Fan Spending

By | Monday, October 03, 2022 Leave a Comment
One of the essays in Theorizing Fandom focused on the results of some surveys sent out among comic book fans. Much of it was fairly standard of what you (or, at least, I) might expect about gender, age, genre preferences, etc. But one thing that stood out was that the researchers had asked about spending on "curatorial supplies" -- the stuff that people use to actually store their comics. Annual spending was, on average, just over $70 per person and broke down thus:
Item purchasedPercentage of respondents who purchased this item
comic bags84%
long & short boxes60%
backing boards36%
mylar sleeves21%
title dividers13%
otherless than 10%
It doesn't cite exactly when this survey was conducted. The book came out in 1998, but the authors note that this particular essay was an extension of a paper presented in 1992, suggesting the bulk of the research was done in the 1990/1991 timeframe. (Making the $70 figure closer to $160 in today's terms.)

I found the breakdown fascinating from a couple perspectives. I would have figured long box purchasers to be closer to being on par with bag and sleeve ones. I'm also surprised to see title dividers and labels as high as they were as well. I'm sure the ever-increasing prevalence of home computers since 1990 has decreased labels sales at least somewhat, but bear in mind that these are purchasing habits from at least a few years prior to the speculator bust.

Another point brought up in the essay was that 100% of their respondents were male. Which led to an unintentionally amusing side-discussion about why there aren't more female readers. <sarcasm>  It was astonishing because, after all, Marvel had Storm as the leader of the X-Men and they also publish a Barbie comic! </sarcasm>  (For the record, it was then-president Terry Stewart who was dumb-founded; the researchers pointed to the "dominance of male heroes and action-oriented themes...")

The comics industry and landscape has changed pretty radically since the early 1990s. Trade paperback and hardcover collections were much less common, some spending has shifted to digital, and the young adult and manga markets were virtually non-existent. Not to mention that there was that whole comic collectibilty bubble that burst in the late '90s as well! So while that data is definitely interesting and insightful, it's also inherently dated. As far as I'm aware, I haven't seen anyone who's conducted similar research since then, but I think it would be even more insightful to have a snapshot of that current data, both to see where things stand but also to plot the changes over time.
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