Newsstand Edition

Spawn Newsstand Values Pulling Away From Direct Edition

By Benjamin Nobel, May 12, 2016

Collectors have started to notice the 1:100 rarity of Spawn newsstand comics (the ones with UPC codes on their covers), as reflected in the recent prices of newsstand copies pulling away from their prevalent direct edition counterparts.  Below are screenshots of the most recent eBay sales (as of this writing in May, 2016) of CGC 9.8 newsstand copies of each:

spawn-newsstand-prices

Newsstand copies (UPC code on cover) in CGC 9.8 grade, of Spawn #1 and #9, each recently sold for about $275.

With these UPC coded newsstand copies representing only 1-2% of Image’s distribution, a market premium over their direct edition counterparts certainly makes sense.  Comics research resource Comichron pegs total sales for Spawn #1 as very likely having broken a million copies and total sales for Spawn #9 at around 700,000.  If we use these numbers (a million for Spawn #1 and 700K for Spawn #9), then the 1% newsstand ratio extrapolates to 10,000 newsstand copies of Spawn #1 and 7,000 newsstand copies of Spawn #9.  With this kind of rarity difference compared to direct edition copies, it is no wonder we are seeing prices pull apart.  Below for comparison are screenshots of two recent eBay sales (recent as of this writing in May, 2016) of CGC 9.8 direct edition copies of each:

spawn-direct-edition-prices

Big difference… direct edition copies are selling for a whole lot less… around $70 each.

I credit Angela and the associated surge of collector interest in Spawn #9 for bringing more attention to newsstand copies of Spawn #1.  Why?  Because CGC elected to treat newsstand copies of Spawn #9 as a unique variant on the census, on account of certain manufacturing differences (read more about those differences in my separate post: Spawn #9 Newsstand Edition).  With census data actually broken out, the extreme rarity comes through loud and clear.  Here is the census data for Spawn #9 at the time of this writing in May, 2016:

spawn-9-census-may-2016

Spawn #9 regular and newsstand edition census data as of May 2016.

With only 7 copies as of this writing in 9.8 for the newsstand edition, versus eight hundred and sixty six for the direct edition version, it is pretty clear why collectors would be willing to pay a premium for the more rare variant…  Putting this another way: there exist a grand total of 873 CGC 9.8 copies of Spawn #9 out there and only eight tenths of one percent of those are the rare newsstand version.  What about the Spawn #1 Newsstand Edition census numbers?  For that issue, CGC lumps both versions together as if they are one and the same (obviously they are not, but what can you do, that’s what CGC decided!).  This is why I said before that I think collector interest in Angela and therefore interest in Spawn #9 has helped drive awareness of the newsstand rarity… because with Spawn #1 anyone looking at the census data has no way of knowing there’s actually a distinct version of the issue that can be told apart, and that is drastically more rare.  But now that we have Spawn #9 data broken out, we can extrapolate using that data.  Lets round that eight tenths of one percent 9.8 rarity up to a full 1% for easy math, and then apply that to the count of 9.8’s on census for Spawn #1… doing that exercise extrapolates out to a probable ~28 newsstand copies of Spawn #1 in 9.8.  Here is the Spawn #1 census data at the time of this writing in May of 2016:

Spawn #1 census data as of May, 2016.

Spawn #1 census data as of May, 2016.

So there you have it: the reason why newsstand copies of Spawn #1 and #9 are starting to “pull apart” from direct edition prices of the same issue.  So if anyone out there has wondered just why certain copies are getting bid to much higher prices, now that you’ve read this post you can go back to those higher priced copies and check the bottom left corner of the front cover… chances are you’ll find a UPC code there!

8/31/2016 update:

Two CGC SS 9.8 newsstand copies of Spawn #1 have recently sold, one as a buy-it-now, and the other at no-reserve-auction.  Here are the sales prices:

Two recent eBay sales for CGC SS 9.8 Spawn #1 Newsstand Edition copies, one a buy-it-now at $525 and the other an auctioned copy which went for $381.

Two recent eBay sales for CGC SS 9.8 Spawn #1 Newsstand Edition copies, one a buy-it-now at $525 and the other an auctioned copy which went for $381.

For comparison, here are two recent buy-it-now and auction sales of CGC SS 9.8 direct edition copies of Spawn #1:

By contrast, recent direct edition CGC SS 9.8 sales of Spawn #1 show a buy-it-now at $225 and an auctioned copy at $152.50.

By contrast, recent direct edition CGC SS 9.8 sales of Spawn #1 show a buy-it-now at $225 and an auctioned copy at $152.50.

 

Happy Collecting! 🙂

p.s. As I update this post on 8/31/2016 to include the above recent sales of CGC SS copies, I’d like to link readers to a new post I just published covering several of the other “special situations” where CGC has elected to “break out” newsstand comics as variants, where the copy count is separately tracked (similar to how it is done for Spawn #9 but for different reasons): Newsstand Variants, $3.99 Newsstand Editions, and The Doc Collection

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Newsstand Edition

Spawn #1 Newsstand Edition

By Benjamin Nobel, January 18, 2016

Two recent occurrences reveal to comic book collectors the fact that newsstand edition copies of Spawn #1 are a low distribution rarity worth seeking for our collections:

  1. In 2013, an industry insider revealed that 99% of comic books distributed by Image Comics were direct sales copies, with just 1% of the distribution being the newsstand edition copies (those with UPC codes on the covers to distinguish them as returnable for a refund whereas direct sold copies were non-returnable — see Comic Book Newsstand Editions: Understanding The Difference for more about the history of the newsstand distribution channel).
  2. Also in 2013, it was revealed that Angela (who first appeared in Spawn #9) was moving over to the Marvel Universe.  This led to a sudden surge of collector interest in Spawn #9, and collectors bombarded CGC with well over 1,000 grading submissions.  About 2% of those submissions would come back with a “Newsstand Edition” variant label, on account of the fact that there is a manufacturing difference that causes CGC to treat newsstand copies as a unique variant (see my post on Spawn #9 Newsstand Edition for more details).

