Canadian Newsstand Edition

Voltron #1-3, Type 1A $1.00 Cover Price Variants

By Benjamin Nobel, June 13, 2018


A Type 1A $1.00 cover price variant exists for Voltron #1!

In our comic book collecting hobby, the world of Type 1A cover price variants is a fun and exciting area, especially in those cases where our variants were newsstand exclusives and the corresponding direct editions carried both prices on their covers — such as with the 1980’s cover price variants from Marvel and from DC — with that newsstand exclusivity aspect along with the bifurcation of the market into being served by both direct edition and newsstand types, helping drive a situation of extreme relative rarity for the newsstand-exclusive cover price variants (click here for graphics explaining this rarity phenomenon along with a detailed walk-through/discussion).

But Marvel and DC weren’t the only publishers to experiment with Type 1A variants.  We see this type of variant from several other publishers as well, including Archie for example; we also see Type 1A variants among the Vampirella magazine title published by Warren and later by Harris (notice the Canadian Edition CGC census entry for Vampirella #113 as an example key), and a reader of this very blog discovered and brought to my attention Type 1A’s from Harvey — just to name a few other example publishers beyond Marvel and DC.


And yet another publisher that produced Type 1A variants in the 1980’s — and the subject of this post — was Modern, publishing the Voltron mini-series in 1985 (which was based on the original Japanese anime television show). And as we know, Voltron is today back on TV as a hit Netflix series, with Season 6 about to be released this month. Viewers seem to love it: on Rotten Tomatoes the show carries an average audience score of 93%!  Which comic book should we look to, in order to collect Voltron’s key first appearance?

Voltron’s First Appearance

Voltron first appeared on our screens on the television show.  So over in the world of comics, the 1985 Voltron mini-series published by Modern marks the first appearance of Voltron in comics — and this fact is noted on the CBCS label for Voltron #1 as you can see in the below example (key comments note at right reads “1st appearance of Voltron in comics“):

CBCS label note indicates:

CBCS label note indicates: “1st appearance of Voltron in comics”

Doug Sulipa, of Doug Sulipa’s Comic World agrees, and he carries the below note for issue #1 of Voltron, similarly noting that the issue contain’s Voltron’s first appearance in comics:

As of today, the 1st appearance credit is not (currently) recognized on CGC’s labels as of this writing, as we can see from the example copy below, which carries a blank key comments field:


And to double-verify CGC’s current treatment (as of today), we can also see the blank key comments field when looking up the book in the current census (here’s a link to the issue on CGC’s census).   What the CGC census information does tell us about the issue — and here’s an annotated screenshot below to illustrate — is that CGC confirms it has graded 150 total copies to date of Voltron #1, out of which 145 copies are “regular” copies with 75 cent cover price, versus five copies graded to date with a $1.00 cover price, which is a census rarity ratio for the variant of 1:30 copies graded by CGC to date for the issue (CGC’s current policy for comics of this era is to pretend there are only 2 types for each issue, instead of 3 — i.e. CGC is lumping together by cover price the US newsstand and direct edition copies as if they were one and the same [i.e. counting both of those 75 cent cover price types in the main census entry for the issue number], and then CGC is separately denoting the $1.00 cover price newsstand copies with the variant entry of “Canadian Edition” [a naming convention by CGC which unfortunately carries the false implication that this was “the” edition for Canada — not to mention conflating these with the real Canadian Editions of the 1940’s/1950’s — when in reality Direct Edition copies carried $1.00 in small print and were also sold in Canada]):

Voltron #1 CGC Census:  CGC pretends there are two types, instead of three.

Voltron #1 CGC Census: CGC pretends there are two types, instead of three, lumping together by cover price.

Unlike the actual Canadian Editions of the 1940’s/1950’s where the printing plates were shipped north, the advertisements were changed, and a local edition was published by a Canadian publisher, by contrast these 1980’s Type 1A variants were published by the same publisher as the other copies, at the same time, on the same equipment, with the same ink, using the same paper, and are 100% fully identical on the inside to their 75 cent newsstand counter-parts. The cover price being the single physical feature that differs among newsstand copies — $1.00 instead of 75¢ — these $1.00 cover price copies of Voltron #1 thus fall under Jon McClure’s Type 1A Price Variant definition (shown below).

In the CGC census screenshot shown earlier, I included pictures of the price boxes of the various types at the left of the data, to illustrate how the main census entry represents both the Direct Edition type and the US newsstand type, and how the variant census entry denoted as “Canadian Edition” represents the newsstand copies carrying the $1.00 cover price.  Below for reference are full front covers of example copies of each of these three types:

• Direct Edition (most prevalent and best preserved type):

Voltron #1, Direct Edition example

Voltron #1, Direct Edition example (most prevalent and well-preserved type)

• 75¢ Newsstand (handled like magazines; not as well preserved):


• $1.00 Newsstand (most rare type of 1st print copy of Voltron #1):


Full Mini-Series #1-3 Have $1.00 Variants

Fortunately for collectors, not only is there a $1.00 cover price variant for issue #1, the Type 1A variants exist for issues #2 and #3 as well! Here are example pictures for $1.00 cover price variant copies of #2 and #3:


Happy Collecting! 🙂

– Ben

Canadian Newsstand Edition

Three Variants That Surprised Me

By Benjamin Nobel, April 11, 2018

Thanks to the help of users of The 2018 Price Guide for 1980’s Marvel & DC Newsstand Canadian Cover Price Variants (Type 1A), we have gotten reports of titles that we missed — one of those titles really surprised me and motivated me to make this post!

Surprise #1: Blip #1 (Marvel, 2/83)!

First, what is Blip and why might the title give us something interesting to collect? Blip, while physically sized as a comic book, was marketed as “Blip: The Video Games Magazine” (my emphasis here on “Magazine”). And when we look up the CGC census entry for issue #1, we see this interesting key comments note:

Blip #1 CGC Census entry

“1st comic book appearance of, Mario & Donkey Kong.”

This issue is credited with the first comic book appearances of Mario and Donkey Kong — that’s interesting indeed! And the publication date, February 1983, places it right smack within Marvel’s 1980’s Canadian price variant window where newsstand copies of their comic books carried a single price (i.e. Marvel produced a small batch with higher cover price for the Canadian newsstand market, and a big batch with lower cover price for the US newsstand market). So what about the cover prices for Blip, self-described as a magazine, not a comic book?

Let’s go looking for a newsstand copy to find out! If we go hunting for a copy of Blip #1 on eBay… what do we find as far as direct editions vs. newsstand copies? We find direct editions out there — they have a Blip logo in place of a bar code — and depending on what’s listed at the time, we might also find newsstand copies when we look. At the particular time I went hunting on eBay, I found this:

Both direct edition and newsstand copies appear on eBay... but something about the newsstand copies really surprised me!!

Both direct edition and newsstand copies appear on eBay… but something about the newsstand copies really surprised me!!

We can tell the newsstand copies from their bar codes, but what do the cover price boxes of newsstand copies look like? Will we find a single price? Or, both US and Canadian prices? Let’s take a look… here’s a newsstand copy of #1, from that second eBay listing:

Blip #1 Newsstand example copy...

Blip #1 Newsstand example copy…

Let’s zoom in on that price box, shall we?

Blip #1 newsstand price box zoom-in.

Blip #1 newsstand price box zoom-in.

As we can see, this newsstand copy carries a $1.00 cover price, and “CAN. $1.25” beneath it, covering both the US and Canada.  With newsstand copies covering both countries in this way, there would be no need for Marvel to have produced single-price copies, right?  Right?  Well SURPRISE: $1.25 cover price variants actually exist too! Take a look:

Blip #1, $1.25 Cover Price Variant

It exists! Blip #1, $1.25 Cover Price Variant!

By publication window, it is possible that cover price variants for issues #1 through #7 of Blip exist (if any readers can personally verify other issues beyond #1 and #2 which we’ve already verified, please chime in!)

This fascinating situation for Blip #1 actually reminds me of an oldie-but-goodie which sure did surprise me in a very similar fashion when I first learned of it, and shares an interesting similarity with Blip — the similarity of being a Magazine (but in this case actually sized as one):

Surprise #2: Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine #1 (Marvel, 7/68)

Published all the way back in July of 1968, with an awesome cover by John Romita and with story written by Stan Lee himself, Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine #1 pre-dates the advent of direct editions and back in 1968 did not carry a bar code on the cover like we saw on the Blip cover.

