It’s no secret that comics conventions are a plastic-molded hotbed of merchandising. On every main floor of any con, a vast array of toys, comics, and collectibles are a main feature. Collectors might be able to find a much sought-after item, and sellers may be able to offload some of their most impressive wares.
New York Comic Con 2019 is no exception, with toys of every kind peeking out from every corner. It's great if you're looking to drain your wallet, but what about fattening it up a bit? Can a keen eye find the right steals? How would someone even begin to differentiate a valuable item from a "worthless" one? Might it even be possible, with only the buying, selling, and flipping of toys, to enter NYCC with only $50 in your pocket, and come out having turned a profit?
These are but some of the industrious questions that SYFY WIRE asked James Gallo, the owner of Toy & Comic Heaven. Since Gallo’s main store is located in Pennsylvania (right outside of Philadelphia), NYCC is a main stop for him every year.
"This is probably the biggest show of the year for me, if not very close to it," Gallo said. "Conventions are great because you move a large amount of merchandise, you get a higher amount of cash flow in a short period of time, so for me it’s very important."
Gallo’s been in the business for 30 years at this point. He’s always been a collector; he collected stuff as a kid (as did his father) and straight through adolescence, turning it into his business right out of college. He opened his first shop in 2001, and has been a full time dealer of toys, comics, and collectibles ever since.
Though his main motive in attending conventions is selling (naturally), he also uses the event to stock up.
"Sometimes I find stuff that’s underpriced or will need something for a specific customer," he says, "so I’m always on the lookout for stuff as well."
When it comes to buying, selling, and flipping, he needs to always be vigilant. Gallo showed us a Spider-Hulk figure, which he said is something that most people wouldn’t look at twice. But if you found one at NYCC, you could make a tidy profit.
"There’s such a wide array of stuff out there right now, there’s so many different nuances to different things," he explains. "There’s certain lines that were really short-lived, like I have this Spider-Hulk figure, they only made one line of that, just one line and that’s it. Most people would just sweep that under the rug, they wouldn’t have a clue."
While it’s not his most valuable item, it would go for $30-$40 out of the package, and could go for as much as $100 still in it. You’d have to know to look for it, though… which is where eBay comes into the picture; eBay is a good place to start for anyone who might be looking to sell something at a convention.
"Unfortunately eBay is the marketplace right now," Gallo says. "Your best bet would be to go to the completed listings to see what the item has sold for, as opposed to looking at what someone is asking for. With completed sales, you’ll see what the real sales have been. Often people will put a crazy price on something to get attention."
Say I have $50 in my pocket, hitting the floor, would it be possible, through buying and selling and flipping, to turn a profit?
"It depends on what you’re buying, how hard you want to work, and how much time you want to put in," he says. "There can be money made at a convention, especially one of this size, but one individual person can’t get to every crevice. You’re either gonna have to get lucky, or you’re gonna have to do a lot of digging. A lot of times on the comic side of things, in the dollar boxes, you can find stuff. Often times people will do a bin of action figures under the table and you can sometimes find stuff in there. Even if you can’t turn it here, you could possibly turn it on eBay. It’s possible, but it would definitely be a challenge from a work standpoint and a time standpoint."
So, pretty much, it would take you all four days, all day long.
"I think it’s easier to do that from a comic standpoint than from a toy standpoint," Gallo says. "It just depends on your knowledge. I just got a collection with some Funko Pops, and I don’t do much with them, but one of them was from Mars Attacks, one of the early ones. Boxed, it was $500. Mine was loose, and I sold it quickly for a hundred bucks. If I hadn’t looked it up, I would have put it out for 5 bucks without any hesitation. That’s a scenario where if someone just throws it in a box, and you know it, then you can turn a profit and get it."
Not that any of these items are trash, but might one man’s "trash" be another man’s treasure? Kind of, according to Gallo. "We’ve seen trends over the years, sometimes they stick, sometimes they don’t. We’ve seen Beanie Babies come and go, [Funko] Pops have lasted a while, I don’t have a lot of faith in them staying, but I’ve seen people drop a significant amount of money on a Pop."
Indeed, Gallo revealed that he's seen some Funko Pop sales go as high as $1,500-$2,000, just for one.
If someone wanted to do what Gallo does (or potentially really get into flipping), how might one proceed? Really know your comics and toys, and go from there? Not necessarily.
"No one can know everything," he says. "I recommend sticking with what you like, getting educated on it, and then you can go grunting in search for stuff. Sometimes, especially in the comic business right now, a certain character will pop in a movie, and their first appearance will be worth nothing, and then all of a sudden it jumps to hundreds of dollars."
On that subject, Gallo barely needed a minute to reveal that his heart was with Star Wars, first and foremost. There's no collectible in that arena that he hasn't gotten his hands on — he has half a dozen Millennium Falcons (and could have a rocket-launching Boba Fett if he wanted one). Apparently the original version of the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy isn't that hard to come by — according to Gallo, you can get a complete Falcon for around $100... depending on whether or not the all-important training ball component is intact.
With Star Wars in mind, would it make sense to go and buy every Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker figure that’s about to come out, hoping that they could turn out to be a wise investment?
"No," Gallo says. "I don’t really recommend investing in new toys. When Star Wars resurfaced in 1995 with the Power of the Force toy line, everybody did that. I just bought a guy's collection and there were 16 'Leia as Boushh' figures in it, and about 12 of 'Han in Carbonite.' He specifically said to me he bought the 'Han in Carbonite' because the vintage version was so expensive. His logic was that the new one would also be expensive. So many people stockpile this stuff, and they’ll lose on far more pieces than they’ll gain on."
We trusted Gallo completely, but all the same we bought a couple of $7 action figures and tried to flip them. At the time of this writing, we're still offering good money for a vintage Bossk and IG-88.
To visit James Gallo and his collection, he can be found at NYCC 2019 all convention long at Toy and Comic Heaven's booth, located at #2915.
Click here for SYFY WIRE’s full coverage of New York Comic Con 2019, including up-to-the-minute news, exclusive interviews, and videos.