San Diego Comic-Con 2016: My Best SDCC Ever

Best SDCC Ever

Another year, another San Diego Comic-Con in the books (possibly my last one, but I’ve been saying that for 3 years now) and this one will go down as my best year ever. From the craziness of Preview Night to the tame Sunday, each day had a unique highlight that I will not forget.  On Wednesday, I didn’t have Preview Night passes but my friends and I scored tickets to the Conan O’Brien Show taping who featured the cast of HBO’s Silicon Valley and surprise appearances of Will Arnett and JJ Abrams with an exclusive Funko POP figure giveaway of Conan as Superman. On Thursday, I managed to convince fellow Nerd(col)ab bloggers, Jason Tong and Jeremy Dizon, to brave the “Everything Else Line” at 3am to get the highly sought after “Hasbro booth ticket.” Thursday was dedicated to hunting for exclusive at the Disney Tsum Tsum booth, NECA, Skybound, etc., but more on that later. On Friday, my wife and I got tickets to an autograph session with Nick Groff and Katrina Weidman from the TV show Paranormal Lockdown, and Amy Bruni and Adam Berry from the new TV show Kindred Spirits. I know this isn’t “Comic Book” related, but my wife and I are really into paranormal ghost hunting shows so this was truly a unique experience for us as they were there promoting their new shows on Destination America. Later that night we attended the Paranormal Superstars panel and got to hangout, chat with, and take more pictures with Nick and the “Haunted Collector” himself, John Zaffis.

2We ain’t afraid of no ghosts!

On Saturday I managed to get onto the Convention Floor an hour before general doors opened and was the second person in line at the always line capped Blizzard Entertainment booth and scored the ultra-exclusive 1/100 Overwatch “The Calvary is here” signed print.

3The Cavalry is Here!

That’s a story for a different time and place. On Sunday I spent quality time with my niece eating carne asada fries at Lolitas at the Park, hung out with my PCE (Pilipino Cultural Exchange, Cal Poly’s Filipino Cultural Club) ading (“little sibling”) at NerdHQ playing Battlefield 1 and Gears of War 4 demos, and eating a SuperQ Brisket Melt from my favorite San Diego food truck (at the offsite event they have on the other side of the people bridge across from Petco Park).

Exclusive Hunting at SDCC 2016

4LARP in Style:  The first ever Magic the Gathering SDCC Exclusive set came with a NERF Garruk’s Axe

In between these personal highlights my time was spent exploring the Convention Floor obtaining exclusives for me and friends unable to attend SDCC.  In my previous posts I’ve mentioned that I’m an avid collector of figures, toys, and other exclusives that are nostalgic for me and I want to share some of the knowledge and experience I have with getting these hard to get items.

Know what you’re after. Know where to get them.

The first step to getting exclusives is to know what is available at the convention and know where to get them. My two main sources for this information is the SDCC Unofficial Blog which is constantly updated as more information comes out, and the SDCC official site.  Other ways to get more information is to follow the social media of specific companies (Funko, NECA, Hasbro) as they make announcements on their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts on exciting new products throughout the convention. It also pays to follow these social media accounts weeks or months before the convention as some companies do a pre-sale of their SDCC exclusives so that you can visit the booth at your leisure and pick up your pre-purchased items without having to wait in the non-pre-sale line.

5NECA’s TMNT Arcade Game figures were available for presale weeks before the convention.  The NECA booth had a much shorter presale item pickup line.

By keeping up on the latest information, you’ll be able to target which booths you want to visit first. My next piece of advice is to look at the Convention Floor map of where the booths you want to visit are located. Generally the floor plan and location of booths are the same every year, but you’ll want to double check as sometimes locations will change from year to year.

Know booth procedures

However, knowing what you want and where to find them only makes you one of the tens of thousands of people who are doing the same thing. The next step that will set you apart from the herd is to know how the booths you are trying to visit are distributing their exclusives. Do you need a special ticket to fall in line for a booth? Where do you get these special tickets? Are the tickets handed out on a first come first serve basis or is it a random ticket draw? The Convention Guide Book that is handed out with the cool oversized reusable SDCC bags will have information as to which booths require a ticket for the opportunity to purchase exclusives and where to go to get these tickets. Social media again is your friend as they’ll post ticket distribution information as well.

