SF Tony Avatar

 Life Skills for Fanboys:  Beware the Geek Scams

 written by Tony DiGerolamo, Copyright 2014

To further my goal of helping fellow fanboys, I have included an index of links of previous columns with their topics.  Don’t take it personal, I’m just trying to help.  Previous columns are indexed at the end.

Geek Criminals

Yes, I was shocked too, but it’s true.  Criminals lurk in our midst and some of them can recite lines from Star Wars and the Simpsons with the best of them.  Geeks tend to be a smart lot, so geek criminals need to be even smarter.  Like all crooks, they prey on the weak.  But as G.I. Joe said, “Knowing is half the battle.”  So here now are a few of the scams you should be aware of.

The Screw Down Case Screw Job

This is a most insidious scam, as it preys on card junkies, most of whom are just little kids.

Take a valuable collectible gaming card, like one in Magic: The Gathering.  Photocopy or scan the card onto high quality, sticker stock.  Carefully cut out the sticker and attached to a worthless gaming card.  Now lock that sucker up in a screw down case and sell it for half the guide.  Proxy players that don’t want to mess up their new card will happily buy them.

Sports card collectors, this was also used against you, so be wary of anyone with a great deal.  It might be too great if you know what I mean.

The Partners in Distraction

These two geeks work in tandem.  One gets into an argument with you during a card game.  Might be in a tournament, but usually is not.  The argument is just a distraction while the partner takes your unguarded backpack and/or card binder.  A really slick operator might just take one valuable card and leave you the binder.  Then by the time you notice, you’re either home trying to build a deck or sorting through the binder during a trade.

Keep your shit locked down at all times, especially at a con.  And don’t carry so much of your collection unless you really need to.  Card thieves can strike almost anywhere, but they tend to target vulnerable players in chaotic and noisy situations.  Keep your backpack closed and under your feet, don’t hang it on the back of your chair where anyone can unzip it and go shopping.

The Comic Forgers

There’s not a lot of these, as forging an entire comic is kind of expensive.  But I’ll mention on interesting case.  Cerebus #1 was faked and they printed so much that it’s actually a bit of a collectible.  The ironic thing is, the fake was printed on high quality paper and tends to hold up better.

During the comic glut of the early 90’s, hot comics like Spiderman and Spawn were forged, although most of this was about using a photcopier to also forge the signature.

Con Scams

Cons are rife with scams.  Unscrupulous dealers will sometimes say almost anything to sell a collectible.  I watched an older dealer con some kid out of his hard-earned cash over a Danger Girl #1 long after the comic had lost its value.

The bottom line is, unscrupulous dealers will size you up, see that you really want some kind of nostalgic collectible and then gouge you for all they can.  That’s why you should be wary of dealers that don’t put prices on things.  It’s so they can call out a price, gauge your reaction and go from there.  These guys will treat cagey fans different from ones that walk up and say, “Oh, my God!  I can’t believe you have this!  I’ve been looking all over for it!  How much?!”

The Pyramid Scheme

And it’s not just dealers.  While large publishers don’t usually sell at cons, mid-range to small ones do.  I’ve seen guys say and do almost anything to make a sale.  They’ll heavily imply what a signature from their no-name talent will do for the value of the comic.  (Which isn’t so much a scam, as wishful thinking on their part.)  I’ve seen very small publishers attempt to use large publisher, collectible tactics to sell.

For instance, back in the 90’s, Lightning Comics made the bold announcement that they would not print more than 100K of any comic.  It drove their sales for a bit, but—  Well, have you read any Lightning Comics lately?  Again, not a scam, but I would call it kind of a pyramid scheme.  In the world of collectibles, less drives up the demand, which drives up the price.  If there are plenty of comics and no one wants them, the price dips.  So if you plateau your print run, you’re basically plateauing any chance for the new comics to become collectibles that increase in price.

It’s like the Empire Rome.  You either keep expanding or the Empire dies.  Same principle.  Either you’re printing 100K, then 200K, then 300K each year—  Which then drives up the prices of the earlier issues.  Or you print less, basically making the opposite happen.  Can you say X-men #1?

Dine and Dash

Con attendees often end up at a restaurant at the end of the day.  Sometimes you’ll be with a large group of people that seem to be your friends.  Unfortunately, some of them are there to eat on your dime.

I was at a convention with an artist friend.  He liked to invite fans or whoever to listen to him pontificate.  We ended up at this Italian restaurant with about 20 people.  Unfortunately, when the check came, six or seven of those “friends” had skipped out while my friend droned on and on.  Eventually, he ended up paying for the bill an some of the rest of us had to chip in.  Whether those extras just thought my friend was buying or cut out on purpose is unknown.  What is known is that I paid $22 for a chicken parm sandwich and a drink.  Not cool.

When your con entourage forms, get separate checks.  It’s just easier for the waiter or waitress to do that math anyway.  At least this way, you won’t get stuck on the tip.  (Another ploy.  I used to have associates wanting to split the check after they drank non-stop and all I did was eat appetizers.  No way.)


Even when you’re amongst friends, don’t let money or a money situation blow up in your face.  Be smart and responsible.  Know the risks and the understanding when attending a con and splitting a room, a check, a badge fee—  Whatever.  And use common sense when you’re dealing with strangers.  Just because someone is friendly and knows Monty Python songs, doesn’t mean he won’t take you for all your worth.

Previous Columns
Obesity at Cons
The Art of Conversation
The Line Between Fans and Pros
Geek Elitism
Convention Panels
Convention Volunteers
Food Gifts
Women and Cons
Get Your Room Party Together
Stop Bringing Your Kids to Cons
The Face of Geek Needs Work
Fixing the Face of Geek
Franchise Worship
Presenting Your Project
The New Image?
Stop Trying to Make Geek Cool
 Rethinking the Comic Book Con
Zombie Stories Should Still Be About People
Geek Stereotypes and the Big Bang Theory
Con Locations
Traveling to Cons on the Cheap
Con Economics
Comics, Sexism and Trolling
Searching for the Words
How to Fix Comics?  Stop Reading Them
Shopping at the Con
The Hollywood Double Edged Sword