Putting #1 and #2 together, clearly these newsstand edition copies of Spawn comics are a low distribution rarity compared to their direct edition counterparts.  But why doesn’t CGC make a “newsstand edition” distinction for Spawn #1 the way they do with Spawn #9?  My best answer based on studying the treatment by CGC across a variety of newsstand edition examples, is that CGC will only make the distinction when there is either a manufacturing difference that goes beyond the UPC code itself, or when there is a difference in the cover price.  For Spawn #1, neither of these criteria are met, i.e. the manufacturing of newsstand edition copies and direct sold copies are the same (same quality paper, centerfold poster included in both versions, etc.), and the cover price is the same.  So for this reason, CGC lumps both editions together on the census and for all these years the rarity data has been “buried” and invisible to collectors.  But going back to points #1 and #2 from earlier, this rarity is buried no longer, because (1) an industry insider has revealed the fact about the extreme newsstand distribution rarity to collectors, and (2) with the surge of interest in Spawn #9 there is now a large sample size of cold hard CGC census data to corroborate the newsstand edition rarity (the CGC census data for Spawn #9 showing that 98% of all copies graded have been the direct edition).

For collectors of Spawn #1, this means we can look at the CGC census numbers and do some math to figure out what the numbers would look like if CGC did treat newsstand edition copies of issue #1 as a variant, assuming it followed the rarity demonstrated by the CGC census data for Spawn #9 of 98% direct sales to 2% newsstand.  Let’s do that math now.  Here’s the CGC census data for Spawn #1 at the time of this writing, showing 4,802 graded copies in total:

Spawn #1 CGC census data shows a grand total of 4,802 copies have been graded to date.

Spawn #1 CGC census data shows a grand total of 4,802 copies have been graded to date.

 

Now, if we apply the same 2% ratio that we find in the Spawn #9 CGC census data, to that 4,802 grand total for Spawn #1, we can extrapolate that there are about 96 newsstand edition copies of Spawn #1 (leaving about 4,706 direct edition copies).   This estimate of less than 100 CGC graded newsstand edition copies of Spawn #1 should strike us as remarkable: by contrast for example, there are 463 graded copies of the Spawn #1 Black & White Variant (1997), which is extremely highly valued by collectors… but our math demonstrates it is almost 5x as prevalent as newsstand edition copies of Spawn #1.  Yet, despite the clear comparable rarity of newsstand edition copies of Spawn #1 — and true to the theme of this blog — as of this writing one can acquire a high grade copy of the newsstand edition of Spawn #1 with a $25 budget!  Here is a recently sold copy on eBay:

spawn-1-newsstand-ebay

Recent sale of a newsstand edition copy of Spawn #1 that could have been purchased with a $25 budget.

This copy, as you can see by the title, could be found by searching “spawn 1 newsstand” but not all sellers actually realize there is a difference…  Therefore, a great deal can probably be found on eBay by scouring the listings for copies that clearly picture the newsstand edition (with the UPC code in the bottom left corner) but where the seller doesn’t realize there is any difference and does not title their listing with “newsstand” or “UPC” or similar keywords.  Also worth mentioning is that MyComicShop has already caught on to the newsstand desirability and they break out newsstand copies of Spawn #1 as “#1N”:

MyComicShop has already caught onto the desirability of newsstand copies of Spawn #1 and lists them separately from direct edition copies, as "#1N" in their system.

MyComicShop has already caught onto the desirability of newsstand copies of Spawn #1 and lists them separately from direct edition copies, as “#1N” in their system.

 

A final rarity distinction that we should also keep in mind:  On top of the distribution rarity, there is also the consideration of rarity in high grade.  Newsstand buyers in general actually read the copies they purchased. Furthermore, the staff of newsstands were not trained to handle comics with care (to them they were just like the magazines next to them on the rack), and for that reason newsstand comic books were likely to sustain damage the moment they were racked.  Newsstand comic books in VF/NM and higher grade are tough to find out there, and the top grades of 9.6 and 9.8 are extremely difficult to find.  To illustrate this, we’ll go back to our CGC census data for Spawn #9.  Although the overall newsstand rarity is 2% based on the grand total graded copies, what if we look at the numbers for just 9.8 graded copies?  At the time of this writing, there are 827 direct edition copies of Spawn #9 in 9.8 grade, versus 7 newsstand edition copies, for a grand total of 834 copies of Spawn #9 that have been deemed by CGC to be a 9.8.  Dividing 7 into 834, we find that the newsstand copies represent just eight tenths of one percent of the total.  Taking this ratio back over to Spawn #1 where there are a total of 2550 9.8’s at the time of this writing on census, we can extrapolate out to a probable 21 newsstand edition copies of Spawn #1 within that 9.8 tier.  Comparing again to the Black & White edition, there are 82 copies in 9.8 on census at the time of this writing, so once again the extreme rarity of newsstand edition copies of Spawn #1 is evident by contrast.

