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

CPV Discussions In Overstreet #49 Market Reports



Last week I got my copy of the Overstreet Price Guide (OPG) #49. I have fond memories of using the Overstreet guides as a kid to value my childhood collection from year to year, but the truth is that as an adult this is only the 3rd OPG I’ve acquired since I got re-hooked on comic book collecting back in 2003 (my 2003 plan to sell off my childhood collection “backfired” as it ultimately got me instead re-hooked on the hobby!).

The first OPG guide I acquired as an adult was a used copy of #40 which I picked up several years ago for the sole purpose of reading Jon McClure’s variant article on a recommendation from Bill Alexander (this was before I met Jon and before he put his article online); I next bought OPG #48 in order to have the market reports in print written by my fellow CPV guide collaborators where they would be mentioning our guide; and I bought #49 for the same reason — but across these past two consecutive years of buying the Overstreet guide to read my collaborators’ market reports, I’ve come to really enjoy reading the full market reports section!

But absent these above reasons, I don’t think I’d be acquiring new OPG guides; and I know there are many collectors out there who don’t bother buying the OPG guides anymore but instead simply check sold listings on eBay/etc. to gauge issue values. I even had a conversation not long ago with an eBay buyer who won one of my listings, where we had gotten into chatting about comics (as so often happens), and I had casually mentioned how the variant they had won from me wasn’t even listed in Overstreet yet. Their reply? “What’s Overstreet?” I kid you not! So for those out there reading my blog who might not be picking up Overstreet these days, I thought I’d make this post to share some short selected excerpts that relate to CPVs, and I’d recommend eventually picking up a copy of the Overstreet guide just to access all these wonderful reports in full!

In last year’s market reports section, I thought there was some particularly great discussion of the Newsstand vs. Direct Edition distinction, prompted in part by CBCS becoming the first of the two main grading companies to “break out” the types distinctly. This year, I was wondering what kind of buzz there would be surrounding CPV’s in the market reports following CBCS becoming the first of the two main grading companies to formally recognize Type 1A price variants as price variants on their labels (CGC finally started doing the same in May, which I expect will be discussed in next year’s Overstreet market reports!). And indeed, there were some great CPV discussions and mentions this year! I’d like to discuss a few selected excerpts:

Conan Saunders, MyComicShop / Lone Star Comics

“We received multiple mentions of the growing recognition of Canadian price variants, including a request that Overstreet provide more coverage of Mark Jeweler, Whitman, and Canadian price variants. We have expanded coverage of these variants within our own inventory database and have done well with them.”
— Conan Saunders, Lone Star Comics; OPG #49 page 209

And later, on page 210, in the section written by Buddy Saunders, he specifically mentions that Lone Star Comics will be expanding their selection of Canadian (as well as U.K.) variants! Some of you might remember a collection from many years back that had appeared on MyComicShop which had some stunning-condition CPVs in it — if memory serves it had been called the “WaWa Collection” and it featured NM-range copies of many issues that I’d been hunting for in high grade for years but had never found until that collection went up for sale — and for many of those issue numbers I haven’t seen copies in such high grade ever since!

I don’t know how they ever found that collection but I know that MyComicShop has a reputation for having an extensive network of buying partners… So the thought of MyComicShop actively looking for more great CPV collections makes me excited! 🙂 I for one still have so many variants that I’ve yet to land (or even set eyes on), and others in my collection that I’d love to be able to upgrade, and I’m sure many of you out there are in the same boat… so I hope MyComicShop succeeds in shaking some great CPV’s “out of the woodwork” for all of us, through their collection-buying efforts! But as hopeful as I am that they’ll succeed in sourcing some great new CPVs for their catalog, I also find myself wondering where they’ll actually find them?

Another market report, written by Jay Halstead of “ICE” (, described just how things have changed as far as CPV availability — and my own experience hunting for “mis-listed” variants is in-line with what Jay describes, where it used to be the case that with patience I could consistently find CPVs where the seller did not realize they owned a variant, listed their variant for sale as a “regular” copy (no indication anywhere in the title or description that the book was a variant, but the picture clearly showed the price variant) and then priced their CPV copy for sale at “regular price”… but over the years (and especially in the last year) such opportunities have become fewer and further between. Here’s a couple of excerpts from what Jay had to say (and I’d encourage you to read his full report for more details!):

Jay Halstead, ICE

“… [T]he difference between when I started [collecting CPVs] and the last year or so is, now, I look for high grade and WOW, what a difference. You’d think these were part of collections and would be attainable, but I’m telling you, they’ve really dried up in grade! I go through every bin, every box at many cons, and they are still readily available in VG, but in better than VF+ they are nowhere! Now I know a lot of this has to do with hoarding, and holding out until collectors/dealers feel they’ve gained enough value that they can start salting them out into collectors’ hands again, and I would believe that if I weren’t a dealer and getting into rooms before everybody else does. I’m going through dealer inventories when the lids are just being taken off the boxes and there isn’t anything to buy! I believe we (Canadians in general), just took them for granted, at least I know I did. Now that there is demand from south of the border, I’m looking at possibilities I have to start paying real money for some of these (I’ve always paid no more or no less for Canadian price variants, now, on keys anyways, there is at least a 20-50% mark-up everywhere I go)!”
— Jay Halstead, ICE; OPG #49 page 125

Wow: that’s some excellent “boots on the ground” insight there from Jay! Another report, from Marc Sims of Big B Comics, echoed the strong demand out there for CPVs: Marc talked about how in his prior report he had mentioned having boxes-worth of availability of Canadian Price Variants and was immediately inundated with calls and emails as soon as the prior guide was released! That small mention was ultimately the equivalent of an advertisement, generating such strong interest, but what Marc wrote in this year’s report — excerpted below — reveals that collectors were hoping there were keys in those boxes, but that those boxes aren’t filled with keys:

“Canadian Price Variants (CPVs) continued to show strong demand both at home and to collectors in the US. I casually mentioned in last year’s report I have boxes and boxes of CPVs (still true) and was immediately inundated with calls and emails as soon as the Guide was released. Unfortunately most collectors were laser focused on just the big keys, which pretty much sell as soon as I get them, but I am seeing a few more CPV completists these days. Hats off to them I say, as that is a major undertaking and a good life goal.”
— Marc Sims, Big B Comics; OPG #49 page 216

Jim McCallum of Guardian Comics also mentioned strong CPV demand in his report, and I really liked how he called them “natural variants” (contrasting against the great many manufactured rarities we see these days). He also referenced the general Newsstand vs. Direct Edition distinction broadly, which I feel is a huge “mega-trend” that will naturally produce increasing numbers of CPV collectors — i.e. since there are more and more newsstand-focused collectors, and since the Marvel & DC price variants of the 1980’s were newsstand exclusives, CPVs are “riding the wave” of increased awareness of newsstand comics broadly. Here’s a short excerpt from Jim’s report:

“Another huge area of demand appears to be coming from the natural variants, Newsstand vs. Direct Market, Canadian Price Variants, 35¢ cover variants, National Diamond Sales insert/Mark Jeweler insert and similar. Collectors are constantly asking us to find them more. With the use of social media platforms, learning about and obtaining these has never been easier, but lead to more costly comics as more and more continue to want these unique books.”
— Jim McCallum, Guardian Comics; OPG #49 page 174

Dr. Steven Kahn, of Inner Child Comics and Collectibles, also made mention of newsstand desirability in his (excellent) market report. Here’s an excerpt, and I’d highly encourage reading his full report — I especially enjoyed his writing, both this year and last!

“Price variants from the ’70s held no premium for years until the public responded to their rarity. Actually, 2 of the top 3 most valuable Bronze books today are price variants (Star Wars #1, Iron Fist #14). Other variants, such as newsstand editions (especially in high grade), Mark Jeweler’s inserts, or any low run prints are picking up as well.”
— Dr. Steven Kahn, Inner Child Comics and Collectibles; OPG #49 page 161

Continuing the newsstand theme for a moment, in last year’s OPG (#48), Steve Ricketts of CBCS said as follows in his market report:

“Newsstand and Direct variants are quickly gaining popularity with the mainstream collectors. CBCS has seized the reins on this niche of the hobby, by being the only grading service to identify Newsstand and Direct Edition copies in the variant field of the label on books from 1977 through 2000. Once the CBCS census goes live, it will be interesting to see the numbers that have been submitted. In the late 1970’s, Direct Edition comics were less common than Newsstand Editions. As years progressed, Newsstand copies became more and more scarce, with the Newsstand copies of some comics being incredibly hard to find. The hobby will start to learn more about the scarcity of each issue in the coming years. More information is better for everyone, especially involving something that was hiding right under our very noses.”
— Steve Ricketts, CBCS; OPG #48 page 179

I am greatly looking forward to the CBCS census eventually being launched online, allowing us to examine the relative rarity by issue: we’ll be able to see the comparable Newsstand count versus Direct Edition count, for specific issues! Even though the CBCS-graded copies are just a silver of what’s out there for each issue, the relative rarity of the types on census will tell us a lot — just like election polling and television ratings are done by polling just a sliver of the population. But in the meantime there are lot of other ways we can study newsstand vs. direct edition rarity, such as reading newsstand rarity discussions and estimates and also studying relative rarity within the marketplace — as Ben Labonog did in his OPG #48 market report:

“Earlier in the year, I went on a brief run on buying solely newsstand editions of some 1980s keys: Daredevil #158/168, Wolverine #1-4, Amazing Spider-Man #238/252/300, Hulk #340, etc. It was fun and a new challenge for someone used to hunting for Timelys. The newsstand editions vs. direct editions piqued my interest, and so I decided to do a random, one time eBay sampling count of some newsstand keys from the early ’80s to the early ’90s. In most cases, the sample size on eBay was 200+ copies but a few books had sample sizes of 100+ copies. Here’s what I found — all %’s represent the percentage of newsstand copies on eBay for that particular books: Daredevil #168 (56%, 1981), Wolverine #1 (35%, 1982), ASM #238 (40%, 1983), Secret Wars #8 (16%, 1984), Hulk #340 (13%, 1988), ASM #300 (20%, 1988), New Mutants #87 (10%, 1990), X-Men #266 (8%, 1990), Silver Surfer #44 (12%, 1990), New Mutants #98 (13%, 1990), Infinity Gauntlet #1 (8%, 1991). Although the data is small and just a random sampling, it does support the theory that late ’80s/early ’90s newsstand copies are scarcer than early ’80s newsstand copies. This would make sense as local comic shops began appearing in the ’70s and ’80s. This meant less and less newsstand copies were being printed and distributed to grocery stores, drug stores, gas stations, etc. through the 1990s. The direct edition copies were printed in masses and sold at local comic shops. Newsstand editions are commonly found beat, and much tougher to find in high grade. Direct editions are more commonly found in high grade because customers, who bought them from their LCS, were typically collectors who took very good care of their comics.”
— Ben Labonog; OPG #48 page 154

