35 Cent Variants, Canadian Newsstand Edition

The 75¢ Price Puzzle: Parallels To 35¢ Variants

This 1998 publication, Comic Book Marketplace #55, was credited with increasing awareness among collectors about 30 and 35 cent variants.

This January 1998 publication, Comic Book Marketplace #55, is widely credited with increasing awareness among collectors about 30 and 35 cent variants.

Related:
A List of CGC Graded 30 Cent Price Variants of 1976
A List of CGC Graded 35 Cent Price Variants of 1977

By Benjamin Nobel, July 6, 2016

In a previous post, I had mentioned finding out that a January 1998 article by Jon McClure in issue #55 of Comic Book Marketplace magazine is widely credited by collectors as the “catalyst” for widespread awareness of 35¢ price variants.

I tracked down a hard copy of this magazine issue (published too early for the content to be online it seems, as I could not find it). As it turns out the article in that issue is actually “Part II”… It is entitled “The 30¢ Price Puzzle: Making sense of Bronze Age Marvel Price Variants.”  Part I is said to be in issue #51 of the same magazine (I have yet to acquire a hard copy of that one).

As a big fan of 75 cent variants for their relative value and incredibly low distribution numbers, this article was an interesting read for me on a few levels. For one, it has clearly gotten a whole lot easier for collectors to research comics since 1998!  The article mentions how over the years, in different Overstreet price guides, they started mentioning 30 or 35 cent variant copies of one particular specific issue or another (presumably as they were discovered/confirmed to exist, and/or as market values warranted Overstreet “breaking them out”). The article also highlights a long list of comics that “might” have price variants and then confirms ones that were actually verified. (That would have been so much easier to research in this day and age, by looking through eBay listings in order to verify variant existence).

And to further highlight the “technological state” of the comic collecting world in 1998: the page to the right of the article is an advertisement page, and the advertiser who bought the ad space lists a phone number… and under the phone number the ad says “Sorry, no answering machine!” Isn’t that a funny sign of the times? I’m trying to remember what speed dial-up modem I had back in 1998 in order to connect to America Online (remember all those CD-ROM disks we used to get in the mail?). Anyway, point is, we certainly are in a much different era sitting here today in 2016, one where information is far easier to research and also easier to share with other collectors!

A few notable passages from the article that I want to quote:

“Of the eight 35¢ variants and five 30¢ variants noted in Overstreet #27, four of them are Star Wars #1-4, three are X-Men #98-99, and #106, and the eighth is Iron Fist #15. That’s right, two out of three are popular, high visibility, high demand comics. Only four others have been noticed and referred to by Overstreet in the last 20 years!”

What a strong parallel to the Canadian price variants, of having been overlooked, wouldn’t you agree?! Interesting too that issue #100 wasn’t mentioned back then, that is one of the more highly valued 30 cent variants today, and apparently wasn’t even shown in the guide back then (unless the article has a typo and 106 is meant to be 100 — similarly, I have to wonder if Iron Fist #15 was meant to say #14 as the 1st appearance of Sabretooth — I honestly don’t know the history of what used to be considered “key” back then having only gotten drawn back into our hobby in 2003, so seeing these issue numbers surprised me). Another passage that shows a strong parallel to our 75 cent variants:

“It makes sense that variant comics have remained virtually unknown until now, when you consider that they are nearly impossible to notice or detect unless you know what to look for.”

Not many collectors today know how to spot the 75 cent and other Canadian price variants… and I think this statement is also applicable to newsstand comics broadly (the difference between newsstand vs. direct edition comics is not something the typical collector seems to even think about today let alone understand and look for).  And here’s yet another quote that I find particularly interesting because it actually mentions the existence of 75 cent variants, but only with one example comic where such a variant exists (showing the state of knowledge about these back in 1998):

“And we haven’t yet investigated the 75¢ price variants that are known to exist (see the Thor #338 variant listed in Overstreet). There’s obviously much more of the price variant puzzle left for collectors to explore.”

So at the time this article was written — the article widely credited by collectors as the catalyst for widespread awareness of 30/35¢ price variants — even the author of the article himself hadn’t yet begun to investigate just what these 75¢ variants even were, apparently knowing at the time only the fact that one existed and was mentioned in Overstreet.

The remark here by McClure about “75 cent variants” (as his chosen phrase) also helps explain why that exact term is often used to describe this “class” of Canadian price variants despite the fact that the variant price is different depending on the “regular” price of the given comic (X-Factor #6 at 95¢ and Secret Wars #8 at $1.00 being two examples where the variant price is not in fact 75¢). This also reflects how little must have been known about these at the time, because a more broadly encompassing term to cover those higher price examples would have been more appropriate to select.

And then one final passage from the article to show just where the state of the collector’s market for 30/35¢ variants was at the time  — that time being over two decades after original publication of those comic books:

“Although some may not agree, I personally feel variant comics are highly collectible. I also believe that the majority of variants will prove hard-to-find. Perhaps they are scarce and seemingly undervalued because few have been paying attention to them and even fewer have documented them. As the emphasis on Bronze Age continues to grow, I feel certain all that will change.”

Looking at where 35 cent variant comics are valued today, such as the Star Wars variants, it is hard to believe that back in 1998 the author of that article would begin that above statement with the qualifier “although some may not agree.”  I personally feel this exact same sentiment that Jon McClure expressed about 30/35¢ variants being highly collectible, about the 75¢ variant (and other Canadian price variant) “class” of comics. (And I feel the same way about late modern $3.99 Newsstand Edition and other “broken out”/CGC-recognized newsstand variants).

More of my posts on the subject of 75 cent variants:

Happy Collecting! 🙂

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35 Cent Variants

What Caused 35 Cent Variants To Take Off?

This 1998 publication, Comic Book Marketplace #55, was credited with increasing awareness among collectors about 30 and 35 cent variants.

An article by Jon McClure in this 1998 publication, Comic Book Marketplace #55, was credited with increasing awareness among collectors about 30 and 35 cent variants.

By Benjamin Nobel, June 22, 2016

Readers of this blog will know that I’m a big fan of 75 cent variants for their relative value and incredibly low distribution numbers.  As a “class” of comics, I consider their main comps to be the 30 and 35 cent variants.  (And then much later, the 3.99 newsstand edition price variants, but those really are much later, occurring in 2008-2010).

The 35 cent variants really are the best comps — the closest “peer group” if you will — existing closest in time chronologically, coming into existence 5 years before the 75 cent variants began.  So, understanding how 35 cent variants “took off” is an important consideration for our 75 cent variants.

Why Are 35 Cent Variants So Highly Valued While 75 Cent Variants Are Still “Under The Radar”?

I have only two possible answers to this question:

  1. Either collectors don’t know the facts about 75 cent variants, or,
  2. Collectors don’t care about the facts about 75 cent variants.

My experience has been that collectors absolutely do care about these 75 cent variants once they know about them and understand the facts.   So the answer in my view must be #1… that, widely, collectors simply don’t know the facts about them as a “class” of comics.  But 35 cent variants took off after initially being under-the-radar themselves, so this raises the obvious question:

What Caused 35 Cent Variants To Take Off?

One very important factor to notice is that Overstreet specifically breaks out 35 cent variants in the price guide… while 75 cent variants are not listed. So anybody looking up the value of a comic published during the 75 cent variant window would have no ‘cue’ from the guide to make them realize that copies even exist with a higher cover price (let alone that they are more rare).

Was Overstreet proactive in adding 35 cent variants to the guide as a separate entry, or reactive?  From the comments I have seen, reactive.  It might very well take a notable market price difference between 75 cent variants and their regularly priced counterparts, before Overstreet decides the situation warrants breaking them out. But if they do not break them out, how will collectors discover them and notice they are rare, in the first place?

