Comic Con Or Pop Culture Con?

May 18, 2015

On May 8, I took the day off from work and headed to the Philadelphia Convention Center for the annual Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Convention. This convention is considered one of the best comic book and pop culture conventions of the year, and Wizard World has been operating shows like this around the country for many years.
Before I begin my overview of this year's show, it is important to note that I personally don't like a lot of conventions and related shows that other collectors enjoy. I find I can do much better by finding my own deals and doing business with a select few dealers and collectors that I have worked to build a solid relationship with over the years. My dealings in the comic book and toy-collecting fields are no different. As a result, I don't normally go to many conventions and shows of this type so my review of this event should be taken in this context. It should also be known that I attended this convention solely as a hardcore collector looking to buy and not someone looking to get celebrity autographs or mingle with the up-and-coming cosplay crowd. If you are someone who is heavily into pop culture and enjoys dressing up as your favorite comic book character, your opinions may vary.
I began my journey at home in Blandon, Pa. My plan was to simply drive to the convention, pay to park, and spend some time on the convention floor. I was looking forward to seeing several dealers whom I had only had a chance to work with via the Internet. I went online and bought my admission ticket the day of the convention, which was a major mistake. Without any kind of discount or coupon code, I was stuck paying the full price of admission for one day, which was a little over $50 with absolutely no extras. This was just for general admission to the show. Upon buying my ticket online, I left for the convention center, and after driving for almost two hours (thanks in part to heavy traffic), I arrived in center city Philadelphia. I must admit that the directions to the convention center were pretty easy to follow, even though I rarely ever drive in Philadelphia.
After reaching the convention center, I had to locate a parking garage that still had available parking. Luckily I found one that had parking, but they charged by the hour. This meant if I spent just three hours at the convention, I would pay close to $30 just for parking alone.
After parking, I arrived at the convention center and had to wait in an extremely long line to enter the show. Various individuals were dressed up in costume and many more were anxiously awaiting the arrival of noon, when the show was scheduled to open. Once the show opened, the line moved slowly and I got into the convention at about half past noon.
Upon entering the show, one of my first thoughts was just how much pop culture influenced the show. Vintage video games, television shows, mass-produced posters, and the like had all become forefront while the overall influence of actual comic books was placed on the back burner, or so it seemed. As a high-grade collector of certified vintage comic books and toys, I was actually surprised at just how little material there was to purchase. Yes, there were some well-known dealers selling several mega key issues from the silver age of comics, but most dealers didn't have a lot of the most common high-grade bronze age (1970s) and copper age (1980s) key issues in stock. This was actually cause for concern. As I spoke to several dealers I had a working relationship with, some said the same thing over and over: "I can sell high-grade certified books directly online, so there isn't always a reason to take them to a convention to sell." I was surprised to find only one “Incredible Hulk” 181 in CGC 9.2 (the first full appearance of Wolverine), one of the most popular and easy-to-find bronze age keys from 1974. Other common but popular high-grade key issues were just as scarce. I counted only two certified copies of Giant Size “X-Men” 1 from 1975. One was in CGC 9.4 and the other in CGC 9.6. I could not locate an “Amazing Spider-Man” 129 (first appearance of the Punisher) from 1974 for the life of me in high grade. One dealer did have several of the mega silver age keys from the early 1960s featuring the first appearance of “Spider-Man” (Amazing Fantasy 15), “Thor” (Journey Into Mystery 83), and “Hulk” (Hulk 1) in low- to mid-grade condition. Aside from that, most dealers had uncertified mid-grade books and lots of more recent material. Other dealers sold current toys and related mass-produced collectibles along with T-shirts and other merchandise.
Overall, I found the lack of high-grade vintage material to be quite unsettling.
Unfortunately, this appears to be a growing trend. Comic book conventions are slowly dying and being replaced with pop culture conventions at an alarming rate. While newcomers to the collecting hobby may be impressed with the mix of pop culture and comic books, as someone who grew up around hardcore collecting I find it greatly disappointing. While Wizard World is a great pop culture convention that any true fan is sure to love, it is truly disappointing for the older enthusiasts like me who were hoping to find a room full of comic book dealers ready and willing to cater to the hardcore collector. In an upcoming article I plan to explore how the slow death of actual conventions is affecting the trade. Until that time, thanks for reading!


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