Local Comic Conventions: The Good, The Bad...and The Ugly
For those of you looking for an article about the mega conventions like San Diego Comic Con or C2E2, this is not that. I'm going to focus more on the smaller local comic conventions and my views on what I consider to be good...and maybe not-so-good about them.
If you've ever visited my YouTube channel (click here) you will see a few videos of some of the smaller shows I've attended in the past.
In these videos, I show off the displays of many of the vendors, some of their great comics, and then at the end of my videos, I'll show off anything I may have purchased. In some cases...I don't buy anything...but I still enjoy going to the shows, networking, meeting new people, etc.
So, today I'm just going to lay out my thoughts on these shows, what happens before, during, and after the shows, and my experiences in general.
First off, let me just say that it's great to see so many local shows opening back up after almost two years of hiatus. Here in Michigan, we only missed out on about a year's worth of shows, but I know other places it was much longer. When the shows first started back up, you could literally see the excitement in people's eyes and the joy it brings to them. Seeing display after display of wall books and big keys, in person, was almost a forgotten form of entertainment. The opportunity to see books that you've never seen before, and may
never see again, is part of the thrill. Although I've never been, I can imagine you would multiply this feeling x10 for big shows like SDCC and C2E2. In addition, there are many collectors that absolutely love 50 cent and dollar bins, in hopes of completing a run, or finding that hidden treasure that everyone else missed.
It's really not my thing, but the smaller local shows usually have at least a couple dealers that come with 25 to 100 long boxes of these kinds of books. I would argue that the hobby is built on dollar bin hunters. This is a good thing!
Prices, prices, prices. One of the things I don't miss are the inflated prices of many dealers at comic shows. I understand the "game". Set your prices above FMV (fair market value), knowing that you have some room to negotiate with potential buyers, which creates the appearance that dealers are "working with buyers" to give them a good deal.
The reality of the situation is this - it's always been and always will be this way. In other words..."this is the way". But sometimes you have to wonder how some dealers make money. Countless times I've walked by booths at the end of a show and it doesn't look any different compared to the beginning of the show. Did they actually sell anything? Are there really that many uninformed people our there buying big books not knowing how overpriced they are? To be fair, there are many dealers that are more realistic with their prices and those are the ones that make the sales.
Dealers make tons of "deals" before the show even starts. I've heard it a thousand times...one dealer looks over another dealer's inventory during set-up, and the two make some huge deal for handfuls of books (if not more). Then those dealers take their newly acquired treasures and throw them up on their walls marked up even higher than the original
dealer was going to sell them...because, of course, the dealer who just bought the books has to make a profit too. I don't condemn behavior like this, as it's all part of the fun for the dealer network, but all too often they are just shooting themselves in the foot by trying to sell this new inventory at a higher price and the books just sit there. The other aspect of this is that dealers are more likely to give better prices to other dealers that they know and trust, which allows dealers to get big books for their personal collections at decent prices. I get it. In other words, you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours. The only problem with this is that these transactions take nice books away from being sold to the show attendees or even being seen by them. I've always thought that there should be an unwritten rule that dealers can't buy from each other until the end of the show. Then again...who am I?!?!
I want to end this article by saying that even though my opinions on pricing and pre-show dealer networking can come across as negative, I want to be clear that I fully support these local shows and dealers making what deals they choose to make. With comics (and most collectibles) there can be a fine line between running a business and being a collector. I would venture to guess that 99% of dealers out there are also collectors. So, it's hard to take the collector out of the dealer, and when that happens, you're sometimes going to deal with the collector and not the businessman. Lastly, the most intriguing aspect of small local shows (compared to the big boys) is that you'll see more comics and less fanfare. The big cons have really moved more towards entertainment (cosplay, crazy displays, huge artist alleys, photo ops, etc.), and every year you see less and less comic dealers. The local shows are, thankfully, still stuck in the past, and really geared more towards the traditional comic collector. Who knows how long this will last, as times are always changing and eventually these shows will need to adapt to the new generation of collectors. Until then, I'll enjoy the little shows just the way they are.
Ok that's all for now. Hope you enjoyed this little article. Feel free to leave a comment or send me a message if you just want to chat.
Until next time, keep hunting!!!