An example CGC 9.8 graded copy of Todd McFarlane's Spawn #1, published May of 1992 by Image Comics.

An example CGC 9.8 graded copy of Todd McFarlane’s Spawn #1, published May of 1992 by Image Comics.  Although CGC lumps the newsstand and direct edition copies together and the label does not say “Newsstand Edition” the way it does for Spawn #9, collectors in the know can still discern the rare newsstand edition copies from the prevalent direct edition copies by the UPC code on the cover.  (Note: one of the other comics I have profiled is Rust #1 which was published a month before Spawn in April of 1992, and contains a full page Spawn ad with an earlier concept logo by Todd McFarlane)

These incredibly low numbers for the newsstand edition copies — both the actual CGC census numbers for Spawn #9 where such copies are tracked separately as a variant and the extrapolated numbers for Spawn #1 where CGC lumps both editions together, forcing us to break out our calculators and make estimates — all trace back to the 1% distribution rarity revealed to collectors in 2013.  If Spawn #1 broke the million copy mark for total sales as is widely believed, at a million total copies that implies 10,000 newsstand edition copies based on 1% distribution rarity.  This is the same print run neighborhood that has gotten collectors so excited about the “gold UPC” and “platinum” variants of Todd McFarlane’s Spider-Man (1990).

Most of these newsstand edition copies were presumably purchased by readers who were unconcerned about their copies surviving in high grade decades later.  The end result is a low distribution edition of Spawn #1 that is fully distinguishable from other copies (only the low distribution copies have the UPC code on the cover — so seek out that UPC!), where the rarity has gone unnoticed by collectors all these years, with the key information and circumstances only arising for us to take full notice in 2013, over 20 years after the comic was first published!  This under-the-radar phenomenon allows collectors today to find high grade copies at values that are a relative steal compared to the more prevalent Black & White edition.

Happy Collecting!

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Newsstand Edition

Spawn Batman: Newsstand Edition

By Benjamin Nobel, January 10, 2016

Cover of Spawn Batman from Image Comics, 1994

Cover of Spawn Batman (Image Comics, May 1994).

In May of 1994, Image Comics published “Spawn-Batman #nn” (instead of being #1, the “nn” signifies no number — this is a “one-shot” comic).

An important comic featuring Frank Miller’s return to Batman (and, of course, art by the legendary Todd McFarlane, creator of Spawn), Spawn Batman is featured in the book DC Comics Year by Year: A Visual Chronicle by Daniel Wallace and Matthew Manning. That book states:

“This prestige one-shot marked Frank Miller’s return to Batman, and was labeled as a companion piece to his classic 1986 work Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. The issue was drawn by Todd McFarlane, one of the most popular artists in comic book history.”

If you have been looking to collect this comic, perhaps in the process you have come across different versions of it… specifically, a “Newsstand Edition” variant. There were two different versions printed, one was the “Direct Sales” / “Direct Edition” batch of copies and these had a rigid card stock cover; the other version was produced for the returnable newsstand channel (where unsold copies could be returned for a refund), and this second batch of copies were printed with a regular comic book paper stock cover — possibly as a cost-saving measure — and a yellow UPC code appears on the back (only copies with this UPC code were returnable for a refund — this differentiated them from the direct edition copies which were sold at a discount to comic shops but on a committed non-returnable basis).

Below is an example CGC label note for a Newsstand Edition copy, stating “UPC code on back cover and paper stock cover” in the label note at the right, and “Newsstand Edition” in the variant note at left. This variant note indicates that CGC treats such copies as a unique variant for labeling and census tracking purposes.

Spawn Batman newsstand edition CGC label

Example Spawn Batman “Newsstand Edition” CGC label, noting “UPC code on back cover & paper stock cover” (regular “Direct Edition” copies by contrast were manufactured with a rigid card stock cover).

When collecting this Newsstand Edition version, be sure to note the yellow color of the UPC code on these copies — this is important to know because there are also copies out there with a white UPC code.  Here’s the story on those:  book stores, interestingly enough, did not receive copies out of the newsstand edition print run for this comic.  (The reason I say “interestingly enough” is because in the later years of Marvel’s newsstand distribution just before it ended in 2013, book stores were the only place you could still find Marvel newsstand edition comic books; yet in this case with Image and Spawn Batman the book stores got copies out of the direct edition print run with the rigid card stock cover).  The white UPC codes were not actually part of the paper itself; instead, the copies sent out to book stores got a white sticker which contained the UPC code and was affixed to the back cover.  Below are examples of the three types of back covers you will find for Spawn Batman, starting with the regular Direct Edition (no bar code), then the Newsstand Edition (regular comic book paper stock cover and yellow background bar code), and finally the book store version which is just a Direct Edition copy with a white bar code sticker stuck onto the back:

Variants of Spawn Batman

Types of copies of Spawn Batman you will find out there: Top – regular Direct Edition copy (card stock cover), lacking any UPC code; Middle – rare Newsstand Edition copy with yellow UPC code on the back cover; Bottom – book store version with white bar code sticker (consider avoiding these because CGC will give you a “Qualified” green label).

