Being a collector can be frustrating at times. Every collection has a natural evolution, but the goals remain the same. First: find the best comics that fit your scheme and second: find the rarest available comics that fit said scheme…at least that’s how I simplify it. With the crazy landscape of variants including: Newsstand Variants, Pricing Variants, Cover Variants, Canadian Variants, and Whitman Variants (…phew… that’s a lot!) let’s throw in another twist…Insert Variants. Are these books special, a rare gem, hiding in your collection? Let’s investigate!
Recently, a copy of Avengers #257 (which features the first appearance of Nebula) with a Mark Jewelers Insert sold on eBay. This book currently has a Fair Market Value (FMV), 9.8 graded, of $220 and books that have hit the market are selling for about that price consistently over the past few months. A Newsstand Variant of this book also exists and has been selling slightly higher than FMV (10%-20% premium) when it shows up at auction. However, the Mark Jewelers book sold for nearly $350. Why the extra value bump, of 50%, for a common book that just so happens to have a jewelry advertisement in it? Of the 207 copies that exist in 9.8, is this Mark Jewelers Variant the unicorn?
Following some research to boost my knowledge, the answer seems to point to YES. Mark Jewelers Inserts were placed into books that were shipped mostly, overseas and domestically, to military bases. The insert was a great way to have service members purchase jewelry for gifts, engagement or otherwise, with ease. Advertising Inserts were present in comics between 1972 and 1986. I had read stories and posts about other types of inserts as well: from lingerie to Ataris and everything in-between. Mark Jewelers books were produced outside of the direct supply chain that went to comic shops (buff up on Newsstand vs. Direct here) and are therefore all Newsstand Variants. The insert is typically noted on CGC graded cases below the comic date. If the comic does not have a UPC/Barcode and is claiming to be a Mark Jewelers variant, it is a scam because that would be impossible. All in, a Mark Jewelers Insert book checks all the boxes in rarity. Newsstand is rarer than Direct, and these books were a subset of those Newsstand copies. It is like the ‘Inception’ of rarity here…multilayered, complex, and a bit hard to follow.
Much like all other types of variants that exist, it is really the buyer that determines if there is extra value to be had. I have confirmed numerous data points on Mark Jewelers Variants, and it does seem that there is a group of buyers who put a premium on these books. Much like Canadian Price Variants, if a buyer is willing to pay the premium (and they are), then the market will continue to bear that premium. All these variants on the market offer something that every collector covets…a comic that nobody else has. So if you are presented with the ability to pick up a book that is different for any reason, that difference is usually marketable and will get you a greater premium in value.
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