We've already come to terms with the fact that both Marvel and DC are going to release their more popular titles in hardcover format first, before eventually releasing them in trade paperback form. This way, they can charge more money for the hardcover (typically about five bucks more) and then hopefully still get money for the trade paperback collection down the road (unless the hardcovers are special ones, like DC's Absolute Editions, it will be the trade paperback versions of the collections that will be kept in stock on their back lists).
However, Marvel seems to have taken a subtle new approach now - not just charging more money for hardcover versions of their more popular titles, but now simply charging more money PERIOD for their more popular trade collections.
A popularity tax, if you will.
Note Civil War.
It's probably Marvel's most popular back list item PERIOD right now, and it actually avoided the Premiere Hardcover tag initially, with Marvel releasing it first as a trade paperback, but with a trade paperback price of $24.99 for seven issues (plus some extras).
The Last Defenders trade paperback out in November collects six issues...for $15.99!
The most notable example of the popularity tax, however, is on hardcovers.
Out in October are the following two trades:
Ms. Marvel: Secret Invasion Premiere Hardcover - $19.99 for a collection of six Ms. Marvel issues.
Hulk: Red Hulk Premiere Hardcover - $24.99 for a collection of six Hulk issues plus a back-up story from Wolverine #50.
That must be some back-up to charge an extra five bucks for it!
Three years ago, Marvel released Runaways Vol. 1, reprinting EIGHTEEN issues of Runaways Vol. 1 for $34.99.
Two years ago, Marvel released Runaways Vol. 2, reprinting twelve issues of Runaways Vol. 2 for $24.99.
A year ago, Marvel released Runaways Vol. 3, also reprinting twelve issues of Runaways Vol. 2 for $24.99.
This October, Marvel is releasing a hardcover version of Civil War - seven issues (plus more extras, including the script of #1 and a Marvel Spotlight issue of related interviews) for $39.99.
Obviously, inflation is a factor - no doubt about it.
However, it appears clear that what Marvel is doing here is saying that the market will bear paying more money for the most popular items, so they're going to charge more for them. If the market will pay X for a hardcover of, say, Ms. Marvel, then they'll certainly pay X + 5 bucks for a Hulk hardcover, right?
They're most likely correct, so fair enough on their part - they're charging what people are willing to pay, that's no crime. I just think is is interesting to at least note the appearance of what amounts to a popularity tax.