The Summer of 1973 - Part VI
After finally arriving at the 1973 San Diego Comics convention, and having convention organizer Richard Buttner find me a last-minute dealer's table in a tiny alcove in the back of the room, I was ready to hustle my way to glory. Getting in to the show each morning was a bit of a bear, as we were sleeping on the ground at a KOA campground which was quite a distance from the convention hotel, but with our passion for comics providing more than adequate stimulation, we managed to find our way.
That first day at the show was relatively uneventful, as my poor location limited the number of customers visiting my table. I did learn one valuable lesson in human nature, however, when I had a young couple approach me with a cardboard box, asking if I bought comics. When I said "Yes," they pulled out a beautiful copy of the ultra-rare Dumbo paint book, and a couple of other less significant titles. I purchased those books from them, at which point they then pulled out a nearly pristine 12" long Dick Tracy tin toy car from the box, and asked me if I would pay them $20 for it. While my mentor in antiques during my high school days at the Colorado Springs Antiques market had been a specialist in tin toys of the 1930's, I had never really learned very much about that genre. I did know, however, that this particular car was quite rare, as Mr. Black had not had one in his 400+ personal collection of tin toys. I advised this young couple that they had an item that was really valuable, and that they could probably get at least $100 for it if they showed around. They thanked me, then walked to a dealer two booths down, and sold it to him. I later learned that he paid them the $20 that they were asking. Sigh...
While most of the day was relatively quiet, I did manage to trade the Dumbo paint book to Bruce Hamilton for a low grade Superman #3. My friend Lyle (who drove us out in his van) was trying to put together a run of Superman #2-#10, so he was an immediate buyer for that book. Aside from that one big sale, I mostly just wheeled and dealed, trying to slowly improve my inventory. At about 3 PM, however, the **** hit the fan. Even on that first day of the convention, attendance was quite good. This meant that the tiny aisles in the dealer's room were packed almost all the time. When the San Diego Fire Marshall arrived for his inspection, he went ballistic. In retrospect, I can certainly understand why, as the aisles were only about six feet wide, and the distance in between dealer's tables in the central blocks seemed like it was even less. Clearly, they had far too much humanity crammed into a room that was never intended to hold so many people. With the anticipated usual doubling of attendance from Thursday to Saturday on the horizon, it was clear to almost everyone that this current arrangement would never past muster with the fire guys.
Shel Dorf and Richard Buttner pleaded with the Fire Marshall for time. They promised that if he would just not shut down the show on Thursday, they would find a solution overnight. Quite remarkably, they did. The solution they hit upon was to reverse the allocation of space between the dealer's room, and the neighboring events room. The events room was about twice as big as the dealer's room, but not nearly as many people had been going to the movies and talks as had been first anticipated, at least in part because they were so busy shopping for bargains in the dealer's room. By switching the two rooms, a far more reasonable allocation of space could be achieved.
While switching the two rooms sounds great in theory, it was a contentious battle in actual implementation. All the dealers had to stay in the dealer's room on Thursday night after the room had closed, and had to physically move their tables and inventory to the new spot assigned to them in the old events space. This resulted in some very, very grumpy dealers, as everyone was already tired (and hungry), and greatly resented having to stay late to haul their stuff around because of a convention staff snafu. In addition, many dealers lost what they considered to be prized locations, and vented to anyone who would listen about this unfair imposition.
Throughout this entire process, I kept very quiet. What I recognized quite early on in this switching process was that reversing the rooms might be the best thing that could happen for me. My initial observation was completely correct. When the hotel staff came in to erect the new dividing wall between the events room and the dealer's room, I found that my dead little alcove (from which I didn't have to move...) suddenly became the main entrance to the new dealer's room! For the rest of the convention, my booth was the very first one that anyone saw when entering the dealer's room. Suffice it to say, my sales jumped upwards for the rest of the show. It was about this time in my life that I started to understand the real meaning of the old saying that has since become my personal credo: "It is far better to be lucky, than to be smart..."
To be continued...
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