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Collector’s Corner: The History of the Gold Book Program, Part 1 (Classic Valiant)

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Since the early 1990’s VALIANT has maintained a tradition of rewarding fans, collectors, & retailers with limited edition Gold Variants. Today “Gold Books” are gems in the crowns of collectors.

While VALIANT initially began publishing comic books based on popular Nintendo characters as early as 1990 (e.g. Link, Mario, Captain N, etc) as a means to raise early funds for what Jim Shooter had been planning all along (the VALIANT UNIVERSE), Magnus Robot Fighter #1 did not hit news stands until May of 1991.

By September 1991, Solar Man of the Atom #1 was released, and VALIANT’s plans for something “special” were being discussed. At the time, other publishers (such as Marvel) were using gold coloring to indicate second printings of its more popular issues. VALIANT decided to take a different approach to this concept; rather than use gold coloring to indicate its second printings, VALIANT would use gold coloring to indicate its incentive variants, or “Gold Books” to reward fans, collectors, and retailers for participation in contests, promotions, events, conventions, costumes, and anything that supported the new publisher at the time. These books would quickly become HIGHLY DESIRED by collectors, and to this very day are listed among some of the most in-demand and valuable VALIANT books ever produced.

In November of 1991, just prior to the release of Solar, Man of the Atom  #3, VALIANT began testing and experimenting with using a strip of gold ink on the logo to see what it would look like (only 1 test-copy of SMOTA #3 Gold is know to exist). Gold Foil was commonly used at the time by other publishers, but also increased production  costs significantly. VALIANT wanted to see if gold ink could be applied with a similar effect, but with a lower production cost.

Solar Man of the Atom #3 Gold was never mass-produced or distributed (other than the initial test-copy). However, the regular edition is one of the most significant early VALIANT issues.

Solar Man of the Atom #3 (Published Version)

SOLAR MAN OF THE ATOM #3 

This book has potential to be one of the most in-demand VALIANT books. It features the first appearance of Toyo Harada, and the first appearance of the Harbinger Foundation. There were 65,000 copies printed; and only 1 Gold test-copy.

This was the First prototype Gold Book tested by VALIANT, was won in an auction in April of 2015 that included bids from VALIANT CEO Dinesh Shamdasani as well as some of the most well-known VALIANT collectors in the world.

Barry Windsor Smith art, and possibly the most iconic of Solar covers.

Around the same time, a similar test was conducted with Solar Man of the Atom #5.

Solar Man of the Atom #5 (Published Version)

SOLAR MAN OF THE ATOM #5 

The notable event in this book was the first appearance of Orb Industries, which was a key-player in early VALIANT (especially X-O MANOWAR).

There were 60,000 copies printed; and only 1 Gold test-copy.

This was the second prototype Gold Book tested by VALIANT, was also won in the same auction in April of 2015 that included bids from VALIANT CEO Dinesh Shamdasani as well as some of the most well-known VALIANT collectors in the world.

Barry Windsor Smith art!

From these early tests VALIANT was able to discover the best methods for producing Gold Books.

UPDATE: On Friday April 10th, 2015, original and legendary VALIANT artists/colorist Janet “Jay Jay” Jackson stated the following about the SMOTA #3 Gold Test and the SMOTA #5 Gold Test books:

“I’m amazed at the response for these books. I’ve kept them all these years because I thought they were cool, but I guess I figured I was the only one who would. I wrote a letter of provenance to go with the books that I will be sending to Zero (NOTE: Zero is the forum name of the owner of both Gold Test books) and I thought I would share it with you.

There were some dark days at VALIANT. The prototype gold books date from one of the darkest. Jim Shooter had been focusing on creating the best stories we could possibly do but the books had not really taken off just yet. The venture capital people were not seeing the desired return on their investment and were pressuring us to bring in more income. They were threatening to pull the plug on us and cut their losses. That would have meant 3 years of our hard work down the drain. Unacceptable. We had to generate some revenue. We had to get some attention in the marketplace.

The creative people, and most of the sales people, sat in one large somewhat T-shaped room. In a massive brainstorming session Jon Hartz began suggesting some gimmicks. Jim and others recalled a few, like the flip books, that they had loved as a kid. Metallic or special ink logos were one of the ideas we considered. At the time, a few publishers had done special editions with tricky finishes or gold foil stamping on the covers. In fact, I designed a few when I worked for other companies! But VALIANT just couldn‘t afford gold foil. It was extremely expensive. And for a company as small as we were, already teetering on the edge…well.

