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IV: MASTERWORKS PURCHASING HABITS

A) When did you start purchasing Masterworks?

55% (+1%): The original 27 era (87-94)
22% (+4%): The Cory Era (2004-2012)
9% (-5%): The "Remasterworks" Intiative (2003-2004)
7% (no change): Comicraft Era (1997-2002)
4% (+1%): Silver/Black aborted revivial (2002)
3% (-1%): The Defunct Era (1994-1996)

* * *

B) MASTERWORKS ACQUISITION HABITS

48% (+10%): I usually pre-order them so I can have them as soon as they are released.
29% (-3%): I just buy them whenever I can afford them. I'm in no hurry.
20% (-2%): I usually wait until shortly after the book is released.

3% (-4%): I don't buy Masterworks/I no longer buy Masterworks.

Apparently, of the survey respondents that remain, almost half pre-order their volumes. The slight percentage decline in the numbers of respondents who no longer buy Masterworks seems to indicate fewer non-buyers bothered to take the survey.

And the list of primary places where Masterworks purchases are made:

63%: Online dealers (Tales of Wonder, Amazon, etc.)
21%: Local comic shop
11%: No one place/a mix of all sources
5%: Second hand sources (eBay, Amazon Marketplace, etc.)

* * *

C) MASTERWORKS OWNERSHIP/INTEREST

I: GOLDEN AGE MASTERWORKS

Percentage of respondents who claim ownership of individual volumes:

Captain America Vol. 1: 47% (+7%)
All-Winners Vol. 1: 45% (+9%)
Marvel Comics Vol. 1: 43% (+6%)
Sub-Mariner Vol. 1: 43% (+8%)
Human Torch Vol. 1: 41% (+12%)
Captain America Vol. 2: 40% (new entry)
USA Comics Vol. 1: 40% (+8%)
All-Winners Vol. 2: 39% (+8%)
Captain America Vol. 3: 39% (new entry)
Marvel Comics Vol. 2: 37% (+5%)
Daring Mystery Vol. 1: 36% (+10%)
Sub-Mariner Vol. 2: 36% (+7%)
Captain America Vol. 4: 35% (new entry)
Human Torch Vol. 2: 35% (+6%)
Young Allies Vol. 1: 35% (new entry)
All-Winners Vol. 3: 34% (new entry)
Marvel Comics Vol. 3: 34% (new entry)
Marvel Comics Vol. 4: 34% (new entry)
Sub-Mariner Vol. 3: 33% (new entry)
Daring Mystery Vol. 2: 32% (new entry)
Captain America Vol. 5: 31% (new entry)
All-Winners Vol. 4: 30% (new entry)
Human Torch Vol. 3: 30% (new entry)
Marvel Comics Vol. 5: 30% (new entry)
Mystic Comics Vol. 1: 30% (new entry)
USA Comics Vol. 2: 28% (new entry)
Marvel Comics Vol. 6: 27% (new entry)

There are 16 new Golden Age volumes since the last survey in late 2008. There have been double digit point gains in ownership for Daring Mystery Vol. 1 and Human Torch Vol. 1 since the last survey. The first volumes for Captain America and All-Winners are the closest to getting into the 50% ownership range.

Looking further into Golden Age numbers, we asked survey respondents to chime in on the rate at which they'd like to see future Golden Age volumes. As of 2011, it had seemed to settle into a rate of four volumes per year.

