Can we all agree that Marvel Whitmans are not a thing?
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I would like to know...though it's doubtful we'll ever find out, 40+ years later...the exact timeline of what was printed when.

The only things we can know for reasonable certainty (and even then, not 100%!) is that any 30 cent book was printed BEFORE August, 1977, which is when the 35 cent standard cover price went line-wide for Marvel. If Star Wars #1 was printed in March (and I dispute the idea that it was printed as far back as February, despite "date stamps" to the contrary), then between March/April, when #1 went on sale, and late July/August, Marvel reprinted #1-#4, in standard newsstand format. They ALSO printed at least #2-#4 in Direct format (fat diamond with 30 cent price.) It's a small window, but my gut tells me that Star Wars #1 wasn't an *instant* sellout, but was still on the newsstands when the movie came out, and that set the madness into motion. I would guess that Marvel was maybe getting calls from Curtis distributors for more copies, because #1 was still "on sale" until July, but their retail customers were reporting tremendous demand.

Now....of course, all that goes out the window if Marvel DID print 30 cent reprints AFTER July, 1977...but it's unlikely, since the business end always ran a very tight ship, and once the cover price went up, that was it...there was no going back. So I think it's safe to assume that the square price box reprints (#1-4) were sent out through the newsstand distribution system starting in July...and then Whitman came back to them maybe a few months later (remember....Whitman was always months and months behind new issues, because of their business model) and asked for more...and the Fat Diamond 35 cent reprints were born.

I *do not think* that any more reprints went out through the newsstand distribution system after those initial first 4 issue square box reprints. I think, rather, that the ones made at Whitman's request...which would coincide with the lack of Direct editions for all the other titles, starting in October!...were made at that time, rather than sooner.

And...this was uncharted territory! Marvel hadn't had cause to go back to the press for a reprint since Marvel Comics #1 in 1939. They didn't even reprint Conan #1 or ASM #121-122, and those WERE, by all accounts, fairly decent sellouts. So this was all fairly new, for everyone in the industry. 

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2 minutes ago, bellrules said:

When you see these ads, I’m guessing these were all overstock copies that Marvel had, but how many were direct copies? Is this how they were also distributed? 

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Once again, these ads are from Heroes World. They are not overstock Marvel had. They are products a business bought and is selling. It is a paid advertisement, not a house ad.

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4 minutes ago, bellrules said:

When you see these ads, I’m guessing these were all overstock copies that Marvel had, but how many were direct copies? Is this how they were also distributed? 

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The real question is, where did these come from? Marvel...and my knowledge in this area is sketchy, at best!...didn't start warehousing "reorder" stock until well into the 80s...when the Direct system had taken firm hold of the industry.

So what copies were these...? And who was responsible for them? Who owned title to them?

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2 minutes ago, shadroch said:

Once again, these ads are from Heroes World. They are not overstock Marvel had. They are products a business bought and is selling. It is a paid advertisement, not a house ad.

Right, but you also mentioned that this was Ivan Snyder, who was Marvel's head of merchandising. So, did Snyder and Marvel have a separate deal? 

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Heroes World was a distributor and I believe Marvel had a most favored contract with all its distributors getting equal deals. Of course Marvel ended up buying Heroes World years later but in the mid 70s Heroes World was a chain of some dozen shops and a mid level distributor.  I recall one prominent Long Island shop quitting Heroes World when they started distributing diamond boxes, insisting that history would value them less than real newsstand copies.

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On 2/8/2020 at 2:41 PM, RockMyAmadeus said:

Is it because they are all "Whitmans"? No...it's because they are all Direct copies. The argument can be made, of course, that Marvel just expanded what they were already doing with Western to the whole Direct market...but that doesn't work. Why? Because Western did not return books. It wasn't their business model. 

