Everything You Need to Know About Comic Cover Variants and Whether They're Worth Grading

Comic Cover Variant Grading

Thanks to their low-print runs, beautiful artwork, and occasional rarity, comic cover variants are a huge draw for collectors across the globe. They’ve been an industry staple for decades, with John Byrne’s Man of Steel #1 (1986) being the first-ever comic book to have a variant cover.

However, most comic book enthusiasts share a love-hate relationship with variant covers. To some, variants offer a wider range of options, allowing fans to take their pick from a host of incredibly gorgeous covers. Others believe they are a selfish way for publishers to make more money per issue. 

Either way, graded comic variants are rising in popularity, collectability, and investment potential. Let’s take a closer look at whether or not they’e worth the hype. 

  1. What Are Comic Cover Variants?

Simply put, a variant is a standard comic with multiple unique covers drawn by various artists. The variant covers usually differ in art styles/themes, often fleshing out ideas that may not suit the regular cover. 

For example, one of FF #17’s 20 variant covers, created by artist Julian Totino Tedesco, pays homage to ‘The Birth of Venus’ by Botticelli. The Black Widow is positioned as Venus, while her teammates play the other characters in the classic painting.   

So far, The Walking Dead, Robert Kirkman’s captivating zombie saga, holds the record for most variant covers (253). The Amazing Spiderman #666 (1963) comes in second-place, with 145 variants. 

  1. Different Types of Comic Cover Variants 

Today, the comics business has a staggering number of comic cover variants, classified into several categories. A few of them include:

      A) Incentive Variants 

Have you ever walked into your local comics shop and noticed an incredibly rare cover variant? Chances are it’s an incentive. 

Simply put, if the store orders a specific number of the standard comic book issue, they’re given a special limited cover with new artwork for a reduced price.

Smaller publishers sometimes offer a 1/10 incentive cover to encourage sales. This means that the store will need to order 10 copies of the regular issue to receive the variant. On the other hand, comics giants like DC and Marvel may do a 1/500 or even a 1/5000 cover. 

      B) Retailer Exclusive Variants

Retailer exclusive variants are often seen as a subcategory of incentive variants and are made available to comics stores that purchase a certain amount of the standard issue. In a few instances, retailers may get a copy with their store’s name printed on or inside the cover. 

On the other hand, some retailer exclusive variants are gifted as a token of appreciation for a publisher’s participation in a new title or launch. They’re also given as a way to celebrate a recent title’s high sales.

      C) Convention Variants

As the name suggests, comic cover variants exclusive to conventions are known as convention variants. Generally speaking, they have a very limited print run, ranging between one treasured issue and a thousand copies. 

Needless to say, you’ll need to attend a convention to get your hands on this variant. If you can’t make it yourself, see if your local comics shop is attending and ask them to grab you a copy. 

  1. Why Are Comic Cover Variants Popular?

Any graded comic books collector will tell you that variant covers are in high-demand. For starters, they are nearly impossible to find, courtesy of their tiny print-run. You’ll rarely see a variant cover sitting on the shelves for long. 

Add to that the fascinating artwork and beloved characters, and you have yourself a moneymaker. 

Furthermore, hunting variants is as exciting as it is difficult. It requires a level of skill and refinement only experienced collectors possess. Perhaps the thrill of chasing never-before-seen comic cover variants also lends to their overall popularity in the market.

  1. The Debate Surrounding Comic Cover Variants

Although variants have been in vogue for years, they still ignite heated debates among collectors. The primary argument against variant covers is that they played a substantial role in the comic book crash of the 1990s: a catastrophic event that nearly bankrupted many publishers. 

Moreover, variant covers are often seen as cash-grabs: an easy way for comic giants to squeeze more money out of unsuspecting buyers looking to expand their collection. 

Alternatively, fans of variant covers see them as a haven of creativity. They’re essentially free real estate for new artists seeking an audience. Their artwork also allows readers to enjoy a fresh take on their favorite characters. It’s a win-win situation!

  1. Are Comic Cover Variants Worth Getting Graded?

Now for the million-dollar question: is comic cover variant grading worth your time? The short answer is, yes. 

Truth be told, a rare graded comic variant can make bank. For example, the Djurdjevic variant of Ultimate Fallout #4 (2011) (graded 9.8) went for a whopping $15,865. Another extremely rare sketch cover of Uncanny X-Men #510 (grade 9.8) brought $12,500.  So if you come across a rare variant, consider getting it graded as soon as possible.

Wrapping Up

Love them, hate them, variant covers are here to stay, and more often than not, they sell for good money. Variant covers, especially rare issues, can hike up your collection’s value by a huge margin. So in case you’ve been thinking about buying that precious special cover, go right ahead!

When it comes to graded comic books, there’s no better place than Wicked Monkey. From high-grade standard issues to eye-catching comic cover variants, we have it all, and more! Feel free to contact us or check out our online store today!


Banner image sourced from www.herocollector.com

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