My name is Benjamin Nobel, and I’d like to welcome you to the Rare Comics Blog!
Below you will find a list of my latest posts by category, followed by a welcome/introduction which I would encourage you to read if this is the first time you’ve landed here.
Articles & Resources
There are three known instances of Type 1A cover price variants: (1) Canadian Price Variants (2) Australian Price Variants, and (3) Pence Price Variants.
Also see: General Comics Topics; Newsstand Comics; TMNT; Spawn; Savage Dragon.
General Comic Book Topics
11/2015 – My manifesto: Rare Comics To Collect [ companion slideshow ]
6/2016 – Star Wars #1-4 35¢ Cover — Also, Other Price Variants You DIDN’T Know Existed! [Related slideshow: 10 Overlooked Star Wars Comics To Rival 35 Cent Variants]
12/2016 – An Open Letter To Overstreet [C’mon guys, well past time to break out newsstand comics in the guide, especially 1980’s cover price variants]
1/2017 – Variant vs. Variant: Amazing Spider-Man #678 (Mary Jane Venom) vs. #607 (Black Cat $3.99 Cover Price)
2/2017 – Lists of Key Comic Books by Year [2021 update]
3/2017 – Future classic cover contenders: 7 Variants Destined For Future Classic Cover Status [ companion cover swipes slideshow ]
4/2017 – X-Men Annual #14 (1st Gambit Debate)
12/2017 – CGC 9.8 Census Comparison: 1970’s Keys vs. 1980’s Keys
7/2018 – The “Cover Swipe Test”: 2 More Price Variant Keys Passing It
8/2018 – How Many Amazing Spider-Man Stan Lee CGC SS Books Exist? [11/30/2018 update: How Many Stan Lee CGC Signature Series Books Exist?]
9/2018 – 6 Epic CGC Labeling Blunders Of Price Variant Comics And What We Can Learn From Them
12/2019 – No Month Variants / Pre-Pack Editions / Whitman 3-Pack Variants
4/2020 – Collecting Comics During The Coronavirus Pandemic
3/2021 – Lists Of Key Comics By Year/Decade (Now with label notes included!)
4/2021 – Will NFTs Be Part Of The Future Of Comic Book Collecting?
6/2021 – The Overstreet Grading Guide, Staple Replacement, and ASM 238 Tattooz
12/2021 – Saga of the Swamp Thing: 1st John Constantine Appearance
11/2015 – Comic Book Newsstand Editions: Understanding The Difference
6/2016 – Wolverine Limited Series #1 — Where Are The Newsstand Copies??
6/2016 – Strange but true: Amazing Spider-Man / Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man / Sensational Spider-Man
6/2016 – Newsstand Vs. Direct Edition Comics
8/2016 – Newsstand Variants, $3.99 Newsstand Editions, and The Doc Collection [Also see: $2.29 and $2.49 price variants for Amazing Spider-Man v2 #10, #11, & #13]
9/2016 – Newsstand Rarity Discussions & Estimates
1/2017 – Darker Image #1 — Newsstand $1.95 Cover Price Variant (1st Maxx Appearance)
2/2017 – People are noticing newsstand comics! The WordPress stats page tells me that someone found my blog today by searching the web on the phrase “why are newsstand comics worth more?” … They have asked a great question — so I put up a new page to answer that exact question! 🙂 [Related: “Nice book, too bad it’s a direct edition”]
4/2017 – Daredevil #21, $3.99 Newsstand Edition (Superior Spider-Man Cameo)
4/2017 – Applause to CBCS Now Recognizing Newsstand Comics!
5/2017 – What If Venom Possessed Deadpool? What If There Was A Rare Cover Price Variant?
5/2017 – What If Venom Possessed Wolverine? (New Avengers #35, $3.99 Newsstand Edition)
5/2017 – DC Rebirth, $3.99 Newsstand Editions
6/2017 – $2.99 Newsstand Edition CGC Census Variants, and, “Partial Cover Price Variations” $1.99 Newsstands Too!
6/2017 – 30 More Newsstand Census Variants Confirmed at CGC Since Year-End
7/2017 – Amazing Spider-Man #400: Understanding The Real Newsstand Edition
8/2017 – Applause To CPG Accepting $3.99 Cover Price Variants Into The Price Guide!
4/2019 – Marvel Annual Newsstand Numbering: Uncanny X-Men
[7/2019 — check out these cool finds courtesy of Kurt Halvorsen including newsstand issues with bar-code-on-the-front similar to Amazing Spider-Man v2 #36, finds among Marvel’s 70th Anniversary Magazines, as well as Daredevil Volume 2, Marvel Knights, Citizen V, Hulk Smash, and Banner!]
5/2020 – Applause To CBCS Releasing Their Census!
5/2020 – Newsstand Rarity By Year: CBCS Census
7/2020 – That Newsstand Comic You Didn’t Know You Owned May Be Worth Over $8000
2/2021 – CBCS Population Report: A Quick Guide To Understanding Newsstand, Direct, and CPV Census Numbers
3/2021 – Spider-Man #1 (1990): Newsstand Variants Versus The Rest
10/2021 – First Appearance of Spider-Man 2099: Don’t Forget Web #90!
9/2022 – Applause To CGC Now Recognizing Newsstand (And Multi-Pack) Comics!
Canadian Price Variants
4/2016 – 75 Cent Variants (Canadian Newsstand Editions)
6/2016 – A practical guide: Canadian Price Variants — How To Spot Them
6/2016 – D.C. Comics “Canadian Editions” — Likely Only 2-7% [ May 2019 update: CGC announced that as of May 6, 2019, they will label as “Canadian Price Variant” instead of “Canadian Edition” going forward 🙂 ]
6/2016 – Slideshow: Rare 1980’s Price Variants To Collect
7/2016 – The 75¢ Price Puzzle: Parallels To 35¢ Variants
12/2016 – Wow, just 1-2% of CGC graded #252 copies for a decade and a half: Amazing Spider-Man #252 75¢ “Canadian Edition” Variant: CGC Census Rarity Over Time
12/2016 – Marvel Graphic Novel #4 — $5.95 Cover Price Variant (1st New Mutants Appearance)
4/2017 – 95¢ and $1.00 DC Price Variants: How Do We Know What They Are?
4/2017 – 66 New Canadian Price Variants Confirmed at CGC Since Year-End, a 16% Increase
8/2017 – The Orange Cat Phenomenon (and Canadian Price Variants)
10/2017 – The 2018 Price Guide for 1980’s Marvel & DC Newsstand Canadian Cover Price Variants (Type 1A)
10/2017 – Amazing Spider-Man #238: The Tattooz Situation
10/2017 – “Canadian Edition” vs. “Canadian Price Variant”
11/2017 – Our Type 1A Price Guide Featured In Scoop! [And again for our 2019 edition!]
2/2018 – Investing in Canadian Price Variants: 11 Tips
4/2018 – Three Variants That Surprised Me
6/2018 – Voltron #1-3, Type 1A $1.00 Cover Price Variants
6/2018 – Incremental Improvement to CGC’s “Canadian Edition” Labeling [5/2019 update: Another, even better, improvement was just announced by CGC!]
10/2018 – Applause To CBCS’s New “75¢ Canadian Price Variant” Labeling
10/2018 – The 2019 Price Guide for 1980’s Marvel & DC Newsstand Canadian Cover Price Variants (Type 1A)
10/2018 – Canadian Price Variants: Noteworthy Sales
10/2018 – Two Ways To Win Update [ from our 2019 Guide’s new Market Reports & Articles section — don’t miss the other great original articles there! ]
1/2019 – Archie Canadian/Pence Price Variants and the Betty’s Diary #36 Mystery
1/2019 – Gladstone Canadian Price Variants
3/2019 – ThunderCats #1 True Canadian Price Variant vs. 75¢ “Logo” Copies
5/2019 – Applause to CGC Now Labeling Type 1A’s as “Canadian Price Variant”, “Australian Price Variant”, and “UK Price Variant”
6/2019 – Archie Canadian Price Variants
8/2019 – CPV Discussions In Overstreet #49 Market Reports
11/2019 – Top 100 Variants of the 2020 CPV Price Guide
5/2020 – Applause To CBCS Releasing Their Census!
8/2020 – Whitman 1984 Canadian Price Variants
8/2020 – The Story of the Wawa Collection
12/2020 – Top 100 Variants of the 2021 CPV Price Guide
12/2020 – List of 1st Appearances (& 2nd) in the 2021 CPV Price Guide
12/2020 – Top CGC Grades For Top Canadian Price Variants
2/2021 – CBCS Population Report: A Quick Guide To Understanding Newsstand, Direct, and CPV Census Numbers
11/2021 – CPVs: The Even Rarer Newsstand Choice
2023 CPV Price Guide Launched
As part of our latest price guide to Canadian Price Variant comics, we have a robust Market Reports & Articles section with market reports and articles contributed by guide collaborators as well as outside contributors. These reports & articles each represent the views of the individual authors. Below, click any report title to read the full article. For convenience, prior years’ articles are included; new articles published subsequent to last year’s guide are denoted with: ““
By Bill Alexander — “Now is a great time to buy key CPV books in high certified grade at incredibly low bargain prices …” [ continue reading » ]
By Bill Alexander — “The gap between certified 9.6 and 9.8 books in what they sell for, is still continuing to grow wider and wider. At comic book auction houses, I have noticed that some certified 9.8 graded copies of popular key books are sometimes …” [ continue reading » ]
By Bill Alexander — “It appears there has been a big noticeable increase in demand for newsstand edition comics versus direct edition comics especially with certified 9.8 grade comics published from 1979 on …” [ continue reading » ]
By Bill Alexander — “I have noticed a continuing widening gap in sales prices between certified 9.6 graded comics and certified 9.8 graded comics that are of the same issue number. …” [ continue reading » ]
By Bill Alexander, Salvatore Miceli, and Benjamin Nobel — “Everyone knows about Marvel’s 35¢ cover price variants from 1977 (Type 1), but few know that Harvey published 35¢ Type 1A cover price variants in 1974… and 1973… and 1972… and… ” [ continue reading » ]
By Bill Alexander and James Gilbreath — “2018 saw many record breaking and high end sales for Canadian price variants in the hobby …” [ continue reading » ]
By Tim Bildhauser — “The comparison that comes to mind, at least for me, is that in the middle of the chaos, the CPV market turned out to be the CD of the investment market as opposed to openly traded stocks …” [ continue reading » ]
By Tim Bildhauser — “Much like the rest of the comic market I believe we’re seeing the threshold begin to lower in terms of what constitutes an acceptable grade. Collectors are realizing that there are some CPVs that are out of their price range in the higher grades …” [ continue reading » ]
By Tim Bildhauser — “This year we saw unprecedented sales, some of which were record highs and others that are so consistent that they firmly established the fact that mainstream collectors have accepted and embraced CPVs as an unquestionably legitimate part of the hobby …” [ continue reading » ]
By Tim Bildhauser — “Regardless of which perspective one may have about CPVs, there’s no doubt and no denying that they’re becoming a greater force in the mainstream of comic collecting …” [ continue reading » ]
By Tim Bildhauser — “One of the main styles of collecting comics, that is growing in popularity, is assembling what is referred to as a set …” [ continue reading » ]
By Paul Clairmont — “It was not easy to predict what would become more expensive because conventional economics didn’t drive pricing in collectibles during the pandemic and especially in a niche area such as Canadian Price Variants …” [ continue reading » ]
By Paul Clairmont — “People need to remember the distribution channels for these books was not speciality shops with owners wearing white gloves carefully laying them out for the fine art crowd to come and carefully handle. These books were stuffed into unforgiving newsstands and spinner racks in convenience stores and grocery stores with employees unloading them with the same care as tossing tin cans of corn onto a store shelf …” [ continue reading » ]
By Paul Clairmont — “If you can achieve being first to market with the highest certified copy of even a semi-key book you can almost set your price …” [ continue reading » ]
By Paul Clairmont — “Here is a simple and very common-sense approach to understand the scarcity of Canadian Price Variant comics …” [ continue reading » ]
By Stephen Cranch — “They’re not the easiest set of variants to collect and some appear to be quite scarce. I love Charlton myself, so will be slowly picking off those remaining books until I hopefully one day complete the set …” [ continue reading » ]
By Walter Durajlija and Jay Halstead — “Can you believe, with how hot this book has been, that it’s now been almost 4 years since an Amazing Spider-Man #238 CPV has sold in 9.8? …” [ continue reading » ]
By Walter Durajlija — “I would advise collectors in Canada to zoom out and keep the ‘big picture’ in mind when it comes to Type 1A variant scarcity …” [ continue reading » ]
By James Gilbreath — “The disrespect is real. But why? …” [ continue reading » ]
By James Gilbreath — “The CPV window was open for a considerable period of time and encompassed an incredibly fertile period of game changing imagination and innovation in the industry. There are so many keys to choose from during this era, a more detailed examination is called for …” [ continue reading » ]
By James Gilbreath — “Once a niche topic, CPV discussion has exploded on comic forums everywhere in the last few years …” [ continue reading » ]
By Jay Halstead — “I’ve always felt Spidey and Star Wars are the two easiest CPV’s to find, as it should be, as these were immensely popular titles during that time. But in high grade, most of the Star Wars CPVs are still extremely elusive …” [ continue reading » ]
By Jay Halstead — “Bob Overstreet used to preach the slow and steady approach, which I’m not a huge fan of, when a book goes up and is trading for a higher amount, my feeling is that the book should show significant upward momentum in my survey. But unlike Bob who rarely went backwards on values, we are a small unit who still are early enough into this where we can make corrections where need be …” [ continue reading » ]
By Greg Holland — “The year-to-date 2022 average CGC sales prices for the top 100 books with a CPV have reflected multipliers of: CGC 9.8 – 2.4x; CGC 9.6 – 2.0x; CGC 9.4 – 1.6x; CGC 9.2 – 1.2x …” [ continue reading » ]
By Greg Holland — “The CGC Census reported percentages of CPV books for Marvel and D.C. Comics in the 1980s is currently 2.7% and 2.9%, respectively …” [ continue reading » ]
By Tony LeBlanc — “I started classifying comics as CPVs about 12 years ago. At first, I was surprised to see that roughly 80% of all my sales were predominantly from fellow Canadians. Now that CPVs are more mainstream, I would estimate that about 65% of my CPV sales goes to the States and this percentage continues to rise …” [ continue reading » ]
By Jon McClure — “I have long argued that Type 1A variants of all eras would climb in interest due to scarcity …” [ continue reading » ]
By Jon McClure — “It’s been a fun and challenging ride so far, and I think it’s just getting started for Type 1a Variants, so sit back and enjoy the fireworks …” [ continue reading » ]
By Salvatore Miceli — “With all the recent talk of a planned sequel for the Beetlejuice movie this line of six issues is likely to have the biggest potential rise in value of all the 90’s Harvey comics that they released …” [ continue reading » ]
By Salvatore Miceli — “The demand for Gladstone, Archie and Harveys are still in its infancy. The growth potential in CPV values for these 3 publishers is massive in my personal opinion especially given that most 30-40 year olds are familiar enough with most of the properties to feel comfortable and nostalgic enough to begin investing in them …” [ continue reading » ]
By Jayden Mitchell — “In many cases, that is the deciding factor in my opinion: the availability of certain books, regardless of their significance, is the driving factor in their value …” [ continue reading » ]
By Jayden Mitchell — “We have become known for our selection of Canadian Price Variants & intend to continue expanding our CPV inventory …” [ continue reading » ]
By Benjamin Nobel — “Even though this is a Type 1B price variant, "thinking Type 1A" is how I actually found one myself …” [ continue reading » ]
By Benjamin Nobel — “Long-time readers may already be familiar with Jon McClure’s once-"controversial" stance on the Tattooz inside of Amazing Spider-Man #238, with Jon advocating that their absence should not cause an "INCOMPLETE" label …” [ continue reading » ]
By Benjamin Nobel — “I attribute a lot of the growth in our guide’s website usage to one of the "mega-trends" that has been slowly unfolding in our hobby: investment grade newsstand comics from the copper and modern ages have slowly but surely …” [ continue reading » ]
By Benjamin Nobel — “In today’s age of an endless supply of ‘manufactured-rarity’ retailer incentive variants we could choose to take home, many of which collectors are asked to shell out $25-$50+ to own, it is so nice by contrast to have a universe of ‘naturally-occurring’ Type 1A price variants within the world of 1980’s (and 1990’s) newsstand comics …” [ continue reading » ]
By Benjamin Nobel — “These are Quite Rare in High Grade, with 9.2 copies worth $75.00 or more each …” [ continue reading » ]
By Benjamin Nobel — “A lot of the big DC Canadian Price Variant comics are shockingly hard to find compared against Marvel …” [ continue reading » ]
By Benjamin Nobel — “When collecting any given key comic book issue, it is better to have two ways to win, than just one …” [ continue reading » ]
By Philip Standhart and Craig Foxhoven — “When he opened the door, Craig and I were speechless …” [ continue reading » ]
By Doug Sulipa — “This year I’ve provided guide values for each of the Harvey CPVs … ” [ continue reading » ]
By Doug Sulipa — “Since these are KIDS comics, very few exist in 9.0 or better, with Almost NO Copies Yet Graded by CGC … ” [ continue reading » ]
By Doug Sulipa — “Canadian Newsstand Cover Price VARIANT editions, were easily our #1 bestselling VARIANTS of the year … ” [ continue reading » ]
By Angelo Virone — “A growing segment of the collecting community is discovering the desirability and true scarcity of CPV’s and now they want to own a piece of the pie …” [ continue reading » ]
By Angelo Virone — “I predict with confidence, if the economy holds up, Key CPV’s will break many more records given that new collectors as well as seasoned ones, not yet into this space, develop a better understanding of their true potential …” [ continue reading » ]
By Angelo Virone — “Given the fact that regular newsstand copies for key Copper and Modern age books are now selling at multiples to their direct edition counterparts, I strongly believe and predict that KEY CPV’s in the highest grades are presently under-valued as newsstand price variants because they are the scarcest of the first printings …” [ continue reading » ]
By Angelo Virone — “It’s interesting to see well known collectors who never fully got into Canadian Price Variant comics now entering the space paying big bucks for top graded key issues … ” [ continue reading » ]
By Angelo Virone and Benjamin Nobel — “The Quebec Effect definitely would have had some noteworthy directional impact on the "big picture" rarity characteristics for Canadian Price Variant comics … ” [ continue reading » ]
By Angelo Virone — “Introducing my personal method when investing: I call it my ‘Comic Score Card‘ … “
[ continue reading » ]
Australian Price Variants
1/2017 – New Mutants #98 — $1.50 Cover Price Variant (1st Deadpool Appearance) [ related definition: Type 1A Price Variants ]
5/2017 – AUS Price Variants (Australian Newsstand Editions)
5/2019 – Applause to CGC Now Labeling Type 1A’s as “Canadian Price Variant”, “Australian Price Variant”, and “UK Price Variant”
9/2019 – Part III! Australian Price Variants (“APVs”)
10/2021 – First Appearance of Spider-Man 2099: Don’t Forget Web #90!
