Variant Covers – Finders Keepers! But Are They Worth Collecting?

X-Men_01_variant covers

There are two types of comic book collectors – those who are in it for the fantastic stories that only this wonderful medium can offer and those who are into comic books because of the amazing art work. There are also those who are into specific characters and then there are those who are followers of the many great artists and writers. Others still, stick with particular publishers. What? That’s more than two? Semantics man, just shut up man, just shut up..?

Okay, as I was saying, there are many types of comic book collectors and I kinda straddle all of the above and then some. I’m a Marvel Universe fan at heart, but I also read a lot of DC, Vertigo, and a long time ago I was a 2000AD addict and an avid reader of The Beano and The Dandy. I am also a big fan of the indie scene – sure, they might not necessarily have the high production values and advertising of the big publishers, but there are some amazing gems out there. Some of my favourite writers/artists/creators include Frank Cho (Liberty Meadows), J Scott Campbell (Danger Girl), Terry Moore (Strangers in Paradise), Kevin Smith (Green Arrow) and the late, great Michael Turner (Fathom). I also enjoy the works of Posy Simmonds who wrote Gemma Bovery and Tamara Drewe, the latter being made into a film in 2010. So my tastes vary.

I also, (deep breath) happen to fall into the category of Variant Cover collector (if such a category exists, if it doesn’t then I’m claiming this right here and now, all royalties to be paid into my PayPal, thanks).

Now, comic book collectors will know of variant covers, oh man do we know about variants, but to the civilians out there, a variant cover is essentially an issue of a comic book that is printed with multiple different covers. Sometimes there are many, many, MANY variant covers, not wanting to cast aspersions, but I’m looking at you Gen13 Vol. 2 #1 with your 13 different covers, not to mention a 14th if you bought the limited box set of the first 13 covers, your reprints, your South African Variant, your 3D reprint, and I’m sure I’m missing others).




I was, and still am to some degree, a sucker for variant covers. Yes, you could argue that it’s greedy publishers trying to squeeze every last penny out of you, because they know, that, as a collector you’re probably a completist. So what better way to add the content of your bank account to theirs by simply pumping out the exact same issue but with a different cover?

I know this, you all know this, but there is a certain thrill in seeking out and hunting down those elusive covers, and, if you’re anything like me, there’s a feeling of completeness as you bag and board them, before putting them into a comic book to never see the light of day again…

Yes, variant covers are a great way to showcase the talents of various artists and their vision, but at the same time you’re still forking out money for the same comic book twice, three times, or more times over. However, this didn’t really deter me, I would spend ages scouring various auction sites, popping along to the local comic marts, head out to the big cons like Memorabilia, and used the Finder services of comic shops all in the hope of completing my collections.


Two of each cover

buffy the vampire slayer season 8 variant covers

Some comic book series produced two covers for every issue – Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 and Angel: After the Fall (and onwards) both had a comic art cover and a photo cover for each issue of the main comic book line as well as for spin-off miniseries. This was good, in a way, fans could collect one or the other, comic art or photo cover, but, as a completist, I bought both, each month.

Obviously, this addiction puts a financial strain on your bank account and a spatial strain in terms of storage.

It came to a point where I realised that I had more money than sense, in fact, with some series, Gen13’s Magical Drama Queen Roxy springs to mind, I opted to collect the Manga-inspired covers only. However, when I finally caved in and decided that I wanted the regular covers too, some years later, I found them near impossible to find. In fact, some would have me believe that the regular covers were worth more than the awesome Manga ones, despite them being printed and sold in a 1:1 ratio.

Therein lies one of the great joys/sadness’s of collecting variant covers – speculation.

David Cheng

I am an ex-lab scientist (though not of the evil kind, much) and currently (serious hat on) work as a test engineer on scanning systems for use in histopathology and cytogenetics. In my spare time (propellor hat on) I nerd out on video games, apps, movies, television, comic books, regular books, tech and martial arts. I am also (spouse hat on) happily married to my beautiful wife Jing.

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