Top 500 Comics & Trades for 2009, with Comichron estimates

by John Jackson Miller and T.M. Haley

Following up on our report on direct market sales for 2009, Diamond has released Top 500 charts for both comics and trade paperbacks for the year. Those charts appear here on Comichron, along with our own estimates for what each of those titles likely sold.

“Comic book and graphic novel sales through comic book specialty shops were extremely resilient in 2009, despite a down economy,” said Diamond CEO Steve Geppi in the news release, which also appeared prominently this morning in USA Today. “Overall, sales were almost on par with 2008 as publishers took great steps to create books that fans wanted to buy. We’re very optimistic for 2010, with some great projects already scheduled by publishers—and our annual Free Comic Book Day event on the first Saturday in May already shaping up to be a sales winner.”

Geppi’s remarks about 2009’s performance square up with Comichron’s analysis of the year, which found that the direct market was down 2%. What’s more, the releases of the Top 500 lists also reconcile nicely with our own tracking of where various issues should land, something we did a rougher version of in the comics of the decade chart. While Diamond did not publish indexes for these rankings — the yearly tables never have them — enough information about sales is known from past monthly rankings, actual publisher sales reports, and other sources to enable some educated guesses. Readers will find that the estimated final orders in the year for these comics exceed what was visible in the monthly charts; that’s because we’re making allowances for months in which reorders for items were not high enough to make the Top 300 lists.

The Barack Obama issue of Amazing Spider-Man led the sales chart, as we expected, with just over 530,000 copies sold in our estimation; Watchmen was the top trade with Diamond moving around 70,000 copies.

The analysis suggests the degree to which blockbuster issues contribute to the overall bottom line. The Top 500 comics combined sold between nearly 34 million copies, or almost 45% of all the copies sold in Diamond’s Top 300 charts each month. Again: Of the 3,600 comics that Diamond reported sales for, the Top 500 comics accounted for almost half the copies sold. When we look at dollars, we fin that the Top 500 comics accounted for around $116 million in sales, or, again 45% of the dollars in Diamond’s Top 300 each month.

The trade chart is also interesting. The Top 500 trades accounted for around 2.6 million copies sold, worth nearly $45 million. While this is 57% of the dollars that were reported in Diamond’s 12 monthly Top 300 lists this year, the pie for trade paperbacks in the direct market is much larger; the Top 300 trades lists monthly capture only about half of the dollars sold. The Top 500 trades for the year probably are closer to 30% of Diamond’s trade business.

Diamond also published year-end market shares, which also appear on our annual sales page; Marvel and DC’s dollar shares were similar to what they were last year. Boom and IDW picked up a point in dollar shares.

This is the first year Diamond has published year-end rankings for 500 items; in previous years, the rankings have included only 300 comics or, in earlier times, just the Top 100. Those tables, like the one for 2007, are going online over the next little while.

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