Spider-Man #1: 30+ Years of Variant Confusion

by Harry Stone III

031522D-1 Spider-Man #1: 30+ Years of Variant ConfusionThe majority of collectors agree that Spider-Man #1 is one of the most iconic comics of all time. Even the most casual Spidey fans recognize Todd McFarlane’s classic cover and all of the variants that came with it. What many do not agree on and often get wrong is how many variants are there and what are their print runs?

Spider-Man-1-194x300 Spider-Man #1: 30+ Years of Variant ConfusionThis topic causes a lot of confusion, so I thought I’d take it upon myself to put everything I’ve learned over the years in one place and provide a comprehensive resource for chasing this all-time favorite.

A Little History

Todd McFarlane is a living legend within the comic book industry and his nickname is Toddfather with good reason. McFarlane’s attention to detail and adult artwork quickly earned him the role of illustrating Marvel’s premier title, The Amazing Spider-Man, in 1988. His run, from issues #298 to #328, is one of the best in comic history and made McFarlane a superstar. How can you go wrong starting your tenure by introducing Venom and then ending it with Spider-Man punching Hulk into outer space?

spidey-328-192x300 Spider-Man #1: 30+ Years of Variant ConfusionAfter his residency on Amazing Spider-Man, McFarlane went on to write and illustrate the fourth ongoing Spidey series, Spider-Man, in 1990. Spider-Man #1 went on to be one of the best-selling comics of all time with 2.5 million copies sold, a feat that is both unimaginable and probably impossible by today’s standards. To say that the series was a popular success is an understatement.

As a child of the 1990s, I can tell you McFarlane and Spider-Man #1 were everything back then. His work definitely made me and many others fall in love with comics. I still have my Gold Spider-Man #1 that my father gave me for Christmas that year and was managed to pull a 9.8 exactly 30 years later. I wanted the Platinum Edition, but if my memory serves me right, that was 200 dollars at the time and there was no way they were handing that to an 8-year-old. These variants still hold a special place in a lot of people’s hearts, and if this applies to you, I hope the following helps clear up any questions you might have.

What is a Comic Book “Variant”?

man-of-steel-1-194x300 Spider-Man #1: 30+ Years of Variant ConfusionWhat exactly is a comic variant? This is a question that has become a little muddied in the last few years. For a long time, a variant was a comic book that simply, and intentionally, had various different covers. The first comic book with a variant was Man of Steel #1 in 1986. This issue had two distinctly different covers, one sold on newsstands and one sold in comic shops. Another common example would be Jim Lee’s X-Men #1 with its four different versions, five if you include the gatefold collectors edition.

Until recently, printing errors were just that: printing errors, not variants. An example would be Secret Wars #1 with the Blue Galactus error.

Newsstands were also simply considered first prints sold on, guess what, newsstands. They were never described as variants until the last couple of years. You’ll often see the phrase “direct variant’ in listings now. I am not even sure what that means, but I digress, and for the purposes of this article and to avoid even more confusion, I will consider all of the books discussed as variants, newsstands included.

So how many variants are there for Spider-Man #1?

If you include all intentionally different covers, direct editions, newsstands, and polybagged collectors editions, there are a total of Eight Spider-Man #1 variants. Why does this matter? Well while many of the differences between these covers are extremely subtle, some are much rarer than the others. Rarity equals higher fair market values. Most importantly, who among us doesn’t like to hunt down rarer books?

Don’t feel bad if Spider-Man #1 confuses you. This comic confuses everyone from grading companies to YouTubers to eBayers. Sellers often incorrectly describe these comics in their listings. CGC often does not designate a difference between these issues, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t as collectors. CGC also mislabels many of these a solid 50% of the time, which can be to your benefit if you have a detail-oriented eye. The problem is that back in 1990, variants were new and there was no Comichron to give us print runs.  Much of the information we have today is from retailers active at that time or from McFarlane’s website and all of that information is less than crystal clear. Now that we have the background info out of the way, let’s take a look at these many Spider-Man #1 variations.

Direct No Polybag Green Edition

spidey-green-direct-194x300 Spider-Man #1: 30+ Years of Variant ConfusionThe Direct Green Edition was sold in comic shops and did not come in a polybag. It is identifiable by its green/yellow background, grey webs, and Spider-Man face in the UPC box. One of the problems with identifying this issue is that it has been lumped together with the other green editions by everyone including Marvel, comic distributors, sellers, and grading companies, making it hard to pin down print runs and CGC populations. Combined with the direct polybagged green edition and green newsstand, it has a print run of 1 million copies.