0 (I'm not interested in GA Masterworks): 37% (+3%)
1-3 (A slight decrease in production rate): 20% (+4%)
4 (Keep the rate per year exactly the same): 17% (-14%)
5-6 (A slight increase in production rate): 18% (+6%)
7+ (I love these! I want as many as possible!): 8% (no change)

II: ATLAS ERA MASTERWORKS

Percentage of respondents who claim ownership of individual volumes:

Tales to Astonish Vol. 1: 51% (+7%)
Atlas Era Heroes Vol. 1: 50% (+9%)
Tales of Suspense Vol. 1: 50% (+7%)
Black Knight/Yellow Claw Vol. 1: 48% (new entry)
Strange Tales Vol. 1: 47% (+8%)
Tales to Astonish Vol. 2: 45% (new entry)
Atlas Era Heroes Vol. 2: 44% (+11%)
Tales of Suspense Vol. 2: 44% (new entry)
Atlas Era Heroes Vol. 3: 43% (new entry)
Journey Into Mystery Vol. 1: 43% (new entry)
Menace Vol. 1: 41% (new entry)
Tales to Astonish Vol. 3: 39% (new entry)
Strange Tales Vol. 2: 38% (new entry)
Tales of Suspense Vol. 3: 38% (new entry)
Jungle Adventures Vol. 1: 37% (new entry)
Journey Into Mystery Vol. 2: 36% (new entry)
Strange Tales Vol. 3: 35% (new entry)
Battlefield Vol. 1: 33% (new entry)
Venus Vol. 1: 33% (new entry)
Journey Into Mystery Vol. 3: 31% (new entry)
Strange Tales Vol. 4: 30% (new entry)
Jungle Adventures Vol. 2: 28% (new entry)
Strange Tales Vol. 5: 28% (new entry)

There's a bit more penetrance in the Masterworks buying public for the Atlas Era, with three books topping the 50% mark in overall ownership. The line has really taken off since the last survey, with 21 new volumes entering the canon.

Looking further into Atlas Era numbers, we asked survey respondents to chime in on the rate at which they'd like to see future Atlas volumes. As of 2011, it had seemed to settle into a rate of four volumes per year.

0 (I'm not interested in Atlas Masterworks): 27%
1-4 (A decrease in production rate): 31%
5 (Keep the rate per year exactly the same): 11%
6-8 (A slight increase in production rate): 21%
9+ (I love these! I want as many as possible!): 10%

III: MARVEL AGE MASTERWORKS

Percentage of respondents who claim ownership of individual volumes:

70%+ OWNERSHIP:

Avengers Vol. 1: 70% (+3%)

The first Masterworks volume to cross over 70% ownership in the survey's history is Avengers Vol. 1. This volume is currently out-of-print and with an Omnibus edition scheduled for 2012, it remains to be seen if it will remain at this peak.

65-69% OWNERSHIP:

Daredevil Vol. 1: 66% (+10%)
Dr. Strange Vol. 1: 66% (+7%)
Fantastic Four Vol. 1: 66% (+2%)
Fantastic Four Vol. 7: 66% (+8%)
X-Men Vol. 1: 66% (+2%)
Avengers Vol. 2: 65% (+7%)
Fantastic Four Vol. 8: 65% (+9%)
Fantastic Four Vol. 9: 65% (+9%)

Daredevil and Dr. Strange leading the pack for second place? Huh? Those are great books, don't get me wrong, but higher placement than Spidey and the FF? What's up with that? Well, it would seem the Omniboo are what's up with that: Neither DD nor Doc Strange have been reprinted in the Omnibus format, whereas FF and Amazing Spider-Man have both had multiple printings of their first Omnibus volumes. As we'll see looking further down the list, that means that titles that would seem to deserve higher slots on the list will actually be lagging as some Masterworks fans abandon the format for the Omniboo.

Another bit of data to support this theory is the high placement of FF Vol. 7-9, the first batch of FF stories NOT collected in an Omnibus volume. It's the second most owned FF Masterworks, behind the first volume.

Having said all that, it is a bit of a surprise that X-Men Vol. 1, which has been collected in an Omnibus volume, is in this rarefied category. Although perhaps most Masterworks fans decided that X-Men wasn't a property worth upgrading in Omnibus format?