If you were to turn in the three above example copies to CGC for grading, you would get labels similar to the following, shown below.  The first label at the top is for a regular Direct Edition copy (no UPC code; manufactured with rigid card stock cover).  The middle label is for a Newsstand Edition copy (yellow UPC code on back; manufactured with regular comic paper stock cover).  The last label shows what happens when you submit a Direct Edition copy with a white bar code label affixed to it, purchased from a book store.  The sticker causes CGC to give the book a “Qualified” grade and label, and the note reads “STICKER ATTACHED TO BACK COVER.”

Spawn Batman CGC labels, Direct vs. Newsstand.

Example CGC labels for the three example Spawn Batman versions: Top – a regular run of the mill Direct Edition copy; Middle – rare Newsstand Edition variant; Bottom – treated by CGC as a run of the mill Direct Edition copy with a sticker attached to the back cover, and given the green “Qualified” label.

 

So, although you will find three back cover versions of Spawn Batman out there, they really originate from just two different print runs, the card stock version print run (Direct Edition direct sold to comic shops and also those copies sold in book stores with the white bar code sticker slapped onto the back), and, the second print run which was the regular comic book paper cover version (Newsstand Edition).  In the picture below, you will see the open front cover of a newsstand edition version; this picture would not be possible with a Direct Edition copy which is rigid and would crease if opened all the way.

Regular comic book cover paper: Newsstand Edition of Spawn Batman.

An example of the open front cover of a Newsstand Edition version of Spawn Batman, showing how it has a regular comic book paper cover. Direct Edition copies by contrast had a rigid card stock cover.

So now that we have discussed the two different print runs, the manufacturing differences between them, and the variant treatment by CGC, which version should we want in our collections?  As discussed in Comic Book Newsstand Editions: Understanding The Difference, the vast majority — 98-99% — of comic books sold by Image Comics were the direct edition copies.  The remaining small fraction of 1-2% were newsstand copies, where unsold copies could be returned for a refund.  For Spawn Batman, the fact that bookstores actually got their copies out of the Direct edition print run (with the white bar code stickers affixed), may actually point to a lower total newsstand distribution percentage for this particular comic.

Let’s turn to the CGC census data and take a look at the rarity difference in the numbers.  As of this writing, 222 Direct Edition copies have been graded by CGC (14 of which are the Qualified label which are most likely the white sticker copies where the collector probably did not check the back cover before submitting).  Meanwhile, only 12 Newsstand Edition copies have been graded.

Newsstand vs Direct: Spawn Batman CGC census numbers.

Spawn Batman CGC census data, comparing the “regular” copies (Direct Edition with card stock cover) to the number of Newsstand Edition copies (regular comic book paper stock cover).

If you ask me, the rarity difference makes it crystal clear: fewer Newsstand Edition copies were sold (by a dramatic degree), that rarity disparity shows up in the CGC census numbers, and therefore a collector should clearly want to own the Newsstand Edition as the more rare of the two.  The rarity difference is magnified when moving up into the top grade tiers.  Note that there are zero Newsstand Edition copies in 9.8, and zero in 9.6.  With its black background cover and general treatment of newsstand copies, the top grade for this comic is 9.4 as of this writing.  This makes sense, because newsstand readers in general actually read the copies they purchased, whereas a comic shop customer was likely to collect the copies they purchased and keep them in pristine condition. 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.

The theme of this blog is rare Spawn comics that can be found in high grade with a $25 budget.  However, if you search eBay today for “Spawn Batman Newsstand” you will find a VF copy asking $75… that’s triple the budget.  Can a collector really obtain a newsstand copy of Spawn Batman with that $25 budget?  The answer is yes, but with a caveat.  Because the UPC code is on the back cover, hidden by the typical cardboard backer, the Newsstand Edition difference is practically unknown to collectors today and this means it is practically unknown to most sellers when they list theirs for sale (our $75 eBay seller excepted).

In fact, you will find that the vast majority of copies of Spawn Batman listed on eBay today do not even have a picture of the back cover included, because nobody knows that the back cover carries any importance!  But of course, it does… because it is the only way to know from a photograph whether you are looking at a Direct Edition or a Newsstand Edition copy…  but if you know that fact, you can use it to your advantage when hunting your copy down.  Before, I had answered “yes, but with a caveat” and that’s where my caveat comes in: I am certain you can find this comic with a $25 budget (because I did), but you will have to do a lot of work.  Specifically, the work involved is this: you will have to go through listings and contact about 100 sellers to ask them for a picture of the back cover.  But statistically, for every 100 you ask, you will find 1 newsstand copy in that haystack.  And if your luck matches mine, that newsstand copy will be available to you for purchase at direct edition prices because the seller doesn’t know the difference.  Happy Collecting!

 

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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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Newsstand Edition

Spawn / The Savage Dragon #1 (1996)

By Benjamin Nobel, November 8, 2015

spawn-cover-price-variant

“Re-purposed” as a whole different title, Spawn/The Savage Dragon, this comic was the newsstand version of Savage Dragon #30 — and also happens to be a cover price variant.

As discussed in Comic Book Newsstand Editions: Understanding The Difference, 98-99% of each comic book issue sold by Image Comics were direct edition copies, while the remaining tiny fraction represented newsstand sales, with newsstand copies printed differently and discernible from direct edition copies.

