If you collected comics in the 1990s, you probably agree Spawn is one of the coolest characters in comics. You most likely have a few copies of Spawn #1. Are your copies newsstands, and if not, should you invest in one?
A Brief History
Image Comics and Spawn #1 ushered in the Modern Age of comics at the height of speculation and high print runs. According to Todd McFarlane’s website, when Spawn #1 was shipped in May 1992, it sold an incredible 1.7 million copies, making it the best-selling independent comic book to this day. With estimated newsstand print runs of 10% in 1992, Image sent 200,000 copies to the spinner racks. These numbers make Spawn #1 one of the most highly printed comics of all time.
To put this in perspective, the first appearance of Knull, Venom #3, sold 57,000 copies. Current print runs are comparatively low because the comic industry learned its lesson from the overprinting of the Copper and Modern Ages. I previously wrote of Darkhawk #1 being the poster-child for the comic crash of 1993. Spawn was right there with Darkhawk at the forefront of this comic calamity. Until recently, you could find early Spawn issues for a dollar in comic warehouses in New York City and still can if you know where to look.
Spawn #1 recently landed itself atop the heap for eBay sales, beating out Ultimate Fallout #4 and Amazing Spider-Man #300, an impressive feat. Despite a large volume of copies trading hands, prices for direct issues of Spawn #1 have remained relatively steady in a year where many keys have tripled in price. Direct raw copies have typically sold for $20 for years now while graded 9.8 copies have varied between $120 and $160. GoCollect data shows us year-to-date returns for a 9.8 are a modest +17.2%.
Newsstand versions of Spawn #1 tell another story. In recent years, raw newsstands typically sold for $100 while graded 9.8s sold for $250. With renewed discussions of a Spawn movie with Jamie Foxx as the lead, 9.8 graded newsstands started to hover around $500. That is until 2020 came along with its staggering prices. Last October gave us a record-breaking sale of $1226, a 75% increase in fair market value from one month earlier.
The outlier sale of $1226 is why buying comics in the last year has often been an easy way to lose money for unseasoned collectors. This inexplicable sale demonstrates signs of the shill bidding and market manipulation that have become common for comic collecting during the Covid-19 crisis. Following this record sale, we then saw declining prices of $900, then $800, and then $695. The most recent sale was for $850. These unpredictable see-saw prices are a prime example of why I am hesitant to buy skyrocketing, highly printed modern books during this volatile time. Although Spawn reaching its milestone 300th issue did bring renewed attention, there is no concrete catalyst for such rapid growth. If you purchased such a highly printed book because of FOMO, you could have lost as much as 40% FMV in two months. Ouch.
There is widespread confusion as to Image newsstand distribution. You will frequently see sellers describe newsstand copies of Spawn #1 as a 1:100 variant. That is simply not true. This misinformation is largely due to the internet echo chamber and sellers trying to artificially inflate prices. With a 200,000 issue print run, the newsstand ratio is over 1:10. Spawn newsstand issues did become increasingly rare in later years after the series debut. Spawn #137, the last issue with a UPC, is so scarce that FMV is yet to be tabulated. If you’re looking for genuinely rare Spawn newsstands, look to the early 2000s, when print runs were smaller and the 1% estimate held true.
GoCollect data shows us there are 8,747 Spawn #1 9.8s on the CGC census. Unfortunately, CGC does not differentiate between newsstand and direct copies, but if we do the math, as many as 800 of these may be newsstands. Also, it should be noted that despite blowing up in 2020, the newsstand craze has been around for years. Experienced collectors will grade more valuable comics like newsstands while ignoring their cheaper direct counterparts. This hypothetically gives Spawn #1 newsstand edition a CGC population of well over 800. Whatever the exact number is, a newsstand Spawn #1 is not rare.
Although it is an immensely popular book and easily one of my personal favorites, I do not think the demand for Spawn #1 newsstands outstrips the extremely high supply to justify recent prices. Because of current trends, sellers are withholding newsstands in general and waiting for the perfect time to unload their copies. Without confirmed movie production, I think Spawn #1 will rightfully settle back in the $400-$500 range, a fair entry price all things considered. Until then, I would save my money and enjoy the show.
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