A look at comic prices and price inflation over the years

Share this post

As longtime fans know, comic prices have risen greatly over the years. While I’ve written about this before, I thought I’d take an updated look at how comic prices have risen over the years.

Comic prices with and without inflation

Comics analysis site Comichron wrote an article listing the average prices of comics (based on DC, Marvel, and Archie) for each year since 1961. That’s the final year comics stayed at 10 cents, the price they’d been since the modern comic book dawned in the 30s. Comics publishers had initially just reduced the amount of pages rather than raise prices. However, since American comic book page lengths stabilized at what they are now in the 50s, they finally decided to start raising comic prices.

Below is the price of comics every half-decade since 1960. I’ve also listed their inflation-adjusted prices (using an inflation calculator) in 2020 dollars (as of January 2020).

Year Cover price In 2020 dollars
1960 $0.10 $0.88
1965 $0.12 $0.99
1970 $0.15 $1.02
1975 $0.25 $1.24
1980 $0.40 $1.33
1985 $0.75 $1.83
1990 $1.75 $3.54
1995 $2.50 $4.29
2000 $2.95 $4.51
2005 $2.99 $4.04
2010 $3.99 $4.75
2015 $3.99 $4.40

Comic cover prices have skyrocketed over the past 30 years. Prices have stayed above $4 in today’s dollars since 1995. The biggest jump seemed to be between 1985 and 1990; both cover prices and inflation-adjusted prices roughly doubled in just five years’ time.

The above doesn’t account for the various gimmicks comics have tried since the 90s. These include heavier reliance on crossovers, special enhanced covers, and shipping two issues of a title per month. Of course, comics in the 60s and 70s put out occasional extra-sized issues (DC’s “80-Page Giant,” plus the usual annuals).

How trade paperbacks and digital comics compare

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #11
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #11 (October 2016). Art by Erica Henderson.

In comparison, trade paperbacks are usually a better buy. Some examples:

  • “Batman, vol. 1: I Am Gotham” (Rebirth). Published January 2017, it has a cover price of $16.99 and reprints seven comics, or $2.43 an issue.
  • “The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, vol. 4: I Kissed a Squirrel and I Liked It.” Published December 2016, it has a cover price of $15.99 and reprints five comics, or $3.20 an issue.
  • “The Walking Dead, vol. 27: The Whisperer War.” Published March 2017, it has a cover price of $14.99 and reprints six issues, or $2.50 an issue.

Those, of course, are the standard cover prices. Places like Amazon usually sell such trades for even less.

Another cheaper source of comics are the occasional sales of digital comics (and digital trades) on Amazon or Comixology. There’s also the Netflix-like Marvel Unlimited service for $10/month or $69/year. But either way, it’s cheaper to wait to buy comics in collections versus as single issues. Unfortunately, DC and Marvel mainly consider sales (and which books to cancel) based on the buying or pre-ordering of (mainly paper) single issues, which seems old-fashioned and short-sighted.

That said, one should buy comics however one sees fit, whether it’s trade-waiting, digitally, or going down to a local comic shop every Wednesday. For me, it’s usually the first two these days, for both convenience and to save money.

(Updated 2/26/20)

Share this post


  1. Interesting how comic book prices have doubled between 1985 and 1990. 1990 is about the year when I waned off collecting comics. As a high school sophomore, the prices got to be too much for me to pay.

    1. Yes, I am interested to know why that happened. The increases towards the mid-90’s can be blamed on the fact that comics started printing on higher-quality paper, and when natural inflation is taken into account, prices haven’t changed a ton since then. But that big jump in the late 80’s? I don’t know what to ascribe that to.

  2. This is a great article, exactly what I was looking for. I wonder if the low price in the 50s/60s was influenced a lot by the market for comics booming at that time… In essence, mass production.

  3. Actually, I remember buying comic books for a dime in 1973 and 1974. The price was clearly marked on the cover. It was part of the cover itself. Not a sticker on the cover. I lived in Southern California.

    1. They might’ve been back issues of older comics that you bought. But if they were mainstream superhero fare, they’d been raised from a dime to 12 cents by the mid-60s at DC and Marvel… and at least 15-25 cents by the mid-70s.

  4. In 1966, I bought 15 Marvel Comics a month at 12 cents each for a total of $1.80 worth of hard-earned paper route money. In 2019 dollars, that was $14.22. FIFTEEN comic books and HOURS of reading enjoyment for the equivalent of $14.22! So…today, those same 15 books should cost $15. OR, let’s double that and say $30 to make sure all the creatives are paid what they deserve.

    Instead, it costs $59.85. I simply don’t know why.

    1. Avarice, I think, of the corporate bigwigs, and lessening the value of their ultimate digital brethren as well as trying not to upset the beleaguered comic book shops in losing their print sales. Or they just haven’t come to realize how to navigate the digital pricepoints. Or come up with storylines that might appeal enough to get past the $3.99-are-you-f*cking-kidding-me-for-15-minutes-of-entertainment barrier. This doesnt even account for the multitudes who choose to simply get pirated copies online…which in my one mind I sorta see as accessing the purchased copy of the daily newspaper left on the table at the cafe?

    2. Well Mark, part of it has to do with the fact that since the mid-90’s comics have been printed on higher quality paper than they were before hand. Now they don’t get yellow and smudge like the old ones can. That’s why the prices went up in the mid 90’s, and to be fair the industry hasn’t raised prices much since then. So no, unless you want to go back to cheaper paper that doesn’t stand the test of time as well, your comics should not be as cheap as they were when you were a kid. But could they be cheaper than they are? Maybe. I don’t actually know how much it costs to print a comic. I know that in the late 80’s there was an even more significant price jump that can’t be explained by the quality of the physical product. So maybe there’s some padding that’s been burided in that price for the past 30-35 years. Or maybe that price jump doesn’t really matter anymore because the better materials really do cost that much. I don’t know.

  5. Anyone have any idea how to find values of comics in the 60s? Meaning; how much was Batman #1 worth in 1966, for example? Action #27? Any help/leads would be appreciated. Thanks!

    1. I don’t have the answer to your question, but I suspect that it wasn’t worth all that much. Even though it was 26 years old and probably already rare since people didn’t hold onto stuff for collect ions like they have for the past 40-ish years, it probably wouldn’t have been that sought after because… well, people didn’t collect like they do now. I could be way off base, but I’m guessing that you could have bought just about any comic for close to it’s cover price until sometime in the 70’s.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *