CPV niche as far as creating additional demand, is the growing cohort of collectors who specifically look outside of US borders for different versions of key issues. One Overstreet Advisor who wrote about this niche was Timothy Kupin:

“The market that seems to be gathering a lot of new interest is the foreign comic book market. It’s also the niche market that I find most interesting. I’ve been accumulating foreign comics or international editions for decades now and until five years ago had no idea how many people worldwide were international comics collectors. I have personally paid real money for a number of international editions of key comics. I’ve also begun doing what a lot of the international collectors are doing and that is actively putting together redundant cover sets. For example, I have Conan #1 from seven countries in ten different editions.”
— Timothy Kupin, Koops Comics; OPG #50 page 139

His note about “redundant cover sets” echoes what Tim Bildhauser has talked about in the past [here, for example], which is that one of the main “styles” of collecting comics that has grown in popularity in recent years is assembling what is referred to as a “set” for any given targeted issue.

A “set” collector targeting Amazing Spider-Man #239, for example, will want all the different types they can possibly find: sometimes all three of the US-published types — the direct edition type, the 60¢ newsstand type, and the 75¢ newsstand type (the CPV) — but also any foreign-published editions they can find as well that match up (books published in Mexico, Australia, etc.).

What more dealers are beginning to realize, is that if they were to have in their inventory, say, a L’Incroayble Hulk #39, that this book is the French Canadian “match-up” comic to Incredible Hulk #180 — so at a show, if they put that French Canadian book up next to their regular copy of Hulk #180, potential buyers looking for #180 are now potentially going to be curious, and ask, “what’s that other one next to it?” This sales technique is starting to really catch on, with Tim Bildhauser reporting in his OPG #50 market report that he has noticed more dealers doing this at the many comic cons he attended throughout 2019:

“As anyone that reads the market reports knows, mine is focused on international editions. During the course of 2019 I attended 30 conventions throughout the year and I can’t recall a single one of them where there wasn’t at least a couple of dealers with a few books on their wall from various countries outside the States.”
— Tim Bildhauser, CBCS International Comics Specialist; OPG #50 page 104

Putting up key books grouped “in sets” of different versions next to one another, sounds like a smart move for dealers looking to tap into this growing collecting style. An “eBay equivalent” sales technique would be either to (a) group books into sets and create a listing for the full set, or (b) still sell the books individually but list the international book not titled as, say, “L’Incroayble Hulk #39 Fine Condition” (which nobody would ever find if their keyword search is “incredible hulk 180”), but rather, as, e.g. something like “Incredible Hulk #180 French Canadian Version, L’Incroayble Hulk #39 Fine Condition” — which collectors looking for Incredible Hulk #180 will then see in the search results; and some percentage of people will inevitably be curious and click through.

The keywords included in a listing title in general are incredibly important to online selling, as Jef Hinds discussed in his OPG #50 report:

“A word on the proven importance of keywords in online listings. There are collectors of everything. Keywords having to do with professions and sports and others greatly increase the chance of a sale. Especially good ones I have found are Golf, Chess, Dentist, Baseball, Tennis, Skiing, etc. There are many more.”
— Jef Hinds, Jef Hinds Comics; OPG #50 page 129

When it comes to keywords people are using in their titles when listing Canadian Price Variant newsstand comics, I notice that “CPV” is increasingly present in titles — when I search eBay today on just the keyword “CPV” in the Comics category, there are 1,180 results. I hope that use of this CPV keyword continues to catch on, over on eBay and elsewhere. Perhaps it will become one of those abbreviations that eBay “learns” over time (e.g. eBay has learned “TMNT” — whereby if your title has “TMNT” in it but not “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”, eBay will still show your listing to people searching on “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” … this TMNT shortcut can save a lot of space in the title for other important keywords; eventual similar treatment of “CPV” by eBay would be fantastic for that same reason).

A new feature that eBay recently introduced is the ability to place a buy-it-now item on sale to the specific users who have added it to their watchlist. [If you have ever added a comic to your watchlist, and some time later an email appeared in your inbox where the seller sent you a special discounted offer, they used that feature.] If you come across a book that interests you, but find yourself thinking that the price is just a little too high, I recommend adding the book to your watchlist anyway — because you never know, the seller might send you one of these special offers. And if they check a certain box when doing so, then you can in turn send a counter-offer and get a negotiation rolling.

This really isn’t all that different from the “best-offer” listings which are already widely in use… But something to know about this new feature, is that in the eBay Sold Listings section, while you can easily identify which ones were best-offer-accepted listings, there meanwhile is currently no way to know if a buy-it-now listing was actually discounted by way of one of these offers. In other words, at present, eBay will show a “slash” through the asking price of a best-offer-type listing where an offer was accepted, but will show the un-crossed asking price for all buy-it-now listings regardless of whether they were sold using this new discounted-offer feature or not. Thus, an unfortunate side effect of this new eBay feature is that we must keep in mind that some portion of buy-it-now sales shown to us by eBay may actually have gone for a lower price than the number shown. Fortunately, results of auctions still remain a reliable indicator for true eBay sales prices.

Another factor that has recently come into play with eBay sales is state-level sales tax. As far as reported prices, eBay is showing the price before sales tax. So in actuality, the all-in cost of the comic could be notably higher. This was mentioned in quite a number of Oversteet #50 market reports. For example, Conan Saunders wrote as follows:

“The largest impact on comic sales in 2019, if not specifically comic prices, was South Dakota v. Wayfair, a 2018 Supreme Court ruling that allowed states to charge sales tax on purchases from out of state sellers. … I’ve heard from several sellers both inside and outside of comics that their eBay sales have faced a significant headwind over the second half of 2019, and I think a big part of that is buyers responding to unexpected new sales tax charges.”
— Conan Saunders, Lone Star Comics; OPG #50 page 157

Alex Reece also had a particularly good discussion of the impact:

“Overarching all of this is something of greater importance than movie hype or even internal market patterns. What I am referring to is the landmark Supreme Court decision that allows states to collect sales tax from large internet companies, even if they do not have a physical presence in said state. At the time of my writing, 42 out of the 50 states have enacted laws based upon this ruling. This affects a vast majority of comic buyers, and is going to affect prices of comic books. We have already seen it. Many of the bigger companies, including the auction houses, are now forced to collect sales tax from everyone who lives in one of those states, and buyers are forced to build the tax into the cost of their purchase. For example, if a buyer was willing to buy a book at auction for $1,000 before the new law, he may now only be willing to purchase it for $910, as he has to factor in the new 10% tax rate of his state. He is still paying close to $1,000 for the exact same book, but the sold price of the book is now reported at $910 instead of $1,000.”
— Alex Reece, OPG #50 page 155

Perhaps driven in part by this new sales tax situation, I keep hearing the word “Instagram” from collectors lately. One said to me, “Ben, Instagram is becoming the new eBay.” Market report contributor James Gilbreath reported earlier this year that his list of Instagram followers to his cpvkingcomics account crossed over the 3,000 mark (and I just looked today and see that now it is above 3,400).