By the 1990’s collectors were generally buying all their comics in comic shops, and newsstand sales by comparison were struggling industry-wide. Within that struggling newsstand channel, competition was fierce; Savage Dragon was competing with the likes of Superman and Spider-Man, not to mention Spawn within the Image universe. Newsstand buyers were not picking up many copies of Savage Dragon, with high levels of returns making this distribution channel a real challenge.

All Savage Dragon comics printed for the newsstands used cheap newsprint interior paper, and centerfold posters were often excluded. But despite any savings that might have come from these manufacturing choices, the newsstand channel was a losing proposition for Savage Dragon.

All Savage Dragon Newsstand Copies Used Newsprint Paper

As posted by Erik Larsen, the separate print run of any given Savage Dragon comic book for the newsstand channel used newsprint interior paper.

Even with any savings that might have come from these manufacturing choices, Savage Dragon newsstand sales were losing money.  The final newsstand issue was #30, which featured Spawn on the cover.  Interestingly, the newsstand print run for this issue was given a different cover — the same artwork was used, but there are some key differences between the two covers:

  1. In place of the Savage Dragon logo, for the newsstand print run a combination logo with both Spawn and Savage Dragon was used.
  2. An “As Seen on TV” logo was included to further attract the attention of newsstand-goers.
  3. Instead of being numbered as Savage Dragon #30, the newsstand print run was numbered as #1 on the cover (Spawn / The Savage Dragon #1)
  4. Bonus DART pin-up was advertised in the bottom right corner
  5. The cover price was different.

And then of course the newsstand edition also had a UPC code in the bottom left corner.  Below is a front cover comparison of the two versions:

Spawn / The Savage Dragon #1 vs. Savage Dragon #30

At left, the direct edition of Savage Dragon #30; at right, the newsstand version (Spawn / The Savage Dragon #1).

A cover variant such as this might have carried the hope of drawing more newsstand buyers than normal.  But from the fact that there was no newsstand edition of #31 (i.e. #30 / Spawn/The Savage Dragon #1 was the final newsstand issue), we can surmise that the newsstand channel remained a money-losing proposition.  The post below by Erik Larsen reflects on just how difficult newsstand sales actually were:

Newsstand Sales Were Not Profitable

In this post, Erik Larsen comments on how difficult the newsstand channel was, ultimately pulling Savage Dragon off of the newsstands as that distribution channel was losing money.

With the newsstand channel, the level of returns determined the difference between making money or losing money.  For Savage Dragon comics, with this distribution channel losing money, after issue #30 Larsen made the decision to stop distributing Savage Dragon comics on newsstands altogether.

So: Savage Dragon #30 was the final issue distributed on newsstands.  How many copies of Savage Dragon #30 were sold in total? Although Comichron doesn’t have monthly sales data going back quite as far as issue #30, they do have monthly data going back to issue #32 which should be within the same general neighborhood.  Here’s how the sales numbers look around issue #30:

Savage Dragon #32: 33,956
Savage Dragon #33: 33,299
Savage Dragon #34: 34,427
Savage Dragon #35: 33,077

So we’re in the neighborhood of 34,000 around these issues.  Suppose having Spawn on the cover provided a 15% sales boost for issue #30… that would put us at about 39,000.  Let’s round up to an even 40,000 for total assumed sales of Savage Dragon #30.  A ratio of 99% direct edition to 1% newsstand would imply on the order of just 400 Newsstand Edition copies of issue #30 (i.e. 400 copies of Spawn/The Savage Dragon #1). Even if we were to generously estimate total sales of Savage Dragon #30 all the way up at 50,000, the 1% newsstand ratio would still imply just 500 copies of Spawn/The Savage Dragon #1!

Any time you can find an interesting comic book that has on the order of merely several hundreds of copies, that’s one to consider collecting, and for Spawn / The Savage Dragon #1 fortunately as of this writing the awareness of the rarity level of this comic book doesn’t appear to be widely known.  Sellers who originally picked up their copy on the newsstands, may therefore price their copies such that a high grade copy can be found under $25.

As shown in the screenshot below, as of this writing there are a total of three copies of this comic book listed on eBay, asking $99.99, $129.99, and $147.99.

Spawn/The Savage Dragon #1 Listings

As of this writings, there are three copies of the comic listed on eBay.

These three sellers clearly know they own a rare comic, based on their asking prices. However, not all of the people who picked this comic book up on the newsstands originally, now know just how rare it is.  Comic book “Lots” (listings of several comic books instead of just one) can sometimes be a source of finding hidden gems like Spawn / The Savage Dragon #1.  My own copy was purchased as part of a larger lot, for a total lot price of $12.65.

Aside from eBay listings, another place to potentially look for a well-priced copy is Atomic Avenue.  As of this writing, they ascribe a guide value of just $2.50 to Spawn / The Savage Dragon #1, which means when their members are going through a box of books and listing them, if a member owns a copy they may blindly follow the guide value when listing it, especially if they’re going through a collection — you can almost picture them now, having listed their copies of Savage Dragon #1-29, each of those low priced, they get to #30 and see a suggested value of $2.50… chances are, they’ll accept that number without giving it a second thought, and list away. So keeping an eye on Atomic Avenue might be a way to find a low priced copy.

Atomic Avenue Guide Value

Atomic Avenue guides their members to value their copies of Spawn / The Savage Dragon #1 at a mere $2.50.