CGC does not differentiate between these various Green Editions, as they were all considered the same thing until very recently: first prints. CGC, unfortunately, does not differentiate between newsstands and direct edition comics to this day minus a few exceptions, one of them being the Gold UPC variant below. With a graded population of over 9,000, this edition is one of the most common, explaining its current FMV of $120.

Polybagged Newsstand Green Edition

spiderman-1-newsstand-197x300 Spider-Man #1: 30+ Years of Variant ConfusionThe Newsstand Green Edition of Spider-Man #1 was sold in polybags on newsstands and spinner racks in grocery stores and airports. It can be identified by its green/yellow background, grey webs, and the UPC if the polybag has been removed.

While CGC may not differentiate between these various green editions in their census, newsstands made up 15% of Marvel’s comic book sales in 1990. We can estimate that there are 150k of these, give or take, out of the 1 million “green background” print run.

The smaller print run of this “variant” is why this issue demands a premium of $220 dollars in a 9.8. Personally, I don’t think it’s rare enough to command that price. I would stick to other editions unless you really love barcodes that much. If you’re going to buy an overprinted 90’s comic, at least go with the foil.

Direct Polybagged Purple Webs Green Edition

Spidey-purple-194x300 Spider-Man #1: 30+ Years of Variant Confusion

The webs of the Green Purple Webs Edition is where things get a little sticky. Sorry/not sorry for the bad pun. This issue is nearly identical to the first green edition above when removed from its polybag, causing confusion for sellers, buyers, and grading companies alike. It has the same green/yellow background, also has Spider-Man in the UPC box, and was also sold in comic shops as opposed to newsstands.

The difference is in the webs. The webs of this variant are a deep purple. While the picture here may not do them justice, if you see them in person you will notice the stark contrast between them and the dull grey of the other green issues. I find this edition more aesthetically pleasing than the others. The purple really pops with the green/yellow background.

This is one of the variants of Spider-Man #1 that CGC will consistently mess up with their grading. If you’re specifically looking for this edition, ignore the slab and make sure to check the webs. This variant will often not have a polybag designation on the CGC label, while the no bag version will often say “polybag removed” on the label when it never had one in the first place.

Silver Edition

Spiderman-silver-189x300 Spider-Man #1: 30+ Years of Variant ConfusionThe Silver Variant of Spider-Man #1 is distinguishable with its black background, silver foil webbing, price in the corner box, and lack of a polybag. It is one of the most common, if not the most common, editions of this comic. With an estimated 1 million copies in circulation, you can find these things everywhere. They were readily available in dollar bins for years and probably still are if you get lucky. Sellers would often give them away for free with sales. I still have 5 copies from childhood and have probably had as many as 20 copies of this pass through my hands over the years.

Considering how many copies of this are floating around, I wouldn’t look to this one as an investment either. That being said, it is still one of my favorite editions of this comic. McFarlane art looks great slabbed on a wall, so it can’t hurt to grab a 9.8 while graded copies still hover around $100.

Gold Edition (2nd Print)

spidey-gold-194x300 Spider-Man #1: 30+ Years of Variant ConfusionThe Gold Edition 2nd Print is discernible from other editions by its lack of a polybag, black background, gold foil, and Spider-Man in the UPC box. This edition had a massive print run of 450,000 copies, a number that is nothing to sneeze at although smaller than some of the other variants.

Unlike the green editions of this book, CGC has designated the Gold Variant from the others with its own unique CGC population. There are 4,719 copies on the CGC census and 1,830 Universal 9.8s.

Not a rare book at all, but rarer than the green and silver variants. An FMV of $230 dollars for a 9.8 makes this book a fun pick-up that won’t break the bank.

Polybagged “No Price” Silver Variant

Spiderman-Silver-Polybag-191x300 Spider-Man #1: 30+ Years of Variant ConfusionThe Polybagged, “No Price” Silver Variant is identifiable from the standard silver edition, if removed from its polybag, by the lack of a price in the corner box. It has a lower print run compared to the other Silver Edition, coming in at 125,000 copies, making it much more rare. This scarcity is reflected in its CGC population with a total of 1,396 copies and only 278 9.8s. Polybags will leave marks on the backs of books over time, which combined with the lower print run, might help explain this lower 9.8 population.