Pence Price Variants
7/2011 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 (first print 1984)
7/2011 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #3 (NYCC variant)
7/2011 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #4 (misprint)
7/2011 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 (2009 Color Special Error Edition)
2/2014 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles v2 #13 (Error Edition)
8/2015 – How To Draw Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 (Manufacturing Error)
9/2015 – Creed / Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 Blue/Bronze Subscriber Edition
7/2016 – 1st Appearance of Krang in Comics
5/2018 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures: VideoMedia and Archie
11/2015 – Spawn #1 Black & White Edition Variant
11/2015 – Spawn/The Savage Dragon #1 (1996)
11/2015 – Rust #1 Limited Edition (Pre-dates Spawn #1 and Malibu Sun #13)
12/2015 – Spawn #9 Newsstand Edition (1st Angela)
1/2016 – Spawn Batman Newsstand Edition
1/2016 – Spawn #1 Newsstand Edition
5/2016 – Spawn Newsstand Values Pulling Away From Direct Edition
10/2015 – Graphic Fantasy #1 (First appearance of the “original” Savage Dragon)
1/2016 – Graphic Fantasy #2
11/2015 – Savage Dragon #30 Newsstand Edition (As Seen on TV Variant)
11/2015 – Savage Dragon #10 Newsstand Variant
1/2016 – Savage Dragon #102 (Invincible First Appearance)
1/2016 – Savage Dragon #1/2 w/Platinum Stamp
2/2016 – Savage Dragon #137 (1st Obama Cover)
2/2016 – Savage Dragon Limited Series #1 Newsstand Edition
7/2016 – 1st Appearance of Savage Dragon
Welcome & Introduction
Hi, thanks for stopping by!
I started blogging about Rare Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Comics in 2011, then created a blog for Rare Spawn Comics and Rare Savage Dragon Comics — with these characters ranking among my favorite all-time comic book superheroes outside of the Marvel universe and DC universe. 🙂
The format of those blogs has been to profile specific rare and interesting (and hence valuable and/or highly collectible) comics. For example, I profiled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 (May 1984) which is the most highly valued and collectible TMNT comic book of all time, with a print run of just 3,000 copies and featuring the first appearance of the turtles (that blog entry also touches upon Gobbledygook, which was hand-produced on a Xerox photocopier on legal-size paper folded in half and stapled by hand).
I have also profiled the little-known comic Graphic Fantasy #1 (1982) which was a pre-Megaton fanzine self-published by Erik Larsen with a print run of just several hundred copies and containing the first appearance of the “original” incarnation of Savage Dragon. On account of being so incredibly scarce and therefore nearly invisible, the industry completely overlooked it for years and credited Megaton #2/3 with the key first character appearance… But recently some copies of Graphic Fantasy were graded and the CGC “1st appearance credits” for Savage Dragon comics were re-considered and are now allocated differently than they’d been before.
On the Spawn blog I have profiled such comics as the Spawn #1 “Black & White Edition” (1997) which had a print run on the order of 3,100 copies and Rust #1 “Special Limited Edition” (April 1992) which had a restricted print run believed to be limited to 10,000 copies and features a pre-Spawn-#1 full page black & white pin-up by Todd McFarlane to promote the upcoming release of Spawn #1 — that pin-up featuring a sketch of the artwork later used for the cover of Spawn #2, and including a “prototype” Spawn logo that was later tossed aside in favor of the logo ultimately used in the series.
For this blog, I will post about general comic book collecting “themes” that I find to be particularly interesting — like newsstand vs. direct edition comics — and over time I will also profile specific comics outside of Spawn, Savage Dragon, or the TMNT. This blog is also now the home for the hobby’s very first online comic book price guide for Type 1A 1980’s newsstand cover price variants from Marvel & DC.
A recurring “theme” I will return to often in the Savage Dragon and Spawn blogs, is that when Image Comics made its debut in 1992, the Newsstand Distribution Channel for comic books in general was already in major decline. To attain any newsstand distribution against that backdrop was a challenge for Image; collectors would learn in 2013 that Image sold only on the order of 1% of their comics on newsstands versus 99% direct sold to comic shops.
This ratio for Image already creates a disparity in rarity that is critical for collecting early Image keys (where collectors should arguably clearly prefer the newsstand copies which have UPC codes on them — the prevalent direct edition copies lack these UPC codes). But equally interesting is that the challenging nature of newsstand distribution led Image to elect manufacturing choices for their newsstand print runs that in some cases were different from their direct edition print runs — in other words, the newsstand print runs were often produced differently!
These differences were likely to control costs, with choices such as manufacturing the newsstand copies with cheap newsprint paper instead of glossy; or different thickness paper for the cover; or omitting special features like centerfold posters. As a result of these manufacturing differences — when they occurred — CGC treats such newsstand copies as distinct “variants” on the CGC census. Meaning we can actually study some data on how many of each type (direct edition and newsstand) have been graded!
And in addition to manufacturing differences, there are other “special situations” where CGC breaks out newsstand versions as distinct variants on census. You may see CGC graded comics that say “Newsstand Edition” but also “Canadian Price Variant” — and most recently you will find Newsstand Variants and $3.99/$4.99 Newsstand Editions (that last variant category — a “class” of cover price variants — only being created/recognized at CGC in 2016).
I believe that when collecting comics, it is better to have two ways to win, than just one. When there is a more rare version of a given comic available, but the more rare version is priced with little to no premium due to lack of awareness among other collectors, I want that more rare version instead of the prevalent one… Because if you can obtain the more rare version for similar cost, then you have two ways to win instead of one: the issue number itself may rise in value, and the rarity premium may grow if collectors come to recognize it in the future — much like what happened with 35 cent variants, which were broadly overlooked as a “class” of comics before 1998.
Relative value: that’s what I look for, that’s what intrigues me most, and that’s what I enjoy writing about. Thanks for visiting, and as you read any of my posts, if you have additional information you can add to the discussion that I missed, please do so in the comment section either on the post in question or here on the main page — I continue to be humbled and amazed at how much I learn from readers! 🙂
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392 thoughts on “Rare Comics: Welcome”
How do you add images to a post?
Hi Andrew, unfortunately WordPress doesn’t make it easy, there’s a way you could do it on your own but it involves jumping through a whole lot of hoops, so the easiest way to share a picture is to email it to me and then I’ll post it up — I will reach out to you by email now. – Ben
Thanks for sharing those pictures Andrew! Here they are for others to see below: the newsprint X-Men 367 is on top, and a direct edition ASM V2 #18 that Andrew found in his collection (when looking for a book published in the same year) is on bottom. You can really see the difference in paper quality… now the question becomes which paper will direct edition X-Men 367’s have?
And a close-up:
Hi everyone, just a quick note to say don’t worry, our great conversations here in the comments forum section did not disappear, all that happened is we reached whatever “magic number” of comments on the page where WordPress has as a trigger to automatically organize the comments into separate pages to make room for new ones.
To see earlier comments forum posts there’s an automatic “← OLDER COMMENTS” link to the left, and, you can also use these two shortcuts below:
Older comments page 1
Older comments page 2
Hi everyone, I’m starting to get a lot of inquiries about when to expect our 2020 guide to be published, so I wanted to let everyone know that we’re still hard at work on it, it will be worth the wait, and hopefully you’ll see it some time next month (but if not I’ll give another update).
– Ben p.s. Happy Halloween! Here’s a great CPV cover for today:
LikeLiked by 1 person
Benjamin, not sure if you’ve mentioned it here before, so I will, just in case. I’ve made a database designed to evaluate relative rarity of newsstand comics against expectations from your graph. All I’m doing is counting newsstand editions that show up in auctions at Heritage auctions, grouped as condition 9.2 and up and 9.0 and down. If the comic appears infrequently or not at all at auction, I count newsstand and direct copies on ebay. It isn’t going to be any more accurate than the data it is based on but there are some interesting trends showing up.
1) (As is well known) high grade newsstands are much rarer than low grade newsstands. For instance, the direct edition of Amazing Spider-Man (ASM) #233 (1982) appears 27 times for every copy of the newsstand edition. Low grade newsstand copies of this comic are not rare, scarce, or hard to find. High grade copies are hard to find.
2) Rarity is not solely determined by the year of publication.
2a) If you are looking for a rare newsstand McFarland Spider-Man, you are better off looking for a copy of ASM #301 than #298, 299, or 300. That is because #301 is more than three times as hard to find as #300, and about twice as hard to find as 298 and 299. What these show are issue-by-issue variants in scarcity within the same run, same story, same artist, same title. Later issues show the same variety, though at a much higher level of scarcity. For instance, ASM #606 appears 101 times in the direct edition for every newsstand copy found on ebay. Just a few issues later, issue 618 appears fourteen times as a direct edition for every newsstand copy. The most difficult to find early direct-era newsstand edition of ASM that I’ve identified is #265, which appears once for every 55 direct editions. One thing that skewed results for later issues are Mile High comics. They appear to be trying to sell lower grade comics on ebay while keeping high grade copies on their site. This means that there are examples where, out of about 100 comics, there might be five or six newsstand comics, all of which are from Mile High.
2b) Some titles appear to be more common as newsstand editions than others. Westerns like Jonah Hex seem to be easier to find. My impression is that Marvel and DC had an idea that certain titles would be more interesting to comic shop collectors than a general audience, so they altered the percentages to favor direct editions of those comics, and the opposite for comics they thought of as general interest.
2c) Pretty much all “event” comics are easier to find as newsstand copies, such as ASM 300, 350, and 700, than nearby issues that are not event issues, like ASM 299, 300, and 699. They are still harder to find than directs but not as rare as other newsstands from the same title. Issues that were not easily assessed as future keys at the time of publication, like ASM v2 #16 or ASM 569 are much harder to find.
3) As part of my database, I am trying to ascertain prices for the comics it contains. This is very difficult to do for a couple of reasons. The first is that newsstand comics are not accurately priced or identified in Overstreet, which is the only source I know of that lists a price for every comic. For that reason, I am ignoring Overstreet for everything published after around 1995.
GoCollect has a lot of gaps for modern comics. The comics are listed but most entries don’t distinguish between direct and newsstand variants and many don’t have prices. Heritage Auctions doesn’t auction many moderns and rarely mentions whether the issue is a newsstand copy. Ebay is the best online source I’ve found for newsstands but many issues aren’t represented as newsstand editions. Newsstand editions are often readily available at Overstreet prices.
Mile High Comics does break out prices for direct and newsstand comics but only if they have them in stock. There are many gaps in their stock, often with the most interesting issues, like ASM 569, Red Hulk #1 and 2, ASM v2 #19, and many others. Another problem with Mile High Comics is that their online pricing does not match what they sell the comics for on ebay (though lower grade copies only), nor prices I see elsewhere. Overall, their prices are very high.
The prices I have paid for some newsstand comics far exceeds what Overstreet or GoCollect indicate fair market value is but are significantly less than Mile High’s prices. For the most part, I find myself paying very close to Overstreet for older newsstands, like ASM #298-320, less than Overstreet for less collectible modern titles, and around 5x Overstreet for hard to find collectible issues like Daredevil V3 #21, the first Superior Spider-Man. I probably need to find a better way to price these, so advice on that is appreciated. In the meantime, I have come to the following conclusions:
1) Almost any modern newsstand you manage to find will cost, at most, 3x fair market value for the corresponding direct if the issue is a key. If it is a particularly interesting key, it can go for as much as 5x.
2) Modern newsstand comics that aren’t keys don’t cost more than their direct counterparts, both of which are often found in boxes of comics priced at one or two dollars each.
3) Mile High’s prices are out of sync with the current market but I think that in some cases their prices are actually low. There are two reasons, and they may seem contradictory.