The cover price of this magazine?  The vast majority of copies carry a 35 cent cover price along with the small print “40¢ in CAN”…  So with both countries covered in this way, there would be no need for Marvel to have produced any single-price copies, right?  Right?  Well SURPRISE:


Yep: single-price 40 cent cover price copies actually exist too!  And interestingly, CGC kept it simple when it came to categorizing these into their system…   With 1980’s comics, as we know, their current policy is to pretend there are only 2 types for each issue, instead of 3 — lumping together US newsstand and direct edition copies, and then breaking out Canadian price variant newsstand copies, as “Canadian Edition” in their system/labeling. But for Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine #1? They kept it simple: as you can see from the screenshot below, the 40¢ cover price copies are simply denoted “40 Cent Price Variant” (wouldn’t it have been nice had CGC used similar labeling terminology on the 1980’s Canadian price variants, i.e. “75 Cent Price Variant” etc.?):

CCG census entry:

If the regular copies carried US and Canadian prices, it would stand to reason that such copies were sold in the US and Canada (why bother to include the Canadian price otherwise). So if part of the market demand from Canada was satisfied by the copies with both prices on them, then only some remaining part of the market demand from Canada was satisfied by the single-price copies. How this split looked between the types — for both Spectacular Spider-Man and for Blip — is something I think we’re going to have to file under unsolved mysteries for now, but the CGC census data over time will be a great help in observing the relative rarity between the types (even though graded copies only represent a small sliver of what was sold to the public, CGC census data can tell us a lot about relative rarity between comics, much like election polling or television ratings are done with just a small sliver of the population but inform us about relative popularity).

Tangent Surprise: Zatanna Special #1 (DC, 1987)

Before I proceed to the third surprising variant I had in mind for this post, I want to go on a slight tangent and mention something else that has surprised me since the publication of our guide: we received reports of comics we had included in the guide, as actually being direct edition exclusives (that we should thus remove) — i.e. cases where collectors had concluded that newsstand copies simply do not exist and that only direct edition copies were ever sold for the given issue. One of the issues reported to us in this way (i.e. reported as being a direct edition exclusive that we should thus remove) was Zatanna Special #1 (published by DC in 1987).

Now normally, when we observe a direct edition comic book from the 1980’s that has one of these…

Zatanna Special Direct Edition Logo

… i.e. a box on the cover containing something other than a bar code, I’d naturally assume that newsstand copies were also produced for that issue (because why bother having a box included at all otherwise).  The use of these boxes in the design made it easy to run off the different batches, where only the black/key plate needed to be changed to transition between the direct edition and newsstand batches.  By contrast, take a comic from the 80’s that was a direct edition exclusive, like Omega Men #3 (too bad there was no newsstand distribution of that key, that would have been fun to collect if there was!), and there was simply no need for such a logo box because there was just the one print run batch… and so the cover simply doesn’t have a logo box:


Omega Men #3, first appearance of Lobo

But Zatanna Special #1 does have a logo box on its cover. So, shouldn’t newsstand copies also exist? Despite the existence of a logo box in the design of Zatanna Special #1, it was reported to us as being a direct edition exclusive, i.e. it was reported to us that no newsstand copies whatsoever exist of the issue, which was surprising for me to hear when it was reported.  I was eventually able to hunt down a newsstand copy (finding a US priced one):

Zatanna Special #1 Newsstand

They exist!  This is a US priced newsstand copy, and I haven’t seen a Canadian price variant yet, but you can see in the picture above that it carries a single price… [An expensive price that may have kept sales on the lower side — and up in Canada a full $2.85 was demanded!] Thus, knowing newsstand copies do exist and seeing the single price, we simply must presume that its Canadian Price Variant counterpart exists too! 

[The approach our team decided to take on the guide when considering reports of possible direct edition exclusives is that if the direct editions carry a logo box — like Zatanna Special #1 does — we must in turn assume newsstand distribution also occurred as our baseline assumption, even if the newsstand numbers were so extremely small that it might seem as though newsstand distribution did not occur by the difficulty of finding one.]

Interesting side note: DC has plenty of examples too, of comics where direct editions do not carry a logo box and yet newsstand editions still exist! One example like this which I collected recently is Detective Comics #583. Here’s an example direct edition pictured below… where’s the logo box? Surprise: It isn’t there!

Detective Comics #583, Direct Edition

And yet, newsstand copies of Detective #583 do in fact exist too; here’s an example of the Canadian Price Variant:

detective-583-Detective Comics #583, Canadian Price Variant Newsstand

Detective Comics #583, Canadian Price Variant Newsstand

And now to move on to the final comic I wanted to touch upon in this post:

Surprise #3: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #1 (Archie, 8/88)

This post started with Blip #1, which is interesting to consider as a collectible because it is credited with the first appearance in comics of Mario and Donkey Kong, characters that made their debut on screens, in video games. Similarly, over in the world of the TMNT, there were certain characters that were freshly created for the television cartoon when it came out and therefore appeared for the first time on screens, meaning those characters only appeared in comics for the first time when that TV cartoon was adapted back over to comics!

For Krang, Bebop, and Rocksteady, that adaptation back over to comics occurred in Archie’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures mini-series of 1988 [the “it’s complicated” story of Krang’s first appearance is a very interesting one which I’ve written about in more detail here (part I) and here (part II)], with CGC crediting issue #1 with the “1st comic book appearance of, Krang, Bebop & Rocksteady” as you can see in the key comments note screen-captured below:

TMNTA #1 (1988): “1st comic book appearance of, Krang, Bebop & Rocksteady”

And what surprised me when I went looking for the Canadian price variant of this particular TMNT issue is that I didn’t find the price variant… SURPRISE: I found there were two price variant versions! Breaking the mold of direct editions carrying both US and CAN pricing, Archie published these with single-price newsstand editions and single-price direct editions! So if you go looking for a $1.25 cover price variant of this key issue, you actually have your pick: there exist newsstand copies with $1.25 cover price and there exist direct edition copies with $1.25 cover price — and similar to the Detective Comics direct edition example shown earlier, there is no logo box on the direct editions of this TMNT issue either! Take a look:

So how does CGC treat these two different $1.25 cover price versions, do they differentiate them? As of this writing, the answer to that question is no: what CGC has decided to do is “lump together” the direct edition and newsstand types by cover price alone — in other words, there is one entry covering all $1.00 cover price copies (newsstand and direct), and then there is a variant entry covering all the $1.25 cover price copies (newsstand and direct). The variant census entry is labeled as “Canadian Edition” as you can see in the screenshot below:


It would have been nice to know how each entry actually breaks down between newsstand and direct, but at least we will be able to observe something else that’s interesting from the census for TMNTA #1: for this issue, because of this phenomenon where both newsstand and direct editions exist with variant cover price, meaning the full Canadian market got $1.25 cover price copies (not just a portion of the Canadian market), we can make a prediction about the relative rarity and see if the census data over time supports that prediction as it accumulates.

The prediction would go like this: because the full ~10% of the North American comic book market by size that Canada represented at time of publication got $1.25 cover price copies (instead of only the newsstand portion of the Canadian market getting variants as was the case with Marvel and DC in the 80’s), versus the US market getting $1.00 cover price copies, over time we might expect to see about 10% of the census copies for this issue land in that Canadian Edition variant census entry. As of this writing the sample size is still pretty tiny for this issue at just 218 grand total copies graded to date, but ~11% of those copies on record carry the $1.25 cover price.

[Happily, I’m personally responsible for submitting a nice handful of those variants, having found a comic shop in Toronto with a bunch of CGC-worthy copies (all direct editions) and I bought the whole bunch and submitted them all. This was one of the rare cases where I actually achieved a grade of CGC 9.8 on a Canadian price variant, all on account of those direct editions having been so well preserved — the experience really drove home for me how comparably difficult it is to find one of the newsstand-exclusive Canadian price variants that actually comes back in that grade!]

I wish CGC would start breaking out the census between newsstand and direct for all comics where different types exist — if they did, we could then see how many copies are direct edition vs. newsstand (and in which grades), and I for one hope that CGC will improve upon not just their Canadian price variant labeling in the future (read more of my thoughts on that subject here), but I also hope CGC will eventually expand their differentiation of newsstand versions from direct editions to encompass all cases where multiple types exist, and not just break out newsstand copies in select special situations they deem “variant worthy” (but at least they’re breaking out those special situations at all, one of which is our 1980’s Type 1A price variants on account of the higher cover price!).

Happy Collecting! 🙂
– Ben

Canadian Newsstand Edition

Investing in Canadian Price Variants: 11 Tips

By Benjamin Nobel, 2/20/2018

Since the time our price guide team published The 2018 Price Guide for 1980’s Marvel & DC Newsstand Canadian Cover Price Variants (Type 1A), our guide has drawn the interest of many flavors of collectors in our great hobby, including collectors keen on investing in Canadian Price Variants. Here are 11 tips for the investors among us!

Tip #1 – Target Keys

Investors are fortunate that the 1980’s cover price variant window was nice and big — from 10/1982 to 8/1986 for Marvel and out to 9/1988 for D.C. for example — giving us a great number of major and minor keys! That’s a wonderfully large span, especially in contrast to the size of the 1970’s cover price variant windows (the 30¢ and 35¢ variants) which were tiny windows by comparison. Here is a top 50 list for the 1980’s cover price variants (50 keys not enough for you? Here’s 300!)

Tip #2 – Target High Grades

It is the case for both Marvel and D.C. that their 1980’s comic book cover price variants were only from the newsstand distribution channel (direct editions meanwhile carried both US and CAD prices on their covers worldwide). Newsstand comics are absolutely notorious for getting beaten up, because the primary newsstand customers were readers. For a collector to carefully preserve a newsstand comic of this era was the exception, not the norm. Finding surviving cover price variants in VF/NM and higher, and especially the top grades — especially up in 9.8 (check out this comparison to the 1970’s) — is a huge challenge, making the highest grade copies the ones with the most value potential, especially as collectors grow to more fully appreciate the newsstand-exclusivity-aspect over time.

Tip #3 – Get Your Best Variants Professionally Graded

Maximize the value of your best-condition variant keys by getting them professionally graded — compared to “raw” copies, professionally graded copies tend to garner a marketplace premium far in excess of the grading cost! [Note that as of today, CGC “breaks out” these variants on census with the label notation “Canadian Edition” which we feel should be improved upon — related reading on this subject: “Canadian Edition” vs. “Canadian Cover Price Variant”]

Tip #4 – Undervalued 1st Appearances

As different comic book characters have gained prominence and popularity, the value of their first appearances has tended to rise — and one way that comic book characters can gain popularity is through movies and television! One strategy that therefore might succeed is to target the cover price variant for a character you have identified as having the potential for greater future popularity. Here is a handy list of 1st (and 2nd) appearances from the 1980’s with cover price variants.

Another strategy is to keep your eyes and ears open for general recommendations of comics from the 1980’s — if you see a great recommendation for a Marvel comic from 1985 for example, you know that such a book lands within the cover price variant window and may have had newsstand distribution…  Then, while others may go out and buy direct edition copies upon reading the recommendation, you can meanwhile seek the cover price variant!

Tip #5 – Seek “Mis-listed” Variants

Look for mis-listed variants as a great way to achieve a cost basis close to the going rate for direct editions! Awareness of these cover price variants of the 1980’s is still low enough that some original owners do not realize they own anything different, and many only recognize that they own a given title and issue number — so when they go to list their rare comic for sale, often times you will see a cover price variant pictured, and yet the listing is neither titled nor priced for sale as the cover price variant. For example: instead of titling their listing “X-Factor #6 Canadian Price Variant” a seller unaware of this “class” of variants may title their copy merely “X-Factor #6” and then put up the listing at a buy-it-now price matching the going rate for direct editions!

Tip #6 – Invest in Comics You Love

We all remember the “Great Recession” not too many years back. It is important to remember that asset prices of all types — whether stocks, bonds, houses, or collectibles — have their ups and also their downs, so be prepared to have the patience to ride the roller-coaster when you step aboard it. An approach that makes it much easier to find that patience is to invest in comics you already love anyway!

Tip #7 – Popular Titles Attract Completists

Like any valuable asset, the supply and demand ultimately drive market prices. The supply of Canadian price variants is an extremely low percentage — here’s a walkthrough of how we arrive at 2% of surviving copies. As for the demand side of the equation, an element to know about is the existence of completists (aka completionists), who look to collect entire sets and runs, not just individual key issues. Popular titles (like Amazing Spider-Man at Marvel and Batman at DC) tend to attract completists, driving incremental variant demand.

Tip #8 – Pay Attention to Publication Date

At the time of the 1980’s cover price variant window, the industry was undergoing a sea change when it came to how comics were distributed. Entering the 1980’s, direct edition comics (which were direct-sold to comic shops on a discounted but non-returnable basis) were a relatively new invention, and the newsstand distribution channel still accounted for the bulk of comic book distribution. But the direct edition distribution channel was a dramatic success, and by the middle of the decade the scales had tipped the other way, with direct editions now representing the majority of sales. This matters to Canadian price variant scarcity, because the variants at Marvel and DC were exclusive to the newsstand channel. So all else equal, the later the publication date of a given issue, the lower the percentage of cover price variants we’d expect for that issue.

Tip #9 – Know About The DC “Implosion”

With Marvel expanding its market share in the 1970’s, DC attempted to compete, with more titles… But by 1978 poor sales forced them to reverse course: in the summer of 1978, DC announced staff layoffs and canceled about 40% of its titles (incredibly, Detective Comics was almost among the titles axed!). Marvel’s dominance continued into the 1980’s, and DC went through a period of surprisingly low print runs — for example, Batman issues in the range of #357-402 have the lowest print runs in the history of the title at just 75,303 to 97,741 total copies per month. From there, layer on Canadian price variant rarity and the result is an astonishingly low number of price variants; layer on some of the other themes talked about earlier, such as a key first appearance, in highest grades, and professionally graded by CGC (or CBCS, or PGX), and the result can be a DC cover price variant so highly collectible that only a handful like it exist!

Tip #10 – Yellow Label — Witnessed Authenticated Signatures

Yet another layer of collectible interest you can add to your investment is the addition of creator signatures: Both CGC and CBCS offer a “yellow label” service whereby authorized witnesses will watch your comic being signed, and afterward the book is taken into the grading company’s possession to be graded. The result is guaranteed-authentic autographs! If you picture a Venn Diagram of overlapping circles, starting with a given issue number of collectible interest, then layering on the Canadian Price Variant rarity, then the rarity in highest grades, then the copies that have been graded professionally, and then, of those, the number that have been signed by creators and given a yellow label… You can see how it is possible to achieve an incredibly rare collectible. And over time, many important creator signatures also eventually become irreplaceable with no fresh signature possible.

Tip #11 – Relative Value Is Key

Something to always keep in mind when it comes to investing (in anything) is that some types of assets can be approached on the basis of intrinsic value and expected cash flows, while others can’t — if you invest in an office building, you can expect tenants to pay you rent which can help you figure out a fair value for the building; if you invest in a high quality bond, you can expect to collect regular interest payments which can help you figure out a fair value for the bond.

But what’s the correct value of a work of fine art, or a baseball card, or a coin, or a comic book? You can’t value a comic book by adding together the worth of the paper plus the worth of the ink… and if you were to buy a given comic book today, that comic won’t throw off any cash whatsoever between now and the time you finally sell it, hopefully for a higher price — so all of the gains need to come from that final sale.

But the “hopefully for a higher price” aspect of that last sentence requires that the price rise in the future… which ties back purely to supply and demand for the comic. A great phrase often used to describe the need for a future buyer willing to pay more than you did in order to make a gain is requiring “a greater fool.” It can be argued that this dynamic therefore makes “investing” in all collectible categories — whether comic books or coins or fine art — really actually fall under the category of “speculating” instead, by relying on that greater fool in order to make money in the end (if you hear someone arguing “you aren’t investing, you are speculating” when it comes to comics, then that’s probably where they’re coming from, and they have a valid point).

But there is an approach to comics that I feel can be considered investing, and it comes down to a relative value viewpoint… where Canadian Price Variants are one example of a tremendous relative value opportunity in today’s marketplace.

Suppose you and I each own a pair of copies of an important issue, for a total of four copies between us: for each of us, Copy A of the pair is a direct edition, and Copy B is a newsstand edition of the very same issue — and the newsstand book is a Canadian price variant. We know that the price variant is dramatically more rare than the direct edition, but for the purposes of this thought exercise, suppose I offer to make a market and either buy from you or sell to you one or both of the books in question, at a flat $10 a piece in either direction. If you were to sell me your direct edition for $10, and then buy my price variant for the same $10, you’ve just advanced yourself nicely ahead of me on a relative basis: you now own two price variants (leaving poor me with the two prevalent direct editions)!

In this thought exercise you basically just did an arbitrage transaction, where you upgraded to the most rare type from the least rare type, without adding to your cost basis. But with the Internet enabling the whole world as your trading partners, opportunities like this aren’t just a thought exercise, they are real — in fact, all sorts of relative value opportunities can be found on a routine basis to those with their eyes open!

Another type of successful arbitrage you hear about all the time is an upgrade on grade without adding to cost basis: such as, for example, selling a professionally graded 9.2 copy of an important key, then investing the proceeds into an even nicer looking “raw” copy of the same book, getting it graded, and earning a 9.4. Those who succeed at such upgrades deserve to brag their accomplishments, because they are not without hard work (and risk-taking), where studying a raw comic to ascertain its grade potential (perhaps identifying flaws that can be “pressed” out) and then landing it for the targeted price, all requires skills of observation, careful study, patience, and negotiation — an investor investigating buying an office building would need similar skills.

And then of course the attractive attributes of different keys themselves can be compared as well, with an eye on the market price each key has been achieving — perhaps reaching a conclusion that it is a good time to sell Relatively Overpriced Key A, and invest the proceeds into Relatively Undervalued Key B.

So by comparing comics on a relative basis — A versus B (vs. C vs. D…) — one can identify opportunities to capture relative value, and in capturing such opportunities, you can invest in turning that relative value into actual cash… in an outcome that does not require a greater fool! In the 9.2-to-9.4 upgrade example, the market price for the key need not rise in order to come out ahead — rather, it is the spread between the 9.4 value and the 9.2 value that was captured if/when you sell the 9.4.

Now imagine if the 9.2 sold in that example was a direct edition, while the 9.4 acquired was a newsstand edition, and the newsstand edition was a Canadian Price Variant, and before getting it graded you got CGC or CBCS to witness a creator signature, getting you back a yellow label! Think of all the relative value angles you would have captured! Point being — there are ways you can earn a return on your investment in the world of comics that come not from requiring a “greater fool” (requiring that the value of the issue number rise in the future) but instead comes from capturing different types of relative value: and that type of activity is a better fit with the term “special situations investing” than it is with “speculating” if you ask me!

