The Oversaturated Variant Covers

Matt Tuck Feb 11, 2018
Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-man #300 (Alex Ross Variant Leg)

There are so many variant covers on the shelves these days that it’s hard to decide which one to buy.

Back in November, I hit up my local comic shop for Doomsday Clock #1. I had my choice of the regular edition with the main cover, a variant with Superman on the cover, the black and white sketch variant of the Superman cover, and the Rorschach lenticular variant. As a fan, I wanted to read the story, but as a collector, I wanted to be sure I made the right investment for the future.

If this was a rare event, I would have shelled out my $20 for all four covers and enjoyed the various artwork. But the thing is, this isn’t rare. The same day I was deciding which Doomsday variants to buy, I also was weighing which Dark Nights: Metal covers I wanted not to mention the number of Venom variants that were also on the shelf that day. I could go on.

In the modern age of comic collecting, practically every comic has a variant or twelve. Some variants you have to special order and, depending on the print run, these can cost you $50, $100, or even more depending on the print run. I’ve reached a point where I don’t want to have five covers of what is essentially the same comic unless I’m sure it’s going to be worth my investment. Oftentimes, it’s not.

In the case of the Doomsday Clock variants, they’re not hard to find, which means you can get them for cheap. So if you stocked up multiple copies of each cover, it’s not likely you’ll see much of a profit from selling them. True, a CGC 9.8 of the main cover has a 90-day average of $58. However, factor in the shipping and grading costs, and you’ve more or less broken even with a sale at that price, which begs the question: was it even worth the trouble of grading?

The latest variant I’m seeing that’s got collectors in a feeding frenzy is the upcoming Spectacular Spider-Man #300.

On eBay and plenty of other sites, dealers are taking orders for pre-sales of the Gabriele Dell’Otto variant cover. Mind you, it is exquisite artwork of Carnage and Spider-Man fighting inside what I’m assuming is the Daily Bugle offices. Most sellers are taking pre-orders for a trade dress (meaning it has the title, barcode, etc.) and virgin print (there’s only the artwork on the cover) combo for in the neighborhood of $100. I placed my order, and I’m hoping the investment pays off in the future. When it releases, it will be a hot commodity, and I’m sure I can easily sell the virgin cover for $100. However, with a print run of 1,000, will I see the market value increase above that in, say, three years from now?

Something else to consider with Spectacular Spider-Man #300, the Dell’Otto variant is only one of seven variant covers that will be released for that issue. Like the cool Alex Ross cover? You can order one now for around $100. Unless you’ve got more extra money to burn than I do or you’re simply a major Spider-Man fan, who can buy all seven of those with these kinds of prices?

When it comes to variants, there are too many to list here. As I said before, the value depends on the print run, but that print run also brings a higher price from the distributors. With so many variants on the market, you’ll go broke in a hurry if you try to buy every high-priced exclusive or virgin variant out there. To a lesser extent, you’ll lose money on your return if you buy every variant cover that hits a store shelf, too.

Marvel and DC did this variant cover extravaganza back in the 1990s, and it flooded the market with too many gimmick covers. As other comic speculators have written, the comic book industry is bordering on that now.

I’m a comic fan, and I love a good cover; I’ve bought plenty of comics just for the cover art, and I’m fine with that. But there is a limit, and I have reached it, and I would wager that there are plenty of other fans and collectors that have reached their limit of variants, too. As for me, I’m not opposed to buying the occasional variant in hopes of it becoming a “Holy Grail,” as it were, but unless I’m a fan of that particular comic, I’m limiting the number of variants I’m buying. Personally I’d rather put that money toward a classic silver or golden age key.