As always, it is interesting and exciting to see how the comic collecting landscape changes and evolves over time. The year 2020 sure has fallen under the category of “interesting times” and to everyone reading this I wish you good health and prosperity in the new year!

Finally, I want to end this market report by sharing page #100 of the Overstreet Price Guide #50 — thank-you to Overstreet Advisor Bill Alexander for honoring me with the invitation to contribute to his market report — here it is below:

Happy Collecting! 🙂

– Ben

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Market Report

Jon McClure’s Overstreet Price Guide #50 Full Market Report

A quick note from Ben, publisher of the Rare Comics Blog: Hi everyone, it is an honor to be publishing Jon’s full Overstreet #50 market report online this year. As you may know, for their 50th anniversary guide issue, Overstreet included special anniversary features that necessitated they restrict the length of other areas of the guide such as the market reports section. Therefore, advisors were given a length limit this year, and were invited to end their reports with a web address to read the full version. Welcome to all the Overstreet readers who have landed here as a result! What follows is Jon’s full OPG #50 report; the blue background section is what you already read in the guide.

By Jon McClure; As published in the Overstreet Price Guide #50

Greetings from Astoria Oregon!

Here’s a few sales from late 2019: Wartime Romances #5 (Matt Baker cover) VG+ $450, Tomb of Dracula #1-70 average F/F+ $895, Green Mask #10 VG- $69, Fast Willie Jackson #1 F+ $65, Crime Smashers #11 VG+ $159, Buffalo Bill #7 VG- $59, and Strange Planets #1 NM- $59. Low to mid-grade Marvels sold in antique malls at 150% Guide or higher. Double to triple Guide was not uncommon to receive from speculators and collectors looking for undervalued and overlooked titles. Comics sell in person that won’t move online. DCs were sluggish in general except for key issues and large runs sufficiently discounted. Sales in general were steady, with Marvel titles leading the pack as usual.

The best definition I know for a “Variant” comic book is (1) any non-standard edition created for distribution with a unique purpose, (2) anything reprinted for distribution under the same title with some changes to the cover and/or contents, and (3) any non-standard edition created for distribution in an unplanned or imperfect way. The primary characteristic of a Variant is a strong similarity to the “regular” or standard edition.

Here’s a list of the five unique types of Type 1 variants that exist:

• Type 1: Test Market Cover Price Variants (US Cents Priced)

• Type 1A: Foreign Distribution Variants (UK Pence, Canadian $, Australian $, L Miller Indicias)

• Type 1B: Reverse Cover Price Variants (US Cents Priced)

• Type 1C: Variant Covers

• Type 1D: US Cents Price Font Variants

Type 1: Test Market Cover Price Variants (US Cents Priced)

Cover Price Test Market Variants with regional or otherwise limited distribution, published simultaneously with standard or “regular” editions. Such Variants exist because publishers want to test the market prior to raising prices. The indicia and all aspects of the book, except for the cover price, are identical to regular editions.

Type 1A: U.S. Published Foreign Distribution Variants (UK Pence, Canadian $, Australian $, L Miller Indicias)

Cover Price Variants intended for foreign distribution with limited regional distribution, published simultaneously with standard or “regular” editions. In the majority of cases, the indicia and all aspects of the book are identical to regular U.S. editions except for the cover price. In some instances other alterations may be present. These may include missing or different cover dates, regional indicia details and variant company logos. Other minor alterations may also be present.

Note: The definition of Type 1A has been updated for clarification purposes to accommodate new variant discoveries.

Type 1B: Reverse Cover Price Variants (US Cents Priced)

Cover Price Reverse Variants with regional or otherwise limited distribution, published simultaneously with standard or “regular” editions. Reverse Variants exist because material is accidentally printed with a lower price than intended, a mistake not always sufficient for the publisher to destroy otherwise salable goods. The indicia and all aspects of the book are identical to regular editions, regardless of whether it is intended for U.S. or foreign distribution, and the primary characteristic is that there is another version with the same cover logo and markings and the correct cover price. The Gold Key 30 cent and Whitman 40 cent Price Variants are perfect examples.

Type 1C: Variant Covers

Cover Variants with limited or standard distribution, published simultaneously with standard or “regular” editions. This type of Variant exists because publishers choose to experiment with the market without making widespread appearance changes to their logos or regular editions, or to capitalize on current popularity. The indicia and all aspects of the book are identical to regular editions except for the front, inside, and/or back cover deviations, with Variant covers sometimes noted inside. If one book has two different covers, it may be impossible to identify a “regular” edition beyond “cover 1a, 1b,” etc. DC’s Fury of Firestorm #61 and Justice League #3 Superman Logos Variant are good examples. A good multiple cover example is DC’s Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #1; The Walking Dead #100 is another solid example. Many contemporary publishers produce multiple different covers for their titles, and Type 1C is the most commonly used variety.

Type 1D: US Cents Price Font Variants

As of last year (2018), a new Type of variant has also surfaced, brought to my attention by UK based researcher Steve Cranch. Type 1D is defined as “Cover price variants with a unique price font. All aspects of the book are identical to regular editions but with a unique style of cover price.” There are 13 such variants currently proven to exist; they are Marvel U.S. Ten Cent Price Font Variants. Because no copy can be yet said to be the primary copy, all are “variants” in their own right, and can be catalogued as cover 1, 1a, 1b, etc. Twelve of thirteen known examples have two unique 10 cent fonts, and the 13th is a key issue, Rawhide Kid #17(8/60), which contains an origin story with Jack Kirby art, and which has three different ten cent fonts, not to mention a Type 1A 9d price variant! I know many of you may be thinking I’m splitting hairs, but we’re talking about original copies of the same books with different and identifiable characteristics on the covers.

There are three unique cents fonts known: 10 cents in bold with a slashed c, a ’slim font’ 10 cents with a small c next to the 10, and a slim font 10 cents with a big C next to the 10. In most cases, the slim font mirrors that of the Type 1A 9d copies raising the possibility of a link between the two. The cents font variations begin when the UK 9d prices are introduced; up until that point, all Marvels had the standard bold 10 / slashed c cents font.

Why do these variants exist and which copy was printed first? Might they have played with the appearance of a few books as an experiment of sorts, just for eye appeal, or on a whim, or due to some error? Or, given the timeline link to the 9d UK copies, could the additional cents fonts indicate some other purpose like foreign distribution – Canada perhaps – especially because of the example of Rawhide Kid #17? For the record, I believe all Type 1D 10 cent font variants should be valued equally in respect to scarcity and potential interest until more is known.

The 13 known Type 1D variants were published from June 1960 to February 1961 inclusive, and more variant examples may exist. Issues with font variants include Battle #70(6/60), with Kirby and Ditko art, Journey Into Mystery #60(9/60), 64-65(1-2/61), with Kirby art in #60 and #64, Rawhide Kid #17 (origin by Kirby), Strange Tales 75-77(6, 8, 10/60), 81(2/61), with Ditko art, Tales To Astonish #14(12/60), 16(2/61), with Kirby and Ditko art, and Two-Gun Kid #54-55(6, 8/60), with Kirby art. Although Steve is not the first to notice the font differences on Marvel covers, I believe he is the first to research and document the extent to which these variations exist.

