This week’s Overvalued Overstreet points at the 35 cent price variant Star Wars #1, a book that has proven me wrong on every turn for a good 5 years running. I know I’ve covered it a few times over on the Auction Highlights column: each time I choose Advantage Seller and each successive listing of the book gets even more than the last one. This is one hot comic book.
Thankfully the Overvalued Overstreet column has provided me with a soapbox to stand on and yell at the top of my lungs to the world that the 35 cent variant Star Wars #1 is overvalued.
I know I’ll get some flak for this, and to my defense I really do remain bullish on the back issue comic book market, I think there are new heights to attain in many genres and eras. I see a market that still holds tons of opportunities. I will call this book out though; I am allowed to express my opinion. And it’s not like anyone listens to me any way. Like I stated above, I’ve expressed this opinion for years in my other column. The book keeps skyrocketing.
Marvel usually tested out price increases by shipping a small percentage of higher priced issues to select cities to gage consumer response. One site on the web said the cities that got the Star Wars price variants were Toledo, Tuscaloosa, Wilmington and Memphis. Because of this limited distribution the print run was relatively small for the price variant, 1,500 copies according to the Overstreet Guide. Everything else is the same as far as I know, the cover, the contents are the same.
As of this post there are 157 CGC copies with the blue Universal label. There are 2 graded at 9.6 and then 10 graded at 9.4. Recently a CGC 9.4 sold for $26,290, which was up from the previous record of $23,000 which was up from $11,131 months earlier.
I guess the problem I have with the book is that it does not deliver the fundamentals I look for when plopping a lot of money on a comic. Things like character introduction (in this case in the comic media), scarcity (of the content I guess), cover appeal, importance and influence are all present in Star Wars #1. Present enough to deliver value in the hundreds of dollars, adding a limited number of price variants shouldn’t change those hundreds of dollars into tens of thousands of dollars in my opinion.
Perhaps there’s something I’m missing? I’m all ears and am actually eager to be converted to the variant side.
The 45th Overstreet Price Guide has the 8.0/9.0/9.2 splits as follows:
- 30¢ cover – $64 / $132 / $200
- 35¢ cover – $1708 / $3854 / $6000
You know what I find really odd… some people collect Canadian price variants and certain vendors at shows charge a premium for these. However, when it comes to the British version, no body seems to want these (except maybe the British). I always cringe when I find one of these in a run. The British versions are older too since the publishers stopped differentiating the price a while back. Maybe because US and Canada both use “dollar”. Even more confusing is that CGC sometimes identifies the Canadian variant, and sometimes they don’t. I’m not a fan of variants of any kind so I don’t go out of my way to seek these out.
To me, a comic is valuable for all the reasons you listed, Walt, but especially so if a limited number of copies have survived. That last word is the crucial one, for me: i.e., at one time there were hundreds of thousands of copies of Action Comics #1, but now there are only 100 copies – maybe even fewer. Those few survivors are special. The even tinier number that survive in relatively nice, presentable condition are extra special.
But take something like “the exclusive platinum bagged variant limited run direct market edition” (or whatever the hell it it’s called) of Todd McFarlane’s Spider-Man #1 — of which they maybe only ever printed few hundred or a few thousand copies to begin with — and to me it’s merely a subset of a comic for which there are literally several million copies, and all of which are probably graded 9+ because they were bagged from the moment someone bought them. It’s not rare because most were destroyed, or barely survived the ravages of time, or because most survive only in mutilated condition. From the very start they intended it to be rare – which ironically makes it less impressive to me, and I wouldn’t pay any premium for it. If it’s a one-of-a-kind item, such as original art or a painting by Picasso or whatever, that’s totally different. But that’s me.
Then take something like ASM #238: the “variant” WITH the Lakeside Skin Tattooz intact should, I suppose, legitimately command a higher price, and for some people it’s worth a premium, since that tattoo insert is part of the original comic (sort of), and is missing from a majority of copies that survive. (But since the tattoo sheet has nothing whatsoever to do with Spider-Man, I don’t much care that mine is long gone).
