Thursday, February 23, 2006

Childhood Inflation

Fred Hembeck writes on the 1961 price increase in comics from 10 cents to 12 cents. I'm only a couple years younger than Fred, but I got into comics fairly late (age 13) and so my big case of sticker shock came in 1968, when comics went from 12 cents to 15 cents. My allowance back then was only 60 cents and as I was in between my paper boy years and my lawnmowing years, the realization that my comics budget had been sliced from five books to four was quite annoying.

The Silver Age actually was a time of pretty good stability for comics prices and the value you received for your money. When you consider that at the beginning of the Golden Age comics were 64 pages plus covers for a dime and by the end they were 32 pages plus covers for that same dime, it's not hard to see that prices effectively doubled. During the Silver Age, comics stayed remarkably the same in size and the price only increased by 50%.

Of course, there were subtle ways that the publishers sometimes reduced the value. For example DC comics generally had 24-26 pages of story and art inside the magazine at the beginning of the Silver Age, and only 22-23 pages when it was over. Marvel early in the 1960s was fairly comparable but by 1964 or so they were pretty much down to 20 pages; IIRC before the end of the decade they would sneakily be making 19 pages look like 20 by putting half story/half ad pages in the centerfold.

Of course, this was nothing compared to what would happen before the 1970s were through. Story page counts would continue to drop, and prices would skyrocket. Batman #219, the first non-giant of the 1970s in that title, was 15 cents. Batman #318, the last issue of the decade, was 40 cents. Unfortunately prices had not nearly stopped rising.

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