By Angelo Virone, October 2019
“It’s interesting to see well known collectors who never fully got into them now entering the space paying big bucks for top graded key issues.”
Before reading my CPV market report please feel free to read the one from last year here: Comic Book Table Talk: Predict, Invest, Collect! I’d be particularly interested in hearing from those who used my method of investing in comic books, “COMIC SCORE CARD” (once you click on the link scroll down). I provided two printout versions for you to use, a thorough version and a quick version for when you need to make a quick decision whether to buy or not. Email and let me know what you thought!
This past year seemed somewhat confusing for the C.P.V. market, yet when one analyzes the underlying factors influencing this space things become much clearer. To some degree, it seems like a two-tier market formed for these price variants but that is not the case. The scarcer key books in the highest of grades were more desirable and commanded premiums ranging from 3-10x that of their direct versions. Whereas, common non-key books in 9.6-9.8 kept selling for lower prices at each auction, either matching the prices of their direct counter-parts or slightly higher.
Despite a softening in prices for a few specific key books, numerous key and semi-key comics sold for record prices almost monthly, clearly showing a very healthy market with a list of collectors willing to pay average to very high multiples when compared to their respective US Newsstand and direct copies. For example:
• ASM #252 (9.8) w $1750, November 2019
• ASM #250 (9.8) w $492, November 2019
• ASM #254 (9.8) w $257, November 2019
• ASM #233 (9.8) w $643, November 2019
• ASM #253 (9.8) w $428, November 2019
• ASM #245 (9.8) w $193, November 2019
• Batman #423 (9.6) w $650, November 2019
• Legends #3 (9.8) w $455, November 2019
• Jonah Hex #92 (9.6) w $240, November 2019
• Masters of the Universe (DC Limited Series) #1 (9.8) w $455, November 2019
• Sonic The Hedge Hog Mini Series #0 (9.6) w $250, June 2019
• Unknown Soldier #268 (9.0) w $80, June 2019
Other examples throughout the year include: Batman 386 (9.8) $2025, (9.4) $600; Marvel Tails #1 (9.8) $1092, $600 ow; Thor #337 (9.8) $1000, $932, (9.4) $235; Avengers #257 (9.8) $930; Batman #359 (9.8) $680, (9.2) $175; Detective Comics #523 (9.8) $600; Wonder Woman #9 (9.4) $600; X-men #164 (9.8) $575; Batman #357 (9.4) PGX $566.81, (9.2)$441.44, (VF) $129.99; (7.5) $96; Care Bears #1 (9.8) $517, (7.5) $75.57; Wonder Woman #7 (9.4) $500; Wonder Woman #1 (9.8) $459; X-Factor #1 (9.8) $424.95; Transformers #1 (9.4) $400; Alpha Flight #1 (9.8) $400, $390, $351, $350, $330; JLA #1 (9.8) $342, $275; Tales of the Teen Titans #44 (9.6) $338; Daredevil #232 (9.8) $328; G.I. Joe #21 (8.5) $300; Punisher #2 (9.4) $300; Punisher #3 (9.4) $300; Punisher #5 (9.2) $300; Swamp Thing #37 (5.5) $300; Superman annual #11 (9.4) $300; Secret Wars #8 (9.4) $291; Punisher #1 (9.0) $270; Punisher #4 (9.4) $250; Web of Spider-man 1(9.6) $229.99; Batman #423 (VF+) $229; Swamp Thing #21 (9.2) $220; Amazing Spider-man #238 (6.5) $210; T.M.N.T.A #1 (9.6) 1988 $156; Transformers #2 (9.2) $145; Wonder Woman #300 (9.2) PGX $80; with SEVERAL DOZEN more examples I can jot down but will spare you the extra reading and save it for our new 2020 CPV guide as those sales got baked into it.
Books that seldomly appear for sale stir up the most enthusiasm and create bidding wars!
However, the narrative changes tune with common high graded CPV’s softening considerably due to flippers auctioning off hundreds of books at once. This softening coincided with the stock market correction that occurred in the latter half of the fourth quarter of 2018. As I’ve already pointed out, common CPV’s in 9.6-9.8 have been selling for lower prices but overall, higher than their US Newsstand and Direct copies. From this point of view, this is a positive sign for the CPV market. The lower prices offer a great opportunity but stick only with 9.6-9.8’s when it comes to non-key books. Remember, do not pay the same high premium for non-key 9.6-9.8’s as you would for the high graded key and semi-key books. A higher concentration of collectors seek bigger books first and might not necessarily go for anything else!
We’ve also seen label changes go from the infamous and incorrect, “Canadian Edition” to “Canadian Price Variant” first with CBCS and months later with CGC. We applaud these moves because they are finally being recognized for what they truly are – PRICE VARIANTS and not foreign edition books!
