January 2017 comics sales estimates online; overships visible in charts (without affecting much)

Comichron’s estimates are now online for comics and graphic novels shipped in January by Diamond Comic Distributors, and while a number of elements make analyzing this month trickier than usual, the month’s $40.1 million performance doesn’t look too far out of line with what we’ve come to expect from winter months in the past when no blockbusters like Star Wars #1 were around. Click to see Comichron’s comics sales estimates for January 2017.

As noted here Friday, U.S. Avengers #1 topped the charts in a month that saw Marvel offer retailers a free 10% overship on its titles, essentially sending extra copies for free matched to their existing orders. This is reflected when dollar rankings are compared with what we might expect those rankings to have been by multiplying unit sales by cover price; fully 84 of Marvel’s 91 entries in the Top 300 have dollar rankings that are worse than we’d expect to see had all their copies all shipped at their regular discounts.

While overshipped copies for obvious reasons have no impact on the dollar market shares, they are counted toward the unit market shares and in the Top 300 lists, and that’s readily apparent from looking at the data. Marvel’s unit share was six points higher than its dollar share, and the gap was wider than the gap for DC; that is simply not possible given how many DC books are cheaper unless the effective wholesale price of Marvel’s comics is somehow less. Overships are one way of making that happen.

The other real tipoff is in the dollar rankings, which you can now see alongside the unit sales rankings in Comichron’s charts. In the era of $2.99 DC comics, Marvel’s dollar rankings have tended to be a good deal better than its dollar rankings. In January, much of that advantage was gone. You can really see the impact, however, by an experiment: if you multiply the number of copies sold of each title by cover price, you can project “expected dollar rankings.” The Diamond-reported dollar rankings of 84 of Marvel’s 91 titles in the Top 300 were worse than their expected dollar rankings, which, again, can only mean that either Marvel’s discount was much bigger last month, or that some of the copies were free.

For an example of the effect that removes cover-price from the equation, look to $3.99 Gwenpool #10, in 127th place; it sold about the same number of copies as the $3.99 DC book just above it and the $3.99 Image book just below it. Yet Gwenpool’s dollar ranking was 133rd place, while the other two books were at 108th and 112th. Those books didn’t have overships diluting their dollar rankings.


For a much less complicated confirmation of how free copies can impact the charts, there’s actually a unique example in Saga #41 in January. The Image comic book was produced in December with a cover printing error, and it appears from reports that most retailers received it; the book made the charts in December, and many of the error copies are now on eBay. In January, replacement copies were sent — evidently at no cost, because the dollar ranking of the issue was way up at 548th place. The fact that it appears in the rankings at all may attribute to retailers having paid regular wholesale price for a small fraction of those copies — reorders received after December issue’s cutoff.

(Interestingly, the number of replacement copies Diamond shipped in January was slightly smaller than the number appearing in December’s charts, even with reorders in play. One possible reason for this could be end-of-year churn in the retail base, a not uncommon time for it as a few operators always avoid going into a new tax year.)

So with the 10% overship in the charts, is there any point in trying to reverse-engineer the actual sales — sort of the reverse of what could be done with DC’s returnable titles to find out how many copies shipped? Ultimately, I don’t think it changes enough to be relevant — and, in fact, it’s not as straightforward in the overship case. While some seem to think all you need to do to arrive at the original “sold” number of copies is to subtract 10% from the total, that’s not the right approach.

Leaving aside that to get back to a number to which 10% has been added you must subtract 9.0909%, remember that comics are whole units that can’t be carved up into fractions. A 10% match on a 10-copy order is one copy, for sure — but on an order of, say, 14 copies, an additional copy will only be a 7% match, while on a 19-copy order, if it isn’t rounded up to two copies, an extra will only be a 5% match. It’s not the case that half would be over and half would be under, cancelling out such effects, because the number of copies ordered isn’t normally distributed (no pun intended). Retailers are more likely to have ordered a single copy on some books than to have ordered nine.

So a lot depends on how Marvel handled rounding — but it’s possible the full overship could have been either more or less than 10% depending on how things netted out.