If I remember correctly, Fred Pierce got on the phone with the printer and negotiated a test. He convinced the printer to take a sample of their gold ink and make a couple of special prototypes on our comics so that we could see how the ink looked. Those two Solar, Man of the Atom test books became the genesis of the successful limited edition Gold Logo program. And the program did its job. It helped get VALIANT noticed and once we got some attention people found out how good the stories were.

I hung on to these two comics for all these years, kept in a notebook with some of my reference issues. I’m quite sentimental and the idea that these two comics had such a significant effect always made them feel special to me. They are a part of VALIANT history as well as my own personal history. I’m glad to see them appreciated.

JayJay Jackson”

Most of the information we have on the Gold Books comes from the VALIANT 1992 Marketing Plan (http://www.valiantfans.com/Valiant1992Marketing.pdf) which was presented at the Diamond Sales Seminar June 15th of 1992.

The 1992 Marketing Plan cites the following:

“Gold Logo Program -Limited Gold Logo Editions of no more than 5,000 copies will be printed for certain special books – #1’s, #0’s and issues with special cover art, beginning with Archer & Armstrong #0 and Eternal Warrior #1.

These bools will not be sold. However, a Gold Logo Edition will be awarded to retailers – and fans – who have been innovative in their support of VALIANT.

-Such innovation by retailers must be documented (photo or copy of promotion is sufficient). Putting up posters is not enough.

How about …

-A special VALIANT Boutique display.

-Having someone dress up as Magnus or another VALIANT hero as an in-store promotion.

-More information on this program will be forthcoming from your distributor.

-Fan participation wil be selected via letters they send us – as they often do – describing their support

To show you what we mean, for attending this presentation, you’ll each receive a Gold Logo Edition of Eternal Warrior #1 GOLD LOGO – a program we plan to continue for years to come, as retailers, and fans alike, create unique and fun ways to support VALIANT.”

Archer and Armstrong #0 (Gold Edition)

ARCHER & ARMSTRONG #0: – Gold Edition.

This was the earliest Gold Book distributed by VALIANT in July of 1992. It is likely that ETERNAL WARRIOR #1 Gold-Flat was ALSO printed at or around the same time as they share similar features to A&A #0 Gold (e.g. Gold inked logo box with the price listed; but with regular logos).

This was also the first appearances of  both Archer and Armstrong. 

This book caused some confusion as it was meant to be an incentive book, but also listed a price on the cover of $2.25. At the time Marvel was producing Gold Books as second editions, and many collectors initially thought that the A&A #0 Gold‘s were ALSO second editions at the time. VALIANT later corrected this problem, but not before first the ETERNAL WARRIOR #1 Gold-Flat.

Only 5,000 copies were released over 20 years ago. VERY FEW CGC/CBCS 9.8’s exist; or ever will exist. Even at a time when VALIANT books were in low demand, this book STOOD TALL!

Eternal Warrior #1 (Gold-Flat Edition)

Eternal Warrior #1 (Gold Embossed Edition)

ETERNAL WARRIOR #1: – Gold Embossed and Gold-Flat Variants.

With Frank Millar cover art, this book  (the second Gold Book distributed by VALIANT) would follow UNITY #0 in the 18 Chapter Mega Crossover, UNITY. It was released in August of 1992, though some may have been distributed as early as Jun of 1992 at the Diamond Sales Seminar.

5,000 copies of the Gold-FLAT variant were printed, but 2,500 copies were mistakenly distributed as regular copies; and 1,000 of the 5,000 copies were (allegedly) destroyed by VALIANT during/after the mix-up. The price on the cover is partly to blame, as (similar to A&A #0) Gold Books were never meant to be sold at cover price.

CLEARLY they had value above that of regular editions, however the intent of the program was not fully being met so as a result, 5,000 copies of the Gold Embossed variant were distributed to dealers as a replacement for the Gold-flat variant.

What this all means, is that there are NOT very many Gold-flat variants. What’s worse is that the Gold-flat variants are also SUPER RARE in CGC/CBCS 9.8 due to also being HIGHLY CONDITION SENSITIVE. As a result, the ETERNAL WARRIOR #1: – Gold-Flat Variant is one of the most valuable, rare, and in-demand VALIANT books printed in the 1990’s; or to-date really.

Unity #0 (Red Incentive Edition)

UNITY #0: – Red Incentive Edition

While NOT a Gold Book per se, it was similar insomuch as 1 copy was made available to retailers as a reward for either themselves or their customers.

The 1992 Marketing Plan cites the following:

“Our intention is that you share them with your loyal customers. Allotment is for every reorder of 100 copies mixed of May or June VALIANT titles ordered, you receive one copy of this limited, extremely rare edition.”

