Longtime reader Mike F sent this analysis along and I thought it was interesting enough to post. I will append my own thoughts at the end.
At the start of the Silver Age, DC comic books were 10 cents and had 24-25 pages of story, plus filler (gag strips, letter pages, etc.). Then in 1962 the price went up to 12 cents.
Today, a typical DC comic is 2.99 with only 20 pages of story (and maybe 1-2 pages of filler).
The analysis at the end of this e-mail is an attempt to do an apples-to-apples cost comparison (using a CPI calculator.) The CPI calculator is probably not 100% accurate but it is probably in the ballpark enough for this purpose.
What it shows is that we are paying more than 4-5 times as much for comics as we were in the Silver Age.
I believe there are several factors that may explain this.
1) Writers and artists are paid more, including residuals
2) Paper used is slick, not pulp.
3) Printing quality is higher
4) Sales figures are 1/5 to 1/10 the size meaning production costs are spread across fewer sales
5) Most comics are sold through comics shops which need a higher sales price to stay in business (see lower sales figures)
Now to make things worse, most comics in the Silver Age had 1-3 stories per issue with considerably more text (dialogue and captions).
All in all, todays comics are vastly more expensive than they were in the Silver Age.
And of course, there is no comparison with the Golden Age when comics were ten cents and had around 60 pages of story and art.
We will multiply each number by 20/25 (80%) to account for the drop in story pages.
DC Price Today Vs. CPI
Un-Normalized Percentage Difference
1956 ($2.99/.80) x 100 = 373.75%
1962 ($2.99/.87) x 100 = 343.68%
Normalized for page count difference
1956 ($2.99/.64) x 100 = 467.19%
1962 ($2.99/.69) x 100 = 433.33%
What do you think?
Thoughts by Pat: Not sure I get all the math here, but this analysis does comport with an observation I came up with independently. Back in 1968, when I first started collecting comics, I earned money for at least part of the year by mowing lawns. I could make about $2.00 per hour whacking the grass, and with comics running 12 cents apiece, that means that I could translate my efforts into about 16.5 comics per hour. I'm not sure what the going rate is for yard work these days, but in order to afford 16.5 comics kids today would have to be earning around $50.00 per hour, and I suspect strongly that they'd be more likely to get $10-$12, which would mean an effective price increase of 300-400% or more.
Another thought: Do you remember how DC used to fiddle with the comic sizes every time they pushed through a price increase after 1969's jump to 15 cents? For example, look at Batman #214, the first issue with the new pricetag. Batman #234 saw a jump to a quarter, but DC confused the issue by increasing the total page count to 52. You can slice and dice that a lot of ways, but at least the price increase was accompanied by a value increase. The new size and price lasted until #243 (1972), when the comics returned to the old size and the price "dropped" by a nickel. Of course, the net effect was actually a nickel increase, hidden by the brief 52-page period. The price jumped all the way to 50 cents with Batman #253 (1974), but they also bumped the page count to 100 (with most of the new pages coming from reprints). Then the old size returned in Batman #263 (1975), but not the old price, which was now a full quarter. Along the way, real page counts dropped as well; Batman #214 had a 23-page story, while Batman #263 only featured 18 pages of story and art. So from 1969-1975, the cover price increased by 67%, but the price per page more than doubled. And this was fairly well-concealed by the brief period of bigger issues.