All six printings of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ first appearance have been gaining momentum in the past year, but if you don’t know how to spot the differences, you might not be getting what you paid for.
TMNT is a brand that will never die. There have been numerous cartoons, movies, and an insane amount of action figures. Whether you were kid in the 1980s or are a kid today, everyone knows the names of the four turtles: Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Donatello. They are ingrained in American pop culture like few other brands have achieved. Every decade someone else reinvents them for large or small screens, and a new generation of fans is created, thus keeping them in the spotlight. It’s genius, really.
In the comics world, the ninja turtles are highly profitable for publishers. TMNT has been published under five different banners beginning in 1984 with co-creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s self-funded Mirage Publishing. It’s those original issues that have been booming since last year.
I’ll follow up with the state of the market for other key issues, but today’s focus is on their first appearance in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1. It became such a hit that Mirage went on publish six prints of TMNT #1, which is why the first issue needs a post all to itself.
A word of caution: be careful when buying a TMNT #1 because there are counterfeits floating on the market. You can read up on the forgeries on the Rare Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Comics blog, which is also where I found the concept art sketch above. However, there is a market for those counterfeits, so don’t turn your nose up at them, but don’t pay too much, either.
As far as telling which printing you have, it’s best to look on the inside cover where it’s noted which printing it is. The first also has an ad for Gobbledygook #1 (which isn’t considered an actual printed comic since it’s only folded copy paper stapled by hand) on the inside back cover. You can read more about it on a handy forum threat I came across on thetechnodrome.com.
If you have a first print TMNT #1, I envy you. There were only about 3,000 of these in the original print run, and that explains the insane prices. A 9.8 sold for $38,240 last May.
Since only a small percentage of collectors are willing to invest almost $40k in a comic, let’s skip to the lower grades. Of course, by lower grades, I’m referring to the 6.5 and 6.0, which are the lowest grades sold in 2018. Even these are expensive and still rising. That 6.5, which had averaged $2,320 in 2017, nearly doubled in fair market value when it sold for $4,000 last year. The 6.0 isn’t far behind as it averaged $3,877 in 2018. And those are the low grades for this issue, so let that sink in.
After the initial success, Mirage published a second print run for TMNT #1. While much cheaper than the first, the second is still highly collectible and pricey in the upper grades. A 9.6 sold for $1,500 in May 2018 after averaging $969 in 2017. A 9.4 has a 90-day average of $1,175 and sold for $950 in December after averaging $568 a year before.
If you opt for a lower grade second print, the price drops dramatically. A 5.0 had a 2018 FMV of $241 while a 4.5 brought in $301, which were the lowest grades sold in 2018.
It takes a keen eye to spot the subtle difference between the second and third prints, and I’ve included a helpful graphic from the Rare TMNT Comics blog. If you look closely at the second “T” in Turtles, there’s slightly more blood splatter in the third print.
Prices for the third print are understandably lower than those of the first and second print runs, but it’s still a comic on the rise. A 9.8 had averaged $594 in 2017, but it jumped to $863 last year. The most recent sale from July was for $927. There’s a significant drop off in price between the 9.8 and the 9.6, which last sold for $400 earlier this month.
The lowest grade sold in 2018 was a 6.0, and one sold for $128 in November.
Eastman and Laird made it easier on collectors by the this point. After the first three prints are nearly indiscernible, the fourth print features an entirely new cover, so you don’t have to stress about getting scammed.
A 9.8 fourth print still brings a respectable (although more budget friendly) price at $300 following a November sale. The 9.6 averaged $98, while the 9.4 sold for $65 in December. Nothing below an 8.0 traded hands on eBay in 2018, and that copy went for $31 in October.
Is it just me or does Splinter look more like a cat on the cover of the fifth print? At any rate, the fifth print sells for more than the fourth print. The 9.8 brought $350 last May, and the 9.2 recently sold for $120 earlier this month. Drop all the way down to a 7.0, and its $43 price tag is still more than the fourth-print 8.0.
While technically listed as the sixth print, this special edition was released eight years after the booming success of TMNT #1. Prices for the special edition are more in line with the third print as a 9.8 sold for $500 in April 2017, and the 9.6 sold for $129 earlier that year.
Not many of the special editions are found on the market, and nothing lower than an 8.0 has ever been sold on eBay. That particular copy went for $33 in May 2016.