I’m sure many of you are as excited as I am seeing the new 2020 CPV guide expanded to include other distributors such as Archie, Gladstone and Modern. We also added pics for most Marvel and DC’s making us the one stop place for everything CPV related – And it’s ALL FREE for you to enjoy!
THE QUEBEC EFFECT on the supply of CPV’s
In our guide’s discussion of the 1980’s population difference between the USA and Canada (with Canada at 9.8%) we have a graphic with the footnote that our discussion “before considering the impacts of (a) the size of the French-speaking population in Quebec, and (b) the 25% cover price hike likely reducing the number of copies buyers could afford.” [And really there should also have been (a-1) the size of the population in Canada that spoke neither English nor French but another foreign language altogether]. Here’s that graphic for reference:
This year Ben and I spent some time investigating points (a)/(a-1), focusing especially on researching the size of the population in Canada that could not speak English in the 1980’s. Please check out our separate article, The “Quebec Effect” on the Supply of CPV’s for the full story but here’s the summary: after some investigation and several e-mails and phone calls with the helpful staff of the Statistics Canada archives department in Ottawa, we were able to determine that in 1986 the statistics showed there were 4,248,945 people in Canada who could not carry out a conversation in English (3,957,730 ‘French only’ concentrated mostly in Quebec + 291,215 who spoke only a foreign language across Canada), which is approximately 17% of the population of Canada at that time.
Thus, back in 1986, the likelihood was high that the majority of these 4,248,945 non-English-speaking Canadians — plus the many remote communities within the northern parts of Quebec that had scarce to non-existent access to English language comics — may have never bought an English language comic on the newsstands but instead would have leaned towards French editions of Marvel, DC, etc… (AKA as Heritage books) as well as Asterix, Gaston Lagaffe, Lucky Luke, and TinTin. Read our separate article for more details about the data (and the unknowns about comic buying habits that make it hard to state any precise impact of The Quebec Effect with certainty) but our conclusion is that the 9.8% figure in the graphic based off of simple population split is too conservative, and the true rarity was much more extreme.
I’m still surprised with the number of sellers posting C.P.V.’s for sale every week on these sites without the slightest idea of what they possess. Kudos to the regular group of buyers who keep snapping them up for pennies on the dollar. Some reach out to the sellers asking when their “buy it now” starts so they get the first pick.
Discussions, however short, are still taking place on these forums as to what “Canadian Price Variants” are. Skeptics are still out there but that’s okay, everyone collects what they like. It’s interesting to see well known collectors who never fully got into them now entering the space paying big bucks for top graded key issues.
Rating: I recommend buying CPV’s on these platforms if you have hours to check through people’s collections and reaching out to them. However, you need to be comfortable assigning a grade to these raw books because a number of sellers over-inflate them.
-Great place to find C.P.V.’s, sometimes for very reasonable prices.
-Some sellers still post C.P.V.’s that are mislabeled (i.e. Thor #337 9.8 S.S.). Unfortunately, these sellers miss out on maximizing profit. On the other hand, more than a few key CPV’s have sold for record-prices!
-On rare occasions I stumble upon CPV’s with poor advertising or choice of words in their title/description (i.e., Can. Variant, Can. Newsstand, variant, rare newsstand, etc…) and sadly sell for ridiculously low prices. I wonder if these sellers have GPA or Gocollect and look at other sold books close in grade when placing a fixed price?
-Then there are the flippers who flood the auction house with several dozen graded CPV’s at once, raw books picked up for dirt cheap because the comic book stores or private owners who originally owned them knew little to nothing about CPV’s. Sometimes these books don’t reach their maximum potential because the auctions end at awkward times during the week or week-end. Some auctions end with books closing seconds apart leaving bidders little to no time placing stink bids on multiple books the last few seconds due to a lack of time and the sheer volume of books ending at once.
Rating: Recommended for buying as well as selling. Simply be careful for potential shilling and fraud. Also, avoid sellers who don’t reply to your inquiries, they don’t deserve your money.
Unfortunately, in the past year they failed to advertise Canadian Price Variants well. When they came up for auction they erroneously described them as Canadian Editions or Canadian Variants. They have been informed about the official label change that took place at CBCS and CGC but everything remains as is for the time being. To make matters worse, they recently twice auctioned off just under 100 CPV’s hidden amongst thousands of books in the same category. A few of those books were labeled as CPV’s from CGC but were actually US Newsstands or directs. In their defense, they do have a ton of books to manage each month and I guess CPV’s haven’t really been their primary focus. However, this was clearly a missed opportunity for them and a loss for the seller who twice did not maximize a profit. A few books did hit new record prices but the majority could have done much better for the reasons described above. However, I did see a CPV described correctly in the September auction which made me happy.
Rating: Recommended for buyers but not if you want to sell your CPV’s via their auctions unless it’s on the exchange where prices are fixed. They do have a selection of CPV’s.
