Buying figures at conventions?
Ooof, being at an anime convention is like a kid in a candy store - everyone is super excited and entranced in euphoria. Because of this, almost everyone have zero restraint for impulse purchases. It's in the air when you go to conventions and you too can be swept up in excitement.
Still, buying figures at conventions can be a hit or a miss. I've saw a vendor selling this scale figure
for $400 (no additional tax if you pay in cash) and I've seen other vendors sell this prize figure of Tanjiro
for a ridiculously high price.
Official manufacturers like GSC, Alter, and Aniplex will setup shop at conventions and will sell figures for dirt cheap and will always sell out by the first two days.
Some conventions will allow "yard sales" and let you to sell your goods to other attendees and you'll find some amazing deals there too.
Also, as a former anime figure hustler, I can definitely tell you that a large majority of figure collectors I've met at conventions has never heard of Amiami, HSJ, HLJ, or even the GSC store... and depending on where you go, the #1 choice of stores for figures is Amazon and eBay. Shockingly, a majority of collectors buy only locally at conventions than online.
Heck, only a handful of people has heard of myfigurecollection ("MFC" is synonymous with a certain free webcam site and 9/10 people know about that website).
Additionally, these same people are not aware that there's a difference between scale and prize figures. You'll find vendors sell prize figures with skyrocket prices and attendees will scoff at buying a scale figures that's over $150 when you can get a "better" deal buying a prize figure for $50-$75 each (and this is why it's pretty rare to find vendors selling scale figures).
And because impulse buying is huge, lots of people buy figures at the first booth they see (generally near the entrance)... and booths near the entrance tend to have higher prices compared to booths near the back. Shop around first before you buy because you'll find better prices somewhere else.
Also, vendors gotta pay fees to have a booth in a convention (an average booth can cost up to $18k... and that's not counting the fees for forklift, being connected to a power outlet, Wi-Fi, and parking) so naturally, prices for figures will go up to cover those cost.
Another thing I noticed is that with large cons like Anime Expo with thousands of people in the exhibitor hall after a few hours of opening, people are willing to spend since they probably waited a few hours to get in the hall and it can take upwards of an hour to walk from one side of the hall to the other. With so many other people there, some will just buy on sight something they are interested in since who knows if it will still be there later during the con. This is probably the reason why some vendors price their stuff very high or offer grab bags to get rid of excess stock as well. I've worked as a exhibitor there for the past 8-9 years so I can explore the hall before they open but if I were to go back to a regular attendee, I'd pass on going since you can find the same nendoroids and scales and such on amiami/ebay.
I've often heard some of my friends at convention say: "It's Sunday, I didn't spend as much as I thought, I don't care about the price, I'm here to spend my money." Then they start buying a lot of overpriced stuff they wouldn't have the day before. It's really emotional. They had budgeted their convention, thus it wasn't about spending the money wisely, but reaching a target by the end of the weekend. Never understood that mindset, but it is common at convention. I used to try to reason with them, nowadays, I just have fun giving them bad advices playing on their nostalgia or specific interests and having a laugh. They are aware of it, so it's alright... I guess... not sure!!! ;-)
Never found anything worth my money in convention. I used to think I would find some grails or obscure figures long forgotten. Never happen. As mentioned by others, prices are ludicrously high, cashing on people's emotion to buy on the spot, too many bootlegs, etc. At best, I consider it a good occasion to look at figures in real life before deciding on buying.
I'm guilty of buying figures at cons, even though I know reasonably I'm paying way too much for it. There's something just really exciting about having it in hand immediately. IMO if you're going to buy figures at conventions, it's best to wait till the last day when some dealers are trying to clear inventory. I'm gotten some nendoroids for ridiculously cheap that way.
I don't often buy figures at cons. You could be so swept up in the hustle that you don't notice tiny things - not necessarily bootlegs. A lot of cons are good about patrolling and shutting down bootleggers. If you spot bootlegs at a con, btw, feel free to approach the staff table and let them know what you found and where.
