Imagine being attacked by a swarm of ants, they would crawl all over you, bite, and tear at your flesh. It would drive even the most determined of superheroes to madness. The Avengers are no exception, this bizarre cover has Ant-Man attacking the Avengers with a “friendly” swarm of ants. Does that make your skin crawl? This cover has one more thing that might make you itch; it is a price variant and worth substantially more than the price of the regular cover Avengers #161. You could own this book and not even realize it! Are you rushing to that controlled storage space or worse yet outside to the garage (I certainly hope not)? Price variants appeared in the ’70s, apparently, it was part of a Marvel price market testing experiment. Do you have price variants in your collection? How can you determine a variant from a reprint? Let’s review the particulars and nuance of some price variants to see if you can find any hidden value.
Price Variants (Background)
People pay quite a bit for the rarity of owning a price variant like Star Wars #1 (35-Cent Variant). This book with limited distribution in printing means fewer total copies. Now, years later these books are prized by collectors. Often it takes a while for the average collector to spot these in his or her collection. There are all kinds of variants: double covers, price deviations, color deviations on a cover, price omissions, issue omissions and the like. Star Wars #1 is probably the most famous of the price variants in the ’70s. “Marvel published a $.35 cent variant for every $.30 cent variant comic in production between June and October of 1977 totaling 184 titles. There were far fewer of the $.35 cent variants printed as compared to the regular $.30 cent comic versions, and as with the last set of variants, they were test-marketed in only six areas” (Source: Sellmycomicbks).
The most well-known price variant is probably Star Wars #1 from 1977. It is a $.35 cent cover price and quite hard to find. Currently, it sells for a great deal more than it’s standard $.30 cent cover Star Wars #1. Is there a variant in your Bronze Age collection? This comic was created by Roy Thomas (story) with the resolute Howard Chaykin (art) and Tom Palmer (cover), Part 1 of Star Wars: “A New Hope” the movie adaptation.
Before we get into the meat and potatoes of pricing and value, we need to eat our Brussel Sprouts and learn about price variants, some are tricky. It is important to know how to verify that your copy of Star Wars with a $.35 cent price is actually the variant and not a copy. It is not merely finding the $.35 price icon and then deciding which bar to party at with your friends in celebration of your windfall. Nope, it requires a small amount of knowledge to suss out the correct issue.
Deciphering Barcodes and Price Boxes
The Star Wars #1 (Reprint-35 Cent) has the barcode in the lower left corner. If it is blank and the price icon is in a diamond box instead of a rectangle; then you have a nice reprint of the original. (Darn!) In the left margin of this blog, you can see the correct “big money” winner of Star Wars #1 (35-Cent Variant). If the comic does not look exactly like this Star Wars #1; than you probably own a reprint. Warning: the barcode box is truly key here it should have a normal barcode box to actually be the price variant. Sadly most are reprints, if you have a copy don’t throw it out. It is still worth money just not as much.
A reprint sold in mint grade (9.8) reprint for $42.35 on eBay December 12th. The Star Wars #1 (35 Cent Price Variant) is the adaptation to one of the most successful franchises of all time. Anyone holding a mint copy (9.8) has an issue with an estimated value of $50,000 FMV in their hot little hands. Slightly closer to our galaxy is a (9.4) graded issue which sold on ComicConnect for $27,111 in August 2018. This comic has produced a positive +51.2% ROI (Good job Luke Skywalker). A reminder: even the reprint is valuable.
This comic book is another possible diamond in the rough. There is a good chance you will run across this or other price variants during your comic book quest. Take it in stride, but don’t go into the wilderness of collecting without your survival guide (GoCollect Speculation Blog). The Avengers #161 (.35 Variant) is not as tricky as the Star Wars comics, simply find the $.35 cent price and know you are in the money.
The last Avengers #161 (.35 Variant) sold in June 2018 for $545 in near mint plus grade (9.6). The CGC Census will give you an idea of how rare these comics are; current CGC inventory only has 15 copies of this limited distribution comic book. The corresponding price for The Avengers #161 non-variant is $39 in (9.6); which means the variant is worth 14 times what the non-variant costs! With this kind of profit potential; it is definitely worth checking your comic bins for any price variants. Believe me, it won’t be nearly as unpleasant as an ant swarm and who knows maybe “The Force will be with you…”