I've been meaning to do this for a while, but i was reminded of it when i was putting up some images of covers and corner boxes on my timeline project yesterday. Above is the cost of a Marvel comic book, from 1962 to 2012, expressed in 2012 dollars.
I ignored anniversary issues and similar things when looking at prices. And when there were multiple versions, i went with the lower-cost newsstand version. All prices reflect a "regular" comic book and exclude prestige format books. The exception is for 2011 and 2012, where i went with the higher priced $3.99 books, deliberately, because the reason i'm doing this is because of all the fuss that came about when Marvel raised the price for half (roughly) of their line last year.
I used this inflation calculator to adjust for inflation, and you can click here (text file) to see the "raw" data.
I don't have any great insights, but a couple of observations (some based on the raw data):
- From 2004 - 2010, Marvel held their cover prices constant for the longest period since 1962-1968, when comics were 12 cents.
- Holding steady on cover prices from 1962-1968 resulted in a slight decline in inflation adjusted prices. Holding steady in 2004-2010 resulted in a major decline in inflation adjusted prices (it's worth noting that 2004-2010 includes both the housing bubble era as well as the post-bubble crash, so inflation is not consistent during that period. It's nearly non-existent from 2008-2010). It seems like an adjustment was necessary; or you could argue that the jump from $2.25 in 2003 to $2.99 in 2004 was too much at once and that downward adjustment was necessary.
- Comics definitely have been increasing in price. You could argue that accelerates in the late 80s when direct market sales began overtaking newsstand sales and the industry became more of a niche than a mass market endeavor. You could argue cause and effect here (either comic companies should lower prices to get back into the mass market, or that's not possible and current comic book buyers should accept the fact that they have to pay more to keep the industry alive).
Anyway, i don't think this "proves" anything. The increase to $3.99 isn't as egregious as many people say it is, but it's also true that comic prices are trending upwards.