The Chicken Or The Egg

The market is never saturated with a good product, but it is very quickly saturated with a bad oneHenry Ford




Chicken or the egg?!


Greetings from the desert fellow CBSI members. Summer is in full swing here already. Amazing how quickly time goes. We are rapidly approaching the one year anniversary of the Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur # 19 (MG & DD) conundrum.

I will start with this, my goal is to report the facts on a topic. It is then up to you to form an educated opinion based on the data. There is no doubt this is a polarizing topic, and it is one that must be looked at as it speaks to an the comic community as a whole, both from a seller and consumer perspective.

Let’s start at the beginning. MG & DD up to this issue 18 had seen a handful of ratio variants, six total issues out of the first eighteen in fact. What the market started to show in early 2017 is these variants had some play in the market financially. Why? Glad you asked, let’s break it down.

If you look at the first 18 issues as a whole, the average print run in totality is 13.7K. In looking deeper, if you take that 13.7K and if you take the highest ratio variant produced which is 1:25, the average number of copies is 548. How about 1:10s? Only 1370. Remember, this was for a new Marvel character. There is no

100K run…Hell, not even 50K run for these first issues folks. This clear up potentially why some of these issues have commanded the money they have up to this point? If not, see Mel V!

Here are the numbers at a granular level. Yes, I have omitted a few 1:10s as there were 1:25s for that particular week as well, etc.


Issue 1 38.1K print run – 1:25 Variant Approx. 1524 total
Issue 2 21.7K print run – 1:25 Variant Approx. 868 total
Issue 3 18.4K print run – 1:25 Variant Approx. 736 total
Issue 4 14.9K print run
Issue 5 14.7K print run
Issue 6 12.2K print run
Issue 7 12.8K print run – 1:15 Variant Approx. 853 total
Issue 8 12.7K print run
Issue 9 10.3K print run
Issue 10 11.8k print run
Issue 11 9.7K print run
Issue 12 9.5K print run
Issue 13 11K print run – 2 1:25s Variant Approx. 440 total
Issue 14 9.3K print run – 1:10 Variant Approx 930 total
Issue 15 10.9K print run
Issue 16 8.4K print run
Issue 17 8.2K print run
Issue 18 7.9K print run


Okay so you can add digits, so what? Well, here are the numbers for the infamous issue # 19 – 14.2K. Wait, so the print run basically doubled from issue #18 give a take a thousand? Also, there had only been five issues that surpassed that total number, these being the first five issues of the series. What gives? Ahhh, much had to do with this cover below, which really is a amazing piece in its own right:




The release of this picture sent a frenzy into the marketplace – Issue 19 1:25? Why with historical data the print run will be under 300. How? Remember, issue #18 only had 7.9K print run. Those totals would have only drawn a total of 316 copies. This next issue 19 would be a sellers dream. The perfect storm per se that comes around a few times a year…maybe.

Now, here comes the part of the story that gets a little sticky. When you think of comic speculation, a great deal of it revolves around the almighty dollar – How can I maximize my profit? Let’s face it, we all wish for this in our selling endeavors. In all seriousness, smart business people look for advantages.

A way to have the upper hand and more control of that respective market. Well, that’s exactly how this played out. A store variant was born for this issue. Furthermore, a variant with very little change in appearance, or new art. Okay, go on…Well this caused a ripple effect creating three issues.

One, it bloated the print run artificially due to the increase in covers printed. Two, with this more of the original 1:25s were printed lowering the value of those as well. Three, copycats and a ton of them. If they did it as a store, why can’t we?

Again, as I stated in the beginning, I am only here to lay out the information. Many would argue this was as an educated shrewd play. The other side is people believed this was manipulation of the market, and is uncalled for in our hobby. Who is right? That’s for you to decide.




Finally, let’s look at one more piece, the aftermath of this creation. Store variants exploded onto the scene. This includes some of the very best artists working today that are getting paid to create covers specifically for certain stores. This was taken a step further, with guarantee of a 9.8 slab if your heart desired.

Wait what?

How can you guarantee a specific amount of 9.8s if there is a set print run for these store variants? Then what happens to the non NM+ covers? Are those then filtered to people buying the raw copies? These are many questions that have been brought up with this new world we live in now.