Isn't NOT returning books consistent with the direct market?   I don't understand why this point helps your theory in any way....the big black Diamond inhibited returns from either customer who enjoyed "non-returnable" pricing discounts. (shrug) 

I don't think there's anything here to support your later assumption that the Diamond cover format was not for them it was for everyone else.  

Edi- Maybe I'm misreading the point you're trying to make here. (shrug)

Edited by bababooey
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4 hours ago, bababooey said:

Isn't NOT returning books consistent with the direct market?   I don't understand why this point helps your theory in any way....the big black Diamond inhibited returns from either customer who enjoyed "non-returnable" pricing discounts. (shrug) 

I don't think there's anything here to support your later assumption that the Diamond cover format was not for them it was for everyone else.  

Edi- Maybe I'm misreading the point you're trying to make here. (shrug)

Yes, not returning books is a Direct market thing...not a "Whitman" thing. Western took advantage of that because it worked perfectly with their business model...but Western wasn't returning books anyway, so there wasn't the need for there to be special markings to prevent returns if they were only going to Western.

Now, granted, that can be undermined if it was found out that Western was, in fact, returning Direct copies through the newsstand distribution channels...but that makes very little sense, because Western was the third biggest comics publisher, and they could have done serious damage to the industry if they did that, and Western didn't return books as a matter of business practice...they stockpiled them for their packs. 

No, I think the markings came about...and Bud Plant hinted at such when I talked to him about it...because Seuling's sub-distributors (because Phil controlled the entire Direct market until 1977!) were being cutesy and clever and returning Direct copies...copies that they'd bought at a discount as non-returnable, but which were identical to newsstand copies...through newsstand channels for credit, which was fraud.

Marvel had discovered this by 1976, and Voila! The Fat Diamonds were born.

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On 2/8/2020 at 2:58 AM, ShieldAgent said:

I would be willing to never do that again if people would agree to stop calling foreign editions of comics price variants.

If only it was as easy as that...

On 2/8/2020 at 10:29 PM, Randall Dowling said:

Finally, there is a distinct difference between foreign edition comics and pence price variants.  Pretty sure pence price variants weren’t printed in the UK.  Foreign editions are printed in the country they were distributed in and there are vast examples of such.

Exactly. The copies printed in the US for distribution in the UK are variants in the strictest meaning of the word because they all have a US cents price indicia. The only difference is the price point on the cover (& later the Marvel All Colour Comics gubbins); the interior pages are from the same print run as the main cents copies.

My favorite example of this is Marvel Star Wars 2. It was printed in a single run with 3 different cover prices: 30c, 35c & 12p.

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The 12p variant is a variant and not a UK Edition because it has a US indicia & was printed in the US at the same time as the regular US & price experiment US copies.

The UK Edition of Star Wars 2 looks like this -

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I would never think to call this a variant because it is clearly a product designed, printed & distributed for & in a foreign market, rather than an incidental variant produced as a cost saving/money making exercise by Marvel (or DC, or Western, or Charlton, etc, etc.).

This whole thing touches on the issue at hand (tangentially, at least) by answering the question "Can we all agree that Marvel Whitmans are not a thing?" with a quiet "probably not."

There is still a lot of back and forth about the whole pence variant/foreign edition thing & in the end it boils down to personal preference. I can't make anybody call my 12p Star Wars 2 a variant, even though I know that's what it is. Similarly, if a collector has labored under the misapprehension that his bagged multi-pack comics are Whitmans, it'll be an uphill struggle to get him to call them something else. (shrug)

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On Long Island, and I assume elsewhere, jobbers distributed Westerns products. 

Not that I bought much from them, but a company called Viking was the local Nassau jobber.

Whereas I could buy most comics wholesale from Imperial News,for 16.6 cents each when books were a quarter, Viking sold multipacks for about forty cents that were priced at 74 cents.

While Western may not have returned books, there is no reason to think the people who brought from them didn't.  I'd guess many stores had accounts with Imperial for comics, newspapers and magazines while also having an account with Viking for coloring books, paperback books and the like.