I think that with CPVs, continued growth of investor interest benefits not only from the underlying “mega-trend” of increasing “newsstand awareness” among collectors, but also from an interest in “foreign comics” — which of course CPVs are not because they are instead US-published Type 1A variants, I repeat, not foreign editions, but, historically both CBCS and CGC (up until their respective labeling changes) have labeled Type 1A variants as [Country] Edition, leading many collectors who only look into them “at a glance” to falsely conclude they are foreign editions. And yet, this may have actually drawn certain collectors to CPVs because at the same time newsstand awareness has been increasing so strongly in the hobby, there’s also been a concurrent growth in interest in foreign editions! In his OPG #48 market report, Joseph Fiore of touches upon both of these factors; he also talks about the trend of collectors demanding super-high grades (9.6/9.8) for CPVs when the reality is that very few actually exist in the top grades; here’s an excerpt of his discussion:

“The one trend I have noticed which is of some concern are requests seeking out not only key issues, such as the 75¢ price variant of Amazing Spider-MAn #238 (first Hobgoblin), but a request for unheard of high grade examples only. I think I’ve received over a dozen inquiries for a CGC 9.6 copy, but this is a CPV that too infrequently shows up in 9.6, and you’re always holding some hope the Tattooz haven’t been removed regardless of grade. I think CPVs’ overlooked history might lend to a growing and sustained interest if enough people spend time to understand why the exist, their production numbers compared to US newsstand and direct editions, and if they don’t get too hung up with having a “best copy.” I also see the growing trend of collectors seeking US newsstand issues working to reinforce the aspects that have drawn collectors to CPVs. Foreign edition key focus collectors are also entering the mix looking for key CPV issues, but are seemingly more reasonably content finding 5.0 to 8.5 copies or “budget” copies.”
— Joseph Fiore,; OPG #48 page 133

When I think of foreign comics, my mind immediately goes to the person I’d consider the foremost expert in the hobby today in the niche: Tim Bildhauser of CBCS. In last year’s report, Tim mentioned that foreign comic book sales had been higher than ever in both price and volume; and in this year’s report he had a great discussion of this niche of the market. He also took the time to make mention of CBCS’s great decision to start labeling Type 1A’s as price variants, saying:

“After much consideration and discussion, the decision was made at CBCS to change the phrasing on the labels of Canadian Newsstand, Australian Newsstand, and U.K. price (both Shilling and Pence copies) books. Previously we had been notating them as Canadian, Australian, and U.K. Edition which, while not wrong, doesn’t explain clearly what makes them different from their U.S. counterparts. Going forward they’ll be notated as “(insert cover price) Canadian, Australian, or U.K. Price Variant.” This gives them a more accurate description of what exactly sets them apart. I’ve seen growing interest in the Canadian, Australian, & U.K. price variants, especially on the keys. There were two Australian price variant copies of New Mutants #98 that sold this year that broke the $1,000 price point. U.K. price variants seem to be shaking off the stigma that’s plagued them for decades and buyers are starting to pay equal, and in some cases, higher prices…”
— Tim Bildhauser, CBCS; OPG #49 page 105

In his report last year, Brock Dickinson mentioned pence and Canadian price variants as lesser-known price variants getting increased attention:

“While the 35¢ Marvel test price variants of the 1970s have been well-known for many years, there is an increasing fascination with other price and distribution variants in some portions of the marketplace. The 35¢ variants remain very hot and the earlier 30¢ Marvel price variants also gathered steam this year. At the same time, a number of other variants began to gain increased attention, and experienced some substantial price increases. This trend was probably led by Canadian cover price variants, which can credibly be argued (although actual print run data is scant) to represent about 2% of total print runs for some Copper age books. This makes these books elusive (especially in high grade), and in NM- or better these books will often command 200% to 1000% of current Guide prices. There was also strengthened interest in early direct market books, late newsstand editions, Whitman variants, and UK pence price variants, all from the 1970s and 1980s, and Marvel Pressman and DC Universe cover logo variants from the 1990s. Many of these books are extremely scarce, but so little is known about supply and distribution that prices can still vary widely. Nonetheless, there is a clear market trend to increased value for these books, and the 35¢ Star Wars #1 variant is a clear indication of how far these trends can go over time.”
— Brock Dickinson; OPG #48 page 116

The comparison to 35¢ variants is apt — and when I think of 35¢ variants my mind immediately goes to the person I consider the foremost expert on them: Jon McClure. Before Jon’s 1997 article in Comic Book Marketplace, only a select few of these variants were known to collectors, and seemingly little-to-no attention whatsoever was paid to their rarity characteristics as a “class” of comics. That all changed with Jon’s efforts to research how they came to exist and the extent of their existence, discovering hundreds of variants and writing about them extensively. I’m so glad to have had the opportunity to work with Jon on our CPV guide, to hear first-hand the parallels he sees between Type 1 and Type 1A cover price variants, and of course when it comes to the Overstreet guide it is great to read his extensive market reports! I highly recommend reading Jon’s full report; you can also reach out to Jon via He talks about variants so extensively that it is hard to choose just one excerpt to share… but I’ll share this one below:

“CBCS’s groundbreaking decision to call Type 1A books “variants” on the labels is a positive step forward in understanding what they are and how to discuss them intelligently. Check out the free new online Price Guide for Type 1A Canadian cover price Marvel and DC comics from the 1980s at”
— Jon McClure,; OPG #49 page 177

🙂 Definitely read Jon’s whole report if you have picked up a copy of OPG #49 — or reach out to him on his site — because literally all of it is relevant and important reading if you are a Type 1A collector and there’s too much to quote here without going on for pages and pages. My fellow pence price variant issue guide collaborator Steve Cranch is mentioned in Jon’s report as well (go Steve)! 🙂 Something else to read from Jon is his market report from our 2019 CPV guide which you can find online here. And then I’ll just mention one more thing from Jon’s report… he mentions his OPG #40 article on page 176 and then says, “An updated version is in progress for the 50th annual OPG.” Woo hoo! Another spotlight variant article from Jon McClure, in next year’s OPG! Now I know for sure that I’ll be buying next year’s Overstreet! 🙂

My other fellow guide collaborators also put out great reports; and I was very happy to see that Bob Overstreet quoted Paul Clairmont within his main market report! Paul wrote a fantastic report — thanks Paul for the shout-out in the beginning! It has been great working with you as well! 🙂 Here’s a short excerpt from Paul’s report and then I highly recommend reading the full report in OPG #49 — you can also reach out to Paul at

“…[S]ales [of Canadian Price Variants] were the strongest we have ever witnessed in our six years of business in 2018. We posted some of the sales results earlier in this report but keys had a very short shelf life and we had our best results by being “first to market” with many of the single highest graded copies.”
— Paul Clairmont,; OPG #49 page 112

You can also find Paul’s 2019 CPV guide market report, online, here. And I actually want to also quote Paul’s #48 market report too below, in an insightful section where he talks about modern age newsstand comics in general, and the treasure-hunt aspect of finding them in dollar bins where the dealer doesn’t realize/recognize the newsstand vs. direct edition distinction:

“People have started to hunt down newsstand copies in this era as a way to enhance their treasure hunting. There is a premium being paid for Image newsstand books such as Spawn #1. What makes this area interesting is that it is relatively new so there is no exact checklist of what was distributed in newsstand format. You can bet the numbers are low so finding them in high grade out in the wild on your adventures might be like spotting Sasquatch. Most dealers don’t make the distinction between newsstand and direct of this era so they are most likely populating the $1.00 and $2.00 bins at this time. Likely, that is where many will remain as its another niche area but Spawn #1 is a fine example of an issue that certainly garners higher premiums.”
— Paul Clairmont,; OPG #48 page 111

The thrill of the hunt! The joy of finding at “regular price” that rare variant you’ve been hunting for! That’s definitely what’s driven me to love CPV (and newsstand) collecting.

And it has been the thrill of my “collecting career” to collaborate with others in the hobby who are also passionate about the same niche collecting areas, and work with them on writing articles/guides. I feel that collectively we’ve made a real impact on the hobby in the Type 1A variant niche and contributed something great; and I am so happy that my collaborators are seeing a positive impact on their businesses — while for me comics is just a hobby, for others on our guide team comics is how they make a living, and I am very happy when I see these friends succeed in business! I’ll end this discussion with an excerpt from Doug Sulipa’s OPG #49 market report — I’ll say here once again that I hope you read Doug’s full report (you can also contact him at and I also hope you’ll read Doug’s 2019 CPV guide market report online here as well.

“The Canadian Newsstand Cover Price Variants are now officially recognized as Variants on the CBCS labels. Since the online Price Guide went live last year, demand has gone up around 400% and record prices are being set every week. Do an internet search for “2019 Price Guide for 1980s Marvel & DC Newsstand Canadian Cover Price Variants (Type 1A).” Archie comics might be added in next year’s Guide. When Gemstone published an article in the Scoop online e-newsletter, there was yet another big spike in demand.”
— Doug Sulipa,; OPG #49 page 223

I hope all of these excerpts were helpful to see and have encouraged you to read the full market reports! 🙂 There are more excerpts that I could quote too but I’ll leave it there.  And I’ll make one last mention that our CPV guide has a whole market reports section with many great articles you can read online (here).

Happy Collecting! 🙂
– Ben

Direct Edition vs. Newsstand Edition Comic Books

Marvel Annual Newsstand Numbering: Uncanny X-Men

By Benjamin Nobel, April 8, 2019


We’re used to seeing a month in this spot for Marvel newsstand comics (“01” for January, “02” for February, etc.)… so what is 95?

Recently I was part of a research conversation where we were looking into an aspect of 1993 Marvel annuals, specifically the newsstand copies of those annuals, and as it turns out there’s an interesting newsstand numbering phenomenon at Marvel for their annuals that I wanted to document — and to do so I’ve chosen the Uncanny X-Men title as the main example to show you.  I hope you’ll find this stuff as interesting as I do!

Comic book spacer image

Before I get to the annuals themselves, first, for introduction, I need to establish that if you’re looking at a given comic book from the second half of 1993, you cannot discern the newsstand copies from their direct edition counter-parts just by the presence of a bar code… in other words, if you see a comic from the second half of 1993 (or later) and the copy you see has a bar code, you cannot draw the automatic conclusion that you’re looking at a newsstand copy!

That’s because half way through 1993, Marvel switched from “logo boxes” to bar codes on their direct editions — this made it easier for retailers to scan them at the checkout counter — and looking at both the Amazing Spider-Man and Uncanny X-Men titles as examples, we can observe that this change occurred in July… i.e. Marvel’s June direct edition comics from 1993 have logo boxes while their July direct edition comics have direct edition bar codes.

For example, here are direct editions side-by-side for Amazing Spider-Man #378 (June) and #379 (July) and I’ve circled the logo box area to point out the change month over month, from “logo box” to bar code:

And that same June-to-July switchover from logo boxes to direct edition bar codes is observed in the Uncanny X-Men title too: here are direct edition examples side-by-side for X-Men #301 (June) and #302 (July) below:


Comic book spacer image

OK: so now I want us to take a closer look at X-Men #302 (the one at right in the picture above) as the first issue in the title where direct editions and newsstand copies of the issue number both carry bar codes, and ask the question: can we tell those two bar codes apart? The answer is YES WE CAN.  Here’s two zoomed-out copies side-by-side (at left, a newsstand #302, at right, the direct edition), where even from afar we can already spot that these boxes are different:

x-men-302-newsstand-vs-direWhen the two types above were printed, they basically needed to finish the one batch, pause, change just the black text in certain spots, and then resume (we do not know the order of batches printed or whether they alternated, but the interiors are 100% identical and each type that was “born” at the same time and on the same equipment with the same paper and ink are true first printings).

And interestingly, X-Men #302 makes for an ideal example to illustrate the printing differences between the batches because there was also an error batch for this issue number where some copies were printed with blanks in those certain spots which needed to be switched between batches!  Thus, my guess is that these error copies happened by mistake during this switch-over between the newsstand and direct edition batches. Thus, these error copies really help illustrate where the differences are between the types, by way of our “zooming in” on the blank areas. First, here’s a full front cover to show you what an error copy looks like (by the way, I’ve also seen these error copies called “Logo Variant”):


And now, we’ll zoom in to see the differences, first looking at the price box area:


The price boxes are pretty similar between the newsstand and the direct edition batch; from the error copy in the middle, we can in turn see that we should direct our attention to the area above “302 JUL” and also below to find the differences: and we see that the UK pence price is in a different location and that the newsstand copy has the Curtis Circulation code for X-Men (“02461”) under the month:


And now looking at the UPC box area, we can see that the newsstand bar code and direct edition bar code have different structures, and, the direct edition bar code also clearly says DIRECT EDITION above it.


The words “direct edition” are the big short-cut giveaway as to which copy is the direct edition, but while we’re here let’s also examine the newsstand and direct edition bar codes themselves side-by-side, to understand their structure a little bit:


That “02461” code we saw earlier as the code for X-Men appears on both of the above (in the bottom middle), we can observe that the numbers at the left are different between newsstand and direct editions, and then there’s a huge difference in the structure of the number along the right.

The newsstand copy (at left above) has a slim right-hand bar, with a 2-digit number at the top (in this case “07” which is denoting the month of July), while the direct edition copy has a fat right-hand bar, with five digits: The first three digits are the issue number (302 in this case), the next digit is used to denote different cover variations, and the fifth digit is used to denote different printings.

[p.s. There was also a Type 1A $1.95 cover price variant for newsstands in Australialearn more about those here — which looks like this, below (notice the right side of the bar code has “10” for October, because after these were printed they were loaded onto the slow boat to Australia and so they advanced the cover month by three months so as not to appear out-of-date when they finally hit the newsstands in the land down under):]


Comic book spacer image

OK! With that bit of background, we’ve now seen the basic differences between direct edition bar codes and newsstand bar codes, which is useful to know when looking at comics published after the logo-to-barcode-switchover that took place on direct editions.

We saw how the newsstand bar code has that “slim” right-hand bar with the number at the top being a 2-digit code:  Marvel used these two digits to denote the month on the copy we saw.  Did Marvel consistently denote the month in this spot of their newsstand bar codes? For their regular monthly comics, that indeed appears to be the case: “01” denotes January, “02” denotes February, “03” denotes March… etc.

Here are a string of quick examples just to show you all the months starting with a December issue, X-Men #188, and continuing for a little over a calendar year:


#188 = “12” (December)


#189 = “01” (January)


#190 = “02” (February)


#191 = “03” (March)


#192 = “04” (April)


#193 = “05” (May)


#194 = “06” (June)


#195 = “07” (July)


#196 = “08” (August)


#197 = “09” (September)


#198 = “10” (October)


#199 = “11” (November)


#200 = “12” (December)


#201 = “01” (January)


#202 = “02” (February)

So for the regular monthly issues, it is consistently the calendar month being communicated at the right-hand side of the bar code.

But what about annuals? As you might have guessed from the title of this post, Marvel did things a bit differently when it came to their annuals! Let’s have a look!

Comic book spacer image

The first annual I want to show you is X-Men Annual #17 from 1993. We observed earlier that from July onward of that year, Marvel published their direct editions with direct edition bar codes.

So, suppose as a thought experiment, that we saw just the bottom left corner of the front cover of a given direct edition 1993 Marvel comic? Even if we knew absolutely nothing else about the book, we could make an educated guess by the presence of a logo, that the book was from June or earlier… while if we saw a direct edition bar code, we could make an educated guess that the book was from July or later.

Before we take a look at what’s on the front cover of a direct edition copy of X-Men Annual #17, logo or bar code, I want to show you the indicia page… notice that only the year 1993 is mentioned (no month):


And when CGC catalogs the book in their system, they only reflect the year 1993 (no month):


How about the newsstand bar code for this annual, might that help provide us with a clue as to publication month? As it turns out, by 1993, Marvel had been putting the annual number into the right-hand side of the newsstand bar code… i.e. for X-Men Annual #17, the right-hand side of the newsstand code says 17:


So the cover of direct editions of this annual will provide a very important clue indeed — will we see a logo box (June or earlier), or, will we see a direct edition bar code (July or later)? Here’s the answer!:


As you can see above, it is a logo box. That leads me to conclude that Annual #17 is from June or earlier of 1993… and a further clue is found in the below listing — the highlighted area indicates that the story is continued in X-Men #301 (which we saw before was published in June).


If it continued in a June issue, then I’d call May (or, perhaps, the same month as #301, June) for Annual #17 a really good guess.

Comic book spacer image

How about we look at another X-Men annual, #14 from 1990? Above, we saw that the newsstand code for Annual #17 says “17” on it… will newsstand copies of #14 say “14” in that spot? As it turns out, Marvel didn’t always use the annual number for this part of the newsstand code, and back in 1990 when Annual #14 was published, the newsstand code looks like this:


It says “05”… which, if this was a monthly issue, we’d conclude meant May. Does it mean May in this case? Although I think that would certainly be a fair guess, it turns out that if we examine Marvel’s newsstand numbering for X-Men annuals, an interesting pattern emerges.

[I hinted at this newsstand numbering phenomenon at the beginning of this post, but I didn’t want to jump right into the pattern until you had the background… and now you have the background, so, let’s take a look at the newsstand numbering on X-Men annuals over the course of time!]

Comic book spacer image

We’ll start below with X-Men Annual #3 from 1979. The second digit of the right-hand number is fivebut, the first number is… 9:


Annual #3 = “95”

… and the next year, with Annual #4, it is “05”:


Annual #4 = “05”

… then, it increments each year by 10:


Annual #5 = “15”


Annual #6 = “25”


Annual #7 = “35”


Annual #8 = “45”


Annual #9 = “55”


Annual #10 = “65”


Annual #11 = “75”


Annual #12 = “85”


Annual #13 = “95”


Annual #14 = “05”


Annual #15 = “15”

… until at Annual #16 the numbering pattern switches to the number of the annual itself:


Annual #16 = “16”


Annual #17 = “17”


Annual #18 = “18”

Notice that Annual #15 (1991) actually could fit both patterns: #14 was “05” and so going up by 10 would bring us to 15, but it is also Annual #15 so the 15 could also be the annual number!

So let’s turn to Amazing Spider-Man and see what year that title switches its pattern. As it turns out, Annual #24 (1990) is an “05”, while Annual #25 (1991) is 25:


Since the second digit of 25 is five, let’s just examine one more title to be sure that 1991 is the year Marvel began using the annual number for their newsstand codes — let’s look at Iron Man, which was up to Annual #11 in 1990 and Annual #12 in 1991:


As we can see, #11 from 1990 has the “05” code, while #12 from 1991 uses 12, the annual number. Also interesting about these two Iron Man examples is that the cover artist in both examples, Tom Morgan, signed not only his name to his cover artwork, but also a date — which is 3/1990 for #11 and 4/1991 for #12. The artist naturally would have completed the artwork ahead of the actual publication of the comic (maybe by a month or two or three as a guesstimate).

For additional reference, Tom Morgan was also the cover artist for Iron Man #257, and the artwork was signed 3/1990 while issue #257 was published in June:


Comic book spacer image

After X-Men Annual #18, Marvel switches from sequential numbering of annuals to using the year (“X-Men Annual 1995” etc.), and with the 1995 annual the UPC code moves to the back cover which makes it extraordinarily difficult to spot newsstand copies on the market. So I’ll stop the investigation there without knowing for sure what the 1995 annual newsstand code shows, but, it would make sense that Marvel would have changed their newsstand numbering again in some fashion once they began this new naming convention of using the year. Newsstand annuals in general after this point appear to be exceedingly difficult to find out there to get a reference picture, but I did spot a newsstand Peter Parker: Spider-Man/Elektra 1998 annual, and the code on it is “85” (could this perhaps be 8 for 1998 and 5 for May??):


So! Now you’ve seen the patterns that I wanted to document and share, when it came to Marvel newsstand numbering on their annuals. Before their 1991 switch to using the annual number in the newsstand code, what are we to make of the “05” / “15” / “25” / etc. numbering? Was the “5” in the second digit indicative of a May date, or something else? I’m not sure what to conclude, but I think May is a fair guess, yet, not a definitive answer — even for the “05” coded copies — given that prior to 1991 these codes on annuals appear to have incremented annually by 10 and thus except for the “05” copies they do not directly correspond to a calendar month the way the codes on the monthly issues consistently do. If anyone has anything to add to the discussion, I hope you’ll weigh in! Whatever the pattern meant, I found it interesting to observe, and I hope you did too! 🙂

Happy Collecting! 🙂
– Ben

35 Cent Variants, Canadian Newsstand Edition, Direct Edition vs. Newsstand Edition Comic Books, Growing Newsstand Awareness, Rare Comics To Collect

Two Ways To Win Update

By Benjamin Nobel, October 29, 2018

“When collecting any given key comic book issue, it is better to have two ways to win, than just one.”

We have just published The 2019 Price Guide for 1980’s Marvel & DC Newsstand Canadian Cover Price Variants (Type 1A), which included a few new features this year — one of which is a new Market Reports & Articles section.

My fellow collaborators have done a fine job presenting discussions about the state of the market for 1980’s price variants, including example sale highlights, and so for my report I decided to approach a discussion from a different angle: to give you an update on the “two ways to win” strategy that I’ve been advocating for so long on this blog.

What is the strategy? For newer readers, let me describe it by painting a scenario. Suppose it is the mid 1990’s and you decide you want to collect a copy of Star Wars #1 (Marvel Comics, 7/1977). Before embarking on your collecting quest, it would be very useful for you to know that there exist both 30¢ cover price 1st print types as well as 35¢ cover price 1st print types of that issue, and that the higher cover price type is actually dramatically more rare than the lower cover price type.

Star Wars #1 35¢ Variant

Star Wars #1 35¢ Variant

Suppose at the time you embark on your collecting quest, the relative rarity of the 35¢ type versus the 30¢ type is not very widely known in the hobby: it might be possible for you to pay “regular price” (or close to it) for the more-rare 35¢ version! If you can accomplish that feat of landing the 35¢ version for a cost basis close to regular market value, you’ve just given yourself two ways to win instead of one: (1) the issue number itself may rise in value, and (2) collectors of the future may be willing to ascribe a hefty premium to the more rare type, as its rarity becomes better known throughout the hobby.

