Most comics readers have a TBR list a couple of miles long. But it can be difficult—and costly—to keep up with floppies as new series begin, which is why many are willing to wait for trade paperbacks, which publish five or six issues together in one cost-effective package.
To that end, if you can swing the price of admission, are willing to read used books, and enjoy a good bargain, I highly recommend waiting for a convention to purchase some of the books on your list. Convention vendors usually offer some excellent bargains and I’ve walked out of a few cons now with a sickening number of books for a fraction of their retail price.
Here are a few tips I’ve learned about picking up trades at conventions, to help casual readers in search of a good deal:
1. Bring cash.
This might seem like a no-brainer, but I definitely didn’t think ahead went I went to my first three-day con. Some of the larger vendors might have a card reader, but many of the places selling used books (and most of the artists) probably won’t—and the convention center’s ATM is sure to tack on an exorbitant fee for withdrawals.
2. Don’t buy everything you see on day (or hour) one.
The urge to spend your money will be strong the moment you walk into a convention. You have to resist. Take a lap of the entire con floor to scope out what you might want to circle back to later in your visit, making note of shops, vendors, and artists you’d like to see again. If you only have one day, you especially want to have a map of the space in mind that will help you return to the sellers that caught your eye.
3. Make the time to dig through the used trades.
Some of the more popular regional shops will be out in full force, and usually with some great deals on newer titles. But where you’re really going to stretch your dollar is with pre-owned trades. You might find something you’ve been looking to buy and you’re sure to find some new gems to add to your list. Besides, digging through haphazard piles and old longboxes of comics is the best part of a convention. You can see that those books were well-read and much-loved.
4. Shop with a buddy.
This is a standing rule for shopping, whether you’re in the market for new comics, new clothes, or even a new car. It’s good to have someone to bounce ideas off of (or just to laugh with about some of the more ridiculous vintage covers), and you can always compare TBR lists and work out a buying strategy that will mean you both purchase books of mutual interest to be read and then swapped later on.
5. Avoid the serious traders.
Another great part of conventions is spotting antique covers or jealously guarded #1s—it’s almost like seeing a priceless work of art in a museum that you’ve previously only seen in textbooks. But while looking at these floppies can be cool, the price tags are frightening for those on a budget. Some of the more serious traders will also have boxes of bargain floppies that are worth a look, but if you find yourself eyeballing something marked up with one too many zeroes, run away and don’t look back.
6. Wait until Sunday to do your serious shopping.
If you’re just looking to expand your library, wait until Sunday to really catch the bargains. Shops don’t want to bring home boxes full of unsold merch, so you’ll see some ridiculous deals on the last day. At Boston Comic Con last year, I walked past a table on Friday selling used trades for three for the price of one. By Sunday, that deal became five for the price of one. The pickings were much leaner, but I did manage to scrounge up a mix of “I’ve always meant to read that” and “I don’t know what this is, but it looks awesome.”