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Camera Show FAQ: Or How to Get the Most Out of Camera Shows

Southern California Camera Show Schedule

Buena Park California Camera Show     BargainCameraShows.com  

What's a Camera Show?   Think of it as Ebay without the computer.    Camera shows are swap meets for cameras.  Most of the seller's tables belong to professional camera dealers, but many camera show sellers are just photogs selling excess equipment.      Some camera shows are sponsored by various collector organizations, most shows are sponsored by private promoters.

How Do I Find Camera Shows?  Check your local large newspaper classified ads, and your favorite photo magazines.

Why Should I go?  Because camera show sellers typically sell items well BELOW camera store price, usually at least 20%, often as much as 75%.   As a general rule, the best deals in cameras and photographic equipment are more likely to be found at camera shows than any camera store.   As great as the internet is, it does not allow you to inspect what you buy in person.   Another reason is to help you stop thinking of your computer monitor as another kind of life form.

Who are the Camera Show sellers?  It varies from show to show, but a typical mix in the US is about 10% retail camera store dealers, 80% small time camera dealers or serious photo hobbyist, and 10% private sellers looking to sell un-needed equipment. 

Can You Sell at a Camera Show?  Yes.  You can bring items in to offer to the camera show dealers, or if you have a lot of items for sale, rent a table and become a seller yourself.   Ask the show promoter to find out exact rules for a particular show.

Are priced marked? Some dealers mark each item, however most dealers don't use price tags.  While some sellers are just inept, others who have thought it out,  use unmarked merchandise as way to start up a conversation with you after you have asked the price.

What Payment Method?  Remember that most sellers run small part time businesses, and can not easily afford a bounced check.  If you want to be sure you come home with what you are looking for, cash is your best way of completing a sale.  Very few Camera Show sellers are set up to take credit cards at the show.  Come prepared.   A bargain item can easily be sold before you return from a trip to the ATM.

How firm is the asking prices?  That varies from item to item, dealer to dealer.  Sometimes there is room to bargain on a particular item, and sometimes not.    One item may have a rock solid price, while the item next to it may be very negotiable  just by asking.  SOME of the pricing variables include

You are more likely to get discounts the more items you buy.   It doesn't hurt to ask, but don't over bargain, as you may irritate the dealer and the price will go up.   Sellers are more likely to be negotiable towards the end of the day, but you are also risking that rare prized WhatzaFlex will be sold right out from under you.

How can you find the best deals at the show?  Bargains are where you find them, you just have to find them before someone else does-- it's very much like an Easter Egg Hunt.   The new private sellers are the ones most likely to mis-price something -- either on the low or the high side.  I once watched as the largest camera store in Los Angeles mis-identified and mis-priced a $8,000 camera for $100.  I would have been the buyer, but I got to the table about 30 seconds too late -- true story.   IF you nail that wonderful bargain, keep your mouth shut and don't brag about it.   You gain nothing by making the seller feel bad, and neither do you need a reputation as a loud mouth.

When are Camera Shows? Usually on Sundays.  Some shows are Saturday and Sunday, but not many.

What Time Should I Go to the Camera Show?  Either early when the show opens up,  to buy the bargains before they are sold, or an hour or so before show closing -- when the dealers are more likely to bargain at the end of the day.

Tips for 1st Time Sellers:  New Sellers are usually besieged by dealers before the show starts, as experienced sellers hope the newbies will make mistakes in pricing.   Arrive prepared with asking prices already determined.  Expect to be bargained down by the dealers.   Bring a luggage cart to wheel your inventory in and out of the show, it beats surgery on your back.  Most camera show tables are 4x8 feet in the US.   If you do not plan bring a table cloth to make your goods looks a bit better, at least bring a cover large enough for the table to cover it up when you get a cup of coffee, or are visiting the other tables.   Keep a sharp eye out on your goods.  Thefts off the table are unusual, but certainly not unknown.    Bring a lunch, the food at camera shows is seldom of gourmet quality.   Be forewarned that even the highest quality darkroom equipment has plummeted in value as the digital dry darkroom replaces the traditional wet darkroom.

How Should You Price items?  Remember it's a camera show, not a Christie's Auction.  Experienced photogs attending camera shows expect to pay no more than about 80% of camera store retail, preferably less.  If you are going there dreaming you will get the same prices as the big camera store, your time may be better spent staying home and mowing the lawn. 

Camera Shows are Unpredictable:  Over time you will realize that your success or failure at any camera show is completely unpredictable:  a random mix of who attends, what is for sale, and the blind luck of who finds the prize Easter Egg first.   I have gone to camera shows hoping to sell a lot because of a hot new inventory, and gone home very disappointed.     Likewise I have gone to shows expecting to sell very little, and gone home very happily surprised.   

Luck in buying bargains is just as problematical, but if you don't play, you can't win.  


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Revised: July 17, 2006 Copyright  2006 Stephen Gandy. All rights reserved.    This means you may NOT copy and re-use the text or the pictures in ANY other internet or printed publication of ANY kind.  Information in this document is subject to change without notice.  Other products and companies referred to herein are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies or mark holders.