And in the end, if you also follow the tip to invest in comics that you love, then in between acquisition and sale you’ll earn a “happiness dividend” each time you look upon your comic and smile, for as long as you own it! 🙂

Happy Investing! 🙂

– Ben

Canadian Newsstand Edition, Direct Edition vs. Newsstand Edition Comic Books

CGC 9.8 Census Comparison: 1970’s Keys vs. 1980’s Keys

By Benjamin Nobel, December 9, 2017


The #1 most frequently asked question I receive about 1980’s Type 1A Cover Price Variants is always some variation on the theme of: I need 9.8’s but can’t find them! Help!

Everyone who collects 1980’s comics appears to be “pre-conditioned” to expect an abundance of 9.8’s from that era — and who can blame them for that expectation in the context of what happened to comic book distribution during the 1980’s and what that meant for high grade survivorship?!

Direct Edition sales took over in the 1980’s to eventually become the dominant form of comic book distribution [read more about this]. And such copies were direct-sold to specialty comic shops on a discounted but non-returnable basis — those shops then handled the comics with great care because they were catering to a customer base heavily focused on the condition of the comics they took home.

The comic shop I frequented as a kid had a special program for repeat customers like me, where for any title we wanted to collect, a mint-condition copy of each new issue was bagged, boarded, tagged with our name, and set aside in boxes that lived behind the counter, ensuring that not a single mint condition collectible was missed.

Little did I realize at the time, that my friends and I were all taking home and preserving direct editions (the newsstand vs. direct edition difference wasn’t something we even thought about back then)!  Our comic shop proprietor would sometimes even talk up particular new issues judged to have great collectible appeal by sharing stories with us wide-eyed kids about the big-money customers who were buying 250+ copies at a time of the new issue for investment!  Who could resist such stories — each one of us in the crowd would scramble to buy a handful of copies of that new issue for ourselves, even if it wasn’t already on our list of set-aside titles!

So it is really no surprise that this mountain of well-preserved 1980’s (and onward) direct edition comics originally sold in specialty comic shops has led to a nice supply of CGC 9.8 graded copies all these decades later.  This situation creates quite an incredible juxtaposition between the number of copies known to exist in 9.8 on the CGC census for 1970’s keys, versus 1980’s keys…  And this situation also really highlights the incredible appeal of the Type 1A copies of the same 1980’s keys, as newsstand-exclusive cover price variants of the very same issues (below is an animated graphic and then the three individual slides are presented after it and can be clicked to enlarge; I selected ten of the top 1970’s keys, plus the top 10 issues from our 1980’s Type 1A price guide, for this comparison):

I selected 10 keys from the 1970's and 1980's, and looked up the number of CGC 9.8's known to exist to date, by checking the Census. I then looked up the numbers for the Type 1A Cover Price Variant for the same 1980's comics. This animated graphic shows a table and then bar charts of the numbers.

I selected 10 keys from the 1970’s and 1980’s, and looked up the number of CGC 9.8’s known to exist to date, by checking the Census. I then looked up the numbers for the Type 1A Cover Price Variant for the same 1980’s comics. This animated graphic shows a table and then bar charts of the numbers.

What a striking comparison!

Meanwhile, some collectors, ones who don’t really think about or care much about relative rarity between types, might look at a Type 1A variant newsstand comic from the 1980’s and think: “it is the same thing as the gorgeous CGC 9.8 direct edition copy I already own, only there’s a bar code on that one instead of the logo that’s on mine, and, that one has a different cover price… What’s really so appealing about a different cover price and a bar code?

But such collectors who would focus on the “appeal or lack of appeal” of the physical differences alone are missing what the rest of us are seeing — that the absolutely dramatic difference in rarity is itself the glaring appeal of the higher cover price variants among first-print copies of each issue. These Type 1A variants are an opportunity for us to collect the same 1980’s comics we know and love, but via a true first-print US-published cover price variant version that is dramatically more rare.

Those of us who collect these Type 1A variants aren’t suggesting that “75¢ is a ‘better’ cover price to have been charged than 60¢” or that “bar codes are intrinsically ‘better’ on comic book covers than logos” — instead we’re saying to look at the facts surrounding 1980’s Type 1A variant creation and distribution: the 75¢ type is demonstrably much more rare than the 60¢ type (or whatever the pair of cover prices happened to be issue by issue)! [Not to mention the fact that awareness of this type of variant still has plenty of runway left before it reaches “awareness maturity” (for a peer group, we can contrast to the maturity of awareness of 30¢ and 35¢ variants where there is widespread awareness in the hobby today of those 1970’s cover price variants… but once upon a time they too were under the radar!), and also, that the question of “what to call them” has presently been answered by CGC (as far as how they label the slabs) in such a way that there is still a lot of confusion out there about what these variants actually are, with these 1980’s Type 1A variants being conflated with the Canadian Editions of the 1940’s/1950’s that were published abroad by a different publisher, on different equipment, with different content, and at a different time (read more about this).]

Collectors who do care about relative rarity among first-print types (and there are huge numbers of us out there) will recognize the same pattern over and over again in the world of comic books through time: whether we’re talking about the relative rarity between a 35¢ cover price copy of Star Wars #1 vs. a 30¢ copy, or whether we’re talking about the relative rarity between a 75¢ cover price copy of Amazing Spider-Man #238 vs. a 60¢ copy… or whether we’re talking about the relative rarity between a $3.99 cover price copy of Amazing Spider-Man #607 vs. a $2.99 copy, etc.: Those of us who care about relative rarity and are offered the choice of a Near Mint copy of either type will like the dramatically-more-rare higher cover price type over the regular, lower cover priced type. To me, if I can get in at a similar cost basis, the choice is an absolute “no brainer” — I’d like the dramatically-more-rare higher cover price variant copy please!

Here’s a recent quote from another collector who gets it and who recently articulated the collectible appeal of the 1980’s Type 1A Cover Price Variants beautifully and succinctly:

“I do like them and there is a reason. I grew up on many of these comic books and stories. Some are my favorites, but there is the stigma of too many copies being too easily accessible for many of them.

I want an investment worthy copy of some of these keys. Do I disregard U.S. newsstands or direct market copies of the time? No, but as one who keeps the comic investment aspect in mind, ’80s Canadian Newsstand comics do appeal to the rarity factor that I have always yapped about since the beginning of this site.”

Vic J. of Total Comic Mayhem, on 11/24/2017

Rarity matters. And Type 1A 1980’s cover price variants have rarity in spades: Not only did they have restricted North American distribution, but they were newsstand exclusives that were therefore purchased mostly by readers — because the “real collectors” meanwhile understood that the condition of newsstand comics was going to be terrible since they were handled like magazines with no staff training to preserve condition, and so most collectors were over in comic shops taking home pristine-condition direct editions!

Either one of those two rarity factors for 1980’s Type 1A variants (restricted distribution area + newsstand exclusivity) would already have made them plenty attractive… But having both factors in play leads to extremely low odds of a given Type 1A copy from Marvel or DC surviving in 9.8 shape from the 1980’s through to today. Hopefully over time collectors will come to grasp this rarity, but for now, judging by how often people ask me about 9.8 Type 1A copies for issues where none are even on census yet, it apparently remains baffling to many collectors out there just why they cannot find the 9.8’s they are looking for… Perhaps the newsstand exclusivity aspect isn’t being appreciated (newsstand exclusivity for Marvel & DC’s 1980’s Type 1A comic books that is — Archie is meanwhile known to have done some Type 1A direct editions here and there, one example being Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #1, the first appearance of Krang in comics, which has both newsstand and direct edition $1.25 cover price types). As Overstreet Advisor Bill Alexander put it, “People just have no idea how ‘uncared for’ and mishandled newsstand copies were”:

“The chances of a Canadian cover price 75¢, 95¢, or $1.00 variant surviving in the top grades is very slim indeed. I can remember all too well how newsstand copies were not cared for, especially by the retailers who put them out on the spinner racks. I can remember how I would walk into a 7-11 store and see a shopping cart with string-bundled comics waiting to be unleashed onto the comic racks by store employees. The strings cut right into the spines on most of the comics in the bundle, leaving deep grooves and indentation marks. This lowered many of the NM copies down to FN/VF to VF grade even before they were crammed into the comic racks where they were then carelessly handled by kids. I believe the few comic rack newsstand copies that survived in NM grade were in the center portions of the bundled comics (protected in that way), or else the ‘string bundle effect’ would have surely gotten to them. People just have no idea how ‘uncared for’ and mishandled newsstand copies were.”

— Bill Alexander, Overstreet Advisor

And as Senior Overstreet Advisor Jon McClure noted in his recent market report:

“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 50 to 250 times Scarcer than their US Direct Market counterparts in high grade…”

— Jon McClure, Senior Overstreet Advisor

As more collectors come to further study newsstand comics vs. their prevalent direct edition counter-parts and read newsstand rarity discussions & estimates, and the drastic difference in high grade survivorship between the types eventually becomes common knowledge, perhaps “9.0 will be the new 9.8” when it comes to newsstand comics broadly (and 1980’s Type 1A variants in particular) — because for certain 1980’s keys, if you are going to be so discerning about grade that you demand a 9.8 for your Type 1A cover price variant copy then depending on the issue you might very well find your grade goal an impossibility! For a Type 1A copy to have survived from the 1980’s to present in 9.8 shape, it needed an incredible amount of good luck, plus it needed a collector to have taken it home instead of a reader.

