Whosoever Holds This Hammer appear every Tuesday (more or less) exclusively on Comic Book Daily.

As all good fanboys and fangirls know, we are full bore into comic convention season. Wizard World, Toronto comicCON, C2E2, and Pittsburgh have all recently come and gone and there are a whole host of conventions still left to attend in the upcoming months.

Kevin and Brent both mentioned in recent columns the uncertainty of getting value for money sometimes at shows. This got me thinking a little bit about comic conventions and whether or not they provide good value for the entertainment dollar.

Here are the admission costs of several conventions in Canada and the United states (Thanks to Kevin Boyd for the info):

Fan Expo Canada 2010 costs (2011 still TBA)
BASIC 1day PASS: August 27 ‘ $29 CAD
BASIC 1day PASS: August 28 ‘ $35 CAD
BASIC 1day PASS: August 29 ‘ $29 CAD
DELUXE 3day PASS: August 27 ‘ 29 (includes access to special preview on August 27): $59 CAD
VIP PASS (includes special entrance, bag of stuff, free admission to other HSM events) $89 CAD
Kids 10 and under in free with adult admission

Basic 1Day Pass $20 (if purchased by 12/31/2010) $25 (until 3/16/2011) $30 (at the door)
Basic 3Day Pass $45 (if purchased by 12/31/2010) $50 (until 3/16/2011) $60 (at the door)

New York Comic Con
Basic 1Day Pass $35 (Fri/Sun) (until 10/11/2011) $40 (at the door)
Basic 1Day Pass $50 (Sat) (until 10/11/2011) $60 (at the door)
Basic 3Day Pass $65 (until 10/11/2011) $85 (at the door)
Basic 4Day Pass $85 (until 10/11/2011) $90 (at the door)

Basic 1Day Pass (Fri/Sat) $20 (in advance) $25 (at the door)
Basic 1Day Pass (Sun) $10 (in advance) $15 (at the door)
Basic 1Day Pass (Kids/Seniors) (Fri/Sat) $10 (in advance) $13 (at the door)
Basic 1Day Pass (Kids/Seniors) (Sun) $5 (in advance) $7 (at the door)
Basic 3Day $40 (advance) $50 (at the door)
Basic 3Day (Kids/Seniors) $20 (advance) $25 (at the door)

San Diego Comic Con
Four-day passes $105 (there’s also an additional price that includes access on Wednesday’s Preview Night)
Four-day passes Junior (age 12-17), Senior (60+), and active military with ID are $52.50.
One-day passes for Thursday, Friday and Saturday are $37 for adults, $18.50 for Junior/Senior;
One-day passes for Sunday are $20 for adults and $10 for Junior/Senior.

Admission is $25 for a single day ($23.96 in advance) or $60 ($56.45 in advance) for multi-day.

1-day Pass: $15 per person
3-day Pass: $30 per person
Kids 12 & Under get in FREE!

Emerald City Comic Con
Basic 1Day (Fri/Sun) $15 (advance)
Basic 1Day (Sat) $20 (advance)
Basic 3Day Pass $35 (advance)

So as you can see it is a bit of a mixed bag, but the range is generally $20-$40 for a single day and $40-$60 for a weekend pass. Variations are made for VIP tickets, students, etc. I won’t talk much about VIP passes and the like, for they are worth it if you are a fan of whatever the pass gets you, so more about personal taste than anything else.

Let’s say that you are on the higher end and pay $40 to attend a convention for a single day. $40 is a lot of money. Or is it? Admission costs are only one cost that any good nerd must factor into a convention. Food, travel, spending money, and accommodation all make up the total costs. So if you were coming into Toronto for a convention and set aside $2000 as your overall budget (which many people do), $40 is really nothing. It would only be 2 percent of the overall costs. But let’s say that you already live in Toronto and only have $100 to spend. Well, you need to think long and hard about attending that convention when 40% of your budget is gone before you enter the door.

Over the years I have worked several conventions such as Anime North, Fan Expo, Wizard World, and the Toronto Comic Convention. I would ask people what they brought to spend on product or fun show experiences. Most said $500-$1000. This might seem like a lot but these fans were saving up for an entire year. So if my incredibly non-scientific and anecdotal experiment is correct, even a $40 admission fee won’t dent attendance. As long as there is a lot for people to see and do once they are inside.

Show organizers try to have a wide variety of events, signings, games, dealers, and panels to entertain attendees. San Diego literally has dozens of events per hour. So again, as long as the convention has a lot to offer you personally you will get your money’s worth.

The final factor that I would like you all to consider is a comparison against other forms of entertainment. What else could you be doing with your money? I tend to use movies as a benchmark; theatre attendance is ubiquitous. The average movie is $12 for about 2 hours of entertainment. So it is a given that we will fork over $6 per hour to be entertained. $40 per day at a convention gets you about 8 hours of time so we are sitting at the $5-$6 mark. Of course this math comes with a few caveats: we need to assume that you will attend the full time and therefore need to assume that the convention has enough going on that you want to be there the entire day. I would also note that sometimes (not always) there is a cheaper admission fee for the short day (Thursday or Friday). The short day should always be a cheaper fee to recognize the reduction in available convention time.

What have we learned? Your budget dictates how much you can spend on admission fees. The events/dealers dictate whether or not you should attend. And finally, spending the day at a convention makes even the most expensive of events in line with other forms of entertainment. The bottom line is that conventions are, by and large, good value for your money. I would encourage all to get out this year and see what the industry has to offer.