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  • Writer's pictureSubZero Comics

A Complete Guide to Attending Comic Book Conventions

Updated: Nov 2, 2022

So you're thinking of braving the comic con scene and don't know where to start. Don't worry, we have you covered. From local comic shows to San Diego Comic-Con, we've made a comprehensive guide for attending comic book conventions.

If you're new to comic cons, then you'll find our guide to be useful as it provides you with some basic tips on what you can expect from most conventions. We recommend reading this guide even if you're a seasoned convention attendee as we provide tips from our years of attending comic cons that might come in handy. We've attended comic conventions of all sizes, from the smallest shows to the biggest conventions in the world. We've also been on both sides as a dealer and an attendee.

Note that any opinions we provide on our website are for entertainment purposes only and should not be your sole means of research. If you're serious about attending comic conventions, then you should always do thorough research. That being said, let's get on to the list.

Wear Comfortable Shoes

This might seem pretty obvious to some, but make sure you wear good shoes at a comic convention. Most big convention floors are concrete slabs and very unforgiving on your feet. You'll start to feel it after a few hours of walking in the wrong pair of shoes. This is especially going to be true if you're going to be attending for multiple days as the next day your feet might experience even more soreness.

We suggest investing in a nice pair of sneakers or insoles that are comfy to walk long distances in. This might sound expensive, but you can easily find a nice pair of sneakers without breaking the bank. If you're planning on attending multiple conventions a year, then your feet will thank you.

Note that if you're going to be attending a small, local convention for a couple of hours, then you will probably be fine wearing whatever you'd like. Wearing comfy shoes usually applies when attending a medium or large size convention. While wearing comfy sneakers to a convention can generally apply to any person (comic buyers and non-buyers), our next rule is specifically made for the person hunting for deals.

Get to the Comic Convention Early

This rule is perhaps the most important of all. If you're looking for some convention deals on comics or any collectibles (ex: Funko, or toys), then it's best to arrive early. This is because all comic cons (big and small) have dealers who leave their booth before the convention starts, so they can scour the floor for any potential deals. So if you don't get there early, then you'll most likely get their leftovers.

Trust us, we have comic dealers that will bother us all the time when we're setting up at conventions. They will usually ask if we're ready to sell, and sometimes argue how they won't be long and can look while we're still setting up. This is done in an attempt to snag deals on comics that aren't yet priced or graded. In short, these convention dealers are the type to use their early admission to their advantage.

If you're looking to get a deal like them, then we suggest trying your best to get into a comic con early. You can buy an early access VIP badge for extra cash or if you know anyone who is setting up at the show, then you can always try to exchange your labor for a vendor badge. Getting into a comic con early can be the difference between getting a good deal and finding an amazing deal.

Wait Until the End of the Comic Convention

Can't get into the comic convention early? Don't fret. There's another strategy that might get you some deals. Waiting until the end of the convention might help you snag a deal or two. The last few hours of a comic con are usually the time that some people will do all their buying. There are a few reasons for this.

Some dealers are more willing to deal towards the end of the convention. This can be due to slow sales, a comic (or other collectibles) being in their inventory too long, or just wanting to go home with less stuff. This is where you come in. You can usually find better deals if you wait until the last few hours of the convention (shortly before dealers start breaking down their booth).

This rule also applies if you're looking to buy non-comic book stuff. A dealer with a giant statue will dread having to pack it up and take it home, and many of them pray to find a hero and take it off their hands. The same goes for a toy. Less inventory means fewer boxes to pack at the end of the con. Trust us, we've been there before and have sold stuff for way cheaper towards the end of the show.

Waiting until the end of the comic con to make your purchases is also helpful because you don't have to carry all that stuff throughout the entire show. You should be careful though. If you want the item, then understand that it might sell if you wait. If it's a rare Golden Age comic book, then waiting might not be an option as you might not get another chance. The waiting rule is up to your discretion (this applies to any advice we give on this website).

Know When to Negotiate at a Comic-Con

This one is tricky, but the art of negotiation can be tough for certain buyers. This is why we're here to help.

Some convention dealers will have their comics priced with zero room for negotiation due to several factors. This might be due to them having too much money into the book and working on a razor-thin profit margin. Or it could be that the comic (or other collectibles) can be a consignment item and they can't negotiate beyond a certain price.

On the other hand, other comic dealers might have something priced higher on purpose to leave room for negotiation. We've seen some dealers come down 25-50 percent on their asking prices with minimum negotiation. Just note that it's usually standard to negotiate between 10-20 percent and anything beyond that boils down to the person you're dealing with.

