The February 2009 comic book sales figures are now online at The Comics Chronicles — later than planned due to various circumstances, but nonetheless showing a market that seems to be hanging in there, at least as compared with the general economy and several recent winters in comics. While losing ground against the same month in 2008, the month nonetheless looks to be in range with many other dead quarter months this decade.
Notably, Top 300 unit sales, while down 10% versus last February, were up 5% over February 2004 — and only about a quarter of a million copies below the same category in February 1999. Click to see the sales charts for February.
Three titles topped the 100,000-copy mark. We see from the entries in February 1999 and 2004 listed below that top-sellers in the low six-figures is not unusual for the direct market at this time of year in the recent era. Without a major event pushing sales, it’s a regular issue of an X-title that has almost always led the market in these months.
As noted before on Newsarama, orders for the later printings of the Barack Obama Amazing Spider-Man #583 allowed the issue to perform an unprecedented feat in the Diamond Exclusive Age, repeating in the #1 position with orders of 148,800 copies. (That combines neatly with earlier orders to just over half a million copies, which, plus newsstand and subscription copies, would rank it above all Amazing Spider-Man issues except for those in the early 1990s.)
Were there repeat #1s before that? Before February 2003, reorders did not appear in sales charts, but it is possible that X-Men Vol. 2, #1, the best-selling comic book in direct market history, might have done the trick in August and September 1991. And it was before sales charts altogether, but the Whitman reprint waves of Star Wars #1-3 seem likely to have allowed those issues to be the top-seller in the market several times in 1977. Click to read more about possible precursors.
The month by the numbers:
TOP 300 COMICS UNIT SALES
February 2009: 5.63 million copies
Versus 1 year ago this month: -10%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +5%
Versus 10 years ago this month: -5%
YEAR TO DATE: 11.25 million copies, -14% vs. 2008
TOP 300 COMICS DOLLAR SALES
February 2009: $19.23 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: -2%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +26%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +27%
YEAR TO DATE: $38.42 million, -5% vs. 2008
TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
February 2009: $5.04 million
Versus 1 year ago this month, just the Top 100 vs. the Top 100: -9%
Versus 5 years ago this month, just the Top 100 vs. the Top 100: +45
Versus 10 years ago this month, just the Top 25 vs. the Top 25: +36%
YEAR TO DATE, comparing just the Top 100: $8.1 million, unchanged vs. 2008
TOP 300 COMICS + TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
February 2009: $24.27 million
Versus 1 year ago this month, just the Top 100 vs. the Top 100: -3%
Versus 5 years ago this month, counting just the Top 100 TPBs: +29%
Versus 10 years ago this month, counting just the Top 25 TPBs: +27%
YEAR TO DATE, comparing just the Top 100 TPBs: $46.52 million, -5% vs. 2008
OVERALL DIAMOND SALES (including all comics, trades, and magazines)
February 2009: $28.72 million ($31.2 million with UK)
Versus 1 year ago this month: -12%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +27%
YEAR TO DATE: $60.03 million, -11% vs. 2008
The average comic offered in the Top 300 cost $3.42; the average comic ordered cost $3.41.
The drop in new top-selling trade paperback orders be deceptive; as Brian Hibbs has noted elsewhere, Diamond's warehouse move in February appears to have taken some SKUs out of play for part of the month. We'll see what happens to the category in the Watchmen-movie month of March.
Looking at the top-selling comic books in the past:
February 2008's top seller was the new X-Force #1, with orders of 105,084 copies in the direct market. Check out the sales chart here.
February 1999's top-seller was Uncanny X-Men #367, with orders of 130,872 copies in the direct market. Check out the sales chart here.
Continuing the trend, February 1994's top seller was X-Men Vol. 2, #31, a consensus leader at both Diamond and Capital City Distribution. Capital City alone sold 104,550 copies of the top-seller, and total sales were likely in the 700,000 to-800,000-copy range.
February 1989's top seller at Capital City was Uncanny X-Men #245. Capital City sold 74,400 copies of the issue, and archival sources available to The Comics Chronicles confirm the actual sales at 413,600 copies across all channels.
Finally, February 1984's top comic book, both at Capital and likely everywhere else, was Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars #2, continuing the year-long mega-crossover.
Market share and other historical sales graphics can be found at http://www.comichron.com/vitalstatistics.html. Other recent features include historical Watchmen sales rankings, including estimated original shipping dates and distributor orders for the original 12 issues.
Writer of comics and books about comics, John Jackson Miller (http://www.farawaypress.com) has tracked comics sales figures for years. He’s developing an online archive for academic researchers at The Comics Chronicles (http://www.comichron.com).