Tips on Selling at Comic Conventions
Updated: Oct 20, 2021
Have you been collecting comics for a long time and have finally decided to sell your collection? Or have you come into a large collection through inheritance? If you are in either of these categories, then you might start wondering where to start. You can start by selling your comics to local stores and/or dealers, but sometimes the offers might not be to your liking, so you decide that maybe you can sell online. Selling on avenues such as eBay might present a headache, with shipping, returns, and other issues, so you decide the best way to maximize your profit is selling at local comic book conventions. Here I have created a guide for you to use when selling your comic books at a convention. There are many do's and don'ts I will highlight, so be sure to take note and understand that selling at comic conventions isn't exactly easy, but if you can establish a good system, then it can be a great income. Please note that this is just advice and tips based on my experiences at comic cons, and you should do more research prior to doing a convention.
Let's start by covering the prep work involved with selling at a convention. Are your comic books in clean boxes as well as clean bags and boards? This might not sound important, but it is very significant. Presentation is extremely important when selling at a comic convention. If you have dirty bags and board, as well as dirty boxes for your comics, then many customers might not take you seriously as a legitimate dealer, and you will most likely get little sales from collectors. Now, other comic book dealers at conventions, on the other hand, will buy your books regardless of the presentation, but we will save that for an entirely different point we would like to make. Just note, that presentation is key, and keeping your books in clean bags and boxes goes a long way.
This brings us to our next point in regards to prep. Are you books in any type of particular order? If the comics are not in order and you have a good amount of boxes, then many customers who are looking through will usually give up after looking through 1-2 boxes as they are not looking to go through a random assortment. If someone is going through comic boxes, they might be looking for a particular comic to complete their run or set, and it would be much easier for them to look at everything if it is in alphanumerical order. Organizing will take a good amount of time, as well as putting your comics into clean bags and boards, but this will all be worth it if you are willing to put in the time and money.
Now, you have organized your books alphanumerically and put them into clean bags and boxes. This doesn't mean your prep work is done. Now comes the pricing. You need to understand how to price your comic books based on what they are selling for. How to price your comics is completely dependent on you. If you need some kind of guide on comic pricing, then just use eBay's sold listings and average that out. Be sure to learn to grade prior to any kind of pricing, as grade will greatly affect the price. If you have anything high-end, consider CGC or CBCS for the grading. It will be easier to price the book if it is graded as there are much more concrete prices. There are also some price guides online, but try not to rely on them too much. I recommend pricing comic books a few days prior to the convention, so you are up to date with the latest comic values.
Putting numbers on your comics in regards to grade and price can be tedious, so an easy way to save some effort is to find anything that is higher than a certain number and price that individually, while putting the others in groups. An example of this would be to create a box with comics that are $1, and another box of comics that are $5, and another box that is $10, and pricing anything worth more individually. The books in the lower price range might not even need to be graded if they are cheap enough, as most collectors will be happy paying $1 or $5 for comics that will help fill in their runs or sets. Just remember to keep each section alphanumerical. This can make life much easier for you and the customers when sorting. Also, be sure you know which book belongs in which box. If they are all bagged and boarded then you can just put a color-coded sticker on the bags (ex: red stickers can be $1).
Now that the comic prep work is done, you need to figure out your layout and display. It is recommended to use 4 and 6-foot folding tables. A 6-foot table can hold 7-8 long boxes of comics. Just be sure not to get folding tables that fold in half. If you do, then they will have a chance of caving in due to the weight of the comic boxes. It would be easier to get tables that have no middle fold as they can support more weight (the average comic long box is 45-50 lbs). Also note, that you should not put comic boxes under the table at conventions, as many customers don't like having to crouch or bend down to look at boxes. Having boxes on the floor also makes it difficult for customers to look through as one person going through boxes on the floor might interfere with the person looking at boxes on the table.
Tables are not difficult to understand, however having a wall display for your better comics can be slightly tricky. Putting better comics on a wall display will make them sell much easier, and if you have a good one that can hold a good amount of books, then it can go a long way. There are tutorials online on how to build your own comic wall display using PVC pipes, but you can also find alternatives such as using a grid wall. Just be sure to test it out prior to the show to see how it looks and how it holds. This completes the prep work for the convention, and now onto the convention itself.
First, let me start by saying that choosing your first convention can be difficult. You will need to understand the selling experience at comic cons varies greatly. Some smaller, local conventions charge between $50-100 for a small booth, while bigger conventions can charge over $2000 for a booth, depending on the location and size. You might think to yourself that you have high-end stuff and want to do a better convention, and this may be true, but many bigger conventions will not just take anyone. Many require you to be a well-known comic book dealer with a good reputation. If you are not, then they might not be interested, as they want to maintain a certain image at their conventions. An example of this is how New York Comic Con has a massive waitlist to become a vendor at their conventions, and Reed Exhibitions (parent company for NYCC) will require you to do smaller conventions prior.
If you're relatively new to selling at conventions, then it is recommended that you start off at smaller conventions as it is a good way to practice and learn how everything works. It will prepare you for doing bigger conventions. Please note, that while smaller conventions are cheaper in regards to booth price, do not expect to make a fortune. There are many smaller conventions where you will barely make enough to make it worth your time. This is because attendance at these cons is usually very low and the people who attend don't come to spend big money.
This brings us to a very important point that needs to be emphasized. If you are selling at a convention for the first time, be sure to do your homework on pricing prior to setting up. If you have not priced anything properly or are missing prices, then it is likely that the local comic book dealers will take advantage and buy anything that is underpriced for extremely low prices. Don't expect them to help you in regards to pricing or grading. Comic dealers are there to make money and when they see a new dealer at a convention, they will usually flock to them looking for deals, and by the time the show is open to the public, they have bought all your best books and put them at their booth for double or triple the price (many times even more). After they have cleaned out your best books, you will likely have difficulty making any more money as your high-end books are now gone and you are left with common comics that have little desire or value.
Now after reading all this, you might be thinking that there is a great deal of effort required when selling at comic book conventions, and there is. If you think selling at comic cons is just counting the cash at the end of the con, then you are greatly mistaken. It requires amazing amounts of labor (be ready to see your chiropractor if you're doing shows regularly), research, and preparation. If you can get past all these obstacles, then you can make selling at comic conventions a viable income for yourself. Just be sure to constantly replenish your stock as selling the same comics at a convention can lead to low sales and overall disappointment. If you need any more tips on selling comic books at conventions, then be sure to email or call us for free advice.