By Benjamin Nobel, December 13, 2015
In the process of collecting the first appearance of Angela, perhaps you have come across a CGC graded copy of Spawn #9 (like the one pictured below) and noticed “Newsstand Edition” on the label. You might have wondered, why are newsstand copies considered a variant by CGC? What’s the difference? In this post, I aim to answer these questions!
Spawn #9 Newsstand Edition vs. Direct Edition — What Are The Differences?
As discussed in Comic Book Newsstand Editions: Understanding The Difference, the vast majority — 98-99% — of comic books sold by Image Comics were direct edition copies sold to comic shops on a non-returnable basis. The remaining small fraction were newsstand sales, where unsold copies could be returned for a refund. Two distinct print runs were published, one for each distribution channel. The newsstand print run was always published with a UPC code somewhere on the front or back cover. For issue #9, the UPC code was on the bottom left corner of the front cover.
Looking at the two covers, we can see that the cover artwork is identical. However, there are two differences. The first is the inclusion of the month, March (Mar), on Direct Edition copies.
The second difference between Direct Edition and Newsstand Edition copies is the UPC code: only Newsstand Edition copies have a UPC code in the bottom left corner of the front cover.
For the vast majority of newsstand edition copies, generally speaking, this is where the differences end to their direct edition counterparts, i.e. the front covers may have differences (such as the UPC code), but the manufacturing of the rest of the comic book is identical. And for this vast majority, CGC does not distinguish the two print runs [8/31/2016 update: I’m now aware of two other “special situations” where CGC distinguishes US newsstand copies from their direct edition counterparts — read Newsstand Variants, $3.99 Newsstand Editions, and The Doc Collection for more information].
For Spawn, the earliest issues are this way — up to somewhere around issue #8. At that point, possibly as a cost-cutting measure, Image began to manufacture Spawn newsstand copies with cheap newsprint paper instead of glossy paper. So for Spawn #9, the differences between Direct Edition and Newsstand Edition continue…
A further difference was that Direct Edition copies were manufactured with an Angela poster (by Jim Lee) in the centerfold. Newsstand Edition copies — again possibly as a cost-saving measure — did not include the Angela poster. [3/12/2018 Update: A reader shared their discovery of the existence of newsstand copies with the poster!]
Here is another look at the paper difference, with a Direct Edition copy at left featuring glossy interior paper, the same page from a Newsstand Edition copy at right, made from newsprint.
The newsprint paper was lighter and thinner.
Newsprint paper is much lighter. Note the weight difference between a direct edition copy (left) and a newsstand edition copy (right). The heavy glossy paper results in a total weight about 50% greater than the newsstand edition copy.
Spawn #9 Newsstand Edition vs. Direct Edition — The Rarity Difference
Now that we’ve covered the manufacturing differences between direct edition and newsstand edition copies of Spawn #9, let’s take a look at the rarity difference. Because of the manufacturing difference, CGC treats newsstand edition copies as a unique variant — that means we can study the CGC census data, something that is not possible with the earlier issues of Spawn where CGC makes no distinction. As mentioned earlier, we learned from an industry insider that Image’s distribution was 98-99% direct edition copies and only 1-2% newsstand edition copies. Does this rarity also show up on the census? Let’s take a look. First, below is the census data for direct edition copies of Spawn #9:
As of this writing in December of 2015, the CGC census shows 1,358 Direct Edition copies of Spawn #9 have been graded. Now let’s take a look at the data for Newsstand Edition copies of Spawn #9:
As of this writing in December of 2015, the CGC census shows 29 Newsstand Edition copies of Spawn #9 have been graded. Adding together the two editions, 1,358 Direct Edition copies + 29 Newsstand Edition copies = a total of 1,387 CGC graded copies of Spawn #9.
As a percentage, that is 2% newsstand edition to 98% direct edition!
Spawn #9 Newsstand Edition Variant — Collecting This Comic
On top of the distribution rarity, collectors should also consider the rarity in high grade. Cheap newsprint does not hold up well to the test of time, and newsstand readers in general actually read the copies they purchased. Furthermore, the staff of newsstands were not trained to handle comics with care, and newsstand comic books were likely to sustain damage the moment they hit the wire rack. Newsstand comic books in VF/NM and higher grade are therefore a difficult find, and the top grades of 9.6 and 9.8 are extraordinarily difficult.
Holding true to the theme of this blog, Newsstand Edition copies of Spawn #9 can be found in high grade with a budget of just $25. This is actually rather remarkable given the extreme rarity of newsstand copies combined with the key first appearance of Angela in this issue, but even a recent CGC graded copy in high grade (the one pictured in the beginning), sold for $19.99 at auction on eBay:
The extremely low distribution rarity, extremely low CGC census count, and availability on eBay and elsewhere at prices under $25 make Newsstand Edition copies of Spawn #9 an excellent value.