Friday, March 27, 2020

Three Comics for 15¢

Small neighborhood grocery stores back in the late 1960s and early 1970s would sell comic books. Those stores did not sell the comics in the usual way of one by one for the cover price. Rather, three comics were wrapped together in plastic and the package sold for fifteen cents. Comics in that time frame cost between 12¢ and 25¢ each, so three for 15¢ was a grand bargain!

But there was a catch.

The three comics in the plastic wrapper were purposely defaced (and I hope you'll agree that "purposely defaced" is a wonderful oxymoron similar in nature to the phrase "necessary impurity" that readers of Silver Age Green Lantern comics became so familiar with). "Purposely defaced" in this situation is not as bad as it sounds. The three comics were not ripped to shreds and there were not handlebar mustaches drawn on every character's face. No, the defacing of the comics was limited to the title of the comic being (neatly) torn off the front cover. The three-packed comics were otherwise perfect and this phenomenon led to the invention of the comics grading designation of "one-fourth coverless." I have even owned some 1950s comics that were 1/4 coverless; those comics are great for reading (just not as great for collecting since they are, after all, defaced).

Many thanks to hayfamzonders Robert Beerbohm and Joseph Lenius for sharing the accompanying page from 1953! It explains exactly why the three-packed comics were purposely defaced: wholesalers tore the title strip off the covers of comics that were unsold at the retail level and those strips were returned to the publisher so credit for the unsold could be received. The wholesaler was supposed to destroy (or "pulp") the rest of the defaced comic. The accompanying page does not mention that the wholesalers would sometimes not pulp the defaced comics, instead sending them on a path to be sold in the three-packs for 15¢.

I read MANY great comics that came to me by way of those three-packs! For 15¢!


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