Newsstand Edition

Spawn #9 Newsstand Edition

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!

CGC graded Newsstand Edition copy of Spawn #9

An example CGC graded Newsstand Edition copy of Spawn #9, which recently sold on eBay at auction for $19.99.

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.

The two variants of Spawn #9.

Left: A copy of Spawn #9 from the Direct Edition print run. Right: A copy of Spawn #9 from the Newsstand Edition print run.

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.

Direct Edition copies show March, Newsstand Edition copies just #9.

Left: Direct Edition copies have the month (Mar) under the #9. Right: Newsstand Edition copies just have the #9. Both have a cover price of $1.95 ($2.45 Canada).

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.

Direct Edition copies lack a UPC code.

Left: Direct Edition copies of Spawn #9 lack a UPC code. Right: Newsstand Edition copies have a UPC code at 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…

Spawn #9 direct edition copies were manufactured with glossy pages, newsstand edition copies manufactured with newsprint.

Top: First interior page of a Direct Edition copy of Spawn #9. Glossy paper was used for the interior pages. Bottom: First interior page of a Newsstand Edition copy. Cheap newsprint paper was used for the interior pages.

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!]

Spawn #9 direct edition copies had a poster by Jim Lee, but newsstand copies were manufactured without the poster.

Top: Direct Edition copy with the Angela poster by Jim Lee. Also note the glossy paper used for interior pages. Bottom: Newsstand Edition copies were manufactured without the poster, and interior pages were cheap newsprint.

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.

Direct Edition copies had glossy paper, Newsstand Edition copies had newsprint paper.

Another Spawn #9 interior page. At left, the glossy paper of a Direct Edition copy. At right, the newsprint paper of a Newsstand Edition copy.

The newsprint paper was lighter and thinner.

Another newsprint page from Spawn #9

Most collectors will be able to tell newsprint paper from glossy paper: newsprint paper is very light and almost see-through.

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.

Direct Edition copy of Spawn #9 is 50%+ heavier than the Newsstand Edition copy.

Left: This Direct Edition copy of Spawn #9 weighs in at about 2.5 ounces. Right: This Newsstand Edition copy of Spawn #9, due to being manufactured with newsprint pages instead of glossy, weighs in at 1.6 ounces.

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:

Spawn #9 direct edition CGC census data.

Spawn #9 direct edition CGC census data: as of this writing, 1,358 copies have been graded.

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:

Spawn #9 newsstand edition CGC census data.

Spawn #9 Newsstand Edition CGC census data shows 29 copies.

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:

Spawn #9 CGC 9.0 eBay auction copy sold for $19.99.

A recent sale of a CGC graded Newsstand Edition copy of Spawn #9: an auctioned copy sold for $19.99 with one bid.

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.

Happy Collecting!

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2 thoughts on “Spawn #9 Newsstand Edition

  1. Chris H. says:

    Hi Ben!

    I want to thank you for educating me on Image newsstand variants. In the last week I’ve picked up high grade newsstand variants (Supreme #1, ShadowHawk #2-#3, Violator #1-#3, and others) just by knowing what to look for.

    As I indicated to you elsewhere, my biggest finds were two Spawn #9 newsstand variants, with both copies containing the Jim Lee poster! Books that should no exist, but do! The mystery is clearly afoot!

    Chris

    Like

    • Hi Chris, thanks so much for sharing your discovery! And thanks for sending me pictures — here they are below for other readers to see:



      Between Grand Comics Database, CGC, and CBCS, it had appeared there was consensus that the whole newsstand edition print run was simply produced without the poster inserted, so to discover the poster inside a newsstand copy in the wild like you did is really quite unexpected!

      Here’s Grand Comics Database, specifically noting that the poster is supposed to be missing:

      Similar from CBCS — on their Spawn #9 labels they note “Direct Editions include Angela poster by Jim Lee“:

      But when it comes to CGC, I notice that their label has actually changed sometime in the past few years… The Spawn #9 newsstand label used to carry a key comments note as follows, specifically stating “without Angela poster“:

      That above example was graded by CGC in 2015. Searching eBay today, however, I noticed that the key comments note on newer CGC-graded copies is different. Sure enough, when I pulled up a certification lookup on the above copy, the note now omits all mention of the poster and simply mentions the newsprint paper used for the interior pages…

      Could this change to the key comments note text mean that CGC has since graded a copy with a poster? I do not know the answer but perhaps that would explain the key comments note change?

      A fascinating discovery Chris, thanks again for sharing it!! 🙂

      – Ben

      Like

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