“The increased interest in CPVs combined with higher sales prices for CPVs has them being submitted to CGC and entering the market more often than the overall CGC Census percentages in recent years. As the prices have increased for CPVs, the condition which is “worth submitting” to CGC has decreased.”
GPAnalysis.com (GPA) records the sales of CGC graded comic books from a number of online venues, resulting in a database which combines most of the CGC sales which may be documented. When it comes to Canadian Price Variants (CPVs), GPA has sales as old as July 2002, when a CGC 9.8 Daredevil #191 with a 75-cent cover sold for $71. That would be the only Canadian-priced comic book with a CGC sale recorded in 2002, though it is possible that many sales through the years have been misattributed to “regular editions” when they were in fact CPVs.
GPA records for CPVs have risen significantly since 2002, but the first time at least 100 CPV sales were recorded in a single year was 2017. The current count for 2021 is at 972 CPV sales through only the first week of November. More than 75% of all 3,279 recorded CGC CPV sales have occurred since January 2019.
The 2,484 CPV sales since January 1, 2019, represent 3.5% of the 70,178 sales for those issues during the same timeframe. In other words, GPAnalysis records 70,178 sales for issues that have a CPV variant known. Within those 70,178 sales since January 1, 2019, 2,484 are for CPVs. Sales for other comic books which do not have a CPV, such as thousands of sales for Amazing Spider-Man #300, were not included in this analysis. Any comic book which has at least one recorded CPV sale at any time since 2002 was isolated for the sales of CPV or non-CPV which occurred in the 2019-2021 timeframe.
Archie Publications is notable for only widely introducing direct editions in 1988, about ten years later than Marvel and D.C. Comics. The CPV percentage of 9.8% reflects a Canadian population which had only recently been given the option to purchase an issue other than a CPV. Removing the Archie Publications from the totals in the chart above would not change the Total CPV % of 3.5%.
While Marvel and D.C. Comics reflect 3.4% CPV in GPA recorded sales from 2019 to present, the CGC Census for issues that have 1 or more CPV on record are 2.6% CPV for Marvel and 2.9% CPV for D.C. Comics. The increased interest in CPVs combined with higher sales prices for CPVs has them being submitted to CGC and entering the market more often than the overall CGC Census percentages in recent years. As the prices have increased for CPVs, the condition which is “worth submitting” to CGC has decreased. For example, a non-CPV which might sell for only $40 in CGC 9.6 would be difficult to produce a profit after CGC grading, while a CPV of the same issue might sell for $80 in CGC 9.6 and warrant submission to CGC.
As a result, the overall 3.4% CPV percentage should be reviewed with respect to the CPV percentage at CGC 9.8 or higher, with a corresponding CPV percentage for CGC 9.6 and CGC 9.4.
When it comes to the estimated “survival rates” for CPVs in high grade, more than 18,000 Marvel and more than 5,000 D.C. sales show a CGC 9.8 CPV rate of 2.2%. As the example above described, it is possible that lower grades are not profitable enough to be submitted to CGC as often when it is a non-CPV issue, and the percentage of CPVs for CGC 9.6 and CGC 9.4 would increase (due to fewer non-CPVs). The data reflects 3.5% CGC 9.6 and 4.3% CGC 9.4 percentages for CPVs from Marvel and 3.3% CGC 9.6 and 4.7% CGC 9.4 percentages for D.C. Comics.
Alternatively, it is possible that all grades CGC 9.4 and above, are worth submitting to CGC as CPV or non-CPV for a particular issue, and it is the actual survival of high grades which causes these differences. For example, if it is more likely that a CGC 9.8 would be a direct edition due to the protection provided by many direct edition collectors, then the CPV CGC 9.8 percentage would be lower, not because fewer CPVs exist, but because fewer CGC 9.8s exist. The overall 3.4% CPV percentage for Marvel and D.C. Comics could be the overall survival rate for CPVs, while the 2.2% for CGC 9.8 could reflect the difficulty in obtaining the CGC 9.8 grade specifically. One-out-of-thirty copies CGC graded might actually be a CPV, but only one-out-of-forty-five CGC 9.8s might be a CPV, due to differences in storage conditions for comics purchased in the 1980s for more than three decades.