The first reason is that Mile High’s pricing formula does not take into account issue-by-issue fluctuations in scarcity. They apply the same price multiplier to comics that dramatically differ in scarcity, simply because they were published in the same year.
The second reason is that Mile High is paying attention to the scarcity of newsstand editions in general by pricing them well above current market prices. Looked at from their point of view, I think this might be because they know what the approximate rarity is and how difficult it will be to replenish their supply of newsstand editions once they are sold. If, for instance, they have one copy of a newsstand ASM 606 in fine condition (and none above), as their site currently reflects, why sell it for the current FMV of around $75 when they know that of the last 101 copies sold on ebay, none were newsstand copies? The likelihood of seeing another copy, particular in high grade, would appear to be quite low, so they seem to have decided to sit on their copies until demand reaches their current pricing. They seem secure enough financially to wait out the period of time it takes for collectors to realize how hard it is to find these comics. This reminds me of Uncle Scrooge’s cunning when, on a trip to the desert, he takes a water bag while Donald fills his sack with gold. In the end, Scrooge gets all of Donald’s gold.
This brings me to the issue of pricing. There was a thread on CGC about this topic but it was hopelessly derailed by a couple of people who seem to want to stamp out all attempts to discuss newsstand pricing. From my perspective, I take the Star Wars #1 35 cent price variant as the upper limit benchmark, namely the recent auction sale of a CGC 9.4 copy for $26,290. The highest price at a Heritage auction for the 30 cent version of the same comic in 9.8 condition is $2,151. Based on normal condition multipliers, a 9.4 price of $26,290 would translate to around $50,000 (or more) in 9.8. That means there is an approximately 25x multiplier for the price variant of that comic. What this means to me is that, no matter how rare a newsstand comic might be, the market won’t tolerate a multiplier greater than 25x, and then only for a highly sought after issue.
I have already paid as much as $40 for comics listed in Overstreet for five or six dollars, simply because they were so hard to find. I should note that I also have paid much more but in those cases, the direct version of the comic was also expensive. For instance, ASM V2 #36, which I paid a little over $100 for. Therefore, in my own case, I can support a 5x-8x multiplier because I have paid it more than once. I suspect others have as well, based on the offerings I don’t get in ebay auctions. I don’t see many newsstand edition comics listed for more than $60 when the corresponding direct edition normally sells for twenty dollars or less. My impression is that sellers who are aware of newsstand rarity try to sell for around 3x the direct price but will come down slightly if bargained with.
4) Current market value of modern newsstand editions is about 3x direct value.
5) Potential newsstand value maxes out at 25x direct value.
6) It is very easy to increase the actual or apparent rarity of newsstands by collecting them. When a newsstand issue appears once for every 126 copies of the direct edition, and you buy that copy, then for someone else, it is zero out of 125. This will inevitably drive prices up. My concern about this is that collectors who hoard these comics will inevitably skew the apparent rarity of comics in their collection, exactly as Mile High skews it when they release multiple low grade copies on ebay.
What is the actual value to me? I call it “potential value” because it is the value when it is worth sacrificing the comic regardless how difficult it is to find another. Here, I find myself more or less agreeing with Mile High’s pricing, apart from their disregard for individual issue rarity differences as well as the rarity of high grade newsstands in general. For instance, I would rather have a high grade ASM 265, 301 or 316 than a 238, 300, or 344. That said, I will stop collecting these before newsstand edition prices hit Mile High pricing. Part of the reason I am collecting newsstand editions instead of the bronze age comics I originally wanted to collect is that their current pricing vs. their potential value is much lower than bronze age comics, many of which have likely reached their full potential. That means there is a possibility that I can later sell or trade them for more of the bronze age comics I wanted than I could have had for the same amount of money.
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The database you’re working on sounds fantastic! I wish CGC would finally start breaking out newsstand versus direct edition comics broadly, so that this type of study could eventually be done directly from their census (and I am looking forward to CBCS releasing their own census — now that they’ve been breaking out newsstand comics for a number of years there should be some very interesting data there to sift through), but in the meantime, marketplace studies like you’re doing are a great substitute. It sounds like you are learning a lot! 🙂 I like your idea of making two groups in the study, one group with 9.0 and lower and the other with 9.2 and higher, I think that is an excellent approach.
Great observations about the issue-by-issue differences you observed. I think it makes sense that collector behavior would have been different for any “event” comics that were immediately sought after… If there was a line of kids at the comic shop for a particular event issue, I picture some of those collectors who may not have had their fill at the shop, heading to the newsstands to add more copies. I think this phenomenon may help explain the ASM #252 Canadian Price Variant census data. Certainly a big event book: Spider-Man has a new costume, we’ve got the Amazing Fantasy #15 cover swipe, the cover saying “The rumors are true… introducing the new Spider-Man” … it was an issue that would have been immediately treated as something important to collect. And of all the Canadian Price Variant comics on census, the one with the most graded copies on record is ASM #252.
On the CGC census we see 11,151 copies of the book in their main census entry (grouping direct editions plus 60¢ newsstand copies), versus 304 Canadian Price Variant newsstand copies… so ~2.65% of the total are CPVs. Interesting contrast between this one and a book like ASM #265, which you mentioned. Today, #265 is clearly highly collectable as the 1st appearance of Silver Sable; but the cover doesn’t give the book away as anything special (“The Fox is back… and Spidey’s gotta save him!”) and I don’t see any reason why it might have been particularly sought after at the time of release in terms of being any kind of “event” book. And on census we see 1,860 copies of the book in their main census entry, versus 22 Canadian Price Variant copies… so ~1.17% of the total are CPVs. Quite a difference in the CPV percentage comparing these two ASM issues! Perhaps the “event vs. non event” phenomenon helps to explain part of the difference.
You make an interesting observation too about how some entire titles are easier to find in newsstand. Westerns being easier to find strikes me as making some sense, as I picture those having found a customer base more heavily weighted to actual readers.
Great discussion on marketplace pricing! I’d add that the approach I’ve advocated of hunting for “mis-listed” copies (not titled/identified as newsstand but clearly picturing a newsstand copy) has — for me at least — gotten harder and harder to accomplish as time continues to pass. I do still land mis-listed copies (for “regular” direct edition price tags) these days but at a far reduced rate versus when I first started collecting them. I think people are growing more aware of the newsstand versus direct edition distinction, and are much more likely these days to properly list their newsstand books when selling them (and more likely to demand a premium). I think there are many other collectors out there sifting for these mis-listed opportunities too, and I think that collectively, we have an impact on pricing: the more “frustrated” we get waiting around for a mis-listed copy of what we’re hunting for, the more likely we are to be willing to pony up a premium for a properly listed one.
With regard to Star Wars #1, I too particularly like to use that issue when thinking about benchmarking and potential. It is interesting to contemplate what a 9.8 copy of the 35¢ variant might sell for in theory. But another thing we can look at is the actual 9.2 multiple given by Overstreet. Back in their 2010 guide they gave a ~26x multiple for the variant over the regular copies of issue #1; in this year’s guide that’s up to a ~51x multiple. Meanwhile the 35¢ variant multiple Overstreet gives for issues #2-4 is ~24x in 9.2 … but back in 2010 they only gave a 3.33x variant multiple for issues #2-4! Quite an expansion in multiple since then!
It is interesting to think about these multiples in context of the CGC census numbers; for issue #4 for example, there are 803 regular copies on census versus 78 variants — so 8.85% of the current total are the variants. A lot of those census copies are lower grade however, which makes sense to me, because as the market value of the variants exploded, it made more and more economic sense to for people to send in their lower-grade variant copies to CGC. If we just look at the 9.2-and-up census counts, variants make up just 2% of the 9.2-and-higher total for issue #4.
You made a really interesting comment with regard to the impact a single collector can have in cases where the newsstand rarity is particularly pronounced. With some of these books that are particularly hard to find, I imagine that a determined collector could literally attempt to “corner the market” for a targeted issue by trying to buy/win whenever they see one. And a good point too about the unknown surrounding what is currently off the market and sitting in collections (but might come back onto the market if/when newsstand rarity premium expands sufficiently that they are tempted to sell).
As you build out the database I hope you’ll keep the great newsstand observations coming! 🙂
Glad you liked my comments. Quite a different response from CGC, where I got discouraged from posting long before I had made the points made here.
BTW, I realized that I had a newsstand copy of ASM V2 #18 to compare to my direct and it does appear to be printed on newsprint, in contrast to the direct copy. That said, it isn’t as obvious as the other newsprint copies I have because the condition is so good. A copy in poorer condition would be easier to see the difference I think. All three of my ASM V2 #12’s are clearly on newsprint. Others are less clear. The newsprint copies have thicker, yellower paper, non-newsprint pages are brighter, more prone to light gray paper, and have more shine. Very high grade newsstand copies that appear to be printed on newsprint are only detectable as such by looking at their edges, where several pages together betray the tell-tale yellow cast to the paper. Opening those copies it is still visible but only barely. Another thing I am looking at is the paper in copies printed before the direct era, when all comics were printed on newsprint, and copies of certain comics that I know were printed on better paper, like Dark Horse’s Next Men series, using those as comparatives.
Because high grade copies are more desirable and the paper quality is harder to spot in them, I would like to see a comprehensive review of this question sometime.
Glad you spotted the ASM 252 relative rarity. I had intended to mention that issue but forgot because I find the 238/265 and 300/301 examples more striking. Also because I cut ASM 252 from my list of collectible comics some time ago, so I just don’t think about it that often. According to my database, ASM 252 was auctioned 385 times by Heritage at the time I checked. Of those, 201 were newsstand versions, making it more common than the direct version. This was true of 9.2 and up copies (167/163) and below (34/21).
Forgot to mention another issue related to pricing that I am curious about: how much will the market bear? I think that rarity alone can’t trump available cash to buy the comics. Therefore, once the price multipliers exceed customers ability to pay, price ceilings will be reached even if they don’t accurately reflect the real world rarity of the comics. I’ve owned one “one of a kind” and one “one of three known” comics listed in Overstreet, Korea My Home, and Feature Book NN (Dick Tracy), both of which are worth less than some copper age comics, despite being much rarer. Clearly, rarity is not the only factor. Another example are the many high prices paid for early comics by Carl Barks, many of which had press runs that exceeded a million copies.
Price variants are worth a premium over non price variants, and I’ve seen people construct lists of the 170 or so issues published by Marvel that had the price variants. Those collectors want all of the price variants regardless of the title, characters, artist, writer, or story. In short, they are only interested because they are price variants. With around 170 comics, I can picture it being a realistic prospect to collect them all. With newsstand variants, it isn’t realistic because there are too many. What that means to me is that price ceilings may be realized more quickly because there are so many more issues demanding a premium.
Another factor that is interesting to contemplate is that almost every issue of every title from 1979-2013 at Marvel, and through 2017 for DC has both a direct and newsstand version. That means that, unlike previous price variants, every single key book exists in a newsstand/variant version. With earlier price variants, the majority of issues are not particularly interesting for the titles, the characters, or the creative teams involved. With newsstand variants, collectors can seek out newsstand versions of every single “special” issue they care to collect. To me, this makes newsstand comics more interesting than the price variants of earlier eras. For instance, I prefer to have an ASM V2 #16, first appearance of the Ghost, drawn by John Byrne, than a random issue of Rawhide Kid drawn by whoever was drawing filler stories back then.
A third concern I had, though no longer, is that instead of increasing prices of newsstand comics, interest in newsstand version would put downward pressure on direct edition pricing, leaving newsstands at the original pricing for directs. That doesn’t seem to be happening but I can picture a scenario where direct editions go down by 20% while newsstand go up 10x.
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For fun, and because I’m thinking of it, there is also the issue of the tiny number of comics that did not have newsstand editions. For instance, NYX. I would love to have a newsstand copy of the first appearance of X-23 (February 2004) but it looks like there is no newsstand variant of that issue, or any issue of NYX. Going for second best, I am looking for the first appearance of X-23 in a newsstand issue. At the moment, the closest I have found is X-Men 451 (October 2004). Because the first newsstand appearance might be something like the eighth appearance overall, it likely isn’t on collector radar, nor would it necessarily be noted in descriptions, making it potentially more difficult to identify. Once identified, it may not be hard to find, at least not more than any other newsstand issue from the era, but in my opinion, comics like that would be special to newsstand variant collectors. That is, they would be more meaningful than other newsstands because they are different from directs. As far as people buying at Wallgreens are concerned, those would be the first appearances of the character, not the eighth, or whatever the case may be. Jessica Jones is in the same boat with the mature-labelled Alias series.
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I saw your comment above “Quite a different response from CGC, where I got discouraged from posting long before I had made the points made here.”
It’s such a shame to see the rotten ride you got over at CGC. I greeted you well myself but wasn’t surprised by the hard time you ended up having. There are a few trouble makers for sure, but also a lot of good people over at CGC who would happily engage with you in a friendly manner.
So don’t give up completely – maybe instead just ignore the handful of people who are simply unable to engage in a civil manner. You are one in a long line of people who have been assaulted by them. It’s clear to me that you love comics and have much to add. In my world, you would be welcomed with open arms over there – someone else who wants to talk enthusiastically about comic minutiae. So what if you get a few things ‘wrong’. We learn through discussion and that can only happen if people are civil with each over and respectful of different opinions. Getting a few points wrong here and there doesn’t mean you are the Devil! It’s a discussion platform after all.
Anyway, I like what you are doing so carry on my friend, carry on.
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Steve, the CGC boards are beyond lucky to have you there (they don’t deserve you!). During my own negative experience there in 2017, I’ll never forget your support and kindness towards me and also the feeling of relaxation that came over me when I moved from the thread I was posting within, over to reading your Pence threads.
CGC should want everyone posting there to be as welcoming as you; the atmosphere there at their boards really reflects on CGC themselves as it is their forum and their logo atop the page. I wonder how many negative online reviews and upset emails and phone calls they have gotten from people who have experienced the toxicity in their forums and let that experience color their opinion on CGC overall? It is beyond insane to me that they have allowed their forums to have devolved into a place that chases away someone of Andrew’s caliber… that’s ludicrous!
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Andrew, the discussion about “event” comics and the impact on newsstand sales reminded me of something else that has some similarity — I can’t remember at the moment exactly where I read this (or possibly I read it in multiple places), but it was about how Marvel would see markedly higher newsstand sales whenever they polybagged a given issue. Here’s a particularly cool example because it is one I know you’ll recognize 😉 😉 😉
I wonder if this effect will show up in the marketplace study you are doing for your database, i.e. whether polybagged newsstand issues will show up with a higher percentage versus surrounding issues.
– Ben p.s. You mentioned the concern about whether interest in newsstand comics could put downward pressure on direct edition prices — I think this is a really interesting discussion topic. My own hope is that direct editions hold their ground; I hate to think of owners of direct editions viewing newsstand interest as their enemy.
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Hello Steve and Ben,
Steve: Thanks for your kind words, they are appreciated. I have been lurking on CGC but don’t see the point in contributing.
Ben, regarding downward pressure on direct prices: it depends how much traction newsstand comics get. In my case, I have totally stopped buying direct comics unless they are part of a group containing a newsstand edition I want. I also intend to get rid of every direct edition I have. If others behave the same way, and I suspect some are, this will inevitably be noticed by dealers in the form of reduced sales that lead to lower prices. As long as newsstand collectors are so rare that they have a negligible impact on the market, or they insist on both newsstand and direct editions for the sake of completion, it won’t be an issue. If many do what I am doing, it probably would affect prices of direct editions, particularly after 1995 or so.