Playing Devil's advocate, when a lot of these new store variants launched, they were eaten up like candy. Minuscule print runs, amazing covers from artists, and the latest and greatest all helped feed this monster. Many of you, myself included profited big time from these issues – raw or slabbed, colored or sketched, Virgin or dressing. Hell even a red dress or yellow one all fed the beast making many fat and happy with money in their pockets.

Today’s world, Red Goblin fatigue and anyone? Ugh, you mean how many Spider-Man 800 covers do we need to see? God, another 12 set color collage by a famous artist? Jesus, can’t we just go back to the way it was? Or the infamous “Buy it if you like it for PC” motto.

These thoughts have been shouted from the rooftops several times over. Yet, in some way, we all had a part in this – good or bad. Even those who keep these in their collections bought them for the cover art, then someone profited from that transaction.


In closing, here is some food for thought…

  • Was this MG & DD #19 the Genesis of the times we live in now? If not this variant, wouldn’t another one come along at some point?


  • Is this a trend/short term fad? Or is this how things will be done going forward?


  • The artists themselves are selling exclusive covers directly from their own websites – will this trend continue to grow?


  • Is this really any different than what the publishers themselves are doing? They can play God with numbers. How many ratio variants do we see each week? And of those, how many end up on the most wanted lists? The answer is a lot!


  • Is a store exclusive any different than a high ratio variant?


  • What is the resolution in your opinion? Simple Cover A & B like DC is doing with Rebirth? If so how does this affect the money that can be made if that’s your play?


As always, responses and your thoughts are welcome.


Talk soon,




  • Avatar

    This really seems to parallel the sports card market in the early 90s, when the manufacturers developed “subsets”… At first it drove the market but then helped it crash and burn because it devalued the normal run of cards…same thing is starting to happen here:
    Who wants a regular ASM#800 when I can get a signed limited variant from Scott Campbell, or a Superman 1000 when Jim Lee has one that’s a limited print run…

    • Ben Steiniger

      Only problem with the sports card market analogy is that those issues forced the market to evolve even deeper. On card autographs, serial numbered rookies, high quality short prints, MLB stepping in to force companies to a verified RC, etc all came because of the perceived issues. If you haven’t noticed, the sports card market is commanding crazy prices and is at a healthy place.

      IF the comic powers that be would wake up and follow some of these marketing tools (serial number the store variants and ratio variants, help collectors by identifying what IS a first appearance, etc), a lot of the so-called problems would vanish.

      Thanks for the article Clint. Well done.

      • accustomfigures

        Excellent article. Interesting sports card analogy. I was deep into sports cards through the 90’s. Not to get off topic, but what I saw kill it was that we all realized we were collecting pictures of drug users. Good to hear its recovered.

        As for topic at hand, these store/artist/website variants need to go. If it’s limited to publisher’s ratio variants, and it’s a true ratio variant, then only so many will be printed. That would be a healthy turn I’d like to see.

    • Avatar

      You know how the saying goes: “ Those who refuse to learn from the past are destined to repeat it”.
      Man I hope that doesn’t happen this time!
      Everything is so enjoyable now with the tv shows, awesome mega movies, a huge choice of covers and favorite artists to pull from. It’s just a great time in our hobby right now! If it all went away I would truly miss it all!

  • Avatar

    Amen, Damon!! And Clint, your writing is superb! Dissects a subject to the nth degree and give us all a ton to think about, which should dictate how we proceed with this hobby….at least until the next new shiny thing appears.

  • Skot Whitman

    Nice job Clint. I’m a pretty firm believe that based on how printing works that the print runs for many of these variants would not be below 500 copies printed. While the variant covers are printed separately the basic rules of printing in round numbers would still apply. They wouldn’t print 440 copies, it would be 500, they wouldn’t do 900 copies, it would be 1000 and so on.

    I think Moon girl might be the first time the market was aware of the printing an exclusive to get the ratios, but i’m fairly certain it’s been going on for much longer. I remember hearing that if a store took whatever artwork for a cover Marvel had, as opposed to requesting a specific artist. Marvel would let them have it count towards the ratio variants.

