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Posts Tagged ‘12¢’

  1. 10¢ Comic Books: The Long Road to Extinction

    August 6, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    Comic books had cost 10 cents for as long as anyone could remember. Famous Funnies, the first true American comic book, sold for 10 cents and established a price point that would stand for almost thirty years.  The 10 cent comic book even survived the period of 25% inflation after World War Two that almost cost President Truman his job.

    By the late 1950s, it must have seemed almost inconceivable to comic book readers that a normal-sized comic book could cost anything other than a dime. Sure, there were 15, 20, and 25 cent “Giant Size” comic books, but the price increase was always proportional to the extra content. A 25¢ Giant-Size book would have (at a minimum) as many pages as two-and-a-half 10¢ books.

    So, it must have been with no small amount of trepidation that comic book readers noticed the inclusion of the single word “Still” set before the 10¢ price on the cover of a February 1959 issue of Chip ‘n’ Dale.  In fact, the word was on the covers of all of Dell’s comic books. Unlike most comic book companies, Dell books were populated by characters licensed from movie and television companies like Walt Disney (Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, and the very popular Scrooge McDuck) , MGM (Tom & Jerry), Warner Brothers (Bugs Bunny), and Universal TV (Wagon Train). Apparently, Dell realized early on that the time was nearing when they could no longer make  a profit on a ten-cent book and pay royalties.  Surprisingly, the Dell books were “Still 10¢” for another two years!

    One month before Dell finally raised its cover prices to 15 cents in early 1961, DC comics started sporting the “STILL 10¢” price on all of their covers.  DC didn’t have the same problem with royalties that Dell had (Superman creator Jerry Siegel was still writing uncredited DC comics for scale!), but they didn’t want a cover price differential to imply that their characters were less popular. DC had as many iconic characters as Dell; why should Mickey Mouse rate a higher price than Superman?

    A month after the Dell price hike, Charlton Comics pasted a “STILL 10¢” spash right on top of every title. This was a bold move for a company that had a reputation for turning out some of the shoddiest low quality pulp in an industry filled with shoddy, low quality pulp. Throughout the rest of 1961, other comic book companies were content to leave their 10¢ cover text unadulterated; even Atlas/Marvel which could usually be counted on to jump on whatever bandwagon DC was riding. Despite Dell’s price increase and the ominous “STILL 10¢” on the covers of at least two companies’ books, readers (save those who were exclusively Dell readers) continued to enjoy comics for the price of a dime for another six months. By the end of the summer of ’61, DC had even dropped the “Still” from the 10 cent price!

    This lasted until December when Action Comics #283 displayed something nobody could remember ever seeing before: A 12¢ price tag! Was this a good thing or a bad thing? It was an increase, but it wasn’t nearly as big a bump as Dell’s, and DC had given fair warning earlier in the year. A kid’s 25¢ allowence would still buy two comics although a few penny candies would have to be sacrificed.  If the price increase prompted any real outrage at the time, I’m unable to find evidence of it.

    The rest of DC’s titles began selling for 12¢ the same month Action did and the following month Archie Comics followed suit with all of their teen titles. That same month, Harvey Comics (Blondie, Casper, Baby Huey) adopted the ominous “STILL 1o¢” cover text.  Encouraged by the sales of the first two issues of Fantastic Four more than any lingering inclination to follow industry trends, Marvel jacked their prices up to 12¢ in February 1962 foregoing the  ”STILL 10¢” preamble. Harvey went to 12¢ a mere month after they first bragged that they were “still” ten cents and  Charlton and every other comic book company made the change by March, 1962.  It wouldn’t be until the end of the decade that companies felt confident enough to raise their price as high as Dell’s 15¢.