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Affordable TMNT Keys

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BY MATT TUCK

Seth Rogen is ushering the Ninja Turtles back to movie screens, and that will give those TMNT keys a spike. Just remember that there are more than those holy grail 1984 #1s.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cannot die. Since the original cartoon series first aired in 1987, the Ninja Turtles have been a pop culture mainstay that is reinvented for every generation since. Whether it's an awkward animatronics live-action show or even Michael Bay, nothing can keep TMNT down for long. 

Once again, the Turtles are returning to the silver screen for their second animated movie since 2007’s TMNT. This time, Nickelodeon is teaming with Seth Rogen’s Point Grey Pictures, and it will have Gravity Falls alum Jeff Rowe directing, Deadline is reporting.

After the polarizing Bay TMNT movies from 2014 and 2016, the turtle power was drained. While the films had their proponents, the movies were lambasted by critics and most fans. The first film received a 21% critics rating and a 50% from audiences, while Out of the Shadows was only marginally better with critics at 36%, though the audience score dropped to 46%. The result was clear: longtime TMNT fans wanted no more of Bay’s franchise.

While the movies were floundering, Nickelodeon struck gold with its series reboot from 2012-2017. That success was followed by another hit in 2018’s Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Based on Nick’s track record with the TMNT shows, an animated action-comedy sounds like a winning pitch, and that should have you wanting some Ninja Turtles keys.

It’s easy to think that those classic TMNT keys are well out of reach, and you’d be right. At this point, even a 4.5 first-print 1984 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 is nearly a $5k comic, and that’s based on the last sale in 2019. It could easily crack $6-$7k in today’s market. For that matter, a 5.0 second-print sells for over $1,400, and a third-print, mid-grade 7.0 just hit nearly $1,100.

What’s a Turtles fan to do? Luckily, we have you covered.

TMNT #1 FOURTH PRINT (1984)

No, this is not the same stylized, black, white and red cover as the first three prints. That likely keeps some buyers away, but you should put this one high on your Christmas-in-June list. This is the first cover appearance of the Turtles’ famous antagonist, the Shredder. For the bargain price of $200, you can have an 8.5. Dip the grade down to a 6.0, and the price tag falls to just $40. That is vastly undervalued for the first cover of such an iconic TMNT foe.

 

TMNT #1 FIFTH AND SIXTH PRINT (1984)

Unless you are willing to shell out thousands of dollars, those early printings of Mirage’s original TMNT #1 are just too expensive for your budget. That’s why you should dig deeper and aim for the later printings. 

The best part is that the differences in the first three prints’ covers is so subtle that it takes a keen eye to know which is which. If you have wanted one of your very own and thought it was unattainable, check this out: a 9.4 fifth printing earned $400 just last month. For those willing to stay out of near-mint territory, you can have one for under $200.

Personally, I would aim for the sixth print “special edition” from 1992. Not only do you get the cheapest of the lot, but it features the same artwork as prints one, two, and three. A sixth-print 9.2 last sold for $478 in April, while a 6.5 brought $97. That’s right; you can own a TMNT #1 for less than $100. How cool is that?

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES ADVENTURES #1 (1988 LIMITED SERIES)

Here you have the first comic featuring the Ninja Turtles in their iconic red, yellow, purple, and blue belts and masks straight from the ‘87 cartoon that made them pop culture icons. TMNT collectors know this one has been hot all year thanks to the critical darling The Last Ronin. Once the news of the new animated movie spreads far and wide, it will get even more expensive.

At the moment, the 9.8 will cost you nearly $1k. It currently has a 90-day fair market value of $1,084, though the last copy sold went back down to $870. However, if you sacrifice on the grade and fall back to an 8.0 or below, you can expect to spend closer to the $150 range, but that will likely push toward $200 very soon, what with the movie news. 

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES ADVENTURES #1 (1989 ONGOING SERIES)

TMNT Adventures from 1988 too pricey? Ease over to the next best thing, the first ongoing TMNT title from Archie Publications. Not only do you get a TMNT #1, but you get the added bonus of the cartoon-era Shredder on the cover in one of his early appearances. 

Even if you go for the 9.8, you are still saving money compared to other #1s. That particular high grade will set you back $300, which is a better bargain than the #1 from the limited series. A 9.6 will bring that price tag down to the $150 zone, while anything up to a 9.2 stays outside the triple digits.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #53 (1992)

The final entry on today’s list falls into the speculative category. TMNT #53 features the first full appearance of Karai, Shredder’s adopted daughter/granddaughter, depending on who’s telling the story. She has been featured in the 2007 TMNT animated movie, and she played a major role in the 2012 Nickelodeon series reboot. While there are no details about the plot of the upcoming movie, the odds are good that Karai will make another appearance on the silver screen. She could even be the primary antagonist.

This is a good time to buy. Last year, the 9.8 had an average of $297, and one sold for as much as $485. Out of just three copies sold this year, it has steadily declined from $400 in February to $250 on May 25. Fall back to the 9.6, and the price is cut by over $100.

SO MANY KEYS

With all the attention on 1984’s TMNT #1, it is easy to overlook the many Ninja Turtle keys. Depending on the characters featured in the new film, any one of those could light up the market very quickly. This is your time to make a wish list and track those FMVs. You never know which ones will suddenly take off and be the next hot comic.

Matt Tuck is the author of the novel, Lost Bones of the Dead. He is also a teacher, freelance writer, comic collector, and an international man of mystery. You can follow him on his Facebook page, The Comic Blog.



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