“We have found that VF and NM newsstand editions are far scarcer as a percentage of issues that we purchase in collections. Simply put, newsstand readers (and the staff of newsstands) were far more likely to beat up their comics, and newsstand racks (such as metal spin racks) actually damage comics darn near the minute that they are racked. As a result, finding the few surviving NM newsstand editions is surprisingly difficult.

Aside from getting damaged, however, we have also discovered that comics purchased from newsstands are far more likely to have been destroyed. You would think that newsstand editions from 1980 would be relatively easy to find, and indeed, they are. But not nearly in the disproportiate ratios that the original distribution statistics would indicate. Our experience has shown that comics sold in comics shops had a 90% probability of being put into a plastic bag and preserved, while comics purchased from newsstands had a 90% probability of either being read to death, or thrown away.”

— Chuck Rozanski, Newsstand Editions History

So to all the collectors who keep asking a variation on the same common question about 1980’s Type 1A Variants — I need 9.8’s but can’t find them! Help! — my advice is to take that grade goal down at least several notches… Think about those tables/charts showing the 9.8 census counts, think about the explosion of Direct Edition sales in the 1980’s and how well preserved those direct editions are that you’ve become used to, and then re-calibrate your grade expectations for Type 1A 1980’s comics as newsstand exclusives. If it was a 1970’s key you were collecting, wouldn’t you be thrilled to own a 9.0 copy of any of the key issues I selected to list in that table?

Since the 1980’s Type 1A cover price variants were newsstand exclusives with very low distribution as a percentage of each issue, I think collectors of these variants need to set their grade bar according to the reality, rather than according to what we’re used to when it comes to the direct edition peers.

Personally, when I open the box from CGC and see the Type 1A variant key I sent in achieved a grade of 9.0, I break into a huge grin; and when I see a 9.4 or higher I shout for joy and do a happy dance! The very few times in all these many years of collecting type 1A’s that I’ve ever opened the box to see a 9.8, I’ve felt like I spotted a unicorn!

Happy Collecting Everyone! 🙂

– Ben

Canadian Newsstand Edition, Growing Newsstand Awareness

Our Type 1A Price Guide Featured In Scoop!

By Benjamin Nobel, 11/24/2017

Our Type 1A Price Guide Featured In Scoop

Our Type 1A Price Guide Featured In Scoop, 11/24/2017

Our 2018 Price Guide for 1980’s Marvel & DC Newsstand Canadian Cover Price Variants (Type 1A) has been featured in Gemstone’s “Scoop” (here is a link to the article at!

As the publisher of the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, the folks at Gemstone are keenly aware of the history in the hobby of the 1970’s Type 1 Cover Price Variants… and one of our price guide collaborators in particular — Jon McClure — was right in the center of that history.  Interesting how strongly history now “rhymes” with awareness of the 1980’s Type 1A Cover Price Variants!

I find it to be an excellent step in the direction of growing awareness of 1980’s Type 1A Cover Price Variants that key people at Gemstone have now become aware of our project, have come to understand the very specific scope of our project, have now learned more about just what these variants are and why collectors are increasingly coming to understand their collectible appeal, have now learned how — importantly — our project is not competitive to Overstreet but complimentary…  and that ultimately we were approved for Scoop inclusion!

Growth in CGC Census Entries: 5 in 2001, 532 by November 2017.

Growth in CGC Census Entries: 5 in 2001, 532 by November 2017.

Something that speaks volumes about the increasing collector interest in Type 1A cover price variants of the 1980’s is the growing number of CGC-recognized issues/titles that continue to appear on census year after year.  Back in 2001, in the first historical “Census Snapshot” available on Greg Holland’s CGC Data research website, we see that there are a mere 5 issues “broken out” back in 2001: these being Amazing Spider-Man #252, Transformers #1 & #4, and Uncanny X-Men #182 & #205. That’s it! Just five census entries for these variants back in 2001!  Advance forward in time from 2001 to 2004 and we’re up to 24 issues “broken out”, including Secret Wars #8 and Amazing Spider-Man #238; by the end of 2007 the count of broken-out issues had advanced to 58; 164 by the end of 2010, 207 by the end of 2013. But then by the end of 2016, the number of census entries has more than doubled: we reach 415… and fast-forward to the most recent November 2017 census snapshot and we’re up to 532!

Growth in awareness of the 1980’s class of Type 1A Price Variants is riding a wave of increased collector awareness about the newsstand vs. direct edition difference in general; and among collectors who have come to understand this difference between newsstand and direct edition comics, their eventually noticing that there are two types of newsstand comics during a period of time in the 1980’s is basically inevitable…

Timeline: 1980's newsstand comics

Our Scoop inclusion is one more incremental step towards broader awareness of Type 1A Price Variants, and will put our guide in front of a lot of very important people in the hobby… so we’re excited!  🙂

Happy Collecting! 🙂

– Ben p.s.  Since I don’t know how long they archive articles for at Scoop, I have also taken a screenshot of it below:

Scoop 11-24-2017:  Type 1A Cover Price Variant Guide Released

Scoop 11-24-2017: Type 1A Cover Price Variant Guide Released

Canadian Newsstand Edition

“Canadian Edition” vs. “Canadian Cover Price Variant”

By Benjamin Nobel, October 25, 2017

Last week, a team of collaborators (including myself) published The 2018 Price Guide for 1980’s Marvel & DC Newsstand Canadian Cover Price Variants (Type 1A), and one of the very first questions we had tackled when we initially embarked on the project was: “what do we call this guide”?

In our hobby, there is no one standard-setting “independent board” or “consortium” or “panel” to set standards that the various authorities in the hobby must then all follow… instead, every individual company sets its own standards.  In this way, our hobby is less organized than phone emojis.  There’s an independent non-profit consortium that sets the standards by committee that the whole world’s cell phones use for each of these:


… but there’s no one standard of terminology in our hobby that has been set to describe each of these:

There are three types of copies of Amazing Spider-Man #238. Nobody can agree on what to call them.

There are three types of copies of Amazing Spider-Man #238. Nobody can agree with consensus on what to call them.

The above picture shows the three different types of copies that Marvel produced for Amazing Spider-Man #238.  All three types are 100% identical on the inside (same indicia, same interior pages), and also identical on the outside except for the two differences I’m sure you can spot: (a) one of the three examples has a Spider-Man Logo in place of a bar code, and then (b) all three have different price boxes — lets zoom in on those price boxes and take a closer look:


As you can see, one says 75¢ for the cover price (and no other price is shown), one says 60¢ for the cover price (and no other price is shown), and finally the last one (the one that had the Spider-Man Logo), says 60¢ and then beneath that says “U.K. 25p” and then beneath that, says “CAN. 75¢”.  One of the names for this last copy that you’ll find widely used in the hobby is “Direct Edition” and such copies were priced to be sold in 3 countries: the United States, the U.K., and Canada.

The two types with bar codes are meanwhile what are widely known in the hobby as “Newsstand Edition” copies. But among those two newsstand versions, there are two different cover prices. Both were distributed across the North American newsstand distribution channel (where unsold copies were returnable), but one of them — with the 60¢ cover price — was targeted to U.S. newsstands, and the other — with the 75¢ cover price — was targeted to newsstands in Canada (a much smaller market with a total population similar in size to California alone).

If you were to take either of these newsstand types, snip out the price box with scissors, and hand me that edited comic, I would not be able to tell you which type it originally was — because beyond that price box, which you snipped out, the comic is 100% identical to its other newsstand siblings.

Why is this price-box-snipped copy 100% identical to the other newsstand copies, you ask? Because all three types were published by Marvel Comics, all three types were printed simultaneously, with the same ink, with the same paper, with the same content, on the same manufacturing equipment, and all three types were born together as siblings — think of the three types as triplets from the same parents.  If you were to also snip out the Logo and bar codes too, then I couldn’t tell any of the edited triplets apart from one another.

Being published by Marvel Comics (based right here in the United States), all three types are from the USA.  If we were to borrow wisdom from citizenship laws surrounding US birthright, as applied to these comics the three types would all pass the U.S. citizenship test by birthright — show me a direct edition copy born here that “grew up” in the UK, and I’ll tell you it is just as much a U.S. Edition as a newsstand copy born here that “grew up” in Canada, because the indicia of a comic is a bit like the comic’s “birth certificate” and the indicia across all three types are 100% identical (as are all interior pages 100% identical).

Since my “scissors test” shows that the only difference between the 60¢ type and the 75¢ type is the cover price, then the only thing that varies between those types on a “physical basis” is the cover price.  Hence, it makes perfect sense to refer to such 75¢ comics as a “Cover Price Variant” — because the cover price is what varies.  Since the 75 cent cover price type is a tiny minority of newsstand copies out there, it makes sense to refer to that minority type as the variant…  hence, “75¢ Cover Price Variant” is an ideal phrase to describe 75¢ copies of this specific issue.

