Another Fan Expo has come and gone and the folks at Hobbystar must be congratulated for producing another top-notch con that excited fans of all genres.
It is necessary to mention last year’s overcrowding debacle, if only to note that no such issues occurred. The South Building venue allowed for easy access and a steady fluid movement of the ever-increasing crowds. There were different access points for multi-day pass holders and single day ticket purchasers, and the extra space allowed for a much-needed food court area. The extra day (Thursday) aided in battling the crowds and also allowed for more programming.
The fans were treated to a myriad of events this year. I would even say (and I am sure that Kevin will correct me if I am wrong) that Fan Expo 2011 had more events than ever before. Panels, Q&A sessions, Photo Ops, Signings, and Contests, there was something for everyone at this convention. However, for some fans what you are interested in might be a smaller part of the convention.
If you are an old comic book fan (let’s say someone just looking for gold and silver age titles) there were quite a few good dealers with some excellent books. But this is becoming a smaller part of the convention and I talked with a few regulars before the show who told me that they would not attend this year. Paying $25-$40 to spend 2 hours looking through 10 vendors is just too much for them. The joke at the San Diego Comic Con is that if you want relief from the crowds you head to the old comic book section. I see this becoming a trend.
The convention is not just for comic book guys anymore. It is for the fan. You are not paying an entry fee to gain access to some discount merchandise. You are purchasing an experience. You are visiting how-to panels, you are hearing your favourite creators talk at Q&A panels, you are getting your picture taken with your favourite horror star, and you are participating at the completely full Nerd speed dating.
That doesn’t mean that if you are an old comic fan you won’t find what you are looking for. You will. Top, top dealers come to this show. But old comic book fans need to realize that you are a smaller part of the fan world now. And you will need to share. And maybe embrace the new experience. Even if you are only looking for 9.8 key books there is still probably a panel or two you will enjoy.
I got a chance to talk to quite a few dealers at the convention. Sales were good. Solid. Some key books got snapped up and success is being found by selling high-grade Marvel and DC keys as well as discounted trade-paperbacks. Some reported to me that this was possibly their best show ever, but some also said that it was about as good as last year. This is an important distinction. The extra day is great for fans: the crowd is spread out and there is an extra day of events, but the extra day brings extra costs for dealers. There are the staffing, set-up, food, and accommodation costs that are now increased for all dealers. So these extra costs will eat into a profit that is being made. For example if you did just as well this year as last year but this year you have higher costs than at the end of the day you have just made less money for more work.
Dealers will still do the show as they make fine money by selling their wares, but I do think that we will see a shift in what gets sold at the convention. I wouldn’t be surprised if $1 bins become obsolete. It is just too expensive to sell items that take up that much space at that low a price point. A dealer would have to sell a lot of $1 books to make the a profit.
We will see an increase in trade sales and we will see more big-ticket items such as statues and rare toys, and as the public looks to comic collecting as an investment we will see more demand for high-grade keys.
All that being said, the fans were wowed by this years con. Fan after fan that I talked to were having a great time. They were excited to meet their favourite star, they were happy to pose for a picture or two in their costumes, and they were ready to spend their hard-earned money on their passion.
I was also happy to see more parents and children at the convention. Some great costumes by the young ones and their excitement is priceless; I will never forget the look of excitement when a little girl met the Little Mermaid.
Fan Expo 2011 was a great success and I know that the fans are already planning for 2012. Excelsior!