For the remainder of my report, limited spatially because this is the 50th Annual Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, please go to rarecomicsblog.com.

By Jon McClure; Remainder of OPG #50 market report:

Marvel Type 1 test market cover price variants continue to break record sales results. Publisher experiments in the 20th century repeatedly birthed Type 1 cover price variants immediately before universal price hikes, such as the shift from 10 to 12 cents per copy that occurred in January 1962 from Marvel and DC, and the 25 cent to 30 cent shift famously embodied by the Marvel variants cover dated 4-8/1976 and from 30 to 35 cents for variants cover dated 6-10/1977. Archie and Charlton also played with 15 cent variants in the beginning of the 12 cent era. Despite much heckling back in the day from fellow advisors and critics, when I discovered and publicized the existence of the Marvel cover price variants in Comic Book Marketplace #51(8/97), such comics have soared in popularity and value. For a history of comic book variants from the Golden Age to the present, as well as a list of known variants and a detailed lexicon of variant types, with examples that continue to evolve and expand, refer to my article from 2010 in the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide #40, “A History of Publisher Experimentation and Variant Comic Books,” pages #1010-1038. An updated version is in progress for the 51st Annual OPG. All variant types and publishers are represented into the early 1990s.

Marvel Type 1 test market cover price variants are among the hottest Bronze Age books pursued by collectors and speculators. The key books listed by the Guide in the top 10 Gold, Silver and Bronze Age categories are there due to consistent sales and demand, and currently five of the top ten Bronze Age comics are 35 cent variants. The ratio of regular 30 cent copies of Star Wars #1 in CGC 9.4 NM to 9.8 NM/M (there are over 2000) to the 35 cent variant of #1 is 200 to 1, according to the CGC census. Roughly twenty certified 35 cent copies exist in NM 9.4 or better, of which two certified copies exist in CGC 9.6 NM+ condition to date, despite the fact that the CGC census says there are three; a processing error mis-identified a reprint with a 35 cent cover price, which sold on eBay in 2018, at many times its value due to inept misrepresentation and lack of understanding by the bidders. The highest graded examples of Marvel variants are bringing record prices at auction, on the rare occasion they come up for auction at all, especially the western and horror titles that had the lowest distribution. Sales were slow for Marvel western and horror titles back in the day, hence their cancellations in 1976-1977.

Tip Top Comics #56(12/40) has surfaced as a 15 cover price variant, bringing other United Features’ titles and all issues from December 1940 (and months before and after) into potential variant territory. It is a Type 1A variant as Golden Age books were universally 10 cents unless a giant size. The best place to find variants is where you have already found one. Captain and the Kids #1(1938) exists as a Type 2 Variant dated December 1939 that reads “Reprint” on the cover. True Comics #60(5/47) has surfaced this year with a Type 1A 15 cent cover price. Other issues show small and subtle differences that make them variants. For example, #57(2/47) has gray and blue cover variants, and #29(11/43) has two versions: The regular copy has a ten cent price that stands alone, but the second copy has “cc” under the price. Additional examples likely exist within this title.

On another note, I.W./Super comics have not shown any appreciable interest yet, including the variants, despite my article in the OPG #47, “The Strange Story of Israel Waldman and the I.W./Super Comics Mystery,” pages #1169-1180. Such books have been overlooked for decades but I believe their day will come.

Archie 15 cent Type 1 cover price variants exist for issues from March 1962 to April 1963, and they now have over 80% confirmed to exist, so I feel confident that all 112 issues will eventually surface. Doug Sulipa and I estimate that such 15 cent variants are about 500-1000 times scarcer than their 12 cent counterparts. Regular 12 cent sci-fi monster issues from 1961-1962 sell for about 2-4 times guide, so the 15 cent variants of these books should logically be higher in value. It’s difficult to nail down actual worth when such items rarely change hands, and the listings do not appear in the guide yet, although collectors and dealers are well aware at this stage. I believe all 15 cent Archie Type 1 cover price variants have enormous investment potential, especially the three super-keys: Archie’s Madhouse #22(10/62), Archie’s Girls Betty and Veronica #75(3/62) and Josie #1(2/63). March 1962 to April 1963 is the time period where all Archie titles had a 15 cent counterpart.

Forty one different Type 1 Charlton 15 cent test market cover price variants from March 1962(20 titles) and April 1962(21 titles) are potentially hiding out there. Currently Fightin’ Marines #46(4/62), I Love You #39(4/62), LI’l Genius #37(3/62), Six-Gun Heroes #67(3/62), Space War #15(3/62), Sweethearts #64(3/62), Texas Rangers #32(3/62), and Timmy The Timid Ghost #31(3/62) are the only eight examples confirmed to exist. Such 15 cent variants are so scarce and unknown to collectors that no sales have yet to bring a premium due to the fact that almost no one is looking for them and dealers are unaware. Real value is difficult to judge without any money changing hands. I find such cusp era variants interesting and hope collectors will share acquisitions with me so I can continue to disseminate all Variant information. You can reach me at jonmcclurescomics.com with these or other variant discoveries.

Type 1A cover price variants simultaneously published for foreign distribution are increasing in demand according to Doug Sulipa. Bronze and Copper Age Marvel and to a lesser extent DC Type 1A Canadian cover price variants are now routinely selling for 150-500% Guide, and select CGC high grade key issues of popular characters have been bringing 200% to 1000% of guide; such Type 1A books are at least 10 times scarcer due to low print runs. Canada’s population is about 10% of the US population, thus about 10% of all Print Runs are Canadian copies, however roughly 80% of the surviving copies are Direct Editions, bought in comic shops and saved by collectors. “Type 1A Canadian Newsstand Cover Price Variants from the 1980s were easily our #1 bestselling variants of the year,” according to Sulipa. “Demand for them continues to grow at an accelerated rate, with many record-breaking sales taking place in 2019. In record numbers, collectors are learning about the scarcity and appeal of this type of price variant.”

Most of the Newsstand editions were bought by non-collecting readers, with a much lower survival rate, and most are well read FA/G to FN/VF copies. Most VF/NM or better Type 1A Canadian Newsstand Cover Price Variants are roughly 50 to 300 times scarcer than their US Direct Market counterparts in high grade; randomly checking the CGC census will substantiate this for most items. High grade examples from the Silver and Bronze age of Type 1A variants are scarcer; this is largely due to damages that occurred in transit, and in particular water damage found on pence editions shipped overseas. Such difficulties predate contemporary standard procedures like simultaneous off-site printing, a reality that renders the concept of origination meaningless, at least for modern books. Marvel collectors dominate about 75% of the Type 1A Canadian cover price and British pence variant market, while DC and the others split the remaining 25%, with non-DC books accounting for less than 10% of total sales, a ratio that steepens when you hit the 1990s, when Type 1A cover price variants that don’t say Marvel or DC have yet to show much interest outside of key issues.