    I think we’re in an interesting time right now, information flows quicker and some people are becoming wiser. If it wasn’t for the influx of people new to the game and filling in the gap of wiser collectors not buying into some of these exclusives we might see this trend recessed rather than continuing to grow. As long as there is money to be made and a fear of missing out, I suspect it to continue to get worse before it gets better…

    Which is unfortunate, since there was a point not long ago where I thought some of these store exclusive were starting to get ratched down and better exclusives were being produced as a result.

    • Avatar

      Agreed. It must be stressed that the ratios (1:10, 1:25, 1:100 etc.) are ordering thresholds, and have nothing to do with actual print runs. No one knows how many copies of any of these books Marvel printed. A retailer may have to order 100 copies of a book to get 1 variant, but these aren’t printed to order, and those ratios have no correlation to how many copies Marvel actually prints. As you pointed out, Marvel isn’t going to go print 300 copies of a book, or some weird-ass random number like 419 or whatever.. And considering how many of these incentive variants end up at Five Belows and Diamond clearance sales, etc. I’d wager that the print runs are a lot higher than most would assume based on the ratios given.

      • Skot Whitman

        As you pointed out they do over print and that’s why they show up on clearance and in discount packs. Start factoring in comp copies and over printing for damage replacements… the fact that Marvel won’t do a store exclusive variant for below 1k copies. I think it’s safe to assume no ratio variant print run is less than 1k regardless of what they actually distribute initially.

      • Ben Steiniger

        Hmmm…I don’t think that you can say for a fact that Marvel or DC won’t print below 1000. Just because a book shows up at a warehouse sale does not mean that it was way overprinted. Everyone thought that the Miracleman Hughes was way overprinted when a certain store bought 100 of them from Diamond on a sale. They were rare before that and have been ever since then. If there were 1000 of them, why have there only been just a few for sale at any given time for well over a year?

        Yes they may overprint some (like 100 or less) to account for giveaways and damages, but that is an insignificant number.

        1:50 for a 25,000 print run book. 500 of them out there. Only likely a third of those actually are distributed leaving 2/3 left for the warehouse sale down the road.

        • Avatar

          It’s true that we can’t say that Marvel has a minimum 1000 print run, absolutely. But it’s also not true that the print runs have anything to do with the order ratios. The two numbers aren’t related. Until Marvel releases print numbers, we have no idea how many of these variants actually exist. Until that day, scalpers will push “rarity” as a driving factor in price, when, in fact, no one knows how rare, or common, any of these books actually are.

        • Skot Whitman

          Correct, I can’t say for a fact what exactly Marvel over prints for a ratio variant.

          However it’s widely known that Marvel will not do a print run below 1K on a store Exclusive. That 1K is not an arbitrary number Marvel came up with. It’s tied to the level of a price break determined by the printer. So there’s reason to believe that would be the same for ratio variants as well between Marvel and their printer.

          Since the printer is in the volume business and doesn’t care that Marvel only wants 400 copies of something. They are going to charge Marvel more for printing 400 copies of something than they would for 500 and maybe even 1000. While it’s very possible they are only printing 500 copies of some of these exclusives, it just seems highly unlikely to me.

          Obviously it’s going to be different for indy and smaller publishers who are not doing the same volume as Marvel. But it would still probably be rounded up to the nearest 100.

  • Dale Valiant horton

    I had a long comment written just because i was so deep into this book as you could suspect. Here is my long but not as long comment. Before the art was reveled i was into #19 for the 1st apperance of egos daughter(ego was set to appear in guardians vol2) and when the art showed up i was salavating at the mouth. But once the news of the store variants dropped so did my speculation hopes. I think you nailed it with this one clint!

    I am in no way against store variants but i do subscribe to the idea that they should run independent of the regular numbers. If you order the minimum whatever it is to get a variant it should not count towards normal ratio variants and it should have truly different art with a early solicit to give a heads up. Im not sure the cut off time for a store variant but i have seen a few pretty late after the original solicits and find myself having to cancel or readjust orders to either grab a store variant insted or because i see the books rarity being killed.