Jon McClure coined the phrase “Type 1A Cover Price Variant” as a classification standard under which the hobby can think about any such comics that have identical indicia pages and identical interiors to the rest of the print run, but happened to be published to serve a specific foreign market. This is a wise and useful definition, because there also exist out there in our hobby, comics that were published outside of the U.S., and this is a critical difference: Type 1A has identical indicia and was produced simultaneously along-side the other first print copies, by the same U.S. publisher.  That’s a far different situation from a foreign edition of another country, such as a “Canadian Edition” of the 1940’s and 1950’s.

Let’s examine an example of a “Canadian Edition” comic of that era and compare it to the corresponding “regular” copy: consider Marvel Tales #94, from the year 1949. Here is what a “regular” copy looks like front and back:


Next, here is what a “Canadian Edition” copy looks like front and back:


I’m sure you noticed right away that the advertisement on the back cover is different. But there’s another give-away on the front cover I’d like to zoom in on and show you (and it isn’t the cover price, which was 10 cents in both cases):


As you can see, the “Canadian Edition” copy at right actually says “Can. Ed.” on it… And when we open the Can. Ed. book we see this:


This Book Was Born In Canada! It was published by Bell Features And Publishing Company Limited, 165 York Street, Toronto, Ontario.

Back to our ASM #238 example, for contrast, the 75¢ copies were published By Marvel Comics Group, New York, NY:


Why did Marvel publish this 1980’s example for Canadian newsstands, but did not publish the Marvel Tales example? Here’s where the historians in our hobby have a veritable feast of fascinating circumstances and interesting history. I’ll quote Jon McClure below (from A History of Publisher Experimentation and Variant Comic Books):

“…Canadian Editions exist of many U.S. books that were published in the same or near same time period that contain the entire U.S. book along with new art and text, new and/or altered covers and different ads, and can be identified by the words Canadian Edition on the cover, in the indicia, or both. Other examples exist that are identical to U.S. editions except for the Canadian Edition notation in the indicia and different ads. Such Canadian Editions of U.S. comics exist from the late 1940s to mid 1950s because the distribution of U.S. comics into Canada was restricted or not allowed, with ads being one of the points of contention. Printing plates were sent to Canada to bypass the rules, pushing U.S. products into the market faster without having to cross the border…”

Isn’t that fascinating? Another historian on our Price Guide team, Angelo Virone, has studied the history here as well, learning that during the second World War, a law was passed in Canada that effectively made it impossible for a publisher like Marvel to publish its regular comics and then cross them over the border and sell them into Canada.  The regular edition you saw earlier couldn’t have crossed the border!

So instead, Marvel literally sent the printing plates North… The Canadian Edition was therefore not published simultaneously by the same publisher, it was published at a different time, in a different place, by a different publisher. And since advertisements were one of the problems, the local Canadian publisher switched out the ads. Hence the different back cover we see on the Marvel Tales example I showed you.  But fast-forward to the 1980’s when the ASM #238 variant occurred and by then the laws had long since changed and this was no longer a problem; Marvel could publish the 75¢ variant here.

So let’s review: the Marvel Tales example says “Canadian Edition” on it, was published on different equipment, by a different publisher, at a different time, with different content, and a different indicia.  It was “born abroad.”  It is “from Canada.”  That comic book didn’t cross the border up into Canada, it was up there in Canada to begin with.  What crossed the border was the printing plates.  Meanwhile, the Amazing Spider-Man #238 example was published by Marvel, and on the same equipment as the rest of the copies produced, simultaneously, with identical content and identical indicia… it was “born here”… it is “from the USA.”  To get up to Canada, that 75¢ cover price comic book had to cross the border.

There are lots of differences between these two example comics sold in Canada from different eras, but what they have in common is that you could find them for sale in Canada. They were both for Canada.  Their purpose for existence was to tap into the Canadian market for comic books.  But notice that the Direct Edition copy of ASM #238 was sold in Canada too… hence the “Can 75c” at the bottom of the direct edition price box.  Canada received both types… there is not one “Canadian version”… you cannot say that the 75 cent cover price type is “the” version sold in Canada.

Remember how I mentioned there is one “governing body” that sets standards for emojis, but nothing similar exists in our hobby? So when it comes to what to call the following three types of Amazing Spider-Man #238 that we started out looking at in the beginning….


… there is no single consensus today; no single answer as to what they should be called.

Suppose we were to approach the three above versions of Amazing Spider-Man #238 with emphasis purely on the target market, i.e. we say “OK, these were created to be sold in various countries, so as our classification standard, let’s organize them that way, by the target market that drove their creation.

In taking such an approach, we might call the three from left to right “Canadian Edition” (75¢ copies having been created to serve Canadian newsstands), “U.S. Edition” (60¢ copies having been created to serve U.S. newsstands), and finally “International Edition” serving three countries (the U.S., the U.K., and Canada, with two out of those three being “foreign” to the USA).

But that organizational approach would focus solely on the target market and pays zero attention to the contents within… is that really the best approach?  Why should we focus on the market and not the comic itself?  If I am born in a New York hospital and my parents immediately buckle me into the car seat and drive up to Montreal where I spend my childhood, where am I originally from?  My birth certificate answers: New York.  If I later apply for a job in Atlanta, does my prospective employer consider me a U.S. citizen?  My birth certificate answers again: Yes.  I may have grown up rooting for the Montreal Expos, and later in life may root for the Atlanta Braves, but nothing changes who my parents are, or where I was born.

I think the best approach to comics is arguably to start with the “birth certificate” of the comic — the indicia page and the stated location of the publisher. And the indicia for all three types of Amazing Spider-Man #238 copies are identical, all types were “born here” and published by Marvel — all three types have the same parents and the same place of birth.  And among the Newsstand twins, as we saw from the “scissors test” the only physical feature that varies between them and therefore the important feature we should be talking about is the cover price.

The ideal term for such 1980’s 75 cent (and other cover price) comics is thus “Cover Price Variant” and then an additional descriptor should be applied to be able to confer which comic we’re talking about out of the pair…  Because if you placed copies of the two newsstand types of ASM #238 on a table, asked me which one I wanted, and I replied to you “the one with the different cover price” then you wouldn’t really know for sure which one I was talking about (they differ from each other).  If all of the comics I’ve talked about in this post were on the table, maybe you would have guessed, but it still would have been a little confusing and you probably would have asked for clarification.

Hence, a further descriptor, like “75¢ Cover Price Variant” lets you know exactly what I’m talking about, exactly which comic on the table I’m referring to.  I could also have said “Type 1A Cover Price Variant” to confer which comic I meant and you would have understood me, or, since 75 cents was the intended price for Canada, I could also have said “Canadian Price Variant” and you would have understood — but if I had instead said “I’d like the Canadian Edition” then you might think I was switching topics away from the Amazing Spider-Man books and back to Marvel Tales, and you would instead pick up and hand me the Marvel Tales Can. Ed. example off the table, thinking that is the book I must be talking about in our context, would you not?

CGC has taken the approach of calling 1980’s Canadian Cover Price Variants like the 75¢ cover price copies of ASM #238 “Canadian Edition” on their labels, apparently focusing not on the indicia and interior, not on where the comic was from as its place of birth, but rather apparently focusing on the market that the publisher had in mind when they produced them.  [And then CGC actually “lumps together” the two types that carry the 60¢ cover price on them — the U.S. newsstand type and the Direct Edition type are not differentiated from one another — so on the CGC census today there are only two types: “regular” and “Canadian Edition”].  But focusing on the market is arguably the wrong approach, because that approach implies that Canadian price variants were only sold in Canada…  But that’s purely an assumption and there is lots of information that runs counter to that notion.

First and foremost, there is the stream of first-hand reports from collectors who found 75¢ comics on the stands in border states right here in the US. It certainly makes sense that the newsstand distribution logistics would have been strained to get it exactly right — plus, if additional demand is there in a certain place but only one type is left available to meet that demand, why throw away a perfectly saleable copy?  Marvel may have had that exact question in mind when it came to newsstand returns for certain of their comics… Because we see Marvel selling “Whitman packs” containing 75¢ variants in toy stores like Toys R’ Us (note the sticker on this pack and note the cover price of the comic within the pack), which may very well be newsstand returns judging by the typical condition of the comics inside such packs:

And then there is the idea of test-marketing.  Collectors have reported instances of 75¢ variants having been used for test marketing, Jon McClure himself has cited Dell as a publisher known with certainty to have sold Type 1A Canadian priced comics in the U.S. as a test, and then over at DC there is quite an interesting situation to consider as well:


DC initially placed the word “Canadian” under the 75¢ price tag on their Type 1A comics (where clearly, the word Canadian was referring to the Canadian price — customers in Canada would be paying with Canadian currency and the exchange rate at the time meant DC needed to charge a higher Canadian price). Emphasis on the word “initially” — because they later changed their design when the price rose to 95 cents, and maintained that design when the price was raised to $1.00 (which is yet another case where test marketing might have been in play). Not only was the word “Canadian” removed from the cover itself, but all indication of single-issue price was removed from the indicia! Here’s an example indicia from Batman #423 to show you — read this indicia through and try to figure out what the $1.00 cover price is for… the answer is they don’t actually tell us!:

In the above example, you can see that DC isn’t actually spelling out what the $1.00 price is for… So to reach a definitive conclusion that such a copy was only for sale in Canada would not be a FACT but rather would be a hypothesis. The hypothesis would go like this: Hypothesis: Direct edition copies of Batman #423 specify a $1.00 Canadian price in small print, and therefore, the separate $1.00 cover price newsstand copies we see out there were sold only in Canada.”

And that’s a strong hypothesis, which fits all the facts. But let me ask you a question: doesn’t the following alternate hypothesis also fit the facts equally well? Hypothesis: When DC re-designed their comics in connection with a cover price increase, they gave themselves purposeful optionality on where they could sell the separate batch of higher cover price copies, and ended up selling them not only in Canada but also to selectively meet high US demand when it occurred, as well as selectively test US reaction to a higher price-point in certain markets.”

The hobby currently does not have the facts to prove nor disprove either of these alternate hypotheses, because the only things we know for sure are what the publishers have revealed to us and what the comics themselves show.  Should our hobby not therefore be focusing first and foremost on the comics themselves? Should this attention on the comics not draw us to the indicia information? Finding the indicia to be identical and the cover price being what varies, should this not definitively land us at Jon McClure’s Type 1A Price Variant standard?

As the “Type 1A” definition advances as the hobby’s standard terminology for such variants, we’ll have appropriate terminology to describe different Canadian comic book situations — where all of the comics laying on the table that I’ve presented in this post can be identified without being confused with one another.

When I send you a smiley face emoji, I know because of the independent standards, that you aren’t going to actually get a frowny face. Over in our comic book hobby, when I send a Type 1A 75¢ Cover Price Variant copy of Amazing Spider-Man #238 in to, say, PGX to be graded, I get back a “Canadian Price Variant” label but if I send the identical book to CGC to be graded, I get back a “Canadian Edition” label… Such a label, instead of being an impartial facts-based description of the comic book itself, instead reflects a classification standard with a focus on determining where such comics were sold, instead of where they are from; and any answer to the question of where such variants were “exclusively sold” is a hypothesis only (unable to be proven based on the information the hobby knows today), whereas the answer to the “from” question is an indicia-based FACT (published in the USA, by Marvel Comics, New York, NY, as it states definitively).

Although the label atop a CGC slab changes nothing about the book itself inside the slab — it is still the rare variant I want to collect, no matter what you choose to call it — such labeling does create confusion among collectors who haven’t yet learned about such 1980’s variants, because it conflates the 1980’s US-published comics with the era when the printing plates were what crossed the border. I therefore urge all in the hobby including CGC to consider that the “Canadian Edition” terminology currently in use for slab labels atop 75¢ variant copies of Amazing Spider-Man #238 (and other similar Type 1A comics) needs improvement and ideally should conform to Jon McClure’s well-thought-out standard. A change from “Canadian Edition” to “75¢ Cover Price Variant” might be more time-consuming to accomplish (necessitating each variant cover price be individually inputted for each of the many variants presently on the CGC census), but perhaps CGC would find it less burdensome to do a more simple “find/replace” and go from “Canadian Edition” to “Type 1A Canadian Price Variant” in one fell swoop.

Happy Collecting! 🙂

– Ben p.s. The Introduction section to our price guide gives Jon’s full Type 1 and Type 1A definitions and introduces the variants further. Also, it may be helpful to see Jon’s definition for what a “VARIANT” is in the first place — here is his definition below:

“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.”

In thinking about Jon’s VARIANT definition above, I believe it is useful to consider what characteristics make a given comic the “standard” or “regular” edition — I propose an “Orange Cat Test” inspired by the fact that 80% of orange cats are male, and people frequently ask “are all orange cats male?” If 80% or more of the surviving copies of a given comic are a particular type, that overwhelming majority type is without question the “regular” edition of the issue number in my view.

Which for 1980’s comics actually makes the Direct Edition type the “regular” edition… In my opinion CGC should be “breaking out” both newsstand versions on census, rather than just the one; and even after the point at which the 1980’s cover price variant window closes at Marvel and DC and we’re back to one newsstand edition covering both the US and Canada, in my opinion CGC should continue “breaking out” newsstand comics broadly, like CBCS has recently decided to do. The percentage of comic book sales that took place on newsstands only continued to dwindle after the 1980’s, so I believe that among copper and modern age comics, collectors will come to view direct edition copies as “the regular copies” and the more rare newsstand copies as “the variant” of a given issue in cases where those are the only two types.

Happy Collecting! 🙂

Canadian Price Variants – explained by my 8-year-old 🙂


Canadian Newsstand Edition

Amazing Spider-Man #238: The Tattooz Situation

By Benjamin Nobel, October 20, 2017

This post is essentially my “Advisor Note” on Amazing Spider-Man #238 as part of The 2018 Price Guide for 1980’s Marvel & DC Newsstand Canadian Cover Price Variants (Type 1A) — a collaborative project where I had the incredible opportunity to work with some of the hobby’s superstars in this niche, to create what we believe to be the very first comprehensive price guide for such variants.

Each collaborator had the opportunity to contribute notes for any given issue in the guide, and these “Advisor Notes” in the aggregate turned out to be an absolute treasure trove of valuable insights and information — and in particular I must highlight that Doug Sulipa contributed encyclopedic knowledge towards this Advisor Note concept. There’s that old saying about super-knowledgeable people, and it certainly applies to Doug: he’s so knowledgeable about comics that he’s probably forgotten more about comics than I’ll ever know!  But perhaps the most conversation-provoking note in the guide was contributed by Jon McClure, about Amazing Spider-Man #238, arising from the Tattooz situation (I’ll get to his full note in a bit).

This is a situation with lots of interesting facts and also interesting thought angles. To explore this situation further, lets lay some initial groundwork for understanding these tattoos that came inside copies of Amazing Spider-Man #238.  First, what did these tattoo inserts look like? Here’s front and back pictures:



These inserts were stapled right in; you’ll find many a listing describing damage to the comic from readers who tore out the insert; here’s an example screenshot clip from one such listing:


Next, it is important to know how CGC treats a submission of a copy where the tattooz were removed: they give it the dreaded green “Qualified” label.  Here’s an example:

Amazing Spider-Man #238, CGC Qualified Grade:

Amazing Spider-Man #238, CGC Qualified Grade: “Tattooz Missing. Incomplete.”

Next, it is important to know that these tattooz were not unique to ASM #238, i.e. they were not found in just that one issue alone.  This might sound surprising at first, because at a glance, the tattooz seem like they’d be akin to a poster, or perhaps a trading card insert, where in order to get the special feature you had to buy that unique comic.  But while the cover of ASM #238 advertises the inclusion of these tattooz, and it might seem at a glance that they were unique to that issue, it turns out that another issue from that same month, Fantastic Four #252, advertises the inclusion of tattooz on the cover too:

Top: Amazing Spider-Man #238; Bottom: Fantastic Four #252

Top: Amazing Spider-Man #238; Bottom: Fantastic Four #252

Interestingly both of these issues were distributed with the identical tattooz insert.  And, as we all know, the difference in value between the two issues is enormous — which has led to two thought-provoking scenarios:

Suppose the original owner of a Type 1A ASM #238 had removed the tattooz and used them, but the book is otherwise in great shape.

(1) Would it be theoretically possible to acquire a cheaper and lower grade direct edition copy of the book, harvest the tattooz insert from the cheaper book, insert the harvested tattooz into the high grade ASM #238, and have that edit go undetected?

(2) Would it be theoretically possible to acquire an FF #252 on the cheap (or another issue that featured the tattooz from the same month), harvest the tattooz insert from the FF #252, insert the harvested tattooz into the ASM #238, and have that edit go undetected?

It surprised me when I learned that the definitive answer to “tattooz-swapping” is yes — edited ASM #238’s in this fashion are not just known to exist, they have also been reported to have passed through CGC’s modern tier undetected and achieve a Blue/Universal label.

This may sound surprising to some, especially if you weren’t familiar with the tattooz situation before now — because if you’re like me, the very idea of manipulating staples (the tattooz were stapled in) and risking damaging the book is unthinkable…  But then again, if you had asked me ten years ago if large bends to the cover of a comic could be reversed by manipulating the paper via trade-secret “pressing” techniques, and that such a fix would be completely undetectable, my skeptical eyebrow would have gone up (and did when I first read an advertisement for pressing… fast forward, and nowadays the technique is so common and accepted that CGC’s parent company even purchased Classics Incorporated and nowadays you can have a comic pressed at CCS before grading with the check of a box!).  Point being: manipulating a comic may seem unthinkable to some, but it is “business as usual” for others.

The fact is, our hobby is now permeated with people skilled in techniques to manipulate comics in ways that “improve” them without those improvements being detectable. And I’ve been shocked in recent years to learn that it isn’t just specialists anymore with such capabilities — within the past two years I’ve had a fellow collector tell me they took a class on book restoration and applied some of the techniques they learned, on comics at home; and, I’ve also had a Signature Series facilitator tell me they personally could “press” my comic for me with their own home equipment.

As Jon alluded to in his note, Overstreet has even remarked on the fact that these inserts were being swapped, in their guide listing for the issue.  And it raises a thought-provoking question: what should the value difference be, between an ASM #238 copy that includes tattooz, and an ASM #238 copy that doesn’t?

