How many ‘Test Market’ Dell price variants exist? (104)

NOTE:  I updated the count of confirmed 15¢ variant price covers.  The number of confirmed 15¢ variant covers increased from 229 (published on 12/18/11), to 277 (published on 10/5/13), to the new total of 330 (published 1/1/15). The number of "Now 10¢" covers remains at 9. -Pat


In the late 1950’s, Dell published several regular issues with both 10¢and 15¢ cover prices and several Dell Giant issues with both 25¢and 30¢ cover prices.  According to Worthopedia,[1] these changes in price were regional price variations introduced to test the market for a broader price increase:

For an 18 month period (March 1957 to August 1958), every regular size Dell comic book had a 10 cent and a 15 cent variant. The 15 cent variants were sold in certain markets to test the feasibility of a price increase. These are rarer and much more challenging to collect than the highly touted Marvel cover variants of the 1970's.

I believe the date ranges was a bit wider than what is attributed above by one month on each side.  What is interesting here is that the statement “every regular size Dell comic book.”  Michelle Nolan described these price variants as an “experiment”:[2]

As much as I loved Dell Comics, it was pretty much lost to me as a newstand purchaser, when Dell went to 15¢ for some of its comics as an experiment in 1957. […]  My favorite Dell title, Uncle Scrooge, became 15¢ with #17 (May 57).  Or, at least, it did on the West Coast.  I am now told the West Coast was the primary scene of the experiment, and it lasted about a year.  My last 15¢ Uncle Scrooge from the 1950’s was #21(Mar-May 58).  Likewise, I have a mixture of 10¢ and 15¢ Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories, all purchased second-hand from the 1957-1958 period.

Based on the trends that I have found through my cataloguing effort, I believe the dates of the “test market” are from Feb 57 to Jul 58.  The origin of these price variants is mentioned in the ComicBase Forum (11/24/2007):[3]

My cover is exactly that of the Bambi #3 issue except that it has a 15 cent price. It is one of a series of rare Dell 15 cent variants issued during a roughly 18 month period in the late '50's. These were issued only in the San Francisco area as a price test. I have quite a few of these variants myself and have begun to upload photos for CB as I will for this issue.

The Bambi issue mentioned above is dated 4/56, so there are examples that date back even further than the dates given above, but these issues seem to be more sporadic.  Here I will focus on the large number of dual-priced issues that were published between Feb 57 and Jul 58 that I can confirm.  In the earlier blog “Are there any Dell variants?” I include a list of several other price variants, most of which are considered to be Canadian Editions.  Below is an example of these price variants for Daffy #11 (Oct-Dec 57).

Daffy #11 - 15¢ ‘Test Market’ Price Variant
(Courtesy mycomicshop.com)

Daffy #11 - 10¢ Issue

Dell published 587 issues Feb 57 and Jul 58 with a 10¢ cover price.  To date, I have confirmed 330 15¢ cover price variants of these issues -- 56% of the 10¢ issues include a 15¢ price variant during this time period.  A summary listing of these dual-priced issues is provided immediately below, showing that some issues, such as Daffy DuckUncle Scrooge, and Walt Disney's Comics and Stories have a 15¢ cover price variant for every issue published between Feb 57 and Jul 58.  It is possible that all comics published in this time frame have have a 15¢ variant as the ComicBase post above would suggest.  Having said this, there are some titles that have not had any 15¢ price variants discovered to date, including Henry, Popeye, and Rex Allen Comics.  It also seems plausible that there were some titles that did not participate in the 15¢ cover price experiment and the dual-pricing was not ubiquitous during this time period.


Title 15c 10c
Andy Panda 5 6
Angel 3 6
Annie Oakley and Tagg 3 6
Beetle Bailey 4 7
Ben Bowie 2 7
Buffalo Bill Jr. 1 2
Bugs Bunny 8 9
Cheyenne 2 4
Chip 'N' Dale 5 6
Cisco Kid 1 6
Comic Album 2 2
Daffy Duck 6 6
Dell Junior Treasury 1 3
Donald Duck 9 9
Flying A's Range Rider 1 6
Four Color Comics - Series 2 89 160
Fritzi Ritz 1 3
Gene Autry Comics - Series 2 3 6
Gunsmoke 3 4
Henry 1 6
I Love Lucy Comics 2 6
Indian Chief 2 6
Jace Pearson of the Texas Rangers 4 6
Jungle Jim 5 6
King of the Royal Mounted 4 5
Lassie 4 9
Little Iodine 1 6
Lone Ranger 5 18
Lone Ranger's Companion Tonto 1 6
Lone Ranger's Horse Hi-Yo Silver 4 6
Looney Tunes 13 18
M.G.M.'s Mouse Musketeers 5 6
M.G.M.'s Spike and Tyke 4 7
Marge's Little Lulu 15 18
Marge's Tubby 4 9
Mickey Mouse 8 9
Nancy 1 11
New Funnies 10 18
Popeye
6
Porky Pig 7 9
Queen of the West, Dale Evans
6
Rex Allen Comics
6
Rin Tin Tin 1 8
Roy Rogers and Trigger 4 17
Scamp 2 2
Sergeant Preston of the Yukon 4 6
Spin and Marty
2
Tarzan 16 18
Tip Top Comics 2 3
Tom & Jerry Comics 9 18
Turok Son of Stone 4 6
Tweety and Sylvester 4 6
Uncle Scrooge 6 6
Walt Disney's Comics and Stories 18 18
Woody Woodpecker 6 9
Wyatt Earp
1
Zane Grey's Stories of the West 5 6
Total Result 330 587

Another interesting variant that appears to be related to these 15¢ ‘test market’ price variants is the issues that have include “Now 10¢” on the cover.  An example of these cover variants are shown below for Chip ‘N’ Dale #15 (Sep 58).

Chip ‘N’ Dale #15 “Now 10¢” Cover Variant

Chip ‘N’ Dale #15 - 10¢ Issue

I have confirmed 9 of the 33 issues with a Sep 58 publication date have variant versions with “Now 10¢ “ on the cover (listed below), versus the price without the inclusion of "Now" on the cover.  This would indicate that the experiment concluded in the test regions and Dell was signaling a return to the prior 10¢ cover price.

Title #  Date
Chip 'N' Dale 15 09/58
Comic Album 3 09/58
Four Color Comics - Series 2 933 09/58
Four Color Comics - Series 2 934 09/58
Four Color Comics - Series 2 937 09/58
Four Color Comics - Series 2 938 09/58
Scamp 7 09/58
Uncle Scrooge 23 09/58
Walt Disney's Comics and Stories 216 09/58

There are also several examples of Dell Giant issues that carried both 25¢ and 30¢ prices during the time period from Feb 57 to Jul 58.  Dell published 39 Dell Giants with a 25¢ cover price during this time period.  Of the 39, I, with the extensive support from another Dell enthusiast, have confirmed 25 of these issues have a 30¢ cover price variant (64% of the issues).  The listing is found immediately below.  Like the 15¢ cover price variants, it is difficult to know if there are more of these variants, but it is likely that this list is incomplete and more will be located.  Note that I use the notation “DG” to indicate the title is a Dell Giant.


Title 25c 30c
DG - Abraham Lincoln Life Story 1
DG - Bugs Bunny's Christmas Funnies 1 1
DG - Bugs Bunny's County Fair 1 1
DG - Bugs Bunny's Vacation Funnies 2 1
DG - Cadet Gray of West Point 1 1
DG - Christmas in Disneyland 1 1
DG - Donald and Mickey in Disneyland on Tom Sawyer's Island 1 1
DG - Donald Duck Beach Party 2 1
DG - Golden West Rodeo Treasury 1 1
DG - Huey, Dewey and Louie Back to School 1 1
DG - Life Stories of American Presidents 1 1
DG - M.G.M.'s Tom and Jerry Picnic Time 1 1
DG - M.G.M.'s Tom and Jerry Summer Fun 1 1
DG - M.G.M.'s Tom and Jerry Winter Fun 1 1
DG - M.G.M.'s Tom and Jerry's Toy Fair 1 1
DG - Marge's Little Lulu and Tubby at Summer Camp 2
DG - Marge's Lulu and Tubby Halloween Fun 1
DG - Mickey Mouse Almanac 1 1
DG - Mickey Mouse in Fantasyland 1 1
DG - Mickey Mouse Summer Fun 1 1
DG - Moses and the Ten Commandments 1 1
DG - Nancy and Sluggo Traveltime 1
DG - Picnic Party 1
DG - Silly Symphonies 2 2
DG - Tarzan's Jungle Annual 2 2
DG - Uncle Scrooge Goes to Disneyland 1 1
DG - Vacation in Disneyland 1 1
DG - Western Roundup 6
DG - Woody Woodpecker's Back to School 1 1
Total Result 39 25

It is not known how many 15¢ ‘test market’ price variants were published relative to their 10¢ counterparts, but they do appear to be quite rare.  It is possible that all 587 issues published between Feb 57 and Jul 58 include both prices.  As more issues are confirmed, I will update this blog.



[2] Nolan, Michelle.  “The prices, they are a ‘changin’, Comic Buyer’s Guide, pp. 20-21, Jan 2012.

3 comments:

  1. The Dell 15¢ editions were sold in Arizona, California, and Nevada exclusively. This information is found in a 1958 Snow White Reissue campaign book sent to theaters; among the tie-ins offered was Four Color #382. A special poster with imprint area was offered by Dell to theaters willing to sell the comic book in their lobbies. Comics for the 3 named states were listed with the increased price.

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  2. David, this is great information. Could you scan a copy of the list and email or post it for me? --Pat

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  3. Pat, please email me so we can trade information on Dell price and cover variants. I'm the fellow you quoted from the ComicBase forums. ^_^ You can use cpu -at- mac -dot- obviousThingGoesHere.

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