Monday, April 14, 2008

Comic Books and Inflation

In researching a slightly more serious piece I stumbled across this highly interesting examination of the price of comic books over the years. This isn't about the investment price of older comics, but the cover price of new comics and how, since the early '60s, that price has shot up some 2,400 percent. It's a very nice little disquisition that uses The Amazing Spider-Man to examine a bit of market failure (or maybe I should say, counter-intuitive market behavior):

Except for the boom years in the early 1990s, the title's popularity has actually waned. That this hasn't caused a drop in prices seems to defy economic logic. Even the dramatic plummet in demand for Spider-Man from 1994 to present day has been accompanied by more than a doubling in monthly prices from $1.25 to $2.99. What gives?

The answer the writer gives has to do with the the Federal Reserve and I may very well be wrong, but I get the sense that there's a gold-standard subtext in there somewhere. Whatever the case, it's a fun read.

In other comic book news, I did a little piece on the Jerry Siegel Superman decision last week that some of you might be interested in. It's a really fascinating bit of IP jurisprudence.


Anonymous said...

Now, if I had to guess "what gives," I'd say that supply and demand doesn't really apply here. Or, more to the point, it applies in a different way. To wit:

Yes, overall demand has gone down (I think this has to do with the fact that fewer kids--throughout history the prime demographic for comics--are buying comics). However, the people who ARE buying comics are a.) older, and b.) wealthier. They can afford to pay more. As you lose that younger demo to video games, TV, DVDs, whatever, it only makes sense to maximize your profits off that older cohort that can afford the $3 book.

The problems for the comic book industry is a long term one: Again, if I had to guess, I'd say that Marvel, DC, et al are absolutely decimating their younger population of readers. These are the people who become the wealthier readers in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and beyond.

But uh...I don't think this has much to do with the treasury. Just as a guess.


trumwill said...

I agree with SB. I'd add that if they sell less copies, they have to have greater margins to recoup the company's fixed costs. Since the comic book customer base is devoted and the casual reader has all but disappeared, the market is insulated from the supply-demand curve.

If they can't get 50,000 people to pay $1.25, they may have more success getting 25,000 people to pay $2.50.