Not much going on when it comes to CPV’s with the exception of a few just sitting there unnoticed, waiting for the right detective to discover them.
Rating: Not recommended unless you’re buying but the selection is little to none.
Now these guys are on the ball, calling them Canadian Price Variants even before the labelling companies did. Lots of great inventory sold on this site (i.e., The famous C.P.V. collection known as WAWA sold a few years ago).
Rating: Highly recommended for both buying and selling. A very nice selection of CPV’s.
OTHER ‘ONLINE’ DEALERS I HIGHLY RECOMMEND FOR CPV’S, ETC…
I strongly recommend purchasing CPV’s from my colleagues, the co-authors of this guide. I have personally bought books regularly from Ben, Conan, Doug, Paul and Walter (basically their online stores which you can obtain the link atop of the guide pages). On Ebay I would also highly recommend Robin Kenny who goes by the handle, “Collage2.0”. For all of these recommendations, their prices are fair and they always keep things honest! I seek them out first because I trust them, and I wouldn’t like spending my hard-earned money with an online dealer who doesn’t treat long term clients with the respect deserved when expressing interest in buying books only to turn around and sells them to someone else with little regard to you. Long term, such dealers don’t do very well because their tactics, however subtle and/or refined, hit a nerve and bulk purchases simply stop. And word of mouth also gets around very quickly in the comic book community.
WHERE IS THE MARKET HEADED FOR CPV’S
When books sell for higher prices it encourages some collectors to get their copies graded and sold. This is a positive catalyst because, ‘over time’, possibly within a few years, the census starts reflecting with greater accuracy, the ratio of copies that exist in relation to US Newsstands and Direct Editions. It’s my belief that higher graded copies of CPV’s will find their way on the census but will always pale in comparison to their US Newsstand and Direct Edition copies. Unless you’re a completionist, why chase the latter two versions if you can obtain the scarcer CPV copy? In this case, scarcity should always take precedence when given a choice. However, simply because a book is scarce does not make it automatically valuable. There needs to be something appealing about the book (i.e., first appearance of a rising popular character, pivotal story, etc…).
Going forward, always ask yourself how often specific books in higher grades come up for sale and if the answer is “highly unlikely” then you know paying a higher premium for a book might be your only option at that given time because finding a replacement copy the following month or year might not work in your favor. Keep in mind there are reasonable premiums and not so reasonable premiums. For example, if a 9.6 graded CPV sells for $100 why pay $1000 or more for a 9.8 CPV of that same book (that’s 10x the price of a 9.6 CPV)! Maybe, in the future, for a certain fraction of these books, this might become the norm, and I could potentially see that happening for a first appearance but we are not there yet.
Numerous Archie issues should be worth more (i.e., explicit and suggestive covers, etc…) and even MORE SO very early Cheryl Blossom appearances.
The last issue in a long running title, particularly those that ended in 1986 for Marvel, 1988 for DC and mid to later 1990’s for Archie’s are also undervalued and could be picked up for cheap. Some are no longer cheap (i.e., Last CPV for T.M.N.T.A.) so be careful.
The smart money is also buying key books in very high grade that fall within the top 10-20% on the census. Focus on the top CPV comics from OUR GUIDE and pick them up when there’s a dip in price.
Also anticipate future books that might get a boost in price due to movie and T.V. speculation or confirmation that a character gets an official green light or sequel. For Example, Green Lantern #192, #201; Masters Of The Universe #1 (Star Comics and DC); New Teen Titans Annual #2; Jonah Hex #92 in case Westerns make a comeback; Brave and the Bold #200; Booster Gold #1; Thundercats #1; Powerpack #1; Eternals #1; Longshot #1; Marvel Tails #1; Marvel Secret Wars #1; Elvira’s House Of Mystery #1; Legion of Super Heroes #298; Strawberry Shortcake #1; Alpha Flight #1; A.S.M. Annual #16; Wonder Woman #300; Super Villain Classics #1; numerous first appearances in the G.I.Joe , Transformers, Batman, A.S.M., Swamp Thing and Detective Comics run.
Rule #1: Aim for ‘quality’ books in the highest grade you can reasonably afford as opposed to buying ‘quantity’ in low to high mid-grades when ‘investing’ in C.P.V.’s
Rule #2: Don’t forget rule #1 😊
TWO BOOKS I STRONGLY FEEL ARE VERY UNDERVALUED
BLIP #1 (2/83) $1.25 cover price
This is a very tough book to find in any grade so pick one up if you get the chance. I am personally trying to find a high-grade copy (slabbed or raw) so please reach out if you have one to sell. This is the first comic book appearance of Super Mario Brothers and Donkey Kong which makes it special for two iconic reasons. Given the fact that this was a gaming book with a photo cover of t.v. star Matthew Laborteaux makes me think it might not have been atop of most collector’s lists. I know that in today’s world of comic book collecting dynamic covers bring in premiums over non-dynamic ones particularly when a character’s first appearance happens to be on it! If this is the case and most collectors are geared with this mindset, covers that are less attractive tend to be collected less and thus discarded, handled with less care and possibly harder to find in a higher grade for these reasons? These iconic characters are important and part of pop-culture creating interest in two genera of collectors – comics and the gaming world!
