Tips on Finding Treasure in Dollar Bins at a Comic Con

One of the biggest rushes of going through dollar bins is finding those hidden gems. That Defenders #10 or that Moon Knight #1 for $1 are fantastic finds. Some times these books are mis-categorized or overlooked, or the dealer is simply unaware. There are 2 reasons to look through dollar bins – the first is to fill in any missing issues in your collections, a worthy and noble cause, and the second is to find comic books which don’t belong there. We’ll be talking about the latter.

Early bird gets the worm

One thing you quickly realize while dollar bin hunting is that you’re never alone. Especially at a hot dealer, expect hunters to be there for hours upon hours, meticulously looking through hundreds of dollar books one by one. Your biggest advantage is to simply get there first. In small and large cons, there’s usually an early bird special. This allows attendees who pay a little more to have about an hour or more before general admission is allowed in. The advantage is obvious but the competition will still be fierce. The largest Con of them all, San Diego Comic Con, has an entire evening, preview night, to allow attendees early access to some merchandise. But that’s a whole different story on it’s own.

Alphabetical order

The easiest most convenient way to dig through dollar bins are to search for them from dealers that have already organized and ordered them appropriately. Some of the larger collections should have entire publishers separated and ordered alphabetically. If you’re looking for Daredevil, you know exactly where to look, but so does everyone else. However, after a few hours of people hunting for comic books, it’ll quickly be come unordered since many hunters will probably put them back in the wrong places!

Random order

Personally, this is my favorite. Randomly ordered books seem to be chaotic and stressful, especially large dollar bin collections. There’s no logical area to start. There’s no A, no Z, no Marvel or DC section. But this is why it’s my favorite. Lots of hidden gems will likely be in these collections. Collections are unordered for a few reasons I believe. The first, the dealer just recently purchased a large collection and didn’t have time to order them or they are simply too lazy. This is the best scenario. Second, these boxes have seen dozens of comic cons. Anything good in them were already purchased long ago. It’s not worth ordering them anymore. Obviously you’d like the former scenario.

Randomly ordered books take a lot more time and work. But I believe the potential reward is worth it. If you find a collection in which the dealer just recently purchased, it’s highly likely they were not able to accurately sort through all their dollar books. This leaves potential high value items hiding somewhere. The challenging part is, you’d have to look through every single issue to make sure you don’t miss anything. It’s not like skimming the alphabetically ordered collections where you can skim entire sections to see if anythings of interest.

Keep your finds safe

When you’re busy hunting, you usually skim through several dozen books a minute. Slowing down on potentially interesting items and pulling them out for further review. Typically you’ll set them aside right on top of the boxes in front of you. Here’s my advice – be careful and keep an eye on your books and keep them close. There have been occasions where I would set aside books I’m interested in and all of a sudden, they’re gone. I’ve lost some key dollar book finds to others beside me who noticed my treasure and took it upon themselves to stealthily snatch it away from my pile when I’m not looking.

One strategy I like to do while in a long hunting session is to buy the books often and put them in my backpack or bag right away. It insures no one can steal them from me. Well, at least not easily.

Haggling for entire short and long boxes

If you happen to find entire short and long boxes you want to purchase, you’re probably in luck. If you buy that many books, dealers would probably willing to give you the best deal. A short box will have between 100-150 books depending on how tightly they’re packed or if they all are bagged and boarded. A long box could probably hold 250-300 books. Honestly, if I was going to make an offer on an entire short box, I’d offer half of what all the comic books are worth individually. So between $50 and $75 for short box. YMMV of course. Checkout our guide on how to haggle at comic cons.

One column, one hunter

Short and long boxes are usually arranged in columns, making it easy to flip through books. If there are other people hunting with you, please respect their column. Some people may be quick, others slow. It doesn’t matter. If they were there first, allow them to peruse at their leisure. Side swiping is rude in my opinion. Others won’t follow this rule fortunately, but aim to be the bigger person. And wait your turn.

4 for $1 usually means less desirables

This is very much my opinion, but most of the bins where dealers sell multiple for a dollar usually don’t have anything good in them. They are mostly newer issues. If this is your thing, by all means, it’s a great deal.

Less common dealers

Big and common dealers tend to be more organized, go through their collection often. They usually have a staff of people that go through their collections and pull out any of the hidden gems. I like to checkout dealers I don’t see often. They usually have better comic books in their dollar bins. Sometimes it’s their personal collections which make it all the better. Less common dealers also means less chances of hunters cleaning them out already.

Hunt for hot books first

Sometimes there’s something particularly hot at a con. Whether it be the newly announced Daredevil show or Dr. Strange movie, somethings going to be hot. Not all dealers are up to date with the news. So those Dr. Strange books that normally sell for a dollar are gonna be in high demand. If you’re hunting for hidden gems, make a list and look for those first. And you’ll probably have more luck looking through sorted dollar bins.

Final thoughts

These are some of the observations I’ve made while hunting for gems in dollar bins. If you any other tips and tricks, let me know and I can add it to the list!

If this is your first time visiting Shortboxed, thanks for stopping by! We want to provide a place online where people new to comics can come and learn about the culture and be introduced to some amazing stories without feeling overwhelmed or intimidated. We’re always adding new content, so please come back soon! You can also follow us on TwitterInstagram and Tumblr at @shortboxed.

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