By Benjamin Nobel
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Rust #1 Limited Edition
Spawn #1 Black & White
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Spawn #9 Newsstand Edition
Spawn Batman Newsstand Edition
Spawn #1 Newsstand Edition
May 2016 Update: Spawn Newsstand Values Pulling Away From Direct Edition
Here we are in 2015, a full 23 years after Spawn #1 was published. Todd McFarlane is hard at work on the new Spawn movie, reportedly set to be an R-rated film in the horror/thriller genre. Judging by the millions of views to the recent fan film (“Spawn: The Recall”), an R-rated major motion picture has the potential to be a mega-hit, potentially drawing legions of new fans to this already strongly popular character.
Spawn’s incredibly strong popularity from day one is reflected in the comic book sales numbers. According to Comichron (one of my favorite resources to research comic books):
“Spawn #1 is widely believed to have broken the million-copy mark, overall.”
Looking at Spawn #1 from the point of view of a comic book collector, one would certainly want to own a copy of the comic book featuring Spawn’s first appearance… It is a “key” book, but, the existence of a million copies out there hardly makes Spawn #1 a rarity. Without the scarcity factor, collectible value cannot follow, because supply will always overwhelm collector demand.
Spawn fans, seemingly desperate for something rare with a “Spawn #1” on it, have instead gravitated to the “Black & White Edition” as their Spawn #1 collectible of choice, bidding up the value to astonishing numbers, including a recent sale at $249.99 for a VF/NM copy as screencaptured below from eBay’s completed listings page. At a budget of $250/copy, if one wanted to acquire all 3,100 copies (hypothetically speaking of course), it would require one to spend $775,000. That’s quite a lot of implied value ascribed by collectors to this issue.
When you see a VF/NM copy sell for a penny shy of $250, it begs the question: why are collectors paying such prices? Here is my answer. As discussed on RecalledComics.com (another great collector resource), the “Black & White Edition” of Spawn #1 was a retailer incentive variant — as an incentive to comic shops to order 50 or more copies of Spawn #65, shops were offered a copy of this special variant for every 50 copies of Spawn #65 ordered.
Based on this 1-in-50 rarity, we can extrapolate the likely number of Black & White edition copies in existence, if we know the sales numbers for Spawn #65. And for that information I turn to the Comichron monthly sales data page, where we can see Spawn #65 tops the charts at over 165,000 copies ordered. If every block of 50 out of that 165,000 also came with one Black & White Edition copy, that would imply a total maximum count of 3,300 copies. Because some comic shops may have ordered less than 50 copies, it is reasonable to take that number down some. RecalledComics estimates 3,100 copies, which I think is perfectly reasonable. Another piece of rarity information: as of this writing, there are 449 copies of the Black & White Edition on the CGC census (i.e. that is how many copies collectors have submitted to CGC for grading and encapsulation).
A print run of 3,100 is quite a lot lower than a million, which I argue is part of the explanation for the prices collectors are paying for copies of the Black & White Edition. I suggest that another part of the explanation, is how comic shops marketed their copies to collectors — giving them a complete education on the 1-in-50 rarity. By educating their customers about the rarity, the comic shops could sell them for the most money, right? But what about all the rare Spawn comics out there that the shops didn’t educate their customers about?
That’s where my blog aims to come in.
I say hold onto your $249.99, because there are lots of other highly interesting and rare Spawn comics you can find in VF/NM range condition at much more reasonable prices — even if we take that 249.99 amount and move the decimal place one over to the left as our budget.
That’s right, with this blog my goal is to profile Spawn comics that are not only demonstrably rare, but can be purchased for under $25 in high grade. Rather than being an exhaustive list, it will just be examples of my own choosing, but each one will be rare and interesting in some way. Each blog entry will profile one particular comic.
I’m going to cover a 1-in-100 variant of the original Spawn #1 that you probably didn’t know exists, a rare variant of a classic Frank Miller / Todd McFarlane collaboration, plus, I’m going to cover “a #1” that — based on the sales numbers data — likely sold on the order of ~400 copies (that’s fewer copies than the number of CGC graded copies of the Black & White Edition — and yet I paid $12.65 for my copy of that other rare comic).
Thanks for stopping by, continue reading with my first entry! A preview of this first comic I will profile: did you know that the below Spawn artwork appeared on the inside back cover of a comic book published one month earlier than Spawn #1? That’s right: this comic book was published in April of 1992 (versus Spawn #1 published in May). What’s more: there was a “Limited Edition” variant with an estimated 10,000 copies. And yes, based on recent eBay sales, you can own a VF/NM copy with a budget of $25.
List of Profiled Comic Books
Hungry for even more? Check out more Rare Comics to Look For and Lists of Key Comic Books by Year (including important comics of the 1970’s, the 1980’s, the 1990’s, and the 2000’s or key comic books by age: key bronze age comics; key copper age comics; key modern age comics). And don’t miss: Newsstand Variants, $3.99 Newsstand Editions, and The Doc Collection
Also see: the hobby’s very first online comic book price guide for Type 1A 1980’s newsstand cover price variants from Marvel & DC: