WHAT UP INTERNET?
UPDATED: 7/10 to reflect new info on the Funko Sails Pavilion drawing method
NOTE: This right here is post # 100 on TruBros.com. It’s fitting it’s be about the one thing about ConLife nearest and dearest to my heart: exclusives. I appreciate all you Bros who have scoped the blog and look forward to the next 100!
When it comes to the extravaganza that is San Diego Comic-Con International there is one thing I prioritize above anything else: exclusives. While you can certainly spend your time camping out to attend a panel and get the satisfaction of being “there” (which I absolutely understand), a majority of the exclusives sold at SDCC are only available during the Con in limited quantities and once they’re sold out, they’re gone. Whether you’re a collector, shopping for unique NerdLife gifts or merely looking for a piece of memorabilia, I’d recommend picking up at least one exclusive during your time at SDCC. If you’re a ConLife connosieur or an SDCC first-timer, I’m here to break down how exclusives work at the Con of all Cons. First off, when you’re standing in line outside the convention center prior to SDCC opening for the day, there are two lines: Hall H, and everything else. If you’re after exclusives, you need to be in the “everything else” line.
To sum up exclusives in a nutshell: these are items only available for purchase from exhibitors during SDCC on the Exhibition Hall floor. There are some caveats to this, as some items (such as those offered by Mattel and Funko) may be released later through traditional retail channels which means they aren’t really SDCC Exclusives. Also, some retailers may sell their goods online during the convention for shipping after SDCC is complete, meaning anyone has an opportunity to purchase them. While there are always caveats and unique situations, generally there are two types of exclusives during SDCC: those available at booths on the floor and the biggest retailers which utilize a Sails Pavilion draw system.
First, let’s cover the items which do not utilize a draw system. These are available by multiple retailers, such as Hallmark, Peauts, Monogram International, Dark Horse, Skybound, Titan Merchandise…the list goes on and on, unless an exhibitor is using Sails for a draw, their items will be available on the Exhibition Hall floor. Typically, exhibitors will bring X number of a certain exclusive (say, 1500 of a particular set) and allocate a certain percentage of their inventory to be sold each day of the convention- so 25% for all four days. Not every vendor allocates inventory in this manner, as more often than not by Saturday some of the best exclusives (here’s looking at you, Hasbro) are already sold out. Because inventory allocations differ significantly based upon exhibitor, if you’re after a certain item it’d behoove you to go after it as soon as you can.
Since most exhibitors only have a small number of exclusives to sell on a particular day, they tend to go fast-as in, within minutes of the hall opening for the day. If you’re after one of the more popular retailers to not utilize Sails-such as Hallmark or Peanuts-if you’re not in their lines within approximately 10 minutes of the Exhibition Hall opening for the day, odds are you’re not going to get your hands on an exclusive. While I’d imagine the addition the RFID scanners may slow this down a bit, the fact remains if you’re after an exclusive from a popular retailer, hitting that booth should be your first priority in the morning.
To sum up: if the exhibitor is not utilizing Sails Pavilion, you need to line up in the line which isn’t for Hall H and you need to make hitting that booth your first goal in the morning. These items are sold on a first-come-first-served basis, so walk as briskly as humanly possible (since there’s no running at SDCC!) to the booth in question and keep your fingers crossed you get lucky! Sidebar-some retailers (specifically, Monogram International for the past two years) are cash only. Additionally, mobile payment doesn’t always do well due to the notoriously spotty reception in the convention center-this is why cash is one of the items I always recommend you carry when hitting up SDCC. You sure as hell don’t want the reason you didn’t get your hands on a coveted exclusive to be because Square wasn’t working!
The biggest exhibitors at SDCC (think: Hasbro, Lego, Bandai, this year Funko) utilize Sails Pavilion to hold draws for their items. Side note: most autograph sessions utilize Sails as well. Each exhibitor leverages Sails in their own way, and while it’s certainly possible they may alter their approach during 2016, I believe it’d be beneficial to you Bros to detail how these draws have worked in the past. That being said, Sails Pavilion was the biggest question mark for me during my first SDCC excursion, and as such I’d like to give a brief overview of it to you Bros here, as any SDCC attendee is going to need to get familiar with Sails real fast. I did a Sails Pavilion walkthrough in another post, but in the interest of providing comprehensive information I’ll transpose the most important parts of it here. This is what it looks like heading up to Sails Pavilion.
To help you Bros get your bearings, we’ll be starting from the left side of the convention center where the Hilton San Diego Bayfront is located:
I’m sure this police officer/security guard is positively enthralled at the prospect of having to deal with 100,000+ Con-goers (not counting those who swarm the Gaslamp district strictly to people-watch/participate in outside events). Regardless, in the left of this photo is the San Diego Convention Center. On the right (not pictured) is the Hilton San Diego Bayfront. Under the white tents are those camping in the notorious Hall H line and in dead-center we have Petco Park.
This walkway is sandwiched between the San Diego Convention Center (on the left) and the white tents set up for those who are camping in the Hall H line.
Coming up on the front of the Convention center
This point is where most lines begin to form. If you were to do a complete 180 on this point (and I apologize for not capturing a photo of this point for this post) you’d see two lines. To the right would be the white tents which serve as the Hall H line. Lining up to the grass in the left would be the “everything else” line. This catch-all includes not only the line for the Sails Pavilion draw, but Ballroom 20 and literally everything that isn’t Hall H. If you find a healthy number ahead of you from this point, fear not; since this line encompasses quite a bit including panels, exclusives for every company, autographs and the floor, it tends to swell quite early. IMPORTANT NOTE: There’s no telling how the introduction of RFID badges will impact (if at all) how people line up for SDCC overnight.
For both SDCC 2014 and 2015, the entrance to Sails Pavilion first thing in the morning took place by the “E” sign. Hopefully this is unchanged for SDCC 2016.
Wanted to make sure you Bros know exactly where you’re headed, as I know that’s something I would’ve appreciated.
Pretty straightforward stuff
The two photos above are of the same escalator, albeit at different times of the day. First thing in the morning, it’s obviously packed to the brim. This escalator is directly to your right upon entering the convention center, and volunteers/guards will be directing you to it as soon as you enter. IMPORTANT NOTE: Whatever you do, do not run anywhere during SDCC. That being said, feel free to walk as briskly as humanly possible.
This is a view of the same entrance coming down later in the day. Note the lone remnant from the morning directing people to the escalator. First thing in the morning, there will be many of these “barricades” directing ConLife lovers straight up.
This is the view as soon as you reach the top of the escalator. You’re going to want to make a beeline to the left (as going to the right would only be looking out the window).
First thing in the morning, everyone is heading to the Sails Pavilion.
Once you reach this point, you’re going to want to take a right to enter Sails Pavilion. This is where the line begins to break: some people head straight (which allows you to line up directly for the convention center) and many head right to Sails. It’s of note that once you secure whatever ticket/drawing you’re hoping for, you can line up to enter the convention center directly inside Sails.
If you’re gunning for Sails, you’re going to head straight out the doors to the right
To the right is Sails and straight is a line for stuff this post is not focused on.
The view once you finally turn right-and straight toward Sails!
This is NOT the view you see upon entering Sails. Con-goers enter directly via the doors on the left. Once you enter Sails Pavilion, if you’re gunning for the exclusive draws you’re going to want to head left as well. This photo was snapped (quite poorly, I confess) at SDCC 2015. To the right was badge pickup (moot now that badges are being mailed out) and many other things I’ve yet to check out despite attending for two years in a row.
This is more in line with the view you should see upon entering Sails. Remember, if you’re hoping to nab Hasbro/Lego/Bandai/any-of-the-heavy-hitters-utilizing-a-sails-pavilion-draw, odds are they’re going to be to the left and outside. Some mornings there were signs (more on this in a bit) directing attendees, however don’t count on them being present. That being said, you can always ask a volunteer where the line for a specific exhibitor forms!
The view of the left side of the Sails Pavilion. Most of the big draws actually take place outside Sails, and to reach them you need to head to the terrace directly to the left.
Poorly-photographed signs from the first morning of SDCC 2015 showing exclusive-chasers where to head for the draw.
Provided the draw takes place in the same location as the last two years, it’ll be directly outside those doors.
The doors we just exited are on the right beside the fellow in the blue shirt. The volunteer with the sign is indicating which line forms where they’re standing-last year this was Lego. Directly behind where this photo was taken was the autograph line and on the far side where all the people are was the Bandai line. Bear in mind; there’s no guarantee any of these companies’ lines will be in the exact same spot.
Now that you know how to get to Sails and have a general idea of where to go once you’re there, let’s detail how the Sails Pavilion draw system has worked in the past for the most popular exhibitors.
