Finally, after a long delay due to a nationwide pandemic, we are heading back to comic conventions. Comic Cons are the lifeblood of the hobby. Creators rely on them to build awareness for their next project, as well as show appreciation for the fans who have supported their previous works. Cons are the best buying opportunities on the comic market. Some of my biggest and best buys have come on the convention floor.
With so many new faces entering the comic space as either collectors or investors, I thought it would be prudent to write up a quick convention survival guide for the ONE37pm community so those curious about comic cons can jump right in and be prepared for success.
We will start with….
I say these things are obvious mainly because they apply to any mass public gathering. If you have been to a sports card show or a music festival largely, these same rules apply for taking advantage of all that an event has to offer. Here are 5 basics for anyone looking to go to their first con:
- Buy Tickets In Advance
Lines at the ticket window at conventions can be hours long. Aside from the discount pre ordering provides on most occasions, avoiding that dead time will pay dividends in your quest to fulfill whatever your goal for the weekend may be.
- Prep Books to Bring
Whether you’re bringing books to get signed or looking to sell, make sure you have everything neat and organized before heading to the convention. The con floor is a busy place and not the spot you want to be trying to organize and get ready to either obtain a signature or work a deal. Make sure you know what you’re looking to get out of any books you’re selling. Don’t be the guy trying to sell books who has no idea what they are worth.
- Be Early
Hot items go fast and some items are only available in limited quantities. So this is not the weekend to sleep in and lounge out if you’re trying to do damage on the con floor. I’m usually trying to be the first one in the building each day in order to ensure I can accomplish what I am there to do. Using the con schedule to your advantage and maximizing your time is key.
With so many people out of town or burning the candles on both ends, the con floor can become a smelly place. There is nothing worse than being at a booth digging in boxes and having a guy stand next to you that forces you to politely vacate the area. Do not be that guy. Make sure you shower, wear clean clothes and bring a stick of deodorant or light cologne with you for those long days on the crowded con floor.
- Con Crud
This relates to the last one, but clearly hygiene is very important. Many of the dealers and even customers are on the convention scene traveling to multiple cons a month during the summer and fall months. This can lead to sickness spreading around convention floors very easily. “Con crud,” as it has been dubbed, is the cold you pick up from the convention scene. It can be tough to avoid but sanitizing frequently, bathing, keeping an appropriate distance from others and OTC meds can help to prevent this phenomenon from getting the best of you.
So now that you have the basics and are ready to go to your first convention, the next question becomes…
This is easily one of the first questions I always get asked from 1st time con goers. And it is a crucial element of the convention experience as good preparation can equal success on the con floor, especially for those trying to squeeze out some ROI. Here are five items that are a must for me to bring to every convention:
- Comfortable Shoes
I could not possibly over rate this one. To be successful at a comic convention and really experience all that is provided, you will be on your feet for multiple days. Foot comfort becomes essential to surviving those long hours without distraction. I would avoid flat bottom shoes like Chuck Taylors, heavy sneakers like basketball shoes and any form of dress shoe. Running shoes are your best option, especially for sneaker heads, as bending and crouching usually leads to creasing.
- Book Bag
You will be bringing items to the convention and undoubtedly bringing items home. This will require a bag of some sort. Rather than being the guy walking around with ten Thank You plastic bags, a book bag can help you organize and store your purchases as you traverse the con floor. Just be mindful of your bag when you navigate, as convention floors are crowded and you don’t want to be bumping people or booths.
This simple plastic box is absolutely essential to taking your con experience to the next level. If you’re bringing books, you will want to store them in your bookbag in a manner that doesn’t result in dinged and dented corners. You can store your books to either sell or get signed as well as use the box to store purchases. I usually bring 2-3 per day with me to the convention.
4. Window Box Bags
Obviously a Sharpie is an important tool to the signature process, but it goes deeper deeper than that. The color of the signature, much like the signature placement, can affect the bottom line. I like to keep a collection of Sharpie colors in the front pouch or my bag. Gold and Silver are go to colors, but I find that character specific colors equal bonus dollars when it comes time to sell. Getting a signature on a Hulk book? Get it signed in green. Thanos? Use purple. How about Spiderman? Red signature with blue inscription or remarque. The possibilities are endless.
Now that you have the basics and have all your tools of the trade ready to roll, the last thing that can help you is talking to other collectors who have attended that show in previous years. That can give you a lot of insight into tips and tricks to be successful. But if you don’t have that option, here are 5 tips from me that are applicable to any comic convention.
- Hit Publisher Tables 1st
These tables tend to be hit by collectors after they have walked the bulk of the con floor. This is a common mistake. Often, publishers attending a con will have very limited convention exclusives. Those can move fast and I like to take care of any of those purchases first thing in the morning. Secondly, they may have back stock available at their booth that many times have been out of stock in stores for some time and are moving to retail on the secondary market. Some of the greatest opportunities for profit are sitting on those publisher tables.
- Hit Artist Alley Second
This is really a double down on #1. To the same effect, some creators have convention exclusives for sale as well as popular books and variants at their artist alley booths. They very seldom have much in terms of stock and all it takes is one dealer or shark-like buyer to figure it out and the opportunity is gone. So when others zig, you zag. I hit the publishers, then artist alley while most go straight for the dealer tables.
- Look For Pressable Defects
Unlike sports cards, creases in comics can be pressed out using a heat press so long as they are not color breaking; grades can be improved from the 8.0 range all the way up to 9.8 with the right presser. With this in mind, one great way to make ROI is to target con dealers who are leaving press equity on the table. Meaning, they are selling mid grade raw copies of books at FMV for their current grade, but with a press, you have the potential to increase in grade. Be sure to look for non color breaking creases as a reason to get excited rather than disappointed in a book. But remember, pressing can cost $20 plus shipping, so make sure you have the ROI built into the book.
- Don’t Overlook Dollar Bins
Ryan aka CardCollector2 of the CardTalkPod is a regular advocate for $1 bin diving for ROI in the card market, but the same is true of the comic book market. There are tons of buy for $1 and sell for $7-8 opportunities. Shipping and fees have made those type of sales tough, but emerging platforms such as Whatnot are able to provide sales avenues for those books. With the way the market is trending, I’m grabbing any Uncanny X Men, Amazing Spider Man, Wolverine, Fantastic Four, etc. issues I can get my hands on at that price, especially in high grade and/or newsstand versions (with a barcode in the lower left corner). Also diving in dollar bins is like scratching a scratch off lottery ticket. Most of the time it’s small double ups, but every now and then you can hit it big. I have always found the activity worth my time.
- Go Low
We just talked about similarities with the card market, but here is a major difference: comics are heavy and take up a ton of space. In the interest of maximizing floor space, dealers will often put discount boxes under the table. I noticed over time that less collectors look through these boxes. Some don’t see them, some won’t make the effort to bend or crouch, some physically can’t get into those positions or can’t sustain in those positions. These are all reasons I believe in zigging while others zag. I will often target those low and hard to reach boxes as I believe they have been searched less and therefore provide more opportunity for profit.
No matter whether you take my advice or not, I strongly encourage you to hit a comic convention this summer. On top of the buying and selling of books, it’s a chance to meet your favorite creators (most of the time it’s completely free), check out some amazing cosplay, hear from some great voices in the industry during the panels found in the convention halls and to see so many cool items outside of comics—from Toys to Funko Pops to apparel. You name it, they have it. I genuinely hope to see some of you on the circuit this upcoming summer/fall.