Store exclusives vs. incentive variants

I’m one of those pandemic boomerangs. Collected in the early 90s, then restarted this year. I think there are a lot of us. And damn, this is a very different hobby now. The industry is really providing a collector’s dream scenario now with lower print runs, amazing art/stories, better quality paper/printing, variant covers to give you more to hunt for, etc.

On that last topic. Variants. I see a lot of hatred directed at store exclusives, but I don’t see that hatred toward incentive cover variants or even standard B variants. Why is that? If an issue has a 1000 print variant cover, why do we care about whether it came from a store exclusive or an incentive? Is it just the inherent annoyance that the store exclusive is purely a marketing vehicle for that store, whereas the incentive feels more genuine?

Now, seeing a single issue have 6 standard variant covers, 5 store exclusive covers, a second-third-fourth print that also has variant and/or store exclusive covers… that’s just feels like an over-correction to a growing market and will probably regulate itself within 6-12 months.

Example: I just got a House of X 1 Boston Expo Exclusive 9.8 signed by Dell’otto. I love the cover (and the artist), I’m an X-Men fan, and there’s only 1000 of these (only 45 9.8 and 19 signed). I wouldn’t feel any more or less about this book if it was a store exclusive or an incentive. But, am I missing something? Seems like there’s a lot of “store exclusives will be worth toilet paper in 3 years” but again, I don’t see that same take directed at incentives or even B covers.

Thanks for the knowledge all!

I think a big part of the disdain is that they essentially have a scarcity that is “manufactured” vice based on actual demand. Many advertise “release” numbers which may not reflect “print run” adding to the perceived scarcity.

I personally don’t care for a variant art having 2 or 3 different dresses. Trade, Virgin, limited trade, black and white, etc…to me it takes away from anything special about the cover.

And with the advertised print runs comes a price above cover, which many are not really worth.

But shops keep pumping them out so we can only blame ourselves for keeping it going if we don’t like them…

People don’t want to pay for scarcity they are still under the illusion they can find the hot 1st appearance 1:100 variant for cover on the rack at the LCS.

And I agree with Drogio here for sure one cover is fine I don’t need a 3 cover set followed by a con variant 4 months later just one variant cover burn the rest if you are forced to by x amount of copies to do a store exclusive

A lot of people only want publisher issues books that are distributed to a local LCS.

Remember that us as an online spec community are a very small percentage of the population. Most of the collecting public don’t even know the exclusives exist.

Also they don’t want books with the stores name plastered on it.

Same reason that Unstamped FCBD issues go for much more then those with the store name on them.

First off, collect what you love regardless of what anyone thinks.

To answer your question, store variants, just like incentives, Cover A’s, and second, third, and fourth prints etc…

If value is important to you, It all boils down to speculating on JUST Key books with the correct art. It’s really that simple.

I can see why some people would hate on store variants from the basis that a lot of stores pump way too many out for non-Key books and the end result for the buyers is they lose their shirt. So from that perspective, I get it and agree.

However, from a manufactured scarcity argument, I completely disagree. All one has to do is look up any Mike Trout or Lebron James serial numbered rookie to see that scarce items, “manufactured” or not, generate tons of value as time passes.

Personally, I have 2 rules for buying store variants:

Is it a key?

Do I love the cover?

If both of those boxes GET checked, I load up on it. If both Don’t get checked, I stay away.

Again, these rules only apply if value is an important factor.

Also, speaking purely for myself, I prefer store variants to incentives. The art is generally better, I know how many actually exist, and I can buy them for WAY less money when I buy direct.


I’m fine with store variants but lately there seem to be sooooo many of them. Once a book gets hot, especially a specific issue it sometimes feels like every online shop has their own exclusive cover for it. Best bet for a store variant is if you like the cover art go ahead and buy it. Don’t purchase it as a sure thing to go up in price. Some do. Some become highly sought after. Most don’t become that “grail” though.

