If it’s your first time at an anime convention, you might be really excited hearing about all the stuff you can get in the dealer’s room. It’s not uncommon to walk in and be completely overwhelmed by all of the choices available. To help you navigate your first convention, it’s helpful to know what kinds of merchandise and products you’ll expect to find at the convention.
Most conventions will have the shopping areas split into two sections, the dealer’s room and the artist’s room. The dealer’s room is where you’ll find official merchandise and wholesale retailers. The artist room is where you will find fan-made products and original artwork.
What’s sold in the dealer’s room at an anime convention?
The dealer’s room or merchant’s hall is a place in the convention where you can find official merchandise being sold. You’ll find a lot of merch for Japanese anime, but it’s not uncommon to find stuff for western media as well. Back in the old days, one to two decades ago, this was the only way to easily get anime merch since a lot of it needed to be imported from Japan.
Nowadays, it’s a lot easier to get most items that you’ll find in the dealer’s hall because a lot of it is licensed by American companies and globalization makes shipping much easier. However, you can see everything before you buy and save on shipping costs.
You can also find other items in the dealer’s hall that aren’t necessarily anime-related. You’ll find things like tabletop and card games, wig shops, Japanese fashion shops, and other places that are of interest to the anime and comic community but are not actually anime.
What you find in the dealer’s room will also depend a lot on the size of the convention. Large conventions will have pretty much anything you can think of that is related to anime, comics, gaming, or any adjacent geek community. Smaller conventions may only have basic merch and whatever random dealers that decide to buy a table.
You also have to be careful of knockoff merchandise at conventions (especially DVDs/Blu-Rays). It’s a lot less common now than it used to be, but you might still find knockoffs that end up being very low quality when you bring them home. My policy is to only buy anime from the official dealers that tend to be at the front of the hall.
- Posters and wall scrolls
- Video games
- DnD dice, figures, and related items
- Tabletop games and manuals, card games, and board games
- Wig shops
- Kigurumis (pajama costumes)
- Prop weapon and real weapon shops
- Cosplay-related accessories (such as elf ears, fangs, etc.)
- Anime themed bags
- Clothing shops (lolita/rave/costumes/leather/steampunk)
- Graphic T-shirts and sweatshirts
- Manga and comics
- Japanese snacks and cultural items
- Anime figures and collectibles
- Anime-themed jewelry
- Discounts on subscription services
- Miscellaneous-themed merchandise (mugs, stickers, badges, body pillows, etc.)
What’s sold in the artist alley at an anime convention?
The artist alley is a place for fan art and hand-made items and accessories created by individual artists and small businesses. A lot of this is in the form of posters and keychains, but you’ll also find T-shirts, scarfs, custom plushies, knitted hats, and all types of artistic talent. There are usually restrictions on how much of what an artist sells is allowed to be fan art, so you will also find a lot of beautiful original designs and characters.
Because of copyright restrictions that are often overlooked at conventions, you can find unique artwork that you won’t be able to find anywhere online (learn more about how copyright affects the anime fandom). I know a lot of people who attend conventions prefer to spend more time in the dealer’s hall, but I personally love the artist alley because of all the unique stuff I can find.
- Unique artwork (original designs and anime-related designs)
- Clothing items
- Cute hats
- Pins and keychains
- Art books
- Original comics
- Handcrafted jewelry
- Custom plushies
- Miscellaneous handmade items or original designs
What’s the difference between anime and comic convention merch rooms?
Anime and comic conventions are very similar in what you’ll see for sale. At both types of conventions, you’ll see all kinds of DVDs, posters, toys, games, and more. There will also typically be a separate artist alley at both types of conventions.
However, at comic conventions, you’ll see less of items and accessories that are specifically anime-related. You also probably won’t see any Japanese or East Asian cultural booths selling fashion and food. Instead, at comic cons, you’ll see a wider variety of science fiction, western comics and media, and pop-culture-related items for sale.
The differences between the two types of conventions have also been muddied over the last decade or so. While they do still have separate themes, it’s becoming more and more common to find anime-related booths and programming at comic cons as well as comic-related merch and programming at anime conventions.
Tips for budgeting and spending at a convention
When you go to the dealer’s room or artist alley at a convention, you will be tempted to spend all of your money at once. While I’m not here to tell you what to do with your hard-earned money, I do recommend planning in advance for the temptation so you don’t spend more than you can afford. Use these tips to help you stay on track so you don’t accidentally spend your food money on five new posters that you’ll never put up.
- Decide on a budget beforehand. Before you ever step into the dealer’s hall, give yourself the maximum amount of money you’re allowed to spend.
- Look at the merchants and artists that will be there. Ahead of most conventions, there will be a list of merchants and artists that will be in attendance. You can take a look through them to find the ones you’re most interested in and beeline to those particular shops. This will help avoid too much window shopping and unplanned purchases.
- Walk through and look at everything first, then go back and buy what you want. Before you buy anything, walk through and look at everything that’s available. This way you won’t run out of money before you even see half of the dealer’s hall and end up not being able to afford the thing you want most.
- Spend in cash. If you can, try to withdraw your merch budget in cash. This way you know when you’ve reached your limit and it will be a lot harder to spend more than you intend.