Review: Is a VIP Pass at Wizard World Worth It?

Since graduating college and getting real, adult jobs, most of my friends have purchased VIP tickets for one of the three largest conventions in my hometown of Chicago–Wizard World’s Chicago Comic Con. Since I’m still a student (I’m in graduate school), I’ve never had the money to splurge on a VIP ticket. This year, though, I had some extra money…which means that I jumped at the opportunity to buy a VIP pass when I learned that Karl Urban was going to be a guest.

A VIP pass at the convention comes with a few goodies and perks. These are:

  • A badge on a lanyard
  • A free 11×17 lithograph
  • An autograph
  • A photo-op
  • Guaranteed seat at the guests’ panel
  • Some coupons
  • The ability to enter the convention floor 30 minutes early on Saturday and Sunday

Overall, the VIP pass cost me $ 258. If I had bought things separately, the cost would have been $ 210. Here’s the break-down.

  • Four-day pass–$ 90
  • Autograph–$ 55
  • Photo Op–$ 65

So the difference in cost for admission and guest perks was roughly $ 50–which is about the difference for the majority of the VIP passes. An 11×17 poster typically goes for around $ 20 at a convention, which brings the difference in cost down to $ 30. I’m not going to count the “value” of a badge, since almost every other convention includes them with cost of admission. (And really, Wizard World, it’s long past time to move away from wristbands, especially for multiple-day ticket holders).

If this difference means nothing for you then, by all means, purchase a VIP pass. If you think you may like to have that extra money to spend on the convention floor, though, consider these points:

  1. Only a few panels are full enough that the guaranteed VIP seating really matters. Also, if you’re going to the convention with friends who don’t have a VIP ticket you must either leave them to sit in the VIP area, or sit with them in the general admission seats. In those panels that are less full, though, the volunteers almost never look for VIP passes in the VIP seating area–which means that your pass isn’t worth much in that regard.
  2. The 30-minute-early perk is only for the last two days of the convention. If you attended all four days–which is important if you want your money’s worth–you’ve already been on the floor for two days. Getting there ahead of general admission doesn’t matter a whole lot if you’ve already perused most of (or all of) the booths.
  3. While many conventions these days offer a VIP lounge with seating and charging stations (and sometimes cheap or free food), Wizard World doesn’t provide any similar accommodations for its VIPs. There are no perks beyond those listed above.
  4. If your guest of choice isn’t one of the top billed guests, your VIP pass does not get you through the autograph line any faster.
  5. While you are able to join a separate VIP line for your photo op, each photo op still lasts only about five seconds before the volunteers shoo you away. A VIP pass only provides you with a convenient ticket, and the ability to bypass part of the line.

What does a VIP pass offer you that you can’t get just by buying the components of a VIP pass separately? Unfortunately, the answer is “Not much.” The VIP passes don’t give a deal to the attendee, and the perks that come with it are hit or miss. On a personal level, I don’t think I’ll ever buy another VIP pass and, if I was asked, I’d caution other convention-goers to save their money. The only exception would be if you were only able to attend the convention for one or two days–but then, the gap between price becomes that much more vast.

In the end, the value of a VIP ticket at Wizard World depends on your personality. If you’re easily frustrated by waiting in line, then the ability to pass up some of the photo op and autograph (for the highest-billed guests) lines would be very valuable. If you’re patient, and you don’t mind spending some of your four days in line, then you may be better financially if you buy you ticket, autographs, and photo ops separately. While VIP passes can be great for other conventions, you don’t really get the same bang for your buck at a Wizard World convention.

Have you attended a Wizard World convention with a VIP pass? What was your experience? Did you think it was worth it? Or have you been a VIP at another convention? Sound off in the comments!

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