I have a passion for collecting vintage Star Wars merchandise from the late 70's. Action figures, comics, trading cards etc - anything related to the first Star Wars movie. But why only until 1980? It's not that I don't love The Empire Strikes Back and beyond (I really do), but there is something about that first wave of Star Wars mania that really grips me, back when it was all fresh and exciting...

Friday, October 15, 2010

Marvel Comics Barcodes

I thought I'd do a short post about an issue that used to really bug me and I know I'm not alone among collectors about this: the issue of barcodes on Marvel comics and whether or not different variations indicate a reprint.

Shortly after I started collecting Star Wars comics, I began noticing that certain comics would either have their barcode struck out, blanked out or replaced by a little Spider-Man head as shown below.



These comics also have a different design around the price and issue number. Instead of these details being surrounded by two separate boxes (below left), the special barcode comics have a black diamond surrounding them (below right).



As the same comic seemed to come with either one design or the other, I suddenly got a horrible feeling that I had been buying reprints at the full price of originals. In a rage I started trawling forums and websites seeking confirmation. What I found out put my mind at rest and I thought I'd now share this with other collectors, or at least my general understanding of the issue.

Comics with the special barcodes and black diamonds are not reprints. They are genuine issues that were sold alongside the regular ones. The only difference is that the two types of comics were sold to different purchasers and are now considered to fall into two categories: Newstand Editions and Direct Market Editions. The deal with newstands (who only wanted to stock current issues) was that they could return any unsold comics to the companies they bought them from and recuperate their money. But these companies also sold directly to comic book stores. As these stores specialised in hoarding back issues, Marvel wasn't about to start paying them for all their old stuff. To make sure none of these Direct Market editions made their way back to the Marvel warehouse, alterations were made to the covers (i.e. the barcodes and issue numbers) to distinguish them from the Newstand editions.

So, all fears can be laid aside: comics featuring the weird barcodes are just as genuine as the normal looking ones. Personally I prefer the Newstand editions as I just think they look better, but there should be no difference in price for us collectors.

9 comments:

Jay said...

Wow, I always wondered about this! Thanks for posting--seriously, this has been bugging me for ages!

C.K. Dexter Haven said...

I remember buying "Three Pack" comics from drug stores that were DC titles but had the "Whitman" W over the "DC" logo. I didn't think much about it either way.

yoyorobbo said...

Cool. Good info. A local comics/collectibles shop around here marks them differently. They actually write a little note on the price tag, indicating "reprint" too. That's what has made me think they were in the past. Maybe I'll start buying up those *cheaper* copies from now on. Thanks for the heads-up.

'77 - '80 Collector said...

Well, I can only be sure that my own copies arn't reprints. I don't actually know what the barcodes look like on reprints, but I do know that they should say something on the inside cover stating 'reprint'.

Shannon Smith said...

The little CC thing had to do with the distributor they were using for the newstands at the time. Not only are they the same comics, they were printed at the same time on the same printers, same paper same everything. I always liked the look of the diamond better.

EJK said...

IIRC, something along the lines of "SECOND PRINTING" is stamped among the indicia on the title/splash page if it's a reprint. I imagine Marvel printed so many of the first run a second print run was quite unnecessary.

The only second prints I've ever had were '80s Marvel Comics packs sold in department stores, all Transformers and GI Joe.

Anonymous said...

This is not entirely accurate and needs more research. I have a 30c 'diamond' issue with no barcode and no indicators on the cover that it is a reprint however on the inside on the publishers info area on the bottom in tiny bold print is "THIS IS A REPRINT...". I don't know if all older diamonds are reprints, when they may have changed thier marking method for or if I stumbled across a rare find. If anyone has more info, please.. :)

Anonymous said...

A HUGE number of the newsstand and diamond copies of issues #1-#6 were issued in three-pack baggies and distributed by Western Publishing Company (Whitman) in the late 1970s to grocery, department and toy stores (3 for 99 cents) that were very definitely reprint issues. There was a small black bar on the cover Luke Skywalker image that said REPRINT or a notice in the first page indicia ("THIS IS A REPRINT OF A PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED ISSUE") or both. Not all Diamond covers were reprints, however. Any collector should check both the cover and the indicia to make sure.

Anonymous said...

thanks dude, I just started buying ghost rider comics and it looks like the same applies. I was just about to frame my favourite one and noticed the barcode thing. immediately thought it was a reprint.

thanks for setting that straight for me. much appreciated.