Although no copies are currently available, this is a good place to check. Also working in our favor as collectors, the ComicsPriceGuide guide value is $5.

Price Guide Value: Spawn/The Savage Dragon #1

ComicsPriceGuide.com values the variant at just $5 in NM condition.

Given the extreme rarity, both of these guide values are “giving it away” — likely because of lack of awareness of the extremely low numbers. But now that you’ve read this post, you can count yourself among the collectors who are aware of the rarity, and benefit accordingly as you seek out your own copy!

One last note: don’t bother waiting for a CGC graded copy, because as of this writing only two exist on the census.

Only 2 Copies on CGC Census of Spawn/The Savage Dragon #1

As of this writing, only two copies of Spawn/The Savage Dragon #1 have ever been graded by CGC, according to their census.

With its estimated count of only on the order of 400 copies, and a mere 2 copies having ever been CGC graded, Spawn/The Savage Dragon #1 is the single most rare 1990’s Spawn comic that I have ever come across.  It is “a #1” (while at the same time being #30 and the final newsstand issue of Savage Dragon), with a highly fascinating set of circumstances contributing to its existence, giving it true collectible interest.  For my own collection it was was of the most challenging — but ultimately rewarding (once I got my hands on one) Spawn comics I have collected, and true to the theme of this blog due to the low level of collector awareness it should still be possible to this day to purchase a high grade copy with a $25 budget.

Happy Collecting!

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Black & White Variant

Spawn #1 Black & White Variant (1997)

By Benjamin Nobel, November 1, 2015

Spawn #1 B&W Variant — A 1:50 Retailer Incentive For Spawn #65

Retailer incentive comics are an interesting phenomenon. With modern comic books so prevalent (as far as typical print run), publishers invented these “artificially” low print run comics, specifically to “create” collectibles that would be sought after — which were used to lure comic shops into placing non-refundable orders. In the case of the Spawn #1 black and white edition, it was a retailer incentive attached to Spawn issue #65: buy 50 copies, get a black and white edition!

“#1” and Low Print Run = Collector Magnet

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 (direct edition copies, that is — I’ll get into that distinction in a future blog entry) hardly makes Spawn #1 a rarity. Without the scarcity factor, collectible value cannot follow, because supply will always overwhelm collector demand.

Spawn #1 Black and White Edition

A 1-in-50 retailer incentive variant offered to boost sales of Spawn #65, the Spawn #1 Black and White Edition is one of the most highly sought Spawn collectibles, with the print run math suggesting on the order of 3,100 copies printed.

Spawn fans, seemingly desperate for something rare with a “Spawn #1” on it, have instead been drawn like a magnet 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.

Spawn #1 Black and White Edition

Recent eBay sales of Spawn #1 Black and White Edition include a VF/NM copy at $249.99

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 — has an implied total print run that is on the order of less than 400 copies (the entire print run is fewer copies than the number of CGC graded copies of the Black & White Edition — and yet I paid $12.65 for my copy).

Thanks for stopping by, this is a work in progress but check out my current list of profiled Rare Spawn Comics under $25!

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Rust #1

Rust #1 – Earliest Spawn in Comics – Pre-Dates Malibu Sun 13 – Limited Edition is Rare

By Benjamin Nobel, November 1, 2015

It may sound hard to believe but all of the following facts are true:

  • Spawn appeared in a comic book published in April of 1992 (that publication date being a month prior to Malibu Sun #13 and Spawn #1 which were both published in May of 1992)
  • All three of the major grading companies (CGC, CBCS, PGX) note this important Spawn appearance on their labels for Rust #1
  • This early Spawn appearance has prominent placement on the inside back cover of Rust #1 (a prime advertising location and superior paper quality versus an interior page)
  • The artwork featuring Spawn was by Todd McFarlane himself, and was an early black-and-white sketch version of the artwork later used for the cover of Spawn #2
  • The “Spawn” logo in this artwork was an early “concept” logo, i.e. a “prototype” that McFarlane ultimately tossed aside, going with something else instead
  • In addition to a “regular” version of Rust #1, a “Limited Edition” variant of this April 1992 comic was published, with a restricted print run cited to be 10,000 copies (that number represents one percentage point of the print run of direct edition copies of Spawn #1)
  • It is possible as of this writing to buy one of these limited edition April 1992 copies for under $25 in high grade

Back in 1992, a couple of weeks before Spawn #1 arrived, comic shops received their copies of Malibu Sun #13 — a preview publication featuring new product information and licensing opportunities — and found that customers who had been eagerly awaiting the arrival of Spawn #1 were willing to pony up considerable cash to take home a Malibu Sun #13.  It had Spawn on the cover, and it got there first.

Malibu Sun #13

Malibu Sun #13, a preview publication promoting licensing opportunities and providing new product information, arrived at comic shops weeks before copies of Spawn #1 did, even though the publication month is May of 1992 (same as Spawn #1).

My local comic shop owner told us at the time, that the artwork shown on Malibu Sun #13 was what the cover of Spawn #1 was going to look like.  And then when Spawn #1 copies arrived weeks later, that proved true, but with one important exception: the “Spawn” logo was different.  In other words, Todd McFarlane had changed his mind about the logo and went in another direction.  Having that original version of the logo in Malibu Sun #13 was immediate justification to hike the price; it made Malibu Sun #13 that much more interesting.

