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Collector’s Corner: The First Valiant Gold Books

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“More gold has been mined from the thoughts of men than has been taken from the earth…”
― Napoleon Hill

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

On Friday April 10th, 2015, original and legendary Valiant artists/colorist Janet “Jay Jay” Jackson stated the following:

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.

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.

The Solar Man of the Atom #3 (Gold Test Prototype) was never mass-produced or distributed (other than the initial test-copy). However, the regular edition (65,000 printed copies) is one of the most significant early Valiant key-issues as it featured both the first appearance of Toyo Harada, and the first appearance of the Harbinger Foundation.

SMOTA #3
(Published)
SMOTA #3
(Gold Test Prototype)
SMOTA #5
(Published)
SMOTA #5
(Gold Test Prototype)

At the exact same time as Solar Man of the Atom #3 (Gold Test Prototype), Valiant tested a second prototype with the Solar Man of the Atom #5 (Gold Test Prototype). Both raw, ungraded Gold Test Prototypes were sold at auction in the Spring of 2015 to the same highest bidder. Janet “Jay Jay” Jackson (who owned both books) wrote the following:

“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…

…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

After the pre-production testing with Solar Man of the Atom #3 (Gold Test Prototype) and Solar Man of the Atom #5 (Gold Test Prototype), Valiant’s “Gold Logo Program” was first presented at the Diamond Sales Seminar June 15th, 1992 via the “Valiant 1992 Marketing Plan” which stated:

“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…”

“…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.”

Under Valiant’s “Gold Logo Program” the Eternal Warrior #1 (Gold-Flat) had a cover date of August 1992, while Archer & Armstrong #0 (Gold) had a cover date of July 1992. It is likely that Archer & Armstrong #0 (Gold) and Eternal Warrior #1 (Gold-Flat) were either printed at the same time, or that Archer & Armstrong #0 (Gold) was created by Valiant first. Archer & Armstrong #0 (Gold) is considered “Pre-Unity” while Eternal Warrior #1 (Gold-Flat) is “Unity Chapter Two” However, as copies of the Eternal Warrior #1 (Gold-Flat) were intended to be distributed during the 1992 Diamond Sales Seminar, It is likely that Eternal Warrior #1 (Gold-Flat) was the first “Gold Logo Book” as (despite the Eternal Warrior #1 (Gold-Flat) having a later cover date than Archer & Armstrong #0 (Gold)) as it is highly unlikely that Valiant would have released copies of Archer & Armstrong #0 (Gold) prior to their “Valiant 1992 Marketing Plan” announcement, since such action would have defeated the intended purpose of that same announcement.

Eternal Warrior #1
(Regular)
Eternal Warrior #1
(Gold-Flat)
Eternal Warrior #1
(Gold Embossed)

However, a letter from Ronalds printing dated June 4th, 1992 (before the 1992 Diamond Sales Seminar) clearly states that in May of 1992 they inadvertently and/or mistakenly shipped 2,500 copies of the  Eternal Warrior #1 (Gold-Flat) as regular copies of Eternal Warrior #1 to retailers and/or distributors. Because the Eternal Warrior #1 (Gold-Flat) had a listed cover price, and because retailers were not (at that time) aware of Valiant’s “Gold Logo Program” (it had not yet been announced), and also at the time Marvel Comics was producing Gold Books as “second editions” which all together created a perfect storm where those 2,500 copies of Eternal Warrior #1 (Gold-Flat) were sold randomly to whoever wanted a copy for $2.25 a copy.

The Ronalds Printing letter states:

“Dear Comic Retailers and Distributors,

Ronalds 1992 mix-up explanation letter for Eternal Warrior #1

Valiant had Ronalds print a very limited run of a special gold logo version of Eternal Warrior #1, they were to be used only as a premium to be given free to those who demonstrated extraordinary support for Valiant. Those books were to debut at the Diamond Retailers Seminar on June 13, 1993 (NOTE: 1993 is clearly a typo in the letter, and should have likely been 1992) and thereafter be judiciously given out based on demonstrations of support.

In May, 1992, Ronalds inadvertently shipped out approximately 2,500 of the gold logo books while filling an order for the regular books. This was an error on Ronalds’ part alone and we don’t want anyone to think that Valiant had anything to do with this error.

To right the wrong we have caused, we and Valiant have agreed that the remaining (NOTE: 2,500 books remained) Eternal Warrior #1 gold logo editions will not be released and that Ronalds will a limited run (NOTE: 5,000 books were printed for this delux version) of a delux Eternal Warrior #1 gold edition which Valiant will use as it intended to the original version (NOTE: the delux version was the Eternal Warrior #1 (Gold Embossed) version, which had no cover price to avoid further confusion).

We apologize for any inconvenience that may have cause to Valiant or any of you.”

Aside from the typos and questionable sentence structure of this letter, we were able to learn that the Eternal Warrior #1 (Gold-Flat) had 2,500 unannounced copies in circulation and the Eternal Warrior #1 (Gold Embossed) had 5,000 announced copies in circulation. As a result, to this day the Eternal Warrior #1 (Gold-Flat) is one of the absolute hardest Classic Valiant comics to find in CGC/CBCS 9.8. Eternal Warrior #1 (Gold-Flat) is confirmed to be twice as rare as the Eternal Warrior #1 (Gold Embossed), and since both retailers and/or customers did not know it was “special” it was not treated “special” whereas the Eternal Warrior #1 (Gold Embossed) was likely treated with much more care due to the way it was (correctly) awarded and/or presented to the public and/or market.

