Australian Price Variants
What are they?
By Joseph Italiano
“Marvel Australian cover price variants were only newsstand distributed (no direct edition copies exist). These are type 1A Marvel Australian cover price variants, where the 1990-1994 issues are both cover PRICE and cover MONTH variants, while the 1996 group are only cover PRICE variants. Marvel appeared to be test marketing these, and they were so off the radar to everyone that until a few years ago I myself had no idea they even existed!”
“The 1990-1994 Marvel AUS variants as far as I can tell began with 10/90 issues and ceased with 1/94 issues. The 1996 Marvel AUS cover price issues as far as I can tell began with 2/96 issues. The test marketing apparently failed and Marvel gave up completely when the 1996 AUS variants ended with 11/96 issues.”
— Bill Alexander, Overstreet Advisor
With respect to Bill Alexander, I have information about the print run order that throws the characterization of these as Type 1A variants into question.
Australian Price Variants (APV)
There has been a lot of misinformation about these US Marvel comics printed specifically for the Australian newsstand market in the early nineties. They have been described as 1A variants (which applies to some other editions printed for other countries), but this is not accurate. The 1A status was simply arrived at with the limited information available at the time. The information presented here was obtained by us, first hand, from the Australian Marvel Sales rep, whose job was to increase Marvel comic newsstand sales.
At the time, circa 1990, we (Alternate Worlds) were supplementing our direct market purchases with local newsstand editions, (since newsstand editions here were released two months after we had already received the direct market copies). This meant if a book was to unexpectently become popular and sell out, we still had a source to restock the book. Alternate Worlds was (at that time) purchasing through the newsstand distributor Gordon & Gotch (G&G). Circa 1990, G&G “lost” the rights to distribute Marvel comics in Australia. We obviously began buying from the new distributor Network (NDD). The Australian Marvel Sales rep. approached us before hand to tell us about the new Australian editions that were going to be produced. He was so buzzed about the new more collectable editions that would increase Marvel’s newsstand sales in this country. (We had direct contact with the Australian Marvel Sale rep, as we were a distributor too). To alleviate some of the problems they were having with delayed release times and the “damage” caused by the local newsstand “defacing” comics with Australian price modifications and return dates, resulted in the Australian Price Variants. Up until now these editions have been termed Type 1A cover price variant.
Type 1A variants are standard US editions that were printed with the local country’s currency price. There are a number of differences between Type 1A books and APV, as follows:
- APV books have a different cover month to that printed inside the book. It is not just the price that has been changed. The reason for this, is that the new distributor wanted to avoid newsstand writing anything on the cover (to preserve collectability). The month on the cover was the month the comic would be available until, on the newsstand in Australia. Like the US theory, they were hoping to extend the lifespan of the comic on the shelf for more than one month.
- The APV books were collated first, before any other editions. This was so the lag time between US editions release and Australian edition release would be reduced. As soon as these books were printed, they were shipped, while the regular US editions were yet to be completed. We are unsure how much time difference there was between the editions, but in any case, they can be identified as the first of the print run. After about a year of this practice, Alternate Worlds broke the news about APV’s.
APV’s are the “first” print runs of the US books. As soon as this fact came out and Marvel head office realized that some pencil pusher down the line had effectively made all their comics “second” editions, they took immediate action. I presume that after they became aware of the APV concept, although the Australian variants were still produced, only the first years of books are actually APV and after that they are just Australian variants.
Facts about APV’s
1. Print runs for APV for the Australian newsstand market was 2000-4000 per book.
2. Many local collectors, shunned Australian cover price editions as they thought they were inferior to the US cover editions (many thought they were local reprints), so most newsstand sales were to casual readers. The remaining non-sold copies were pulped. Estimates (depending on title) suggest that most books had a survival rate of 5%-10% and those that did survive are usually in low grade condition. These “variants” are vert rare.
3. Not all Marvel titles were distributed on the newsstand in Australia, but all books that were, were from 1991 cover date.
4. During this short time, many key books were released. These include:
a. New Mutants #98 (1st deadpool)
b. Silver Surfer #47 (1st Infinity Gauntlet)
5. This whole exercise was not a “Marvel experiment”. Marvel head office let their reps do there thing and were unaware of this experiment until we broke the news in 1992 with our ads in the CBG (Comic Buyers Guide), selling these books and a prominent back issue dealer contacted Marvel about the books after buying some from us. (They were originally listed as APE (Australian Premiere Editions). Marvel denied everything. This then prompted Marvel head office to contact us about the issue. The local agents created this entire concept without specific knowledge from their superiors. Since we did not want to put Marvel offside, we backed down even though we knew that the APV editions are identifiable as being the first of the print run (at least for the first year or so) and the regular US editions are technically second editions. Now that so much time has passed, it is no longer an issue for Marvel any more.
“How we categorize books, and especially what we name them, has a tremendous impact upon value and desirability. Calling any U.S. Published Cover Price Variants by the name “Canadian Edition” conflates them with foreign editions which is misleading to collectors. The new “75¢ Canadian Price Variant” CBCS labeling is a tremendous improvement! Type 1a variants are universally scarcer than regular editions, regardless of era, going all the way back to the Golden Age. Because scarcity and demand drive the market, CBCS’s new formal recognition of them as price variants ends the “Canadian Edition” (or UK or Australian edition) nonsense for U.S. published comics and provides accuracy for the fast growing market of Type 1a variant comics. CBCS has done the hobby a great service by properly identifying such books. I predict that the fast growing Type 1a variant market will reflect and embrace this important change with ever-increasing fervor, as collectors realize what they are actually looking at (for a change), and that they will pursue and invest in them accordingly.”
— Jon McClure, Senior Overstreet Advisor
“Newsstand and Direct variants are quickly gaining popularity with the mainstream collectors. CBCS has seized the reins on this niche of the hobby, by being the only grading service to identify Newsstand and Direct Edition copies in the variant field of the label on books from 1977 through 2000. Once the CBCS census goes live, it will be interesting to see the numbers that have been submitted. In the late 1970’s, Direct Edition comics were less common than Newsstand Editions. As years progressed, Newsstand copies became more and more scarce, with the Newsstand copies of some comics being incredibly hard to find. The hobby will start to learn about the scarcity of each issue in the coming years. More information is better for everyone, especially involving something that was hiding right under our very noses.”
— Steve Ricketts, CBCS Head Presser
This is a link to our Marvel APV comics catalogue page APV “Variants”. We are still going through our warehouse looking for more books.