Considering the low CGC population, this book is extremely undervalued. It is often lumped in with the other Silver variant by collectors despite its distinct CGC population. Graded 9.8 copies were readily available for a mere 75$ one year ago, but it seems like this sleeper pick is getting some traction with recent sales breaking 200$. CGC regularly makes mistakes when grading this book and sellers often incorrectly list it, so keep an eye out when searching on eBay or go double-check your collection. You might have one already and not know it.

Platinum Edition

Spiderman-platinum-198x300 Spider-Man #1: 30+ Years of Variant ConfusionThe infamous Platinum Spider-Man #1 variant is easily distinguishable from the other editions with its platinum-colored foil webbing and title as well as the oversized “1” in the corner box. You will often see sellers incorrectly and deliberately describe the silver edition as platinum in order to trick buyers. Not only do they look completely different, but the standard silver edition has a print run 100 times higher than the Platinum and a much, much lower FMV.

The Platinum was a retailer exclusive sent to stores as a thank you for their business and was accompanied by a letter which you will often see accompanying listings for this book. It had a print run of 10,000 according to the letter, making it one of the rarer of all the variants and arguably the most sought after. The letter states that even in 1990, it had a “street value’ of $400. Having lived through it, I can tell you this was the comic that everyone wanted back then.

This 90s grail has a unique CGC population of 1,833 copies, with only 124 Universal 9.8s and 288 9.6s. This book was relatively undervalued for a long time considering its rarity. At the start of the pandemic, I was looking at graded 9.6 copies for $550 to $650, but that ship has since sailed as 9.6s regularly sell for north of $1000 now. Still a smart investment? I think so given the low population of high grade copies and its enduring popularity.

Walmart UPC Gold Edition

Spiderman-walmart-190x300 Spider-Man #1: 30+ Years of Variant Confusion

The Walmart UPC Gold Edition of Spider-Man #1 is easily distinguishable from the Gold Second Print by the UPC in the corner. Exclusively sold at Walmarts, this variant has an estimated print run of under 10,000, making it the most rare of all. The UPC Gold edition is one of the only newsstands given a designation on the CGC label and a distinctive CGC population. The scarcity of this variant is reflected in its very own CGC population with only 604 graded copies total, 149 Universal 9.8s and 86 9.6s.

Higher grade copies of the Gold UPC variant have experienced a 100% increase like many comics in the past two years. Considering the rarity of this variation, I still like it as a blue chip long term hold. You can’t miss with rare, iconic McFarlane covers often chased down by nostalgic 40-somethings. If you’re up for the hunt, you can still find these out in the wild at flea markets and in thrift stores being sold by people that don’t know the UPC makes all the difference.

Honorable Mention

Spidey-collectible-classics-300x228 Spider-Man #1: 30+ Years of Variant ConfusionFor the sake of being thorough, I thought I’d briefly discuss my favorite Spider-Man #1 reprint, the “chromium” Marvel Collectible Classics #2. This reprint from 1998 had a low print run of 7,500 and has all the cheesy foil goodness you can ask for from a comic from the 1990s.

I’m a sucker for foil, and with only 310 9.8s on the CGC census, this comic has a lot of appeal. While you’re at it, you might want to check out it’s sibling, Marvel Collectible Classics #1, the chromium reprint of Amazing Spider-Man #300.

Wrapping up this Web

Do you have any information on Spider-Man #1 that I left out and would like to contribute? Did I get confused myself and smudge some of the numbers/facts? Which is your favorite variant and why? Leave a comment below and let’s sort this out together. Thanks for reading!

AAA-Harry-Stone-footer Spider-Man #1: 30+ Years of Variant Confusion*Any perceived investment advice is that of the freelance blogger and does not reflect investment advice on behalf of GoCollect.

 

You may also like

21 comments

pencilfart March 16, 2022 - 11:18 am

Several months ago I purchased a early CGC slab Spider- man gold 9.8( the grading sticker is on the out side on top of the slab) and it was not labeled “second printing” however, I just received some books back from CGC and one of them happen to be a gold Spider-Man and this one is labeled “second printing” and it came back a 9.8. In case you were wondering. I did not know that the gold is the second printing to the silver.

