A reader suggested I pick up a copy of OPG #40 which contains an article that cannot be found online, written by Jon McClure, entitled “A History of Publisher Experimentation and Variant Comic Books” — in this article, McClure writes, quote:
“In the 1982-1986 period about 10% of Marvel’s print run was Canadian, with Newsstand and Direct Market editions split at about 50% each; because Newsstand editions have a far lower survival rate than Direct Market Editions, Canadian Newsstand editions may be as scarce or scarcer than Pence price variants, with both estimated to have original print runs equivalent to 5% of U.S. print runs, but with an estimated survival rate of only 1-2%.” — Jon McClure, A History of Publisher Experimentation and Variant Comic Books
In this quote, McClure is conveying a few things. First, that about 10% of Marvel’s comics went North of the border — which makes perfect sense because it would follow the population share almost precisely; the exact population percentage for Canada versus the USA in this period works out to 9.8% vs. 90.2% using the World Bank and US Census data, so a round-number 10% makes perfect sense as a benchmark.
Next, McClure is conveying that out of this share of Marvel’s comics that were sold north of the border, about 50% were Newsstand and about 50% were Direct Editions, meaning that the variants as newsstand-exclusives, were at a level of 5% (splitting the 10% in half). Other comic book historians and industry insiders confirm this 50:50 split for Marvel sometime around the middle of the 1980’s; it is noteworthy here to point out that Rozanski has painted a picture of a downward-sloping newsstand percentage that would actually have been higher at the start of the 1982-1986 period and lower at the end of that period. But for McClure to encompass the whole period with a broad-brush 50:50 split is entirely reasonable for a broad estimation of variant rarity as a “class” (some individual examples might be on the side of more rare, some on the side of less rare, but I think that overall, it is entirely reasonable to make a “rule of thumb” estimate as he has done here, at 5%. And then he goes on to estimate the survival rate at 1-2%. Having myself studied the CGC census data for Amazing Spider-Man #252 going back to 2001, I found that the census rarity percentage ranged right in that 1-2% band for the past decade-and-a-half+ period. [Thank you to the reader who suggested I pick up a copy of OPG 40, this article by McClure alone was worth the cost!]