These days, almost every comic gets its own variant covers. The bigger the release, the more variants you get. DC’s Doomsday Clock #1 had four different covers, and Marvel has littered comic store shelves with numerous lenticular variants for their Legacy line.
Variants are nothing new. They gained immense popularity (and helped flood the market and cause Marvel to go bankrupt) in the mid 1990s, and comic publishers are still churning them out to mixed reactions. What you may not know is that Marvel actually started the variant cover phenomenon back in the ‘70s.
In 1976-1977, Marvel supposedly tested select market areas to see how buyers would react to raising prices from 30-cents to 35-cents. Since these were limited prints to gauge reactions, they have become highly collectible because they are so hard to find and ramped up prices for what would otherwise be non-keys for many of those issues.
This is the mother of all variants because the price is insane. In June 2017, a CGC 9.4 for the 35-cent print sold for $25,000. Take a moment and let that sink in. You can get a Fantastic Four #1 graded at a 7.5 for slightly less than that. Even if you want to drop all the way down to a 1.5, it still averages close to $1,000.
Marvel also tested out a 35-cent price for Star Wars #2, and it is substantially cheaper than its predecessor, but by no means is it cheap. A graded 8.0 is still averaging $2,800.
I can’t say I’ve ever thought to be on the lookout for a Flintstones comic, but I know better now. Back in November, a CGC 1.0 sold for $1,000. Have you ever thought about spending a solid grand on a Flintstones comic?
To the best of my Google research abilities, I have yet to find another recorded sale of this comic...which makes me really want a copy. What’s truly telling about the rarity of this issue is that if you search for it on eBay, you won’t find a single auction for it. You can find multiple listings for the 30-cent edition, but do your best to find the 35-cent cover.
Back in 1977, when Marvel was toying with the idea of raising prices by an entire nickel, writer Chris Claremont debuted what would become one of his most famous creations, Sabretooth. Add in the rare 35-cent cover, and you take what was already a collectible comic even more valuable. This past September, a CGC 9.4 sold on eBay for $8,201. For comparison, a 9.4 with the 30-cent price cover averaged $402 last year.
What would otherwise be a forgettable bronze age comic is a dollar shy of being a $700 key because of five whole cents.
If you have the 30-cent edition of ASM #171, let’s say at a CGC 9.2, you’ve got a comic that isn’t worth much more than the fees you paid to have it graded and encased to begin with. However, if you are lucky enough to have the 35-cent variant, that price shoots up to $699. This just goes to show you that, like Flintstones #1, it doesn’t so much matter what is happening as far as the story in the comic as it does how rare that issue is, even if it’s only one number on the cover.
GoCollect is looking for writers to speculate on comic collecting and investing. Check out jobs page to learn more.