Reply
Harry Stone III March 16, 2022 - 12:23 pm

It is! You are correct, from my understanding the gold is a second print. For some reason, CGC doesn’t always mark it as such. I got mine back a few months ago and it says “gold edition” and nothing about which printing it is. The inconsistency with these things is half the problem.

Reply
Ronnie Parisella March 16, 2022 - 11:53 am

Harry, I’s love to chat about SM#1 with you. Here are my credentials: https://photos.app.goo.gl/s9yhR1rLgMFc6j7r6

Reply
Harry Stone III March 16, 2022 - 12:27 pm

Oh wow. That collection of photos is crazy. Those CGC 10s!

Reply
Alan Harper March 16, 2022 - 12:53 pm

Harry, love this. So many of us who collected in that era have a variety in our long boxes and have wondered how to navigate all the variants. Great work!

Reply
Maalek March 16, 2022 - 1:15 pm

Excellent article. Harry. A while back I only decided to go with the Silver Edition since I just thought it looked the coolest and, in general, this comic had SO many copied published. But I’m very much the collector with other comics.

I’ve been sending DMs to the GoCollect IG a few times about doing some blog posts on variants in general, especially the retail incentive variants (1:25 up to 1:2000) and those remastered retail incentive variants Marvel did back in 2016-18.

You did such a thorough job explaining the SM #1 variants, I think it would be awesome if you did a post on those and their projected value and how collectors should approach purchasing them.

Reply
Harry Stone III March 16, 2022 - 1:24 pm

Thanks Maalek. Much appreciated. The remastered variants like the the McFarlane Wolverine and Venom covers? I think there was a Ditko Amazing Spider-Man 800s too that came out around that time. And there was a Miller Spectacular Spider-Man 300 I really liked. I’ll check those out for sure. Those incentive variants are tough, most of them lose their value but when they hit, they explode.

Reply
Maalek March 16, 2022 - 1:45 pm

Yes, those are exactly the ones I’m referring to, Harry. I have the Venom 1 1:1000 McFarlane remastered (color version), the Return of Wolverine 1 1:1000 McFarlane remastered sketch version, Venomverse 1 1:1000 McFarlane remastered (CGC 9.6) and the 1:2000 sketch version raw, and the ASM 1 1:2000 Larsen sketch version, just to name a few. I know due to the retail incentive these must be somewhat rare, but have yet to see anyone do a deep dive on their projected value.

Recently, after seeing the crazy price jump from just the 1:25 variant of Black Panther 3/legacy 200 (that should be a blog post just in itself), I’m thinking retail incentives need to be seriously looked at and written on more.

Thanks for considering — and again, awesome post on the ASM 1 variants — I bookmarked it!

Reply
Tim Clancy March 16, 2022 - 1:25 pm

I have a silver variant with a McFarlane autograph on front and a stamp on back is there any value to that?

Reply
Harry Stone III March 16, 2022 - 1:35 pm

Absolutely. Send that this way ha. Jokes, but yes its valuable, how valuable depends on if its graded or not and the condition. If it is ungraded, a certificate of authenticity would be good. Not sure what you mean by a stamp on the back. Hope that helps!

Reply
Brendan Bell March 17, 2022 - 12:31 pm

I have a silver variant and also a green one with McFarlane’s autograph and the stamp. They came from “The Spider’s Web”, a shop that McFarlane owned back in the 90s when Spidey #1 first came out. I’ve seen a picture of a COA for these floating around online but CGC does not recognize their authenticity unfortunately. Would love to know how many are in circulation.

Reply
Brendan Bell March 17, 2022 - 1:31 pm

Actually the link from commenter Ronnie Parisella above has a photo of these autographed versions and of the COA.

Reply
Scott Medlock March 17, 2022 - 12:40 pm

Hey Harry, question for you. How do you think CGC will handle a CBCS graded book of the Spider-Man number one purple web in 9.8?

The CBCS label says poly bag removed and also note purple web

Do you think CGC will honor both of those notes?

Reply
Harry Stone III March 17, 2022 - 1:19 pm

I don’t think CGC deliberately messes these things up, they’re just careless on occasion. I will say that CBCS handles these more accurately from what I’ve seen. If I’m going to be perfectly honest, I prefer CBCS as a grading company but their graded books generally sell for a little less so CGC wins out.

