Which Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Comics Are Worth the Most?

Which Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Comics Are Worth the Most?

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is, to just about everyone who was raised in the 80s and 90s, an institution. When they first launched as a joke-based indie title from a small publisher, they were a dark and gritty hit; years later, with cartoons, media tie-ins, movies, and much more, they've become an enduring classic. Today, they're still popular, with a sequel to the hit The Last Ronin coming soon.

Hype with new media always brings with it nostalgia for the old, and collectors are turning their eyes toward the vintage TMNT comics. What are the most valuable books of the line? 

Table of Contents

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 (1984)

It should come as no surprise that the first issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is the most valuable. The turtles, first introduced as something of a joke, were made to be a team that mashed up Bruce Lee's martial mastery and something as un-martial as you could possibly get: the turtle. And yet, somehow, the right combination of art, tone, and interest happened to stick. It's pretty rare that the first issue – the key for the characters and the book – isn't the most valuable out of all of them, and the Turtles are not ones to buck this kind of trend.

TMNT #1 is possibly one of the most iconic of all the Ninja Turtles books. The cover, with silhouetted black, white, and red as its only colors, makes for a bold centerpiece for any Turtles collection. It's also hands-down the most valuable comic book of the 1980s and the copper age in general.

A few years ago, this book topped out at $90,000. Except that sale was a little questionable and may not have been truly a real sale. It still helped the line, though, and several other sales in the $50,000 range cemented it as a valuable book. But that's not the whole story.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 has sold recently for almost double that figure. Several sales over the last year have seen CGC-graded 9.8s (just about the best you can possibly get for an indie book this old) for around $100,000 to $132,000. 

The actual record sale of a 9.8 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 happened during the pandemic gold rush. That copy sold for the now-record $245,000. That's some big money!

It's a little unfortunate for any investors who bought over $150,000. Turtles interest is enduring, but it has waned a little, and it will likely be quite a few years before some of the spikes from the pandemic will be truly matched. We're not likely to see another quarter-mil sale any time soon, unless a mythical 10.0 surfaces. In that case, of course, all bets are off.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1

Famous first edition note: The record-setting copy of TMNT #1 wasn't just the first chapter of the now-storied saga; it was the first printing of the first issue. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 has gotten three printings, and the first is by far the most valuable. The second printing is identical on the outside, but the inside of the back cover is missing the ad that the first printing has. The third printing is also externally identical and has the ad, but it is clearly labeled as the third print run on the inside cover.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing. As it turns out, when the outside is identical, it still makes a great showpiece either way. If you're interested in having a copy to display as the headliner of your collection, a cheaper second or third printing has all the panache but less of a burn in the wallet area. Of course, if you're in it for the value, that's another story.

So, what will the second and third printings run you? The second printing averages around $5,000 for a high-grade copy. The third printing is around $1,700. There are also a dozen more printings after – things like the Loot Crate printing, the Free Comic Book Day printing, the Sixth Print, the variant covers on reprints, and more, but all of these are under $100. That's because they all have visibly different covers.

Turtles fans and comics investors may be excited by the high number at the top of the list, but unfortunately, it's probably not surprising to learn that nothing else quite reaches these kinds of heights.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #2 (1984)

Clocking in at number two on the most valuable Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles books is… Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #2! Didn't see that coming, did you? Okay, well, you probably did.

This book has another iconic cover, with one of the recurring Turtles opponents, the Mousers, shiny and chrome, reflecting the visage of the turtles as they confront it. Who knew that these little robots, designed for pest control and thievery, would become such iconic and recurring mooks? 

Much like TMNT #1, TMNT #2 had multiple print runs. Also like #1, #2's first printing is much more valuable. The first printing can be found for around $1,600 or so, possibly as much as $3,500 if you have a high-grade copy. The second print run is available for under $200 as we speak, though high-grade copies can reach almost $800 if you're lucky.

Unfortunately for collectors and comic fans, when the second-most-valuable book in a series is as low as $1,500, you're not making retirement money when you find one in your attic. It's not a bad chunk of change if you have one, but it's a far cry from the peak of #1.

On the plus side, while #2 did get a bit of a bump during the pandemic, just like everything else, it hasn't dropped by a whole lot since. It didn't have as far to fall, and with an average price variance in the hundreds of dollars just based on the day of the week, it's remarkably stable.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 Third Printing

The third printing is also available and is unique compared to #1's third printing in that it has a completely different cover starring April O'Neil and the turtles (all with red eye masks since the colors weren't as much of a thing yet) in more muddled colors. It's not really as much of a stand-out showpiece as the original cover art, at least not in many people's opinions.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #3 (1984)

Continuing right on down the list, we have issue #3 of the original Turtles comics. This one shares the blue-silver color scheme of #2, but instead of the stark reflection off of cold metallic robots, #3 is darker and shows a VW Bus (a frequent star in Turtles media in various forms) and a city vignette with cops chasing the turtles.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3

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This one also has multiple printings, but in this case, both the first printing and the second are valuable. The first printing is just the standard print run and tends to be worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $2,000 these days. 

