I’ve been trying to decide whether to go to Wizard World Los Angeles this year. On one hand, it’s close. On the other hand, I just went to WonderCon last month. The astonishing thing is that a one-day ticket for WWLA costs almost as much as a 3-day membership to WonderCon. This got me thinking about comparing convention prices.

So I looked up the comic conventions in the area, plus the other two Wizard World cons that have prices up.

Convention Thu Fri Sat Sun Full
LA Comic/SciFi (a.k.a. The Shrine) $8 N/A
WonderCon (advance) $12 $12 $10 $30 = $10/day
WonderCon (onsite) $15 $15 $10 $40 ≈ $13/day
Wizard World LA, Philadelphia $25 $25 $25 $45 = $15/day
Wizard World Chicago $25 $25 $25 $50 ≈ $17/day
Comic-Con Intl. (way ahead)* $60 = $15/day
Comic-Con Intl. (advance) $25 $30 $35 $20 $75 ≈ $19/day
Comic-Con Intl. (onsite) none

And to compare to some non-comic-focused conventions, some nearby, some just big:

Convention Thu Fri Sat Sun Full
ConDor (advance) $25 ≈  $8/day
ConDor (onsite) $20 $25 $15 $50 ≈ $17/day
Loscon (advance) $35 ≈ $12/day
Westercon 61 (advance) $60 = $15/day
Gen Con Indy (advance) $35 $35 $35 $35 $60 = $15/day
Gen Con Indy (onsite) $45 $45 $45 $45 $75 ≈ $19/day
Dragon*Con (advance) $65 ≈ $16/day
Dragon*Con (onsite) $90 ≈ $22/day
Worldcon/Denvention 3 (advance) $200 = $40/day

It’s interesting to note that WonderCon (San Francisco) and ConDor (San Diego) are extremely cheap if you sign up far enough in advance. Also, when you expand to more general cons, San Diego Comic-Con is right in the middle of the range, with several conventions being more expensive. I’d guess that the more volunteer-based cons like Westercon and Worldcon probably don’t bring in as much money from exhibitors, so they’d be more dependent on memberships to keep afloat.

In compiling this, I discovered that this year, Comic-Con International isn’t going to be selling any memberships on-site. It’s going to be pre-registration only.

I guess they’re expecting it to sell out again like last year, and don’t want people to count on something they won’t be able to deliver. Plus I’m sure it’ll simplify matters for the con, since they won’t need to deal with taking money for registration.

Update: Added Loscon for nostalgia’s sake. Also fixed some links; GenCon rearranged their website sometime in the last 4 days, and I somehow typed in the wrong domain name for ConDor.

Note: These are the 2008 prices, except for the ConDor advance price, which is for 2009. All prices were obtained from the events’ websites except for the way-advance price for San Diego Comic-Con, which is simply the price I paid last summer for this year’s con. For shows with multiple membership packages, such as Wizard World, I selected the most basic package that lets you walk in the door.

*CCI always has a booth selling pre-registration for the following year’s convention at an even lower price.

See Also: Convention Photos & Write-Ups

5 thoughts on “Comic Book Convention Prices Compared

  1. You’re quite right that conventions that don’t revolve around their dealers room/paid exhibitors don’t get nearly so much money from those sources and therefore need to recover significantly more of their costs from memberships. I co-chaired the 2002 Worldcon in San Jose, and roughly 80% of the convention’s expenses were covered by memberships.

    Worldcon is particularly expensive because it’s a pretty large convention (5000-plus; not ComicCon territory, but significant, and most importantly, big enough to need a convention center, which loads the con down with huge fixed costs.) Something that not everyone realizes is that Worldcon has no continuity from year to year. Every Worldcon is a stand-alone event (like the Olympic Games) and has no ability to build up any reserves. Because of the amount of risk involved and very high fixed costs relative to the number of members, you end up with relatively high costs per member.

    (You could reduce the cost by having the same organization run it every year in the same place, but then it would stop being a Worldcon, I think.)

  2. Interesting. I knew that each WorldCon was put together by a different group, but somehow it hadn’t occurred to me that each year would be starting from scratch financially as well.

    The last WorldCon I went to was LACon IV in 2006. It was also the first one I paid for myself, since the previous one I’d been to was when I was maybe 19 or so (I’ll have to check the dates). After a decade of only going to Comic-Con and LosCon (until I gave up on it), I got some serious sticker shock! I almost decided not to go at all, but it was too close to pass up, and I decided to buy a 1-day membership at the door. It was probably just as well, since I came down with a really nasty cold that weekend, and stumbled through the con in a medication-induced haze.

  3. Interesting. I knew that each WorldCon was put together by a different group, but somehow it hadn’t occurred to me that each year would be starting from scratch financially as well.

    Yep. They’re just like the Olympics, in that the individual events aren’t connected legally or financially to each other. That, by the way, is one of the reasons (other than tradition) that each Worldcon has its own name as well; they’re really independent of each other.

    Imagine that you were planning to start an SF convention. You expect to draw 5500 people +/- 1500. You have no start-up money other than advance memberships. You’ll have to dissolve the organization after the first convention, whether it’s successful or not. That’s what Worldcons are like.

    I understand the sticker shock. It bothers me, too. On the other hand, I think the event is significantly different from other large SF genre conventions, including larger pop culture mashups like Comic-Con and Dragon*Con. I’ve attended every Worldcon since 1989 (and 1984 before that), and there are a lot of other things I’d sacrifice before cutting my annual trip to Worldcon.

  4. Another local con to add to your list –
    Conjecture is also in San Diego. Our advance price, if you bought at Conjecture 2007, was $25. Our on-site rate will be $50 (single day rates have not yet been set), although we also have several discount rates available.

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