By Benjamin Nobel, January 31, 2016
For this blog, I’m discussing rare Savage Dragon comics that I found were particularly challenging to find — there’s a variant of the Image-Wizard-published Savage Dragon #1/2 (1997) issue that fits this description: the variant copies were manufactured with a foil stamp.
I discovered this when considering whether issue #1/2 was a “contender” to seek for my collection… As I often do with comics I’m investigating, I pulled up the CGC census data to see how many copies have been graded. When pulling up the data, I found there was a variant of this issue, listed by CGC as “Wizard Special Edition“:
With only a handful of copies of the variant graded, I was intrigued, and proceeded to see if I could find a copy out there for sale, to see what sellers were asking for this issue. To my surprise, I couldn’t find it anywhere. Not a single copy. The only copies on eBay of issue #1/2 were the “regular” ones without the foil stamp; and none of my go-to online comic shops had the variant issue in stock either. In looking for it, I also noticed that there isn’t agreement out there on what to call this issue. CGC calls it “Wizard Special Edition.” I’ve also seen:
- “Platinum Edition”
- “Platinum Foil Stamp Variant”
- “Silver Foil Stamp Variant”
- “Subscription Edition”
- “Subscriber-Only Edition”
The “subscriber” references provided an important clue, and after doing some digging I found that these Wizard 1/2 issues — which you can find out there for almost any comic book character — were mail-away offers, each one found within a particular issue of the Wizard guide (for Savage Dragon, it was issue #69 of the guide). You would buy that issue of the guide, cut out the form, and then could mail away for your copy of Savage Dragon 1/2. Over at Wizard, they would then sort through the mail and create two piles of people who had mailed in for their copy: Wizard subscribers in one pile, and everyone else in the other pile. And you have probably already guessed it: only the Wizard subscribers got copies back manufactured with the foil stamp. All copies came with a “Certificate of Authenticity” stating the copy was a “limited edition” but not stating how many copies were printed. As a mail-away issue, the publisher knew precisely how many copies they needed to print: after the deadline passed, they could count up each pile and print precisely the number of copies needed to fill the orders. If only 13 subscribers mailed in for their Savage Dragon #1/2 copy, they’d therefore only have needed to print 13 of them. But as far as I could find, they haven’t revealed to collectors exactly what those print run numbers looked like. It most likely varied widely from 1/2 to 1/2 issue based on the popularity of the character at the time. For example, based on 1997 sales numbers from Comichron, Savage Dragon #44 was at about 25,000 copies sold while Uncanny X-Men #352, just for popularity contrast, was at about 155,000 copies. To get to the number of subscriber-edition copies of Savage Dragon #1/2 we need to start with comic book collectors in general back in 1997, then narrow down to those particular collectors interested in Savage Dragon, then narrow down further to collectors that got issue #69 of the Wizard guide, then narrow down further to the ones that decided to mail in for their copy of #1/2, then narrow down further to how many of those happened also to be Wizard subscribers.
Because I could not find a copy right away, I set up an eBay alert. Based upon this eBay alert (which did eventually trigger), I can compare the frequency of copies that come up for sale against the trigger frequency for other comics with known print runs. For example: another subscriber-only comic published around the same time-frame was the blue/bronze edition of Creed / Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1. That comic was produced in 1996; Savage Dragon 1/2 was produced in 1997. So in addition to both being subscriber only editions, we’re also in a similar publication date ballpark, i.e. within a year of each other. The subscriber edition of Creed / Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 has a known print run of 500 copies. Based upon the trigger frequency of my eBay alerts for both books over long periods of time, my best guess is that the subscriber-only variant copies of Savage Dragon 1/2 have a similar print run in the hundreds of copies.
So what is it worth? Here is one example copy that auctioned for $16.50:
Based on this and other copies I’ve seen from my eBay alerts, a budget of $15-20 and patience of 6-12 months can get you your variant copy of Savage Dragon 1/2. Incidentally, this “subscriber-only theme” can lead you to other interesting 1/2 issues as well, for example I noticed that the Wolverine 1/2 issue has the exact same foil stamp variant phenomenon (in that case a blue foil stamp color) and that collectors seem to value that one in the $15-25 range depending on grade.