Friday, November 9, 2012

The Mysterious Tale of the Two Marvels 2003 and 2004 Newsstand Error Variants

By Matt Powell

Almost a decade ago, Marvel corporation created yet another marketing strategy to entice readers into purchasing comics. Particular issues of some rather famous titles direct market editions were lowered to $0.09 cents (in 2002), $0.25 cents (in 2003) and $0.50 cents (in 2004).

These books are easily identified by the large circle on the cover containing the updated price.   However - and this is important - the newsstand versions of the same books would retain their original newsstand price points. So, the reader had a choice: Pay the heavily discounted price for a direct market copy, or pay the over-inflated newsstand price.

'Modern Discount Marvels'

A few years later, these ‘sets’ of issues were called the ‘Modern Price Variants’ or ‘Modern Discount Marvels’ and included:

• Avengers #77 (1998 series) March 2004


• Daredevil #41 (1998 series) March 2003


• Fantastic Four #60 (1998 series) Sept 2002


• Incredible Hulk #55 (2000 series) Aug 2003


• Uncanny X-men #423 (1963 series) Jul 2003


• Namor #1 (2003 series) June 2003* (it should be noted that the newsstand version of this book has never been found and it’s doubtful that it was ever printed)

Normally, this would be a boring recount of one of the many marketing tales from Marvel comics; however, something interesting happened:

An Error Was Discovered

Unbeknownst to the comic forums (and just about everyone else), the first of two Newsstand Error Variants had been found.  Avengers #77 Newsstand Error Variant was discovered just mere weeks after original publication in the first parts of 2004.  Below recounts a tale from the dealer who saw the Avengers variant first and decided to add in some research ….

…I can confirm that this issue did in fact go to most European, and at least one Pacific, overseas military location. It was pulled from at least two locations and replaced with a "normal" newsstand version due to a "printing error" according to the area manager of the military Bookmarts in southern Germany. That explains why I saw a "normal" issue at another base. The issue was also distributed at military bases in England and at one location stayed on the racks for the entire month before being pulled for #78. I've had no confirmation that anything other than the "normal" issue was offered at stateside military locations.”

 Since this quote, four copies of the Avengers #77 Error did, in fact, come from the Eastern seaboard of the U.S.

Then again, in late 2005, a random collector contacted one of the many comic forums with a story of a rather unique find.  He had reported that he had found a copy of Uncanny X-men #423 (UXM) printed with both the discount price and the newsstand prices on the cover.  The book was apparently found in the dollar bin at his local comic shop.  Over the next couple of years, members of this single comic book forum started a search for UXM #423 newsstand error variant (and the Avengers #77 Error).

To date, only 6 confirmed copies of the UXM #423 Newsstand Error Variant and 8 confirmed copies of the Avengers #77 Newsstand Error Variant have been found and for more than five years only a select handful of people, close to variant collecting, even knew about them. Then in 2011, the Certified Guarantee Company (CGC) formally recognized each of these books as true variants belonging to each of their respective series. The Avengers book belonged to the 1998 series and the UXM book belonged to the 1963 series.


Putting It All In Perspective

To put the rarity of these comics into perspective, UXM #423 for the direct market had a publishing run greater than 90,000.  In fact, this book was part of the ‘quarter comics’ effort to promote the new X-Men 2 movie released in May 2003. Since the direct market was priced at $0.25 each, the newsstand market was purposely limited in release with the expectation that a $2.25 price point would be passed up in favor for the quarter comic; hence costs were saved and a normal newsstand of 3000 to 4000 copies was halved.

  During the printing process for the newsstand cover, a single lot of covers had the $0.25 cent bullet (circle) added.  This lot was bundled, shipped to Diamond Distributers and provided only to Walden books - the only bookstore to receive the newsstand edition.

Of the UXM #423 error copies found to date, three have been confirmed to come from the Michigan area. One could surmise that the single lot of error books was in fact, sent to the Michigan diamond distribution network of perhaps only a 100 or so. And of those that were placed on the newsstand at Walden books, how many were actually purchased and saved in someone’s collection? I’m betting not many.

So in the end, what makes these books so interesting? Printing errors can be fairly common, but errors that are actually released to the public and sold as final are not. Avengers #77 Newsstand Error Variant and Uncanny X-Men #423 Newsstand Error Variant are comics, that if you ever find them … you should probably hold on to.


About Matt Powell
Yes, I’ve been collecting comics since I was a kid and have found that this has been my only real, true hobby.  I’m 43 with two boys of my own and specialize in making my wife angry with the number of books I purchase, read, and save.  I collect several registry series, including but not limited to, Lady Mechanika, Cursed Pirate Girl, and my own personal favorite ROM, Spaceknight.  I work in tech and own a small winery in Lodi, CA.  So make sure you tell me that you collect comics, I’ll ask you a question, and then give you a discount on your wine purchase.


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