Are there any Dell variants?


Collecting variant editions of comics has become an area of comic collecting that has been slowly growing in popularity.  Much of this growth can be attributed to Jon McClure’s articles[1], first in Comic Book Marketplace and more recently in the Overstreet Price Guide[2].  I will use McClure’s definition of a variant comic:[3]
 
The best definition I know for a “Variant” comic book is
(1)      Any non-standard edition created for distribution with a unique purpose;
(2)      Anything printed for distribution under the same title with some changes to the cover and/or contents; and
(3)      Any non-standard edition created for distribution in an unplanned or imperfect way.
The primary characteristic of a variant is strong similarity to the “regular” or standard edition.

To identify a variant you must first identify what is normal or “regular” and then identify the variation.  Because I did not know what was normal, I had to first create a baseline.  I tackled the problem by cataloging all of the Dell comics that I had in my collection, including key attributes such as cover price and back cover content.  I then filled the gaps with knowledge from other sources, as best I was able, and created what I hoped was a complete list of all of Dell’s comics.  This process took two years.  With the list, it was then possible to determine where the variants existed.

McClure further refines his definition by identifying thirteen different major variant classes, many of which have additional sub classes (e.g. Variant Type 1a, Variant Type 1b).  Using McClure’s variant classifications, the Dell comic variants that I can confirm fall into the following classes:


  •  Price variants – two identical issues with the sole exception being a different cover price, including the addition of a second price for foreign sale (McClure Type 1a Variant
  •  Back cover variants – two identical issues with the sole exception of different back covers, often one with an ad and one with a single page comic story or activity (McClure Type 1c Variant)
  • Second Editions – two identical issues with the exception of date and some mention of “Second Edition” on the cover (McClure Type 2 Variant)

‘Test Market’ Price Variants.  In the late 1950’s, Dell published several issues with both 10¢and 15¢ cover prices.  According to Worthopedia,[4] these changes in price were regional price variations:


For an 18 month period (March 1957 to August 1958), every regular size Dell comic book had a 10 cent and a 15 cent variant. The 15 cent variants were sold in certain markets to test the feasibility of a price increase. These are rarer and much more challenging to collect than the highly touted Marvel cover variants of the 1970's.

I believe the date ranges was a bit wider than what is attributed above by one month on each side.  What is interesting here is that the statement “every regular size Dell comic book.”  Based on the trends that I have found through my cataloguing effort, I believe the dates might actually be from Feb 57 to Sep 58.  There are also several examples of Dell Giant issues that carried both 25¢ and 30¢ prices.  The origin of these price variants is mentioned in the ComicBase Forum (11/24/2007):[5]


My cover is exactly that of the Bambi #3 issue except that it has a 15 cent price. It is one of a series of rare Dell 15 cent variants issued during a roughly 18 month period in the late '50's. These were issued only in the San Francisco area as a price test. I have quite a few of these variants myself and have begun to upload photos for CB as I will for this issue.

McClure indicates these issues are Canadian Editions; however there are none of the typical “Canadian Edition” labels found on the cover or in the indicia.


The Bambi issue mentioned above is dated 4/56, so there are examples that date back even further than the dates given above, but these issues seem to be more sporadic.  It is believed that there are several dual-priced issues that were published between Feb 57 and Sep 58 that introduced a price increase in a small region as a ‘test market’ for a broader price increase.  I have been able to confirm that at least I will address these ‘test market’ variants in a later blog.


Following Sep 58, there have been a few Dell Giants that were issued with 30¢ and 35¢ cover prices.  McClure is convinced these issues are Canadian Editions.  With support from Doug Sulipa, it is a contention that will require evidence to the contrary before it is modified. 