Someone could buy 100 Marvel three packs from Viking for about $40, open them and return them to Imperial for  almost $50. That doesn't sound like much but minimum wage was $2.30 or so at the time.

In 1978, I would buy a huge collection of some 800 books, all 15-25 cent Marvels. My Mom, of all people, remarked that I should turn in the books I didn't want to Imperial for the 16 cents they offered on a return rather than sell them for a dime each like I was doing. When I explained that all returns were accompanied by an affidavit certifying every book returned was purchased from Imperial, she understood why that was wrong.

So while Western may not have returned books, there is no reason to think books sold by Western weren't returned by their clients.

 

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1 hour ago, shadroch said:

While Western may not have returned books, there is no reason to think the people who brought from them didn't. 

Those books would have been 4-6 months...if not more...old by that point. The window to return books for credit wasn't open-ended. And the returns...unless they did things differently on the east coast through Curtis than on the west coast...were for credit, not cash. 

And the point became moot by the time of the Direct cover markings, because that's what Marvel sent to Western anyway. So if Western's sub-distributors were returning through the newsstand channel, that effectively ended by early 1977.

I can't find any documentation that suggests Western was selling Marvels prior to then, either. 

Edited by RockMyAmadeus
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Credit spends just like cash. 

Do you think newsstand distributors, who handle literally tons of returns were checking in returns?

Most newsstands simply ripped the top of the cover and returned that. Distributors didn't waste money and gas picking up the leftovers. Many distributors, including Imperial, accepted affidavits that stated you destroyed the book and wouldn't sell it.

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5 minutes ago, shadroch said:

Credit spends just like cash. 

Do you think newsstand distributors, who handle literally tons of returns were checking in returns?

Most newsstands simply ripped the top of the cover and returned that. Distributors didn't waste money and gas picking up the leftovers. Many distributors, including Imperial, accepted affidavits that stated you destroyed the book and wouldn't sell it.

The point is that the margin for sub-distributors gets so small, it ends up being not worth it. A lot of effort for very little return, which makes it less and less likely, especially for mere credit, which requires yet more work to make actual cash. You can't buy groceries with credit from a magazine distributor.

If Western was buying books for 60% off (they weren't, but say they were) from Marvel, and in turn, distributing them to subs for 45%, or 50%, or 55%, it doesn't make much sense to turn them in...if they still could...6 months down the road, after labor, transportation, and storage costs...for a 10-20% difference in credit.

Someone, somewhere, was checking returns, because that's why the Direct copies exist in the first place.

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No. You assume that's why they exist. Yet you also argue that the margins were too small to make gaming the system worthwhile. In 1975, many Americans made under $10,000 a year. My sister's first job paid $98.40 a week, before taxes.  Pulling in an extra $500 would have been huge to her for a couple hours work.

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30 minutes ago, shadroch said:

No. You assume that's why they exist.

No, this is not an assumption. The "diamonds" exist so that distributors, and ultimately the publishers, would be able to differentiate between copies returned.

"The number, month and price in this diamond shape means the issue was not distributed by Curtis Circulation and, that you probably got it from a direct sales comic shop or other outlet. The two boxes (not shown here) with a little "cc" symbol means it was circulated by Curtis. It means nothing as far as value is concerned to collectors."

(from "The Marvel Comics Guide to Collecting Comics", page 6)

"Marvel and DC, among other publishers, print comics which are slated for different markets. For bookkeeping reasons, special coding symbols were devised and appear on the covers of these comics. Below are the symbols used by Marvel as an example. The Spider-Man and diamond symbols are for direct sales clients (comic book shops). The covers with UPC symbols are distributed by Curtis Circulation to newsstands."

(From the Overstreet Price Guide, 10th Edition, 1980, page A-2)

35 minutes ago, shadroch said:

Yet you also argue that the margins were too small to make gaming the system worthwhile. 

No.