I see the newsstand and direct edition of ASM 300 as roughly equal in value but I would still prefer a newsstand copy to keep my collection consistent. Because of its value and the fact it is no rarer, if I saw a direct copy for a good price (less than half FMV) I would probably get it. Later, direct edition comics I am not interested in. For instance, the Hulk 1 (Red Hulk) that I missed last week. I have seen many copies of the direct edition but to me they aren’t even comic books. With those, the direct price is so low that there is nothing to gain from them economically and they don’t belong in my collection because they aren’t newsstands.
One of the things I like about newsstand comics is that their rarity isn’t artificial. Direct editions have been designed for built-in rarity with all the variant covers and so on. That reeks to me of opportunism that disadvantages the customer and I don’t want to reward it. Newsstand editions however, were made for legitimate business needs, with no thought regarding the effect on collector markets.
An example of how I feel about taking advantage of customers happened with Pokemon cards when Nintendo took the franchise over from Wizards of the Coast. Wizards had a release schedule that gave players a chance to buy and use the cards at a reasonable pace. Nintendo released far more cards in a shorter span of time and designed the cards to be incompatible with previous sets. It was for that reason that I stopped buying them for myself and my daughter. We both agreed that the game wasn’t fun while being drowned in new and expensive cards that killed the utility of previous sets. In comics, that moment happened when Todd McFarlane’s polybagged Spider-Man #1 came out along with Jim Lee’s X-Men #1. With those comics I realized that Marvel was no longer releasing comics to be read but toys to stick on a shelf.
Your articles on newsstand comics reignited my interest in comics because I suddenly realized that a legitimate line of comics existed separate from the corrupted designed-for-collector comics introduced with direct edition comics. The funny thing is that I did know about them but I didn’t know they were clearly marked. That was the key information I needed to start collecting again. That, and the joy of the hunt. It is tremendously fun to tease these out. I just bought three copies of Supergirl #1, two with a Michael Turner cover, one by a different artist. Interesting to me is that they are both newsstand copies of the same comic but have two different covers. I haven’t seen that with any of the other comics yet, making it a fun discovery.
Congrats on finding my Daredevil annual story. According to Pat Garahy, my editor on that, he was thinking I was “going to be the next John Romita jr.” Apparently he was wrong about that but I was flattered when he said it. I have a couple comics I’m working on but other things keep getting in the way of finishing them.
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One of the things that makes collecting newsstands fun is the rarity of some of these issues. It is also the most frustrating aspect of the hobby. When I started collecting these, I was less picky about what I bought. It seemed like wherever I looked, I found newsstand copies to buy. Every week, I added as many as thirty newsstand comics to my collection. Now, I’m lucky to add two or three.
The difference is that about six weeks ago, I shifted my interest to keys. Prior to that, I also bought keys but everything else as well. Now, it’s keys only. What a difference! Of the keys I originally set out to find, I only have a few, one bought just this morning, Daredevil 111. The others are Daredevil 21 (2x), Hulk 92, Wolverine 67 (2x), Spider-Man 700 (3x), and Spider-Man V2 #30 (7x). In between, I have about 550 other newsstand comics. About 150 of those are at the rarest end of the rarity spectrum, as Marvels published in the last months of newsstand distribution in 2013, but few of those are keys.
Now I am hunting two comics I have only seen one of once to date, and missed by being too slow at an auction. Will I find them? I don’t know. From what I’ve seen on ebay, not likely. The copy I failed to buy at auction was one of two newsstand editions sold out of the 443 copies of the issue listed between now and early August. The other hasn’t appeared once in that time frame on ebay. I think conventions may be the next best place to look, though I tried that at the New York Comic Con and saw zero copies of those two comics.
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Re: I shifted my interest to keys.
Keys versus “in-between-the-keys” is such a chasm of difference in experience, isn’t it? Even as a kid I was struck by this… an older cousin upon learning I was into comics generously gave me boxes of his old comics from his attic (and in doing so also gave me a wonderful childhood experience that I recollect so fondly). His only stipulation was that if I ever sold them, to give him half the proceeds (but he didn’t peg them as having nearly any real value on account of condition damage). I remember the hours of joy sorting through those boxes, Overstreet guide in hand, plastic bags and boards waiting to be loaded with the particularly exceptional books, and essentially I made two piles based on a threshold guide value but you could also describe those piles as “keys” and “in-between-the-keys.” The difference between those piles, comparing pile size versus pile value, was really quite striking and made a lasting impression on me. (And the aroma of an old comic always triggers these happy memories).
Fast forward to when I was a young adult with very limited apartment space: I decided to sell my comic collection in its entirety and intended to leave the hobby behind as a fond memory from childhood. I joined eBay and slowly sold off the whole collection (and at the end I surprised my cousin with a nice sized check!). Having gone through that selling experience I really saw first hand the disparity in marketplace interest comparing the keys and the in-between-the-keys (as measured both in the number of clicks different listings would get and also the ultimate sale prices).
I successfully sold every last book (many of the in-between-the-keys books needed to be sold in large lots in order to get any meaningful bid). But it didn’t take long before I felt I wanted that lost part of my childhood back! I missed my comics! Eventually I couldn’t bear it! And what I did — which was “phase one” of my adult comic collecting experience — was to plow my share of the sales proceeds into select favorite keys… I slowly accumulated back my very favorite key books from the boxes my cousin had given me (bronze pre-bar-code) and my own sold books (copper/modern), but this time, I wanted to own copies that were actually in high grade condition. CGC was a new concept back then and I was really drawn to the idea of submitting books and receiving back those graded slabs, which were drawing premium prices over “raw” copies in the marketplace. The “buy two/a-few, submit them to CGC, keep one/sell one” concept was particularly appealing. So that was how I got “re-hooked” on the hobby, slowly accumulating back my favorite keys, my selections driven by nostalgia. So with my entire adult collecting experience being built upon this foundation of going after just keys, I can definitely relate to your switch in interest to just keys!!
I’d have to say that my “phase two” of collecting as an adult was prompted by the advent of the CGC Signature Series. I thought that was a brilliant leap forward from the Certificate of Authenticity age, and was really drawn to those yellow label books. And “phase three” of my collecting as an adult was prompted by my newsstand vs. direct edition awakening and the resulting project of trading out of my modern/copper age direct editions and upgrading to newsstand. Re-collecting old favorites again in newsstand (and discovering new favorites) has been a blast! Many of my direct editions had been CGC 9.8… and so naturally I wanted to shoot for CGC 9.8 newsstand copies as replacements. I found that in that top grade tier, the rarity disparity between the types is even more extreme; for example you had earlier remarked on ASM #300 — when I search eBay today on “spider-man 300 cgc 9.8”, I get 24 results, some of which aren’t relevant, but scrolling through them all I see zero newsstand copies… all the 9.8’s currently on eBay are direct edition. And doing this exercise on “wolverine limited 1 cgc 9.8” I get 73 results, some of which aren’t relevant, but scrolling through them all I count just three newsstand copies… and that’s for a book published 1982 when we’d expect the vast majority of total sales to have been newsstand! I mention this about 9.8’s because I’ve found in my own newsstand collecting endeavors, that by moving up in grade target (especially to that NM/MT tier), the rarity disparity becomes more pronounced than at lower grade points, and my newsstand preference carries me earlier back in time in publication date.
And then during the Canadian Price Variant window in the 80’s and Australian Price Variant window in the 90’s, collecting those Type 1A newsstand price variants has been loads of fun, and the overlapping application of a few collecting themes can quickly overcome the underlying commonality of an otherwise too-easy issue number, like ASM #252 for example. You had mentioned cutting ASM 252 from your list of collectible comics, which is totally understandable given how very many of them there are out there, in total. But among the three 1st print types of that issue, the 75¢ newsstand copies represent the smallest pie slice of the total 1st print pie, when compared to the 60¢ newsstand pie slice and the direct edition pie slice. Go up to NM/MT grade, and layer on CGC Signature Series, and there are only three 75¢ Signature Series copies of the issue on the CGC census; and any of those three that were signed by Stan Lee are now basically irreplaceable — I’m just sharing this with you to relate how I “solved for rarity” when approaching that particular book, instead of crossing it off my list, in case hearing about my approach sparks ideas for your own approach.
It sounds like you’ve been focused on later modern Marvel keys thus far, have you explored other publishers too? I found that some of the other publishers led me to great newsstand adventures too; Image Comics was incredibly fun for me, re-collecting so many old favorite #1’s that I had once upon a time bought in mint condition as direct editions from my local comic shop when they first came out amidst great excitement and hype (later at a comic con I waited on line for Todd McFarlane to sign my direct edition Spawn #1; now, that childhood book is long gone, but I treasure my CGC SS 9.8 newsstand copy of Spawn #1). Some of the DC keys were quite challenging and thus lots of fun as well; the most recent late-modern DC key I have added to my collection in newsstand — landed this year — is Batman #635:
– Ben 🙂
Thanks for the interesting reply! Coincidentally, I just received six Batman issues today. All raw but I think one or two are 9.6-9.8, we’ll see. They were numbers 677, 675, 633, 616, 613, and 612. Not all are keys but sometimes you have to buy in-betweens to get the ones you want. I’ve also been buying Supergirl #1 (2005). One of the things I like about that comic is that they have direct and newsstand versions for at least one of the variant covers and the regular edition cover. I’m hoping to discover newsstands for all four covers.
The comic I alluded to in my previous post is Hulk 1 (2008). I don’t want to be competing with anyone here to get a copy but imagine the frustration. I had it in my sights, I was the high bidder five seconds before the auction was over. My high bid was less than half my secret maximum bid. I has already typed in another bid for 50% more than that, just in case. And then, with three seconds to go, someone popped in with a bid that topped my secret bid! I hit the enter key on my higher bid but fumbled hitting the confirmation key and lost it. That was annoying to say the least, so now I’m still looking for a copy.
As for non Marvel and DC comics, there aren’t many that I would be interested in. I really dislike Spawn in every way, so that is out. I did get one because it was so cheap but wish I hadn’t. Most of the independents I did like are from the eighties, when newsstands aren’t that hard to find. Unless they were never distributed that way? That would be a question worth answering. I did like Airboy, Mister X, and a couple of others. Savage Dragon for awhile but then it got too weird. Keep in mind I haven’t been in the US since 2006, so anything since then is new to me. Most of what was published between 1996-2006 is also new to me because I wasn’t actively collecting at the time. I’ll tell you what you’ll have a hard time finding, Dr. Andy #1. Find one of those and I’ll be impressed.
BTW, should have checked on Dr. Andy before I challenged you. Not so hard to find after all.
I see what you mean about Supergirl #1, having regular and variant cover newsstand versions, very cool!
This reminds me a little bit of Captain America #25 (2007), where surprisingly there are newsstand copies of the variant cover (but in that case I’ve yet to see newsstand copies of the regular cover).
BTW, regarding Supergirl (2005), I just decided to have a look round for issues other than number one. Turns out they are very hard to find. This was the first time I looked for them anywhere, so the number available doesn’t reflect my habit of buying everything in the hope of getting at least one in 9.6 or 9.8 condition. On ebay, out of eleven pages with fifty listings per page, I found one seller who had five later issues of Supergirl buried in a stack of 55 comics. The last time I bought a group like that, I had to cancel the order because it turned out the newsstand editions in the photo did not reflect the comics sent. Combined with an average grade of 8.0, I decided to pass, though I did get all the way to checkout before I changed my mind. That means that out of 68 issues (69 in series, minus first issue and variants) and 5500 comics, only one seller had any of the issues in newsstand editions, had only six of them, and they weren’t in great condition. No other seller had so much as a single issue. When I looked up your Batman 635, I found two slabbed copies right away.
Regarding Captain America 25, I noticed that too, when I bought one today.
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Are there any newsstand editions of Hulk Gray from 2004? I ask because I haven’t seen any but have been looking.
Good question Andrew, I’m not sure; I haven’t collected that title myself, and in looking for it quickly just now I notice that they have the bar code box on the back covers — issues like that I’ve found to be incredibly frustrating to hunt for, because sellers don’t tend to post pictures of the back cover. ASM #400 is another like that; also Spawn Batman (Image) comes to mind. For the latter, when I was hunting for my copy years back the way I finally landed mine was by messaging sellers asking them for pictures of the back cover until finally I got lucky with a NM copy over on Atomic Avenue.
Thanks so much to Jimmy for emailing this in! So Hulk Gray newsstand copies do exist, and, the bar code is actually on the front:
Does anyone know if there are newsstand editions for every comic labelled “Direct Edition”? I ask because the designation is redundant if there is only one edition. If that is the case, we can expect to find newsstand editions for Marvels printed in 2014.
I think I see what you’re getting at — why bother still having the words “Direct Edition” aside the bar code after newsstand distribution ended and there was just the one type? But it does appear that Marvel continued to place those “Direct Edition” words on their books even after they confirmed that their newsstand distribution had ended in 2013. Old habits die hard?
Andrew, I was thinking more about this point about the words “Direct Edition” being unnecessary for Marvel to have placed on their books after 2013, but that they still included it anyway. And whether that might give us a glimmer of possibility to find 2014 newsstand books out there from Marvel. I love it when I encounter big comic book surprises, where my expectation was one way, and there turns out to be a cool counter-example that breaks the mold and breaks the expectation. Finding a 2014 newsstand example for Marvel would break my expectations in this way; but I’ve still yet to see one and I’m not expecting to… I’d be extremely surprised. But you got me to wondering if you secretly had found such an example from 2014 and that’s why you brought it up?
But it all also got me to thinking about when was the exact point at which Marvel finally dropped those words from their books? I went looking within the Amazing Spider-Man title to research this and I was surprised to find “Direct Edition” still there at issue #789 (way out in December of 2017)!
… and still there at the next issue, #790:
… but gone at issue #791 (January 2018):
So throughout 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017 they still included the “Direct Edition” words — taking Marvel four full years for that old habit to die!
The chronologically-latest-published Marvel newsstand books I’ve ever been able to find have been December 2013 but I’m not sure if some titles ended earlier and others ended December; and since this matched when all the articles (here’s another) had reported on the demise of Marvel’s newsstand channel, I haven’t looked very hard to see if there are any counter-examples post 2013 to break the mold… But if we ever do see a 2014 newsstand comic surface from Marvel I will be both shocked and thrilled to see it! 🙂
– Ben p.s. Here’s Superior Spider-Man #20 newsstand (December 2013):
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Here is another question I’ve been meaning to ask but keep forgetting. If Barnes and Noble had around 700 stores in 2013, and Marvel distributed newsstand comics to around another 300 book stores for a total of a thousand stores receiving newsstand distribution, how could there be a 1:100 rarity ratio? Many Marvels of the era sold less than 50,000 units, and only breakaway best sellers like ASM 700 sold near or over 200,000 copies. According to ComiChron ASM 700 had 262.626 total sold copies. If each of the 1,000 stores ordered three copies each, some of them wouldn’t have gotten their order if newsstand distribution represented no more than one percent of the total run. I agree with the annoying person who wrote that it doesn’t seem logical for things to have worked out that way, but logic and reality aren’t always the same thing. That said, my database supports the view that ASM 700’s newsstand edition was more than one percent of the total.
Only 13 copies of ASM 700 were auctioned by Heritage the last time I checked. All were directs and all were in 9.8 condition. On eBay, out of 146 offered, 8 were newsstand copies, or 5.48% of the total. Does that percentage reflect the actual 1:18 rarity of ASM 700? Or is it skewed by the collector’s market? Going back one step to ASM 699, Heritage has none sold, eBay has 27 listed, none of which are newsstand copies.Here are a few other issues, for comparison:
698: 69/direct, 1/NS = 1:69 rarity
694: 32/direct, 0/NS = not less than 1:32 rarity
688: 50/direct, 0/NS = not less than 1:50 rarity
675: 40/direct, 0/NS = not less than 1:40 rarity
674: 42/direct, 0/NS = not less than 1:42 rarity
Almost all of the issues I checked between 600-700 had between 25-65 direct editions and no NS editions, meaning their eBay marketplace rarity was no less than 1:n, where n=number of direct editions. ASM 606 had 101 directs on offer to zero NS editions. ASM 607 had 66 directs to zero NS. All of this is consistent with 1:100 rarity, though not conclusive in the many cases where fewer than 100 items were offered. This trend continues between issues 500-599. The hardest to find in an NS version was ASM 529, which appeared 116 times, none of which were NS editions. Despite that, I have two copies. If I add those to the 116 direct editions offered on eBay, they only dilute the rarity to 1:58, still an impressive ratio. Tellingly, Mile High has zero copies of this in any grade listed on their site.
ASM 529 had about 118,750 copies sold according to ComiChron. One percent of that leaves 1,188 copies. That is a little over two thirds the total number of Star Wars 1 35 cent price variants thought to have been printed, making it about 21% rarer in absolute numbers.
This brings up another question, what do we care about more, the absolute number of available copies or rarity relative to the total run? A 1:100 rarity ratio doesn’t mean the same thing for a comic with a 1,000,000 unit print run as it does for a comic with a print run of 50,000. I have seen a lot of newsstand versions of Spawn #1 available for sale but only one copy of Red Hulk #1 (and I know of one other). Several comics on my want list are issues that I’ve never seen for sale in NS versions, and they are all comics that I like more than Spawn #1, a title that never appealed to me.
If applied to Star Wars #1 35 cent price variant, how much of its value is intrinsic to collector interest in the issue (the normal SW1) and how much to the price variant (rarity collectors)? What I am seeing are comics that may be rarer than SW 1 35 cent variant in absolute numbers but were printed in much smaller numbers than SW1. In other words, they are rarer in absolute numbers and as a lower percentage of the total print run. That leaves the last contributor to price, intrinsic value. Is Star Wars 1 more interesting as story, characters, franchise, and creative teams as, for instance, ASM 529?
The Star Wars franchise was more valuable than the value of Spider-Man or Marvel Comics at the time it came out and for several decades afterward. Based on later performance of Star Wars sequels in comparison to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), and Spider-Man in particular, an argument can be made that today, Spider-Man and the Marvel brand are both more popular than Star Wars or any of its characters. Lastly, comics readership has declined considerably in the decades since 1977. Does this cause downward pressure on comic book collectibles in general? Should ASM 529 be worth less than SW1 because there are few comic book readers today than in the year SW1 was released? Or more because it is possibly rarer and connected to a more popular franchise?
Great discussion! The article that alerted me to the end of Marvel’s newsstand distribution back in 2013 was this one, which quotes Marvel’s David Gabriel as saying “the single-issue program at BAM and B&N “ended almost three months ago to no fanfare or notice from the comics industry.”
Gabriel is also quoted as having said that “Marvel ended newsstand sales of print comics “about two years ago” — so based upon this information, I conclude that Marvel had ceased newsstand sales through all other traditional newsstand outlets circa 2010-2011, leaving newsstand comics going only to two remaining bookstore partners through to the 2013-end of their newsstand era: Books-A-Million (“BAM”) and Barnes & Noble (“B&N”).
As far as researching store counts, fortunately for us, both of those companies publicly filed 10-K’s with the SEC in 2013. This 10-K for BAM states:
“Books-A-Million, Inc. is a leading book retailer primarily located in the eastern United States and operates both superstores and traditional bookstores. Superstores, the first of which was opened in 1987, range in size from 8,000 to 39,000 square feet and operate under the names “Books-A-Million,” “BAM!,” “Books and Co.” and “2nd & Charles.” Traditional bookstores are smaller stores operated under the names “Bookland,” “Books-A-Million” and “BAM!.” These stores range in size from 2,000 to 10,000 square feet and are located primarily in enclosed malls. All store formats generally offer an extensive selection of best sellers and other hardcover and paperback books, magazines, toys, games, electronics and gifts.”
Later, they state: “We operated 201 superstores as of February 2, 2013” and “We had 56 traditional stores as of February 2, 2013.”
Neither the word “comic” nor “Marvel” appears in that filing and I’m not aware of any information pointing to which store type (or both) or which store names sold comics in 2013, but they do mention magazines … so if both the superstores and the traditional stores, under all their various names (Books and Co, 2nd & Charles, Bookland, etc. etc.) all carried Marvel comics then that would add to 257 stores potentially carrying Marvel comics at the time, under the BAM umbrella.
And then over at B&N this 10-K filing states:
“As of April 27, 2013, the Company operates 1,361 bookstores in 50 states, including 686 bookstores on college campuses … Of the 1,361 bookstores, 675 operate primarily under the Barnes & Noble Booksellers trade name. Barnes & Noble College Booksellers, LLC (B&N College) operates 686 college bookstores at colleges and universities across the United States. Barnes & Noble Retail (B&N Retail) operates the 675 retail bookstores.”
I think it is fair to assume that B&N College was not selling comic books; leaving the 675 retail bookstores as potentially carrying Marvel comics at the time. (And like with BAM, neither the word “comic” nor “Marvel” appears in that filing to give more clues).
So across the two bookstore companies, are we looking at all 932 stores as carrying Marvel comics?? Or did some stores not carry comics at all while others did? And for the ones that did, were all titles represented at all stores? Or did different stores get to order different titles at their discretion (we learned from the seller of the Doc Collection that the drugstore only ordered specific titles, not all of them, so perhaps that discretion also took place with different bookstores as well)? I don’t know the answer. But the BAM filing did mention how there was a range in store size from 8,000 to 39,000 square feet — that’s quite a range and stores with a smaller footprint may have had a smaller overall selection… Might it have been the case that only certain of their larger stores carried comics and not other smaller ones? Or perhaps stores under certain trade names carried Marvel’s comics but not the others (perhaps just the “Books-A-Million” stores)? I really don’t know the answer. But I do have a somewhat-related anecdote: when DC announced they were distributing multi-packs for their Rebirth comics at Walmart, I decided to swing by my local Walmart store… but they didn’t have them and I ended up driving to three different Walmarts before I found the Rebirth comics, and in the second of the stores I visited, I asked a staff member and they knew exactly what I was talking about but said that that particular store didn’t have a collectibles section and I’d have to try another store that did have that section. In the beginning before making this trip I would have guessed I’d be going into just one Walmart store and that 100% of Walmart locations carried them; but that guess would have been dead wrong… and so based on that experience over at Walmart, when it comes to other chains like B&N or BAM, I’m not confident concluding that 100% of the stores would have carried comics… it would not surprise me if there were certain bookstores that carried comics and others that did not (but again I don’t know the actual answer).
In terms of newsstand rarity estimates that I’ve seen for 2013, the two expert sources I’ve come across are (1) Comichron, which did an “industry-wide” estimate of newsstand sales at $25 million vs. comic shops at $340 million for 2013 — which is 6.8% newsstand but includes all publishers [and given what we learned from Gabriel it would make sense that Marvel would have been well below the industry average after shutting down newsstand sales to all but BAM and B&N]; and (2) Chuck Rozanski of Mile High Comics, who published a Marvel-Specific estimate for 2013 of 1% newsstand.
In both cases above, the sources appear to be talking about actual sales of newsstand comics in their estimations; so I take this to mean that any copies sent to bookstores but that didn’t actually sell thus would not have been included. So hypothetically speaking if a given store did receive 3 copies of a given issue and put them out on display but ultimately only 1 of those copies actually found a buyer, my interpretation is that just that 1 copy would be represented in the estimates. What I’ve always read about newsstand returns is that the normal fate was to be pulped/recycled forward or otherwise destroyed; but I have to imagine that newsstand returns weren’t always pulped, and that Marvel would have taken whatever opportunities arose to call those unsold copies in and sell them into a secondary market when there was one… Maybe that happened for ASM #700 as a well-promoted mega-event issue? I do know that I’ve seen CPVs show up in multi-packs like this A-Team pack:
There are other examples like the above too, such as Star Wars ROTJ packs — and my hypothesis based on having acquired a number of packs and seeing the condition of the comics within, is that these were unsold newsstand copies that instead of being pulped were sold into a secondary market via these packs. That’s just my hypothesis, but I also think it makes business sense to take advantage of other demand when Marvel could find it.
So I think the fate of the returns on an issue-by-issue basis would be a huge variable impacting that particular issue’s newsstand:direct rarity skew. I would also imagine that we’d see big title-by-title variability when it came to newsstand sales. [Those estimates earlier were Marvel-wide (and Industry-wide) encompassing all titles, so within that, there could have been natural variability where some titles sold better than average and others worse.] So while year-by-year estimates from experts can be a great guideline for big-picture thinking, and clearly both of these sources are independently pointing to somewhere-in-the-low-single-digit percentages for Marvel (and maybe as extreme as 1:100), I think their main use is in reaching the big-picture “collecting preference conclusion” and from there the actual issue-by-issue numbers should ideally be coming from the CGC census… For some issues with cover price variants we can see some data that has reached a pretty good sample size (e.g. ASM #606, published 2009 before the stair-step-down in newsstand distribution to just BAM and B&N, has 977 direct edition copies on record to 16 newsstand copies as of today; in 9.8 those counts are 451 direct to 7 newsstand). But unfortunately beyond issues with other factors like cover price difference that CGC deems variant-worthy, CGC has yet to end their silly practice of pretending the two types are equivalent, and still lumps them both together on census as their baseline treatment for an issue like ASM #700. Absent the CGC census resource to give us relative rarity data for the two types on such issues, the work you are doing in studying marketplace rarity is really the next best thing…
You make great points about relative rarity as a percentage versus absolute rarity, and the “intrinsic” value factors for different issues/titles. I guess at the end of the day everything boils down to supply and demand, both at time of publication and into the future! Your discussion about franchise value and popularity and intrinsic factors reminded me of the great system Angelo Virone developed that he calls the Comic Score Card where he has factors like potential for making it to the small or big screen (and/or potential for sequels), etc., along with rarity, which helps him to score/rank/compare different comics.
I have tried to respond to your mention of a comics score card by providing contrasting examples. Every time I look up their prices, they are exactly what I expect them to be, so the contrast I start out to find isn’t there. For instance, I wanted to say that I value Hulk 1 (1962) higher than all other modern Marvels except for FF #1 because it is so much harder to find than the rest, even if I never liked the comic itself very much. That said, the MCU has done a great job of explaining the Hulk character to me and the series has hosted more than one first appearance of an iconic character, like Wolverine in #181. FF #1 I put a little higher because it is the iconic “first modern Marvel” even if it is easier to find than Hulk #1*. So, for all those reasons, I ranked FF #1 as the most valuable, Hulk #1 as next most valuable, then I was torn between Spider-Man #1 and Tales of Suspense #39, followed by Avengers #1 or X-Men #1.
I expected the actual ranking to be something like this: Avengers #1, Spider-Man #1, FF #1, X-Men #1, TOS #39, Hulk #1. That rank order is roughly equivalent to the relative box office of movies made about those characters. Then I looked up the values and discovered that my intuitive ranking was almost spot on. The point I wanted to make is that the way we value things is hard to predict. I assumed that, even if I felt that Hulk #1 wasn’t appreciated as much as Avengers #1, the MCU movies had made Avengers #1 more valuable. I was wrong about that but my instinct as a collector was right to think of Hulk #1 as the preferred comic. So what is it that makes them genuinely valuable in a way that would attract the gut instinct of most collectors?
For me, there are a few things. One of the most important is longevity. If the brand, title, or character has been around a long time, it is likely worth collecting. An example where this is only sort of true is Richie Rich. I always liked the Richie Rich comics as a kid but there are too many to keep track of and for the most part the stories are interchangeable. For that reason, I’d be interested in the first ten issues from the early sixties and any first three issues of spinoffs published by Harvey at the same time, but that’s it. There was an independent titled Mister X published around 1985 that I really liked. The writer/artist died young however and the series ended after a few issues. Result: low value despite being a rare comic with a good creative team.
Creative teams are another indicator of value, and one of the best for raising a so-so title to classic status. An exception to the rule that I would only want the first few issues of Richie Rich would be if it was discovered that, among the many artists and writers that worked on the comic, one was so much better than all the rest, those issues would be worth buying. The duck comics by Carl Barks are an excellent example of that. An iconic character with tremendous longevity, connected to the Disney franchise, but only the ones written and drawn by Barks are anywhere close to his quality standard, so they are collectible. I suspect there is an artist/writer like this on Archie by the way but I don’t know the name. I see the stories sometimes and think they are from the late fifties through the late sixties/early seventies. It is easy to recognize the style but I’ve never seen any discussion of those issues as separately collectible on the basis of the superior creative team that worked on them. The artist is not Bob Montana btw, in case you are curious.
The funny thing about creative teams is that they can elevate the value of an entire title or character product line by drawing attention to them. However, the most valuable titles tend to have been established by non-flashy artists and writers. ASM #300 might be worth a couple thousand dollars because it is an early McFarlane and a centenary issue, but the title was established by artists like Gil Kane, Johnny Romita, and Steve Ditko, (and writers like Roy Thomas) for whom no premium is charged. With issues made by those artists, premiums are attached to the introduction of new characters or interesting story lines. That said, it is because of those creative teams that the title is popular in the first place.
Movie spin-offs are a big turn-off for me. This is the reason I not only didn’t buy Star Wars comics when they were first published but I would return them if they were given to me. To this day I am amazed that the Star Wars comics from 1977 are so valuable. I understand the rarity of the 35 cent variant but that only raises it to the level of a Rawhide Kid price variant to me, or to about $150. Getting up to $50k means there is intrinsic value that I can’t detect. I do understand movies raising (or lowering) the profile of comics they are based on but this only works for as long as the comic continues and the public is reminded of its existence by more movies or TV series. Hence, the Walking Dead is popular now, but Gunsmoke comics are hard to give away, despite being connected to a much more popular series.
Back when I had a collection containing every comic Neal Adams had contributed to at that point (1979), including obscure Jerry Lewis covers, House of Mystery stories, Hot Wheels, and of course all the Batmans, Detectives, Deadman, Avengers, X-Men, etc, I was always disappointed when the latest addition to the collection was a “cover only”, like the many Superman and Flash covers he made. Those covers were good enough that I wanted to buy the comic but at that time they rarely added to the value. How times have changed! I was amazed to discover the value of his Ra’s Al Ghoul cover on Detective (or Batman), somewhere around $20k. I had about five of those when I was a kid. I think the reason covers are so much more collectible now is that CGC cases make it impossible to read the story inside but easy to appreciate and display the cover. I find myself buying for cover art now even if I dislike everything about the comic inside. I am particularly enamored of the “broken logo” covers, like in X-Men #377 and the simple graphic covers, like the ones we see in the Batgirl #2 (2009), most of the covers found in Daredevil (2011), or one of my favorites, Superior Spider-Man #10. My aesthetic clearly isn’t the same as everyone else because some of these are fairly inexpensive (most of the Daredevils) while other comics with unappealing covers (to me) are highly valued for the covers, like ASM 606 and ASM 607, both of which have weak covers in my opinion.