Conclusions which are drawn based upon the GPA sales data are not necessarily correct, since many factors influence the decision to submit a comic book to CGC, or to sell the CGC graded comic in a venue that reports to GPAnalysis. Conditions of comic books may be due to handling by the original vendor, the original collector, or any number of people since that time. Conditions are sometimes due to poor production methods, and the vendor and collectors did all they could to preserve the comic afterwards.
Generally speaking, it is known that comic books which are handled carefully by the vendor and protected very well by the collector will have higher condition grades than comics which are not as carefully handled or as well protected. Direct editions were sold in comic book specialty stores, which were frequented by more “serious” collectors and provided the option for bag and board protection at the time of purchase. Newsstand issues (both U.S. and Canadian Price Variant) were sold more often at non-comic stores such as grocery stores, convenience stations, or magazine and newspaper stands. The handling by the original vendor was generally more damaging to comic books, and the buyer was rarely offered a bag and board for the comic’s protection at the time of the purchase for newsstand issues.
To evaluate whether the higher CPV percentages are due to high grade survival rates or due to prices which are unprofitable for CGC submission, individual issues should be evaluated by the same methods as the publishers. Again, the conclusions may be incorrect, but the data reflects thousands of CGC graded comic book sales from many different sellers, which is usually thousands more data points than any collector has for their own CPV experience.
The overall CPV percentage (CPVPct) for Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #8 (1984) is 1.7% for 3,308 GPA recorded sales 2019 to present. 1,103 sales were for CGC 9.8 and the CPV percentage for CGC 9.8 was 0.6%. Because the non-CPV prices for CGC 9.8 averaged $415, it is unlikely that non-CPV copies of this issue were held back from CGC submissions due to low value. Instead, it is more likely that CGC 9.8 is simply a more difficult grade to obtain for CPVs than non-CPVs, probably due to different (average) handling and storage conditions between direct editions and CPVs from 1984 to present. The CGC 9.4 percentage of CPVs is 3.2%, which is closer to the overall Marvel CPV percentage of 3.4%. The CGC 9.4 price for non-CPV averaged $167, so it is also a profitable grade for both CPV and non-CPV. Perhaps the percentage of books preserved well enough for CGC 9.4 grading is approximately the same as the overall survival rate of 3.4%, while the CGC 9.6 and CGC 9.8 percentages for CPV pull the overall rate down to 1.7% for Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #8.
Also from Marvel in 1984 was Amazing Spider-Man #252. The overall CPV percentage is 3.9%, and the CGC 9.8 CPV percentage is 2.3%. Both percentages are significantly higher than Secret Wars #8, produced only a few months apart. It is important to note that more than 90% of the GPA recorded sales in this analysis are for non-GPA issues. The vast majority of non-GPA issues are direct editions, purchased by collectors in comic book specialty stores. These direct edition stores did not have an unlimited supply of comic books. When a comic book was “instantly popular” among collectors, the comic book store could quickly sell out of an issue, and newsstand issues could meet that additional demand.
The newsstand distribution process ensured that newsstand issues (U.S. and CPV) arrived at vendors a week (or more) after the direct editions arrived in comic shops. The direct market was designed to provide comic book retailers with earlier arrival for each comic book at a discounted price, in return for making the direct editions nonreturnable. Comic books which were immediately popular could sell out at the comic book store but be found again at newsstand vendors a week later. Many direct edition buyers (and retailers) obtained newsstand copies of instantly-popular issues, ensuring that a greater percentage of newsstand (U.S. and CPV) survived in the hands of (primarily) direct edition collectors. As a result, more than 35 years later, immediately popular comic books like Amazing Spider-Man #252 have higher overall and CGC 9.8 percentages for CPV than other Marvel issues from the same timeframe.
