As a frequent attendee of San Diego Comic Con, it’s hard not to admit that one of the biggest pitfalls of the convention as a newbie is swag. If you aren’t familiar with it, swag or “stuff we all get,” is a term for all of the free things that you can get at a convention and toss into your mammoth-sized swag bags.

Unlike smaller cons, SDCC is pretty much notorious for having awesome swag yearly (though a case could be made that the quality and quantity has severely decreased over the years, despite a spike in attendance). Free things handed out on the floor can turn around to be worth hundreds on eBay and often become limited edition items.

With that knowledge, and also with my own personal greed, I used to end up carting home bags of swag that I proceeded to leave in the back of my closet after my four day trip and never touch again. It’s dead weight and often times it’s fliers and coupons and things you’ll never use other than the brief few minutes you hold it in your hand.

Here are some tips and tricks to grabbing swag, as well as some life lessons you can carry with you through the con.


If you are flying there, think about how you’ll store your swag. Nothing worse than a signed poster being crushed or a packaged collectible being broken in the tossing around of luggage. My advice is to bring a carry-on sized luggage case and pack lightly. Then you can put stuff in your carryon and toss whatever else you have on hand (like a backpack or purse) into the swag bag so you don’t need to drop $25 to get your bag checked and thrown around.

Carrying Capacity.

For those not lucky enough to book a hotel within walking distance, where you can drop off a heavy swag bag over the day, things can add up. Be aware of what you are grabbing, and if your bag gets a little too heavy for you to handle, drop it off at the bag check near the entrance. They’ll give you a tag and tag your bag so you can come and pick it up at the end of the day.

Quality over quantity.

Sometimes in the whirlwind of people handing me free things I grab them and toss them into my bag only to realize that I never wanted it in the first place. If you don’t know what something is, make sure you find out what it is before you snatch it out of someone else’s hands. Chances are someone out there will want it more than you.

Nightly clean out.

Typically after the day is over, I like to go through my bag and throw away or trade around things that I may have grabbed and not actually wanted after taking a closer look. This is also the time to clean out fliers and stickers and look over coupons that you might be able to use for things like dinner and drinks. This also gives you a good idea of what kind of swag you’ve collected.

Plan it out!

Look up what swag will be given away on what days, etc. Most of the things are exclusives, but some are more common than others. Paying attention is the first thing you have to do, but before you even enter into San Diego you can be prepared by knowing what is going to be there.

Happy hunting, swag aficionados!

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