The summer season is upon us and with it comes the comic convention circuit. For the first-time visitor it can be an almost over-whelming experience, especially if you go to the larger ones such as the Wizard World or San Diego. Flashing lights, freebies, and people are everywhere. Things are going on all the time. Meetings, signings, and special appearances, but many people go in the hopes of filling that elusive hole that will make their collection complete. If you plan on going to a Con this summer to fill in those holes in your collection, please take a minute to learn from my mistakes.

The first thing is, of course, to dress comfortably. Comfortable tennis shoes are a must. I know that this sounds extremely basic, but remember that in the course of the day you can easily walk four or more miles at the larger Cons. This doesn’t include the time spent standing in line waiting for an autograph or the time standing in place looking through bargain bins. It is a fact that people are more alert and function better when they are rested. If the only thing you are interested in is sitting down, you can easily miss or skip over some great bargains.

The second thing is to bring the proper tools. I always bring the following: a pen or two, a small spiral notebook with my want list already written in it, a price guide, and an accordion folder to put my books in. I do not recommend backpacks or comic boxes on carts; however, the latter is acceptable if you are planning to buy a lot of books at once. I have found that backpacks make most dealers nervous and have personally had more than one ask to look through mine to make sure I hadn’t taken anything. I can understand this though, with all of the people coming and going it would be so easy to slip a few unwanted books into a backpack and sneak off.

My third tip is probably my most important. DO NOT buy anything on your first time around, or even on the first day if you can help it. If you happen to run across a copy of Detective Comics #27 for $50.00, this rule goes right out the window. Assuming that a knockout bargain is not found, this is where the spiral notebook comes in handy. As you go from booth to booth, write down the books that that interest you, the conditions, the prices, and the booth numbers. You will be amazed at the wide range of prices that will be charged, even within the same booth. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen multiple copies of a book all in the same condition but with different prices. You can go back later and get books in the best condition for the least amount of money.

In fact, if it is a multi-day convention like the San Diego Comicon, try to avoid buying anything the first day. Wait until the last day, if you can, to buy when the dealers are ready to go home. They are there for one reason, and that is to make money, and if they don’t sell, not only do they have to count the money they lost from fewer sales, but they also have to pay more to have the stuff shipped back. At the last Con I attended, I found a copy of Avengers #1 in Very Good condition and the dealer wanted $500.00 for it and wouldn’t budge off the price. I waited until the last day of the show and came back and found him in a more agreeable mood. I managed to pick up that book for $375.00. This leads me into my next point.

Do not be afraid to haggle. Most sellers know that it is part of the game and price accordingly. You will find some who will not lower their price, but as my example showed, they may change their minds later. Some of them will be stubborn and stick to their prices. That’s all right too because I can almost guarantee that there is another copy available at another booth. At the Wizard World Con last year I counted 26 copies of Amazing Fantasy #15 for sale. Do not be afraid to ask if a seller will go lower; the worst he can say is no.

Always check out the book before buying regardless of how it is labeled. This is not saying the seller is trying to rip you off, but rather that people make mistakes. He could have very easily overlooked the coupon cut out at the back or a page that has a &Mac185;” rip at the bottom. The pages could have grown brown and brittle from improper storage. Any number of things could be wrong with the book that you would never know about unless you opened it (such as that copy of the Flash #168 I paid $30.00 for but had a square inch of the back cover missing). But always ask permission before opening a bag up. In fact, it is better to ask the dealer to open it up and turn the pages for you if it is one of the more expensive books. This way any damage is caused by him since accidents can and do happen.

The last tip I want to give is to NEVER let your books out of your sight. This, too, is common sense, but there are thousands of horror stories out there that always start out, “I only turned around for a second..” If at all possible keep your books in your hands or no further away than six inches. Some of the larger Cons have services where for a nominal fee they will let you check in your books and watch them for you. I have found these services to be very reliable and worth the small fee. Just remember, though, that you do this at your own risk.

So enjoy your next convention, and remember that with a little thought, you can get the best books at the best price and keep them safe.