Only five Type 1A DC pence issues exist from the early Bronze age: Action #402(7/71), Adventure #408(7/71), Detective #413(7/71), Flash #208(8/71), and Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #139(7/71). Action #402, Detective #413, and Flash #208 have Neal Adams covers, and the Flash issue is a 52 page giant, so such books have attractive qualities beyond just being Type 1A variants, and can bring 300% guide or more than cents editions, especially in high grade. The bulk of DC Type 1A pence issues exist from February 1978 to September 1981 and are more common.

Dell Canadian and U.K. Type 1A cover price editions are being collected more, and currently sell at at a modest premium of 125-150% of standard cents editions. The first published Canadian price variant Dell Giants were Bugs Bunny’s Christmas Funnies #2(11/51) and Walt Disney’s Christmas Parade #3(11/51). Western Publishing’s Type 1A 75 cent cover price variants of 60 cent Whitmans from 1984 sell briskly at 300-400% Guide due to extremely low print runs, according to Doug Sulipa. Whitman pre-pack comics dated 8-12/1980 are red hot sellers due to scarcity and bring $80-$500 or more in Very Fine or better condition for the finest examples. Refer to my article, “The Whitman Mystery,” in Comic Book Marketplace #85-86(9-10/01) for the strange story behind what caused the scarcity of Gold Key/Whitman comics dated 1980-1984 and their untimely demise.

Type 1A variants are drawing the attention of collectors and investors like never before. I have long argued that Type 1A variants of all eras would climb in interest due to scarcity. The scarcity of Canadian newsstand cover price variants versus simultaneously published U.S. direct editions is a chasm of difference, roughly 50 to 1 by comparison! Even “newsstand variants,” the newsstand edition of comics extending into the 1990s, have come to bring a premium of up to 1000% or more due to scarcity, as print runs descended year by year. Comiclink sold an Amazing Spider-Man #238(3/83) Type 1A CGC 9.6 for $2300 in August 2018; such items rarely surface.

CBCS and CGC now label Type 1A books “variants” on the labels, which is a positive step forward in understanding what they are and how to discuss them intelligently. Check out the free new online Price Guide for Type 1A Canadian cover price Marvel and DC comics from the 1980s at cpvpriceguide.com. The Guide contains only Marvel, DC and Archie at this juncture, beginning with books cover dated 10/82 and ending with issues cover dated 9/88 for DC and 8/86 for Marvel. Key issues in the top ten include Batman #357(3/83), Swamp Thing #37(6/85) and Amazing Spider-Man #238(3/83), the latter key issue burdened with an insert, an unusual conundrum.

Early Marvel Direct Sale Editions are scarcer and sell for an average of 200-500% of regular newsstand editions according to Doug Sulipa; such books were sometimes erroneously referred to as “Marvel Whitmans” due to their simultaneous distribution in department and drug stores in Whitman bags. Early Marvel Direct Market Editions have a duality of purpose, and thus have the unique honor of being “special market editions” that required a secondary market to help justify the cost of their existence in smaller print runs. The Direct Sales market was in its infancy, and Marvel wanted to monitor retailers’ return credits, hence the confusion surrounding the odd but necessary difference in appearance between such books and their newsstand counterparts. Short gaps in production occurred from 2/1977 to 5/1979, as it cost less for Marvel to roll the dice against bogus returns than over-produce books erratically purchased by chain retailers. All early Direct Market Editions were produced except for the cover dates 1-3/1978, 7/1978, and 3-4/1979, and such comics are sought after largely by hardcore Marvel completists.

First printing Type 1A single priced Australian price variants exist for Marvel comics published between October 1990 to January 1994 and February 1996 to November 1996 inclusive; 1147 comics out a possible 1702 have been confirmed to exist based on 101 known titles. The majority of titles produced by Marvel during this period are believed to have Australian priced copies. The confirmed range for Amazing Spider-Man is issue #341 to #384, #408 and #410 to #417. A $4.75 Australian priced annual #27 also exists making 54 books for that title alone. The Australian copies produced 1990-1994 have amended cover dates that are three months later than their US counter-parts to account for the shipping time to Australia. The indicia are unchanged, meaning the Australian price variant for an issue published in October of 1990 will carry a cover date of January; an issue published January 1994 will carry a cover date of April.  CGC catalogs the variants by their cover dates instead of the indicia dates but also mentions the indicia date on most labels.  The Australian price variants were printed on the same presses at the same time as their other first print counterparts, so this catalog date versus actual publication date disparity should hopefully not create the false impression that the price variants with different cover dates are reprints. The later 1996 price variant copies meanwhile have the same cover dates as their US counterparts. The Australian Type 1A price variants are as legitimate as their Canadian and UK Pence price variant cousins. Although they are less well known with relatively few collectors currently seeking them out, I expect that to change. People collect what they know about, and Marvels are the most pursued comics in the hobby.  Three example Australian Type 1A keys are New Mutants #98(2/91 indicia; May cover date), Amazing Spider-Man #361(4/92 indicia; July cover date), and Iron Man #282(7/92 indicia; October cover date).

For those of you who collect Type 1A pence price variants, here’s an update on Silver and Bronze Age gems from UK researcher Steve Cranch who is in the process of documenting all known first printing pence price variants for all US published comics. Seven publishers are known to have pence variants as follows:

• Archie – 24 issues confirmed of a potential 46 issues within the date range of March 1960 to August 1960 inclusive. All issues have 9d printed prices. 11 titles confirmed.

• Charlton – 476 issues confirmed of a potential 833 issues within the date range of April/July 1960, January 1961 to December 1963 inclusive. All issues have 6d or 9d printed prices. 75 titles confirmed.

• DC – 840 issues confirmed. The inclusive date range is July/August 1971, February 1978 to September 1981. All issues have 5p, 7 1/2p, 12p or 15p printed prices. 75 titles confirmed.

• Dell – 212 issues confirmed of a potential 424 issues within the date range of April 1960 to July 1961 inclusive. All issues have 9d, 1/- or 2/- printed prices. 40 titles confirmed (where Four Color and Dell Giants represent one title each).

• Gold Key – 120 issues confirmed of a potential 171 issues within the date range of April 1973 to November 1975 inclusive. All issues have 6p, 7p or 8p printed prices. 8 titles confirmed.

• King Comics – 20 issues confirmed of a potential 24 issues within the date range of August 1967 to November 1967 inclusive. All issues have 10d printed prices. 6 titles confirmed.

• Marvel – 3,019 issues confirmed, with only one or two more expected to exist. The inclusive date range is May 1960 to December 1981. All issues have 9d, 10d, 1/-, 6p, 7p, 8p, 9p, 10p, 12p, 15p, 20p, 30p or 40p printed prices. 118 titles confirmed.

Another new Type 1A group of books has surfaced — L. Miller indicia variants. Such books fall under the expanded type 1a category as they are cover price variants and non-cover price variants with a unique indicia with regional or otherwise limited distribution. When Marvel pence priced copies first began in May 1960, all copies were previously assumed to have been distributed by Thorpe and Porter, carrying T&P indicias accordingly for the first 4 years. It has since been discovered that the UK distributor L Miller & Co also distributed a handful of Marvel titles from May 1960, and these books have unique L Miller indicias.