60-64% OWNERSHIP:

Fantastic Four Vol. 2: 64% (+4%)
Thor Vol. 4: 64% (+9%)
Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1: 63% (no change)
Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 4: 63% (+6%)
Fantastic Four Vol. 10: 63% (+8%)
Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD Vol. 1: 63% (+12%)
Thor Vol. 1: 63% (+3%)
Thor Vol. 5: 63% (+13%)
Uncanny X-Men Vol. 1: 63% (+7%)
X-Men Vol. 2: 63% (+5%)
Avengers Vol. 3: 62% (+9%)
Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 2: 62% (+2%)
Avengers Vol. 5: 62% (+9%)
Captain America Vol. 1: 62% (+4%)
Daredevil Vol. 2: 62% (+11%)
Dr. Strange Vol. 2: 62% (+12%)
Fantastic Four Vol. 5: 62% (+5%)
Thor Vol. 3: 62% (+6%)
Uncanny X-Men Vol. 2: 62% (+8%)
Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 5: 61% (+6%)
Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 6: 61% (+8%)
Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 7: 61% (+9%)
Avengers Vol. 6: 61% (+10%)
Avengers Vol. 7: 61% (new entry)
Fantastic Four Vol. 3: 61% (+3%)
Fantastic Four Vol. 4: 61% (+5%)
Silver Surfer Vol. 1: 61% (+7%)
Silver Surfer Vol. 2: 61% (+11%)
Thor Vol. 2: 61% (+6%)
Thor Vol. 6: 61% (+14%)
Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 3: 60% (+2%)
Avengers Vol. 4: 60% (+7%)
Fantastic Four Vol. 6: 60% (+5%)
Incredible Hulk Vol. 1: 60% (+3%)
Uncanny X-Men Vol. 5: 60% (+9%)

The third tier of ownership levels tracks the 60-64% percentile range, and it is jam packed. 35 volumes fit in the bandwidth here, including the first showing of Amazing Spider-Man. Spidey doesn't even have a single volume in the top 10 most owned Masterworks by respondents, and volumes 1-3 only showed modest gains in ownership levels since the last survey. The power of the Omnibus is surely making another showing with those numbers, at least in regards to the part of the demographic that takes the survey.

Nick Fury Vol. 1 does some hard charging up the chart, with a 12 point increase from the previous survey's standings. Likewise Daredevil Vol. 2 shows some solid strength, with 62% ownership levels. Was there a big Daredevil sale at Tales of Wonder or something?

The rest of the Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four settles in nicely here, with the 10th volume of that line showing up on the shelves of 63% of Masterworks respondents. That performance slightly outpaces the non-Omnibused vols. 5-7 of Amazing Spider-Man, which are all equally represented with 61% ownership levels.

55-59% OWNERSHIP:

Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 8: 59% (+9%)
Avengers Vol. 8: 59% (new entry)
Daredevil Vol. 3: 59% (+12%)
Sub-Mariner Vol. 1: 59% (+10%)
Thor Vol. 7: 59% (new entry)
Uncanny X-Men Vol. 3: 59% (+10%)
X-Men Vol. 6: 59% (+6%)
Captain Marvel Vol. 1: 58% (+10%)
Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD Vol. 2: 58% (new entry)
Warlock Vol. 2: 58% (new entry)
X-Men Vol. 3: 58% (+4%)
X-Men Vol. 4: 58% (+9%)
Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 9: 57% (+12%)
Captain America Vol. 2: 57% (+5%)
Captain America Vol. 3: 57% (+7%)
Defenders Vol. 1: 57% (new entry)
Dr. Strange Vol. 3: 57% (+12%)
Thor Vol. 8: 57% (new entry)
Uncanny X-Men Vol. 4: 57% (+8%)
Warlock Vol. 1: 57% (+13%)
X-Men Vol. 5: 57% (+6%)
Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 10: 56% (new entry)
Avengers Vol. 9: 56% (new entry)
Daredevil Vol. 4: 56% (+12%)
Human Torch Vol. 1: 56% (+12%)
Inhumans Vol. 1: 56% (new entry)
Iron Man Vol. 1: 56% (+7%)
Avengers Vol. 10: 55% (new entry)
Fantastic Four Vol. 11: 55% (new entry)

This cohort is slightly less packed than the previous one, but with 29 volumes fitting in the bandwidth of 5 percentage points, it's also pretty tight. The highest new entry on the chart is Avengers Vol. 8 – the Thomas/Buscema collaboration at its height – with 59% of respondents having this book in their collection. Other top new entries included Thor Vol. 7 and 8, the Steranko-filled Nick Fury Vol. 2, and Defenders Vol. 1.