a) A gaming book not on a comic book collector’s most wanted list, thus possibly discarded and/or handled with less care;
b) FIRST Comic Book appearance of SUPER MARIO BROTHERS;
c) FIRST Comic Book appearance of DONKEY KONG;
d) SCARCE to find a CPV of this issue in any grade
Archie’s Pals ‘N’ Gals #161 (11/82) $0.75 cent cover price
About six months ago I noticed that on the front cover of Archie’s Pals ‘N’ Gals #161, well hidden in the red background was a plethora of sexual innuendos that I couldn’t believe my eyes! I’ve spent an hour or two looking at the cover of this book feeling like I was watching, The Davinci Code for the first time. It was fascinating to see how well-hidden the sexual panels were, each position masterfully disguised within a patchwork of different panels from other issues overlapping each other. Whether the artist accidentally positioned more than a few panels side-by-side or he forgot to finish coloring the rest of Veronica’s top is anyone’s guess. However, one thing is certain, there are too many of these so called “coincidences” to actually believe this was actually that! The fact that this issue passed the Comics Code surprised me even more because no one was paying attention to the hidden details! I went online and noticed there was nothing being discussed about this particular comic. Rather interesting, I did find a few other issues either before or after this one issue using some similar panels mishmashed in a similar fashion. I brought this book up to Walter Durajlija and Doug Sulipa and they were both equally surprised at the explicit panels layered in the background. The fact that kids bought this comic was unbelievable. I honestly believe that Archie’s Pals N Gals #161 is amongst one of the most undervalued CPV’s for several reasons.
a) A cover with multiple SEXUAL acts and positions passing the comics code unnoticed!
b) Suggestive and controversial covers tend to command more money;
c) THIRD appearance of Cheryl Blossom;
d) FIRST SOLO story for Cheryl Blossom
e) Second appearance of Jason Blossom
f) First appearance of Cheryl Blossom in this title
g) Archie in DRAG
h) Cheryl Blossom Pinup
i) SCARCE to find a CPV of this book in ANY GRADE!
Let’s have some fun.
Below is a pic of the front cover with eight distinctive circles highlighting where the sexual panels are hidden (some are more suggestive than others). Similar to a Scavenger Hunt, try to figure out where the panels are. It is particularly challenging to see them at first glance unless you have a copy of the book on hand. A magnifying glass will help you see it quicker. Obviously, if these panels were easily noticeable, I wouldn’t think the comics code would have approved it.
Let’s start. Try spotting the ten below. (hint- #5, #7 and #10 are within the same circle)
1) Veronica’s bottom-half of her top may be somewhat exposed or it could simply be a play on the color and texture of her top;
2) Man’s head (in red background) between Veronica’s legs (in red section again) with what seems like a second male head hiding behind her buttocks (panel is at the bottom right corner of the cover);
3) Bear seems stunned looking at Archie’s buttocks (who happens to be dressed in drag);
4) Bear is smiling in what seems like a sexual position from behind (clearly drawn for that purpose yet easy to miss in plain sight because no one is expecting it);
5) Overlapping pics? Seems like Veronica’s fingers are wrapped around something and performing an oral act which, if you look closely and just below Archie’s right elbow it seems like the bottom half of a right ‘tes**cle’. You can see Veronica’s big head somewhat hidden behind the title word, “…COMICS…” atop. Archie is on the right side looking scandalized at it, all-the-while pointing his finger in someone else’s mouth;
6) Two pics possibly overlapping giving the illusion that there are two faces close to two male midsections (not as suggestive as a few of the other panels);
7) Two bare bottoms just under Archie’s opened legs;
8) Two pics overlapping, showing a hand pulling on a string ironically in an inappropriate spot causing the man to smile;
9) Seems like Archie’s private part (midsection) is exposed but very well disguised as the bottom of a shirt or thumb. Look underneath the letter ‘P’ and ‘A’ from the word “Pals”;
10) A very well-hidden (and tiny) naked woman between Archie’s head and Veronica’s fingertips. It’s so small yet you can see her head, her exposed bottom is attached to the blue circle that makes up the upper part of the letter ‘i‘ from the word, “Archie’s Pals N Gals” title.
As most of you know, there is a well-known cover where Alf positions himself on the seal giving the illusion of a sexual position. Something similar is going on with this Archie cover (Circle #6).
And here are some other individual pictures below (click to enlarge):