Had you executed such a strategy back in the early days of 35¢ variant awareness, today you’d be grinning from ear to ear — because look where the Overstreet price guide values the two different types today in its most recently released guide (OPG #48):

The regular 30¢ 1st print type is given a $215 value in 9.2 by Overstreet, while meanwhile the more-rare 35¢ type is given an $11,000 value in 9.2 — that’s a premium of ~51x for the price variant over its regular counter-part!

But that ~51x premium didn’t happen overnight… it built over the years, even after the rarity difference was widely known throughout the hobby. For example, check out how that premium has grown over the last eight years — here’s the same Overstreet guide page from back in 2010 (from OPG #40):


As you can see above, back then the regular 30¢ 1st print type was given a $95 value in 9.2 by Overstreet, while meanwhile the more-rare 35¢ type was given an $2,500 value in 9.2… for a premium of ~26x for the cover price variant.

With 20/20 hindsight, Star Wars #1 clearly would have been a good pick for a key issue to collect back in 2010, as its “base value” (the 9.2 Overstreet guide value for the regular 30¢ type) has grown at a +10.7% annualized rate of return during these past eight years.

But what about the 35¢ type? Even at a monster premium of 26x back in 2010, you were still better off collecting the cover price variant: because in the ensuing years, the 35¢ type would increase in value by +20.3% annualized!

Looking at this result, it is clear that those who had the choice but decided to collect the regular 30¢ type instead of the more-rare 35¢ variant lost out on all that additional upside. To illustrate this, suppose in 2010 you had invested $10,000 in each of the two types. At the 9.2 guide values back then, that would have resulted in a box of about 106 copies of the 30¢ type (rounding up a smidge) versus 4 copies of the 35¢ type. Fast-forward to today and here are what the two $10K investments would be worth at today’s 9.2 guide values:


“You won in two ways with the cover price variant.”

So in the above hypothetical scenario, had you invested your $10K into the plain old 30¢ type and ignored the cover price variants, you missed out on roughly $21,210 of upside! And that’s from a starting point where the 35¢ variant already had a guide value twenty six times higher than the regular cover price copies! With 20/20 hindsight, clearly you did dramatically better going with the 35¢ variant — because you “won” in two ways: (1) the issue number itself grew in value, and (2) the cover price variant premium over regular copies expanded in multiple. You won in two ways with the cover price variant.

Let’s keep that result in mind, as we fast-forward to a 1980’s key: Suppose you now decide you want to collect a copy of Amazing Spider-Man (ASM) #238 (Marvel Comics, 3/1983). Is there a “Two Ways To Win” collecting strategy?

You bet there is!!!

Before embarking on your ASM #238 collecting quest, it would be very useful for you to know that there were two distinct distribution channels through which comics of that era were sold: (1) newsstand sales, and (2) direct edition sales. The prevalent direct editions have a Spider-Man logo in place of a bar code, and were ordered by comic shops at a discounted but non-returnable basis — that Spidey Head logo was a way for the publisher to identify a direct-sold copy and be able to refuse refund and say “sorry comic shops: you’re stuck with any unsold copies!”

Newsstand editions meanwhile have a bar code, such copies were treated/handled by newsstand staff like magazines (i.e. something to read) and sat on newsstands waiting for a buyer… any unsold copies were returned to the publisher and typically pulped/recycled forward. The newsstand copies that sold tended to be purchased by readers (as an “entertainment purchase”) instead of by collectors (who instead were over in comic shops loading up on direct editions and carefully placing them in plastic bags), and thus newsstand copies saw a notoriously high destruction rate as compared to their well-preserved direct edition counter-parts.

So: collectible-condition surviving newsstand copies of the 1980’s are considerably harder to find versus collectible-condition direct edition copies… That already gives us a second way to win: to go for the more-rare collectible-condition newsstand survivor, versus settling for a prevalent direct edition copy…

But as readers of this market report already know — because you already read our guide intro — during a window of time in the 1980’s, Marvel actually published two distinct newsstand types: a lower cover price 1st print type (60¢ in the case of ASM #238), and a higher cover price 1st print type (75¢ in the case of ASM #238). And that the higher cover price type is by far the most rare type — the target market for that type had ~1/10th the population! [Here is a rarity walkthrough with explanatory graphics, here is Paul’s “common sense approach” to understanding their scarcity, and here is Doug’s scarcity discussion.]

Conclusion: going after that dramatically-more-rare 75¢ cover price variant type gives us our strongest “Two Ways To Win” when collecting our ASM #238.

Back when I began this blog, it was widely possible to collect the cover price variant (CPV) for any given 1980’s key published during the price variant window, and pay “regular price” for it: awareness throughout the hobby about this type of variant was historically sparse back then, so there were many people who owned variants in their collections without realizing it, i.e. they knew they owned Amazing Spider-Man #238, but did not realize there was anything different or special about their copy, with its 75¢ cover price.

“I refer to such listings with generic titles but pictured variants as “mis-listed” variants.”

Such a person, when looking to sell, might look up the recent OPG guide value or the recent market price that the issue number in general was selling for, and then list their rare variant on a buy-it-now asking “regular market price” for it (or auction it off). Since they did not realize their copy was anything special, they would choose a “generic” listing title (e.g. “Amazing Spider-Man #238, Marvel Comics, 1983”) as opposed to a title that would allow CPV collectors to find it in a refined search — no “Variant” in the title, no “Canadian”, no “Newsstand”, no “CPV”, nothing you might search for when looking for this type of variant. But zoom in on the picture to see the cover price, and it would clearly show the variant. I refer to such listings with generic titles but pictured variants as “mis-listed” variants. Many of us have been successfully hunting down such opportunities for years (high five, fellow hunters!).

And that brings me to my Update on the Two Ways To Win Strategy. Applying this strategy to my own collecting of 1980’s CPVs, my approach over the years can be described by the below “decision tree” [it is a general representation of the approach but some things are “assumed” such as, for example, that there is a “grade hurdle” in mind for the variant in advance of hunting for it — personally I aim for “9 out of 10” on the grade scale (VF/NM) and if I can exceed that goal I’m thrilled]:


For years, my collecting of these variants mostly ran along two paths down the branches — often, I could hunt through listings and either find myself a “mis-listed” variant to collect…


… or I felt confident that with enough patience — which I should make clear was often measured in months or even years of waiting — I would eventually see a mis-listed variant come onto the market:


I’m not the only one who has pursued this collecting approach, and here’s why the approach is important to understand when considering the current state of the CPV marketplace: for many years, given the state of collector awareness (unawareness) of these cover price variants, I was reluctant to traverse down the branches towards that “pay a premium” box for a given issue. I was so confident that with the passage of enough time I’d eventually land myself a mis-listed variant copy of the issue I was looking for, that I was very reluctant to pony up a premium price.

That may sound hard to understand when at the same time (1) I’d mentioned before that it could be months or even years between mis-listed variant sightings for given issues, and (2) clearly I am someone who has studied the rarity of these variants and I know very well that they are deserving of a hefty premium. So why was I so reluctant to pony up a well-deserved premium? Consider this: suppose hypothetically that you have a given issue where you tend to see a mis-listed variant hit the market once a year. Waiting around for that opportunity might sound nearly futile. But suppose for sake of argument that you have 365 different variants you are hunting for, each of which tends to produce a mis-listed variant opportunity once a year? Well my friends, on any given day you should expect that an opportunity would come your way! You just wouldn’t know which opportunity. [By the way, this was the inspiration for this year’s Top 365 / A Variant A Day list].

So picture yourself executing this strategy of hunting for mis-listed variants over the years… As the years progress, and more and more collectors learn about the variants, more collectors then recognize when they own variants and in turn more often list them properly. Thus, over time, you begin seeing fewer and fewer mis-listed variant opportunities. Instead of an opportunity per day among your hunt list of issues, you’re seeing an opportunity per week… then every couple of weeks… then even longer… Now suppose a new key issue catches your attention to collect, one which you do not already own in any grade — i.e. something you have not been trying to collect or upgrade, until today, so that you do not even own one single starter copy of the variant. How are you going to approach the decision tree? In today’s marketplace of rapidly increasing variant awareness, you are probably going to be increasingly willing to traverse down that “pay a premium” path:


And speaking for myself, that above path down the tree is where I have been finding myself these days. For example, one of the issues I collected in the past year was Detective Comics #583 (February 1988, first appearances of Ventriloquist and Scarface, and a gorgeous Mike Mignola cover). It was during one of the proof-reads of our 2018 guide that decided I wanted to own this variant. Let’s go down the tree: Were newsstand copies published for the issue? Yes. Do Type 1A cover price variant newsstand copies exist? Yes! Was I able to find a “mis-listed” variant for sale at “regular” price? No. Not a mis-listed copy in sight, at any price. I decided very quickly that I’d be willing to pay a premium for a properly-listed copy. But there were zero properly-listed copies available. I found myself waiting for one. And waiting for one. And waiting for one…

Detective Comics #583 $1.00 Price Variant

Detective Comics #583 $1.00 Price Variant

Eventually, a variant appeared on the market! It was properly listed, with the listing title identifying it as the variant, reading: “Detective Comics – 583 – Rare 1.00 Price Variant! – DC Comics – NM- 1988″… The buy-it-now cost with shipping was $58.12, representing a premium price over the going rate for direct editions in the same grade. Friends, I didn’t even hesitate: I slammed that buy button. And I’m so glad I did — I have yet to see its equal come onto the market since. In fact, I sent my copy to CGC, and as of today the CGC census still shows only one variant copy on record for the issue… my copy. I tell this anecdote to illustrate how my own behavior has changed over the years, as the hobby’s awareness of this type of cover price variant has grown. How many others like me fit this description, and how are we impacting the CPV marketplace in the aggregate?

I do still see mis-listed variants out there as well — those opportunities certainly haven’t yet “dried up” completely (here’s a mis-listed variant I landed recently) — but nowadays I do find myself time and again traversing the tree down towards that “pay a premium for a properly listed copy” box. If other market participants are behaving like me, then mis-listed-variant-hunters are increasingly losing their patience to wait for mis-listed opportunities and are realizing that the best move, if we actually want to land that variant we’re looking for, is to be willing to pony up that hefty premium (especially in the highest grades where supply is so very limited). This marketplace behavior change which I observe in myself — and then potentially multiplied across other mis-listed variant hunters out there if their behavior has similarly changed — certainly would argue for a continued shift towards higher marketplace premiums paid for properly listed variants. How much of a variant premium is reasonable these days? Each collector will need to find their own answer to the question of what a reasonable premium is, for them, for any given issue in a given grade at a given point in time. (Hopefully our guide is a useful tool to help in that decision).

What kinds of premiums have informed collectors been observed paying lately for properly listed variants? Looking at the new Noteworthy Sales section of the guide and looking at the sales prices for variants compared to where the prevalent direct editions in the same grades have been selling lately, I can confidently say that those cover price variant premiums being paid these days still seem very reasonable to me in relation to the underlying rarity. Still “early innings” is a good way to describe it — and actually, fellow guide collaborator Angelo Virone recently gave a baseball analogy himself (quoted in this post), i.e. what “inning” are we in as far as awareness in the hobby about this type of cover price variant, its extreme relative rarity, and incredible collecting appeal?

