Prepare To Haggle

Fan Expo is next weekend so this column will mentally prepare you to haggle.  That’s right, haggle.  There’s no reason you should look at the prices at a dealer’s booth as nothing more than a starting point in your negotiation.

I think collectors, in general, don’t haggle or negotiate price very well because the dealer knows you “need” that item to be part of your collection and your life will never be complete without that issue, action figure or video game.

Here are my simple convention rules for best price buying.

  1. Know what you’re looking for.
  2. Know what the item is worth.
  3. Don’t look like you “need” the item.
  4. Ask the price and then offer less, but not insulting.
  5. Don’t be afraid to walk away.

Most collectors know what they’re missing from their collection and most likely have a want list.  Along with that want list one should have a general idea of what the missing items are worth: eBay isn’t a bad starting point for this, but only by using completed listings of items that actually sold.  Another way is to circle the show floor looking for your desired items and see what things are selling for.  This works well for new to you collectibles you may not have known about but spot at various dealer booths.  I spotted an Alex Toth signed Zorro slipcase in Boston this year at two booths: one had it for $175 and the other $40.  I bought it for $40 but still tried to haggle down to $30.  I was happy because it was a steal and the dealer was happy because he received his full asking price.

If you know what you want and know your prices then you’re ready to pounce on any deals you know are truly amazing, without having to circle the show floor first.  Last Fan Expo I spotted a Hulk: Future Imperfect hardcover for $40 when I knew it was currently selling online for over $100.  For those moments it still doesn’t hurt to see if you can haggle a little.

What hurts the negotiation process is the tearful overjoyed collector who gushes about how happy they are to have found the item: at that point, the dealer could probably up the price and you’d still buy it.  Put on your game face and haggle!

Which leads to the last and most important item: don’t be afraid to walk away.  I rarely meet people who want to pay more for something than they have to: my two exceptions are Marc who told me he “loves to pay full retail” and Shawn who I’ve seen buy toys and tell the dealer to “keep the change”.  These are people who obviously are out in the sun too long or suffer from excess money problems.  A dealer was offering 25% off hardcovers last year at his booth and I asked about 33% off if I bought two: he said that would be below his cost from Diamond.  Since I have a Diamond account and know these books were clearance items he was outright lying to me so I put the items down and walked away.

If you’re at the show for at least two days then it doesn’t hurt to watch for items you want but are willing to go home without, then circle back the last day of the show in the final hours and see if it’s still available.  There was a Mark Shultz Xenozoic Tales signed print I really wanted but didn’t want to pay the $100 asking price.  Last hour of the show the dealer sold it for $50.  This strategy only works sometimes and shouldn’t be used for something you really want to leave with.

Finally, at all times be polite and courteous.  Offering $5 for $100 items shows the dealer you’re a joke and not serious.  The same dealers set up every year at most shows and a healthy buyer-seller relationship is good for both parties.

Where I won’t haggle at a convention is for sketches.  The artist has figured out his price and you’re agreeing to it.  That doesn’t mean you can’t reject the sketch once completed if it’s terrible or not at all what you agreed upon, although that requires you to be very specific in terms of what you want from the artist.  If buying already completed artwork then feel free to haggle, which is usually effective if buying more than one item.

Scott VanderPloeg
Scott VanderPloeg

Scott works in I.T. but lives to eat and read. His other ramblings can be found at AE Index and eBabble. Art collection at Comic Art Fans.

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12 years ago

Scott, if you have a Diamond acct… why are you buying books from vendors? Why not just order the book direct? Minimums? Also, the vendor may not have been lying. Is it possible he bought his book pre Diamond sale and so he needs to sell at a certain price point. Books are expensive when they are first released but if there’s a lot of overstock, they eventually get blown out.

What do you think is a reasonable discount to expect? There was a Spidey #14 I was working on but the dealer came down from $2500 to $500 so I passed. That was too big of a drop that I got suspicious and started wondering why this dude wanted to sell it so bad… ie; possible restoration?

12 years ago

Being out in the sun is what gives me my sunny disposition!
Sorry I did not try to haggle over the price of that shwarma by the way. Shame on me.

