Comic book conventions (Cons) are just plain fun and a magnet for collectors, fans, and speculators. The number of diversions is almost unlimited. Many people let their inner superhero out and dress up (cosplay) some do this so well they look like the superheroes they love. Recently, I attended a con with lots of hungry collectors and a few savage speculators moving like Herald’s of Galactus through the event; mercy for some booths and plundering destruction for others. If you haven’t been; go, you will have a blast. At Con, you will be overwhelmed with stuff you can buy. But there are several potholes you should be aware of as a collector. Most speculators know this stuff or learn the hard way.
Comic books are everywhere at conventions: fifty-cent bins (garbage), $5 boxes (pay and pray), $9 boxes (the good stuff), and wall books (Blue Chip). The fifty-cent bins are suitable for reading material only. Most of the comics in these bins are damaged, or so nuanced they are worth nothing. Often you will have water damage that cannot be seen from a quick glance. Pick up the book and feel if it has any bumps or hangs in such a way as to bend or curl. These are signs that there is water damage; avoid these comics.
The $5 boxes have good readable comics which are not beyond probably a fine (6.0). There are great deals in these boxes, and every once in a while the owner sells something below market. I managed to pick up a nice copy of Spawn #21 a scarce and low distribution comic worth more than I paid for it.
The $9 books are a good source of easy income. I managed to find a couple of keys: Avengers #195 first cameo of Taskmaster, and Shadow #2 for Howard Chaykin to sign that day. The Avengers #195 has excellent returns even for a cameo with grade (9.8) averaging positive +45.5% returns. Finally, the wall books (higher-end comics) are everywhere in the convention. Inspect everything carefully before you buy. This is an okay place to buy keys, but be very careful. Make sure you double-check the comic for damage, before buying, and more importantly never pay the asking price, never. What? How can I not pay the asking price (you ask)? Keep reading…
Negotiations are essential in life, you negotiate with family, friends, loved ones, co-workers, at garage sales, at swap meets, and flea markets. Why not at a comic book convention? The proprietors already have marked each comic up by 20-40% before you ever even show up at their booth. They do this to have a negotiating position so you can feel like a happy buyer and hand them money.
By way of example…
I recently purchased the first appearance of Miles Morales, the new Amazing Spider-Man. As I walked up to the booth, the proprietor immediately tried to control the conversation. “These are great comics these Wolverines #1 thru #4 total cost to you $1000!” My response was, “I am interested, but not that much!” As he was deflating from my snub, I hit him with, “How much for the Ultimate Fallout #4 (first new Spidey, Miles Morales)?”
He cheered up instantly, “Oh, $120 for my first new Spidey.” I looked stunned, curled my lip, made a face like I just smelled someone’s day-old garbage, and tossed back, “How about $70?” He stalled for a second, chewed his lip then begged, “Will $95 work?” “Naw!” I said, “I can go $80.” He snorted, “$90!” I told him, “Let’s meet in the middle for $85.” He thought and thought then finally, ”Ok.” After all this wrangling, I had gotten the comic to an average price or FMV based off GoCollect numbers or as close as I felt comfortable.
I have a rule at Cons.
I only pay big money for slabbed books. After all, I can inspect for case damage. Basically, if I don’t know the seller, I am suspicious of a crucial high-grade key book in raw format. The slabs give a handful more guarantees for the comic. These slabbed books can be faked too, or manipulated by swapping out the interior comic. But it is a little harder to do without the case showing damage. If you know the seller, no worries. But tread carefully with fan art, damaged books in the cheap bins, and expensive raw comic books at conventions. Don’t get conned at your local event, always negotiate everything, even reasonable prices. Remember: It is a buyer’s market.