On July 20, 2011 the quest began. The quest to collect every variant of Amazing Spider-Man #666. A comic book that retailers had the chance to get their own customized cover if they purchased a minimum of 500 copies. Nearly 140 stores took the offer. Some displayed their logo on the cover, others showed cartoons, and many have a snapshot of their storefront. A select few were really clever and staged some great photos.
After 75 days, I received the last issue required (from Italy) to complete the set. What started as a foolhardy quest has ended in success. And for anyone trying to do the same, you know just how difficult this process can be. For everyone else, let me break it down for you by the numbers.
Issue #666 of Amazing Spider-Man was released with 7 basic cover versions. These include...
- Regular Direct Edition
- Regular Newsstand Edition
- Direct 2nd Printing Edition
- Fan Expo Convention Variant
- Midtown Comics Variant
- Bugle Cover Variants (107 retailer variants)
- Lizard Battle Cover Variants (33 retailer variants)
Picking up copies of the Bugle and Lizard variants from each retailer has required a great deal of communication. I got started just before the issue was released. Scouring Google for any websites that mentioned a store was expecting to receive their variant soon.
It wasn't until Marvel released a list of participating stores that we would all know just how many were involved. This is when the full court press began through a combination of emails to each store, visiting store websites and Facebook pages, calling stores, searching on Ebay, and working with my network of collectors.
One invaluable resource was a forum on the Comic Book Realm website. A group of Spidey completists provided tips, contacts, and leads on picking up many of the issues A few of the members helped me out by picking up copies from their local store.
A completist is someone who collects every issue that includes the appearance of their favorite character or team. There are quite a few Spider-Man completists out there, and I'm a pretty devout completist myself.
Amazing Spider-Man #666, with all its variants, will really separate the general Spider-Man completists from those who are hard-core. Many collectors are complacent if they have a sample of each cover available, while the hard-core collectors need to have every cover because they are uniquely different from one another.
I can understand both sides of that argument, but it really all boils down to money. It's too expensive for most folks to try to get all of these issues. And that's completely understandable.
Throughout this process, I've seen the best of dealers...and the worst. The majority of dealers were happy to sell and ship a copy of their variant. Many struck up conversations about the search, and expressed a genuine sense of excitement around the task of collecting these books.
But there was a dark side too. Greed. A small number of dealers wanted to control their variants so they could get the most money possible. Still others created rules around how you could even acquire an issue.
There was the store who felt their book was worth more because it was mentioned in a podcast.
There was the store who required you make a purchase before getting a copy (not an unreasonable request). And as part of that purchase you were required to list alternative items in case they were out of stock of something (also not unreasonable). However, when I checked my bank account the next day, they had altered the order to include the original books as well as the alternates (completely unreasonable, and a little bit unlawful).
There were the foreign stores who didn't really want to send anything overseas. Those were fun puzzles to solve. In a previous post, I laid out the entire process I underwent to get a copy from the lone Japanese retailer who refused to ship outside Japan.
But all of those paled in comparison to the awesome dealers who were eager to do their part to help complete a collection. They totally understood what was making me tick...what was making the completist in me go through the effort of pulling a set together.
My favorite story happened as I hit a wall trying to get a copy of the Tradesmart variant. Tradesmart, located in Littleton, Colorado, is a new concept store from Hastings. The new store opened just as the new variant was being released. It was unfortunate, but as an organization they were just not prepared to take orders over the phone nor send out products.
Thinking outside the box, I traded emails with Lynn Moulton at Moultons Comics and Collectibles (part of the Mile High family of stores and also located in Littleton). After discussing my dilemma, Lynn was happy to drop by Tradesmart the next morning to pick up a copy for me. Exceptional service that will never be forgotten.
I just love the trust that is instinctual between collectors and dealers. We had never met before nor had any conversations, but they were willing to go out of their way to help me out. How many other hobbies engender that level of support for one another?
So if you want to give it a try...if you want to try to collect every variant issue of Amazing Spider-Man #666, then I'll be posting up pictures of the full collection over the next few days along with a list of participating dealers and their contact information. I wish you the best of luck in your own quest.