Username Post: Becoming a Dealer/Vendor at Conventions.        (Topic#2654)
Posts: 2

Reg: 06-06-12

06-06-12 07:52 PM - Post#10900    

Okay, I have search for about 4 days now all over the internet, and I can not find nothing. So I came here hopping someone could help me.
My question is, what type of license do I need to sell merchandise at Conventions?
Do I need an State License for each state, or Sale Tax License, or both?
Now I sold Anime merchandise before at an very small Anime con, there was only about 50-100 people there, and that was 3 years ago, the Owner of that Con didn't ask me for ANYTHING, I just paid him the money for the table, for the weekend and that was it. On all sites for the big anime Cons, they ask you to fill out a form, and they ask for your "company name" that's it, they don't ask/say anything about taxes, so I have a feeling all I need is a state License, but I'm still not 100% sure.
I need help, so if anyone can help me, that would be awesome.

Executive Producer
Posts: 5079
Loc: California
Reg: 12-07-06

06-06-12 09:35 PM - Post#10901    
    In response to Lineant

This depends on the convention and the state. Different states have different laws and requirements for what you need to do to sell in the state. Also, I've noticed smaller conventions, like the one you described, sometimes fly under the radar and manage to do business under-the-table. While not legal, they can get away with it because they're so small. Meanwhile, conventions with thousands of attendees have to do everything by the book. These conventions should have all the details on what forms they require and what needs to be filed with the state. You'll need to contact the conventions you're interested in for details.
-PatrickD Executive Producer
Co-Founder: Anime Boston and Providence Anime Conference
Host of The Chibi Project & Anime Unscripted™

Con Addict
Posts: 141
Loc: Texas
Reg: 08-08-07

06-08-12 06:27 AM - Post#10923    
    In response to Lineant

While Pat is right on research, the most likely things you'll need is to do the following:

  • Setup a company with the IRS to get your EIN, or your Federal Business ID Number. This is required when you pay your taxes. You can go thru a lawyer but there are options online that will handle it for you for a few hundred dollars. The fees depend on the state. You will have to decide if you want to be a Sole-Proprietor or LLC.
  • Register with your state to get your Sales Tax ID. If you ever sell out of state then you have to register with the state that the convention is located to get a temp. ID. The convention will spell out what's needed in the paperwork.

San Japan - San Antonio, Texas - Convention Chairman

Con Addict
Posts: 117
Loc: Houston(ish), Tx
Reg: 04-24-08

04-15-13 02:49 PM - Post#12307    
    In response to Lineant

You also need to look at what items you plan on selling. Different states regulate some items differently than others. City regulations also get involved.

In Houston - if you sell used DVDs, books, CDs, or other "media", you have to have a license from the city. It cost $5 per day, or $25 for a year. You need this if you go to a con in Houston, but not if you go to a con in Round Rock.

Other items that are often regulated are Airsoft, swords (even wooden swords can require a special license), and any other weapon.

Contacts lenses have special requirements from the Federal government that could prevent sales for the entire weekend, and in Texas you have to have a state permit to sell them - not that it matters because it is illegal to sell them at temporary venues.

Finally, the permits and licenses required may be different if you are from a specific state and selling at a con or if you are from out of state.

Having done it myself, I spent over $30k for my first year, and didn't actually start making a profit for 2 years - with just my wife and myself, no employees to pay.

I'm not trying to convince you not to do it. If you can afford the time and money, go for it - but don't think it will be "easy" or a quick way to make some money.

Some other things to consider
1. Don't do a big show until you are ready. If you do it too soon, it can cost you a lot of money and customer loyalty.

2. That doesn't mean stick to little shows. After we had kids we sat down and did a con-by-con breakdown of full expenses vs sales. What we discovered was that some small cons were costing us a lot more than we expected - because we had to place orders before New Years to have the stock in time. This meant paying taxes on that inventory.

3. Just because you may know (or are) convention staff, don't expect favors. On the flip side - don't let a convention treat you like crap to prove it isn't playing favorites. Your booth should be treated like everybody else's. SOMEBODY will always complain about your booth. One thing I let new staff know at any con I work: Dealers are children. If they think somebody got something better, they have to have it - and it doesn't matter if that person sponsored, paid extra, or any other reason.

Example: Last year at a convention I'm on staff for, half a dozen dealers complained that I had "the best spot in the con". The people whose booths were around mine complained about how horrible the area was and that I gave them bad spots.

4. If you think it might be a bootleg, or might be illegal - don't do it. Doing something you think is wrong until somebody actually busts you is a good way to lose your ability to sell at any convention. Conventions can be legally prevented from talking to other cons about your misdeeds. However, if you are staff at a convention and know of something that could negatively affect the con on legal grounds - you are required (by law) to tell the con. Since so many people work multiple conventions, that means messing up at one con (even if only staff knows) will likely hit every other convention.

5. You usually have to sign up for a con months (if not a year or more) in advance. That means you need to be able to pay for several cons booths when you sign up - you can't float it from one con to the next.
A good example of this is what just happened a couple of weeks ago: A-Kon, Otakon, San Japan, AnimeFest, Ikkicon, and a few others all opened their Artist Alley within days of each other. Several of these sell out within minutes - so it was register or don't get in. Artists had to have the money to afford each convention that they were going to. To make matters worse for the artists, Comicpalooza announced the week prior that it was days from filling up - and several were waiting to see if they got into other cons before registering. The exact same thing can happen to dealers (but usually won't because of #6)

6. Unlike artist alleys, Dealer Rooms are often reserved to vendors from previous years first - and only opened to the public after that. If you have a large convention, they typically have a waiting list. San Japan's website says 2016 at the earliest. A-Kon tells people they will be on the wait list 10+ years (the average right now is 12) before getting in. Sometimes more booths are added with growth. Often, getting off of a wait list requires somebody else to decide that they aren't going to sell at that con any more. If you get yourself on a wait list, you then have to decide what you're going to do from there.

We (Those Anime People/ Bad Wolf Trading) took our merchandise and setup to A-Kon every year. We let them know that if somebody didn't show, we were ready to go - money in hand for booth, all product If we didn't get a table, the cargo van went into a rented, climate controlled storage room (large enough for the whole van so we didn't have to unload and reload). When we didn't get in, this was a complete loss for us. We did this because I'm staff, and we would be at the con anyway. You could go home afterwords. For us, it worked out - 3 years in a row we got in. Vendors on the wait list were informed with at least a month to get ready that a spot had opened - and none of them could make it. After 3 years of showing that we were always ready, A-Kon bumped us up and now we have a table every year.

*NOTE: We have 1 table. We were using 2 booths at every other con. Now we use 3-4, except A-Kon we still have one.

7. Make friends. It can really reduce your costs.

There's a lot more, but I'm at work.
Joshua Andrade

Bad Wolf Trading

Posts: 1

Loc: United States
Reg: 02-04-14

02-04-14 01:09 AM - Post#13589    
    In response to meauho

Wow! You're super knowledgable! Do you mind if I pick your brain a bit? I don't know if my situation is quite the same as Lineant but I'm also looking into attending conventions as a vendor. Basically, I've been attending one convention a year on behalf of my novel publishing company but we are looking to branch into original manga/graphic novels.

One thing I am concerned about is the fact that our manga will have adult situations depicted in them. Do you know wha the policies are at a lot of cons about that? Like can I have them on the table or do they need to be under the table? I'm just not sure about that at all.

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