Steve Cranch initially contacted me to discuss these 26 previously unknown L. Miller Silver Age Marvel comics in 2018. The books range from May 1960 to August 1961 inclusive and 24 out of a potential 26 have been proven to exist, with the remaining two expected to be proven. L. Miller (a UK distributor) indicia variants are currently confirmed to exist for Amazing Adventures #1-4(6-9/61), with Kirby and Ditko art, Gunsmoke Western #58(5/60)-60, (#61 awaiting verification) 62-65(7/61), with #59, 62-65 sporting Kirby art, Rawhide Kid #17(8/60)-23(8/61), all with Kirby art, Two-Gun Kid #54(6/60)-57, (#58 awaiting verification) 59(4/61), with Kirby art in #54-55, 57-59, and Wyatt Earp #29(6/60). The title Kid Colt Outlaw, from the same time period, was skipped entirely by L. Miller despite being the only other major Western title of the time. All 9d copies of Kid Colt Outlaw in the L. Miller date window have Thorpe & Porter indicias.

Uniquely, the Type 1A L. Miller variants with cover dates 5/60 to 8/60 are priced 9d and those dated 9/60 to 8/61 are priced at 10c instead of 9d. The latter books are identical in appearance except for the indicia. All confirmed issues of such Type 1A variants were printed in the U.S. and with the exception of Two-Gun Kid #55, carry an additional line of indicia data indicating that the books were “Exclusively printed for L Miller & Co. (Hackney) Ltd. 342 & 344 Hackney Road, London, E.2.” My speculation is that Marvel probably didn’t bother with changing the plates for the price change, or just forgot, hence the 10 cent covers for later L. Miller issues.

Marvel pence variants – understanding the differences: There are no known Marvel books with printed pence prices prior to May 1960. With the exception of the aforementioned L Miller copies, every Marvel pence variant from 5/60 through 11/64 inclusive, plus every Marvel pence variant from 1961 (with the exception of August 1961 for some depraved reason), plus every Marvel pence variant from 1962 to 11/64, are all going to have some variation of the Thorpe & Porter line included in the indicia. Some have the entire cents indicia removed and replaced with a Thorpe & Porter line, some have the Thorpe & Porter line in an added sentence, and some have it as an added paragraph/line.

Amazing Fantasy #15(8/62), the first appearance of Spider-Man, exists as a Type 1A 9d cover price variant with a missing cover date and a Thorpe and Porter indicia, and there are three differences to the cents/regular edition: (1) the cover price difference (9d for the pence version), (2) the date omitted (no “Aug” on cover) from the pence version and (3) the indicia of the pence version does not match the regular edition, because the pence version has the line about Thorpe & Porter included. The indicia on both the regular and pence copies say September in the indicia, although the regular edition has an August cover date. There are many examples from the Golden and Silver age of mis-numbered and contradictory dates. CGC lists the pence edition as September due to the missing cover date, essentially defaulting to the indicia. Both versions were printed on the same presses at the same time, so this disparity should hopefully not create the false impression that the pence copy is a reprint.

Other new Type 1 variant finds as of 2018: Steve Cranch has documented some modern Marvel newsstand cover price variants as well. During the months of October 1999 to February 2000 inclusive additional single price $2.29 and $2.49 variant covers of regular $1.99 newsstand books have been found to exist, making three different prices of newsstand copies. A total of 32 variant $2.29 / $2.49 copies have been found to exist covering six titles. The current titles with one or both variant prices confirmed are Amazing Spider-Man #10-11, 13, Cable #72-74, Fantastic Four #23-24, 26, Hulk #8-10, Mighty Thor #17-19, and X-Men #93, 95-96. The $2.29 / $2.49 price variants only appear to exist where the regular newsstand price was $1.99 – the regular $2.99 double sized issues within the range have no variant prices confirmed, hence the breaks in sequence. Such variants indicate a further Type 1 variant market test by Marvel in line with the more widely known 30 and 35 cent price variants.

Vast numbers of Type 1C cover variants are published today, and are fare for many titles such as The Walking Dead (now completed). Modern cover variants can bring serious money, some of which are slabbed 9.8 signature series variants. Variant comics are now used to entice completists as well as provide options for a “favorite” cover when collecting a title, and many popular artists contribute to that end that do not normally create material for the various titles. A myriad of publishers employ this strategy to boost their bottom line as the term “variant” is now a household term to most collectors. There are more variants (mostly Type 1C) published today than at any time in comic book history.

Happy hunting to collectors and completists everywhere!

Overstreet Guide to Grading Comics A History of Publisher Experimentation and Variant Comic Books, 2021 Edition, By Jon McClure
Published within the pages of The Overstreet Guide to Grading Comics, Sixth Edition, Jon’s newest article updates his 2010 epic about different kinds of variants (which to date marks the longest article ever published in the Overstreet Price Guide — it appeared in OPG #40, p. 1010-1033). The 2021 Edition of Jon’s article is a 50+ page variant reference guide complete with an A-Z list of variant publishers and their history, encompassing every known variant published up to 1990. A powerful tool for investors and treasure hunters alike! Take home your copy today.


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The WaWa Collection

The Story of the Wawa Collection

A quick note from Ben, publisher of the Rare Comics Blog: Hi everyone, I am excited to be publishing the incredible story of the Wawa Collection, as shared by the team who discovered and acquired it: Craig Foxhoven and Philip Standhart. This collection is practically “famous” in the CPV niche, because it encompassed the full 1980’s price variant window, and is thought of by many as the first “pedigree” ultra-high-grade CPV collection to ever hit the market — many of us were lucky enough to acquire CBCS-graded copies which were consigned to MyComicShop. When Conan Saunders of MyComicShop joined our CPV price guide team last year, he was able to put me in touch with Craig & Phil. I commend them for not only recognizing what a once-in-a-collecting-lifetime-type opportunity they had come across, but having the guts to seize the opportunity and having the fortitude and follow-through to see it across the finish line! What follows is their amazing story, followed by a “Q&A”…

The Wawa Collection

By Philip Standhart and Craig Foxhoven

Craig and I worked together and were both comic collectors. I suggested the idea of buying raw books off Ebay and sending them for grading. We combined some cash together and picked a couple of key books to bid on. We won a few from the same seller, one of which was X-Men 141. We graded 2-3 of the books and all came back 9.6-9.8.

Craig suggested that we email the seller to see what else he had. I started an email conversation with Clarence, the owner of the collection to see what else he had. He told us he collected all different titles over 40 years and had almost anything we were looking for. Then, the bombshell – he had about 50,000 books!

wawa-goose-landmark

Craig and I asked if we could fly up and see his collection to buy more from him. Clarence agreed and 2 weeks later we were on a flight to Detroit.