One of Barry Windsor Smith most iconic covers of the early VALIANT era, the Red logo version of the regular cover had only 5,000 copies printed (while the Blue Logo had 250,000 copies printed, so think of it as 2% of the print run, or in other words a 1:50 incentive variant); however, the original distribution methods are unknown.

This book is a sought after book by collectors, and that there are not very many in CGC/CBCS 9.8+; though there is one UNITY #0: – Red Incentive Edition CGC 9.9 listed at #7 on my “Top Ten Most Valuable VALIANT Comics” list (READ HERE: http://valiantcentral.com/collectors-corner-top-10-most-valuable-valiant-comics/).

Unity #1 (Gold Incentive Edition)

Unity #1 (Platinum Incentive Edition)

UNITY #1 Gold  and UNITY #1 Platinum

Released two months later in October of 1992.

The 1992 Marketing Plan cites the following:

“UNITY #1 Platinum: We want to reward you and Diamond together – as a team – for ordering and promoting our UNTIY program to our highest level of expectations, reaching beyond the Gold to achieve Platinum. This special, limited edition of UNITY #1 will be printed along with the regular UNITY #1 and sent to Diamond who will forward them on to you, one copy for every retail account that made up Diamond’s UNITY orders. Again we thank you and Diamond for your support.”

H.A.R.D. CORPS #1 (Gold Incentive Edition)

H.A.R.D. CORPS #1 Gold
Released in December of 1992, and featuring cover art from the now legendary Jim Lee

5,000 copies were printed. Unknown how many were earned by retailers or presented to fans.

 

 

 

 

 

Magnus Robot Fighter #21 (Gold Incentive Edition)

MAGNUS ROBOT FIGHTER #21 Gold
Released in February 1993

5,000 copies were printed. Unknown how many were earned by retailers or presented to fans. First appearance of the Malevolents.

 

 

 

 

 

Additional information on the Gold Books comes from the VALIANT 1993 Marketing Plan (http://www.valiantfans.com/Valiant1993Marketing.pdf) covered May through November of 1993.

The 1993 Marketing Plan cites the following:

“The Gold Logo Program – VALIANT will continue to give out free gold logo books to supporters who go “above and beyond” for VALIANT. In the first half of 1993, VALIANT will have limited edition Gold Logo Books for RAI & THE FUTURE FORCE #9, TUROK #1, SECRET WEAPONS #1 and Dr. MIRAGE #1.”

SECRET WEAPONS #1 GOLD was never produced however, though all others are listed below.

In 1993 VALIANT initiated its GOLD LOGO CO-OP PROGRAM;

The 1993 Marketing Plan cites the following:

Gold Logo Co-op Program – VALIANT will assign a value of $40 each to 8,000 mixed gold logo books and will make them available through distributers as  a co-op program for retailers. This $320,000 fund will be run like  a regular co-op program, except retailers will receive gold logo books for advertising and promotion. Since all gold logo books published to date have, by all estimates, a secondary market value well in excess of $60, the retailer will receive value in excess of the $40 value ascribed to the gold logo book. This program is scheduled to begin in October. We will keep you informed as this program develops and we hope you will all want to participate.”

However, it is highly speculated that the 8,000 mixed logo books  described in the 1993 Marketing Plan were not all distributed to retailers. Collectors always assumed the strong possibility that hundreds of Gold Books were likely stored in a warehouse somewhere and forgotten after VALIANT was sold to ACCLAIM and were waiting to be found.

In 2007, this exact scenario happened when a pallet of NM+/M Gold Books was obtained by a seller. The mixed Gold Books were ARMORINES #0 GOLD, BLOODSHOT #0 GOLD, DR. MIRAGE #1 GOLD, PSI-LORDS #1 GOLD, SHADOWMAN #0 GOLD, and TUROK #1 GOLD. Approximately 250 to 600 copies of EACH Gold Book was found and put on eBay, and most sold VERY cheaply (about $6 each at the time).

It is highly likely that the Gold Books located in 2007 are from the same 8,000 mixed Gold Books mentioned by the 1993 Marketing Plan. Most likely, these were found either at the original printer’s warehouse, or at the distributor’s warehouse. What is clear is that they never made it to VALIANT’s offices and they weren’t earned by retailers.

It is believed that a large portion are held by a few people, who either simply do not sell them; or they sell them very slowly to not flood the market.

NOTE: NONE of the Gold Books released in 1992 (A&A #0 GOLD, ETERNAL WARRIOR #1 GOLD FLAT, etc) were found in the 2007 find. Those books continue to remain FAR less common to this day as a result.

