In 1955, to get around the newly created Comics Code Authority, EC Comics shifted their comic Mad to a magazine format. The irreverent magazine that threw tomatoes at just about everything would remain in publication for more than 60 years. Let’s take a look at the key issues of Mad in the magazine format that collectors should be seeking.

First Magazine Issue

William Gaines, owner and publisher of EC comics, knew that he had to get around the Comics Code Authority if he wanted Mad, his humor magazine that skewered everything from cultural trends to Hollywood to politics, to survive. So, beginning with Mad #24, cover dated June 1955, he switched the format of the nearly three-year-old comic to that of a magazine. This first magazine issue is also the first key of the more than 500 issues published until 2018. There are 207 graded copies. The most common grade is 6.5. The most recent sale was in a January 16 Hake’s auction for $324. That’s down nearly 50% from its peak of $600 set in September 2022. Clearly, Mad #24 has taken a hit since the boom times, making copies of this key issue much more affordable.

Alfred E. Neuman

The Mad magazine mascot is none other than the beloved Alfred E. Neuman. He graced the cover of Mad for the first time on Mad #30. There are 111 graded copies, none of which have sold this year. The most common grade is 7.0, and in that grade the last sale occurred in a September 2022 eBay auction for $650. The prior sale was in a June eBay fixed price sale for $190. We can see that this issue responded well during the boom, but we don’t yet know how much it may have crashed since. Keep an eye out for this key issue as prices will likely have dropped.

Comics Crossover

One of the cultural touchstones of the mid-1960s was the Batman TV show. Mad ran a parody of the show in its September 1966 issue – Mad #105 – and the caped crusader and Alfred E. Neuman in the guise of the boy wonder were featured on the cover. There are only 20 graded copies. The last sale was a 6.0 going for $175 in a January 2023 fixed price sale. The highest price paid was $546 for a 9.6 graded copy all the way back in 2004. While it was down about $100 in a 2020 sale, somewhere in the $500 range is what you’ll likely have to pay to get a 9.6. There are only 20 graded copies and the crossover appeal for Batman comic collectors keeps this one from dropping too low.

Slamming the 1970s

Two issues from the 1970s are considered keys for Mad collectors. The first is Mad #166, cover dated April 1974. The cover features the derogatory hand gesture known as the middle finger that has since become a foregone conclusion for anyone who has been cut off in traffic to use. The last sale was for a low 4.5 grade, which went for just $20 in September 2021. The prior sale, and the highest, was $315 for a 9.6 in 2013. There are only 35 graded copies and it’s rare to see this one go up for sale, so expect a much higher price point if any of the higher graded copies come up in an auction or eBay sale.

The other key from the 1970s is Mad #196. This January 1978 issue features Star Wars on the cover and as its main movie parody. There are 34 graded copies, and the most recent sale occurred on eBay for a slashed $299 on January 31 – a 9.6 graded copy. A 9.4 sold in May 2023 for $325, so we’re clearly seeing a bit of a course correction here. As with the Batman issue, fans of Star Wars help keep prices higher in comparison to other issues of Mad.

1990s Keys

Two issues of Mad from the early 1990s are considered keys for very different reasons. By the 1990s, sales of Mad had begun to seriously decline. Competition from movies and television and changing tastes among the older elementary school kids to young adults that were such a large part of the magazine’s demographics were the primary reasons for dropping sales. The December 1990 issue is a perfect example. Mad #299 was the first to feature The Simpsons on the cover, a television show with the same irreverent style toward everything and targeting the same demographic, but one that appeared on televisions throughout the country on a weekly basis, animated and in color. What makes this issue a key is its scarcity. There are only three graded copies, only one of which has ever sold. That was a 9.8 going for $150 in March 2023. With that low census count, don’t be surprised if prices are even higher when/if another copy goes up for sale.

Mad #301, cover dated March 1991, featured New Kids on the Block, the first of a string of boy bands that dominated the music charts on and off for the next 25 years. With their legion of fans, it’s no surprise that there are 25 graded copies of this issue. The highest sale was a slashed $200 for a 9.6 in a January 24 eBay sale, making Mad #301 the most valuable issue from the 1990s.

Final Issue

Mad would eventually be sold to DC comics. Sales continued to drop as newsstand sales for all periodicals plummeted. Issues became harder and harder to find, and the rise of the internet and social media made the subject matter seem tame while also lacking in timeliness. Mad couldn’t keep up with the changing society it had skewered for more than 60 years. In April 2018, the final issue of the beloved magazine hit the stands – Mad #550. There are only four graded copies and none have ever come up for sale.


Mad left a huge mark on American society, with issues from the 1950s to the late-2010s trampling anything and everything that the writers and artists found to be worth at least a chuckle. The magazine gave us some timeless characters – Alfred E. Neuman and Spy vs. Spy, among others – and launched and continued the careers of many writers and artists. At its peak, circulation was more than 2 million, but changing tastes and the slow demise of print magazines led to its eventual shuttering. Which is a shame; at its very best, Mad was the pinnacle of American satire.

Do you collect issues of Mad magazine? What are some of your favorites? Let us know below.