After an 8 hour car ride north from Detroit into Canada, we arrived at the small town of Wawa, Ontario. (The Wawa Goose Monument pictured at right is a landmark there).

 
wawa-collection-home

We walked into a modest single level home and Clarence took us into the basement. He had built a room there complete with de-humidifier to protect the books. When he opened the door, Craig and I were speechless.

wawa-collection-books

Inside the room, There were 4 rows of shelves with books stacked on either side from floor to ceiling! We went crazy!

wawa-collection-fantastic-four

Craig and I spent 2 days going through literally thousands of books and hand picked about 200. Some of the gems were Conan #1 and Luke Cage #1. As a token of his appreciation, Clarence gave us Incredible Hulk #271 with Rocket Raccoon. (That graded 9.8 later on.)

the-wawa-collection

We returned to Florida with our short box of treasure and took it to Steve Borock who recently started CBCS. We sent those books off to be graded and started discussing options for a return trip. After negotiating back and forth over phone and email, we struck a deal to buy the ENTIRE collection.

We prepared by ordering plastic bags and boards along with long and short boxes for the transportation of the books. 4 weeks later, we flew back to Detroit and had a panel truck rented to collect our loot. Back to Wawa we drove and spent 3-4 hours the first night loading boxes. That night in our hotel room, Craig and I celebrated by looking at about 15 copies of Ms. Marvel #1 and Star Wars #42 while putting boxes together.

packing-the-wawa-truck

We went back the next morning and began packing. 144 long boxes and 10 hours later, we left Wawa and got to the border. We waited inside customs as the truck was x-rayed and inspected, all the way to the back of the truck, middle box on the bottom row!

wawa-collection-movie

We spent the night in Sioux St. Marie and left at 6 am the next morning because of snow. We drove 17 hours and spent the following night in Atlanta. Sunday, we made it to CBCS. Many thanks to Steve Borock, who allowed us to store the collection at the CBCS offices.

Over the next 6-8 months, Craig and I went through each and every book looking for the best books to grade. Once all the boxes were gone through, Craig went through many of them again to make sure nothing was missed. I was posting graded books and many raw runs on Ebay in the meantime and doing a lot of packaging.

The whole project took about 3 years. In the end, we graded approximately 10,000 books and moved the rest raw.

vintage-comic-investments

We went to many local comic cons including Tampa Con. At one point, I knew some of the books went as far as Australia.

wawa-vintage-comics

The highlights of 50,000 books? Some overall highlights included two 9.9s of Uncanny X-Men #153 and #181, a 9.6 of G.I. Joe #21, a Daredevil #66 double cover graded 9.6, and a lot more. 95% of what we graded were 9.6s and 9.8s.

Here are some of the CPV highlights specifically, first from DC:

Batman 354 9.6
Batman 357 9.4
Batman 358 9.8
Batman 359 9.8
Batman 366 9.6
Batman 368 9.8
Batman 386 9.8
Batman 400 9.6
Batman 404 9.6
Blue Beetle 1 9.8
Brave and the Bold 200 9.2
Detective Comics 523 9.8
Detective Comics 525 9.8
Detective Comics 566 9.6
Doom Patrol 1 9.8
Flash 324 9.8
Jonah Hex 92 9.4
Masters of the Universe 1 9.8
New Teen Titans Annual 2 9.6
Suicide Squad 1 9.2
Saga of the Swamp Thing 20 9.4
Saga of the Swamp Thing 21 9.6
Saga of the Swamp Thing 25 9.8
Saga of the Swamp Thing 32 9.8
Saga of the Swamp Thing 37 9.6
Tales of the Teen Titans 44 9.6

Some of the Marvel CPV highlights:

Amazing Spider-Man 238 9.6
Amazing Spider-Man 239 9.8 x2
Amazing Spider-Man 252 8.5
Amazing Spider-Man 265 9.6
Avengers 257 9.8
Fantastic Four 281 9.8 DOUBLE COVER
Ghost Rider 81 9.8
G.I. Joe 21 9.6
Marvel Movie Showcase 1 9.6
Marvel Movie Showcase 2 9.6
Marvel Team-Up 141 9.6
Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars 8 9.8
New Mutants 1 9.8 x8
New Mutants 25 9.8
New Mutants 26 9.8
Power Pack 1 9.8
Punisher 1 9.4
Punisher 2 9.8
Rocket Raccoon 1 9.6
Star Wars 68 9.8
Star Wars 81 9.8
Thing 1 9.8
Thor 337 9.4
Transformers 1 9.8
Transformers 8 9.8
Web of Spider-Man 1 9.8 x3
Wolverine Limited Series 2 9.8 x4
Wolverine Limited Series 4 9.8 x3
X-Factor 6 9.8
Uncanny X-Men 181 9.9
Uncanny X-Men 201 9.6

Outside of Marvel and DC, a CPV highlight was Voltron 1 9.8

Notably missing from our list of graded copies were Batman 423, Booster Gold 1, Legends 3, and Unknown Soldier 268. These were probably there in the collection but were not selected to be sent for grading by CBCS (my gut says they were there in the collection but I couldn’t find them listed on any invoices).

Here is a sampling of pictures of some of the CPV highlights mentioned above:

I know for Craig and I, the Wawa collection was the comic find and adventure of a lifetime. At one point, we thought we wouldn’t do it again, but I bet if an opportunity arose, I could talk Craig into it!

Excelsior!

Philip Standhart & Craig Foxhoven

 

Q: Thank you guys, so much, for sharing your incredible story! And I appreciate the opportunity for this Q&A. Can you share anything about Clarence and how he came to collect comics?

A: Clarence, the original owner of the collection, worked at a copper mine up in Canada. He began buying comics in the late 60’s and planned that those would be his retirement plan. He started posting individual books on Ebay, and we bought them up. After seeing the condition in person, we scheduled our first meeting with him!

Q: You mentioned he had collected for 40 years; what were the approximate start and end dates of the collection?

A: The start/end date of the collection is 1969-2009 ish.

Q: From the CPVs we saw consigned to MyComicShop, it seemed like Clarence acquired 100% of his comics from a local newsstand: Is that true, or were there direct editions in the collection too? [What makes CPVs so relatively rare as a percentage, is their newsstand exclusivity, crossed with Canadian exclusivity, plus the fact that most collectors in the 80’s were taking home and preserving direct editions from comic shops — it seems Clarence may have been the exception to that norm and preserved newsstand comics even well into the 80’s?].

A: Clarence acquired at least 90-95% from the newsstand during those years from 10/82-9/88. He bought everything that was available to him which means he had multiple copies of these newsstand issues, sometimes up to 15-20 ea!!! That’s how he ended up with 45,000+ books.

Q: Was the collection newsstand all the way through to the 2009 end?

A: Almost all of the collection was newsstand, so basically yes it was nearly all that way, through to the end.

Q: Was the collection mostly intact when you acquired it (did you catch him at the beginning of his online sales) or had he already sold off substantial parts of it by the time you found him?