Rai & The Future Force #9 (Gold Incentive Edition)

RAI & THE FUTURE FORCE #9 Gold
Released in May 1993

5,000 copies were printed. Unknown how many were earned by retailers or presented to fans.

First appearance of the Future Force Team.

 

 

 

 

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter #1 (Gold Incentive Edition)

TUROK: DINOSAUR HUNTER #1 Gold
Released in July 1993

The regular edition had 1,750,000 copies printed, and is credited with being one of the major factors in almost destroying the comic book industry in the 1990’s!

However, the Gold version of TUROK #1 was FAR less common, and (like most Gold Books) had 5,000 copies printed. For you math wizards, that is the equivalent of a 1:350 incentive variant.

While we do not know how many copies were actually made available to fans or retailers, we do know that several hundred copies were discovered and sold on eBay in 2007.

 

X-O Manowar #0 (Gold Incentive Edition)

X-O MANOWAR #0 Gold
Released in August 1993

The regular edition had between 800,000 and 900,000 copies printed (if you count the Ivory Errors), and is really an awesome book if you get the chance to read it. The art, writing, and story is quite solid, and holds up to today’s standards!

 5,000 Gold Books were printed, which is the equivalent of a 1:180 incentive variant.

 

 

 

DeathMate Prologue (Gold Incentive Edition)

DEATHMATE PROLOGUE Gold
Released in September 1993

The regular edition had 900,000 copies printed, and a free Gold Book was bundled in stacks of 50 regular copies when ordered.

Because IMAGE and VALIANT were both working together to publish and distribute this book, it is likely that more than 5,000 copies were printed since the incentive books would have impacted both publishers.

Some reports have claimed as many as 18,000 Gold Books, which would make this the most common VALIANT Gold Book released.

DeathMate Black (Gold Incentive Edition)

DEATHMATE BLACK GOLD
Released in September 1993

The regular edition had 750,000 copies printed, and a free Gold Book was bundled in stacks of 50 regular copies when ordered.

Because IMAGE and VALIANT were both working together to publish and distribute this book, it is likely that more than 5,000 copies were printed since the incentive books would have impacted both publishers.

Some reports have claimed as many as 15,000 Gold Books, which would make this one of the most common VALIANT Gold Book released.

DeathMate Blue (Gold Incentive Edition)

DEATHMATE BLUE GOLD
Released in October 1993

The regular edition had 700,000 copies printed, and a free Gold Book was bundled in stacks of 50 regular copies when ordered.

Because IMAGE and VALIANT were both working together to publish and distribute this book, it is likely that more than 5,000 copies were printed since the incentive books would have impacted both publishers.

Some reports have claimed as many as 14,000 Gold Books, which would make this one of the most common VALIANT Gold Book released.

 

DeathMate Yellow (Gold Incentive Edition)

DEATHMATE YELLOW GOLD
Released in October 1993

The regular edition had 650,000 copies printed, and a free Gold Book was bundled in stacks of 50 regular copies when ordered.

Because IMAGE and VALIANT were both working together to publish and distribute this book, it is likely that more than 5,000 copies were printed since the incentive books would have impacted both publishers.

Some reports have claimed as many as 13,000 Gold Books, which would make this one of the most common VALIANT Gold Book released.

 

DeathMate Red (Gold Incentive Edition)

DEATHMATE RED GOLD
Released in November 1993

The regular edition had 250,000 copies printed, and a free Gold Book was bundled in stacks of 50 regular copies when ordered.

Of all the DEATHMATE Gold Books,DEATHMATE RED GOLD book rarely comes up for sale anywhere, and the DEATHMATE RED regular issue was so late and the series so poorly received by fans and critics, that it highly likely that retailers made significantly lower orders than they did for the other installments. This is rarest of the run.

 

 

DeathMate Epilogue (Gold Incentive Edition)

DEATHMATE EPILOGUE GOLD
Released in February 1994

The regular edition had 450,000 copies printed, and a free Gold Book was bundled in stacks of 50 regular copies when ordered.

Because IMAGE and VALIANT were both working together to publish and distribute this book, it is likely that more than 5,000 copies were printed since the incentive books would have impacted both publishers.

Some reports have claimed as many as 9,000 Gold Books, which would make this one of the more common VALIANT Gold Book released.

The Second Life of Doctor Mirage #1 (Gold Incentive Edition)

THE SECOND LIFE OF DOCTOR MIRAGE #1 GOLD
Released in November 1993

The regular edition had 450,000 copies printed, and had a fairly sizable cult following.

 5,000 Gold Books were printed, which is the equivalent of a 1:90 incentive variant.