Thor #337 (1983) appears to have been even more popular than Amazing Spider-Man #252 at the time of its release. 6.1% of the GPA recorded sales have been CPVs, and 5.6% of the CGC 9.8 sales have been CGC 9.8 CPVs. It is unlikely that the average CPV buyer decided to protect this particular issue in 9.8 condition nine times more often than Secret Wars #8 (0.6% CPV in CGC 9.8), so it is more probable that CPVs were obtained in much higher quantities by direct edition buyers to satisfy demand and protected as well as direct editions in the decades that followed. Just a few direct edition buyers obtaining CPVs from newsstands could make the difference between 0.6% CGC 9.8 CPVs and 5.6% CGC 9.8 CPVs.
Simply stated, the behavior of direct edition buyers during the first weeks that a comic book was for sale determined the survival rates for all comic books, direct edition, newsstand, and CPV, for all the decades that followed. When a comic was popular among direct edition buyers, if the direct editions sold out, the newsstand and CPV supply was scooped up by buyers who treated them like direct editions. When a comic had plenty of direct edition supply during the time the newsstands and CPVs were for sale, the comics were purchased by newsstand buyers almost exclusively, and unsold copies were returned.
Web of Spider-Man #1 (1985) and New Mutants #1 (1983) appear to be only slightly profitable as a CGC 9.8 for non-CPV, selling just above $110. The risk of receiving a lower grade would be a likely reason for the percentage of CPV to be higher than average. However, the CGC 9.8 CPV percentages are only 2% and 1%, respectively. It is possible that these particular issues simply did not survive in CGC 9.8 condition as CPVs as often as non-CPVs. If this is true, it is most likely due to the direct edition supply being sufficient to satisfy buyers in the first week, and fewer-than-average sales of CPVs occurring when these issues were available at newsstands.
The most important question about the survival of direct editions may be, “how many were ordered by comic book retailers in the direct market?” Because direct edition books were not returnable, the number ordered by the comic book retailers established how many copies would most likely exist a year later (except for those few direct edition buyers who would discard their comics). When retailers overestimated the popularity of a direct edition comic book, it may have remained in their inventory unsold for years, but it usually survived and often in higher grade since the retailer was theoretically protective of the inventory.
The most important question about the survival of newsstands and CPVs may actually be, “did direct edition buyers choose to purchase this newsstand issue more often than average?” Because the newsstand market was a smaller percentage of sales each year after the introduction of the direct market, and because the newsstand issues were returnable, the brief time period they were originally sold was the only time direct edition buyers could increase the average newsstand survival rate. Otherwise, the average newsstand buyer did what the average newsstand buyer always did, whether it was discard, mishandle, or even protect their comics with bags and boards as well as direct editions, but it would have been done at the same percentage as every other newsstand issue they purchased, and the return rate would be the same as other newsstand return rates. Direct edition buyers, most often by ignoring them, may have determined the survival rates for newsstands and CPVs.
Now that these analysis methods have been introduced, and examples provided with commentary, the following charts are presented primarily for future comparisons. A review of these numbers in years to come may help establish which CPV rates are fairly accurate today and which are very different from what will be known in the future.
There are several comics from these lists which do not yet exist in CGC 9.8 condition as CPVs, and others which may exist but have not sold according to GPA in the past three years. The primary question will be whether the CPV percentages from GPA differ from the CGC Census because the future data will show that the CGC Census becomes more like the GPA sales records, or vice versa? GPA’s recent addition of U.S. newsstand notation for a few dozen of these CPV issues will provide additional insight into the breakdown of Direct Edition – U.S. Newsstand – CPV ratios as the number of records increases at GPAnalysis.com.
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About the Author
Greg Holland has collected comic books for over 30 years and has been the administrator of the CGC Census Analysis website CGCdata.com since 2003. Dr. Holland holds a Ph.D. in information quality from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and has held data science positions as research director, analyst, and administrator for government, corporations, and university. He is the 1999 founder of the ValiantComics.com website and the 2004 ValiantFans.com message board. Active on the CGC Forums as ‘valiantman’ since 2002, he is also a 15+ year advisor to the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide and contributor to later editions of the Standard Catalog of Comic Books. Greg resides in Arkansas, USA, with his wife and their daughter.