Angelo placed us in the second inning as of that day; but as those who have been following my blog already know, there has recently been a major milestone for Type 1A 75¢ variants like our ASM #238 example: CBCS has begun to dignify them with a price variant label, e.g. “75¢ Canadian Price Variant”. That will make for a huge leap forward in collector awareness: The proverbial snowball of growing awareness was already rolling down the mountain at unstoppable speed, but now just got a huge step-up in mass. This is a leap forward for Type 1A price variants.

How much of a leap? Angelo described it as skipping the third inning and jumping straight into the 4th. I have to agree, that this milestone is going to result in a huge step-up of collector awareness about Type 1A price variants (my blog’s “stats page” was on fire with hits when that news broke) — in fact, I have to wonder to myself just how quickly our guided values in our 2019 guide edition will slip woefully out of date? As an example, at the time we conducted our annual value survey for the 2019 guide, our median advisor value for the ASM #238 cover price variant in 9.2 came in at $425… Meanwhile, in between that survey and today, we have seen more record-breaking sales for ASM #238 including a CGC 8.0 (VF) copy selling on the marketplace for north of $600 (fully +44% higher than our 9.2 guided value, for a CGC 8.0)!

And this continued rise in the variant premium over time is our second way to win by targeting the dramatically-more-rare 1980’s newsstand cover price variants: The first way we can win, is by making a strong selection for which keys to collect — looking issue by issue at the collecting merits, and selecting wisely; the second way we can win is the potential for the variant premium to widen over the upcoming years as awareness continues to grow in the hobby and as other comic book “authorities” follow in the footsteps of CBCS in properly recognizing Type 1A price variants for the true 1st print US-published cover price variants they are!

Happy CPV Collecting Everyone! And now please read more Market Reports & Articles from our 2019 guide! 🙂

– Ben

Australian Newsstand Edition, Canadian Newsstand Edition, Direct Edition vs. Newsstand Edition Comic Books, Growing Newsstand Awareness

Applause To CBCS’s New “75¢ Canadian Price Variant” Labeling

By Benjamin Nobel, October 9, 2018

The first type 1A cover price variant to be labeled “75¢ Canadian Price Variant” by CBCS.

My fellow price guide collaborator, Angelo Virone, has just received back the very first CBCS slab carrying their new labeling treatment for Type 1A cover price variant comics: instead of “Canadian Edition” in the variant field of the label, going forward CBCS will now use “75¢ Canadian Price Variant” (with the variant name beginning with the individual variant cover price for the particular issue, 75¢ or otherwise)!

This excellent improvement by CBCS demands our applause! Three cheers for CBCS!!! I have no doubt this change required a huge amount of effort to accomplish; if you had asked me a year ago when I discussed the “what to call these” question and encouraged grading companies to make an improvement, I would have said that the best we collectors should hope for would be that a grading company like CBCS would be able to do a “find/replace” and go from “Canadian Edition” to “Canadian Price Variant” — i.e. that having the variant cover price itself in the variant name seemed like too much to hope for because of the man hours necessary to input each individual cover price and change each census entry one by one…

Since then, as collector interest in Type 1A price variants has continued to build, pressure on the grading companies to make a labeling improvement has built as well; and earlier in the year we saw an incremental improvement to CGC’s labeling — although they retained the “Canadian Edition” variant name, they began to input the variant cover price for each issue onto the right-hand side of their labels on a piecemeal basis as new books are submitted.

Not to be outdone, CBCS decided to take on the workload necessary to input each cover price into the variant name itself in their census entries — and in doing so, CBCS has now leap-frogged CGC in appropriately labeling Type 1A cover price variant comics as cover price variants and with the individual cover price included in the variant name!

This move by CBCS is a milestone moment. When I first looked at the new label atop Angelo’s slab (shown below), it struck me that for all of us who work so hard to hunt down these rare variants, we’re going to want this new CBCS label (I for one am absolutely going to send my next submission of Type 1A variants to CBCS) because we will feel gratification when our comics are appropriately recognized as the 1st print US-published cover price variants that they are!

75¢ Canadian Price Variant - CBCS

In the past I had argued that the ideal label name for a comic like the above was “75¢ Cover Price Variant,” but I recognized how time-consuming a task it would be to accomplish inclusion of the price in the variant name itself (necessitating each variant cover price be individually inputted for each of the many variants already on census). Since 75¢ was the intended price for Canada, using the shortcut “Canadian Price Variant” would have been understandable and likely a heck of a lot easier — so it is wonderful that CBCS has taken the extra time and effort to place the cover price itself in the name.

At first it struck me that including both “75¢” and “Canadian” was redundant — either of those words tells us we’re looking at the Type 1A variant — but I think CBCS may be including both of those words because the labeling change they have made is larger than the newsstand cover price variants of the 1980’s… They are actually changing their labeling for all of the different “classes” of Type 1A variants, and the inclusion of “Canadian” or “Australian” or “U.K.” helps identify which “class” the given book belongs to — here below is a quote from CBCS’s International Comic Specialist, Tim Bildhauser, commenting on the labeling change:

“CBCS’s perspective on labeling comics submitted for grading has always been to do so as accurately as possible and providing as much information about the books on the label as we can fit. We had previously notated these as “Canadian Edition” and, while that’s not necessarily an incorrect classification, it also doesn’t do a clear enough explanation of the difference from the standard U.S. versions of these books. A more detailed notation was needed to not only make them more identifiable but also to help educate newer collectors that might not be familiar with these books.

We will be carrying this change in notation over to both the Australian newsstand comics from the early 1990s as well as the various U.K. price variants as well.”

— Tim Bildhauser, CBCS International Comic Specialist

So indeed, this is a milestone moment not just for the newsstand-exclusive 1980’s cover price variants but for all Type 1A price variants! The terms “Type 1” and “Type 1A” were coined by fellow price guide collaborator Jon McClure. Most collectors are familiar with the 30¢ and 35¢ price variants of the 1970’s — these are “Type 1” variants. Such price variants are true 1st print US-published copies, fully identical on the inside to the other first print copies but carrying a different cover price; and as far as their distribution, Type 1 variants were restricted to certain test markets. Type 1A variants are also true 1st print US-published copies, also fully identical on the inside to the rest of the print run, but carrying a different cover price and restricted in their distribution to a certain country as the target market.

I checked in with Jon to get his reaction to the new CBCS labeling change. He said as follows:

“How we categorize books, and especially what we name them, has a tremendous impact upon value and desirability. Calling any U.S. Published Cover Price Variants by the name “Canadian Edition” conflates them with foreign editions which is misleading to collectors. The new “75¢ Canadian Price Variant” CBCS labeling is a tremendous improvement! Type 1a variants are universally scarcer than regular editions, regardless of era, going all the way back to the Golden Age. Because scarcity and demand drive the market, CBCS’s new formal recognition of them as price variants ends the “Canadian Edition” (or UK or Australian edition) nonsense for U.S. published comics and provides accuracy for the fast growing market of Type 1a variant comics. CBCS has done the hobby a great service by properly identifying such books. I predict that the fast growing Type 1a variant market will reflect and embrace this important change with ever-increasing fervor, as collectors realize what they are actually looking at (for a change), and that they will pursue and invest in them accordingly.”

— Jon McClure, Senior Overstreet Advisor

CBCS is on a roll with their labeling improvements… Last year, CBCS began to “break out” newsstand comics broadly, from their direct edition counter-parts — recognizing what I would call a “mega-trend” in the hobby. On page 178 of this year’s Overstreet, Steve Ricketts of CBCS discusses this trend, stating as follows:

“Newsstand and Direct variants are quickly gaining popularity with the mainstream collectors. CBCS has seized the reins on this niche of the hobby, by being the only grading service to identify Newsstand and Direct Edition copies in the variant field of the label on books from 1977 through 2000. Once the CBCS census goes live, it will be interesting to see the numbers that have been submitted. In the late 1970’s, Direct Edition comics were less common than Newsstand Editions. As years progressed, Newsstand copies became more and more scarce, with the Newsstand copies of some comics being incredibly hard to find. The hobby will start to learn about the scarcity of each issue in the coming years. More information is better for everyone, especially involving something that was hiding right under our very noses.”

— Steve Ricketts, CBCS Head Presser

It is indeed an exciting time to be a collector of newsstand comics; and if we’ve already reached the conclusion that we should be hunting down the more-rare newsstand version of a given comic from the 1980’s-onward, instead of the prevalent direct edition version, then indeed if there’s an even-more-rare newsstand version — a Type 1A Cover Price Variant newsstand version — then shouldn’t that be the type we treasure the most? And after all of our hard work hunting down that most rare of all the types, do we not want our selected grading company to properly recognize our comic with appropriate labeling? My applause to CBCS for giving Type 1A cover price variant collectors that gift: the ability to now have a slab that dignifies our variants with a price variant label!

You can bet my next submission of Type 1A comics is headed to CBCS — I want that new label atop my Type 1A’s! 🙂 This change by CBCS has elevated their grading company to “top-of-mind” for Cover Price Variant (“CPV”) collectors. Fellow guide collaborator and CPV collector and historian Angelo Virone agrees and puts it this way:

“Eureka! C.B.C.S. has done it!

Being the “first mover” and correcting labels to better reflect historical accuracy, regardless of the cost incurred and manpower needed, elevates this respected company to a level that is second-to-none.

As a play on words from a famous quote after the lunar landing, “That’s one small step for a collector, one giant leap for the comic book collecting community.”

In my humble opinion, I believe we are now at the top of the second inning … skipping the third … and now entering the fourth. This is an exciting time to collect and/or start investing in Canadian, Australian and U.K. Cover Price Variants because awareness of their scarcity is picking up, thus increasing demand and leading to future potential price increases.”

— Angelo Virone, Cover Price Variant Collector and Historian

Happy CPV Collecting, everyone! 🙂
– 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

$3.99 Newsstand Editions, Direct Edition vs. Newsstand Edition Comic Books, Growing Newsstand Awareness

Applause To CPG Accepting $3.99 Cover Price Variants Into The Price Guide!

By Benjamin Nobel, August 15, 2017

I’ve long been among the collectors who count ourselves in the “newsstand preference camp” and on this blog I’ve often advocated the idea that collectors come to understand the difference between newsstand and direct edition comics and then target the more-rare newsstand version of modern comics they were already looking to collect — especially in the case of newsstand-exclusive cover price variants where CGC recognizes them as distinct variants on census — with the notion that the relative newsstand rarity gives you a second way to win.

The first way to win would be if you make a wise choice about which issue to collect… i.e. the key issue you had already targeted to collect then successfully rises in value generally by issue number (maybe, for example, you targeted a first character appearance, and that character gained prominence). And then the relative newsstand rarity would give you a second way to win, as collectors over time broadly come to increasingly appreciate and prize newsstand comics for their relative rarity compared to their prevalent direct edition counterparts.