12 years ago

I think this is mostly awful advice on the whole.  The goal of any consumer should be to get what they want at a price they are happy with, not to get what they want at a price less than the marked price, regardless of how fair the marked price is
True story: 2 years ago at Fan Expo I had an X-men #1 priced at $1250.  Guy asks to see my X-Men #1 and I show it to him. His eyes go wide and he says to me: 
“so this is a real X-Men #1, not a reprint or anything?”.
I answer in the affirmative.
He says “Would you take $100?”
I stifle a laugh, and say “no, that is never going to happen. I might consider $1100”.
He says, “but it says $125 on the sticker”.
I kindly point out the extra zero that is very visible.
Now any mildly knowledgeable collector knows that X-Men #1 is about a $1000 comic even in lower grades. But that’s not even the point.  Here is a guy who knew that he had a book that was very valuable. His reaction said it all. But even still, rather than whip out $125 as fast as possible and get on his merry way, he tries to haggle and ends up making a fool of himself.
This is the same sort of thinking that gets people all excited over items priced at 75% off, again, regardless of their true value. 
Only in comics. I swear a lot of the people who try to haggle with me are only interested in haggling and don’t even think of the value of what they are buying. Guy who offers me $5 on an $8 comic would offer me $15 on the exact same comic priced at $20 9 times out of 10.

Anthony Falcone
12 years ago

Haggling is one of the great joys of a con, but you should never get too greedy. I would agree with both of you. Scott’s #2 point is “know what the item is worth” this is excellent and important advice. If I find a good deal on an item and don’t see the need in haggling I will just buy it. It is unnecessary to haggle further.

However, if there is an item which could go for lower I will try to get a better deal. And if a dealer has an item price ridiculously high then I will swing for the fences and start the bidding at micro-levels. Respect between the dealer and customer should be a two way street.

Scott, some of the issue is you know exactly what is on sale at Diamond on clearance. The average customer will see that a $40 cover price item is now selling for $20 and feel they are getting a great deal. But they might think otherwise if they knew that the dealer paid $5 for it. 

What is a good deal for some might not be for others. So I would say to all our readers that if something doesn’t seem like a good deal then try to haggle a bit, but if you are trying to bargain on the assumption that all dealers have high prices you may be in for several indignant rebuttals. 


12 years ago
Reply to  Marc

I wouldn’t say this is awful advice… I think the spirit of Scott’s message is that it doesn’t hurt to ask but Marc has hit the nail on the head when it comes to fanboy mentality. It boggles my mind that $10 or $20 would be a deal breaker for some one negotiating a $1000 purchase. 
“Know what the item is worth” is a good message in theory but the problem is that everything has a spread, and the spread, in some case can be quite wide. If I paid Marc $1000 for his X-Men #1 and then I see it selling for $800 at another table, I’d be left with that sinking feeling that I over paid even though it may have been a fair price.
A lot of this also depends on your purpose… Are you buying to flip or collect or read:
• If I’m buying something for speculative purposes, I try to get the lowest price possible. 
• If it’s for my personal collection, I don’t mind paying more, ie; mid-spread. 
• If it’s purely for consumption… I may pay retail for new stuff or buy beat up used books at a massively discounted prices anywhere I can get it.
So I would alter “know what the item is worth” with, do your research and “know what you want to pay” because “worth” is relative.

12 years ago

I never said I don’t like haggling.  There are a group of guys who bust my balls at every TO con. It’s often a 1 hr process. But I enjoy it because they’re fun guys and they’re not unreasonable.
The point of my X-Men story is that the guy still tried to haggle on a book that he obviously thought was priced at 10% of its actual value. Not only that but he tried to negotiate an additional 20% discount.  That’s just ludicrous. 
It’s that type of thinking that makes me  strongly disagree with point #4, which basically says you always offer less than the sticker price, just as a rule. That gets tiresome really fast. 
Call me crazy but haggling should be about both parties trying to come to what they think is a fair price, not just running through an exercise because you think you are entitled to it as a buyer. It’s frustrating because I know that I could be the guy in the room with by far the fairest prices on something but if I do not budge an additional 20% to someone who says “I don’t pay full sticker” I can never make a sale to that guy.  But again, I could mark up that exact item 40% and then sell it to that guy at 20% off and he’d be ecstatic because now he thinks he got a deal. 
Stupidity on a basic level bothers me I guess.

10 years ago

Hi. I’m going to Fan Expo tomorrow and I want to get a Hot Toys iron man figure. Those are usually $200. I want to get really cheap though. Any suggestions?