As 2015 San Diego Comic-Con International (SDCC) moves into full swing, the streets of downtown San Diego are flooded with jumbo-sized tote bags advertising popular comics, movies and TV shows – a sure sign of the pop culture convention.
The coveted bags are given to each Comic-Con badge holder and contain a program guide and other important reading materials. As the convention unfolds, fans fill their bags to the brim with free giveaways and goodies purchased in the exhibition halls.
Fans proudly brandish these tote bags as they strut into their favorite celebrity panels.
This year, SDCC released 13 official designs for the tote bags. The designs are given at random to attendees when they first arrive.
Attention is often focused on the intricate costumes worn by fans of “The Con,” but these bags are a key piece of the overall Comic-Con experience.
According to fans, some bags are more popular than others and an unofficial bartering system has started between fans with different bags.
As she piled boxes of figurines into her jumbo tote bag emblazoned with the Marvel logo, Comic-Con patron Annie Pallant said the most popular bags this year are “Supernatural,” “Arrow,” “The Flash” and “Batman v. Superman. “
“Mainly fans sell them to each other here, but there are also auctions on eBay,” Pallant told NBC 7.
Another Comic-Con attendee, Silverio DiGiovanni, confirmed this by explaining that older bags are sold online as expensive collector’s items.
DiGiovanni has been attending Comic-Con since he was 7 and admitted with a guilty laugh that he has a storage unit full of his Comic-Con paraphernalia.
These tote bags are important keepsakes for the fans who attend, a sentiment echoed by many fans who spoke to NBC 7 at the San Diego Convention Center Thursday.
“It’s our first time, we’re happy with the bags we got, we like ‘Supernatural,’” one fan said, dressed in matching Power Ranger costumes with his young son.
The Con tote bags have gained popularity over the years and DiGiovanni explained that in 2002 they added straps that converted the bags into backpacks, making them much more functional.
He said fans loved this new addition because it kept their merchandise from scraping on the floor and you could easily spot people who had the bag you wanted as you hatched a plan for a fair trade.
In addition to the straps, fans said special artwork is rumored to be commissioned for some of the bag designs, increasing the desire of some fans to barter.
A handful of fans told NBC 7 there is a rumor the “Arrow” bag this year was designed by a well-known artist, but who that artist is has yet to be confirmed.
Pallant and DiGiovanni agreed that bartering your way to the perfect tote bag is essential to having a successful trip to Comic-Con.