All this reminds me of something I was told a long time ago by a wealthy art collector. By “art”, I mean the kind you see in museums, not in comic shops. He has an entire gallery named after him at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This guy’s specialty was Asian art, particularly Chinese art. He told me that back in the 1960’s he was once offered a van Gogh for $10,000. That was the going rate for a van Gogh at the time. Today, it would be worth tens of millions of dollars. At about the same time, he was offered an ancient Chinese painted porcelain sculpture of a horse, also for $10,000. He bought the horse. At the time of our conversation in the 1990’s, he had just sold it for slightly over $900,000. “I made the right choice,” he said. “Because I don’t know anything about Impressionism. If I had bought the van Gogh without knowing why it was considered good by other people, I would have wasted much money on other paintings I also didn’t understand, but those paintings would be worthless now. I knew the horse was worth the price, and it was. It may not have appreciated as much as the van Gogh but all the other art I bought appreciated like the horse and together worked out better than the van Gogh, had I bought it.”
Now we get to rarity, the subject of your blog. On its own, rarity is not particularly important. There are a lot of rare comics that no one cares about and are surprisingly easy to find, despite low available quantities, because no one wants them or knows they exist. Rarity only becomes a factor when people want them but can’t find them. Case in point, ASM #606. I don’t like the cover but I do like Spider-Man, Spider-Man is a popular character, and it has been around a long time. Add those factors together and I want a copy. However, the direct version is so easy to find, there is no fun in acquiring it. For that reason, I want a newsstand edition, which I have yet to see for sale. What I love about newsstand variants is that they have created a hidden class of very hard to find comics, sitting there in plain sight for anyone who cares to look, and one exists for every title and issue printed during the relevant years. That means that otherwise pedestrian issues as far as value is concerned can be real diamonds in the rough. Why buy an ASM 300 for $2000 when you can get ASM 316 for $100 and have the pleasure of knowing it is eight times harder to secure in newsstand format than ASM 300?
Newsstand comics allow me to buy comics that I shouldn’t be able to afford because of all the value markers they possess, but can afford because their rarity is so badly understood. Once it is understood, just as CGC grading created a huge multiplier for covers and 9.8+ comics, I expect newsstand comics will become much more valuable. I do not mean 2x or 3x the direct price, but more like 10x-50x. The reason is that they are so hard to acquire. When I lost that auction for Hulk 1 (2008), I immediately became willing to pay that much more for a copy because I didn’t know when I would ever see another. I have almost two boxes with many duplicates of newsstand Marvels published in mid-2013. Although I don’t collect most of the titles, I hate the idea of selling any of them because I doubt I’ll ever see them again. I worry that they might become popular someday and then I won’t have them any more. Funny thing is that I have direct comics that have appreciated a lot, like Next Men #21 (first Hellboy), and I don’t mind selling that because I know I can always find one to re-acquire if I feel like it later. This is even true of super valuable early Marvels. They might be much more valuable than modern variants, but it is easier to find a Hulk #1 (1962) than a newsstand Hulk #1 (2008).
*Remind me to tell you sometime about the occasion when, while trying to find the bathroom in a warehouse behind a San Jose comic book store, I tripped on a box full of around 200x mint copies of Hulk 1. That happened in 1978 or so.
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Ben, great thread you and Andrew got going there!
Andrew, in regards to the, “Comic Score Card”, keep in mind that the example I gave was purely created for my style of investing in price variants from the 1980’s only. Another user could create a different CSC for CPV’s based on his or her own personal factors and will differ from mine. Had I decided to analyze key Silver Age books that are undervalued the criteria would be somewhat different using a number of factors not taken into consideration for Cooper Age books.
I use different “Comic Score Cards” for different eras and subcategories within those eras.
Having said that, you can add , subtract or alter factors that are important to you and your investing style alone (I.e., Longevity, creators, etc…) Comic Score Cards are intended on being open ended, they can be very short or have a long list of infinite factors that only you the user controls.
They served me very well on countless occasions and thought of sharing this one style with other collectors/investors.
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Andrew, you got me curious about your Hulk #1 story! Do tell, I’m sure many are as eager as myself to hear about it.
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Angelo: The Hulk Story
When I was a kid, I got into the habit of memorizing the Overstreet Price Guide every year. I think the first year I did this was 1977. In 1977, I was twelve. Having a memorized price guide sitting in my memory was handy for buying comics at the right price. At the time, I lived in San Jose, which had quite a few comic book stores either in town or nearby. There was Crazee’s Comics in Santa Cruz, the Curiosity Book store in Los Gatos, Comics & Comix in Palo Alto and Santa Cruz (not sure of the second city), there was a store in Monterey, Comics & Fantasies, Recycle Books, San Jose Comics, and others. Many of the local dealers knew I had memorized the guide. For most, it was just interesting but a few would hire me from time to time to price out collections they were thinking of buying.
One of these shops was Recycle Books. They were in downtown San Jose, on the same street as a hole in the wall comic shop. I forget the name of the place but they had at least two stores, possibly four, I’m not sure which. I do know that I’d been to more than one of their shops and noticed they both had copies of FF #1, Hulk #1, Avengers #1, Spider-Man #1, and X-Men #1 on the walls. I don’t remember seeing TOS #39, TTA #27, JIM #83, or AF #15, but wouldn’t be surprised if they had them. The weird thing about the early Marvels they did have is that they were all priced the same, at $500 each, and all of them appeared to be in mint condition.
I did not have a high opinion of the store. First off, their prices were much higher than the going rate at the time. If I recall correctly, the FF #1 was going for close to $500 but the others were all less. The Avengers should have been, I thought, more like $350. Secondly, they sold underground comics. My opinion of these at the time, and now, is that the art is mostly inferior and the stories repellent. This could be readily ascertained from some of the covers but I had unfortunately seen the interiors of a couple before I realized I was in the wrong section. My revenge was that no one ever seemed to buy the early Marvels. I figured it was because they were overpriced, and they’d be stuck with them until the sun bleached the cover ink to a blank sheet of paper.
One day I was on my way to Recycle Books and stopped in at the other shop first, probably to pick up some new comics. Recycle only sold used comics, and Comics and Fantasies hadn’t established a store yet, so they were the closest place for me to get them outside of a 7/11. This shop was tiny. I’d guess about fifteen feet wide and twenty feet deep. The narrow end had a wall going about halfway down the room, splitting the front of the store in two, making it seem even more cramped. In the back was a counter, cash register, and a beaded curtain leading to the back. While there, I realized I had to go to the bathroom and asked permission of the guy behind the counter.
“Okay,” he said, “but you can’t tell anyone what you see back here.”
Before I go any farther, I’ll just point out that I feel released from the promise because I was just a tiny kid at the time and the store no longer exists.
To continue, the clerk led me through the beaded curtain to the back. To my surprise, the ceiling on the other side of the curtain was much higher than the low ceiling in the rest of the store, which was no more than nine feet high. In the back, it was a typical warehouse ceiling of maybe twenty feet high. The room was also enormous, though it was hard to tell because the corners were obscured by boxes stacked more than halfway to the ceiling. They covered almost every square foot of floor space, leaving only a narrow irregular diagonal path, one person wide, leading directly to the tiny bathroom in the opposite corner of the room.
I took maybe three steps when I stubbed my toe on a box lying open on the floor. The flap went up and I saw a mint copy of Hulk #1 sitting on top. “That’s a Hulk number one!” I pointed out to the clerk.
“The whole box is Hulk number ones,” he said as he walked over then flashed the top twenty or so to prove it. Then he pointed to some other boxes. One was loaded with copies of Fantastic Four #1, another had loads of X-Men #1’s. I didn’t sift through the boxes to see if they were full top to bottom with those issues but the clerk told me they were. He said that the owner of the shop either had a newsstand distribution business at one time or had bought out the stock of one. One way or another, he wound up with hundreds of boxes, maybe thousands, of comics dating back to the early sixties, all in perfect condition.
The reason he priced the older comics the way he did was that he didn’t want to depress the price by releasing all of them at once. Also, he was selling them but always replaced them with identical copies right away and then wouldn’t let on that they’d been sold, making it seem that the same copies were sitting there for as long as the store had been open. So that was the big secret. He didn’t want to depress the market by releasing his hoard, so he patiently let it out one comic at a time.
After that amazing revelation, I went to the bathroom and then continued on my way back to Recycle Books. Fair warning, as an adult I tried to find this collection again, in the hopes of buying at least a portion of it. The person I talked to denied the existence of the room and the comics inside. Now they are out of business.
And that is my “Hulk story.”
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Wow! Andrew, thanks for sharing this story. I have to say, from the moment your first comment came through with a link to your art site and I checked out your incredible artwork, you’ve really impressed me, and our subsequent conversations have been supremely enjoyable. And now we all learn that as a child of twelve you memorized the Overstreet Price Guide?! These are superpower-level talents!!
Your writing/storytelling is really enjoyable to read, and over the course of our newsstand discussions I’ve been struck more than once by how well you have expressed some of the same concepts I myself have also tried to express in past writings, but your words seem to make the same points even more powerfully than I had. Example: the “natural vs. artificial rarity” point:
“One of the things I like about newsstand comics is that their rarity isn’t artificial. Direct editions have been designed for built-in rarity with all the variant covers and so on. That reeks to me of opportunism that disadvantages the customer and I don’t want to reward it. Newsstand editions however, were made for legitimate business needs, with no thought regarding the effect on collector markets.”
Another example: the “relative value opportunity” point:
“Newsstand comics allow me to buy comics that I shouldn’t be able to afford because of all the value markers they possess, but can afford because their rarity is so badly understood. Once it is understood, just as CGC grading created a huge multiplier for covers and 9.8+ comics, I expect newsstand comics will become much more valuable. I do not mean 2x or 3x the direct price, but more like 10x-50x. The reason is that they are so hard to acquire.”
By the way I also really enjoyed the story about the wealthy art collector who bought the horse sculpture instead of the Vincent van Gogh because of the discipline of sticking to situations where the value was clearly understood to him — the point about how it wasn’t actually a mistake because choosing the van Gogh would have also meant opening the floodgates to other paintings he would have acquired too had he broken his discipline (where many of these others would now be worthless), really resonates.
– Ben p.s. I was curious to look up some of the covers you mentioned that you particularly liked. You mentioned “broken logo” covers (like X-Men #377) — I also find those types of covers very cool where the artwork interacts with the logo. You also mentioned Superior Spider-Man #10, Batgirl #2 (2009), and most Daredevil (2011) covers. If anyone else was curious too to see the covers of some of these, here are some pictures below:
Great story Andrew!
After posting that Daredevil #12 newsstand copy (Paolo Rivera cover) above, I noticed something else cool for this particular issue (beyond the cool cover artwork and beyond the newsstand copy having a $3.99 cover price versus the corresponding direct edition at $2.99). To set the stage for what I noticed, for other surrounding Daredevil issues we see that the newsstand copies say “Daredevil” next to the bar code … like this (#23 shown):
… and carry the “61670” code, like this:
I checked a handful of other newsstand Daredevil issues and for the ones I checked they’re consistent with the above; here’s another example, issue #21, with “61670” and with the title “Daredevil”:
So my expectation would be that the newsstand Daredevil #12 copy would say “Daredevil” and would have the “61670” code. But as it turns out, this is one of those cool examples where the newsstand version is identified/coded as a different title than it actually is! In this case, instead of the word “Daredevil” next to the bar code, we see “Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four”:
And instead of the expected “61670” code we see “02678” instead:
I went looking for newsstand copies of Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four, to compare, and I came across issue #35 below:
Zooming in, sure enough, “Mvl Adv Fantastic Four” appears beside the bar code …
… and it carries the “02678” code, same as our Daredevil from before:
So this “Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four” title is definitely the bar code that Marvel for some reason “borrowed” to use for newsstand copies of Daredevil #12.
I really wish I knew more details about the bookstore newsstand ordering, i.e. did individual bookstores under the BAM and B&N umbrella have discretion about which which titles were sent to which stores? Is it reasonable to assume that a 2,000 square foot store might have only ordered a few of the “biggest” titles, while a 39,000 square foot superstore might have done a “Select All”/send-all-titles? (And might a middle-sized store have ordered a larger selection of titles but not the “full firehose?”) I don’t know.
But, we learned from the seller of the Doc Collection that all Amazing Spider-Man issues that had been missing from the Doc’s ASM run were the ones coded “Sensational Spider-Man” — because the drugstore did not receive that title (but did meanwhile receive Amazing Spider-Man and Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man). Did the bookstore partners have similar ordering differences in terms of which particular titles were ordered to be sent to their various stores? I don’t know the answer. But, if there were ordering differences between stores, and “full firehose” stores were the only ones to receive “mis-identified” books like these with codes borrowed from a prior/old title, that would be one factor to help explain some of the sometimes-extreme variability in marketplace rarity comparing different newsstand issues…
For a long time newsstand copies of Daredevil #15 were so extremely hard to find that they were basically just “a rumor” with people swearing they knew/heard they were indeed out there but claiming they’d never actually seen one and that nobody they knew had ever seen one either. But they do indeed exist… here’s a copy shown below… and in looking at the bar code, guess what? Like #12, it too is a “Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four” issue!!!
Here’s a zoom-in of that bar code box:
As Steve might say, this stuff is “comic minutiae” — very cool comic minutiae!!!
Thanks for your kind comments and for posting those covers. That said, while I do like “most” of the Daredevil covers from the 2011 series, somehow you missed all of the ones I particularly like. For that reason, I’ll point out the following:
#1, where the background is made of buildings made entirely out of words
#7, DD making snow angel on roof of water tower. I like this more for the design than the humor but it is funny also.
#11, It doesn’t look like a Steranko but it has some of the qualities I admire in Steranko’s work. Namely, the conversion of 3D subjects (the characters on the cover) into 2D drawings that are then modified to the point where they come close to being symbols rather than illustrations. In combination with simple color and the graphic design of the cover itself, I really like this kind of cover.
#16, Filling Murdock’s shadow with a room interior is a very clever thing to do for a comic book artist, though it is less uncommon among graphic designers.
#21, One of my favorite covers of all-time. This may be at least partly due to the excellent drawing of the animal skull but I also like the totally unrealistic concept of DD being trapped in its jaws.
#25-27, these all remind me of vintage Mazzuchelli but in some ways better. Each does an excellent job conveying mood, danger, and menace with very simple color and layouts.
I should have also mentioned Superior Spider-Man #9. It is a weird cover but compelling and a great creative use of the logo to stand-in for Spider-Man’s brain.
Bernie Wrightson’s covers were excellent illustrations made in an antique style. To me, they represented the best in brush and ink craft as well as possessing terrific drama and narrative elements.
Neal Adams, though I like his work much less today than when I was younger because his story-telling tends to draw too much attention to itself, has made some iconic covers. He is fantastic at creating surprising images full of emotion, compassion, and drama. I’m not that impressed with the quality of the drawings because they are not that much better than any other well-respected comic book artist, but I do admire the passion that comes through in his covers.