The Star Wars #1 regular vs. variant …a $5,800 jump in 9.2?!!!!!!! ??????????????????????????????????????????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
That’s just purely crazy. If it’s fundamentally a $200 comic in the market, I could see someone shelling out $225 or maybe $250 for the rarer variant, but come on, it’s not worth 30 x more!
Walt, I disagree with you on this one. I believe this comic came out before the movie. So for people visiting their local comic store in 1977 this was their first time experiencing the characters and story that would produce the Star Wars universe that is still going strong today. This is the first issue that introduced us the Darth Vader (one of the most iconic villains in sci-fi) Luke, droids,etc. The cover explodes with all the different characters making your eyes wildly scan the issue to take everything in. The fact that there is a small amount of 35 cent comics out there make this comic a variant before Marvel came out with variants. This franchise isn’t going away and I bet if you came across a nice, tight 35 cent variant 9.0+ you wouldn’t pass on it !
I agree the Star Wars book has value Ed and as you say the characters first met the fans through the comics. Like Charlie and Thor Odinson mention above though the book is a price variant and while there are collectors out there for such things I think the amount of premium is excessive.
Walt and Thor have nailed it — I’d love to have one to sell to someone who would pay so much for it, but to my mind as a collector the much scarcer different price as sole differentiation is worth only a small premium over any other Star Wars 1. I would not pay much more for it to say 35 cents on the cover.
To Charlie’s point, the British variants are the neglected slice of this variant area, and they are hard to come by. I admit I bought a VG Strange Tales 124 the other day because it was a 9 pence edition, but the dealer didn’t charge me any more for it. I would have passed it over if it were the 12-cent cover. But I also would have left it if he wanted double for it.
Interestingly, the indicia lists the price as 12 cents, so they only changed the cover itself before printing.
To me, 35¢ or 30¢ adds NO VALUE since the varying price doesn’t change the significance of the book. I feel the same way about the direct vs news stand editions of BA#12. I just don’t see how a distribution channel matters. If I came across a nice tight 35 cent-er… I’d flip it right away. Take the money and run.
Comics seem to have gotten the attention of the financial community. I just wanted to share this link. Not sure why they didn’t interview Walt instead:
Also, the 4th and final FF#52, 9.8 has been listed on ComicLink. If the two that’s currently listed gets asking price, I’d say it would pretty much cement their value at about 100k, pulling the lesser grades along with it. I’m heavily invested in Black Panther so yes, it’s personal.
Finally, I think there’s a good chance that the FF rights might revert back to Marvel eventually. Everything I hear about what’s happening behind the scenes at Fox is so dramatic that their corporate escapades could be a movie in itself. Either way, hard to go wrong with books like FF#1 and #48.
Oops. Looks like we posted at the same time. Readcomix, you’re the first person I heard of who actually buy pence copies. People I know try to get rid of them. Even blue chip mega keys tend to take a hit on eBay for being British… but as you say, it’s the same book.
Too funny; Charlie! I never really thought about them until I noticed one of the full-page advertisers in the guide actively seeking 9 pence silver age keys. Then I got curious; then I got to $360 or so on a VG Sgt Fury 1 UK edition on eBay before I got sniped. It’s a shame they make other collectors nervous; it’s really our Star Wars 1 logic at play — it’s still a Silver age key with nothing but a different cover price. They are otherwise identical; the Strange Tales #124 sealed it for me with the indicia.
So if a 35-cent Star Wars #1 is worth such a premium, those keys taking a hit on eBay are a bargain waiting to be discovered some day, no?
About FF returning to the Marvel fold — I completely agree both books are bargains right now, and I’m wondering if Fox holds rights to Galactus too. If supporting characters aren’t under the same terms as the FF itself, he may well be the first member of the FF family back in the Marvel movie fold, as a player in one of the Avengers Infinity War movies, I would think. We all love FF#48 as the Surfer’s first appearance, but its Galactus’ too, and that scenario could put the book back on the radar sooner than the other FF keys that are currently sleeping.
