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Monday, June 30, 2014

Variant Covers As Comic Investments Revisited

Back in January, 2013, I did an article detailing variant covers with the focus being on the Quesada sketch variant to Superior Spider-Man #1. Since it's becoming more known that some Modern Age variants have extremely low print runs and since more and more are seeking these out, I'm going to revisit this topic again. Tim and Brian also suggested I revisit this topic again, so thanks to them as well.

For many comic investors and speculators, rarity is an important ingredient for a comic book. However, it seems that those collectors in the variant niche are focused on rarity and forgeting the most crucial element of a comic's value. That crucial element is demand! 

So how is the Superior Spider-Man #1 Quesada sketch variant doing now in the current market? Well, when I talked about this particular variant back in June of 2013, variant hunters were pre-ordering that variant at $350 a pop. Yep, $350 for a comic that hasn't even hit the market yet.

Then when it came out, that comic was being being bid up to around $200 bucks. As I was watching it then, I predicted demand would fizzle out and the value of that book would slide even further.

So how well did my feeble knowledge do pertaining to this variant? Well, the last copy of this variant sold for $150.53 on June the 7th of this year, and it was a CGC 9.8 copy! Add it up any which way you want, that's still a loss if you got that variant right out of the running gate. 

Let's take a brand new variant that I've been watching for a bit this year. This one is The Walking Dead #127 Diamond Distributer Retailer Summit Variant.

Back in May, this sucker was selling for above the $200 mark. Some of them even dropping on eBay near or past the $300 mark, but on average they were selling around $175.66.

Now, a month later, this variant is dropping on eBay at the average of $151.43. Yes, I did actually go on eBay and calculated it all out for the month of May and June. I have no life.

However, granted there were some copies in May that were sold on eBay for like $60 bucks, but those were like two. Lucky guys who sniped those. They could sell their copies and make instant profit, but for the rest, the majority spent way too much money for a variant that's demand will probably lose steam and end up fizzling.

Then again it is early, right? It's suppose to be an investment. Well, here's the thing: Demand usually starts off really strong and then falls quickly. Then, it's all downhill from there until it levels off with most variants.

I remember seeing this variant at the comic shop a week after #127 came out, and it was being sold for $200. I did take a look at it but that's about it. I know if I really wanted it I could wait till after the hype and the demand wilts and get that #127 variant cheaper. If only others realized this too, but some just have to have it immediately when it's released. Oh, well, their dollars wasted, not mine.

But here's the truth: Some variants are actually good comic investments. I'm gonna take the Spawn #1 Black and White variant reprint from September, 1997. It was a dealer incentive comic, in which they got one for every 50 copies ordered of Spawn #65. It's estimated that 3,100 copies were printed, but I think it's a bit more than that.

Back in 2003, this sucker was valued at $20 for NM 9.4 copies, meaning you could probably get it for that price or a bit over it. Now, CGC 9.8s are selling within the $400 to $500 range. 

A good comic investment? Yes, but you could get that sucker a lot cheaper when it was first released than the retail incentive variants of today.

Another variant that's proven to hold up is the Amazing Spider-Man #700 variant by Steve Ditko. Not too surprising since it is a cover by Steve Ditko, who is the co-creator of Spider-Man and the first comic artist to draw him for publication. The cover was also unused art that was supposed to used for Amazing Fantasy #15.

To be honest with you, I'm not sure how much this cost out of the running gate when it was released. Some forums pegged it selling on auction for $710 during the time. About 99 copies were signed by Stan Lee on his birthday December 28, 2012 and graded on CGC's Signature Series. To commemorate the occassion, CGC even gave it those copies a special label which says "SIGNED BY STAN LEE ON 12/28/12 ON STAN LEE'S 90TH BIRTHDAY".

Not entirely sure whether those copies selling for $710 were the 99 CGC Signature Series commemorative copies or not. However, in May 17th of 2014, a regular Universal CGC 9.8 sold for $908.70. 

A Stan Lee's commemorative CGC Signature Series 9.8 copy of the ASM #700 Ditko variant sold on eBay $1,275 June 22, 2014. Regular unslabbed copies of this variant are selling around $400 to $500 currently.

If the regular unslabbed copies were the ones selling around $710 on eBay shortly after being released, then even the mighty Steve Ditko could not sustain the demand. However, if they were the CGC Stan Lee commemorative copies then they have at least held up nicely in terms of demand. Still, as I mentioned before, regular copies of the Ditko variant at CGC 9.8 at least are selling above $710.

Let's take a look at another Walking Dead variant. This one is The Walking Dead #85 Infinity and Beyond variant. The variant was an exclusive 20 year celebration of the Infinity and Beyond comic shop in Shrewsbury, Shropshire in the U.K. The cover is card stock and the back is blank to allow for sketches. It was limited to only 2,000 copies, so it's a pretty rare comic. 

However, CGC 9.8s are still selling for only $30-40 bucks on eBay. Does this variant have potential to grow in demand and value? I think so, because the price makes it accessible now despite being a comic with a low print run. At the present moment, however, what the price it's selling at says it all - Demand is low. But will the fact that it's rare or a limited print run be the factor that makes this comic more in demand in the future? That still has yet to be seen.

