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Is there a variant bubble and will that bubble burst? Options
wpmcclure
Posted: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 10:59:09 AM

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So this has been on my mind for a while now and wanted to hear what other, more experienced comic book collectors thought about the potential issue of an industry wide variant bubble. I’ve been watching print counts using The Comics Chronicles and ICv2 for a few years now. During the recession I’ve seen the print count very low move to almost double (on the low end of the 300) for current standings. I’ve read a couple of articles, some stating that we are due for another variant bubble burst, like the one that happened during the 90s. I’ve also heard the opposite that the selection of so called variants is a good thing in that it has provided the buyer with many options; after all variety is the spice of life.

The one thing that I’ve noticed from reading various sites is that during the 90s there was a lot of bad writing. Now I’m not one to state this from experience as I wasn’t reading comics in the 90s because of where I grew up and well, money…any ways, but I’ve noticed that the writing is crazy good for a lot of independents and the artistry of both covers and books has drastically improved from the 90s. I know that this is also due from the paper and ink quality being used. With Image producing so many wonderful stories, Valiant coming back, even good stories coming out of the big 2, could there be a variant bubble and could that bubble burst anytime soon?

So the reason I ask is simple because I had to sell my entire Dynamic Entertainment "The Shadow" collection because I simply can’t afford buying the 4 variants each issue (v25, v50, v75, v100). If I was lucky I could get all 4 for 50 bucks, but that was if I was lucky. I see that Dynamic Entertainment and Boom! Studious are notorious for flooding their series with variants. But what really got me going was the new Uncanny Avengers and the what, 18 potential variant covers, 5-6 of which require a seller to purchase god awful amounts of regular issues to get these. I’m not even gonna try, unless I can get them for cheap-cheap, like cover price cheap.

Now I’m a sucker for Skottie Young so I’m getting those covers for the new Marvel NOW launch, only because they are cover price. Seems like Dark Horse and a couple other smaller presses, Oni Publishing, etc…seem to stick with maybe 1 retailer incentive for issue #1. It also seems that Valiant is actually settling down with its variants but I mean…it's getting ridiculous out there. Now I’ve read that hey if you don’t want it then don’t buy it, great then I’ll follow that logic and keep my cash in my pocket. I was just wondering about the potential of a bubble even though the comic book industry as a whole seems to be coming back. I know that it isn’t at levels from previous years but with the movie industry pumping in new blood, TV shows, TPB and HC publications, and finally the internet promoting a worldwide interest, are we in a bubble and will there be a market correction in the near future?

The Comic Chronicles
ICv2

comicuniversity
Posted: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 12:19:11 PM
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Great question.....and a very educated post.


My opinion is that there is one major difference between the 90's and today.

The "triple gatefold cover" and other variants of the 90's were driven by speculators. Whereas the variants of today are driven by collectors.

Let me explain, because this has happened before.

In the early 80's we had Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1. Before this issue there were independents, but, aside from some diehards, noone really paid attention. Then TMNT hit and all of a sudden independent specualtion went through the roof and we saw a TON of new independent titles. Some of them even shot up in value quickly, only to basement again a few years later (I'm looking at you Fish Police and Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters). The sales on these were driven primarily by people looking to make a quick buck. So, it essentially created a false demand. Everybody buying them just wanted to resell them and nobody really wanted to own them, so the market was glutted and you can now find those indies of the 80's in quarter bins.
You see, there was no real Demand. It was only speculation.


In the 90's, again, the variant craze went through the roof due to speculators entering the market thanks to big events like Death of Superman and Wolvie losing his adamantium etc. etc. These speculators bought up tons of anything that smelled like a valuable collectible (remember Silver Sable #1's die cut something or other cover?). Again, nobody really wanted them. They just wanted to own them so they could sell them. So, no REAL market. No Real Demand. You can now buy Silver Sable #1 for a day old ham sandwhich.

Todays variant craze smells different to me. I don't see a lot of speculation. I do see resale.....but there is an actual, REAL market for the resales. Actual collectors want to own all the variant covers for Red Sonja or whatever. So, this market would appear to be more stable than the two I just mentioned.