A: The collection was mostly intact and he was very particular and had everything cataloged. I tried to get those log books from him but surprisingly he would not part with them. I even took pictures of the contents because it was so interesting to me. He priced every book according to Overstreet and gave the “mint” books a 9.2 price which as you know is not indicative of the true market value of these gems. He had sold off some key books such as Batman 232, Amazing Spider-man 129 and Iron Man 55 for example. We caught him near the beginning of his online sales.

Q: I’m wondering whether all Marvel and DC titles of 10/82 to 9/88 were represented in the collection — were there any noteworthy titles absent that you recall?

A: All Marvel and DC titles were represented and I don’t recall any titles that were absent.

Q: Do you know if every issue number was represented in the collection for the titles he collected, or were there any issues absent that he missed that you noticed?

A: Mostly every issue number was represented that I recall. What we did was box every book as carefully as we could and brought approx. 140 long boxes from his basement up the steps and onto a rental truck in the course of one night and the next morning. Time was of the essence because a winter storm was coming and Clarence said we would be stuck up there for awhile!! This was the end of October 2014. As a result the books and titles weren’t as neatly cataloged as he had them. We also separated them according to grade, etc for encapsulation.

Q: I’ve got to ask about one specific issue that we believe should exist but has still never been confirmed to date after all these years: Did he have a Zatanna Special #1 CPV (with $2.85 cover price) from 1987?

A: No, he did not have the Zatanna Special #1.

Q: In the CPV niche many have observed that there are more Marvel books out there than DC; was that reflected in Clarence’s collection? Do you have a sense of roughly what proportion of the collection was Marvel and what was DC (and did he also collect books from other publishers as well)?

A: You are correct that there are more Marvel CPV’s than DC. Approx. 60/40. He had extensive Charltons and Gold Key as well.

Q: Was the collection considered “too modern” to be an official pedigree at the grading company level?

A: It’s funny because I pleaded with Steve Borock to get the WAWA pedigree on it but he shot it down every time. Because the scope of the whole collection was not high grade which was the only thing keeping it out of pedigree status. In the beginning I think neither of us had a clue of the CPV goldmine we discovered. In hindsight the CPV aspect of this collection would easily have garnered pedigree status. I believe Doug Schmell from Pedigree Comics, who has the remaining books from the WaWa collection, is working on getting what’s left some designation.

Q: Can you share a little bit about why you chose CBCS over CGC for grading?

A: We chose CBCS because they were a startup and Craig knew Steve Borock, one of the founders of CGC (and CBCS). They offered us a deal on their services and let us store the books there.

Q: Can you share a little bit more about yourselves, and what you do for a living?

A: Craig and I are both physical therapists who grew up with a love for comics. My older brother Ed taught me how to read with comics and I was hooked ever since – especially Spider-Man because I felt I could associate with a teenager like Peter Parker! Craig’s brother actually owned a comic shop at one time, so Craig had access to a lot of comic swag and even original art. He’s more a DC guy, I’m the Marvel guy. Both of our wives start to sweat when we start talking comics, especially after the Wawa find!

Q: So did you guys sell everything from the WaWa collection, or did you keep a few books for yourselves?

A: Yes of course we held onto a few of the books! The beauty of the Wawa collection was there were multiple copies of many of the titles, allowing us to keep some.

Q: Thanks so much Craig and Phil, I really appreciate you opening up about this incredible adventure, sharing your story, and answering these questions!

A: Thank You for your interest!

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Whitman Canadian Price Variants

Whitman 1984 Canadian Price Variants

By Benjamin Nobel, August 5, 2020 — this post is for readers of the 2020 CPV Price Guide and features pictures from the collection of 1984 Whitman CPVs generously shared with us by Stefane Bellec. Stefane spent the last decade+ hunting all of these down, and we believe this is the full list of Whitman’s 1984 CPVs that exist (but let us know if you find others!). Huge thanks to Stefane for making this page possible!

“75 cent cover price issues of 1984 Whitman Comics that are 60 cents in USA; These are Quite Rare in High Grade, with 9.2 copies worth $75.00 or more each.”
— Doug Sulipa, Canadian Newsstand Cover Price VARIANTS 2018-2019 Market Report

As Doug touched upon more fully in the market report quoted above, there were a number of Whitman variants published over the course of time, including their 1984 batch of CPVs carrying 75¢ cover prices (versus the 60¢ cover prices on their regular counter-parts). [For even more Whitman information from Doug, see this inventory page on dougcomicworld.com]

Today we are presenting those variants from 1984, which occurred from publication dates 2/1984 through 7/1984. Interestingly, rather than the “direct edition versus newsstand” distribution circumstance that we’re used to with other 1980’s publishers of Canadian Price Variants, in this case with Whitman, every single one of these 75¢ variants looks to have been distributed in multi-packs like this example pack:

whitman-pack-cpv-front

With bar codes on the outside of the bag itself, there was no need to have printed bar codes on the actual covers. Notice also the “Imported By” line on the bag, giving information about the comics being imported into Canada (from the United States):

whitman-imported-by

This “Imported By” line is a great reminder about one of the “big picture” points that is so important for collectors to grasp about Type 1A Price Variants: even while the target market for distribution was outside of the USA, these books are in fact US-Published; they are from the USA. [If these Whitman CPVs had been from Canada, then they wouldn’t have needed to be imported into Canada, would they?]

Something else that strikes me about the above pack is that it contains two 75¢ cover price comics, for $1.49 — “a whole penny” of savings against the combined cover price. But meanwhile the packs sold in the US were much more of a bargain/discount; for example here’s a pack with two 60¢ cover price comics inside, a “$1.20 value” but with the whole pack priced at 99¢:

whitman-pack-60c-example

Here’s another pack I found with 60¢ cover price comics inside, this time a 3-pack, for $1.39:

whitman-3-pack-tweety-sylvester

So although they carry 60¢ cover prices, averaging the cost of a pack over the number of comics inside, US buyers were effectively paying about 46¢ to 50¢ per comic, whereas buyers of the $1.49 CAN pack were paying practically the full 75¢ each. I find this interesting in the context of the cover price hike to Canadians from other publishers in 1982 from 60¢ to 75¢ (where publishers started to charge 75¢ north of the border but left prices at 60¢ in the US) — at the time of that 1982 hike, Canadians saw the cost of comics increase 25% from the 60¢ they had been used to… By 1984, Canadians were used to paying 75¢ cover prices; but I still find it interesting that the 1984 Whitman packs effectively cost not 25% more but a full 50% more (1.49 CAN per two-pack versus .99 US per two-pack)!

An example indicia page is shown below shared by Stefane, from his 75¢ variant copy of Daffy Duck #144:

example-indicia-daffy-duck-144

As you can see, the variants were published by Western Publishing Company, New York, NY, USA. No “expected” cover price is mentioned in the indicia, and aside from copyright dates there is no publication month or date specifically listed (which seems to be the case for most of these), making these issues harder to date — but Overtreet has dated nearly all of them, with publication months from 2/1984 through 7/1984. And just like the other Canadian Price Variants we are used to, the indicia on variant copies is a 100% match against the regular cover priced version: here below is a 60¢ copy I found on eBay with an indicia picture included, and as you can see it is the same as what we saw on Stefane’s copy.

