Subject #8: Exclusive Variants

Disambiguation

This week rather than characters and debating cases for first appearances I’d like to talk about something a little different… For me anyways, “Exclusive Variants”. With all the different Harley Quinn #1 exclusive store variant covers it's time to step back and reevaluate what going on.

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When it comes to all these variants the first question you should probably ask yourself, how “exclusive” is a book with a print run greater than 1000 copies? If you have 30 different store variants, multiplied by 3000 copies each, all first printing… Does it really matter that each is limited to 3000 copies? I like variants. I'll pay a little extra for a cool cover featuring a character I like, or work by an artist I follow. So I'm not knocking it.

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These retail stores would have been way better off pooling resources and working together, doing shared variants. Keep it going for multiple issues. So one guy does a variant and splits it for issue #1. The next guy does it for issue #2, rinse and repeat. Space it out rather than flood the market all at once. That was a nice thing about Spider-Gwen vol 1. and Secret Wars variants. Sure there were a bunch for issue one, but there were also a few store exclusives for the later issues. It wasn't all at once, there was some variety of artist and characters featured, collectors had options.

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I'll admit, I like DC's rebirth model of the two retail covers. Not too crazy about the ones shots followed by another issue #1 but what are you going to do. They can't please everyone. Speaking of not pleasing everyone, Aspen and Legacy caught a lot of heat for changing the print runs on the Harley Quinn #1. I think the companies Facebook PR trying to control the spin made things a lot worst in both cases.

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I do think there’s a certain amount of responsibility we must take on as the market. When we collective gobble up thousands of copies of a variant cover within 24 hours or less. Do we think the website/store/publisher isn’t going to notice that? When some people turn around and put them online for 4 times what was paid as a pre sale, do you think the stores/website/publisher is not aware of that? We should assume they are and will adjust accordingly. Wouldn't you?

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There’s always going to be a push pull with investing in store/event/artist direct exclusives. You have to buy in at a low pre sale and pray they sell out, so you can get a return on your investment. In many cases the mark-up is so high, the store can always dump them if they don't sell out. Store variants are not costing anywhere close to 15 bucks apiece. These “Exclusive” variants could start at $10 and the original sellers would still make money. When you see what’s happening on eBay, it's hard to blame them for wanting some of that action. Why not choke out the secondary market and take all the money for themselves. I don’t like it, but I completely understand the logic.

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Personally, I try to avoid variants with higher than a $12 buy in. I don’t always stick to that rule, obviously, there’s always an exception… Or two.. Or Four. If you’re speculating on these “Exclusives”, you might want to consider something like that. Research what these books really cost and how much it has been marked up. Give yourself a budget or threshold for what you're willing to pay. You may not always get the book you want at the price you want, on the other hand you won't be mad that you over-paid for it either.

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We all love comics, well most of us. We all love money, who doesn’t. When you find a way to combine those two things it’s hard not to become completely immersed and lose sight… Don’t let that happen to you. This a hobby first and should be fun. The lure of easy money can blind us into making bad investments. When comic collecting stops being fun, that when it’s time to step back and reevaluate. I love chasing down cool covers too, but the cool factor is always going to be off-set by the cost… At least for me. In my opinion $30 plus for a single issue variant isn't fun, it's obnoxious.

After the Aspen and Legacy’s respective fiascos, Crossovers, Gimmicks and Variant Fatigue. I’m about ready for another separation from my abusive comic relationship.

Till next week, believe none of what you hear and only half of what you read…

23 comments

  • Great article ! 🙂

  • ECooper

    Spoken for truth! I got sucked into the Spider-Gwen spin last year and bought all the covers. I don’t regret it because I genuinely like the character but the constant hunt and the prices they commanded was draining. When the Harley variants came around, I learned from the first time and only bought the artists I liked (and even then, I didn’t get all the ones I liked!). Collect in moderation. I think there will always be a second chance to pick something up later down the line and maybe at a lower price.

    Great article Skot!

  • With store exclusives? Definitely wait it out! 90% of store variants never hold value.

    Play the patient game and most often than not, you will end up getting the variant issue you like for much less.

    I’m not a big fan of vriants to be honest, never was. It killed the the industry in the 90’s and it hurting it now.

    I don’t mind a variant or 2 here and there, but when there are more variants then regular issues in the market fir every comic out there what’s the point?

    I really liked the variants issues by Marvel on ASM between nu,bers 550 to 700. Other than a few exceptions like issue 568, 692, 700 etc… most of these comics had 1 maybe 2 variants only especially issues betwenn #600 and #700.

    That I’m fine with. 1 or 2 variants that due give a sense or rarity and collectability.
    Those are fun to hunt down.

    But you throw 10 to 30 variants on a book, there is no way all these variants rise in value or maintain value if they do increase early on.

    This is a classic case of less is better. But I can’t blame businesses wanted to make money.

    • Skot Whitman

      It’s definitely a slippery slope. I can see all side to the equation so I get where they are coming from. I don’t agree always, but I understand. Something got to give regardless. 42 or what ever Harley variant at the same time is asinine. Someone at DC should have said, nope. Stop, they can do a variant on issue #2 but no more issue #1’s. it’s out of control. Aspen is hanging on by a thread right now, that how these Turner covers came to be in the first place. I think the future Turner covers will sell out too regardless, his fan base is huge.

      Thanks for commenting!

  • accustomfigures

    Great article. Exactly what I’ve been trying to say this whole time. I’m really worried we’re headed the way of the 90’s. After the industry worked so hard to recover from it. Keep buying what you love.

    • Skot Whitman

      I think we’re headed towards something. The “90” was the 90’s this will be something different. The parallels are hard to deny… In many ways all the Harley store variants remind me a little of the Image Wild C.A.T.S #1 order 1000’s of copies. Not the gimmick side more the 1000’s of books nobody wants cluttering a store room a month later.

      We all have to stay vigilant, other wise whatever happens is going to be a mess LOL!

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • I feel like many new collectors need investors to show them what they want. I don’t believe Aspen or Legacy can sell out their variants to just collectors buying for their personal collections. Legacy has a huge back catalog of beautiful variants that have not sold out.
    If investors lose confidence in these companies to deliver an advertised print run, those companies will suffer in the end.
    I’m not buying direct from them again. I will get the books on the secondary market. I appreciate the return policy but this bait but there are plenty of books to invest in. I don’t need the hassle.

    • Skot Whitman

      I think you’re 100% correct on new investors needing a guide for what to buy. It’s simpler if you have a love for comics and superheroes… rather than looking at it as a money game.

      Aspen was hanging on by a thread before the Turner variants hit. Turner has a remarkably loyal fan base so the variant will continue to sell out. Batman and ASM 15 were solid covers, everything since, not so much. You’re probably right about them not holding value.

      Legacy has an amazing looking variant in the Harley #1. Problem is going to be can the market absorbing 9K copies. The answer is no. Unless the Suicide Squad movie brings in 10K new readers somehow and they all want that cover. Which is very unlikely.

      Thanks for commenting!

  • Nicc T

    Powerful article here Skot. Very well done.

  • This is exactly why I don’t collect covention books or “store exclusives”.

    You just never really know how many copies were commissioned and are just sitting in boxes being sandbagged somewhere.

    • Scott Robertson
      Scott Robertson

      Strange, I thought that as per you, jdr publishers only print the bare minimum of books and they sell them all, there are no leftovers or books stored somewhere and sold later….hmmm

      When I pointed out how print numbers are truly unknown as all we know is the distribution ratio which may or not be the number of printed books, you replied “I just don’t trust you, cause I know better” yup, you know better cause you just said what I stated..

      You are so full of contradictions to yourself jdr it’s not even funny… smh…

      • I’m not sure what you’re talking about, but convention books/store exclusives are completely different than ratio variants.

        • Scott Robertson
          Scott Robertson

          hahaha .. you are so funny… So Variants ordered by stores are overordered on a regular basis and stored in warehouses, but diamond never over orders… hahahahh … you have lost all credibility… PRICELESS!

          • Diamond doesn’t “order” anything, they distribute books.

            Take your axe and grind it somewhere else.

          • Scott Robertson
            Scott Robertson

            Hahah, man you loose more and more creditbility jason, you’re now saying that Diamond does not order books from publishers? Does marvel just randomly decide how many books to send diamond to distribute? This was the whole premise that publishers don’t over print… cause they base the print runs of variants based on the book’s ordered by diamond by the final cut off… so which is it? Does diamond order books from publishers? Or do they just magically recieve books from the publishers…

            There is no axe, juSt pointing out the hypocrisy of what you say…

  • Matthew King

    My passion for this hobby was in overload for quite sometime but between the cash grabs on these multiple variants and the speculation politics… I think it may be time to walk away.

    • Skot Whitman

      It might be, everyone has a different breaking point. I’ve walked away from comics multiple times and not afraid to do it again.

      The real solution is for everyone to calm down and stop trying to bleed each other dry. For stores to quit flooding the market with so many variants nobody asked for at ridiculous mark up. There’s a balance that needs to occur where everyone can win…

      Since that will never happen, many people will be walking away I’m sure.

      Thanks for Commenting!

  • @ScottRobertson- Your attempts to obfuscate the point have been successful.

    So I’ll clear things up.

    Diamond is a distributor, and essentially a middleman. They don’t “order” anything. Retailers are the ones who are ordering the books through Diamond.

    What any of this has to do with retailer exclusive or convention variants is a mystery to me. Why you have turned this into a debate about incentive variants is a mystery to me (since they are not remotely comparable).

    And I don’t know who “Jason” is.

    Good day sir.

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