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Correct. Store variants are a gimmick. The stores have also shown on numerous occasions that they are not transparent in their advertising, RE print runs et al. I believe store variants at one time held a lot more credibility. There were a few shops that would put out a variant every so often. This making them kinda unique. The stores eventually took the uniqueness and rammed Banes venom into the machine. Now we have store variants for every single issue, multiples in some cases, and there is no accountability from the stores as far as flooding the market with their sales/advertising gimmick.
Any book available through the regular distribution channels are genuine. Whether that be open order cover As, open order variants or ratio/incentive variants. M2c. Having said that, I do realize that all variants are simply sales gimmicks for the publishers.

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You do realize that Marvel, DC, etc. print the store variants, right?

I agree to disagree. Store variants or ratio or B cover they are all the same thing. It is a way to get people to buy more copies, it is as simple as that. The market determines what they deem valuable. In some cases it’s the A cover on others it’s an artist specific variant or something on the store cover, all of which are just ways to get people to buy their book.

I NEVER understood the whole hatred towards flippers or store variants it is just people trying to make money from a potential market dislocation (hotness of the book). It has been this way since the 90’s. When the customer stops buying they will stop making them.

In the meantime enjoy the profit from the irrational market behavior,

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Marvel, DC, etc do not print any books. They publish them. Printing is done by a 3rd party.

This was already covered by my initial post.

But the publishers are in charge of the printing. My point being, the stores aren’t.

I believe what you are trying to say is that the publishers make the sale, or promote/offer the opportunity for a store to do their own variant cover. I do not see that as relevant to the conversation. Of course Marvel sells Marvel books.
Just because a store variant is a Marvel title, that does not mean that all books made available at a wholesale level are equal in the resale market. That being the big difference between the two.

We’ll stick with your example with Marvel.

What I’m saying is that a store variant is licensed by Marvel, coordinated through Marvel, approved by Marvel, and printed by Marvel’s printers.

To me, that gives an enormous amount of credibility and makes store variants collectable from a mainstream perspective. They’re a Marvel product period.

Thus, IMO, they’re worthy for investments and have long-term potential IF the buyer sticks to KEYS.

Which, by the way, is the exact same rule (Keys) any value-conscious collector should be limiting themselves to anyway for any type of modern comic.

And as far as value goes, granted it’s very early, Venom 26 and 27 exclusives are way more valuable compared to their Cover A and second print counterparts. And, some actually rival the 1:100 incentive.

It will be interesting to see if the trend continues. IMO, I believe it will. Especially now that Venom is a more mature run, the days of 10,000-15,000 second and third prints are long gone. Which makes a store variant with 3000 or less copies even more attractive than they already were.

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Can we blame Comicxposure for ruining store variants? They seemed to have started putting out a store exclusive for every single book coming out at one point… :wink:

Nobody is forcing anyone to buy anything. That’s on the buyer.

What book was the first “store variant “?

And which book more or less “launched” the store variant craze?

You are entitled to your opinion.

Yes. We know. Marvel owns Marvel and Marvel sells Marvel. That is redundant and moot in this discussion. The piece you missed in your assessment is, Marvel doesn’t retail Marvel books. We are discussing retail, not wholesale. Everything you mentioned happens before the wholesale stage (except printing, again, all printing by all publishers is done by a 3rd party).

You can’t be ‘more’ attractive if you were never attractive to begin with. There are whole sects of this community that give no bearing or weight whatsoever to store variants. That will never change. On the other hand, every single one of us has no problem with owning an open order book.
I’ve been in this game for about 6 years now, and from my experience, and talking with those who have 10x my experience, the history will tell you that store variants ‘popularity’ ebbs and flows. In my opinion, the store variants won’t hold a candle to open order books in the long run. Never have.

Im not super familiar with the history of the store variant, but I would say that is a safe bet, Poyo. CX is the worst. Now it seems like every online shop is a CX wanna be. Imo, not exactly the store you would want to model yourself after.