Meanwhile, the second printing is known as the Comic-Con variant or the Laird Photo variant. See, both printings have the same art but a bit different inking. One of the buildings in the cityscape is Laird Photo, a nod to the co-creator of the Turtles, Peter Laird. The Laird Photo version has the sign lit up more in white than a subtle blue, so it stands out more. This version is actually more valuable since it's a convention edition and was thus rarer. It's more in the ballpark of $3,500, putting it on par with a good copy of issue #2.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #4 (1984)

Working our way through the comic, issue #4's first printing is also one of the more valuable books to star the turtles. This one has an all-green cover with the turtles, and there's not a whole lot to say about it. No weird variants, no misprinting, no… alright, I'm lying, but I'll get to that.

The standard, normal TMNT #4 is worth around $1,300 these days, when you're looking at a high-grade copy. If you want something that's just "pretty good" and can round out a collection, you can easily get one under a grand and still have an acceptable showpiece.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 4

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The second printing of TMNT #4 is actually similar to #2's third printing in that it has an entirely different cover. In this case, though, it used the cover for an entirely different line: Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, another story they were launching around the same time. It's a very different cover with full color turtles (still with all-red masks) and a blue-purple background that makes it pretty stand-out on a shelf. This misprint can be found for around $2,000.

Of course, because of the mistake, IDW issued a corrected second printing with the real alternate cover. This one is also full color with the turtles, but it has a more jubilee-esque sparkling background with softer coloring. It's less valuable, at around $1,500, for a good copy.

Unique and Special Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

To round out the list, there are a few uniquely interesting and valuable copies of some TMNT books out there that can be worth a pretty penny.

The first is the 1986 comic Turtlemania Special #1. This book isn't quite a normal comic book but really more of a one-off special that features preview artwork, concept art, and even a fold-out poster. This book can be found pretty easily for just a few bucks, but it also has two special versions. One was the Silver Cover edition, which was signed and numbered; only 100 of them exist. Finding one of these is a relative rarity and can run you as much as $9,000 for a copy.

But that's not all. There was also the Gold Cover edition. This orange-yellow version wasn't just signed; it had a unique sketch on the back, and only ten were ever made. RecalledComics has photos of nine of the sketches, with #5 still missing. These are rare enough that it's hard to put a definitive price on them, but they're probably easily the second most valuable TMNT comic after TMNT #1.

Second on this list is a rarity in terms of valuable comics: a relatively modern comic that is valuable. Of course, it's artificial scarcity at play. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #100, released on the 25th anniversary of the Turtles, included a bunch of different covers with artwork commissioned by a variety of artists. In particular, the one made by Peach Momoko was limited to 250 copies. These sell on eBay for somewhere between $500 and $1,500, depending on the condition. They're also likely to go up in price, so they're a good target for collectors and investors.

Unique and Special Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Comics

Third, and one I've mentioned a few times in this blog before, is the Counterfeit TMNT #1. Comics counterfeiting isn't terribly common (since the comics that would be valuable to counterfeit are largely impossible to do accurately enough to trick people willing to spend the money, and the comics that can be copied aren't worth doing), but for whatever reason, sometimes counterfeits happen. In the case of TMNT #1, the counterfeits were contemporary, meaning they're also old and likely even rarer than the real comic by now. Since they're a piece of history and, in a sense, a real collector's item, CGC even grades them, and people have sold them for at least $7,000 before.

Are you likely to have a real fake TMNT #1? Probably not. Are you sitting on a goldmine if you do? Also, probably not. While the real first printing of issue #1 is worth a lot, the counterfeit is closer in price to the reprints, and while it's still valuable and still interesting, there are plenty of people who don't actually want a fake, no matter how historically relevant it is. Still, it's a fascinating quirk of comics history, and it's one I like to bring up when it's worth mentioning. 

So, do you have any awesome copies of TMNT issues, especially the early issues? If so, why not send us a few pictures? We're always interested in buying vintage comics, and even if you aren't quite up for selling, we can at least tell you what they'd be worth so you can be well-informed. Just click "sell your comics" above for a free, no-obligation quote.

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