One nifty little observation is that the ballyhooed 50th Masterworks volume – Captain Marvel Vol. 1 – is actually tied for 51st in ownership levels with 58%. Now that the volume is OOP, it may be a tough sell to see that one rise higher. Another novelty is Warlock Vol. 2's slightly higher placement on the chart than the first volume. Of course, since Vol. 2 is chock full of Jim Starlin, maybe that's not such a novelty.

Again, Daredevil volumes showed a huge increase in ownership levels, with increases of 12% for both vols. 3 and 4. Perhaps the recent passing of Gene Colan inspired more people to check out this very worthy and rarely reprinted run of comics.

50-54% OWNERSHIP:

Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 11: 54% (new entry)
Ant-Man/Giant-Man Vol. 1: 54% (+7%)
Captain America Vol. 4: 54% (new entry)
Captain Marvel Vol. 2: 54% (+13%)
Incredible Hulk Vol. 2: 54% (+5%)
Sub-Mariner Vol. 2: 54% (+13%)
Uncanny X-Men Vol. 6: 54% (+12%)
Captain Marvel Vol. 3: 53% (new entry)
Dr. Strange Vol. 4: 53% (new entry)
Incredible Hulk Vol. 4: 53% (+12%)
Sgt. Fury Vol. 1: 53% (+7%)
Daredevil Vol. 5: 52% (new entry)
Thor Vol. 9: 52% (new entry)
X-Men Vol. 7: 52% (new entry)
Ant-Man/Giant-Man Vol. 2: 51% (+14%)
Human Torch Vol. 2: 51% (new entry)
Incredible Hulk Vol. 3: 51% (+5%)
Iron Man Vol. 2: 51% (+5%)
Iron Man Vol. 3: 51% (+6%)
Iron Man Vol. 4: 51% (+7%)
Fantastic Four Vol. 12: 50% (new entry)
Sub-Mariner Vol. 3: 50% (new entry)

Gliding down the list towards 50% ownership levels, we see that this is the most popular level for the Incredible Hulk and Iron Man, with vols. 2-4 of each series showing up here. Both these titles have had content duplicated in the Omnibus format.

45-49% OWNERSHIP:

Captain America Vol. 5: 49% (new entry)
Deathlok Vol. 1: 49% (new entry)
Incredible Hulk Vol. 5: 49% (new entry)
Rawhide Kid Vol. 1: 49% (+8%)
Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 12: 48% (new entry)
Inhumans Vol. 2: 48% (new entry)
Black Panther Vol. 1: 47% (new entry)
Dr. Strange Vol. 5: 47% (new entry)
X-Men Vol. 8: 47% (new entry)
Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 13: 46% (new entry)
Defenders Vol. 2: 46% (new entry)
Iron Man Vol. 5: 46% (new entry)
Thor Vol. 10: 46% (new entry)
Marvel Team-Up Vol. 1: 45% (new entry)
Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD Vol. 3: 45% (new entry)

This is a strong showing for Inhumans Vol. 2, in my estimation, with almost half of respondents having bought this edition. Rawhide Kid is knocking on the 50% mark as well. Perhaps by the next survey, the Western will break through.

40-44% OWNERSHIP:

Avengers Vol. 11: 44% (new entry)
Iron Fist Vol. 1: 44% (new entry)
Sgt. Fury Vol. 2: 44% (new entry)
Uncanny X-Men Vol. 7: 44% (new entry)
Iron Man Vol. 6: 43% (new entry)
Sub-Mariner Vol. 4: 43% (new entry)
Fantastic Four Vol. 13: 42% (new entry)
Daredevil Vol. 6: 41% (new entry)
Rawhide Kid Vol. 2: 41% (+9%)

Bringing up the rear in ownership levels are all new entries and the forlorn second volume of Rawhide Kid.

0-39% OWNERSHIP:

Incredible Hulk Vol. 6: 39% (new entry)
Sgt. Fury Vol. 3: 36% (new entry)
Iron Man Vol. 7: 34% (new entry)

And the last volumes on the ownership rankings. Hulk and Iron Man were among the most recently solicited volumes when the survey began, so I expect those to see strong gains by the time of the next survey.

Looking further into Marvel Age numbers, we asked survey respondents to chime in on the rate at which they'd like to see future Marvel Age Masterworks volumes. By 2011, Masterworks fans have been accustomed for several years to getting one Marvel Age selection a month.

12 (Keep the status quo! One a month is nice.): 48% (no change)
16+ (massively accelerated): 23% (+8%)
13-15 (a slight increase): 7% (-4%)
8-11 (About one every five to six weeks.): 5% (-3%)
4-7 (About one every two to three months.): 10% (+3%)
0 (I'm not interested in this period for Masterworks.): 3% (-4%)
1-3 (Only a small handful per year.): 4% (-1%)

Almost one-third of respondents would like to see an accelerated schedule of Marvel Age volumes, although nearly one-half are content with the current rate.

* * *

D) TRADE DRESS QUESTIONS

Hardcover Masterworks come out in two different versions: the regular silver and black editions and the variant editions modeled after the original marble design. Here are loyalty numbers for each type of Masterworks trade dress:

Regular silver and black editions: 56% (-16%)
Marble variant editions: 30% (+7%)
Committed to neither: 14% (+9%)
I buy both editions: 1% (+1%)

At first glance it seems odd to see the "committed to neither" number making such a strong showing. However, with the emergence of really cool novelty designs like Sgt. Fury, Young Allies and USA Comics, it's been perhaps tempting for some Masterworks fans to buy those over the standard regular edition. Add to that the fact that Masterworks specialists Tales of Wonder have often been running big sales on the variant editions, and it doesn't seem as odd.

* * *

E) BTP (BACK TO PRESS) QUESTIONS

Back when we did our last survey, the BTP initiative had just begun with a small trickle of volumes. Following that, there was a burst of over a dozen BTP hardcover editions in 2008-2009. The question on the 2011 survey was modeled to find out how users responded to the 2008-2009 round of BTP.

57% (+4%): I am content with my old Masterworks and did not buy any of the 2008-2009 BTP editions.
25% (-5%): I upgraded some but not all volumes with BTP editions.
11% (+3%): I upgraded each of my Masterworks with the new 2008-2009 BTP editions.
7% (-2%): I have no idea to what this question is referring.

Since the last round of BTP editions, there have been none more offered. With the growth of both the Omnibus and softcover Masterworks initiatives, the market demands seem to be less intense for reprints of OOP Masterworks hardcovers. Personally speaking, I still covet new Masterworks editions, but these are the survey results when the question of more BTP Masterworks was put to respondents:

57%: I am content with my old Masterworks and would not buy any new BTP editions.
29%: I would upgrade select volumes with new BTP editions.
9%: I would upgrade each of my Masterworks with new BTP editions.
6%: I have no idea to what this question is referring.

The numbers for future BTP editions conform pretty closely to consumer behavior regarding the previous one. The major question that would seem to face Marvel is if they considered the previous BTP worth doing from a financial perspective. If so, then they could expect that another round of BTP would perform similarly.