The rolling snowball of growing newsstand awareness in the hobby has gained a lot of increased mass as of late, what with CGC recently deciding to “break out” large “classes” of newsstand-exclusive cover price variant comics as distinct census variants (including $2.99 Newsstand Editions and $3.99 Newsstand Editions, both “broken out” by CGC because for certain issues the newsstand edition is a cover price variant of the issue number), and, with competitor CBCS deciding to recognize newsstand comics in an even more broad fashion by publication range, with CBCS President Steve Borock stating the move was a way for CBCS, quote, “to help lead comic collectors into the future of this great hobby(and in doing so, CBCS has just provided an example path for how CGC might one day choose to follow suit and potentially re-organize their own census in similar fashion to what CBCS has done, should they ever choose to do so down the line…).

But as relates to $3.99 cover price variants as the specific highly-interesting “class” of late-modern CGC-recognized newsstand-exclusive variants that are the topic of this particular post (and by the way, here’s an introduction to that “class” of $3.99 variants for anyone who hasn’t encountered them yet), when looking at both online and offline price guides, neither Overstreet nor the largest online price guide, (“CPG” for short), had yet “weighed in” with their determination of separate value for these rare newsstand-exclusive comics that carry a $3.99 cover price versus their prevalent $2.99 cover priced direct edition counterparts… a $1 or ~33% original cover price difference.   CPG hadn’t weighed in yet… but that has just changed.

ComicsPriceGuide has a current count of 967,250 members

ComicsPriceGuide has a current count of 967,250 members

And this brings me to the news I’m pleased to share today: (“CPG”) is a service I’ve used since “forever ago” — I made my very first CGC submission through their partner page back in the early days — and CPG proclaims to be the world’s largest and most accurate online community for obtaining comic book value information.  They show over nine hundred sixty thousand members as of today, so this is clearly a very heavily relied-upon resource for guide values online.  There is no charge for basic membership and I’d encourage readers to sign up if you’re not already a member there.  CPG describes their valuation methodology as follows: “Our values remain simple, but our technology is not. Using a proprietary value algorithm, paired with dedicated comic enthusiasts, we are able to observe real sales data to get up-to-the minute comic book value information.”

Earlier in the year, I reported to CPG the existence of the top three most-submitted-to-CGC $3.99 cover price variants — Amazing Spider-Man #569, #606, and #607 — and I was later contacted by an admin there asking for cover scans and more information about them.  We had an extensive email correspondence and I want to publicly state how impressed I was with the genuine interest in, and investigation of these variants by CPG ahead of accepting them into the guide. It could not have been easy for CPG to come to a determination of a guide value for each of these three, given the extreme rarity in high grade, with most of the variant sales not only few and far between but also raw/uncertified lower-than-near-mint-grade copies (on account of being newsstand exclusives; as we all know, newsstand comics are absolutely notorious for getting beaten up by staff and by readers and seeing a high destruction rate).  So formulating a near mint guide value must have been quite difficult a task indeed.

I was extremely curious to see what value CPG would ultimately ascribe to these variants when they eventually added them, and what kind of premium the separate guide value might represent, if any, over the “regular” prevalent direct editions…   And the answer is that all three variants were given a large premium.  I’ll encourage readers to look up the current guide values directly at CPG, and in the table below what I’ve done is ranked all of the $3.99 Newsstand Edition variants that I’m presently aware of as existing on the CGC census today, by the number of copies submitted to CGC of each variant, and included the top results below — I think that the most popular (as judged by submission volume) make sense as the first ones to have CPG’s focus in terms of creating separate guide entries — and then in the last column of the table, instead of presenting the absolute dollar value CPG has ascribed to the variant, I’ve instead presented the premium given by CPG over the direct edition (as a multiple):

Cover Price Variant Current Variant CGC Census Count Included in CPG yet? CPG Near Mint Guide Value Difference: Newsstand Premium vs. Direct Edition
Amazing Spider-Man #569 $3.99 Newsstand Edition 19 yes          4.2x
Amazing Spider-Man #606 $3.99 Newsstand Edition 11 yes          2.0x
Amazing Spider-Man #607 $3.99 Newsstand Edition 8 yes          3.3x
Amazing Spider-Man #601 $3.99 Newsstand Edition 7 not yet
Uncanny X-Men #511 $3.99 Newsstand Edition 7 not yet
Amazing Spider-Man #611 $3.99 Newsstand Edition 6 not yet
Uncanny X-Men #514 $4.99 Newsstand Edition 6 not yet
Amazing Spider-Man #570 $3.99 Newsstand Edition 5 not yet
Uncanny X-Men #513 $4.99 Newsstand Edition 5 not yet
X-Men Origins: Emma Frost #1 $4.99 Newsstand Editio 4 not yet
Venom/Deadpool: What If? #1 $3.99 Newsstand Edition 4 not yet
X-Men Origins: Deadpool #1 Newsstand Variant 4 not yet
Uncanny X-Men #509 $3.99 Newsstand Edition 4 not yet
Daredevil #21 $3.99 Newsstand Edition 4 not yet
Amazing Spider-Man #603 $3.99 Newsstand Edition 4 not yet
Amazing Spider-Man #602 $3.99 Newsstand Edition 4 not yet
Amazing Spider-Man #600 $6.99 Newsstand Edition 4 not yet
Amazing Spider-Man #599 $3.99 Newsstand Edition 4 not yet
[ There are others (browse this list), I’ve just presented the most popular/highly-submitted-to-date ones above. ] Average:          3.2x

As you can see, they’ve now got those top three most popular/most-submitted $3.99 cover price variants in the guide — which is an excellent start; and the premium they arrived at ranges from 2.0x to 4.2x the value of their “regular” direct edition guide value. That’s an average multiple of 3.2x against the direct edition guide value. Maybe as the $3.99 Newsstand Edition CGC census counts grow larger over time (and with that larger count, growth in observable market sales of CGC graded variant copies), they might add some more of these that are on the list too… Venom/Deadpool: What If #1 and Amazing Spider-Man #601 would certainly be good ones to add next, given the stand-out market values for regular copies of those issues…  For example for Venom/Deadpool, applying a 3.2x multiple against “regular” price would arrive at over $500 in NM for the $3.99 cover price variant which would rank it among the top most valuable late modern comics.

As a point of contrast, the multiple of the Star Wars #1 35 cent variant guide value over “regular copy” guide value for that issue in the current CPG guide page is… 11.3x.  The 35 cent variants are a very interesting “comp” in the history of cover price variants in the hobby.  A reader recently pointed out to me that a high grade Star Wars #1 35 cent variant just sold for twenty thousand dollars… you can buy a nicely-appointed automobile for that kind of money.  And all that’s “physically different” between that cover price variant example and its prevalent “regular” counter-parts is the cover price…  So, why are collectors of today willing to pay such a dramatic premium for certain copies carrying the very same artwork and very same interiors, copies that have nothing physically different to differentiate them from the rest except a higher cover price?  Because the higher cover price type are demonstrably more rare than the lower cover price type, and collectors have broadly grown fully aware of that fact.

But years back in time from today, even at the point of two decades after those 1977 cover price variants were published, the very idea of today’s super-premium market value for the variants might have seemed absolutely crazy — and it did seem crazy to many back then: Because indeed, the discoverer of that “class” of variants, Jon McClure himself, has described how in 1999 he was practically laughed out of the room when he suggested the incredible appeal of 35 cent variants as collectibles. To quote McClure: “When I presented my findings at the Overstreet Advisors meeting in Baltimore in 1999 and explained that the Marvel price variants were eventually going to be the most valuable books published after 1964, I was considered insane and treated with mockery and derision by the majority of attendees.”

Think about those early days of 35 cent variant awareness in the hobby: it would have been very similar to today’s early awareness of cover price variant late-modern newsstand comics… 35 cent variants had been broadly overlooked for decades as a “class” of variants, and someone who owned one back then in those “early days” might not have realized their copy was any different from the rest.  Back then, so many owners of those rare variants simply knew they owned a given issue number of a given title, but that was the extent of their knowledge about what they owned.  Imagine being one of those early collectors who were in the know amidst that early-awareness-environment in the hobby, being able to scour comic shops and garage sales and the like, and find those 35 cent variant bargains available at “regular” price in cases where the seller didn’t realize their copy was any different from the rest…  For near mint variant copies of Star Wars #1, little did such early cover price variant collectors know they basically had just bought themselves the equivalent of a future car in 2017 dollars!

Even as newsstand comics continue to get so much more recognition, a similar relative-value opportunity exists where to this day it is still possible to find newsstand comics, including cover price variant newsstand comics, listed for sale as regular copies, i.e. where the seller does not realize they own anything rare or special, does not realize there were two distribution channels with distinctly-printed versions, and so they fail to title their listing with the “newsstand” keyword, and then they price their rare comic at the going rate for regular copies of the issue… so that the only thing giving away that their copy is actually the variant is a zoom-in on the photo they provided (in other words nobody will ever find such mis-listed variant comics in a refined search with the newsstand keyword included, because the title of such a mis-listed comic listing lacks that keyword).

Readers have increasingly shared with me their own observations that such mis-listed relative value collecting opportunities are becoming harder and harder to find out there, with more and more sellers nowadays recognizing when their copy is a newsstand copy and/or cover price variant newsstand copy, including the “newsstand” keyword in their title, and pricing that copy accordingly when they list it for sale. [Side note: sometimes sellers will recognize their copy as a newsstand copy but place the word “newstand” in the title instead (misspelled with one ‘s’), and other times I’ve seen sellers instead use the word “UPC” in place of “newsstand” so it is worth performing searches of these different variations when hunting for newsstand comics, as doing so may turn up listings other newsstand-focused collectors have missed.]

Marvel Newsstand Rarity Percentages

This slide is part of my post entitled Newsstand Rarity Discussion & Estimates where I have collected quotes and graphics related to the discussion of relative newsstand rarity over the years, compared to direct edition copies.

As we see continued newsstand rarity discussions and estimates make the rounds among collectors, and price guides like CPG adding newsstand guide entries, awareness of the relative rarity between the types is only going to continue to build in the hobby as time marches forward and the rolling snowball of growing newsstand awareness continues to roll down the mountain.  And those opportunities out there in the marketplace to find newsstand comics listed for “regular” price are going to become harder and harder to encounter.