    This happened to me with the red goblin stuff and i ended up with nothing trying to figure out the mess of apperances cameos and variants. This will be a touchy subject for some i will be lurking around to see what the community thinks. Excellent detailed piece here.

  • Paul W.

    The variant onslaught did so much to the market it’s hard to remember the good ole days. I wonder how many people it brought to the market, only to burn them out in a few short months. And how many veteran collectors significantly changed their practice of the hobby as well, or hung on at all. Great write up!

  • Avatar

    Sports cards are not a fair comparison. They are based on athletes, that all but fade over time. Comic characters are forever. That being said, the store variant and variants in general are forever changing the market. I was shocked to actually see the Domino 2 cover this week was a normal cover, versus a 1:50. Beautiful cover.

  • Avatar

    A F***** PLUS Article bro ,Nailed it ..I hope Marvel reads this

  • Mike M

    Seriously, this is the single most relevant and important article written for this site, this year. Amazing work, man. I hope everyone reads and reflects on this topic.


    I started feeling the “exclusive variant” annoyance with the Harley Turner variant set…. which then had like 3 additional covers with basically just color swaps.

  • Avatar

    So was the MG & DD #19 1:25 cover art was also used a store variant, or not? Great writ up, but that part through me off. Is that what inflated the numbers? Either way, that 1:25 should still only have about 300 copies or less in circulation, right?

  • Gary Nusser

    Clint…you seriously set the bar Moon high with this piece. You can already see from the replies that I think this will be a heavily debated topic. I already made the decision within the last few months to really step away from any of the top-selling books in terms of any type of variant action. I will be sticking to either smaller press parents or looking at those low print runs and buying those variants that end up being minuscule even if they are 1:10. As far as the store variants go the only reason I ever purchase them is if I want to keep one from my PC such as I did with the Granov Legacy virgin number one.

    • Mike M

      I’m the same way, Gary. I’ve dumped almost every variant I don’t want to keep forever. I don’t want to be stuck holding my **** in my hand.

  • Avatar

    Personally, I can’t stand store/artist variants and don’t really get into the ratio variant. It’s turned me off to the modern market completely. I end up selling all my modern reading material on eBay and funneling that money into Silver Age goodness. 10 years from now, do you really think people are going to be hunting for the J. Scott Campbell “E” Variant of ASM vol. 4 #800? I doubt the hobby itself will crash, but I’d be very surprised if there was a healthy market for this stuff

  • Avatar

    Something that I think should be touched on for a future article is the heinous crime of reusing old covers and reselling them as variants. Unknown Comics started this sin with the Dell’Otto cover of X-23 and they have not stopped. They have even moved into getting virgin covers of 2nd prints and cover-price variants. It’s no wonder none of these virgin reprints are selling out (except maybe 2) because collectors are refusing to buy them.

  • Avatar

    stores covers can kick sand. stick with #2 & #3 incentives

  • Ben C

    I dig certain store variants, but only when I am buying them BECAUSE I WANT IT FOR MYSELF because I dig the art… Thats really it. There are a few Hastings books I actually bought, one is that Xmas Deadpool cover… Not breaking the bank or thinking I will be reselling it, but I like it so I bought it.

    Gotta draw a clear line between the 2.

  • Keith S.

    Here’s my take on store variants as I remember it. The first time there was an online frenzy was with the Star Wars #4 Boba Fett JTC variant. Sold out in minutes, which was kinda shocking at the time and showed that online variants could survive this way.

    Next up was the Batman #1 Turner from Aspen. Wow, dead people could make new covers, what a revelation! It ended up being a rehash from one of his sketch books, but no one cared. Insta-sell outs online and at Denver Comic Con. I remember everyone would hover around the Aspen table before the con opened to buy their limit, and most of the attendees never got a shot at it (I got in early as a volunteer, most others had exhibitor badges).

    Then came the Venom #1 from Sad Lemon, Frankies, etc. This ushered in a new error; the secret variant, which ended up being a virgin cover. Quite possibly the first time the 3 sets of covers with a special virgin cover was used. And the rest is history, as how I remember it anyway.

    Great write up!

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