Galactus was the first choice for Marvel but Surfer/Galactus belong to the FF universe so they landed on Thanos for the upcoming Avengers films. The interesting part is that Marvel has given permission for Fox to create X-Men TV shows, which suggests that some sort of deal is in the works. Both studios are in denial, and will keep on denying such things till they’re ready to go public. Either way, early FF key’s are pretty solid, even if nothing pans out. Don’t forget about Doom, which would be another big score if Marvel gets the rights back.
Gotta feel sorry for Josh Trank. He had it all. It was right there… but it all slipped through his fingers. Not only did he lose Star Wars, but he’s basically lost his career over the FF fiasco.
The Sony/Disney relationship is fascinating as well… Essentially, Spidey is back in the MCU due to the North Korean’s hacking into Sony servers in retaliation over the 2014 Seth Rogen film the Interview. The chain of events is sooo crazy, that you can’t make this stuff up!
Pretty interesting stuff happening over at DC as well. Zack Snyder will continue to direct Justice League but essentially he’ll be reporting to producer… Ben Affleck. Everyone wants Snyder gone but Warner is too heavily invested and it would be bad optics. I’d hate to be a director for DC… can’t imagine the pressure. This is interesting as well:
Yes, I know… I gotta get a life.
I’m British and I don’t mind pence variants – in fact, I’ve started seeking them out for the older issues because they are definitely harder to find. If they’re cheaper than the cents editions so much the better for me. I only get annoyed that CGC calls them a “UK edition” not a “Pence price variant” which obviously will impact on attitudes among collectors. Moving on to Star Wars, the things about Star Wars is that it has an aura about it that nothing else can match. I remember the comic coming out and at the time, as a discerning 7-year-old, I didn’t think much of it. I still think it’s a pretty poor rendition of the movie. BUT it is Star Wars, and that makes it something special. So the premium makes sense to me. But the real money on Star Wars is the figures not the comics.
Star Wars was EPIC because there was nothing like it at the time. Aside from being a good movie:
• The formation of ILM. The camera moved as opposed to moving the space ship. Modern effects was born.
• Marketing. Licensing and cross over promotions with the likes of McDonals, etc was unprecedented. It remains the business model and standard practice for current movie franchises.
• Ownership. Not sure how but Lucus hammered out a deal in which he maintained the rights which turned him into a billionaire.
Walters write up does not dispute Star Wars as a cultural phenomenon, or even the comic itself. He’s talking specifically about the price difference between the 30¢ copy vs the 35¢ copy of the same book, which also exists in several other “keys” of the time such as Iron Fist #14.
I remember going to my friends house to play with his Star Wars toys and it was awesome. My family was too poor to afford toys so my parents asked me to use my imagination and gave me a potato.
Regarding this book, here’s a story for all of you:
I grew up in Toledo and can confirm that yes, Toledo was one of the price increase test markets for this book. I know, because I bought one off the rack.
There was a drug store up the street from us called Schaffer Pharmacy where we bought our comics and candy. Though I was young at the time, I distinctly remember this book on the spinning rack, right next to the magazines. It was my first 35 cent comic purchase and it caused it huge meltdown that day between me and my brother.
The problem was when we went to the comics section, there were a bunch of copies of Star Wars. The first one in the rack was 30 cents but behind it the rest were priced at 35 cents. My brother, who is a little older, immediately seized on this and grabbed the lower cost copy, leaving me with the 35 cent variants. In those days, five cents more for a comic book meant five less cents towards candy.
I brought the book to the register and asked the lady at the counter why it was more and she shrugged her shoulders. The manager, who was close by, came over and said that they had sent another shipment of comics and the second shipment had been these with the higher price. He even pointed out the poor registration of the “5” in the 35 cent price as evidence of the change. He could see that this was really upsetting me, while my brother was off to the side giggling and making fun of the fact that I got stuck with the more expensive copy. So he did what any good store manager would do and gave it to me for 30 cents! Problem solved, happy camper, we leave the store and go home.
It was a long time before I realized that it was scarce or valuable. I kept the book and still have it to this day. It is not graded, but part of my “early collection” of comics I had when I was kid and enjoyed comics from a different perspective and awe of other places and other worlds that only a kid can appreciate.