Canadian Edition Price Variants.  There have been a few early price variants recorded.  McClure identifies these issues as Canadian Editions and does not include these as true variants.  The following are confirmed 15¢ cover price variants:


  • Four Color Comics – Series 1 #4 (Donald Duck, 2/40).  This is one of the most valuable Dell comics every published, predating the Four Color Comics – Series 2 #9 (Donald Duck, 8/42) that introduced Carl Barks to comic books.  A 15¢ price variant of this important issue was auctioned by Heritage Auctions (when?).
Four Color Comics – Series 1 #4 (1940)

           The description included with the comic’s image was the following:

Four Color (Series One) #4 Donald Duck - 15 Cent Cover (Dell, 1940) CGC VG 4.0 Off-white pages. This is the only copy we have ever seen or heard of to have a 15-cent cover price! It's certainly interesting to speculate how this copy might have come about -- the 1940 publication date puts it in the same year as other 15-centers known to exist like Batman #2 and Detective Comics #43.

  • Large Feature Comics – Series 1 #3 (Heigh-Yo Silver, The Lone Ranger, 1938)
  • Large Feature Comics- Series 1 #8 (Dick Tracy the Racket Buster, 1938)
  • Roy Rogers Annual (1947).  See description in OPG, Canadian edition, not a variant
  • DG – Western Roundup #1 (6/52).  McClure cites this in his OPG article, 35c variant
·          
  • DG – Tarzan’s Jungle Annual #1 (8/52).  McClure cites in OPG article, Sulipa has confirmed, 35 cent variant
  • Canadian Style Black Circle 15 cent Editions.
Foreign Priced Variants.  There are several comics that were published in the United States and then later republished in another country.  Some of these comics simply added another price to the cover, such as the Huckleberry Hound #5 and Scamp #15 shown below. 

Huckleberry Hound #5 (June 1960)

Scamp #15 (Sep-Nov 1960)

Other comics had more extensive modifications made, including changes in format and language, but retaining the same artwork, such as the issue shown below that were published in Mexico or those that are found on the outstanding Australian Disney Comics website.[6]

Spanish Language Marge’s Little Lulu
Back Cover Variants.  It became commonplace for Dell to use two different back covers on their later comics.  I first became aware of these variations through the following note in the Dell Four Color listing in the Overstreet Price Guide:

Issues published with #710? were printed with and without ads on the back cover.  Issues without ads are worth more.

When I first read this note it generated a volley of additional questions:

  •  Are the Four Color comics the only Dell comics with and without ads on the back cover?
  • Are there issues with and without ads that precede #710?
  • Are all the issues published after #710 with and without ads?  If it not, then which issues have ads, which have no ads, and which have both?
  • Why are the issues without ads thought to be worth more?
When I catalogued all of the Dell comics that I had in my collection, I recorded the back cover content, indicating if the issue had an ad or no-ad.  When the back cover does not contain an advertisement, it will have artwork, a puzzle, a one-page comic story or gag, or sometimes the completion of the interior story in its place.  One of my earlier questions was answered when I completed the cataloging exercise, specifically:  “Are the Four Color Comics the only Dell comics with and without ads on the back cover?”  The answer is “No”, to date I have confirmed that there are 62 titles that have at least one issue with a dual back cover variant.  Below is a current count (330) of the number of issues with and without back cover ads (what I am calling dual back cover variants).