Below is an example CGC label for Malibu Sun #13 — as you can see, the publication month is May of 1992, and the “Key Comments” reads “Spawn pin-ups” but nothing more.

Malibu Sun #13 published May 1992

CGC label for Malibu Sun #13 showing publication date of May 1992 and Key Comment reading “Spawn pin-ups.”

Here is the full CGC Certification information for the above example, screencaptured from CGC’s certification lookup tool:

Malibu Sun #13 CGC Certification

Malibu Sun #13 CGC certification information.

So even though the publication date is May of 1992, as shown on the upper right corner of the book itself and then repeated on the CGC label and certification lookup, matching — not before — the publication month of Spawn #1, everywhere you look people refer to Malibu Sun #13 with the claim that it contains the first appearance of Spawn — a claim arguably tracing all the way back to those original comic book stores that hawked their copies of Malibu Sun #13 to Spawn-hungry customers when those copies got there first.  Look at eBay listings today and you’ll find the common theme that everyone out there advertises the book as containing Spawn’s first appearance:

Malibu Sun #13 eBay Listings

Look through current eBay listings for Malibu Sun #13 and you’ll find the repeating theme: they are consistently advertised as containing Spawn’s first appearance.

As you can see, all of the above listings for Malibu Sun #13 advertise the book as containing Spawn’s first appearance.  But wait, didn’t this blog entry start off with the fact that Rust #1 was published a month earlier?  Yes.  But few comic shops stocked Adventure Comics titles, so while they were busy touting the virtues of Malibu Sun #13 and hawking copies to impatient kids coming into the shop to check whether Spawn #1 had arrived yet (“sorry, not yet, but check this out”), Rust #1 was meanwhile flying under the radar.  I only found out about Rust #1 myself this year from a comic shop owner who had just purchased a collection and was thumbing through the books, then noticed Spawn there on the back page of Rust #1 and did a double-take because the publication date on the book was April 1992 (meaning it pre-dated Spawn #1 by one month).

And this April publication date along with the importance of the Spawn appearance is now corroborated on the labels for Rust #1 from all three of CGC, CBCS, and PGX (screenshots included below from copies that have surfaced on eBay and elsewhere).  First, CGC:

CGC label note for Rust #1: Full page Spawn ad by Todd McFarlane

CGC graded copies of Rust #1 have the following “Key Comments” label note: Full page Spawn ad by Todd McFarlane

CGC’s full certification lookup tool output is shown in the below screenshot:

Rust #1 CGC Certification Lookup

Shown here is a screenshot of the CGC certification lookup output for a graded copy of Rust #1 Limited Edition. Note the April 1992 publication date and the Key Comments field.

As you can see above, the publication date is 4/1992 — as compared to 5/1992 for the lookup earlier on Malibu Sun #13.  And in the Key Comments field, CGC notes the bronze foil logo (which Limited Edition copies have) and “Full page “Spawn” ad by Todd McFarlane”.  The Variant field reads “Special Limited Edition” and under Label Text they note the copy number, which was printed on the back of each copy.  Based on the numbering, sources such as ComicBookDB.com peg the print run at 10,000 copies.

The label note applied by CGC is useful, telling us for example that the ad is a full-page ad, and is by Todd McFarlane.  A few key pieces of information CGC does not include in the Key Comments notes:

  • The full page Spawn ad is actually a black and white sketch version of the artwork later used as the cover of Spawn #2
  • The Spawn logo is not the same one used later in the series, but instead is the prototype logo that also appears on Malibu Sun #13
  • Although the publication date makes clear that Rust #1 pre-dates Spawn #1, this fact is not specifically pointed out.
  • The location of the ad in the interior back cover page is not specified.

Interestingly, when we look at the label notes on CBCS and PGX copies, some of these other facts are included — so taken together, the three labels as a group give us most of the important information.  Nobody however makes note of the usage of this same artwork as the cover of Spawn #2.  Below is an example CBCS label; as you can see they make specific mention of the publication date pre-dating that of Spawn #1, on the label note:

Rust #1 CBCS Label

An example CBCS label, which points out in the key comments that Rust #1 pre-dates Spawn #1.

Another fact included in the CBCS label note is the location of the ad on the interior back cover.  And finally, below is an example PGX label:

Rust #1 PGX Label

The PGX label note also makes mention of the different Spawn logo, versus the one used later in the series.

As you can see, PGX has pointed out the full-page Spawn ad “with prototype logo.”  Between the three grading companies, lots of important information is conveyed; but none have pointed out the connection to the cover of Spawn #2.  Below is a side by side comparison of the interior back cover full-page Spawn ad that appears in Rust #1, and the cover of Spawn #2.

This Is The Full Page SPAWN Appearance in Rust #1

Above is a scan of the full-page Spawn ad on the interior back cover of copies of Rust #1 (and Rust #1 Special Limited Edition)

Rust #1 Spawn Ad = Spawn #2 Cover

As you can see, the cover of Spawn #2 is based on the exact same artwork by Todd McFarlane that was used for the full-page Spawn ad in the interior back cover of Rust #1. But back in April when Rust #1 was published, the “prototype” logo was still contemplated being used for the series.

As you can see in this side-by-side comparison, the full-page Spawn “ad” in the interior back cover of Rust #1 published in April is the exact same artwork upon which the cover of Spawn #2 was later based.  Aside from the black-and-white sketch versus full color difference, you can see the difference in the two Spawn logos — the April ad in Rust #1 features the original “prototype” logo instead of the logo Todd McFarlane ultimately used in the Spawn series.

