Let’s Talk Comics – January/February/March 2021

By Rob Lamberti

There’s a debate among comics collectors about whether the so-called British editions of Silver Age comics should be at least valued the same as North American editions. 

            The short answer for me is, yes, they should. 

            Collectors are beginning to view the U.K. “editions” of those books as Pence Price Variants or British Variants because that’s what they are, a variant of the U.S. editions, and not a different print run or reprint. The U.K. variants are not second- or third-printings of a comic, but part of the same run as the 12-cent version. However, for the time being, at least, the collectible market values for the pence variants range from between 50 per cent and 80 per cent of American edition values. 

            Maybe that has to be re-evaluated. They should at least be at par if not carry a premium. 

            The Silver Age, as set by Overstreet Price Guide and many comic historians, began with DC’s Showcase 4 in 1956, and the era’s end date is open to debate, some like Britannica Encyclopedia argue it ended when comics prices rose to 15 cents from 12 cents in 1969, but others suggest the ending of the era spans sometime between 1970 and 1975. 

            There were several key comics printed in the early part of that era, including the Marvel first appearances of Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Ant-Man, Thor, Iron Man, the Hulk, and Doctor Strange. At DC, introductions include the Justice League of America, Metal Men, Doom Patrol, and the Challengers of the Unknown. Other characters were revamped and re-introduced from the Golden Age, including that brand new Flash in Showcase 4, and Captain America in Avengers 4. 

            Many silver age books were printed by World Color Printing in Sparta, Ill., including DC, American Comics Group, and other publishers. Charlton Comics had its printing press in Connecticut, while Marvel was printed for some time at Eastern Color Printing Company, based in Waterbury, Conn. 

            During the Silver Age press runs, the pence variants were either printed at the start or the end of the run. That means the same ink, paper, and printing plates were used for the newsprint section of the British editions as were for the U.S. editions. The high gloss covers on higher quality paper, with either the 12¢ designation or the 9d designation, were printed elsewhere and added to the Marvel runs. The DC books had an ink stamp with the price added to covers when they arrived in the U.K. 

            The indicia on the inside of the front covers of the Marvel books are the same in the American and U.K. variants. The statement includes the book costing 10 or 12 cents with an annual subscription rate of $1.70 in the U.S. and $3.25 in U.S. dollars for foreign subscriptions. The Marvel books say they’re printed in the U.S. with the variants including a statements below the indicia, either “Sole distributors in the United Kingdom — Thorpe & Porter Ltd.,” or as found in earlier Silver Age books, “Exclusively printed for L. Miller and Co. (Hackney) Ltd., 342 & 344 Hackney Road, London E. 2.” 

The covers of the variants excluded the month of distribution and show the pence price. 

            That’s not to say there weren’t reprints. They are usually an omnibus including different stories and characters, and the covers are visibly different from the originals. The interiors of some were in black and white. 

The bottom line, however, is an Amazing Spider-Man 1, Hulk 1, or a Fantastic Four 2 with a 9d price tag is an original and not a reprint. It’s from the same roll of newsprint. It’s an original print. The variant run is believed smaller than the 12¢ version slated for the American and Canadian markets. 

            So the question remains why the weaker collectible market value between the two versions? Misconceptions and not understanding the two are the same with minor differences, because of currency differences and distance. And those differences are among the smaller print run, which should add to the value. Bias in favour of American editions plays a role in the market. 

            I predict these British variants will rise in value as demand increases. Collectors are like anyone else, looking for affordable runs in their hobby. If an Amazing Fantasy 15 with a 9d cover and a stamp on the inside cover is going to cost 10 to 20 per cent less than the North American version, then the money will move there. Where there’s demand, prices go up, especially when that British variant has a smaller print run.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *