Three-hundred and ninety-nine pennies on the wall

I missed comic books for 10cents. That was the Golden Age. I’m not that old.

Honest. I’m not just saying that.

But I do remember 12cent comic books. That price was perfect for a grade schooler. You’d get your allowance, which back then didn’t amount to much, and you’d save a dollar, go to the local drug store (we didn’t have specialty stores back then), walk to the spinning rack that held that week’s comic books, and you’d spin it, looking for your favorite titles.

You’d pluck each one off, taking in the cover art, reading the blurbs, open it a moment to a sample page, then you’d do the same for the next one.

You did this eight times. You’d pick out eight comic books. If you had $2, you could buy 16!

With those prices, you could experiment, pick up new titles you’d never heard of, or try titles your friends said were good, or what have you. I lost track of how many titles I faithfully bought each month.

This was the Silver Age of Comics and it was probably the comic industry’s heyday. Comics were cheap enough for kids to buy and DC and Marvel, the two powerhouses at the time, were churning out tons of great titles to keep us interested. (Heck, even Gold Key and some of the other smaller companies had some good titles.) Comics were priced cheaply throughout the 1960s, but as the 70s loomed on the horizon, things started to change.

The price in 1969 went up to 15cents. Not much, but now kids could only buy six comics for a buck.

That price change opened the floodgates. It had taken three decades for the price to move from 10cents to 12cents (1934 to 1962) and nearly a decade to move from 12cents to 15cents. But that move to 20cents took only a year. In 1971 there was a brief stint of 25cent comics with a page increase, but that lasted only a few months before dropping down to 20cents for the normal sized books.

Now a buck could only buy you 5 comic books.

Three years later, in 1974, they again raised the price to 25cents but kept the page count the same. A buck only bags you 4 books.

The next price increase came in 1976 when they went to 30cents. Only 3 comics for a buck. Honestly, did a kid’s income increase that much? Only seven years previously they could get 8 comics for a dollar, now they were down to 3. Experimentation was out. Selectivity was the name of the game.

Now it seemed prices increased every other year.
1977: 35cents.
1979: 40cents.
1980: 50cents. Comic books were costing five times as much as they were when the 1960s opened.
1982: 60cents. At this point, you can see a trend. No longer are the jumps by five cent increments, now they’re by 10 cent leaps.
1985: 65cents. OK, a five cent jump, but hold on to your hats, folks.
1986: 75cents. This will be the last sensible increase.
1988: $1.00. See? The price went up the whole cost of a book back in 1974. Now you can get one comic for a buck. One lousy fucking comic.

Let’s see. In the Silver Age, I was regularly buying the following comics: “Fantastic Four,” “X-Men,” “Green Lantern,” “The Flash,” “The Atom,” “Captain America,” “Justice League of America,” “Brave and the Bold,” “Adventure Comics,” “G.I. Combat,” “Amazing Spider-Man,” “Avengers,” “Daredevil,” “Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD,” “Sub-Mariner,” “Thor,” “Incredible Hulk,” “Teen Titans,” “Aquaman,” “Challengers of the Unknown,” “Detective,” “Batman,” “Showcase,” “Turok, Son of Stone,’ “House of Mystery,” “House of Secrets,” “The Twilight Zone,” “Lost in Space,” “Star Trek,” “THe Man from UNCLE,” “Tarzan,” to name a few off the top of my head. A kid in 1988 would have to spend over $31 to keep track of those titles. I don’t see how that’s possible unless they’re stealing money from their parents and grandparents.

Anyway, to continue with the pricing increases:
1992: $1.25.
1995: $1.50.
1996: $1.95.
1997: $1.99. The smallest increase since the 1970s.
2000: $2.25.
2005: $2.50.
2006: $2.99.

And currently? –drumroll– Prices have jumped to $3.99. And guess what? Sales have dropped significantly.

Really? Does anyone wonder why?

As a child, I could have bought 33 comic books for $4. My entire month’s supply cost me the price of one comic book today.

Does anyone seriously wonder why comic books are in jeopardy?

Sure, the argument is, comic books aren’t for children any longer and that might be true, but even so, you need to get new readers from somewhere. Even cigarette companies understood that you had to hook them young to keep them as they got older. But today’s prices are beyond most grade schoolers. And honestly, in this current economy with double digit unemployment, I think $4 a book is beyond the reach of most adults.

The writing is on the wall, comic books are pricing themselves out of existence.


One thought on “Three-hundred and ninety-nine pennies on the wall

  1. I agree. I know my daughter would love to start collecting her fav’s but I don’t want to go there. (Glad there is nothing around us offering them.) I guess they think kids are richer these days. May be right. My daughter has more money on her usually than I do :/

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