Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 1984

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 First Print May 1984

The First Comic Book from Mirage Studios

Published: May, 1984

Print run: 3000 copies

Total on CGC census: 486

Recent sale: $6,600 CGC 9.6

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 Cover

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1

The one that started it all: the May, 1984 original first printing of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1, by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird.  The renowned pair of artists came together sharing a mutual inspiration from legends Jack Kirby and Frank Miller.  The idea for the TMNT was sparked by the comedic concept of a turtle dressed in a mask and nunchakus which Eastman sketched during a brainstorming session.  They then elaborated that first concept drawing into a team of four, and the TMNT were born.  The pair were so excited by their concept, and convinced of its potential, that they used a $500 tax refund plus a $700 loan from Eastman’s uncle (who is thanked in the top left corner of the interior cover), to self-publish their first-ever comic book.

Original concept sketch by Kevin Eastman that ultimately led to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Original concept sketch by Kevin Eastman that ultimately led to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

To print it, $1200 in hand, they turned to the publisher of their local TV schedule giveaway magazine, who ended up printing it at the same oversized 7 3/8” x 10 7/8” size as the magazine.  That’s why there’s all that extra black space in the margins of the first issue… it’s the difference in size over a standard comic book (the next few issues would continue to be printed at this larger-than-normal size, with cover art that made use of the entire space).  Other than the red color used in the cover, the entire book was black-and-white; and the paper used for the interior pages was cheap newsprint — those choices helped to keep the cost down. The initial print run of the first issue was a mere 3,000 copies.  The interior back cover of the first printing has an ad for ”Gobbledygook” while the interior back cover of the second and third printings have an advertisement for t-shirt iron-ons.

Gobbledygook #1 1984 — Not a Comic Book

Gobbledygook #1, 1984 - not a comic book

Gobbledygook #1, 1984, was thought for years to be an actual comic book, but was actually just xerox photocopies on legal-size paper folded in half and stapled by hand.

More about Gobbledygook:  If you had sent in a copy of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 to CGC Comics for grading prior to 2004, you might have been surprised when you received the book back to find that it was not credited with the first appearance of the turtles on the label. That’s because prior to 2004, Gobbledygook #1 was credited industry-wide (both at CGC and in the various price guides) as containing that key first appearance. Yet, CGC had never been sent any original copies for grading, and throughout the industry people would swear they had never even seen one or only seen a photocopy. But Mirage cleared up the confusion, explaining that Gobbledygook was not actually a printed comic book — instead, it was made on a xerox copier and stapled together by hand. That’s not to say that original copies aren’t very highly collectible… but they are still just (literally) xerox copies, not an actual comic book with a printing date. That means anybody with an original copy, a photocopier, and some vintage 1984 paper could churn out forgeries today that would be indistinguishable from the original photocopies (given the frighteningly high level of forgeries of TMNT #1 as I will discuss further, collectors should likewise be extremely wary of shelling out big bucks for Gobbledygook; I don’t know how even a professional grader could realistically certify what is a true original copy). So in 2004, the industry changed over to recognizing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 as containing the first appearance of Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, Donatello, Splinter, and Shredder. Trivia: Michelangelo’s name was originally misspelled Michaelangelo

Collecting this Comic Book

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 Cover


Comic Link said of this book: ”No other comic book from the past 25 years has had a greater overall impact on the hobby and on popular entertainment than this first issue from 1984. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles spawned an entertainment and marketing machine that continues to this very day to churn out everything from blockbuster movies to breakfast cereal and action figures. This quirky little independent issue also changed the way that collectors and investors thought about the hobby of comic book collecting.”

A warning note to collectors about forgeries: the 2nd and 3rd printings had a note on the interior front cover just under where Quentin Eastman is thanked, indicating ”second printing” or ”third printing” but other than that line, the interior front covers are identical to that of the first printing. Some copies have surfaced where that extra line has been bleached out, making it look as if it is a first printing.

There are also known forgeries that look the same as a true first printing to the untrained eye, but do not use the original cheap newsprint for the interior pages. When I first composed this blog entry in July 2011, CGC had graded 6 counterfeit copies, showing up on the census as “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – COUNTERFEIT” and I wrote, “one can imagine the sinking feeling six unlucky collectors felt when they got their graded book back, after being so happy to have won their copy at auction on eBay or someplace.” As I write today, updating this blog entry on March 3, 2014, another two counterfeit copies now appear on the census, bringing the total to 8. So, good advice to collectors shopping for this issue is to stick with CGC graded copies which have been checked and verified by the professionals at CGC. It is risky to invest the thousands of dollars the higher grade copies of this book go for, only to send it in to CGC and get back a label indicating it is a counterfeit copy, but if you must buy an ungraded copy, be extremely wary and cautious.

Here’s what an example graded copy looks like:

Example CGC Graded copy of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1

Example CGC Graded copy of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1

TMNT #1 First Print — Value

The low print run, black cover, cheap interior newsprint paper, and passage of time has caused high grade copies of this comic book to be extremely hard to come by. As of March, 2014, CGC had graded a total of 486 of them, and just 87 copies are graded a 9.4 or higher.

As of this writing, a recent sale of a CGC 9.6 graded copy was $6,600.  That also happens to be the exact value attributed to this comic in this grade, by the most popular online price guide.  As of this writing, the ComicsPriceGuide values this comic in the various grades, ungraded versus graded, as follows:

teenage mutant ninja turtles 1 first print may 1984 price guide value

Values given to this issue in various grades by ComicsPriceGuide as of this writing

Sources & Resources

Mirage’s eBay Page (if any copies remain in Peter Laird’s personal collection, this is where they would be sold):

Mirage’s Origin Story: www.ninjaturtles.com/origin/origin.htm

Mirage’s TMNT #1 Page: www.miragelicensing.com/comics/mirage/volume01/01/01.html

Recalled Comics TMNT #1 Page: www.recalledcomics.com/TeenageMutantNinjaTurtles1.php

Comic Book Database TMNT #1 Page: www.comicbookdb.com/issue.php?ID=27751

CGC Census Page: www.cgccomics.com/census/index.asp

Collectors interested in TMNT #1 should also know about the Graphic Fantasy Fanzines, another independent comic (Ajax Comics) featuring the first appearance of one of the IGN top 100 superheroes, and yet, it is so unknown and rare that most readers of this sentence will never have heard of or seen a copy!


4 thoughts on “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 First Print May 1984

  1. chris says:

    love the rare misprints however there was another not listed here and most are unaware teenage mutant ninja turtles v2 #13 there was a recall after the issue was printed with cover backwards. a corrected cover came after a recall. just thought to add some information.

  2. joseph george says:

    I have a first print #1 TMNT copy, I bought in 1987-88( can’t remember) when I was 14 years old. I paid 350$ for it then, and it’s signed by both Eastman and Laird. You just made my day!

  3. Kelly says:

    I have a Solson Publications MICHAELANGELO TMNT Martial Arts Authorized Training Manual No. 2 The Art of Nunchaku, which has a misprinted cover. Turtle skin color is yellow instead of green. Has this misprint surfaced anywhere else?

    • I have come across a copy of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Training Manual #2 (Michaelangelo) printed without red ink, and another one printed without green ink. The CGC census shows zero copies of #2 have ever been turned in for grading, but I suspect their treatment of this book with a color missing would mirror their treatment of the 1986 “How To Draw Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (also published by Solson, and having the same type of printing error where one color was omitted — in that case yellow). These Solson printing errors have actually been the most frequently asked question I’ve gotten since creating this blog. At this point I’ve gathered enough information on treatment by grading companies to make a post on the topic, which I intend to do soon.

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