A blog post I found from a google search — I wanted to know where the test markets were while researching information for my post about Star Wars 35 cent variants — had this interesting quote:

Except for Iron Fist 14 and Star Wars 1, for twenty years no one noticed the price variants until Jon McClure published an article about them in Comic Book Marketplace #55. — Found in this blog post

Wow, two decades before those variants got noticed…  I looked for Comic Book Marketplace #55 and found it was published in 1998. Other collectors also credit that one article for the awareness among collectors about these price variants of the 1970s:


“CBM 55 with Jon McClure’s article on 30 cent variants is pretty much Ground Zero for 30 cent variant nuttiness.” — Found in this message board thread

So this one 1998 article was the catalyst for 30 and 35 cent variants getting discovered by the masses.  I’m trying to remember what speed dial-up modem I was using in 1998?  My point is:  We live in a different era now — this is the Internet era of instant communication, and it should be much easier for collectors to share and spread important information.  So, waiting for a prominent article in a prominent publication might not be necessary… perhaps all it will take for 75 cent variants to “get noticed” the way 35 cent variants have, is for collectors to share knowledge about them. If you find these price variants as interesting as I do (and $3.99 price variants of 2008-2010 too), then collect some yourself but also tell other collectors!  Because I simply have to believe: once they know, they will care.

Posts about 75 cent variants to read and share:

75 Cent Variants (Canadian Newsstand Editions)

Canadian Price Variants — How To Spot Them

• Rare 1980’s Price Variants To Collect

D.C. Comics Canadian Editions — 2-7%

Star Wars #1-4 35¢ Cover — Also, Other Price Variants You DIDN’T Know Existed!

Posts about newsstand editions to read and share:

Comic Book Newsstand Editions: Understanding The Difference

Newsstand vs. Direct Edition Comics

$3.99 Newsstand Editions

Other posts about Rare Comics

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35 Cent Variants, Canadian Newsstand Edition

Star Wars #1-4 35¢ Cover — Also, Other Price Variants You DIDN’T Know Existed!

By Benjamin Nobel, June 22, 2016  |  Related slideshow: 10 Overlooked Star Wars Comics To Rival 35 Cent Variants

Everyone, and I mean everyone who collects comics seems to be keenly aware of the 35¢ cover price variants of Star Wars #1-4. Overstreet makes special note of their existence in the price guide, and market prices are through the roof with collectors bidding up these rarities at auction. This post is about not just these 35¢ Star Wars variants that you do know about, it also covers six Star Wars price variants that Overstreet overlooks and you probably have never heard of either and yet, as I will show you, they are just as rare (if not more so) because of the distribution circumstances that led to their existence!  Lucky you: the vast majority of collectors out there seem to have no clue these other variants even exist, but by stumbling upon my post, now you will know, giving you a collecting edge!

Star Wars #1-4 35¢ Cover Price Variants

These are the widely known cover price variants, from a 1977 “test market” price increase — Marvel wanted to see how sales would do if they raised prices on comics by a nickel, up from the 30¢ price charged at the time. Because only a small batch of total copies produced had this 35¢ cover price (obtainable only if you were in the chosen test markets within the larger North American market for comic books broadly), they are drastically more rare as a percentage of the total copies sold. For issue #1 in particular, a lower percentage of 35¢ copies show up on the CGC census as compared with the percentage of 35 cent copies that show up on census for issues #2-4. Overstreet suggests that the distribution for issue #1 may have only been 1,500 copies (although they qualify that with a question mark):

star-wars-35-cent-values

Overstreet’s Star Wars page gives the 35¢ price variant of issue #1 a full 24x the value compared to regular 30¢ copies, and suggests there may have only been 1,500 copies distributed. For issues #2-4, Overstreet gives the 35¢ variants 3.33x the value of regular 30¢ copies.

Current market prices for these widely-known 35 cent variants — especially CGC graded copies — are eye-popping.  Here is a screencapture of this particular moment in time, showing the numbers we’re talking about…  Notice that last one, a CGC 3.0 price variant copy of Star Wars #3 auctioned for over $300!  I say hold onto your three hundred dollars, fellow collectors, because everybody in the collecting world seems to be your bidding competition on these…  But as I’m about to show you, there’s a whole other world of undiscovered Star Wars price variants out there that are just as rare and give you a much better value for your money (ones Overstreet does not even list in the guide!) and I’ll point out six specific Star Wars price variants in particular that you probably have never heard of!