So I’m not sure it’s worth doing. What we have now, instead, is the number of books on the market, which is the figure we’re usually trying to get to. There are charts on this site from many years gone by, and the transitory competitive issues from those times aren’t nearly as important to today’s readers as knowing how many books entered in circulation.

(UPDATE, later that morning): Retailer Ryan Higgins, owner of Comics Conspiracy in Sunnyvale, Calif., and host of the podcast of the same name, alerted me that the overship quantities were keyed to match one copy for orders of 1-10, two for 11-20, three for 21-30 and so on. That arrangement creates an interesting distribution in which on the overship ranges from a full 100% match on one copy to 20% by five copies — and then it very quickly trends downward toward 10% once you get into double digits.

So the overship’s contribution would be most pronounced on the titles most retailers were buying fewer than 10 copies of, which is why the effects are more visible the farther you go down the charts. It’s hard to see the presence of an overship on high-ranking Star Wars or IVX at all, for example. That means that it really wasn’t a 10% overship across the board, but a different number for every title, a function of the distribution of their orders ranging from the low teens, percentage-wise, for the best-selling titles, to something higher. A book with orders around 20,000 is likely to have something an overship somewhere in the neighborhood of 25%, depending on how the quantities ordered are distributed.)

The aggregate sales stats:

TOP 300
January 2017 7.03 million copies
1 Year Ago 6.41 million copies +10%
5 Years Ago 5.78 million copies +22%
10 Years Ago 6.7 million copies +5%
15 Years Ago 5.85 million copies +20%
20 Years Ago 8.64 million copies -19%
ALL Comics
Shipped in Month (Units)
7.57 million copies +7%
January 2017 $26.28 million
1 Year Ago $24.37 million +8%
5 Years Ago $19.82 million +33%
10 Years Ago $20.88 million +26%
15 Years Ago $16.74 million +57%
20 Years Ago $21.38 million +23%
ALL Comics
Shipped during Month (Dollars)
January 2017 (Top 300 GNs) $5.87 million
January 2017
(Top 100 GNs)
$3.77 million
January 2017
(Top 50 GNs)
$2.43 million
January 2017
(Top 25 GNs)
$1.69 million
Versus 1 Year
$7.96 million -26%
Versus 5 Years
Ago (Top 300)
$5.97 million -2%
Versus 10
Years Ago (Top 100)
$3.99 million -6%
Versus 15
Years Ago (Top 25)
$2.72 million -38%
ALL Graphic
Novel Shipped in Month (Dollars)
January 2017 (including Top
300 GNs)
$32.16 million
January 2017
(including Top 300 GNs)
$30.06 million
January 2017
(including Top 100 GNs)
$28.71 million
January 2017
(including Top 25 GNs)
$27.98 million
Versus 1 Year
$32.14 million 0%
Versus 5 Years
Ago (Top 300)
$25.8 million +16%
Versus 10
Years Ago (Top 50)
$24.87 million +6%
Versus 15
Years Ago (Top 25)
$19.46 million +57%
All Comics
& GNs Shipped in Month (Dollars)
January 2017 $40,102,888.00
Versus 1 Year
$41.52 million -3%
Versus 5 Years
$32.26 million +24%
Versus 10
Years Ago
$33.71 million +19%
U.S.Avengers#1  110,729 copies at  $3.99
Tomb Raider
2016 #12
 3,971 copies at  $3.99
New Comics
New Graphic
Novels Released
New Magazines
Total New
Print Items Released
Average Cover Price of Comics
in the Top 300
Average Cover
Price of Comics in the Top 300, weighted by orders
Average Cover
Price of Comics in the Top 25
Median Cover
Price of Comics in the Top 300
Most Common
Cover Price of Comics in the Top 300
There were 22 publishers with comics in the Top 300; more than usual, as is often the case for January — but far from a record. The late 1990s frequently saw 40 or more publishers making the Top 300 during the era of Marvel's bankruptcy-shortened slates. Updates have also been made to relevant pages about Top Comics By Month, 300th Place Comics By Month, and Average Cover Prices by Month Be sure to read our Flashback column for January to see how the month's book's compare against the month from 5, 10, and even 50 years ago. The February column is already up, as well — and you can also see our provisional end-of-year report for 2016.

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