One more I'm gonna review. Just recently Gerry went digging through his collection and found a rare gem. It's a comic that most would confuse as junk back in the day, but it's come to light in recent years to be extremely rare. 

The comic is the Pressman variant to Uncanny X-Men #297. These variants only came with the Pressman X-Men board games, but some had mail in vouchers in order to receive them. I believe Uncanny X-Men #297 was one you had to mail away for. 

Estimated copies in existence are around 500! The most recent copy sold for $150 in this month of June. It was unslabbed as well.

A CGC 9.8 of the Uncanny X-Men Pressman variant has already hit eBay and asking the price of a whopping $1,150 bucks. A bit over-priced in my opinion but there are people watching it. Will be interesting to see how that plays out. 

I do believe Gerry has it in mind to submit his copy to CGC, and I'm betting he picked this up in a comic lot. The original owner probably mistook the comic for junk and dished it off super cheap.

So can variants or reprints be good comic investing choices? Yes, they can, but I admit, I can't stand variants and generally keep away from them. Despite my bias, I am slowly coming around to some of them.

I still won't pay $100 to $200 for a dealer incentive variant just fresh in the market. I know what happens to the demand soon after, and that's some of the problem with variant hunting. Too many get caught up in the rarity aspect of it. 

This is a low print run, that's a low print run. It's super rare, but so super what? I don't care how rare a comic is. Without demand to sustain or push the value up, rare doesn't mean diddley doo doo. Would it really have mattered that the Walking Dead #1 issue was a low print run if there wasn't the television show to push the demand into the stratosphere?

Demand is still king any which way you slice it at the present. The tricky part to variant covers is determining which ones have room for further growth in demand and which ones ultimately end up killing demand as quick as a fart in the wind due to instant and enormous over-inflated prices. 

As with any comic to invest in, the question of which variants will be sought out in the future by collectors is a bit more of a gamble. Who truly knows which variant comics will be duds and which will be sought-after studs in 20 years?

But what is true is that the comic market always changes as it chugs along. Right now, the variant market is pretty much a niche thing, but that doesn't mean that collectors of the future won't place rarity alone as the driving force for the demand of comic books. What seems like a gamble today just might be the standard for collectors in the future.

The real question is how much are you truly willing to gamble on a variant right out of the gate - $30/$40 bucks or $350?

Thanks for reading. If you want to read the previous post I wrote about this subject from a year ago, go ahead and click right here. See you soon with more comic goodness on the way!


  1. I mostly never play the variant game. But a few years ago l picked up Spawn BW 1 for $100. I sold off all of my Spawn Collection for $500, which paid for Spawn BW and put $400 in my pocket. LK

    1. Once again, I'm with you on that LK. For me, it's too much of a gamble. I seriously have no idea which variants will be sought after in the future or not. I can't even put a finger on it. A lot of variant hunters just use the shotgun approach and gobble up any and every variant they can. Not gonna do that for sure.

      Although, I do have to admit you made a good call with the Spawn #1 B&W variant. That sucker has done well throughout the years and still continues to perform. Congrats!

  2. I agree with you 100% on this. Unless you can get a variant cover on the cheap, then there's really not much sense in getting them for investment reasons. And also the demand. With my X-Men 297 variant, even though it "might" be the rarest X-Men comic out there, the demand for it isn't that high. There really isn't anything important that happens in the story line to make it a "hot" comic.

    You are correct about that X-Men 297 too. I got it in a long box I got on ebay. I thought it was a garbage second print when I first looked at it. Even when I first put it into the Comic Book Realm database, there was still no indication that this comic was special in any way. I think the guide price back then was around $6. As I was looking through my virtual collection on CBR a couple months ago, I saw that the guide price jumped to $200, so I had to do some research on it to figure out why, And yes, I'm getting it graded. But probably not by CGC, I think I'm going to try out the new CBCS when it comes online.

    ~Gerry D

    1. I was actually excited when you told me you found that X-Men 297 Pressman variant in your collection. It's a good one, and there is still demand for it. You're right...not huge demand at the moment, but people are still finding out about that copy.

      Besides, you got in a comic lot snag for super cheap. Just goes to show you that buried treasure is still out there. That's right! CBCS maybe a better option since they'll kick down free grader notes.

  3. What about stuff like Wolverine Origins #10? That third claw
    Variant seems to be holding up pretty well.

    1. I didn't mention Wolverine Origins #10 because I really couldn't comment on it. I couldn't find any info on how much it was going for when it was first released so I couldn't give really any facts if it was rising in value, going down, or just leveled off. It was not a variant that I was watching.

      How much was it selling for after initial release?

    2. If memory serves unslabbed NM copies have been at around the $200-300 mark for pretty much forever while the 9.6s or higher are dropping for considerably more. I'm a Wolverine collector and it's probably the third biggest variant I'm chasing with vol 2 145 Nabisco and Campbell's Deadpool variant for #1 being the top. -Jesse

    3. Oh, that seems like a pretty good one then. If CGC 9.6s and 9.8s are dropping for more than they were when the variant was initially released then it may be a good comic investment.