Recent sales of 35 cent variants:

star-wars-35-cent-variant-s

Recent sales among Star Wars #1-4 price variants. Even a CGC 3.0 copy (of Star Wars #3) auctioned for over three hundred dollars!

What’s especially striking about that sale of the CGC 3.0 price variant copy of Star Wars #3 is that it surpassed the market price of 9.8 graded regularly priced copies, such as this recent example sale:

star-wars-3-regular-copy

Regular 30 cent cover price copy in 9.8 sold for a lower price than the 3.0 graded 35 cent variant!

Clearly, the collector’s market is hungry for low distribution Star Wars cover price variants… or is it only hungry for the ones it knows about?  Because an entire “class” of low-distribution cover price variants from just 5 years later are being almost entirely overlooked by collectors!

 

And now: Other Star Wars Price Variants You Probably Didn’t Know Existed!

The first overlooked Star Wars price variant I want to introduce you to is also “a #1″… it has the same cover artwork as the 1977 Star Wars #1… and there are three different types of cover price boxes you’ll find out there, one of which is drastically more rare than the other two:

star-wars-1-side-by-side

Three different versions of this Star Wars comic exist… And one of them (the one on the right) has a higher cover price and is drastically more rare!

I’ll reveal the title in a moment…  but first, I want to show you another “#1” issue, with this same exact phenomenon of three different versions in existence, with the higher cover price variant at the right being both overlooked and drastically more rare:

return-of-the-jedi-variant

Three different versions of this Star Wars comic exist too… And the one on the right has a higher cover price and is drastically more rare!

There is simply so much to tell you about these overlooked price variants, how rare they are on the CGC census, and how they came to exist, it is hard to know where to start!  I suppose a good starting point is to tell you the titles of these six other Star Wars price variant comics, and, show just how uncommon they are on the CGC census by looking up the actual numbers online using their census lookup tool.  I’ll do that below with a table of the cold hard CGC census numbers at the time of this writing…

Issue Census Count: Regular Copies Census Count: Price Variants Price Variant Percentage
Star Wars #1 5373 179 3.22%
Star Wars #2 764 71 8.50%
Star Wars #3 612 52 7.83%
Star Wars #4 511 55 9.72%
Return of the Jedi #1 229 3 1.29%
Return of the Jedi #2 98 1 1.01%
Return of the Jedi #3 99 2 1.98%
Return of the Jedi #4 105 3 2.78%
Marvel Movie Showcase #1 54 0 0.00%
Marvel Movie Showcase #2 20 0 0.00%

The first four rows are the Star Wars price variants collectors do widely know about (and are listed in Overstreet): the Star Wars #1-4 35 cent variants.  Note that the 35 cent price variant for issue #1 does indeed show up on the CGC census with a lower percentage of total copies, versus the percentage for issues #2-4, giving credibility to Overstreet’s note about 35 cent copies of issue #1 having had lower sales, possibly at 1,500 copies.   We can see that issue #1 has census rarity of 3.2%, while issues #2, 3, and 4, are in the higher range of 7.8% to 9.7%.  Next in the table are the six overlooked Star Wars Price Variants:

Return of the Jedi #1-4 (75¢ variants), and Marvel Movie Showcase #1-2 ($1.50 variants). Note for purposes of comparison that the Star Wars #4 35 cent price variant shows up on census with 9.7% rarity… please keep this number in your head, because I will show you in a moment how mathematically, based upon the distribution circumstances, the six other “overlooked” price variants I’ve listed here must be more rare than 9.7% of total copies!  And, although the census counts are small, you can see how these are already showing up in the census numbers with percentage rarity that rivals the 35 cent variants!!

Marvel Movie Showcase #1, $1.50 cover price variant.

Marvel Movie Showcase #1, $1.50 cover price variant.

