The Comics Are All Right: A Cover Price What If?

In last week’s “The Comics Are All Right” I explored that the reason for the recent nervousness in the comic industry and stores could easily be explained by the drop in “weighted cover price” for the top 300 comics.

For those that haven’t read last week’s column, as reported so far Comichron:

  • All Unit Sales For Diamond Comics increased by 1 million
  • Unit Sales for Diamond Comics Top 300 Comics increased by 180,000
  • Unit Sales for Diamond Comics Not 300 increased by 820,000

So, more comics were sold. HOWEVER:

  • Dollar sales for all Diamond’s comics decreased by $6 million
  • Dollars sales for Diamond’s top 300 decreased by $8.9 million
  • Combined dollar sales for Diamond’s top 300 comics and trade paperbacks decreased by $5.22 million

While more units were sold, less money was coming in. WHY?

The weighted average price for Diamond’s top 300 comics decreased by 11 cents.

If we assume shops aren’t sitting on a ton of excess comics that aren’t being sold (and judging by monthly reporting of the estimated number of comics ordered, that’s not the case), the yes the problem shops are facing is that the top 300 comics aren’t bringing in the dollars that they were in 2015. Yes, it really is that simple.

In 2015 the weighted average price for a top 300 comics was $3.96 a 17 cent increase from 2014, while the top 300 comics average price was $3.85 in 2016 which is an 11 cent decrease.

I’m a big fan of Marvel’s comic series What If? and decided with this knowledge to play a little “what if” of my own.

“What If? 2015 Saw the Same Average Weighted Cover Price as 2014?” and the sequel “What If? 2016 Saw the Same Average Weighted Cover Price as 2015?”

Here’s the stats:

what-if-stats

As you can see, there’s a big difference. If 2015’s average price was the same as 2014’s there’d still have been an expansion in dollars sales, though not as much as there was in reality ($15 million less to be precise).

2016 is a totally different world. Instead of being a $8.9 million decrease from the previous year, we actually see dollars in increase by $15.871 million if cover prices remained the same (a $24.771 million swing).

We don’t know how many shops there are in the US, but here’s the possible gains.

what-if-gains

Instead of a loss, stores gained a significant amount of money in this scenario. Now, there is a flaw in this thinking in that most likely the units sold would not have been the same, they’d have likely decreased. But in this scenario, we’re keeping it as if everything else remained unchanged.

While 11 cents might not seem like a lot, you can see how much of a difference that can make. Cover prices do matter, and they matter… A LOT!

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5 comments

  • One thing though, those are all sales from Diamond to retailers. It doesn’t show sell-through to customers. Also, are those 2016 unit sales final numbers? What’s the effect of DC Rebirth returnability, Marvel overships and Loot Crate on unit sales?

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    • Correct, there is no sell-through data, but you’d think if sales were really that bad we’d be seeing a big dip in Diamond’s reported numbers. While it dipped slightly towards the end of year, that looks to be common.

      Returnability and overships, we don’t really know yet. We’ll see that as the months go on and individual issues are reported. For Loot Crate, I have tracked that, and other than what is sold to Loot Crate, there looks to be little to no gains for the comics long term at least at the LCS.

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      • Exactly. Loot Crate was what, an extra 300K units that didn’t really go to retailers?

        Because I’m a nut who actually thinks playing with Excel spreadsheets is fun, I copied Comichron’s Top 300 to an Excel chart, filtered to just DC/Marvel and sorted by dollar ranking. Made a column for est $ sales (cover price x est. units), then added another column with adjusted unit sales by formula (basically so dollar sales is equal to the book ranked above it which is to Marvel’s benefit). Result is around 400+K units Marvel overshipped which retailers probably won’t be able to sell. Then there are still the DC returns.

        Granted, I have no idea if there were any similar shenanigans bumping up 2015 sales numbers.

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        • To clarify, referring to December 2016 Comichron Top 300 Comics for overships.

          Another thing, apparently, Loot Crate numbers might be even higher. It seems both Big Trouble Little China #1 and Champions #1 were featured on Loot Crate. Civil War II #1 had variants in the Marvel Collector Corps Box.

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          • Yes, Loot Crate/Nerd Block/etc initial sales are not always reflected through Diamond’s numbers. Some are direct sales, which are not a part of this. Though, you can measure the after affects when something is featured and from what I can tell, there is no tails.

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