Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Tale of Two Pennies -- How DC's Price Hike in 1961 Made Mine Marvel!

Looking at the two issues of Adventure Comics above, I wonder how many of you can imagine what a shock the 2 Cent price hike reflected in the November to December issue prices was to a kid's economy back in 1961. I suspect DC had an idea of the potential impact, since comics had largely been a dime since their inception back in the 1930s. Here's DC's explanation to their youthful readers as it appeared in their comics during the transition:

Here's a gallery of DC books making the price shift, usually with the issue following the November 1961 editions, though Batman made the jump in November, so maybe some other titles did as well.

So virtually all DC comics were 12 cents by January of 1962. However, Charlton held the 10 cent price point until March, as shown in the Gorgo covers below:

And more importantly for my story of how the two cent hike shifted my attention to the nascent Marvel comics, Atlas also held the line and didn't go up in price until March's books.

When the January books were unbundled at the local drugstore the DCs were all 12 cents, and with a quarter in my pocket, and a sales tax that tipped to 2 cents at the 24 cent range I found myself a penny short of the 26 needed to buy two of my 'old friends' at the comic rack. So I made some new fictional friends by replacing a DC buy with Fantastic Four #2!

...and once I'd read it, I had no problem with continuing with Marvel's intriguingly different characters when the price of the book went up to 12 cents in March.

I wonder how many other comic book kids made the same call, and discovered the new world of comics opening up over at Atlas, all  because of a two cent difference at a critical moment in the industry.

The Masked Mayhem character, logo and related text are copyright Will Meugniot 2013. The other stuff is all copyright by its rightful owners.


  1. When I first started buying comics, they were a quarter.

    When they got to a dollar, I swore I was going to quit buying them.

    Then, at almost 4.00, I was still buying...but the state of the big two companies was the ultimate reason I stopped buying...not the price.

  2. I sure remember the price hike! But, either Marvel didn't get good distribution where I lived or I was kind of oblivious to them for a while. I had bought FF #8 (1st Puppet-Master app.) and TALES OF SUSPENSE #46 (1st Crimson Dynamo app.) at a Rexall drug store in Clifton, TX (small town) on the way to my great aunt and uncle's house (in a VERY small town).

    I left them up there and would look at them when we'd go back (along with a Tarzan comic) and when I realized I wanted them to keep, it turns out my COUSIN had taken them! I've never forgotten that.

    And my parents even let the same cousin look through my stash at home when I was away at church camp. He swapped a MAD paperback for a SUPERMAN issue with the first appearance of Parasite (Neal Adams art). I was SOOOOOO mad that they let him do that!!!

    Otherwise I didn't seek them out till I bought an issue of AVENGERS (#18) on the stands. Then someone traded me a few SPIDER-MAN and DAREDEVIL issues in our neighborhood via a free 'summer vacation kid's want ad' I had posted. Then I was hooked.

  3. The price increase to 15 cents basically killed Dell. When they went back to 12 cents, most of their licensed characters were being pubbed by Gold Key in high-grade 25-cent 80 pagers and 12-cent 36 pagers.

  4. One day in Junior High, I was talking to some other guys about cartoons and comics. One of them asked if I knew who Peter Parker was and I admitted I had no idea. I think it was 2nd issue of SPIDER-MAN that introduced me to the fledging Marvel Universe and I quickly found myself dropping one DC book after another so I could afford to buy just about everything Marvel was publishing at the time. The increase of even two cents back then made a big difference in what I could spend.

  5. With me, the problem went from the 12 cent to 15 cent hike in 1969. I was still getting a quarter allowance, so I either bought 1 comic and saved the dime until next week (not often) or bought 1 comic and candy (more often). I was glad when I was finally able to negotiate a raise to 50 cents a while later - and was it a thrill when I discovered second hand comic shops like NOW & THEN BOOKS. When I was earning my own money from my first job, comics were 20 cents.