Oh my God!!! Comic prices are crazy!!!!

Are comic book prices out of control?  Are they getting too expensive?  What has caused the price change?  These are good questions to ask yourself and of the industry.  I know I hear many people complain about the price of comics and think that the industry is pricing out their customers.  But, this is not the case.  Skeptical?  Ok.  I have some numbers that one might find interesting when examining this.

We know that the paper quality has changed over the years, we know the inks are different than they were before.  But, does this impact the cost of the comic book in recent years.  It might have a minor impact, but that impact is mitigated through improvements in production and technology that makes the process more efficient and less time consuming, such as digital methods of production, drawing and coloring.

So, what then is the explanation?  Is it the change in the cost of paper?  Well, when examining the commodity price of paper for a little over the last ten years, it is clear that it cannot be the cause of an increase in the price of comics.  Even as comic prices increased, the cost of paper decreased as presented in Table  1.  The change in the difference of the dollar as compared to gold is something that is of great concern as if that trends continue we can reasonably expect to see the cost of goods continue to increase.

Table 1: Commodity Prices vs. CPI

So, if it is not changes in commodity pricing then what is it?  Well, let us examine the prices of comics from 1938 to 2012.  In 1938 comic book prices were $0.10.  When one adjusts that price using CPI, an index which I find deeply flawed, the pricing then reflects $1.63 in 2012 dollars.  This does not tell the whole story because the CPI measurements have changed since 1938 to 2012  and CPI is impacted by inexpensive goods imported from overseas which greatly impacts the true dollar value change.  Using Table 2 it can be seen that the change in the price of comic books mirrors the changes in the CPI index.  If you notice that the real change in the price occurs in the early 70s, this is when the US completely divorced itself from the gold standard and ended the Bretton Woods System.  This is also the time when you begin to see larger scale inflation and you begin to also see a great increase in government spending, which has a relationship on inflation.  Also noticeable is while on the Bretton Woods System, though flawed, the real price for comics was on the decline in terms of adjusted value.

Table 2: Comic Book Prices from 1938 to 2012 vs CPI Adjusted Pricing (2012 Base)

What lesson can be taken from this?  If you are complaining about the price of comics, or for anything, we need to first understand the change in the value of the dollar and what we can do to better address this.

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