I argue that Western's sub-distributors (which was your claim) gaming the system wasn't worthwhile, because of Western's unique business model of stockpiling and warehousing comics to make them into packs, not that sub-distributors of Seuling (and eventually others) weren't gaming the system (which is why the cover markings exist.)

Those are two separate distribution methods.

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imageproxy.php?img=&key=c846ed7a40be7761Another one that I never understood is the A-Team pack that’s listed in Overstreet as Whitman. The books were bagged at the same facility that Whitmans were in Canada, but they simply contain the newsstand versions of the book. The copies inside are the same as the ones sold on newsstands back in the day. What’s even stranger, is that they list issue 3 as being a Whitman as well despite it not being sold in Canadian packs. ( Canadian packs had two books, American ones had three) Whitman never published these, nor were they the only outlet where you could purchase them. 

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Edited by bellrules
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On 2/10/2020 at 11:16 AM, shadroch said:

On Long Island, and I assume elsewhere, jobbers distributed Westerns products. 

Not that I bought much from them, but a company called Viking was the local Nassau jobber.

Whereas I could buy most comics wholesale from Imperial News,for 16.6 cents each when books were a quarter, Viking sold multipacks for about forty cents that were priced at 74 cents.

While Western may not have returned books, there is no reason to think the people who brought from them didn't.  I'd guess many stores had accounts with Imperial for comics, newspapers and magazines while also having an account with Viking for coloring books, paperback books and the like.

Someone could buy 100 Marvel three packs from Viking for about $40, open them and return them to Imperial for  almost $50. That doesn't sound like much but minimum wage was $2.30 or so at the time.

In 1978, I would buy a huge collection of some 800 books, all 15-25 cent Marvels. My Mom, of all people, remarked that I should turn in the books I didn't want to Imperial for the 16 cents they offered on a return rather than sell them for a dime each like I was doing. When I explained that all returns were accompanied by an affidavit certifying every book returned was purchased from Imperial, she understood why that was wrong.

So while Western may not have returned books, there is no reason to think books sold by Western weren't returned by their clients.

 

I was about to make the same point - anyone who sold newsstand issues could purchase pre-packs, open, and return the individual comics for a profit vs their newsstand purchase price.  Credit or cash, it could go towards buying more product that could be sold for cash.  So I wouldn't give much weight to the counterpoint that a credit wasn't worth pursuing.

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On 2/8/2020 at 10:12 PM, bellrules said:

The reprints started with issue 1 of Star Wars, but there is a bagged version of a direct #2,3 and 4 that wasn’t bagged by Whitman. All first prints. Which goes back to my initial point that these are not Whitmans. They are direct copies. Tons of Marvels were sold in Comic Pacs that were not distributed in bags marked Whitman 

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I asked if it was known who sold issues in these packages that don't say Whitman.  Newsflash - it was Western, and they could be put on floor displays that said Whitman.  :news:     There are a lot of examples of these 3-packs that are quite a bit more common than the Star Wars pack with this type of bag.

 

 

Edited by Warlord
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3 minutes ago, Warlord said:

I was about to make the same point - anyone who sold newsstand issues could purchase pre-packs, open, and return the individual comics for a profit vs their newsstand purchase price.  Credit or cash, it could go towards buying more product that could be sold for cash.  So I wouldn't give much weight to the counterpoint that a credit wasn't worth pursuing.

My counter-argument is:

A. The window to return for credit wasn't indefinite

B. Getting 5-10% credit on a 30-35 cent comic doesn't seem very lucrative. They weren't returning thousands of copies, after all. Credit always requires more labor = less "profit."

And...I'm not even sure if Whitman even sold pre-packs of Marvel books prior to 1977. So it may not even have been possible. Do you have any examples of NEWSSTAND Marvel books in unopened packs? As Shooter claims, the system was set up specifically FOR Western...and while there are some problems with this claim, it may not be far off from what actually occurred.

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