Tamwood
Posted: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 12:38:39 PM

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If you think that there aren't speculators in today's market, you obviously haven't been on any other forums, or seen the stupid amounts that certain books (Thor #344, Batgirl #13, Justice League #12) are selling or have sold for on eBay.

I've seen entire FORUMS, not just threads, devoted to what's hot, what might be hot, what issues you should pick up, etc.

And to answer the initial question, yes. I definitely think that the variant craze is going to crash. While the industry might not suffer as much as it did after the 90s crash, there will be a crash.

I can't tell you what the ratios were for the variants in the 90s, but that information is readily available now. And, the sad point is that the companies (at least the big 2) are so lazy, most of their variants are boring variants of variants. "Here's the 1:50, and here's the 1:300 SKETCH version of the 1:50..." Or Marvel's current X-Men/Avengers covers.

Variant.
Variant with 1/2 b/w
Variant with other 1/2 b/w
Variant with entire cover b/w
comicuniversity
Posted: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 12:57:18 PM
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No Tamwood, I am not arguing your point. You are, FOR SURE, right. There is a certain amount of speculation. It makes my stomach churn when I walk into my NONpreferred LCS and see variants (brand new ones) already marked up 1,000% or more.

My point was a softer one. There is always speculation in any market such as this one. However, this variant craze seems to have a REAL market. Not sure I am explaining myself well. I just think that this round of variants has a much softer bubble (kind of like what you were saying). We already see it happen...MUCH QUICKER...than it did in the 90's. A hot variant will shoot up to astronomical prices quickly on ebay and other retail sites, but that price, after a couple months, tends to drop to more reasonable levels.
I think that is a soft trend we can expect to continue.

Another variable that exists in much higher prevalence today than the 80's and 90's is the proliferation of information. What I mean by this, is that 20 years ago an LCS or ebay seller could name a higher price and a buyer might not have been able to research the actual value of a comic as quickly and thoroughly as we can now. SO prices are way more actual market driven than...made up (for lack of a better term).
frozilla
Posted: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 1:23:42 PM

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I can see both sides of this. It seems to be speculation to a point - you have more and more people pumping out dozens of different 'variants' - and the nature of them make them 'rarer' than the typical issue. however, there are some who like artist X and want to get those covers to collect..

I see it being just like the 90s craze, ultimately trying to sell more books. Nothing wrong with that I suppose, but my personal feelings are that I really don't care for them as the interior product is what's important. Howeer, I have been known to buy a variant here or there - but usually it's of a book that I already want anyhow.

The whole 1:100, 1:50, 1:25, etc doesn't really make it that much more valuable to me and I've noticed alot of prices dropping quickly on these. So in the end, if you buy a variant amkes sure yo wan the book and not buying it just for speculation purposes.


Big signatures are REALLY annoying.
Thundercron
Posted: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 1:32:21 PM

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Great topic. Good posts so far, but there's one technicality that's being missed: there were no variants in the 90's. The publishers started churning out enhanced cover comics, but those were primarily all that you had to choose from. Sure, the companies started printing "regular" editions, but that was at the tale end of the craze, and most shops didn't order very many of these. So for that reason the variants of today are a much different animal than the enhanced cover comics of the 90s. Those comics were definitely targeted at speculators, but the actual fan/reader was caught in the middle and were forced to buy those higher-priced comics--sometimes at a full double the cost of a normal issue. The publishers got greedy, and it seemed each major title had a special cover or feature every few issues. This got expensive if you collected a lot of titles per month, and once the quality of the books (art and story) started to lag, that's when the fans started to jump ship from the industry. The speculators soon followed, and that's one of the contributing factors to the bubble bursting.

The variants today are a very different animal. This time it's the comic shop owners who are being suckered into buying 700 copies of Amazing Spider-Man #700 to get the rare incentive cover. The comic publishers aren't advertising these variants to the average buyer; there's no "collect them all!" proclamation. Much of the time you won't even know what the variant covers are just by reading the comics--you'd have to go online or check out Diamond to find out. And the comic companies aren't making extra money off the variants themselves--those prices are set by the retailer. They make their money off shops ordering more copies of something than they can actually sell.

Market bubbles rise and fall pretty quickly. The speculator craze started around 1991 I would say, and had burst by 1996 or 1997. On the other hand, these incentive comics have been going strong for about ten years or so. I think any bubble burst would have happened by now.

What I do worry about is the tactic by some publishers (Marvel mostly) of company-wide crossovers and constant rebooting of titles. Collectors are an all-or-nothing lot of people, and these huge crossovers (which have been growing steadily bigger since Civil War) are causing increasing amounts of frustration on the part of collectors. Many collectors don't have the money to keep up with the supply, and I think this trend has more of a chance of alienating readers than incentive covers do.
wpmcclure
Posted: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 3:37:28 PM

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Thundercron wrote:
What I do worry about is the tactic by some publishers (Marvel mostly) of company-wide crossovers and constant rebooting of titles. Collectors are an all-or-nothing lot of people, and these huge crossovers (which have been growing steadily bigger since Civil War) are causing increasing amounts of frustration on the part of collectors. Many collectors don't have the money to keep up with the supply, and I think this trend has more of a chance of alienating readers than incentive covers do.


Yeah, but honestly, if the crossover events weren't popular, then they wouldn't sell, thus they wouldn't keep creating these events. I know that it'll alienate potential core collectors simply because they don't have the cash to buy all of these variants, like me! However the big 2 seem to have 2 competing business models. One for the general crowd and then one for the hard core (...possibly well off...) comic book collector; the guy spending loads of money for NYCC or SDCC. There seems to be a gap where the normal collector falls and the guy off the street. But seriously doesn't it seem like they have 2 competing business models? The big two seem to be viewing the smaller publishers like IDW, Dynamic Entertainment and Boom! Studios with sometimes excessive variant counts and wondering, hell, why can't we do that?

wpmcclure
Posted: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 3:41:19 PM

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frozilla wrote:

The whole 1:100, 1:50, 1:25, etc doesn't really make it that much more valuable to me and I've noticed alot of prices dropping quickly on these. So in the end, if you buy a variant amkes sure yo wan the book and not buying it just for speculation purposes.


I totally agree and I see it every day. As an example, "The Shadow" has consistently come out with a v25, v50, v75, and v100. However, with each new issue the actually print count provided by Diamond has gone down making these variants rarer. On the contrary, the prices for these variants are also coming down contradicting their market rarity. Now explain that...

Xylob
Posted: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 4:04:20 PM

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wpmcclure wrote:
...On the contrary, the prices for these variants are also coming down contradicting their market rarity. Now explain that...
collectors are getting sick of it - these 1:XX variants are becoming too common place and have lost their appeal. It's really not anything special when every issue of every title has its 1:X, 1:XX, & 1:XXX variants.
Time for a new gimmick methinks.

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Tamwood
Posted: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 5:36:08 PM

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There absolutely were variants in the 90s. They weren't as rare, because, as Thundercron mentioned, it was more the gimmick cover phase, but there were certainly variants.

Darkchylde is a big one that comes to mind. Also Witchblade, which didn't have as many variants as books nowadays do, did have variant covers.

I recall an X-Men Phoenix variant by Bachalo (that I finally tracked down ... again), and a couple of others. Of course, this was 15 years ago, so my memory's pretty shot.

The big companies have been doing crossovers for years, but they usually reserved company-wide crossovers and events for their annuals. The recent gimmick of a stand-alone book for a company-wide crossover is relative new, and it can indeed be annoying.
Xylob
Posted: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 5:59:42 PM

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Tamwood wrote:
There absolutely were variants in the 90s. They weren't as rare, because, as Thundercron mentioned, it was more the gimmick cover phase, but there were certainly variants.
Yeah, March 1993:

'regular', 'chrome', and 'gold' - the variants are embossed(!).