Looking at the regular non-variant guide values in 9.2 from the Overstreet #49 guide, for the universe of Whitman 1984 issues the “typical” regular non-variant value is around $20-40, with an average of $31.25. The Uncle Scrooge issues appear to be stand-outs, with 9.2 values listed at $55. There were a couple of issues with “low print run” notes: Donald Duck #245, and Porky Pig #109. Mickey Mouse #218 has a note about being mis-dated 2/82 (and I noticed some others that have weird CGC census entries dated 1982 — so this may not be the only one that is mis-dated; or maybe with no month or year in the indicia CGC just entered the latest copyright date shown). For Bambi #1, Oversteet dates the issue to just the year 1984. Stefane notes that he suspects that Bambi #1 and Peter Pan #1 may have been packaged together given how difficult both of those issues are to find (these were the toughest find for him among all Whitman CPVs, but he notes that the distribution may have varied by region making different issues harder to find region by region).

Looking at the CGC census, as of the date of this writing there are a grand total of 440 of these 1984 Whitman issues that have been through CGC’s doors to date, 402 of which are denoted as regular 60¢ copies, and 38 of which are classified as the 75¢ type. That breaks down to approximately 91.4% regular to 8.6% variant — this is a higher variant percentage than we’ve seen for the 1980’s price variants from other publishers like Marvel and DC, which makes sense, given that we’d expect the rarity breakdown in this case to be driven by the difference in market size, i.e. with no bifurcation of the Canadian market into newsstand::direct edition for Whitman (recall that with other publishers like Marvel and DC, the variants were exclusively found on newsstands while the direct editions sold in comic shops throughout Canada were the identical ones sold in comic shops in the US).

Here below is the full list of 1984 Whitman CPVs — click any thumbnail to bring up a full-size picture.

Whitman CPV Date Non-Variant 9.2 CGC Census 8/5/2020
60¢
CGC Census 8/5/2020
75¢
Alice In Wonderland #1 75¢ Variant Alice In Wonderland #1 3/1984 $32 11 0
Bambi #1 75¢ Variant Bambi #1 1984 $18 4 1
Beep Beep, The Road Runner #104 75¢ Variant Beep Beep, The Road Runner #104 5/1984 $40 5 0
Beep Beep, The Road Runner #105 75¢ Variant Beep Beep, The Road Runner #105 6/1984 $40 17 2
Bugs Bunny #244 75¢ Variant Bugs Bunny #244 3/1984 $28 3 0
Bugs Bunny #245 75¢ Variant Bugs Bunny #245 4/1984 $28 7 0
Chip 'N' Dale #82 75¢ Variant Chip ‘N’ Dale #82 5/1984 $28 14 0
Chip 'N' Dale #83 75¢ Variant Chip ‘N’ Dale #83 7/1984 $28 12 0
Daffy Duck #144 75¢ Variant Daffy Duck #144 3/1984 $35 7 0
Daffy Duck #145 75¢ Variant Daffy Duck #145 6/1984 $35 6 0
Daisy And Donald #59 75¢ Variant Daisy And Donald #59 7/1984 $40 14 0
Donald Duck #243 75¢ Variant Donald Duck #243 3/1984 $24 10 2
Donald Duck #244 75¢ Variant Donald Duck #244 4/1984 $24 10 1
Donald Duck #245 75¢ Variant Donald Duck #245 7/1984 $24 4 0
Huey Dewey And Louie #79 75¢ Variant Huey Dewey And Louie #79 4/1984 $30 7 3
Huey Dewey And Louie #80 75¢ Variant Huey Dewey And Louie #80 5/1984 $30 7 0
Huey Dewey And Louie #81 75¢ Variant Huey Dewey And Louie #81 7/1984 $30 15 4
Jungle Book #1 75¢ Variant Jungle Book #1 7/1984 $18 4 0
Little Lulu #268 75¢ Variant Little Lulu #268 3/1984 $35 5 0
Looney Tunes #46 75¢ Variant Looney Tunes #46 3/1984 $26 12 1
Looney Tunes #47 75¢ Variant Looney Tunes #47 6/1984 $26 14 1
Mickey Mouse #217 75¢ Variant Mickey Mouse #217 3/1984 $18 2 0
Mickey Mouse #218 75¢ Variant Mickey Mouse #218 7/1984 $18 3 3
Peter Pan #1 75¢ Variant Peter Pan #1 3/1984 $20 5 0
Pink Panther #87 75¢ Variant Pink Panther #87 3/1984 $26 8 1
Popeye #170 75¢ Variant Popeye #170 3/1984 $35 4 1
Popeye #171 75¢ Variant Popeye #171 6/1984 $35 8 2
Porky Pig #108 75¢ Variant Porky Pig #108 2/1984 $26 10 0
Porky Pig #109 75¢ Variant Porky Pig #109 6/1984 $26 12 0
Super Goof #72 75¢ Variant Super Goof #72 5/1984 $28 4 0
Super Goof #73 75¢ Variant Super Goof #73 6/1984 $28 3 1
Super Goof #74 75¢ Variant Super Goof #74 7/1984 $28 8 1
Tom And Jerry #344 75¢ Variant Tom And Jerry #344 6/1984 $32 12 1
Tweety And Sylvester #119 75¢ Variant Tweety And Sylvester #119 2/1984 $35 4 0
Tweety And Sylvester #120 75¢ Variant Tweety And Sylvester #120 5/1984 $35 11 2
Tweety And Sylvester #121 75¢ Variant Tweety And Sylvester #121 6/1984 $35 4 0
Uncle Scrooge #206 75¢ Variant Uncle Scrooge #206 4/1984 $55 11 1
Uncle Scrooge #207 75¢ Variant Uncle Scrooge #207 5/1984 $55 19 2
Uncle Scrooge #208 75¢ Variant Uncle Scrooge #208 6/1984 $55 18 1
Uncle Scrooge #209 75¢ Variant Uncle Scrooge #209 7/1984 $55 20 1
Walt Disney's Comics And Stories #507 75¢ Variant Walt Disney’s Comics And Stories #507 4/1984 $22 3 0
Walt Disney's Comics And Stories #508 75¢ Variant Walt Disney’s Comics And Stories #508 5/1984 $22 6 1
Walt Disney's Comics And Stories #509 75¢ Variant Walt Disney’s Comics And Stories #509 6/1984 $22 3 1
Walt Disney's Comics And Stories #510 75¢ Variant Walt Disney’s Comics And Stories #510 7/1984 $22 4 1
Winnie The Pooh #32 75¢ Variant Winnie The Pooh #32 4/1984 $42 6 0
Winnie The Pooh #33 75¢ Variant Winnie The Pooh #33 7/1984 $42 12 2
Woody Woodpecker #201 75¢ Variant Woody Woodpecker #201 3/1984 $32 7 1
Yosemite Sam And Bugs Bunny #81 75¢ Variant Yosemite Sam And Bugs Bunny #81 2/1984 $32 7 0

Whitman 1984 CPV Picture Gallery

Happy Collecting! 🙂

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