Sometimes the person getting it graded doesn’t know what they have either so they are partially to blame as well. This book is kind of a mess. But if you make a note of it, it should be fine.

Reply
Rene Garcia March 18, 2022 - 12:28 am

Hey Harry,
Awesome job identifying the Spider-Man variants. After reading this article, I decided to take a look at my comics and to my surprise, I have a copy of the green purple webs edition. You mentioned CGC will probably miss this variant. Should I try sending it anyway but with a note? Do you know if this variant is the most rare of them all?

Ren

Reply
Harry Stone III March 18, 2022 - 12:03 pm

Definitely not the most rare, but they’ll often get it mixed up with the grey webs version. I would definitely make a note of it.

Reply
Scott Medlock March 18, 2022 - 12:36 am

Hey Harry

I don’t know man. I did some research on all the purple books sold recently (pictures on Go-Collect) and half of them are not even purple webbed.

The ones that did have purple webs did not say on the case (CGC) that “webs are purple”, but most said “poly-bagged removed”.
CGC doesn’t recognize the “Purple Web” thing on their cases, nor their Census either. Seems like the “Purple Web” is only noted on Go Collect.

I’m worried now that CGC might not even honor the “poly-bagged removed” statement. They’re big sticklers about “CGC” witnessing things. Did you know that a Signature book in CBCS will not cross over to CGC Signature book?? They will label it green with writing of the name on the front cover. That’s crazy!

If CGC didn’t remove the polybag, they are not going to honor those words from a competitor, just like the signature books.
CGC does not even recognize the “Purple Web” thing on their Census either. Seems like it’s only on Go Collect.

The whole reason I’m asking all this is because I’m about to pick up a CBCS book of Spider-Man 1, CBCS 9.8 with Purple web notes and poly bag removed on the label. So Cool!!

I think now, once I get this book, I will keep it as CBCS. I usually cross them over for better value and potential re-sale. As you know they go around 30% cheaper than CGC books. But, you have to be careful, because CGC will not honor the grade, but rather re-grade. I have crossed over about (10) 9.8 books so far from CBCS to CGC, and only go burned twice. Those two books came back CGC 9.6

My rule of thumb is, if you going to buy a CBCS book, try to buy it at a CGC 9.6 price to cover yourself – if your going to cross it over. Then be willing to wait 6 months.

You have to admit, the new cases from CGC are awesome! crystal clear and show well. They scratch easy too. Double edge sword.

Let me know your thoughts.

Thanks man, Scotto

Reply
Harry Stone III March 18, 2022 - 12:07 pm

You’re getting it confused. CGC doesn’t note it on the CGC case with “purple webs”. The purple webs edition should say “polybagged removed”. The grey version, which didn’t come in a polybag, shouldn’t say anything about a polybag because it didn’t come in one. They often get this completely backwards and have the grey webs label saying polybagged removed and the purple webs edition not saying anything about the polybag at all.

We describe the color of the webs to tell the difference between the two when the purple webbed version is out of its bag. They’re pretty much identical otherwise. Don’t feel bad, this is why I wrote the article in the first place.

Reply
Shukry Mustaklem May 13, 2022 - 5:32 am

I have the green version with gay webs in a poly bag it came from Canada, so this would explain why CGC would have listed it as removed from poly bag. How many Spider-Man #1’s were printed in Canada? Are the Canadian printings included in your printing estimate? Is a Canadian printing worth more or less then it’s U.S counterpart?

Reply
Lee April 16, 2022 - 11:55 pm

Hi Harry – The green with grey webs direct edition were sold in polybags and with no bags. I have a copy of the former CGC 3956732016 that has the polybag edition comment. I understand the green with purple webs were likewise available in poly bags and without. The green with grey webs UPC variant was only available in polybags. It is possible that some of the graded books that were originally bagged but not submitted to CGC in polybags are not labelled as polybags variants and there is no way that I am aware to tell the difference between these previous polybagged copies and ones that were never bagged.

Reply
Shukry Mustaklem May 13, 2022 - 5:17 am

I have a Green poly bagged version with green/yellow background, grey webs, and Spider-Man face in the UPC box. It says on the poly bag, printed in Canada. What’s up with it, is this another version?

Reply

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: