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From Pandemic Boom to Bust in Comics

By Bill Alexander, Overstreet Advisor, U.S.-published comic book cover price variant specialist and historian (Contact by email), October 2023

“In reality all sales prices appear to be returning to what they once were in January of 2020 right before sales prices went nuts...”

The year 2023 was one of plummeting sales for 1980s Canadian price variants as well as newsstand editions and direct edition comic books. Books that skyrocketed up in value between January 2020 and January 2021 came crashing down in 2023 just as fast as they went up.

ASM #238 CPV
An ASM #238 CPV in CGC 9.8 auctioned for $7,100 on eBay, on 8/1/2023.
Take Amazing Spider-Man #238: just 3 years ago as a direct edition in certified 9.8 grade, that key book was selling for over $3K, but in late 2023 the book began selling for $1.5K. [There was one recent 9.8 CPV sale of the issue in August, for $7,100 at auction.]

In reality all sales prices appear to be returning to what they once were in January of 2020 right before sales prices went nuts in the hobby doubling and tripling and many people lost a huge amount of money on 1980s books especially key books in certified 9.8 that they way overpaid for and today cannot resell them without taking a big loss.

One CPV sale that stood out in September 2023 on Comic Link was Wolverine #4 CGC 9.9 (Mini Series) selling for an amazing $9,377.00, the second highest sale of a CPV recorded to date. What lies ahead in the hobby with sales prices for the future is presently unknown.

On another note I would like to point out that 9.6 certified graded books in general appear to have dropped 40% to 50% in value in just the past year and it's hard not to notice that big drop.

Many may not know that Archie Comics lead the way and was first in publishing Phase 2 Canadian price variants which began with Archie digest size comics dated 11/79 and were cover priced at 95¢ Canadian versus 75¢ US.

Jughead With Archie #35
Jughead with Archie #35 95c CPV 11/79


Archie Andrews Digest #12
Archie Andrews Where Are You #12 95c CPV, 11/79
These two Archie Digest CPV books were Archie Andrews Where Are You #12 and Jughead with Archie #35 and both are seldom seen and rare to find today as CPVs.

Archie Digest CPVs are one full grade! more difficult to find in grade than Archie regular size comic books because they were published with card stock paper for back and front covers that easily show defects and cover indentations. To the best of my knowledge No Archie Digest CPV has ever been certified graded in 9.8 to date, one can check for yourself to verify this.

Hang on to your hats folks what is even rarer and harder to find out there than the Archie 15 cent type 1 price variants are unmarked! copies of Archie's Activity Comics Digest Magazine 1-4 as $1.50 CPVs (the USA copies are $1.25 cover price).

There are 121 pages! to be marked up in these books, and I count only seven pages of original story and art. The idea of these books was to mark them up inside, as the way to get your money's worth for what you paid for it. Imagine how slim the chances are of finding a CPV copy of one of these four digests that hasn't been marked up!

Archie's Activity Comics Digest Magazine interior page example
Archie's Activity Comics Digest Magazine Interior Page Example

Just try to find one of these four digest CPVs without one page marked up inside, it is near impossible, and even one single marked page inside of the book would most likely cap the grade CGC would give at VF/NM 9.0 at best. Here is what issue #1 looks like:

Archie's Activity Comics Digest Magazine #1
Archie's Activity Comics Digest Magazine #1

Sadly about 85% of sellers selling Archie Activity digest as well as Archie's Story and Game Digest never! disclose if the books are marked inside when selling them, and it's usually a total surprise in what you receive when you receive the book, a true nightmare, so be sure to ask for photos of interior pages. Here is what Archie Activity digest issue #4 looks like:

Archie's Activity Comics Digest Magazine #4
CPVs exist for Archie's Activity Comics Digest Magazine #1-4, 1985

Archie was not just first to publish phase 2 CPVs but even ended up publishing phase 3 CPVs 2007-2017, which to date we have only observed within certain Sonic the Hedgehog comic book titles (e.g. Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic X and Sonic Universe), and also within Archie's digest comics.

Sonic CPV examples
Sonic CPV examples from 2007 and 2009

Above are two Sonic the Hedgehog CPV examples from the 2007-2017 phase 3 period, Sonic X #18 (May 2007), and Sonic Universe #1 (April 2009), shown with their corresponding direct edition and US newsstand copies. As you can see, Direct Editions carry only a US cover price, which matches that of US newsstand copies. Other confirmed Sonic CPVs to date include Sonic the Hedgehog #184 ($2.65 CPV) and #192 ($2.65 CPV), and Sonic X #32 ($2.65 CPV):

Archie phase 3 CPV examples

Below is an example Archie digest from the 2007-2017 phase 3 period where CPVs have been found to exist, Archie 75th Anniversary Digest #4, from 1/2017:

Archie Spotlight Digest #4
Archie 75th Anniversary Digest #4 $8.99 CPV 1/2017 reprints Archie's Girls Betty and Veronica #320 (1st appearance of Cheryl Blossom) also reprints Betty and Veronica #261 (1st appearance of Vampironica).

Many people know both Marvel and DC began publishing their regular size comic books with 75¢ Canadian cover prices beginning 10/82, but it was Archie that first started the 75¢ Canadian cover price even a month earlier! on their 9/82 regular size comic books.

Marvel and DC noticed right away what Archie was up to and the very next month copied what they were doing.

Below is an example of one of Archie's 9/82 CPVs: Jughead's Jokes #78, and also a picture of the indicia from a CPV where as you can see it actually still says 60 cents in Canada and in the United States. Something interesting about this issue is that it is the only CPV in the title being that it is the title's last issue. (Click here for a list of other CPVs from 9/1982 with links to their guide pages — the others are Archie's Joke Book Magazine #287, Archie's Pals 'n Gals #160, Archie Giant Series Magazine #520 & #521, Archie #319, Betty and Me #130, Laugh Comics #374, Life With Archie #232, and Sabrina the Teenage Witch #75).

Jughead's Jokes #78
Archie began publishing CPVs for their comics a month earlier than Marvel or DC, with Jughead's Jokes #78 being one example CPV from 9/1982.

When I think of Archie comic book rarity, I foremost think of Archie's test market 95c CPV direct market editions, secondly I think of Archie type 1 15¢ test market price variants, and thirdly I think of Archie type 1a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures $1.50 CPVs issues 19-58 and $1.65 CPV 71,72. TMNTA issues 59-70 were not published as CPVs.

TMNT Adventures #23 CPV
TMNTA #23, $1.50 CPV: 1st app. Slash in comics.

Mighty Mutanimals #7 CPV
Mighty Mutanimals #7, $1.50 CPV: 1st app. Armaggon.
Many of us out there have no idea how difficult it is to find or own these Archie $1.50 CPVs from the 1990s in any grade especially in a certified VF 8.0 or higher grade, as newsstand comics that were so typically bought to be read and enjoyed rather than preserved.

The best way I can emphasize how rare these CPVs are is to look on the CGC census for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures issues 19-58,71,72 and notice for most of those issues there are NONE graded as CPVs.

In addition if one looks on eBay for any Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures issues 19-58,71,72 that there are none or just one single issue CGC graded as a CPV on eBay, with eBay being the best source available out there to even find those books.

If one is lucky enough to find any of them be prepared to most likely pay a premium to acquire any of them.

In addition to TMNTA #23 (1st appearance of Slash in comics), here are a few more $1.50 CPVs to hunt for, that are not just extremely rare to find in any grade out there, but are also key books as well:

• Mighty Mutanimals #7 (1st appearance of Armaggon the shark!)

1st Armaggon Appearance
Mighty Mutanimals #7: 1st Appearance of Armaggon.

See TMNTA issues 42-44 for the three part "trilogy" of Armaggon in TMNTA. Outside of Slash, Armaggon is the best TMNTA foe to be created for the TMNTA series in my opinion.

TMNT Adventures #42 CPV TMNT Adventures #43 CPV TMNT Adventures #44 CPV
TMNTA #42-44, $1.50 CPV: Armaggon trilogy.

TMNT Presents Merdude & Michaelangelo #1 CPV
TMNT Presents Merdude & Michaelangelo #1, $1.50 CPV: Armaggon app.
• TMNT Presents Merdude and Michaelangelo #1, $1.50 CPV, which features a full appearance of Armaggon! That book is seemingly near impossible to find as a CPV in any grade anywhere, I challenge you to try to find a copy, and good luck in your search everyone.

All TMNTA $1.50 issues and titles are presently grossly undervalued in my view, in part because they are beyond hard to find out there in any grade, let alone high grade. Remember, we are talking about newsstand comics with these $1.50 CPVs, and furthermore we are now all the way out in the 1990s, many years past when DC and Marvel both ceased producing CPVs of their own.

Armaggon appearance inside TMNT Presents Merdude and Michaelangelo #1.

TMNT Adventures #57 CPV
TMNTA #57, $1.50 CPV: Death of Slash.

TMNT Adventures Special #11 CPV
TMNTA Special #11, rare $2.50 CPV.
And finally the death of Slash, in issue #57 of TMNTA. In my experience it is beyond hard to find but rather near impossible to find any of these that I've mentioned as a $1.50 CPV out there in high grade and I wish you good luck in your search.

Also I might mention Archie TMNTA Special 1-11 are near impossible to find as well. Try to locate those Archie TMNTA Special CPVs, especially issues 8-11 which seemingly never are seen. [In fact after all these years we have still yet to even confirm the existence of Special #8 with pictures, so please email a CPV picture if you have it.]

And unknown to probably 90 percent or more of all Archie TMNTA collectors is that after the Archie TMNTA 1-72 series ended in 1995, Archie tried one last TMNTA title with "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures Year of Turtle," a three issue mini series released in early 1996. These issues sported $1.65 Canadian cover prices and $1.50 USA cover prices on newsstand copies. In my view all 3 issues are rarer and had a smaller print run than TMNTA 71-72. Just try to find one of those issues out there, and good luck! even on eBay.

TMNT Adventures Year of the Turtle #1 CPV TMNT Adventures Year of the Turtle #2 CPV TMNT Adventures Year of the Turtle #3 CPV
TMNT Adventures Year of the Turtle #1-3, $1.65 CPVs, January-March 1996.

Happy! comic book collecting and may 2024 be a good year for everyone.

Bill Alexander


The information within CPVPriceGuide.com is presented on a best-efforts basis, but none of the included information is guaranteed to be free of error and therefore you should use this guide only as one tool among your comics research tool-belt, and you should verify information with other sources before acting. Please read the full methodology & guide usage information. Our latest price guide edition of our comprehensive guide to Canadian Price Variant comics is the 2021 Edition, published December 2020.