How To Tell if TMNT #1 Is a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or Counterfeit Printing Using Only the Front Cover – Three Easy Steps



There aren’t many comic books as iconic as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 from Mirage Studios; a 40-page indie book that launched what has become one of the most recognizable franchises in the world. The first three printings of TMNT #1 (1984, 1984, & 1985 respectively) are oversized and each printing has the same cover artwork, making it tricky to determine which printing is which simply by the cover.

TMNT #1 – 1st, 2nd, & 3rd Printings

Of course, there are multiple interior indicators that can be used to properly identify each of the printings but that only works on books that can be opened and investigated. Due to their ever-rising values, many TMNT #1 books are graded and encapsulated so their interiors can no longer be seen. And yes, a graded book should (and typically does) already have the correct printing determined and listed on the grading label. However, mistakes do sometimes happen and there’s no shortage of scammers out there that would switch out a 1st printing with another printing. Plus, don’t forget about counterfeits – they exist and the ones from the 80’s are very well made. Given the value of TMNT #1, wouldn’t you want to be absolutely sure which printing it is? Having a way to correctly identify the printing of TMNT #1 using the front cover simply provides extra peace of mind.

One fairly common cover identification method is to use the shade of red that appears on the cover (1st & 2nd printings dark/rich red; 3rd printing lighter red/pinkish; Counterfeit deeper, almost hot pink/maroon). While this can be a decent indicator to start with, it has limitations – mainly because it requires direct comparison to a different printing copy in order to be most accurate. Another limitation to this method is with the quality of the cover pictures being viewed and variations in how they were created/taken. The equipment used to make the images along with lighting differences, over/under exposure, or low/high resolution can cause the colors to appear lighter or darker than they really are. And don’t forget about altered images – it’s abundantly simple and easy for any picture to be edited, enhanced, and modified so it’s hard to put too much trust in the color identification method. Ultimately, the color identification method is best suited for when you’re viewing a book in person and have a different printing of TMNT #1 to compare it to.

TMNT #1 – 1st, 2nd, 3rd, & Counterfeit

There is, however, a very accurate and simple process that can be used to correctly identify the printing of TMNT #1 (as well as the Counterfeit) using only the front cover. This easy method requires only three key areas of the cover to be examined and, when viewed in conjunction with each other, provides a sure-fire way to distinguish between them. Here’s an overview of the three step process:

  1. The middle “T” of TURTLES in the title at the top.
    • Is there a single red blood spot or are there multiple blood spots? 
  2. The top right corner of the building positioned directly above Raphael.
    • Is there a tiny black spot above the building or is it missing?
  3. The shadow of Shredder’s hand in the bottom left corner.
    • Is there fine cross-hatching or is it missing (i.e., all black)?

TMNT #1 – 1st, 2nd, 3rd, & Counterfeit – Cover Identifiers

Using the aforementioned process as your guide, here’s the key to determining the printings of TMNT #1:

1st Printing

  1. Single red blood spot in the middle “T” of TURTLES in the title at the top.
  2. No tiny black spot above the corner of the building positioned directly above Raphael.
  3. Fine cross-hatching in the shadow of Shredder’s hand in the bottom left corner.

2nd Printing

  1. Single red blood spot in the middle “T” of TURTLES in the title at the top.
  2. Tiny black spot above the corner of the building positioned directly above Raphael.
  3. Fine cross-hatching in the shadow of Shredder’s hand in the bottom left corner.

3rd Printing

  1. Multiple blood spots in the middle “T” of TURTLES in the title at the top.
  2. No tiny black spot above the corner of the building positioned directly above Raphael.
  3. Fine cross-hatching in the shadow of Shredder’s hand in the bottom left corner.

Counterfeit

  1. Single red blood spot in the middle “T” of TURTLES in the title at the top.
  2. No tiny black spot above the corner of the building positioned directly above Raphael.
  3. No fine cross-hatching (i.e., all black) in the shadow of Shredder’s hand in the bottom left corner.
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