V: MASTERWORKS QUALITY CONCERNS

A) BASIC SATISFACTION WITH MASTERWORKS

Respondents were asked how current Masterworks production values match up with their personal standards of quality. Their replies:

88% (+26%): YES, I AM SATISFIED
10% (-18%): SOMEWHAT SATISFIED, BUT GETTING BETTER
1% (-5%): SOMEWHAT SATISFIED, BUT GETTING WORSE
1% (-3%): NO, I AM NOT SATISFIED

A big win for overall customer satisfaction regarding Masterworks: almost 9 in 10 are satisfied with the current level of quality. The already small numbers for any disapproval of Masterworks quality slipped across the board. Perhaps that's due to some disgruntled fans leaving the customer base altogether, but if so, that number would have been tiny to begin with.

Many of the problems that plagued Masterworks in the past – binding issues, errant glue, coloring inconsistencies – have dealt with in a way that's self-evident to core Masterworks fans.

* * *

B) SEWN BINDING

Speaking of binding issues, it seems a foregone conclusion that Marvel has definitively made the switch to sewn binding for not only Masterworks, but also other hardcovers including Omnibus, Premiere Classics, and other select editions. Still, it felt warranted to ask the Masterworks fanbase once again about their feelings for sewn binding:

69%: I prefer sewn binding, but also buy books that are glued.
15%: I only buy books with sewn binding.
16%: I have no opinion.
0%: I see no value from the addition of sewn binding.

Perhaps of most interest to me is the resounding failure of the "I see no value" option. Only two users selected this option. Heck, that's way within the margin for error on these things, so it would appear to be that Masterworks customers are, by now, educated enough about the issue that they know without a doubt that sewn binding adds to a better hardcover product.

* * *

C) AREAS OF IMPROVEMENT

Respondents were asked to weigh in on various areas of quality control regarding the Masterworks, gauging Marvel on a scale from "Excellent" down to "Poor."

LINE WORK:

Excellent: 46% (+16%)
Above Average: 32% (-18%)
Average: 6% (-11%)
Below Average: 0% (-2%)
Poor: 0% (-1%)
Not Enough Knowledge: 16%

PAPERSTOCK:

Excellent: 40% (+3%)
Above Average: 40% (-6%)
Average: 11% (-4%)
Below Average: 0% (no change)
Poor: 0% (-1%)
Not Enough Knowledge: 8%

COLORING:

Excellent: 43% (+12%)
Above Average: 35% (-8%)
Average: 10% (-12%)
Below Average: 1% (-2%)
Poor: 0% (-2%)
Not Enough Knowledge: 11%

EDITORIAL:

Excellent: 41% (+17%)
Above Average: 34% (no change)
Average: 15% (-18%)
Below Average: 4% (-4%)
Poor: 0% (-2%)
Not Enough Knowledge: 6%

PRINTING QUALITY:

Excellent: 42% (+17%)
Above Average: 39% (-5%)
Average: 10% (-17%)
Below Average: 0% (-3%)
Poor: 0% (-1%)
Not Enough Knowledge: 9%

BINDING:

Excellent: 43% (+27%)
Above Average: 36% (no change)
Average: 10% (-31%)
Below Average: 0% (-5%)
Poor: 0% (-2%)
Not Enough Knowledge: 11%

DUSTJACKET:

Excellent: 44% (+16%)
Above Average: 37% (+1%)
Average: 14% (-18%)
Below Average: 1% (-2%)
Poor: 0% (-1%)
Not Enough Knowledge: 5%

CONTENT CHOICES:

Excellent: 41% (+9%)
Above Average: 44% (+3%)
Average: 11% (-12%)
Below Average: 0% (-3%)
Poor: 0% (-1%)
Not Enough Knowledge: 4%

Every single "Excellent" mark was in the 40 percentile range, and all of which featured increases – some very strong, like binding – from the previous survey's satisfaction ratings. And with the "Above Average" marks all rating very highly as well, it's clear that at some point since the last survey, Masterworks rounded the corner to become regarded as a high quality item.


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