When MondoCon 5 unofficially began at midnight this past Saturday morning, I thought I knew what to expect. When it ended Sunday evening though, it felt like I’d experienced not just two days of geeking out over posters and art, but a coming-out party for a new generation of poster collectors.
MondoCon is a two-day celebration of art, posters, collectibles, and more that takes place in Austin, Texas. It happened annually from 2014-2017 before taking a year off in 2018. I’ve been to three of the four and, for the most part, they were the same. Same people, same artists, same chill vibe and fun activities. A highly recommended way to spend a weekend. However, MondoCon 5 was just a little different. The same people were there. Some of the same artists. But the range of collectors had changed. Maybe it was the year off. Maybe it was the ever-changing hobby. But, after collecting posters for over a decade, MondoCon 5 marked the first time I felt like I’d become the old guard of the hobby.
The change was in the air from the very minute the event began. For the first time in MondoCon history, entrance to the event wasn’t dictated by a group of people who’d lined up days in advance. That wasn’t an option this time around, probably due to a deal with the venue. Instead, the line was decided by a random lottery. Numbers were drawn to give everyone a place in line. As someone who has regularly slept on sidewalks and streets to buy art, this was a whole new world for me. One that I would love if I got a low number or hate if I got a high number. I drew number 179. The person behind me drew number 3. Rats.
Now, 179 was bad but I looked at the bright side. I smelled okay. I’d had dinner. I was well-rested. And I’d only have to wait a few hours as opposed to days to get into the convention. Maybe this lottery thing wasn’t such a terrible idea.
On the other hand, at 179 it was pretty obvious I wasn’t getting one of five sought after commission spots from artist Jason Edmiston or an original drawing from artist Rory Kurtz, my two main ISOs (a poster term standing for “In Search Of.”). Instead, I’d have to do some digging to find stuff a little beyond the basics to make the wait worthwhile. And, the next morning, I did, in the form of a gorgeous original sketch by artist Sara Deck, among other things.
What I found most surprising and interesting about the lottery though was that, because we’d all been placed at random, I was next to people in line who couldn’t even fathom going for the things I wanted. “Why would someone spend $1,500 on a tiny painting? Do you know how many posters you could get for that?” one fellow attendee asked. Shocked, I explained that already owning hundreds of prints made a quality over quantity mindset more attractive. Then I realized, this person was me 10 years ago. At that time I never would have even considered or been able to spend so much money on a single piece of art, especially when I could spread that money out over a long time on many pieces of art.
These people were at MondoCon for the reasons I went to the first MondoCon. To load up on cool posters. By MondoCon 5, I’d moved onto a different focus, original art, but I understood their mindset, even if I no longer shared it.
It’s not as if a change like this happens all of a sudden though. Fans who pay attention to the community can see it online every day. They see new collectors posting in Facebook groups, asking questions many think are very obvious, or being unsure of who an artist is or where to get their work. The envious gifs new people post whenever an older collector posts a picture of a sliver of their collection. New collectors are born every day. But MondoCon 5 felt like the first time so many of us gathered together in one place, all by ourselves. These collectors are at San Diego and New York Comic-Cons but they’re hidden among a hundred thousand other people. MondoCon is just poster people, new and old, and the number is significantly smaller.
Later in the weekend, a friend told a story of a group of fans attending the convention that asked him what they should try to buy. He was confused by the question because you’d assume they would just buy what they want. But these people wanted to make money and acquiring whatever the “hot” items were would allow them to do that. My friend gave these people some names of artists and they didn’t even recognize who those people were.
Again, this wasn’t exactly a surprising story. Making money drives much of most collecting, not just posters, and has for a long time. It’s simple supply and demand. When there are only a few of something that many people want, the ability to buy those things for cheap and sell them for more to others is a very attractive proposition. Fans call it “flipping.” Others might just call it the way things are. But usually, the people “flipping” know what they’re buying, it’s not a blind transaction. It’s possible seeing posters released early in my time collecting—selling now for thousands of dollars—is another reason why so many new collectors got interested in the hobby. They want to find that next super valuable poster. What they may not realize though is the reason those posters are so valuable is that no one predicted they would be.
MondoCon 5 offered plenty of incredible pieces that could potentially achieve such a status, though. Posters such as The Last Jedi by Rory Kurtz or Back to the Future by 100% Soft sold out of the store on the first day. Later, a poster for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse by Martin Ansin became a hot item, fans ran all over the convention looking for prints by Scott C., and that’s not even counting all artists in attendance selling very limited quantities of previously sold-out work or one of a kind originals.
That’s the best part of MondoCon, and it’s the same today as it has been the since the first one. MondoCon is a convention full of the coolest shit ever. You can spend $5 or you can spend $5,000. There’s something for everyone. And whatever that something is is almost certainly going to be so amazing, others will covet it. Plus, most of that buying happens in the first hour or two while things are still available. Once everyone is done buying, there are many, many more hours to enjoy, which you can do by walking around, looking at art, drinking beer, or watch interesting panels on toymaking, vinyl records, or three artists designing a poster for a movie on the spot. (In this case, Paddington. Seriously.)
It’s during these times too that the changing of the guard also takes place. People strike up conversations, excited about what they bought and eager to find out what you bought. When you hear stories ranging from thousands of dollars changing hands for an original painting or a young boy smiling ear to ear buying a $20 piece of Avengers art. And it’s then that feeling like the old guard isn’t all that bad. New blood is needed to keep a hobby afloat and pop culture art collecting is a hobby I plan to be a part of for a long, long time. The fact MondoCon 5 was bigger and better than the MondoCons before it, and that it brought such a huge plethora of various collectors together, sure made it seem like the hobby is alive and well. Even if it means coming to terms with being the curmudgeonly old fogey of poster collecting.
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