Finding out how much room there is on a comic book price is tricky, and you need to try and feel things out at times. You can start by politely asking if the dealer has any room on the price. If they say yes, then go from there. Don't immediately ask them for their best price or go into negotiation mode. Try to talk to them and personalize. Sometimes a conversation can help. If socializing isn't your strong suit, then just try to ease into the pricing by talking about the condition (but be careful not to insult). If you aren't quite together on the price, then try the bundle strategy (if the dealer has something else you want). This can allow the dealer to make more money and you get a slightly better deal (if done correctly).

Some comic book dealers tend to be on the anti-social side and don't want to talk to customers much. This can lead them to keep to themselves at conventions. If you find that you're dealing with someone who isn't up for talking or negotiating, then it's just best to leave it alone and move on. In the end, the item is theirs and they can ask for whatever price they'd like. This brings us to our next point.

Understand Comic Convention Etiquette

Comic-Con etiquette is important because you want to make sure you don't step on any toes (both literally and figuratively) when attending a convention.

For starters, you should always wait until someone else is done with a comic box before going through it. If you're not sure whether they have moved on, then just ask. It never hurts to be polite.

Don't crowd multiple comic boxes while searching through. This is something even the most seasoned convention veterans will do. If you're looking through boxes, then the boxes next to you are fair game. You can't lay claim to something you're not looking at. Sometimes, you might put something on top of a box by mistake to give yourself room. If you find that you're doing this, just make sure there is no one around. If you see someone who is looking nearby, then move your stuff somewhere else so you're not in their way.

Also, try to understand when a dealer is busy. If the dealer looks like they're talking to another customer, then just wait for them to finish. Conventions can be hectic and comic dealers will constantly find themselves overwhelmed and understaffed.

While comic convention etiquette might not sound important, it is. If you plan on going to more cons (local or not), then you want to make sure that everyone is comfortable around you. We've seen many convention buyers who have built a bad reputation, which in turn leads to dealers who refuse to deal with them.

There are more tips on convention etiquette, but they tie in with some of our other tips (such as our next one).

Comic Convention Signings

If you're going to attend comic convention signings, then understand that many comic creators and celebrities charge a fee for signatures, so make sure you're aware of this before you line up. Also, try to be respectful with the number of items you bring to get signed. If you see that a creator isn't charging for a signature, then it shouldn't be a signal to bring 50 comics for them to sign. Bring a few copies but within reason. If you feel like you have too many, then you can always ask and see if it would be an issue.

A good way to figure out if you're bringing too many items to get autographed is to look at how many items the other people in line are getting signed. If you feel like you have way more than them, then try to reduce it. A way to be respectful with the number of items you're getting signed is to get back in line and wait if you feel like you're overdoing it. Or maybe come back the next day with the remaining items.

Some comic convention signings can have a big turnout, so make sure you line up early, or you might end up missing out (or waiting all day in a massive line). You should coordinate any con signings you want to attend and make sure you plan things out accordingly.

Always Bring Cash to Comic Cons

While many comic con dealers (and even celebrities and artists) are starting to switch over to the digital age and accept credit cards (or PayPal) at their booths, it's still easier to bring cash. Convention venues tend to be built with thicker concrete walls, which make wi-fi and cellphone connections spotty, to say the least. There have been many times in which we've missed out on a deal because we didn't have cash and had to run to an ATM. Asking a convention dealer to hold a comic while you go to an ATM is a hit or miss. Some dealers might hold the comic, while others will just put it back on their shelves.

Bringing cash can be the easiest solution when attending comic cons. If you're planning on buying some very expensive stuff and prefer not to walk around with a big wad of cash, then we suggest talking to any dealers while making some kind of deal. You can always do a part cash, part digital payment if needed. Or you can leave a deposit for the book while you go and get more cash.

Comic-Con Exclusives

If you want to go to comic conventions to buy exclusive comics (or any other collectibles), then be sure to arrive early. Things can get pretty ugly at some booths that sell limited con exclusives (Funko is a good example). We suggest doing research and making sure they're selling at the convention and don't require some kind of pre-purchase procedure before the con.

This trick might also work. If you find that the line is capped, then ask someone on the line to help you out and buy what you want (providing they don't want it). Just be sure that there isn't security preventing you from doing this. Some booths like Funko and Hasbro will prevent anyone on the line from talking to anyone who isn't on the line. If you just want something from the Marvel booth (an example would be a J Scott Campbell con exclusive cover), then you'll find that there are plenty of people on the line who aren't there for the comic, and you might be able to convince them. Just be sure to give them a few extra dollars for their time.

