Notes from the Con: A Rookie’s Guide to the Big Shows

by Matt Tuck

New-York-Comic-Con-300x200 Notes from the Con: A Rookie's Guide to the Big ShowsSpring is close, and that signals the start of comic convention season. If you’re new to the con scene, it can be overwhelming. Here are some tips to help you, the rookie con-goer, navigate the sweaty maze.

I haven’t always been a con-man. There was over a decade when I stopped collecting altogether. In recent years, I have been hitting up the bigger conventions in the southeast (and there was even a trip to the New York Comic Con thrown in), and I love every part of it. Sure, it’s elbow-to-elbow, musty, and the lines are long, but it is the highlight of my year to take my sons on a road trip to a con.

If there’s a comic convention within driving distance, I’m there. For those new to the convention experience, I offer my observations.

Comic-Con-booths-300x169 Notes from the Con: A Rookie's Guide to the Big ShowsWHAT MAKES THE LARGER CONS DIFFERENT (BESIDES THE SIZE)?

I enjoy smaller, comic-centered conventions, especially if there’s a specific comic I am after, but I am a bigger fan of the larger cons. The grand spectacle, the comic guests, the celebrities, the elaborate costumes – it’s all part of the experience. 

Of course, many of these large cons have become more pop-culture conventions with less of an emphasis on comics. Still, you won’t find a self-respecting comic con without its share of comic booths. 

Be prepared to pay around $50 for an adult’s Saturday pass, as that seems to be the standard price from my experience. If you have kids, there is usually a discount for guests 12 and under (sometimes they get in free), which definitely helps if you’re taking the entire family. 

Chris-Evans-signing-300x169 Notes from the Con: A Rookie's Guide to the Big ShowsWAITING…AND WAITING…

Tom Petty was right; the waiting really is the hardest part.

The bigger cons have huge comic and celebrity guest lists, and it’s my favorite part of the experience. Aside from the autograph (and grading/witnessing) prices, you pay for it with your time. Be prepared to spend hours waiting in one line or another.

SPEAKING OF TIME

Thanks to CGC and, to a lesser extent, the CBCS signature series, most collectors are only getting their comics signed when one of the grading companies is in attendance. For those select shows with a CGC booth, all you have to do is grab a certified CGC witness and get the autograph of your choice. First, you have to wait in line…and wait, and wait… I have missed signing opportunities from being in the CGC witness line for so long. Once you get your witness, it’s time to wait in the signing line…and wait, and wait. Then you get back to the CGC booth where (you guessed it) there’s more waiting to fill out your paperwork.  

There’s always the debate on whether or not to have a key issue signed, and personally, I enjoy an autographed comic. However, I have learned to be picky when it comes to getting autographs, and I have stopped trying to flip them for a profit. By the time I factored in my time in line, the price of the signature, and the price of a ticket, I was lucky to break even. In fact, I’ve started leaning towards having posters signed and sticking to a CGC budget.

MORE TO COME

There’s so much more to say when it comes to the con experience that I couldn’t contain it all in one post. Be on the lookout for the follow-up.

Spring is close, and that signals the start of comic convention season. If you’re new to the con scene, it can be overwhelming.

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