If you pick up any of the current DC titles you will see the price of $2.99 in BOLD characters along with the slogan “Holding the Line at $2.99”. Good for DC as they pulled their average price down by about 30%! But it got me to thinking about the first time that the price of comic books jumped.
Return with me now to the halcyon days of yore…or anyway 1961 when Comics got their first price bump!
From their inception in the mid 1930s’ Comics had always sold for a dime. The earliest books could go from 64 to 100 pages. That is a LOT of four color goodness for one tenth of a buck let me tell you! Or as DC might put it today “One Thin Dime Anytime!” That is a price that would remain unchanged for nearly thirty years. In order to keep the cost of comics at a dime comic book publishers gradually cut the page count until it reached a standard 32 page format. Larger page count books, known as Annuals or giants, had an 80 page count but they cost twenty-five cents.
Some companies held the price at a dime by going from a four color to a TWO color process or even including some stories in black and white! Check out some early issues of Action Comics and you will see those techniques in practice. It was NOT pretty!
Still, as time went by, cost cutting measures could no longer offset rising costs and the industry, led by DC Comics made the move from 10 cents to 12 cents in December of 1961. A raise in cost of a WHOPPING 20%!!! In November you could get TEN comics for a buck and in December it was down to 8.3 ..and who buys .3 comic books anyway! This was a big deal in kiddom let me tell you. We were up in arms and ready to storm the Lexington Ave Offices of National periodical publications (which we kids knew was just an alias for DC.)
However those editors at DC did not have grass growing under their feet and in a masterful preemptive strike, they actually EXPLAINED the reasons for the rise in price. And on official letterhead too! Every DC comic that came out that December had theis letter printed on the inside cover.
Basically they chirped about the cost of trees and mailing and who can argue with official leterhead anyway. So with a grumble we began to fork over the extra two cents a book. For many of us it marled the loss of innocence. I mean if you can’t count on the guys who publish SUPERMAN what’s left?
All kidding aside, the industry HAD done a great job holding their price for so many years and the 12 cent price would go on for almost 20 years as well. Since the seventies however, the price of comics have risen steadily to the current average price of $3.99 with DC at the lower $2.99.
Then again back in 1961 you could buy a new car for $1600 and a new house for $12,700!
(Plus you can’t actually READ a car or a house!)
So you know what?
Comics are STILL a bargain!