I love Curt Swan’s covers. Not so much as a kid but today I read them as one-page panel cartoons. They are always genial and sometimes so ridiculous that they are quite funny. I don’t think of him as an illustrator but as a cartoonist, much like C.C. Beck, so it doesn’t seem right to evaluate him by the same standard as a Wrightson, Adams, Kaluta, Frazetta, or Mike Mignola.
Jim Lee is one of those perfectly competent artists that I have never been that fond of. His work strikes me as what Rob Leifield’s drawings would look like if he had a lot more drawing skill. The compositions and emotive qualities of his covers have always been lacking in my eyes. Andy Kubert does a much better job of creating narrative suspense with his compositions, and in a style more similar to Lee than some other artists I can think of.
Walt Simonson is interesting because he makes so many drawing mistakes but gets away with them because his compositions are so dramatic. This is largely due to the self-invented perspective technique he came up with, a technique that introduces errors, and his dynamic inking style. I sometimes want to wince when I look at the way he draws faces, particularly women, because they are so inconsistent. But then his inks and composition save the day. I think he is one of the great cover artists. Like Kirby, he knows that drama and action are more easily conveyed with boldness than timidity. Both made drawing errors (fewer in Kirby’s case but that could be argued) but both made many dynamic iconic covers.
Speaking of bland styles, Mazzuchelli has a bland unassuming style that is powerful because of the quality of his compositions and the narrative elements therein. In this he reminds me of the etchings by American artist Edward Hopper. Hopper’s work was not flamboyant but it was powerful regardless.
John Campbell is an artist I haven’t totally warmed to yet. I once owned some original layouts by him from Gen 13, bought because I liked the way he simplified faces. As a cover artist, his drawings are too inconsistent for my taste. Kirby drew knees incorrectly in the sense that they did not match the anatomy of a real human knee. However, he always drew them the same way, as he did with everything else he drew. His work was never internally inconsistent because he had a strong idea what everything should look like. I don’t even think it is fair to count his “anatomy errors” as errors because they matched a version of human anatomy that he clearly invented for the sake of drawing fast and with as much dynamic action as possible. The same is true of Darwyn Cooke and any artist with animation experience. In Campbell’s case, he hasn’t created his own internally consistent way of drawing things and I find that disturbing. He does sometimes come up with arresting compositions, but then I have to look on perfect faces on bodies that extra vertebrae, or knees bent beyond a natural range of motion. One cover of his that I do like is Amazing Spiderman V2 #30, primarily because he hasn’t tried to make the cover into a window onto 3D space but treats it as a graphic element instead.
Some of the more recent artists making comic book covers today are doing things I really enjoy. For instance, Ladronn’s Hulk #92 cover. It reminds me of Italian comic book artists who generally have a lot more time than American artists to do their work. The result is more illustrators in the spirit of Wrightson, Frazetta, etc finding a place in American comics. I like the Hulk (2008) covers because of their simplicity and the lack of excessive flourishes in the coloring/painting of the covers. That is unlike the Marvel Knights Daredevil covers, painted in watercolor or the work of Alex Ross. Ross’ work is much cleaner than the MarvelKnights covers, and much better because of that, but I think both are too reliant on photo reference to have the energy and elasticity of a truly iconic cover artist (like Kirby, Simonson, Kane, or Kurtzman).
Speaking of Alex Kurtzman, some of the new covers remind me of his layouts. He had a background in magazine design and I think that is what I see poking through. As a rule, I dislike complicated rendering styles, unless done very well. McFarlane, Campbell, Kaluta, and Lee all fall into this category. Simpler, more dramatic covers really appeal to me, covers by Kirby, Kurtzman, Barks, Mazzuchelli, and some of these newer artists whose names I am unfamiliar with at the moment.
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Thanks for the additional detail and Daredevil cover highlights examples, and the commentary on various artists! I also love the cover of #1 but at the time I couldn’t find a newsstand copy quickly (“daredevil 2011 1 newsstand” only returned Annual #1 on eBay) and I didn’t want to post a picture of the prevalent direct edition (because that feels like “cheating!).
I looked harder just now and found a newsstand copy for #1 — and wouldn’t you know it, there’s that “Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four” code again! And that’s the case with #7 too — now I’m starting to think that maybe they did all the earlier issues in the title that way, before switching to the “correct” Daredevil coding at whatever point (gosh, I wonder what the story is behind why they didn’t use the actual Daredevil code in the first place??).
I couldn’t find all of the ones you mentioned in newsstand, and I won’t “cheat” by posting direct editions (anyone reading to who wants to see the other covers via direct edition will just have to search), but here are a few I could find in newsstand:
The above picture by the way is for an active “mis-listed” copy (no “newsstand” in title or description; asking price is in-line with what a CGC 9.8 signature series direct edition copy is asking, so the seller is apparently unaware of the newsstand versus direct edition difference), it is presently for sale on eBay as a “best offer” listing, if anyone is looking for the issue…
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I just wrote a long post so I’ll keep this brief: very interesting about the swapped codes! I see that on a lot of comics. It would be interesting to track that relative to marketplace availability to see if there is a correlation.
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I just saw your earlier comment about the words “Direct Edition” appearing on recent issues of Spider-Man. In answer to your question, I spotted the same thing a little while ago and wondered if that implied Marvel continued publishing newsstand editions after 2013. It was not because I actually had a newsstand copy after that date. However, now that I am thinking about it, I will check my database. Okay, checked. No Marvel newsstands after 2013.
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A few weeks ago, I tried to have a conversation with a few people on the CGC forum about whether newsstand comics are worth a premium over their direct edition counterparts. A couple of posters there derided the idea as silly. According to them, “no one cares,” about the difference between newsstand and direct edition comics.
I pointed out that at a minimum, I cared, so there is at least one person. I have paid a premium on multiple occasions, so those sellers (the ones aware they were selling newsstand editions) know that there are buyers on the lookout for newsstand comics who will pay more for them. At the New York Comic Con, I was told of a dealer who was trying to collect an all-newsstand run of Amazing Spider-Man from #600-700. He wasn’t selling them, meaning the comics would be taken out of circulation as far as other buyers are concerned. That, one might expect, would not drive prices down.
And then, I did something a few minutes ago, proving again that there is interest and premiums paid for these hard to find comics. I finally found a copy of Hulk #1 (2008), the first Red Hulk, and bought it. I paid $126 for for it, or about two and a half the going price according to GoCollect for a copy in 8.5-9.0 condition. I’m glad to have the comic after looking so hard for one. I have seen two others sell in the last six months. One I found out about after the fact, the second I thought I had for $51, but another bidder snuck in with literally three seconds to spare and bought it for $52. And now, I’ve just paid more than double that.
I look at the rarity of these newsstand comics as something that will catch on in much the same way as a major food shortage. At first, it isn’t noticed because existing stock hasn’t been exhausted. That is where this is right now. Then, substitutes are used and other things are gone without. At this stage, the most desirable items start going up in price. We are on the cusp of this now. I have noticed premiums for newsstand comics but most are low relative to rarity. For instance, a direct edition is $20, the newsstand version is $30. Some, I have seen very high prices for, like a CGC 9.6 copy of ASM V2 #36 (black cover) for $750. That one hasn’t sold yet, and likely won’t for awhile given that it is fairly easy to find them for about $120, which is what I paid for my CGC 9.6.
For what it’s worth, the comics I found most difficult to find in newsstand editions are these:
Hulk #1 (2008) (first Red Hulk) (paid 2.5x Direct)
Hulk #92 (first Planet Hulk) (paid 1x Direct)
Daredevil V3 #21 (first Superior Spider-Man) (paid between $2.00-$32.99 for the three copies I have, all less than FMV for Direct)
Daredevil V2 #111 (first lady Bullseye) (paid 1x Direct)
Wolverine V2 #67 (first Old Man Logan) (paid 1.25x Direct)
Wolverine V2 #68 (don’t have one yet)
Amazing Spider-Man V2 #20 (100 page giant) no idea what FMV is for this, but I paid $13.57 and $34.99 for my two copies, in 9.8 and 9.6, respectively.
Amazing Spider-Man V2 #606 (J. Scott Campbell racy cover) (don’t have one yet)
Amazing Spider-Man V2 #694 (First Alpha) (don’t have one yet)
Batgirl #1 (2009) (don’t have one yet)
And a few others I’m still looking for…
Comparatively easy to find were:
Amazing Spider-Man V2 #36 (Black cover) (paid 1x Direct for CGC, less for raws)
Amazing Spider-Man V2 #688 (Lizard cover) (paid less than half FMV for two copies)
Amazing Spider-Man V2 #700 (collage cover) (paid about half Direct FMV for each of three copies)
Amazing Spider-Man V1 #300 (first full appearance of Venom) (don’t have this, not looking for it).
Other comics I am glad I’m not looking for because they are so hard to find. For instance, the nine issue 2013 Marvel series, Morbius. I have two copies of number 3, three copies of #4, and six copies of #5, all in NM. On eBay right now, they have about 125 listings for the series. Two of those are newsstand copies, one copy of #3 ($20) and another of #4 ($40/equals FMV for direct). All the rest are direct. Of the 67 listed as sold, none are newsstand versions. As I wrote above, glad I’m not collecting that series because it would be very frustrating. Dark Avengers is another of these titles. I have four issues from the series, more by accident than design. If you are collecting it, expect a hard time. On eBay right now, out of 52 listed, none are newsstand versions. Under sold, it is even worse. Only four listed, none are newsstand editions.
Although I don’t have a strong collector’s interest in some titles, Morbius, Dark Avengers, Cable & X-Force, A+X, Alpha Big Time, Avengers Arena, FF, Fearless Defenders, Secret Avengers, Thunderbolts, Uncanny X-Force, Uncanny X-Men, Winter Soldier, X-Men Legacy, and Young Avengers, I buy them anyway because they are so hard to find. I expect they haven’t had time to mature in price because the characters in them haven’t been discovered yet. In time, they will likely become more sought after than the stuff I do collect because they are so much harder to find. As I mentioned before, I lucked out into a hoard of these, all printed in 2013, for a very good price. I doubt I could have found them otherwise, let alone afforded to buy them. As it is, I have almost exactly 150 of these rare issues, all in NM condition. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for them. One thing I doubt is that collectors will remain indifferent to newsstand rarity, unlike claims made on the CGC chat board.
For me, knowing that a newsstand edition exists renders all the other issues invisible to me. More than that, I want them precisely because of the thrill of the hunt.
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“For me, knowing that a newsstand edition exists renders all the other issues invisible to me. More than that, I want them precisely because of the thrill of the hunt.”
Hear, hear! 🙂
– Ben p.s. I like the food shortage analogy you made. Something else besides price that we may be able to observe in the marketplace (although much more time-consuming to research), is observing the number of days between listing and sale, for non-auction listings. If a direct edition of a given issue is listed buy-it-now with an ask of $25 and sits there for a year, but a newsstand copy of the same issue is listed buy-it-now with the same $25 ask and sells within the first week of being listed, that kind of time difference, if repeatedly observed, could arguably be a strong early indicator of future price difference for the issue.
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Ben, how do you get CGC/Overstreet to update their newsstand edition information? I ask because of all the newsprint I am finding in these comics. If that is important, it should be mentioned to them. I haven’t had the time to do it yet but am adding five fields to my database, “paper” (newsprint/standard), “Manufacturing Variant” (Yes/No depending on IF “Paper” = Newsprint), “price” (insert number), “Direct Price” (insert number), and “price Variant (Yes/No depending on IF “Price” not equal to “Direct Price”; Yes; No).
Overstreet has yet to show any interest (that I can detect) in differentiating newsstand comics; confined to paper as they are, they have a “real estate problem” that biases them against adding new lines that would add page length. ComicsPriceGuide.com meanwhile has shown some interest; for example they’ve broken out newsstand copies of ASM v2 #36, Spawn #1, and several $3.99 cover price variants.
CGC has been known to break out newsstand comics on census in special cases such as artwork differences, cover price variance, UPC code quirks of being mis-identified as a different title, and manufacturing differences. Very likely every such new census entry has been created because of a prompt by a customer submitting a book (that would be my guess anyway). I’m not sure they are well set up to receive “information alone” for their records but you could certainly try reaching out to them!
Speaking for myself, the only time I’ve ever had success in getting CGC to make a new newsstand census entry for a given book, was to make a submission of that comic myself (denoting it as a variant on the submission form and including a written sticky note with the book), and then following up with phone calls and/or emails to ensure the invoice was properly “flagged” for my request to be considered by the grading team.
PS: Forgot to mention that of all the ASM V2 NS variants I’ve checked between #1-25, all are newsprint. Same goes for the X-Men around issue 377. However, NS Captain America (2004) #25 is standard high quality gloss paper.
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And I just added “UPC Title” and “UPC Mislabeled” fields.
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Awesome, I’m really curious whether over time you will find that the “mis-identified” newsstand books in your database show a noteworthy difference in rarity, versus the “normal” ones!
BTW, I just found another variant cover newsstand edition: Amazing Spider-Man 408. Not only that, it comes poly-bagged with a cassette of the Spider-Man theme song performed by the Ramones.
Hi everyone, the 2020 CPV Price Guide is now online!
Our advisory team expanded once again this year: It was so great to have gotten the chance to work with Jay Halstead, Director of the International Comics Exchange (you’ve got to check out his in-guide Advisor Notes on GI Joe, he shared some great insights), and also with Conan Saunders, VP at MyComicShop. At MyComicShop they have a truly impressive CPV sales experience history there (including consignment on the famous WaWa Collection, arbuably a “CPV-niche-pedigree”). Both Jay and Conan are also Overstreet advisors who discussed CPVs in their market reports in guide #49, which is what led us to talking. So a big thank-you to Jay and Conan for joining our collaboration team and volunteering your time to help out!
HELP WANTED WITH MARVEL/DC CPV PICTURES
This year we attempted the task of collecting pictures of every Marvel & DC variant that we believe should exist out there. We slowly worked our way up to 92% coverage … and we could really use your help with the remainder! If you see Marvel or DC issues with missing pictures as you use the guide, and you happen to have them, your help would be greatly appreciated to fill in the picture gaps!
When we started the image project, I quickly realized that the WordPress media upload system was not going to be the ideal way to approach such a massive project (uploading and organizing thousands of pictures would have been next to impossible given the way they have it all arranged at present, not to mention the upgrade cost for more storage space). Plus, the guide project in general has already really “outgrown” the normal usage of a blogging system designed for blog posts. As a result, it was time to pony up for an upgrade: and as you click your way through the guide, if you look up at the address bar of your browser, you’ll notice that this year the URLs for the guide pages all start with “cpvpriceguide.com” — yep, the entire CPV guide section of the blog has been “carved off” into its own section in this way, to be handily accessible through that shortcut going forward, so if you prefer reaching it that way versus coming first to rarecomicsblog.com, you are more than welcome to bookmark (and share) the new shortcut.
There’s a couple of other little neat features we were able to do this year too, such as a “Random Variants” page that is a fun way to randomly explore comics you may not have seen before, and a new “Search Bar” atop the main guide page (you can still click the alphabet section to navigate to find the title you’re looking for, but the search bar lets you quickly start typing part of the title, e.g. “Ama” and it will pop up with “Amazing Spider-Man”).
Archie & Gladstone CPVs have been added!
The next time you see Salvatore Miceli, give him a high five; this addition was only possible because of his research efforts! Thanks Sal!!