Odds are if you’re at Sails Pavilion first thing in the morning and you hop in the Lego line, you’ll be able to say hi and give your Bro a fist bump! First thing in the morning, (and around noon if you’re hoping for the free, exclusive minifig) attendees line up in Lego for a chance to hit a tablet which looks like this:
Last year if you got good cop in the afternoon, you got yourself an exclusive minifig. If you got good cop first thing in the morning, you got a ticket like this:
Which means you could go to the booth and purchase the exclusive set for the day. While Lego only had three sets, on Sunday attendees had the opportunity to purchase any of the exclusive sets from the previous three days, which is how I managed to complete my SDCC 2015 Lego collection! The Lego line (if it remains the same) is a 50/50 shot-so the more people you can take with you, the better.
The nicest thing about the Bandai line last year is if you hit it early enough, you were pretty much guaranteed to get your hands on a ticket like the ones below:
There’s no 50/50 shot here-either you got the ticket if they hadn’t run through the day’s allotment, or you didn’t. Last year Bandai also marked your SDCC badge (with a marker) to indicate which of their exclusives you’d already been given a ticket to purchase in order to adhere to inventory limits.
This is the big one, and unfortunately I didn’t take any photos of the order form or ticket-apologies, Bros. That being said, the Hasbro set up is easy enough to understand despite (or perhaps, due to) it’s popularity.
Once you line up for Hasbro at Sails, you receive a ticket. The ticket indicates what time you’re allowed to shop at the Hasbro booth and it’s divvied up in hour increments. Obviously the earlier you receive at ticket at Sails, the earlier you’re able to shop at the Hasbro booth that day. Shopping earlier is ideal, as Hasbro does have a tendency to sell out of their daily allotment of the most popular exclusives rather quickly.
Once you’re in line at the Hasbro booth, you grab an order form which has photos, prices and the limit of each item available for purchase that day. If an item is sold out, more often than not the forms are updated to include this information, however it can change once you actually make it to the cashier. Additionally, there have been numerous stories (such as with my Bro last year) of making it the booth with an order form which showed an item was “Sold Out”, and then being able to purchase that item as they replenished their stock right as he made his way up front. As with everything at SDCC, be sure to keep your fingers crossed when you enter the Hasbro booth-sometimes, you just get lucky.
Funko is moving to a Sails Pavilion ticket distribution in 2016 after a horrendous showing in 2015. The draw method they will employ is heavily randomized. Each attendee will draw for a winning wristband to shop at the Funko booth at a specific (random) time noted on it. If you don’t receive a winning wristband, you won’t be able to draw again until the next day. This means the first three people who draw may not receive winning wristbands, and the first person who does draw a winning wristband could draw a wristband with a late time in the afternoon. Additionally, the Funko website notes there is a strict limit of one of each item per wristband, so you won’t be able to snag any duplicates.
BONUS: Autograph sessions
The crew and I only did the WB autograph sessions last year, however tickets were distributed in a 50/50 manner. You’ll line up for the specific company you’re interesed in where multiple bowls are placed for each autograph session (and you let the volunteers/people running the drawing if you’re interested in drawing for multiple autograph sessions for the same company) and draw a ticket. If you got a winning ticket, you’d get a wristband to attend that specific autograph session. If you draw a losing ticket, you could always hop into the end of that line to try again or run into another line at Sails Pavilion, so hitting up Sails early has it’s benefits.
Many companies also hold autograph sessions which do not utilize the Sails Pavilion draw system-typically for these you simply need to line up at the booth the morning of the signing in order to receive a ticket or wristband to attend. That being said, considering these can vary wildly not only by year but by each company, if you’re interested in attending a specific autograph session for a company not utilizing the Sails Pavilion draw, it’d be beneifical to scope their Twitter/Facebook/Press Releases for details on how that specific session will be handled.
Perhaps the most important aspect of Sails Pavilion ticket distributions (other than the way exhibitors handle their own draws, obviously) is timing. In 2015, Bandai began handing out tickets as soon as attendees began to file into Sails, meaning the crew and I were able to hit Bandai and then immediately jump in line for Lego. Lego, Hasbro and autograph tickets (at least on the morning I recall) did not distribute tickets until lines had already begun to form, meaning if you jumped into one of those lines, odds are you wouldn’t be able to hit up another after. There’s no telling how the addition of Funko to Sails and RFID badges will impact the Sails Pavilion ticket distribution process, but you can bet they both will in some way, shape or form.
Securing exclusives at San Diego Comic Con is no small feat, however as long as you’re cognizant of the different methods employed (in the past, at least. Things are always subject to change!) by exhibitors you can focus on getting where you need to first thing in the morning. If you’ve any questions at all, feel free to hit a Bro up on Twitter or on here. If you found this article helpful at all, I’d appreciate it immensely if you shared it with your crew. Until next time, Bros!