If you want to attend a comic convention to buy tons of exclusives to sell online for some extra cash, then we highly suggest bringing friends and family to help. Attending a comic con alone to buy exclusives won't guarantee you much (even if you plan well), but having someone to help can be extremely helpful. When the show floor opens, you can have one person head to Marvel, while you go to Hasbro. We've seen people attend big conventions (ex: San Diego Comic-Con) with teams that have each day planned out to maximize their purchasing.

Comic-Con Cosplaying

You might be thinking that comic convention cosplay isn't for you, and our advice is to never knock it unless you've tried it. Cosplay can enhance the comic con experience for some as allows them to show off their skills by putting together a cool outfit that complements the original character. We love seeing cosplay at comic conventions because it's an indicator of the popularity of a character or genre. Seeing someone passionate enough to dress up as their favorite character means that they're dedicated.

If you decide to dress up for a comic con, then know there is etiquette that should be followed. First, make sure you don't block up the aisles of the comic convention as it can cause a jam in the walking areas. If someone asks to take a picture, wait for the crowd to clear and try to take the picture in designated areas. Try not to interfere with the convention floor or someone else's booth. We find taking pictures away from the main floor is usually the easiest.

If you plan to take pictures of comic con cosplayers, please understand that there is separate etiquette that should be adhered to. You should always ask cosplayers to take pictures. Do not take any pictures of them without permission. Do not touch anyone or put your hands on them without their consent. Always be respectful and don't make any inappropriate comments about the person in costume. Simply put; don't be rude to other people.

You might have zero interest in comic con cosplaying and that's completely fine. We still need to remind everyone to be respectful if they see someone in costume. We've seen plenty of people who dislike the whole cosplay scene. Those people are still respectful to the people who decide to dress up and enjoy the convention in their way (which should be expected).

Wear a Mask and Bring Sanitizer

This one might seem more obvious today, but most veteran comic convention-goers have been wearing masks and bringing sanitizer with them for many years (you'll see many comic creators with sanitizer at their comic con booths as well). This is because of what is known as "con flu". If you're surrounded by thousands of people, then there's a chance that someone will have a cold or flu that they can pass on to you, so wearing a mask or bringing sanitizer can be pretty helpful.

Practice Good Hygiene

Unfortunately, some comic convention attendees don't practice good hygiene and this becomes an issue. There might be a stench that can make fellow convention-goers very uncomfortable. We understand that life can be hectic at times, but please practice good hygiene. This is especially true if you plan to attend a comic book convention. If someone is attending their first show and notices that other con attendees aren't bathing or practicing good hygiene, then it reflects badly on the convention scene as a whole.

If sweating is an issue, then we recommend carrying a stick of deodorant and taking bathroom breaks to apply it every so often. You can also bring a small bottle of body spray if possible. Just remember that hygiene at a comic convention is more about respect for the other people attending. You want to make the con experience pleasant for everyone, and doing something simple like carrying a stick of deodorant can go a long way.

Ask Before Removing Any Comics From the Bag

The one advantage of buying comic books at conventions is being able to look at the book up close to see any defects that might be present. If you're planning on spending more than a few dollars on a comic book, then it's completely fine (and expected) to open the bag and look at both sides of the comic. This will allow you to put an appropriate grade on the book.

While inspecting a comic is normal, you should always ask the dealer if they can take the book out of the bag for you. Some convention dealers won't feel comfortable having customers take comics out of bags, so sometimes they'll do it for you. Some comic dealers will let you take it out of the bag yourself. It's up to their discretion. Don't ever take the comic out of a bag without asking. Also, make sure your hands are clean before handling anyone else's comics.

If you want to see something on the wall of a comic dealer, then be sure to ask them to take it down for you. Many dealers will put expensive comics on their walls to catch the eye of buyers, but they also do it so they can keep an eye on the books.

Have Fun

Comic book conventions aren't all business. They're designed to have fun. Dress up in your favorite cosplay (don't worry, everyone does it). Bring a friend who loves comics or pop culture. Take pictures of your favorite things. Grab some freebies (there are always some at bigger conventions). It's all to say that you should enjoy the comic convention experience. The more you enjoy it, the more likely you are to come back.

Comic cons have something for everyone to enjoy, so if you're on the fence about attending, then try to find a few other things (besides comics) while you're there. There are always some fun panels and discussions going on that can be fun to sit in on. Or you can find a booth filled with video games or other activities. If you need more opinions (for entertainment purposes only) on attending comic conventions, then we can offer any opinions completely free of charge. If you have some comics or other collectibles you're looking to sell, then know that we buy comic books, video games, and toys. Give us a call, text, or email with what you're looking to sell.


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