Furthermore, the situation becomes even more interesting when we learn what Paul Clairmont discovered.  Paul had the great fortune to acquire a massive comic collection in Winnipeg, where the original owner was discerning about the newsstand versus direct edition difference.  I.e. the original owner understood there was a difference — and shared with Paul that they actually considered Direct Editions to be reprints in their view.  So this collection had a huge number of unread stored-from-day-one Canadian price variant newsstand comics, plus Direct Editions too, and covered an enormous range of issues…. including multiple copies of Fantastic Four #252, Amazing Spider-Man #238 — and Captain America #279 & Star Wars #69 as well.

So by looking through the newsstand and direct edition copies of each within this large collection, Paul learned something interesting:  While the Amazing Spider-Man #238 newsstand copies (Canadian Price Variants) plus direct edition copies of the issue all had the tattooz, over at Fantastic Four #252 only the direct editions had the tattooz… not one of the multiple Canadian price variant newsstand copies had the tattooz.  Paul describes the original owner as a bit of a “hermit” (someone not even connected to the Internet) who never in a million years would have thought to tamper with any of their books.  Plus, they had owned both types (direct edition and newsstand), and the tattooz were only absent from the Fantastic Four #252 newsstand copies.  [By the way, Paul confirmed that Canadian price variant newsstand copies of Captain America #279 and Star Wars #69 did not have tattooz either].

This knowledge adds an interesting “twist” into the tattooz situation:  the Fantastic Four #252 Type 1A copies were not distributed with tattooz, but, we know that swapping these inserts can and has been done, so, in theory one could harvest tattooz from a direct edition FF #252, insert them into a Type 1A FF #252 and in Frankenstein-like fashion create something that never actually existed “in nature”… a “home-made” variant.

Reading the above scenario, you’re probably shaking your head and thinking, “that shouldn’t be allowed to happen”… i.e. it shouldn’t be possible to create a FF #252 Type 1A copy with a tattooz insert as a “home-made variant.”  And yet, we have to accept into our thinking, that it is in fact possible because it would be no more difficult than the ASM #238 editing that we definitively know is taking place out there!

So when it comes to these inserts, what makes a given book “complete”?  Should an ASM #238 with tattooz be much more valuable than an ASM #238 without the tattooz?  Here’s Jon’s full note:

Jon notes: This book is NOT incomplete without Tattooz. It was printed in a standard, old fashioned way, independent of the Tattooz inserted later just like Mark Jewelers ads from the 1970s were inserted. Should we call Incredible Hulk #181 without a Mark Jewelers insert incomplete? I believe this problem originates from the fact that the comic’s cover mentions Tattooz, as does the cover to Fantastic Four #252. Ideally, the Tattooz ARE absent due to the slow degradation of the contents that will eventually effect paper quality inside. Overstreet listings are confused, forced to respond to CGC’s nonsense. Once upon a time, I called Bob Overstreet and told him that the FF #252’s Tattooz were being used as Spidey #238’s Tattooz and that the cure was to list them as same value, which he agreed with and subsequently did so. Collectors aren’t sure what to believe and that’s how the CGC myth is perpetuated. At some point, although my original note remains in the guide about the switching of Tattooz between books, this was changed back to the original mistaken listing (including the explicit mistaken statement that NO Type 1a Canadian variants exist) with two values, with and without Tattooz. The FF #252s are listed in Overstreet #47 (2017) at $8 with Tattooz and $6 without in NM-, and ASM #238 is listed at $150 with and $80 without in NM-, a discrepancy that highlights this dilemma, with Tattooz worth between $2 and $70 for the same item. As no copies of FF #252 Type 1A have ever been confirmed to have Tattooz, all copies submitted would automatically be delineated as CGC green label incomplete unless Tattooz were inserted, thereby CREATING a variant which is not valid, as home made variants do not a variant make. ALL CGC 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. There is little if any difference between doubling down on the term “Canadian Edition” for Type 1As and insisting books without inserts are incomplete. The situation is ridiculous; it is a conceptual failure. Any real NM- or better copy will and should be taken seriously with or without the insert. Tattooz were inserted in Amazing Spider-Man #238 and Fantastic Four #252 and advertised on the covers; Captain America #279(3/83) and Star Wars #69(3/83) were given Tattooz without advertising on the covers. Because neither of the latter books are considered incomplete without the inserts and would receive CGC blue labels, it stands to reason that ASM #238 and FF #252 are not incomplete without Tattooz either, as the books are complete, having been printed in a standard way, independent of the Tattooz that were then inserted. The only difference is the ads on the covers, and those are irrelevant as they are part of the printing process of the book itself.

[For more on CGC’s use of the phrase “Canadian Edition” see this separate post]. The more one thinks about this whole situation and Jon’s points, the more one realizes what an interesting and thought-provoking situation these Tattooz inserts are… On the one hand, the tattooz were not unique to any one book, much like the Mark Jewelers inserts Jon mentioned — in other words, the same insert is found across multiple books. Therefore, you didn’t have to buy just one specific issue (which later became a “key issue”) to get that insert; you could find the identical insert elsewhere in a “non-key” issue.

But on the other hand, in the case of the Mark Jewelers inserts only a subset of the print run received inserts: my understanding has been that these inserts only went into newsstand copies serving military personnel; whereas all of the ASM #238 types (direct edition, US newsstand edition, Type 1A Canadian newsstand edition) were distributed with tattooz — which were a feature which also got a special mention on the cover (whereas Mark Jewelers inserts were not promoted on comic book covers).

So in that sense, if you were to acquire a copy of ASM #238 from an original owner who assured you they immediately stored their copy away upon purchasing it, your default expectation would be to find tattooz inside — they would have had to remove them for them to be absent, which would run counter to the idea of immediately storing away the purchased copy. But this is a different default expectation versus a Mark Jewelers copy of Hulk #181, since only a portion of them would have been expected to have the insert to begin with: you wouldn’t automatically assume you’d find the insert inside.

And so how should we value an ASM #238 with and without the insert? As Jon alluded to in his note, Overstreet’s listing has actually changed over time, with regard to their suggested value with and without tattooz.  Here’s a picture of how it used to look back when they determined that the tattooz-swapping situation called for the same value to be given regardless (the entry wraps from the bottom of one page to the top of the next page, so below are two images but they are the same #238 entry):

“Note: The same decal appears in the more common Fantastic Four #252 which is being removed & placed in this issue as incentive to increase value.”

“Value listed is with or without tattooz”

So you can see above how Overstreet used to list the book, where they made special mention of the fact that tattooz-swapping was taking place out there, with tattooz being harvested from Fantastic Four #252 and placed into Amazing Spider-Man #238 “as an incentive to increase value.”  And then for the value they listed it once, with or without the insert.

Anyone with the skills and inclination could buy a copy of ASM #238 lacking tattooz, then also hunt down a suitable copy of another book “for parts” (i.e. just to harvest its tattooz from a suitable copy where the staples lined up), then edit the ASM #238, and finally sell that edited copy “complete with tattooz” for a higher value and pocket the spread.  Hence a monetary incentive to perform such a tattooz swap if the market values create the arbitrage opportunity.

So in theory, since the tattooz insert can be added if absent, shouldn’t there be some relationship to the value with and without tattooz, as expressed by the following mathematical equation?

(ASM #238 value w/tattooz)
(ASM #238 value lacking tattooz) +
(“For Parts” comic value w/tattooz) +
(Time/effort/cost to hunt down a suitable copy for swap and then make the swap)


And I suppose in the time/effort/cost category would also be the risk that the ASM gets damaged in the tattooz-swapping process — some dollar amount needs to compensate for the time, effort, and risk to actually accomplish the swap, or the cost to pay someone to do it who has the expertise.

It is certainly an interesting situation, and as the #1 highest valued Type 1A variant in the guide, this is certainly an important book deserving of a large amount of thought before making a purchase.  And part of that thought process should involve how you personally feel about approaching the tattooz situation.  For anyone looking to acquire the ASM #238 Type 1A variant, hopefully these notes in this post are a help to you as you put your own thought into the matter.

The last thing I’ll mention is that my personal copy of this variant is a Signature Series copy (with tattooz inside), which I mention because Signature Series adds a different level of “permanence” to the CGC slab. For a blue (or green) label copy, I think of the slab as a holder — as protection for the book that is superior to a bag and board, but where there is always the flexibility to crack the book out…  But if you were to crack a Signature Series book in the comfort of your home thinking to do a tattooz-swap, in doing so you would lose the signature authentication — so for such books, that slab is more of a permanent home for your comic (albeit with the ability to be “re-holdered” or switched to a different grading company that recognizes CGC witnessed signatures). Therefore if you want your variant copy to be signed under the Signature Series, and you prefer to own a copy with tattooz, that’s something to get squared away before you bring your copy to a show to be signed and before you hand that book over to CGC.

Before I close out this post I want to once more say a big thank-you to my fellow collaborators on the guide… it was a fantastic experience working with you all, learning from you, and together sharing a passion for studying these Type 1A cover price variant comics!

Happy Collecting everyone! 🙂