Title
Count
77 Sunset Strip
1
Bat Masterson
3
Ben Bowie
1
Ben Casey
1
Chip 'N' Dale
1
Colt .45
1
Dell Giant
9
DG - Bugs Bunny's Trick 'N' Treat Halloween Fun
1
DG - Bugs Bunny's Vacation Funnies
1
DG - Disneyland Birthday Party
1
DG - Donald Duck Beach Party
2
DG - Huey, Dewey and Louie Back to School
1
DG - M.G.M.'s Tom and Jerry Back to School
1
DG - M.G.M.'s Tom and Jerry Summer Fun
1
DG - Marge's Little Lulu and Tubby at Summer Camp
1
DG - Marge's Lulu and Tubby Halloween Fun
2
DG - Marge's Tubby and his Clubhouse Pals
1
DG - Mickey Mouse Summer Fun
1
DG - Moses and the Ten Commandments
1
DG - Picnic Party
1
DG - Uncle Scrooge Goes to Disneyland
1
DG - Western Roundup
1
DG - Woody Woodpecker's Back to School
1
DG - Woody Woodpecker's County Fair
1
Donald Duck
2
Dr. Kildare
1
Felix The Cat - Series 2
1
Follow The Sun
1
Four Color Comics - Series 2
216
Fritzi Ritz
1
Have Gun, Will Travel
3
Huckleberry Hound
5
Jace Pearson of the Texas Rangers
2
Jungle Jim
1
King Leonardo
1
King of the Royal Mounted
1
Lassie
1
Laurel And Hardy
1
Lawman
2
Looney Tunes
1
Ludwing Von Drake
4
M.G.M.'s Spike and Tyke
2
Maverick
7
MC - Jack the Giant-Killer
1
MC - Six Black Horses
1
MC - Tales of Terror
1
MC - Three Stooges Meet Hercules, The
1
Mickey Mouse
3
Millie The Lovable Monster
1
National Velvet
1
New Funnies
2
New Terrytoons
2
Peanuts
3
Quick Draw McGraw
2
Rifleman
3
Ruff and Reddy
5
Sea Hunt
5
Thirteen
2
Three Stooges
2
Voyage to the Deep
1
Walt Disney Presents
4
Wyatt Earp
1
Grand Total
330

The earliest confirmed dual back cover variant is Mickey Mouse #44, published on 10/55.  Two other Mickey Mouse issues, #45 (12/55) and #47 (4/56) are also confirmed to have dual back cover variants.  The next issue that is confirmed is the aforementioned Four Color Issue #710 which was published on 7/56, nearly two full years after Mickey Mouse #45.

Second Editions.  Technically speaking, a second edition might not be a variant.  A variant, by definition, is variation from the norm.  Second editions are republications of the same issue with a different date.  The following are confirmed second editions (2nd Printings).  Each of these issues have “2nd Printing” on the cover and have a different cover date.

Title
Cover Code
#
Date
Cvr Price
Car 54, Where Are You?
12-108-412
2
10/64
$0.12
Car 54, Where Are You?
12-108-412
3
10/64
$0.12
Car 54, Where Are You?
12-108-503
4
01/65
$0.12
Four Color Comics - Series 2 (Mister Magoo)
12-535-505
1235
05/65
$0.12
Frankenstein
12-283-410
1
10/64
$0.12
MC - Creature, The
12-142-410
12-142-410
10/64
$0.12
MC - Wolfman, The
12-922-410
12-922-410
10/64
$0.12

Five of these seven 2nd Printings were published on 10/64, with the other two published on 1/65 and 5/65.  The Four Color Comics #1235 (Mister Magoo) reprint was published over three years after the final issue (#1354, Calvin & Colonel, 4/62), making it the last Four Color Issue published.  Three of the comic reprints were Movie Classics of horror movies (Creature, Frankenstein, Wolfman) and the remaining three were reprints of issues 2 through 4 of Car 54, Where are You? – a popular TV show in 1964.



[2] McClure, Jon (2010).  A History of Publisher Experimentation and Variant Comic Books, Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, 40th Anniversary Edition, pp. 1010-1038, GemstonePublsining, Robert M. Overstreet, Ed.,

[3] Ibid. pg. 1011.

1 comment:

  1. I am a Sea Hunt collector and have all of the Sea Hunt comics - one from Four Color and 12 from Dell

    According to your list of variants, there are 5 variants (comics with a different back cover, in this case an advertisement) in the Sea Hunt series.
    I have 5 variants (#1, 5, 6, 8, 9) but #1 is a Four Color publication.
    It have been told that #7 was a variant but no one has been able to confirm this nor produce a copy of that variant.

    Is it possible that your listing of '5 variants' for Sea Hunt includes the #1 Four Color issue or do you believe there is another Dell Sea Hunt variant?

    ReplyDelete