Marvel Movie Showcase #2, $1.50 cover price variant.

Marvel Movie Showcase #2, $1.50 cover price variant.

Return of the Jedi #1, 75 cent cover price variant.

Return of the Jedi #1, 75 cent cover price variant.

Return of the Jedi #2, 75 cent cover price variant.

Return of the Jedi #2, 75 cent cover price variant.

Return of the Jedi #3, 75 cent cover price variant.

Return of the Jedi #3, 75 cent cover price variant.

Return of the Jedi #4, 75 cent cover price variant.

Return of the Jedi #4, 75 cent cover price variant.

And part of what’s really exciting about collecting these is how under-the-radar they are flying… Overstreet for example makes no mention of them; here for example is their listing for Return of the Jedi:
overstreet-jedi-no-mention

Overstreet makes no mention of the existence of 75 cent cover price copies of the Return of the Jedi limited series!

Amazingly, despite specifically pointing out the 35 cent variants earlier in their other page for the Star Wars title, anybody looking at the guide page for Return of the Jedi sees absolutely no indication that 75 cent variant copies even exist, let alone how rare they are!

What Are These Other Variants — And Why Are They Rare Too?

Earlier I showed the price boxes for three copies side-by-side, with the “overlooked” higher cover price variant at the right…  Let me show these again so that you don’t have to scroll back up:

The copy at the left of each of those comparisons is what is known as a “direct edition” copy; these were the kind sold in specialty comic shops across North America (to both the United States and Canada).  If you go looking for a CGC graded copy of any of these issues, chances are you’ll find mostly this direct edition version, because it was the most well-preserved (handled with care by comic shop owners, and then bagged and boarded by collectors).  The kind in the middle is a newsstand copy but priced in U.S. dollars — while the higher priced copy at the right is a newsstand copy but priced in Canadian dollars.

Because of the currency exchange rate at the time of publication, Marvel needed to charge a higher price when the buyer was paying with Canadian dollars, and during a window of time in the 80’s Marvel printed two newsstand batches — one for North of the border, one for South — instead of one batch with both prices listed which they started doing after 8/1986. Which brings me to the math that shows these higher priced copies have rarity well under 9.8%… and it all comes from this simple fact:  The United States had a vastly greater population!  Meaning that the market size for comic books in Canada was drastically smaller… just 9.8% of the North American market for comic books by population, when you look at the actual population numbers:

The population of Canada in 1982 represented 9.8% of the population of North America... because the United States simply had substantially more people living there.

The population of Canada in 1982 represented 9.8% of the population of North America… because the United States simply had substantially more people living there.

Next, here’s why the rarity of these “overlooked” price variants is actually under 9.8% (and not 9.8% on the nose):  Because all of the comic shops in Canada got the very same direct edition copies that were sold in the United States…  If you look back at that side-by-side comparison of the three types of copies you’ll see that the direct edition type had both prices listed on it (Canadian price smaller, underneath).   So the portion of the collector’s market in Canada being serviced by comic shops did not get the price variants!  They got direct edition copies instead!  Only the portion of the market for comic books being serviced by newsstands in Canada got the higher priced variant copies!  So it is only a portion of that 9.8% of the North American market for comic books that got the price variants!  Therefore these price variants, as a percentage of total copies out there, must by simple logic be some amount under 9.8% — and as a reference point remember you’re holding in your head that we saw that the 35 cent variant of Star Wars #4 shows up on the CGC census with 9.7% rarity.  So it is pretty clear that these other “overlooked” price variants are just as rare as a percentage of the total copies of each issue, if not more so, compared to the widely known 35 cent variants!

And we also need to consider that the typical buyer on newsstands wasn’t carefully preserving their copy… because that typical newsstand buyer was a reader.  The collectors, meanwhile, were mostly making their purchases in comic shops (and taking home the direct edition type, not the price variants).  Destruction rate for newsstand comics is notoriously high.  And that is one reason why these 75 cent price variant copies are actually showing up in my table from earlier with even lower percentages on the CGC census of graded copies of each issue, when comparing to the percentage rarity on census of the Star Wars 35 cent variants  especially comparing to the census rarity for issues #2-4!

75¢ Variants — You Won’t Believe The Bargains

With Overstreet overlooking these in their guide pages, and collectors widely unaware of their existence, the bargains out there are incredible for anyone who understands the true rarity. Even the collectors who are aware that these price variants exist, probably have not put very much thought into them. People look at Canada on the map and see a huge physical area, so it is probably the case that most collectors never really put thought into the population disparity between the two countries, even if they do know about the existence of these price variants.

Canada looks just as huge as the United States on the map of North America... but by population it is tiny, smaller by population size than the state of California!

Canada looks just as huge as the United States on the map of North America… but by population it is tiny, smaller by population size than the state of California!

And furthermore, most collectors to this day have such a myopic focus on grade/condition that they do not put much thought into the difference between direct edition and newsstand comic books, nor think about the distribution percentages between those two versions. But the fact is, all direct edition copies of these 1982-1986-era Star Wars comics — the type sold at comic shops across both the US and Canada — had both prices on them and made up a substantial portion of comic book sales…  So that divides up the already-small Canadian market for comic books, where the 75¢ price variants are only the portion of that market served by newsstands.  So it is absolutely crystal clear that 75¢ price variants were a small sliver of the total distribution, and therefore incredible rarities.

While you might think these overlooked price variant rarities would clearly “deserve” an enormous market premium, given where 35 cent variants are selling, you’ll be surprised to see just how overlooked they really are, when I show you the following screenshot of recent sales of some of these. And by the way, to anyone who was disappointed there were only six “overlooked” price variant examples, I have good news: it is way more than my six specific examples.  These price variants are an entire “class” of comic books… there are price variants for any Marvel comic published from 10/1982 to 8/1986 that had newsstand distribution… which means that any issues in the main Star Wars title during that period have price variants as well (here’s a full list of these variants within the main Star Wars title)! You’ll see some of those others in the screencapture:

Some recent sales of 75 cent variant Star Wars comics.

Some recent sales of 75 cent variant Star Wars comics.

Now I don’t know about you… but I think these 75¢ variants are an unbelievable bargain relative to their small distribution percentage, especially when you compare to the premiums given to the widely-known 35¢ variants of 1977.  I think there’s a term for this type of phenomenon and it is called relative value.  For the price of that one single CGC 3.0 copy of the 35 cent variant of Star Wars #3 from earlier, you could have every single 75 cent variant in the above screenshot!  If you agree that these under-the-radar price variants sound highly interesting, I’ve written some other posts about these variants that you may enjoy reading as well: 75 Cent Variants (Canadian Newsstand Editions) and also a practical guide on How To Spot Canadian Price Variants in the marketplace.  Finally, if the distinction between newsstand and direct edition comics is a new concept to you, you’ll want to read these too: Comic Book Newsstand Editions: Understanding The Difference and this recent post about other “Special Situations” where CGC “breaks out” Newsstand Variants on census (which is actually an abnormal occurrence — for the vast majority of comic book issues CGC lumps together the direct edition and newsstand copies with no distinction).

Star Wars Price Variant Census Numbers

Throughout this post I’ve referred to the CGC census numbers. Below are screencaptures as of this writing, showing the data. CGC denotes the 35 cent variants with the census entry “35 Cent Price Variant” and denotes the 75 cent variants with the census entry “Canadian Edition” (note that for both Marvel Movie Showcase issues, CGC has yet to grade a Canadian Edition copy — none appear on the census for those two issues).

star-wars-1-censusstar-wars-2-censusstar-wars-3-censusstar-wars-4-censusreturn-of-the-jedi-1-censusreturn-of-the-jedi-2-censusreturn-of-the-jedi-3-censusreturn-of-the-jedi-4-censusmarvel-movie-showcase-1-cgcmarvel-movie-showcase-2-cgc

Thanks for reading, and Happy Collecting! 🙂

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