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Nick18313
Posted: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 6:27:56 PM

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Xylob wrote:
Tamwood wrote:
There absolutely were variants in the 90s. They weren't as rare, because, as Thundercron mentioned, it was more the gimmick cover phase, but there were certainly variants.
Yeah, March 1993:

'regular', 'chrome', and 'gold' - the variants are embossed(!).


Hey, I just got a copy of the Wildstar chrome variant, payed about 3 cents for it.

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outcast
Posted: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 6:36:49 PM
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I'm not particularly enthusiastic about all the variant comics being published these days, BUT....

It does occur to me that the variants may be the difference between continued publication and cancellation for some titles. A handy example might be THE SHADE, published by DC. This was a series I was interested in from the standpoint of the character, his story, and his origin (teased at throughout the '90s STARMAN series, but never told until recently).

I have no idea what the sales were for this title, but I do know that most issues, perhaps every issue, had a variant cover. Suppose the sales of this series were borderline, and in danger of slipping below the number required to continue publication. If the variant covers added enough sales to ensure that all 12 issues were published, then readers of the series were subsidized by collectors and speculators. That, I think, isn't such a bad thing.
freakdylan
Posted: Thursday, October 18, 2012 5:39:30 PM

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Well Marvel doesn't think it is busting, however collectors may just have given up with the new Amazing Spider-Man #700 1:700 variant, lol


Thanks to the following sellers for helping me put together my complete run of Amazing Spider-man #1-700

ComicCastle
TreeHouse
Hall Of Heroes
Thundercron's Longbox
DrumCzar


Now for the sellers helping me finish my TMNT collection:

Hall Of Heroes
Green Bay Comics



AgentNasty411
Posted: Thursday, October 18, 2012 6:29:17 PM
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With Wall Street robbing us and inflation consider this. Disney will pump billions into Marvel Movies and the base are silver age or earlier.
AgentNasty411
Posted: Thursday, October 18, 2012 6:30:00 PM
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Add the father to son variable and consider Obama can't print vintage X men 1s
AgentNasty411
Posted: Thursday, October 18, 2012 6:31:10 PM
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This year I put 5 grand into comics and estimate them to sell for 30. I mastered the dork stock market.
wpmcclure
Posted: Thursday, October 18, 2012 8:21:53 PM

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So I like bought the Batman #13 Mirror cover for $20 so if there is a variant bubble, I only hope it affects covers like the insanely variant happy uncanny avengers and asm #700. Seriously, there is to be a 1:700 retailer incentive, christ almighty! Hypnotized

comicfan17blue
Posted: Friday, October 19, 2012 1:35:20 PM
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So ASM #700 will have a 1:700 retail variant but how many are going to be available with the cover price of the regular issue being $7.99. How many retailers out there are going to be able to afford $7.99 x 700 x 60% (assuming 40% discount off cover for retailers) that equals $3356.00+cost of the variant books to obtain 1 1:700 variant. There are three other 1:50 variants and a 1:200. So a retailer may come way with 1 1:700 variant, 3 1:200 variants, 14-42 1:50 variants ( this depends if you can order one copy of all three 1:50 or just 1 copy for every 50 regular copies) and 700 copies of the regular. Thats a lot of books to try and move quickly.

As for the original premise of this post, in my humble opinion, there are many variant bubbles and some burst quickly while others don't.

Example Avenging Spider-Man #1 1:200 variant was going for ~80.00 dollars in August on eBay and now you can get copies for around $25.00.

While Thief of Thieves #1 ComicsPro variant was supposedly selling for ~$25.00 back in February and now goes for ~$140-200 non CGC on ebay.

Over time the value on variants will fluctuate greatly depending on who is doing the selling and where you are buying the variant. Ultimately value comes down to how much someone is willing to pay for that particular cover.
AgentNasty411
Posted: Saturday, October 20, 2012 7:28:58 PM
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This variant cover scheme is much like the platinum editions of the 90s. Maybe not as many, but plentiful.
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