Additionally, this book has a history of being condition sensitive, and is difficult to locate in NM+/M or 9.8 condition; and those Gold Books that are in High Grade condition are considered prizes by many VALIANT collectors.

 

 

 

Armorines #1 (Gold Incentive Edition)

ARMORINES #0 GOLD
Released in February 1994 (cover states 1993)

The regular edition had 250,000 copies printed, and like THE SECOND LIFE OF DOCTOR MIRAGE, it had a fairly sizable cult following.

 5,000 Gold Books were printed, which is the equivalent of a 1:50 incentive variant.

Additionally, this book has a history of being condition sensitive, and is difficult to locate in NM+/M or 9.8 condition; and those Gold Books that are in High Grade condition are considered prizes by many VALIANT collectors.

Ninjak #1 (Gold Incentive Edition)

NINJAK #1 GOLD
Released in February 1994

The regular edition had 500,000 copies printed, and was the the #1 selling book at the time of all publishers.

5,000 Gold Books were printed, which is the equivalent of a 1:100 incentive variant.

 

 

 

 

Bloodshot #0 (Gold Incentive Edition)

BLOODSHOT #0 GOLD
Released in March 1994

The regular edition had 300,000 copies printed.

5,000 Gold Books were printed, which is the equivalent of a 1:60 incentive variant.

 

 

 

Bloodshot #0 (Platinum Error)

BLOODSHOT #0 Platinum Error
Released in March 1994

This issue is actually believed to be either an error in the Gold Book printing process, a “test run” printing of the Gold Book, or a prototype that was never actually meant for  mass production distribution.

Several former VALIANT employees estimate that 300 were printed; however, in the last 21 years only 15 of these have been located or accounted for, and of those only 6 have graded as 9.8. Sales of this book have ranged $2,000 to $5,500.

GOOD LUCK finding ANYONE who is willing to sell; there exists a LONG line of potential buyers who are more than willing to pay a premium for this, SUPER-RARE Gem (also featured on http://www.recalledcomics.com/).

 

Bloodshot #0 (Pink Prototype)

BLOODSHOT #0 Pink Prototype
Released in March 1994

Similar to BLOODSHOT #0 Platinum Error, but uniquely different in that it contains elements of both Gold and Regular editions with a Gold title, price (NOT listed on normal Golds; OR on the Platinum Error) and PINK VALIANT logo.

This issue is actually believed to be either an error in the Gold Book printing process, a “test run” printing of the Gold Book, or a prototype that was never actually meant for  mass production distribution. It is more likely that this particular issue may have been an early pre-production proof and/or prototype.

ONLY two known copies exists (this CGC 9.6, and a RAW copy which sold for over $1,500 in April of 2013). (also featured on http://www.recalledcomics.com/).

Shadowman #0 (Gold Incentive Edition)

SHADOWMAN #0 GOLD
Released in April 1994

The regular edition had 200,000 copies printed.

5,000 Gold Books were printed, which is the equivalent of a 1:40 incentive variant.

 

 

 

 

Psi Lords #1 (Gold Incentive Edition)

PSY LORDS #1 GOLD
Released in September 1994

The regular edition had 150,000 copies printed.

5,000 Gold Books were printed, which is the equivalent of a 1:30 incentive variant.

 

 

 

Chaos Effect Omega (Gold Incentive Edition)

CHAOS EFFECT OMEGA GOLD
Released in November 1994

It was always rumored that these Gold Books were limited to 1,000 copies; however, publisher Fred Pierce later was quoted as saying that all Gold Books were 5,000.

Additionally, other incentives from Chaos Effect were not as they were advertised, so the 1,000 Gold Book rumor is probably not accurate.

Due to market availability and former VALIANT Vice President Jon Hartz’s statements, 5,000 were probably printed.

 

 

End of 1990’s VALIANT and Gold Books until the 2012 re-launch… Part 2 on the current Gold program will be up tomorrow.

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  • Great article! Very informative, can’t wait for part 2!

  • Julian

    Great little looks into the history of such an interesting part of Valiants history

  • Thanks guys, Jesse put a lot of work into this one.

  • Rucker

    Another great article! Wtg guys.

  • Don Acree

    Never knew about the Solar gold test issues. GREAT article!

  • BOOYAKASHA

    I understand the intention behind the gold additions. But I was never tempted to collect them. I don’t know why since I am a sucker for everything Special Edition and rare, but when it comes to comic books? Meh, I don’t care much really.

  • BOOYAKASHA

    Oh forgot to add… Thanks for the articles Jesse. I might not collect them but I love reading about them.

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