Comic cons and expos are very hit or miss, but you can typically find value regardless of where you attend. If you’ll be attending a con or expo that you’ve never attended before, do some scouting before committing your time to it. Check their website to see how many comic book vendors will be in attendance. The more competition, the better. Your best options are those that are setup more like swap meets or mom-to-mom sales, typically held in inexpensive halls/churches/etc. where it’s heavy on the comic vendors, and light on guests/crafters/artists/etc. That’s where you’ll find the best deals. Look for the vendors selling $1 comics (or less), which you will often find something that’s of value, but the vendor may have overlooked or was just interested in reducing their collection. Other typical deals are but two-get one free, half off, or other heavily discounted comics. You’ll quickly tell by the prices if they’ve marked them up and offered them at a deal, or if they’re serious about getting rid of inventory. Also, while sometimes rare, there’ll be those who don’t want to return home with anything (often moving/downsizing/or appeasing a nagging wife). If you find these vendors, hit them hard and negotiate them down.
Another thing to consider is when to attend. There’s two premiere times to attend; when the doors first open and an hour before they close. Those who are first in the doors are more likely to get first pick of the deals – the first picks of the dollar bins and discount bins, and have first crack at sending home the guy looking to unload his inventory. Or, you can wait until the con/expo is nearing its end and you’ll find that dollar bin is slashed into a $.50 bin, or buy two get one free becomes buy one get two free. Vendors are often tired and not looking to bring anything back to their cars that they don’t have to or maybe they didn’t do as well financially and will be looking to make any sales that they can. Or maybe they did better than expected financially and they are willing to allow their comics to be sold for less than they normally would. I know of publishers who attend comic cons from states away and are pretty much looking to give their products away by the end of the show. While you may n0t have first choice at the comics you wanted, but odds are you will find something of value.
If there are guest comic book authors or writers who attend the event, getting their autograph is also a decision to be made. If you are big fan of their work and want it regardless of the price and have no interest in reselling the comics – awesome, get it and cherish it. If they’re a local artist and you want to support their work – awesome, you may find an up and comer and like their work. But if they’re named artists who work for a major comic publisher and are looking to get an autograph with intentions of having their book increase in value, consider a few things. How much are they charging? Smaller named artists and writers often will sign autographs for free. However, if you don’t get a certificate of authenticity with it, that autograph is near worthless. The same goes for bigger named artists and writers who charge for their autographs; however, they often have the option of also purchasing a COA. If you’re looking to get the autograph entirely for the increase in value, you might as well get the COA otherwise don’t bother paying for the autograph. So, consider the COA price into the price charged for the autograph as the total value paid and determine what their autographs are going for. If it’s not an A-lister, don’t waste your money on getting both or either. Autographs should be more for fans than collectors should. It’s a way to remember you meeting them and should be reserved for fandom. The same goes for buying autographs. To me, this is pointless unless you’re getting an amazing deal and you know you can flip it for a profit. Buying an autograph is like buying someone else’s memory. Would you go on eBay and buy someone else’s vacation photos?
Larger comic cons will often have vendors with exclusive items. This is another thing that you should scout out prior to attending to know what exclusives different vendors are offering, if it’s something you want, and how many they’re selling. If you don’t someone else will and you may miss out on your chance at it. If there’s something that you have to have, get there early and head straight for their table because if you want it, other likely want it too. Also, determine if this is an item you want for your collection or if you’re looking to flip it. If you’re looking to keep it for your collection, awesome, pay whatever you’re willing to spend it on. If you’re looking to place it on eBay the next day, do some research and see if you’ll make enough of a profit on it to make it worth it. Most exclusives will be easy flips for at least a small profit the few weeks following the convention. But the factors to consider are how rare is it – the lower the number of same items in circulation the higher the ROI, how popular is the character that the item is based on – the demand for the item, and how long will it hold its value – is it a fringe character or a fad character that will likely lose its appeal soon or is it an A-list character who’ll likely still be popular in 20 years? Fad characters will likely receive a greater return shortly after the convention, while A-list characters likely have more items in circulation that will lower the short term ROI but will maintain staying power for several years.