What I'm more worried about is not checking the numbers/weight on a blind box and getting something I didn't really want. (Don't judge me, everybody secretly hopes for one item above all others.) Or accidentally getting a duplicate. There are SO many figures of Cloud, Saber, Miku, etc, you might see one that looks unfamiliar, get home with it, and realize it's just an
figure that you've had so long you forgot it existed!
But sometimes it's a great place to buy a figure. Say you bump into that dreamie that's overpriced all over the internet, but the vendor is so sick of lugging it around, he sees your excitement and cuts a sweet deal just to get rid of it! Or you've bought from one vendor so many times, he's learned to predict your tastes and he picked up certain rare figures just for you! It doesn't happen all the time, but I
i think the only time i’ve bought figures at a con for a not crazy prize was when people bought tables just to sell off their personal collections. i bought a bunch of imas petits from one once for like $5 each. the most i’ll buy at actual dealer tables is blind box figures since i like the aspect of surprise and i’ll usually buy them with friends and trade around.
I have a friend who bought a figure from a convention and showed her to me. She was, without question, a bootleg. I had to give him the bad news.
So I advise anyone buying figures from conventions to never assume that everything is genuine.
i mostly get prize figures because even if they are a little overpriced they're still not that expensive and i kinda see the extra cost as a service charge for not having to wait for shipping
but i once found an excellent deal on the satsuki nendoroid ($50 USD when she'd normally go for more than that plus shipping, no chance of it being a bootleg) and scooped her up on impulse
its hard to see myself getting a proper scale since theyre usually half of my ~$300 USD convention merch budget but eh never say never, maybe if there was an excellent deal on one of my favorited scales i might get it (and regret it anyway haha)
I've definitely seen a shift in con figure selling over the years. Back in the early 2000s in the US, you could find really hard to find figures for pretty much retail price at cons. And not just trading figures, but actual scales. At that point in time, since online shops weren't as extensive as they are now/Japanese shops wouldn't really ship directly to US customers that I knew of, that was the better option. At New York Anime Festival in 2007, a booth had
on display. I spoke to someone at the booth who told me that since they couldn't transport the display set back that they were selling both on the last day of the con for the price of one. I hadn't been planning on going into NYC that day, but I went as early as I could and managed to get them. No imperfections or anything.
As time went on and cons got bigger, I started noticing prices increased as did the number of bootlegs. I would still buy from conventions, but it would usually be either smaller items (trading figures/straps/etc) or things like funkos/nendos since those are usually priced near retail.
I always take a look around the dealer's room (even at cons when I rarely buy anything like Katsu) in case there's any hidden gems. Every once in a while I might get a prize figure or something relatively small but like others have said, if you get something pricy and there's a defect and you don't have that shop's info, you're taking a big risk. At bigger conventions like AnimeNYC, I tend to purchase from official booths (GSC, Koto, even Viz or Funimation for smaller things), and I'm well-versed enough on most figure prices that I don't need to constantly look up market prices on what I'm looking for when perusing other booths. I'm usually the friend people bring with them to tell them if something is a good deal or if they can do better (and I usually find them the better option too lol). The rest of my money goes to the artist alley and the rest of my time goes to cosplay.
Just offering a different perspective after having an opportunity to work at one of the con stores in my younger years. Yes they tend to overcharge a lot on figs but there is a chance you can find some rare buys. Some store owners doesn't really check the market that often (at least the guy I worked for didnt) so if a figure prize drops online they won't reflect it in store.
Another thing is con tables are
. I don't know how much they charge commercial tables elsewhere but my boss said he paid around $1k per table (usually x4-5 tables per space) so that's about $5k upfront payment. A store owner would not expect to move all the merchandise/stock so they would try to raise fig prices to make up for it and try to make a profit in the meanwhile.