Might we see some newsstand copies of certain of the mega-keys valued at automobile-level-dollars out in the distant future?  I can definitely think of certain ultra-rare newsstand cover price variant mega-key-first-appearances that I’ve covered on this blog having that kind of future potential in highest grades given the passage of enough time and the building of enough actual awareness of their existence out there among collectors broadly…

Meanwhile!  Over at Mile High Comics (not a price guide but a store with its own internal catalog of price data), Chuck Rozanski has put his own thought into what kind of newsstand premium multiple to apply over regular direct edition price, and he published his own range to his website — here it is, copied and pasted below, where as you can see the newsstand multiple he uses starts at 2.0x the value of direct edition, and the newsstand value multiple moves higher as the timeline moves later (which makes sense on a relative basis because the percentage of newsstand sales continued to dwindle over the years):

“1979-1985 2X regular catalog price
1986-1990 3X
1991-1996 4X
1997-2000 5X
2001-2002 6X
2003-2004 8X
2005-up 10X”

I should note that Rozanski qualifies his sliding-scale newsstand premium model with this statement: “While this pricing does accurately reflect the scarcity of newsstand editions, the fact that we rely upon base price as our starting point for our multiplier does lead to some distortion.” Also worth noting is that Mile High often runs sales/promotions where you can input a promo code for a large discount to catalog price, so the asking prices are routinely available on a “discount-code-adjusted” basis. For some of the big keys these multiples Rozanki is using strike me as realistic on a discount-code-adjusted basis (and for some of the Image Comics keys, which had a particularly tiny newsstand percentage, the resulting year-by-year newsstand asking price multiple under this sliding scale actually works out to be a bargain for the newsstand versions), but, these asking multiples do seem high for encompassing any and every in-between-the-keys comic book issue, especially towards the later years where as you can see, for the post-2005 publication time-frame of the three $3.99 cover price variant entries CPG just added into their guide, Rozanski would meanwhile have applied a 10x multiple… considerably higher than the 3.2x average multiple CPG gave, with Rozanski’s multiple more in-line with CPG’s 35 cent variant multiple for the Star Wars #1 35 cent variant.

But while valuing newsstand rarities remains “tricky” to do with any kind of surgical precision, the bottom line is that a clear picture is starting to be painted out there in the hobby, that newsstand comics broadly, and the rare $3.99 cover price variants specifically as a newsstand-exclusive “class” of late-modern CGC-recognized variants, are worth a considerable premium over direct edition copies of the same issues.  As more $3.99 cover price variant entries make their way into CPG and are noticed by some of the 960,000+ members as they look up these issues, and as Overstreet one day joins in and eventually wakes up to their existence, perhaps awareness will ultimately grow to the point where a 10x newsstand multiple won’t seem so extreme looking back from the distant future, for certain keys?

That will take a lot more awareness-building among collectors, as well as passage of time for collections to turn over into new hands.  From hands who don’t know what they own, into hands that do.  Remember, unlike retailer incentive variants where thousands of retailers are continually educating customers about the desirability of such incentive variants before they buy them, newsstand-exclusive variants meanwhile have not been given that kind of intense exposure… the people who bought these newsstand comics originally generally did so as readers… as an entertainment purchase… which is a way-different situation versus retailer incentive variants as far as awareness among the original owners.

Outside of the Doc Collection, many of the best grade late-modern newsstand copies I’ve personally found out there have fallen under the category of “read once” condition at best.  But for so many copies out there among late-modern newsstand comics, the original buyer might have casually read it and then tossed it haphazardly in a pile afterwards.  The typical buyer didn’t treat these newsstand comics as the rare collectibles we now know them to be.  Did the original buyer of a $3.99 cover price variant know at the time of their newsstand purchase that the comic had incredibly low distribution as a minuscule percentage of the total sold, with rarity competitive to modern-day 1:50 incentive variants (and even 1:100 incentive variants in some cases)?  Not at all.  Did they investigate how CGC “breaks out” such copies as variants on their census?  Fat chance.

So I think the opportunities out there to buy the rare variant in the marketplace for regular price will continue to selectively appear for those who have their eyes open and their eBay email alerts in place…  And now with some early guide values out there online in CPG as an impartial source of pricing information, those collectors who land these rare variants for regular price can now have a better idea of just what kind of bargain they are taking home: in other words, in addition to knowing “I just landed the rare variant for regular price” someone can have the thought, for example, “I just landed a $200 ASM #607 variant for under $100” which is a thought that amplifies the specific value gained through their hunting effort in a more quantifiable way.

And for other late-modern $3.99 cover price variants not yet listed in the CPG guide, whether we apply a 2.0x multiple to figure out what they are likely worth, or a 3.2x multiple, or a 10x multiple, or somewhere in between, one thing is for certain: it is starting to become quite apparent that if you can find the newsstand version of a comic you already were looking to collect listed for “regular price” then you’re getting a relative value bargain, and by targeting the newsstand edition you have given yourself two ways to win instead of one: the issue’s value may increase broadly by issue number, and, the newsstand rarity premium may grow as newsstand awareness in the hobby matures.  And that’s especially true for cover price variants, which have the added appeal of being CGC-recognized with their own census entries, allowing the relative rarity to self-express in the census data.

And that is why newsstand comics present such a fantastic collecting opportunity today… those bargains are still out there to be found by collectors willing to put in the work.  If you’re willing to scour eBay listings for pictured newsstand comics that are not titled or priced as such (where the seller doesn’t realize there’s a difference between newsstand and direct edition), then having put in that hunting effort I can comfortably say that you are going to find these bargains out there in the marketplace today from within all the different “classes” of newsstand-exclusive CGC-recognized variants I’ve highlighted on this blog: $3.99 newsstand editions for sure, but also Type 1A price variants that were exclusive to newsstands, from the 1990s such as the New Mutants #98 type 1A variant, and from the 1980s with 75 cent variants (and 95 cent and $1.00 cover price variants too).

Happy Collecting! 🙂

– Ben

Direct Edition vs. Newsstand Edition Comic Books

Amazing Spider-Man #400: Understanding The Real Newsstand Edition

By Benjamin Nobel, July 16, 2017

Amazing Spider-Man #400:  I’ve been asked about the newsstand edition of this particular Amazing Spider-Man issue so frequently, and I’ve found there is so much misinformation out there about it online and in the marketplace, that I concluded the situation demands a “reference article” that collectors can turn to for information on how to understand the different versions and how to tell a “real” newsstand copy apart from what’s actually just a commonplace regular-cover direct edition copy.  But my goal today is to go beyond just giving you the ultimate answer… I want you to understand that answer.

First thing’s first: collectors must understand “the basics” of how to read the code box on a later-modern direct edition copy.  [By the way, if you do not yet know about the difference between direct edition and newsstand edition comics, you’ll first want to read my separate post entitled Comic Book Newsstand Editions: Understanding The Difference before proceeding, otherwise it will be hard to follow what comes next.]  At issue #379 of Amazing Spider-Man, Marvel switched from denoting their direct edition copies using logos, to using UPC codes that say “Direct Edition” on them:

Amazing Spider-Man #378 direct editions were the last to be denoted by logos; at #379 the direct edition begins to carry a UPC code.

Amazing Spider-Man #378 direct editions were the last to be denoted by logos; at #379 the direct edition begins to carry a UPC code.

So after this point in time, both the newsstand copies and the direct edition copies of Amazing Spider-Man issues carry UPC codes (albeit different codes).   Think about how confusing a situation this created for someone who hadn’t studied newsstand comics in detail: up until the later three-hundreds for Amazing Spider-Man issues it used to be the case that the newsstand edition could always be told apart from the direct edition simply by the existence of a UPC code; in other words, the way it used to work for Marvel’s comics of this era was that if a comic had a UPC code box on it, then it was a newsstand edition.  But all of a sudden, Marvel switched things up… and the mere existence of a UPC code from that point on no longer meant that you were definitely looking at a newsstand edition.  You had to be able to discern a direct edition bar code from a newsstand bar code!

Let’s take a look at the two versions now, for issue #379.  In the picture below, the code at the top is from a newsstand copy, while the code at the bottom is from a direct edition copy.  Notice the spots that I’ve circled in red:


The first thing I’d like you to notice is how the first numbers I circled (at the bottom left of the codes) are different from one another.  But you needn’t worry about the specific numbers, because, helpfully, the bottom code box also says “Direct Edition” right on it, so you can look for the existence of those words as an easier “visual short-cut” to recognizing you’re looking at a direct edition copy: direct editions say ‘direct edition’ on them (side note: for other publishers you may see other variations of naming convention for denoting direct-market copies such as “direct sales”).


But here’s another short-cut: please notice the second set of numbers I circled, along the top right of the codes.  For the newsstand copy, you’ve got a very narrow bar, and just two numbers along the top to denote the month (in this case, 07 for July).  But for the direct edition copy you’ve got a wide bar and a lot more numbers.  And understanding what these numbers mean is the next piece of background information you’ll need in order to understand the puzzle of the different Amazing Spider-Man #400 versions.   So in that second circle on the direct edition copy, the first three numbers are the issue number.  So, since this is Amazing Spider-Man #379 we’re looking at, the first three numbers in that circled area are 3, 7, and 9.

After that, you’ll notice two 1’s.  The digit immediately following the issue number is used by Marvel to denote different cover variations; the “regular” cover for a comic would be given the number 1.  Marvel can then denote other cover variations for the comic, using different numbers.  Amazing Spider-Man #379 just has the one cover version, but below I’ll show you an example from Amazing Spider-Man #678 (which I posted on recently and has a cool variant cover), to illustrate how Marvel utilizes this digit to denote alternate covers:


As you can see above, the top copy is the “regular” direct edition copy of Amazing Spider-Man #678 and it has a “1” (circled in red) after the 678; below that is the Mary Jane Venom cover and Marvel has denoted it with a “2” (circled in red).

And then Marvel can use the final digit to denote different printings.  An example issue with several different printings is Amazing Spider-Man #700; take a look at the picture below showing first, second, and third print copies:


So: now you understand the basics of these Direct Edition code boxes well enough to make a prediction for what you might see on different types of copies of Amazing Spider-Man #400.  Let’s review what different types are out there for issue #400 and then proceed to make such a prediction.  We know from various price guides and other online sources that there are three different variations; for example, here’s Overstreet:


Overstreet denotes three versions, the first carrying a $2.95 cover price, the second carrying a $3.95 cover price and denoted as an embossed double cover, and the third denoted as a “Collector’s Edition” with a white cover.  Here are those three versions pictured, in a screenshot from over at Atomic Avenue (which taps into the ComicBase system), where they list the same three versions that Overstreet listed out, except in a different order:


As you can see, they have a “regular” cover listed, and then the two embossed versions (one of the two being the white cover version that Overstreet described as the “Collector’s Edition”).  And here below is a third guide listing, also showing the same three versions, from


Once again the same three versions, just listed in a different order.  Given what we learned about the Direct Edition code structure, what might we predict to see on these three?  Before we answer that, let me rule one out for us, just to make our lives easier: the White/Collector’s version doesn’t have a code (in its place it simply says “1 of 10,000”):


That leaves two versions with bar codes on them: the “plain” cover and the gray embossed cover.  Based on what we learned earlier, if both of those are indeed direct editions, we’d expect both would carry the numbers “59606” along the bottom of the code (and the words “Direct Edition”), we’d expect the numbers along the right-hand side of the codes to start with 400 (since this is issue number 400), then after the 400 one of the copies would carry “1” for the cover variation and the other would carry “2” and since these are all first print copies the final number would be a “1” … so in summary, our prediction would be that the “regular” direct edition would carry the numbers 40011 and the “alternate cover” would carry the numbers 40021.  In looking at the two, it seems fairly logical that the special/more-expensive “embossed” version would be the “alternate” cover… while the plain/lower-cover-price version would be the “regular” cover, would it not?  (While I’m sure there are exceptions out there in the ordering of which is ‘1’ out of a plain/enhanced pair, let’s make that most-logical “first guess” and see if we’re correct that the plain cover is ‘1’ in this case).