That’s all for now…
Last thing: don’t miss the newest Market Reports & Articles contributed by members of the collaboration team as well as outside contributors!
– Ben 🙂
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Update on mislabeled newsstands:
Out of about 650 newsstand comics, I have identified 16 mislabeled issues. There many be more because I haven’t finished looking but it is likely the majority of them. The reason is that they all date from 2008-2013 and not all of the comics from that period are mislabeled. Several of these appear with the title of the comic followed by the word “Double”. Those are counted as mislabeled because issues on either side do not have the word “Double” in the UPC box. The “Double” issues are not double-size issues. The mislabeled issues I have found are:
Amazing Spider-Man (ASM) 555 : Frndly Nbhd Spider-Man NS price/$3.99, Direct price $2.99
ASM 583 : Sensational Spider-Man
ASM 652 : Sensational Spider-Man
ASM 670 : Sensational Spider-Man
ASM 674 : Sensational Spider-Man
Avengers Arena 7 : Avengers Academy/Arena, NS price $3.99/Direct price $2.99
Avengers Arena 8 : Avengers Academy/Arena Double, NS price $3.99/Direct price $2.99
Avenging Spider-Man 19 : Avenging Spider-Man Double
Cable & The X-Force (2012) 6 : Cable & The X-Force Double
Daredevil (2011) 1 : Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four
Daredevil (2011) 2 : Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four, NS price $3.99/Direct price $2.99
Fearless Defenders 4 : Defenders/Defenders II, NS price $3.99, Direct price $2.99
Incredible Hulk 635 : Marvel Adventures NS price $4.99, direct price $3.99
Superior Spider-Man 8 : Spider-Men/Superior Spider-Man Double
Superior Spider-Man 9 : Spider-Men/Superior Spider-Man
Superior Spider-Man 10 : Spider-Men/Superior Spider-Man Double
I have also found 102 price variants. about fifteen are Canadian, the rest are newsstand price variants. I’m not going to list them because there are too many.
One thing I noticed in my Spider-Man run is that most of them are correctly labelled “Amazing Spider-Man”. My impression is that the mislabeled issues in that title and others are exceptions rather than the rule. I also see a lot of “Sensational Spider-Man” labels, though the Doc collection had none. Probably a regional thing. I only have one “Frndly Nbhd Spider-Man” making me wonder if that issue was not distributed to areas that received “Sensational Spider-Man”.
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Re: I also see a lot of “Sensational Spider-Man” labels, though the Doc collection had none. Probably a regional thing. I only have one “Frndly Nbhd Spider-Man” making me wonder if that issue was not distributed to areas that received “Sensational Spider-Man”.
Thanks for this really interesting insight! The fact that you’re lower on Friendly and higher on Sensational is not what I would have expected given the Doc’s experience and I wonder if you’re onto something about regional differences!
Factoring in all regional differences all added together, I wonder how the scales really tip, in total, when comparing Friendly vs. Sensational coded ASM issues? I just checked the CGC census for issues #599-611 which stays nicely clustered in time and encompasses two big Friendly books (#600 and #606), two big Sensational books (#601 and #607), and one fairly-popular Amazing book (#611) and the census rarity percentage for newsstand for Friendly vs Sensational coded issues is presently neck and neck, both at a little under 2%. The Amazing-coded books in that range don’t have as great a sample size but the newsstand percentage works out to about a percentage point higher than the “mislabeled” ones:
Cool stuff and as the years go by it will be fun to watch how the census data accumulates! 🙂 I’m also intrigued to hear what observations your own database work reveals over time!
– Ben p.s. Thanks for sharing that list of mis-coded issues you found; the “Double” code is interesting and curious… I’m also still really puzzled by those early Daredevil books with the Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four instead of Daredevil (why? why?)… there has got to be something interesting at the business level to explain these!
Somehow my last comment is missing some crucial words. I meant to write that “I doubt there are many more mislabeled comics beyond the sixteen I found because I have looked through most of the 650 or so Newsstand editions I own.”
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Incredible job on the 2020 price guide Ben & crew. Some really wonderful and insightful articles as well. 👍🏻
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Hey guys great work as always! only had a quick scan so far but can confirm your price on the Marvel Tails #1 CGC 9.8 sold 6/22 is incorrect. It sold for 1000 CAD. Let me know if you need any documentation to support that. Can’t wait to get through the whole guide. I really appreciate the effort and attention you put into this.
Thanks so much for your help, we definitely want to correct any mistakes so we greatly appreciate your reaching out! I looked into that 6/22 sale information for Marvel Tails #1 CPV in CGC 9.8, and the $609 (rounded) value that we show in the noteworthy sales table was based off of the below screenshot from eBay from June:
… It looks like this would work out to ~$825 CAD based on the exchange rate at the time; I also notice that the screenshot says “Best offer accepted” under the price. Perhaps it was listed with an ask of $1000 CAD and the seller accepted an offer? If you were a party to the sale or have further info to correct the sale price to a different amount, please do let me know!
Thanks so much for emailing me the sale documentation on that Marvel Tails #1, I really appreciate it! 🙂 Looks like eBay was perhaps using bad currency conversion rate data on the day of that screenshot or something of that nature (?). The confirmed $1000 CAD sale price works out to ~$750 USD based on the conversion rate around that time (looks like the conversion rate 6/20/19 ranged about 0.7473 to 0.7526). I just edited the noteworthy sales table accordingly for this Marvel Tails #1 sale.
Great work on the 2020 guide everyone! I noticed one error that was also in the 2019 guide that I didn’t get around to notifying you about.
Marvel Two-in-One 99 has a cover price listing of $1.00 in the guide but it is actually a $0.75 cover…your own picture supports that as well.
Thanks Mat! I really appreciate your reaching out to let me know about the mistake, I’ve just pushed through an error correction. 🙂
Great website by the way!! I really enjoyed reading these pages in particular:
My pleasure! Your guide was a huge resource for me as I started discovering what I had on my hands and I continue to use it regularly! It has been a fun year for me as I dive into this hobby and I have grown to love the treasure hunt of digging for CPVs in the wild 😀
It’s a good time for a copper age comic collector to live in Canada haha
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Hi everyone, our 2020 CPV guide has been featured in Gemstone’s “Scoop”! 🙂 Here’s a link plus a screenshot for posterity. This is the third year they’ve covered our annual CPV guide, and I’ve found it very interesting to see the wording of articles they actually publish, compared against the materials we send them. This year, I’m really happy with how their article came out, I thought the editor did a really nice job.
Newsstand copies of The Incredible Hulks #635, and Hulk #1 (2008), courtesy of Andrew! 🙂
I just spent a few hours going over all my CPVs to analyze how you see prices having changed. I noticed that I have a few issues for which you don’t have pictures. In particular, I noticed:
Blue Beetle 4
Booster Gold 17
Justice League International 14
Secret Origins 28
You can find scans of these issues on my site and are free to use them to populate your picture database.
Fantastic! I just grabbed those scans and added them in. Thanks so much Mat! 🙂
I noticed on go collect.com that out of their current 50 hottest most reported sold CGC&CBCS comics in the marketplace that their list shows that amazingly (19 of the top 50 ) exist as Type 1A variants!. I asked Ben Nobel of the Rarecomicsblog.com if he could post up the list of their top 50.
What a great idea to look through their toplist and see which issues have Type 1A price variants! Here is an annotated image below, with icons along the left to point out the instances where an Australian Price Variant, Canadian Price Variant, or U.K. Pence Price Variant exists:
Just going to say this once (today): it may make sense to put together a newsstand variant price guide. As it is, there is no consistent pricing information for these comics. Unlike other types of price guides, I think a newsstand guide should have, in addition to prices, estimated rarity relative to direct editions and other newsstand editions.
For instance, as a collector, I may look at an entry for Morbius (2013) #4 that shows its value as $40.00. That may be useful when buying a copy but for selling, I want to have an idea how difficult it will be to reacquire. So, if the value is $40.00 and I have a buyer for it at that price, do I sell it or keep it? If the rarity is very high, I would want to keep it. A price guide that tracked that information would be very handy.
To use a real-world example, I’d rather sell my New Teen Titans #2 than my Hulk (2008) #1 because it is much harder to find than the NTT #2. What I would want to see in the guide is some indicator whether the price of the comic is consistent with its rarity.
For non-newsstand comics, we are familiar with the phenomenon of “hot” comics, where prices rise until a peak of interest is reached. After that, prices plateau or fall. Trying to identify the peak, also the best time to sell, is hard to do because the factors that contribute to collector interest are difficult to predict. Newsstand editions on the other hand, are interesting because of their rarity. If their rarity could be estimated somewhat accurately, then their theoretical peak value could also be estimated.
Getting back to NTT #2, let’s compare it to Incredible Hulk (2008) #1. Out of 117 copies of NTT #2 auctioned on Heritage, 52 are newsstand editions. That means that in that sample, 1.25 copies of the direct edition were found for every copy of the newsstand version, or 1:1.25. We’ll call that the “rarity index”. For Hulk #1, there were 69 direct edition copies and 1 newsstand edition. Rarity index equals 1:69, or “69” to keep it simple. According to GoCollect.com. NTT #2 is worth more than Hulk (2008) #1, $600 vs. $150, respectively.
If the values of those two comics, and only those values, were listed, I’d have a poor idea what those comics are worth. It would look as if the NTT #2 is four times as valuable as the Hulk #1, but the Hulk #1 is 55 times rarer, or harder to find, than the NTT #2. To me, that means that the Hulk #1 is worth more, or at least has a higher value potential. What this example indicates to me is that the NTT 2 price is “mature” and the Hulk #1 price is not. Also, the Hulk #1 is rare and the NTT 2 is no rarer than the direct edition, making its value no different from the direct edition.
Another situation that would be worth visualizing is when you have two comics of approximately equal rarity but the price of one reflects that rarity and the other does not. This happens when a comic becomes hot, collectors extract it in greater numbers than non-hot comics, and newsstand versions are extracted along with the direct versions. That creates a higher price overall and a greater appreciation for the rarity among newsstand collectors, thus driving prices to a level more commensurate with its actual rarity than a comic that hasn’t yet attracted collector interest but is just as hard to find due to approximately equal distribution numbers. This wouldn’t matter for comics with standard print runs but for newsstand editions, where one copy might show up on the market every six months, rarity becomes a much more important indicia of “potential value” than its other characteristics. The issue that keeps coming to mind when I think of this is, “will I ever find another of these if I sell this one?” For that reason, I am not inclined to sell anything unless I know it’s rarity index is low enough that I can reasonably expect to find another should I want one.
It wouldn’t be easy to work out all of these prices but it probably wasn’t easy to make the first comic book price guide either.
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Andrew, you bring up a great topic, ” Rarity” .
I think we would both agree that rarity in itself would not constitute whether a book is undervalued or not. I can think of a few Price Variants that are impossible to find but would sell for little to nothing if they went on sale today. The reason being, as you pointed out, there are too many other factors that play into this. Maybe you should create a COMIC SCORE CARD (for readers who don’t know what a Comic Score Card is visit my market report from last year and scroll halfway down until I start describing my method of investing in CPV’s using Swamp Thing 37 (9.6) C.P.V. as an example).
Below are 9 quick factors I would add in a Comic Score Card based on a few things you pointed out from your last post. I’m simply brainstorming and writing them down simply to add my two cents and nothing more.
1) Relative supply ratio: newsstand to its direct edition;
2) Relative supply ratio: newsstand vs other newsstands;
3) Newly graded copies: 12 months prior to movie/show being announced ;
4) Newly graded copies: 1-3 months post movie/show being announced;
5) Price ratio: newsstand price vs other newsstands with equal rarity;
6) Accessibility: # of copies for sale 12 months prior to movie/show being announced;
7) Accessibility: # of copies for sale 1-3 months post movie/show being announced;
8) Accessibility: # of copies for sale between first trailer and movie coming out;
9) Accessibility: # of copies for sale 1 month after opening weekend;
As you already know, you can add,edit or remove factors that accommodate your own personal Comic Score Card. Each factor is weighted on a point system i.e.
1-10 . Once you add up all the points from each factor a final score is reached which easily translates into a percentage over 100 (similar to a test in school) which suggests where the book in question stands on a rarity index.
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@angelo where would I find your CSC?
Click on the link below and scroll half way down until you see ” Introducing: Comic Score Card C.S.C.”
Here’s a cool find courtesy of Andrew, for Amazing Spider-Man v2 #25, the direct edition has a special “enhanced” foil cover and was given a $1 higher cover price as compared to the newsstand version:
Here is a pet peeve of mine about collecting newsstand edition comic books: when sellers use on image of a newsstand comic in their online listings, then ship the direct version. This has happened to me at least ten times in the last two months. So far, I have had to eat the cost on all but one of these purchases. The reason is that the cost of returning the comic for a refund is so close to the value of the refund that it isn’t worth doing.
In this way I have bought a number of comics that I don’t want and don’t know what to do with. The total cost to me has been about a hundred dollars, so it isn’t that costly, but I don’t like tossing money out the window either. This just happened twice in the last two days, with a bunch of 2013 Deadpool comics.
Having a different comic arrive than the one pictured is truly aggravating, and I’m sure it has happened to nearly every collector at some point who has bought comics on eBay. We share your pain, Andrew!! Often I’ve found the seller is apologetic and accepts a return on their dime — in one case this year I got the wrong version of the comic, I let the seller know, and they basically said oops, I had two and I sent you the other one! They gave me a return shipping label, I returned the book, and they shipped me the correct one (all on their shipping dime). I think most sellers want their buyers to have a good experience (and to leave them positive feedback), and will either accept a return or work something out with you (like a partial refund) if you bring it up with them that they sent you something different than what was shown in their listing picture.
But I’ve also had a seller accuse me of pretending I’d received a different comic in order to swindle them when I let them know about the problem (!!). I was shocked over this, I felt like I was the victim of a purposeful bait-and-switch, and I shared about the experience with someone else at the time, who let me know that something they had started to do after so many experiences of getting the wrong comic, was to use their cell phone to record a video any time they opened a comic package. That way, they could prove exactly what they had received. I started doing that myself just in time for an Amazing Spider-Man #238 75¢ variant that was supposed to have Tattooz but didn’t… Except I didn’t ever need to present video evidence, because the seller apologized right away for the mistake and accepted the return. Most sellers are honest, I’ve found. (But it was nice to know I had the video recording, just in case.)
The worst experiences I’ve had are when a seller is completely crooked and doctors the book on purpose to get a higher price for it, such as by color touching a spine tick with a sharpie (this has happened to me twice, where I only found out later via a CGC purple label).
In a past discussion here about “No Month” variants like Batman #357, I wrote in response to Sal:
“I haven’t held any of these “no-month” copies in my own hands to study what’s inside the cover…”
That has changed: I have now collected the Batman #357 and I have an indicia picture of my copy to share; I put up a new post to share pictures plus general thoughts, about the Batman as well as two other books like it that all get different names on grading company slabs but share the attributes of having no cover month and having been distributed in multi-packs. The other two I talk about in the post are Wonder Woman v2 #1 and Spectacular Spider-Man #27. Here is a link to the new post:
Hey Ben! Loving the new cpv price guide. I have a couple of the books that require the images for the site. (Love this feature!)
Justice League of America 211 and 223
Sgt Rock 390
Star Wars 94
Tales of Teen Titans 91
Just let me know where to send the images.
Thanks again for all your hard work