About eight years ago, I bought a CGC 9.2 copy of the 35 cent variant and walked away feeling like a had severely overpaid. I’m happy to say, in this case Walter, you missed the mark. However, if you train your aim slightly over to the left a little bit, you may find that the truly overvalued book is the 30 cent version, which in CGC 9.6 and 9.8 has been and continues to command ridiculous prices at $600/$1300. respectively.
And don’t forget FF #13. First appearance of the Watcher. Do you think he has any future in a movie ?
Cool story and I agree. Anything to differentiate a comic and make it more rare will make it more desirable. Yes, the story and art is the same but the limited release of the variant makes it collectible.
In the end, it comes down to personal interest, although I sort of blame Overstreet for hyping up the 35 cent-ers, but you can make the same remark about comics as a whole. I have no interest in variants but from an investment stand point, as long as there’s enough people interested I suppose the market can be sustainable. We all gravitate toward our interests… nothing wrong with that.
Ed… the Watcher is such a unique character, I would love to see him brought to film. The FF universe is rich with characters and story ideas… I hope the studios will sort things out sooner than later cause I’m not getting any younger. it would be a blast to see some of Stan/Kirby ideas come to fruition.
I’m with Charlie and Walt; very neat Toledo story aside, I can have everything cool about Star Wars #1 in high grade for about $200. While the price variant is scarcer, its a variation that adds no substance/relevance to the collectible as a cultural/historical item.
I get that some people love any variation that makes a book scarcer (white logo Impact #1 vs yellow logo, for example) but prices, tattoos, Mark jeweler inserts etc. I myself just can’t get excited. I’ rather have a book that’s just flat out scarce period (eg – Suspense #3, Green Giant, Catman #9, Jughead’s Folly, etc) But even then you run the risk of balance — is something so scarce that there’s nothing to keep it on collectors’ radar? So do you lose re-sale later?
Who knows for sure? I’m buying a raw All-Winners #3 tomorrow; cool as hell, certainly scarce but not near scarce enough to be obscure either, yet its crossed my mind more than once that maybe if I hold it too long I’ve bought something that will slide into irrelevance at some point. (Blasphemy I realize to many who have been collecting as long as I have and are used to this as top-tier Golden Age stuff. )
Ironically, I remember the days when there were tons of “Canadian reprints” from the late 40s well into the 60s, and they sold for a fraction of the price of the Yankee originals. What changed? I guess people realized that those Canadian editions were sold to a market one tenth the size of the American market and therefore are ten times as scarce. But, a five cent price difference? Who cares?
Here’s a question. I just bought a US copy of Phantom Lady from 1948 with a US Forces in Germany price stamp of 15¢ – i.e. because it’s had to be sent from the USA to Germany to sell to troops it’s not 10¢ but 15¢. So is that a 1948 price variant? It’s still a cents copy, sold by Americans to Americans. Or is it just a cover ‘stamp’? Are these unusual?
Geez, I’ve never heard of that. Is it otherwise identical to a particular issue of Phantom Lady?
Yes, it’s an American copy, But is has been stamped with a rubber stamp that puts a little grey rectangle over the 10¢ price to cover it up and adds a stamp above saying “15¢ US ZONE”. I bought it in Berlin so this perhaps refers to the US Sector in the city.
Sounds like a great find to me; I’m not a big variant fan, but a golden age Phantom Lady is a golden age Phantom Lady. And a Foreign price point sticker/stamp affixed to a U.S. Copy is a neat twist. What’s everybody else think? Wouldn’t make me want the book any more or less.
Just catching up on the lengthy comment section on this post. A lot of very good ones (as usual)
I think it is really cool find. The fact that you bought it in Berlin would probably make it special to yourself It wouldn’t make me want the book more or to pay more for it.. I have never seen one of these books in North America.
The US government and Marvel have worked together in the past to make exclusive combat-themed comics for the military. I have never seen any of them either.. I believe the last project was in 2005 a thirteen issue run of the New Avengers.
David Simon – interesting story. Just curious if you have any other 35 cent price variants (other than the Star Wars)?