Here’s the two versions below zoomed out to show the full front and back covers (for the embossed version the code is on the back) and then let’s zoom in on the circled code boxes and see if our prediction is right (we predicted that the top copy as the “regular” version would carry the numbers 40011, and the bottom copy would carry the numbers 40021, if these are in fact both direct editions).

You can already make out the words “Direct Edition” on each of these zoomed-out pictures, and indeed, when we zoom in we can confirm that both are indeed direct editions, and our prediction for the codes was correct (shown first is the top copy zoom-in; shown underneath is the bottom copy zoom-in):


Confirmed: both say Direct Edition, both carry the numbers 59606 along the bottom, and the codes along the top right are 40011 for the “regular” copy and 40021 for the embossed copy (and as we saw earlier, the “Collector’s Edition” with white embossed cover has “1 of 10,000” in place of the UPC code box).

So if these are direct editions, why are people out there referring to the “regular” direct edition as a newsstand edition, and, what is the “real” newsstand edition?

Let’s examine that first question: why are people inaccurately referring to “regular cover” direct edition copies as newsstand editions?  One factor that likely plays a part in the confusion is that an “enhanced cover” seems like something that would be available in comic shops, leaving the “plain cover” as something that seems like it would be what was available on newsstands.  And there’s another factor that may add further to the confusion:  I contend that the confusion is likely also related to the “switch-over” from direct editions being denoted by logos, to denoted by UPC codes, combined with the fact that the embossed edition has its UPC code on the back cover.

So therefore, “at a glance”, anyone looking at the front of the pair sees one type that apparently lacks a bar code (because for the embossed version that code is “around the corner” on the back and out of sight), and another type that has a bar code…  And remember, before issue #379, that pattern meant the bar-coded copy was the newsstand copy; in other words, it used to be the case that shown two copies, one with bar code and one not, that meant one could conclude the bar coded copy was the newsstand type.  So this would be a very easy mistake for someone to make, who hasn’t really studied the bar code in detail (of course, in making this mistake, someone would have also had to overlook the words “Direct Edition” on the code box).  And that exact mistake appears to be what happened over at MyComicShop, which inaccurately describes the regular-cover direct edition copies as newsstand edition copies, in error, on their site (and numbers them 400N when listing them for sale including on eBay, following their newsstand-numbering-convention):


Notice in the screenshot above how they describe the regular-cover direct edition with the words “newsstand edition” (and they also have an error for the date for that #400N entry, mistakenly cataloging the book under April 1994 instead of 1995).  So is this the “culprit”?  I.e. the misinformation source that causes so many collectors to describe their direct edition regular copies as the newsstand edition?  Or did MyComicShop simply transcribe this bad info from somewhere else?  Who knows; it is listed improperly all over the Internet now, so it is hard to trace it back to one particular source… here for example is, also with the regular direct edition copies inaccurately titled “newsstand edition”:


And the “false newsstand edition” is all over eBay too.  All of this misinformation out there certainly helps to explain why this particular issue has generated so many questions from readers, who are hoping to understand what’s what… and understand what the “true” newsstand edition looks like.

What does the “true” newsstand edition look like for issue #400?  The only type that I’ve ever seen for issue #400 carrying a newsstand distribution code on it is the embossed type.  And it is frustrating to spot, because most sellers don’t bother to picture the back cover of their copy… which of course is where the UPC code lives for this particular issue [side note: newsstand copies of Spawn Batman have this same frustrating phenomenon: the UPC code is on the back cover making it especially difficult to find newsstand copies in the marketplace].  But look hard enough, and message enough sellers asking them to picture the back cover, and you’ll eventually find one; they look like this on the back:

Real newsstand copy of Amazing Spider-Man #400

Real newsstand copy of Amazing Spider-Man #400

And here’s a zoomed-in side-by-side look at the code boxes of direct edition and newsstand edition embossed-cover copies:


Another related question that comes up with all these different versions is whether CGC denotes them separately on census?  CGC “lumps together” the two above embossed-cover direct edition and newsstand versions… because there is no “variant-worthy attribute” in their eyes, to break them apart — we can tell them apart by their code boxes, but the UPC code difference alone is not enough for CGC’s view of the newsstand versus direct edition distinction, to discern them as distinct census variants.

By their current policy there needs to be something beyond the “normal” newsstand vs. direct edition difference for them to “break out” the newsstand edition… such as a different cover price between the types (which there isn’t in this case, as both are $3.95 US), or a difference in the manufacturing (which there isn’t in this case), or an error of some type on the newsstand code (which there isn’t in this case).  So on the census, “real newsstand” and direct edition embossed-cover copies are therefore “lumped together” and both denoted with the variant designation of “Die-cut cover” (the White copies are meanwhile denoted “Die-cut variant cover” and the “regular” copies are just regular copies).

Here below, to make this more clear, I’ve taken a screenshot of the current census data and then I’ve pictured the corresponding comics to the left of each section:


What about the sales numbers for the different versions?  A reader recently suggested I pick up a copy of the 2005 publication, Comics Buyer’s Guide Standard Catalog of Comic Books, which is a 6 lb phone-book-sized publication that includes, among other things, circulation statement numbers and Capital City order numbers.  [I get such great suggestions and information from readers!  I picked up a library discard copy for a bargain and find this to be a great reference guide, as those early Capital City numbers are not found online anywhere.]   The book then also helpfully estimates the percentage of sales that were Capital City orders, which for 1995, it pegs at 24.2% for Marvel.

So from the photo I snapped below, we can see that “regular” copies of issue #400, if they followed the 1995 average for Amazing Spider-Man, would have had total paid circulation of 234,290 copies.  And then for the embossed version, breaking out a calculator, we can estimate that if the Capital City number they show was 24.2% of the total sales, then we can extrapolate to 260,227 total copies of the embossed version.  And then we know the White version was limited to 10,000.



What about the “real” newsstand edition, the embossed cover version sold on newsstands?  Let’s give estimating the sales count of those a shot, but before you read on, I want to urge readers to remember that such estimations are about seeing the forest as opposed to the trees [please also read this related post: The Orange Cat Phenomenon (by the 1980’s, Overstreet Senior Advisor Jon McClure estimates that fully 80% of surviving copies are Direct Editions; just 20% of surviving copies are newsstand) ].

There are a number of newsstand rarity estimates out there for Marvel by year, including an estimate from Chuck Rozanski at 15% newsstand by 1990 and 10% by 1995 for Marvel (that being his “Marvel-wide” estimate), and a BPA audit for 1999 citing 14% newsstand sales at Marvel overall.  But such broad Marvel-wide estimates would be inclusive of all comics: picture a scale with two sides, and all the newsstand sales would go on the left, while all the direct sales (inclusive of direct edition exclusives) would go on the right. When you picture this scale, you’re probably picturing comics piled on each side, but those estimates are actually talking about dollars. Turning that into an estimate of copies sold for one specific title (Amazing Spider-Man) is only going to be a ballpark estimate.

So from these broad Marvel-wide ranges by year, if we go to Amazing Spider-Man specifically, something else we can look at is the publisher’s statement numbers (in the above picture, note how it says that issue #400 has the 1994 statement… well, the 1995 statement appeared in issue #407).  And that 1995 statement denoted the 234,290 average paid circulation number that we see referenced in the picture above for issue #400.

Marvel’s Amazing Spider-Man paid circulation, at an average of 234,290 for the 1995 statement (October filing date), was down from the average of 353,025 the prior year… which in turn, was down from an average of the 592,442 seen in 1993!  The 90’s were some roller-coaster times for Marvel, starting out in a “boom” and then ending in a “bust” (they’d eventually file for bankruptcy reorganization by the end of 1996).

And against these paid circulation numbers we see for 1995, the statement for Amazing Spider-Man also reveals something else, as relates to newsstand distribution, and that’s the return numbers, at an average 159,946 copies returned.  Since the direct edition sales were final (discounted and non-returnable), whereas the newsstand distribution channel called for unsold copies of comics to be returnable to the publisher for a refund (after which the returned copies were typically pulped/recycled forward), we know that these return numbers in the statement are fully from the newsstand distribution channel and include no direct editions.  And we have learned from industry insiders that Marvel over-produced each issue such that the bulk of newsstand copies didn’t actually sell and were returned, with Chuck Rozanski for example writing that, quote, “it was seldom that a newsstand sold more than 30% of the new comics that they displayed.”

So if one wanted to do some newsstand number crunching and estimation of likely newsstand edition sales for issue #400, it is possible to guesstimate off of those 1995 average return numbers, under different assumptions for the ratio of returns to actual sales: I come to a quick “back-of-the-envelope” range of likely no more than ~69,000 newsstand copies of Amazing Spider-Man #400 sold and likely not much fewer then around ~24,000 copies sold, all assuming of course that sales of issue #400 followed the average.  

By the way, check out what happened to the newsstand return numbers towards the end of the 1990s… they fell off the proverbial cliff and crossed into the 5-digits… by 2001-2008 the average return numbers for Amazing Spider-Man fluctuated in a range of just 17,210-42,593 copies (which means the actual newsstand sales were positively minuscule — with numbers like these you can start to understand just why I’m so incredibly fond of late modern newsstand comics, especially the ones CGC does “break out” as variants such as the $2.99 cover price variants from 2003-2006)!

Fun fact: in 1995 when Amazing Spider-Man #400 was sold, this was how you might have connected to the Internet:

It really is quite amazing how much information access and sharing ability collectors have today, versus collectors of past decades. Today, it is possible to gain more knowledge about newsstand comics in one afternoon of reading, than collectors of past decades were able to accumulate over the course of years!

And so with Amazing Spider-Man #400 what for past collectors might have seemed like a situation of a newsstand comic, we collectors of today can very quickly come to understand these bar codes and definitively conclude that the “regular cover” copies of Amazing Spider-Man #400 are not newsstand copies but rather are direct edition copies; and, we can also spot the “real” newsstand copies:


And for all the readers who have contacted me looking for help with this particular issue of Amazing Spider-Man #400 (and anyone else who has stumbled upon this post looking to making sense of the current marketplace information for this issue), I hope that reading this far that you have now learned not only the answer to the puzzle but why that answer is the indisputable truth — in other words, if I’ve done my job here today then you can now explain to another collector just why the regular-cover direct edition is indeed a direct edition…  And I applaud you for expanding your newsstand versus direct edition knowledge! 🙂

Extra tidbit: Some sharp-eyed readers may have noticed that for some of the later-year direct edition examples I showed (the #678 and #700), the second set of numbers along the bottom of the bar code on direct edition copies was different from the #379 and #400 examples… with those earlier examples reading “02457” while the later examples reading “04716” in this spot.  If you spotted this and wondered why, the answer is that the code switched from 02457 to 04716 on direct edition copies starting at the point of volume #2 issue #1 in January 1999:


I hope you have found this article helpful, and I wish you Happy Collecting! 🙂

– Ben