Rust #1 Special Limited Edition Value

As of this writing — as promised — with a budget of $25 you can acquire a high grade copy of the Special Limited Edition variant of Rust #1.  Below is an example recent eBay sale under this price, as proof that it is indeed possible to get your hands on this rare book at this budget price:

Rust #1 Value of Special Limited Edition

As of this writing, with a budget of just $25 a collector can acquire a high grade numbered limited edition copy of Rust #1.

Collecting Rust #1

“Completists” who need every Spawn comic will want to collect both the “regular” edition of Rust #1 and the Special Limited Edition.  And if you really need every Spawn comic, the ad also appeared — although in an interior page (on cheap newsprint) as opposed to the more prominent inside back cover on glossy paper — within the pages of Rocket Ranger #3 (April) and Planet of the Apes #23 (May).  However, among these various comics which included the Spawn ad, only the Special Limited Edition of Rust #1 checks all of the following boxes:

  • April publication date (the entire reason this ad should be of any interest to collectors is the publication month of April being chronologically earlier than the May publication of Spawn #1 and Malibu Sun #13)
  • Restricted print run (the Special Limited Edition copies — each one numbered individually on the back cover — are a “variant” with a restricted print run believed to be just 10,000 copies)
  • Interior back cover placement (more prominent placement and better paper quality)

As of this writing, the largest online comic shop, MyComicShop.com, does not have any copies available in any condition, of either variant of Rust #1.  And looking at their “wantlist” feature, 22 of their customers are actively seeking Rust #1 with six of those having placed the book on their wantlist in the past six months.  Also note in the screenshot below that MyComicShop corroborates the 10,000 print run estimate for the Special Limited Edition variant.

Rust #1 and Rust #1 Special Limited Edition VARIANT

Pictured above are Rust #1 and the Special Limited Edition variant of Rust #1, screencaptured from MyComicShop’s website. As you can see, as of this date 22 collectors have Rust #1 on their wantlist. MyComicShop puts the print run for the Limited Edition variant at 10,000 copies.  Both versions have the Spawn ad.

Something to be aware of when collecting Rust #1: “Adventure Comics” (which later became Malibu) did not appear to budget for high quality staples when publishing this comic book.  It makes sense that independent publishers needed to cut corners as much as possible, but in this case they created quite an ironic situation: copies of Rust #1 are plagued with rusty staples.  Keep this phenomenon in mind when collecting your copy; require staple photos from the interior as part of your due diligence assessing the comic’s condition.

Cheap Staples Appear To Have Been Used For Rust #1

Require a photo of the staples from the interior (or collect a professionally graded copy), to ensure the copy you pick up does not have the pervasive rust migration problem (how ironic is that given the title of the book!?).

The irony is comical: Rust comics tend to have rusty staples.  I encountered this phenomenon first-hand when collecting this book, and what’s more, I encountered rust migration from the staples on NM-advertised copies where the seller claimed to have stored the book bagged and boarded since purchase, and the nearby books in the same box had no such problem.  This indicates to me that the quality of the staples themselves is poor, possibly a manufacturing choice to cut corners and save money.

Check The Staples!

Check the staples before buying your copy of Rust #1; demand to see a picture of the staples if the seller has not included one, or go for the professionally graded copy where the pros have already screened for condition flaws like rust migration.

A final note: as mentioned earlier, the numbering for the Special Limited Edition variant of Rust #1, is on the back cover in the upper right corner.  The examples below mean that the one at the left was the #6568 copy printed; the one on the right was the #9973 copy printed.  Although the exact number of your copy may not matter to you, to some collectors the number matters; for example owning copy #1 would be especially cool, as would owning copy #10,000.  I often hear that collectors prefer low numbers to high numbers; and if the number itself has some other meaning to you (1975 if you were born that year or something of that nature), then keeping the numbering in mind might lead you to prefer one copy over another.

Rust Numbered Limited Edition Copy

This copy is numbered #6568.

Rust #1 Limited Numbered Copy

This copy is numbered #9973.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more rare Spawn comics you can buy with a $25 budget!

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Uncategorized

Rare Spawn Comics: Introductory Post

By Benjamin Nobel, September 17, 2015

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 #1 Black and White Edition

A 1-in-50 retailer incentive variant offered to boost sales of Spawn #65, the Spawn #1 Black and White Edition is one of the most highly sought Spawn collectibles, with the print run math suggesting on the order of 3,100 copies printed.

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.

Spawn #1 Black and White Edition

Recent eBay sales of Spawn #1 Black and White Edition include a VF/NM copy at $249.99

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 — has an implied total print run that is on the order of less than 400 copies (the entire print run is fewer copies than the number of CGC graded copies of the Black & White Edition — and yet I paid $12.65 for my copy).

Thanks for stopping by, and stay tuned for my first entry! A preview of the 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 of 10,000 copies. And yes, based on recent eBay sales, you can own a VF/NM copy with a budget of $25.

This full page of Todd McFarlane Spawn artwork, complete with the "original" logo contemplated by McFarlane for the series, appeared in a comic book published one month before Spawn #1.

This full page of Todd McFarlane Spawn artwork, complete with the “original” logo contemplated by McFarlane for the series, appeared in a comic book published one month before Spawn #1.

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