This is an important point to understand; that there are only half as many Eternal Warrior #1 (Gold-Flat) as there are Eternal Warrior #1 (Gold Embossed), and furthermore, many copies of Eternal Warrior #1 (Gold-Flat) tend to grade more poorly than Eternal Warrior #1 (Gold Embossed) (due to the initial confusion and likely mishandling as discussed above). Due to the highly condition-sensitive nature of the Eternal Warrior #1 (Gold-Flat), its significance to the “Gold Logo Program”, small number of available copies in circulation, and errors in it’s distribution, this book is highly sought out by collectors and carries a strong market value both CGC/CBCS graded or raw.

In the grand-scheme of Valiant collecting, Eternal Warrior #1 (Gold-Flat) is easily one of the rarest and hardest to find in high-grade of Classic Valiant Comics. There are far less copies of this book available than there are copies of Harbinger #1 (w/ coupon) and/or Solar Man of the Atom #10 (1st Print), and long-term it holds high-value potential beyond where it presently falls on this list.

(NOTE: CGC routinely incorrectly labels the Eternal Warrior #1 (Gold-Flat) as an Eternal Warrior #1 (Gold Embossed) copy which has created a situation where the CGC Census cannot be trusted for this book unfortunately. Both versions are mixed-up in the census, and sellers themselves can sometimes be confused with affects how they title their sales. REMEMBER: the Eternal Warrior #1 (Gold-Flat) has a cover price, and the Eternal Warrior #1 (Gold Embossed) does not have a cover price).

Screen Shot 2016-07-03 at 6.10.55 PM

Until December of 2011, the odds of obtaining a CGC 9.8 graded copy of Eternal Warrior #1 (Gold-Flat) were about the same as obtaining a CGC 9.8 Bloodshot #0 (Platinum Error) (this is both a historical and mathematical fact). However, in 2012 to 2015 the number of CGC 9.8 graded copies of Eternal Warrior #1 (Gold-Flat) doubled (Bloodshot #0 (Platinum Error) most certainly did not), and in October of 2015 the total number of CGC 9.8 copies of Eternal Warrior #1 (Gold-Flat) increased by +53% in a single day (presumably due to one or two collectors who had long-held multiple NM+/M raw copies randomly deciding to submit to CGC). As a result of the sudden increase in supply, as expected, there was a corresponding decrease in the average sale price at the end of 2015 and leading into 2016. Additionally, the end of 2015 saw a +49% in the total number of CGC 9.8 Eternal Warrior #1 (Gold Embossed) which further led to a saturated market for that issue and subsequent decrease in the average sale price.

It should be noted that regardless of the 2015 / 2016 average price drop for the historically strong CGC 9.8 Eternal Warrior #1 (Gold-Flat), there are still very few 9.8 graded available (less than 30 at the time of this writing). As we can confirm that this issue only has 2,500 copies in circulation as opposed to the 5,000 copies that all other “Gold Logo” books from the 1990’s had, it is not unreasonable to view the Eternal Warrior #1 (Gold-Flat) as the least-common Valiant “Gold Logo” book from that time period. As the collector market demand continues to grow for classic Valiant books and Valiant moves closer to movie and television, as well as other marketing endeavors, it is a strong bet that Eternal Warrior #1 (Gold-Flat) will continue to be a “Holy Grail” for many Valiant Fans and collectors. There simply are not now, nor will there ever be very many copies; certainly not in NM+/M condition.

Archer & Armstrong #0
(Regular)
Archer & Armstrong #0
(Gold)

At the exact same time Valiant was printing Eternal Warrior #1 (Gold-Flat), it is highly likely that Archer & Armstrong #0 (Gold) was also printed. As both issues featured a cover price (all subsequent “Gold Logo” books released after these two did not have a cover price), retailer confusion as to the intended distribution method and/or process led to many copies of Archer & Armstrong #0 (Gold) being sold for cover price and being treated like a regular copy (e.g. not bagged or boarded and not handled with extreme care).

5,000 copies of Archer & Armstrong #0 (Gold) were printed and/or distributed, and the book featured the first appearance of both Obadiah Archer (aka Archer) and Aram Anni-Padda (aka Armstrong).

As stated earlier in this article when discussing the Eternal Warrior #1 (Gold-Flat), as a result of Valiant announcing their “Gold Logo Program” at the 1992 Diamond Sales Seminar and the subsequent early and inadvertent distribution by Ronalds Printing of the Eternal Warrior #1 (Gold-Flat), a situation was created in that Archer & Armstrong #0 (Gold) occurred chronologically earlier than Eternal Warrior #1 (Gold-Flat) (it is considered part of the “Pre-Unity” Valiant collection and likely was intended to be released first), however, Eternal Warrior #1 (Gold-Flat) (which occurred chronologically after Archer & Armstrong #0 (Gold)) was physically in the hands of collectors first.

The “Valiant 1992 Marketing Plan” stated:

“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 books 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…”

“…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 & Armstrong #0 (Gold) is quite rare in any condition; raw or graded, and (other than a +41% surge in December of 2012) has been quite consistent in growth.

Screen Shot 2016-07-03 at 10.10.16 PM

Despite the slow and steady increase of CGC/CBCS 9.8’s over time, the market value and demand for Archer & Armstrong #0 (Gold) has been mostly consistent with an occasional spike in activity.

Screen Shot 2016-07-03 at 10.25.00 PM

Both Eternal Warrior #1 (Gold-Flat) and Archer & Armstrong #0 (Gold) represent the beginning of Valiant’s “Gold Logo” books, and are highly coveted staples in any classic Valiant collection. Regardless of release dates, both are hard to find in high grade, and most certainly not in any large quantities. Eternal Warrior #1 (Gold-Flat) and Archer & Armstrong #0 (Gold) are unquestionably “must have” key books.

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