When Phil Seuling set up the direct comics market in the seventies, the objectives was to allow comic book stores to order any number of copies of a comic book rather than having to order them all proportionally to each other, to get a greater discount swapping returnability for direct sale and, for a number of titles, allow retailers to order for years to come, keeping back issues of certain titles in stock.
The blossoming of the comic book market, where dozens of titles became hundreds of titles made the latter aspect less popular. Especially as the nineties saw many stores who ordered high in the boom, come a cropper in the bust. It is estimated that some stores were being propped up by copies of Deathmate, Warriors of Plasm, Midnight Sons or The Reign Of Supermen.
The back issue bins disappeared from many comic stores and the back issue market disappear online. Some stores do still order certain titles with the intent to keep them available, but that has moved more to trade paperbacks and the book market.
But talking to retailers at MCM London Comic Con, it seems there was an exception being made. For a certain Batman: Damned #1. Retailers swapped stories about how many copies they had kept back for future sale, one said forty, another fifty. The lack of a second printing from DC Comics has convinced some retailers that the demand for this will grow exponentially with the release of Batman Damned #2.
This pales however compared to what I have been told about one New York comic retailer who has warehoused a thousand copies of Batman: Damned #1 for when the standard price tops $100. Currently, you can pick up a copy on eBay for $50. But maybe not for long. Naturally, those copies will be eked out into the rest of the market so as not to see the price drop sharply.
But if anyone wondered how a 100,000+ print run can be so scarce and so valuable, even with the well-publicised contents of the comic, this may be part of the reason. Restrict the supply as demand increases, price only goes one way…