From my own experience I can tell you that Hasbro, LEGO, Funko, and Bandai do their ticket giveaways just outside of the Sails Pavilion. Hasbro gives away their tickets on a first come first serve basis until they run out of their allocated tickets for the day.

6I got a Golden Ticket!

LEGO, Funko, and Bandai do a random ticket draw where you have to pick a winning ticket out of bag, scan your badge, or touch an iPad screen and hope the random “Yes/No” generator hopefully says “Yes” for you.  The random ticket drawing will last as long as they have tickets to give away for the day.  If you do not win the random ticket drawing, you can in theory fall back in line and try again, but by the time you fall back in line there’ll be hundreds of people in front of you still trying to draw for the first time.

Keeping these things in mind you can manage expectations and prioritize which ticket drawings you line up for. You’ll most likely have only one shot at falling in line for one of the ticket drawings for the day.

Prioritize and Expectations

7Large Expectations: Hasbro’s Marvel Universe’s largest cardboard backed figure.

Which brings me to my last tip – prioritize and manage your expectations.  Prioritize what you want and set your expectations, because as Mike Tyson once said,

Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.

What I mean by this is that if you fall in line for the “Everything Else Line” you are in line with thousands of people who are after different things. Everyone will walk through the doors when they open and go up the escalators and speed walk to the Sails Pavilion and split off into the different ticket distribution lines and you can only be in one place at one time (unless you’re a mutant and have special abilities). Imaging being in line waiting for your turn to get a ticket or a chance to draw a ticket where in the meantime everyone else behind you is making their way into the Sails Pavilion falling in line at the other ticket distribution lines.  After you finish your drawing you can try to fall in line for another ticket distribution line, but realize there will be several hundreds of people waiting in the other lines ahead of you.

8All these people were in line before me in in the “All Everything Line.” I woke up at 4am to be in this spot.

So if you’re plan was to do the random ticket drawing at Funko first, then try another random ticket draw at LEGO, and then go to the Hasbro ticket distribution – you’re going to be in for a real good “punch in the mouth” of reality. This was my plan a couple years ago and after I failed to get a winning ticket at a random drawing at LEGO I thought I could fall in line at Hasbro and get the guaranteed ticket. But by the time I found the end of the Hasbro line, the line was capped (they weren’t letting more people in line) because they projected they were going to be out of tickets for the day. So I ended up waiting in the “Everything Else Line” at 4am only to get no booth tickets. Totally not what I was expecting and put a real sour taste in my mouth for the rest of the day at the convention.

9It took me all 4 days of SDCC to get these Minions.

It’s only in recent years that I’ve come to realize that this was the most important step in trying to get exclusives. If you prioritize which line you want to line up for, and set the expectation that if you choose a random ticket distribution line that you might not get a winning ticket and you won’t have another chance at another line, then you won’t be so bummed if things don’t go according to plan.  Sure, it will suck, but you won’t be in utter shock, anger, and disappointment that it happened. If it does happen, try not to let it affect the rest of your convention because you’ll still have the opportunity to visit the other booths on your hit list that don’t require a special ticket. All is not lost!  Once again, prioritize which booth you visit first because by the time you’re done at that booth and go to the next one on your list, there’ll be long lines of people who prioritized those other booths ahead of you.

10Didn’t get the exclusive you wanted?  Don’t lose your head!  Plan ahead. See what I did there?

Final Thoughts

11Manage expectations: Hasbro’s Marvel Universe’s smallest cardboard backed figured

Every year the convention floor is full of shattered plans and dreams of people who came with a plan to visit every booth and get every exclusive they wanted not realizing they needed special tickets or that there would be long lines that will be constantly capped. But with careful planning, prioritizing, and setting expectations you can get the exclusives you’re truly after and not let a “punch to the face” turn into an emotional “knock out” for the day. So roll with the punches and good luck exclusive hunting!

 12Bonus Pic!  Marvel Universe’s largest and smallest cardboard backed figures… together!
*all photos taken from J’s personal gallery

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