DesignerCon 2023: A Collector’s Paradise with Founder Ben Goretsky on Insights and Trends

John Nguyen

Collectibles are the rage at pop culture conventions, especially when exclusives are available. What happens when a convention caters specifically to collectors? You get DesignerCon, a show featuring designers as they bring out their art, design, and pop culture. DesignerCon is headed back to the Anaheim Convention Center from December 15 to 17, and there are a wide variety of collectibles and merchandise available for all types of guests.

Nerd Reactor had the chance to chat with Ben Goretsky, the owner and founder of DesignerCon, about what to look out for during DesignerCon 2023.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Nerd Reactor: How did DesignerCon start for you?

Ben Goretsky: Basically, it was me being a fan; me being a collector. And, you know, at the same time, I had a little store online that sold collectible figures. And it was online only. So I didn’t really get to meet any of the fans and things like that. And I kind of just one day said, “It would be great if we had a place for this community – this collectors base.” And I reached out to a couple of other local vendors, people that I knew on the West Coast, basically. I reached out to a couple of people on the East Coast, but they weren’t willing to make the trek down. But we got like 10 vendors together, and we all agreed, like, “Hey, let’s just do this and have some fun and invite our audiences and our collectors to come out.”

We got lucky and got like three local artists to agree to come down and sign things. We have goodie bags at the door, admission was free. And mind you this was all happening in like a 1000 square foot room at the Pasadena Conference Center. They didn’t have a convention center back then. And it was a lot of fun. I decided like, “Hey, this really works. I have a lot of fun.” And it was a one-day event at that time. It was like “Come on down Saturday. Let’s have some fun with us.” And it really worked. So I just decided to keep going with it. And over the years, the show has grown organically. It’s our 18th year this year. We started with 10 vendors, and now we’re up to over 700 vendors from around the world. We started as a one-day event like, “Hey, come down for the afternoon” to a three-day event with VIP night and exclusive releases and all that stuff. So it’s been an exciting ride. It’s been really fun.

Pop Mart at DesignerCon 2021. Photo credit Nerd Reactor.

The exclusive releases are just things that would excite guests coming in, and probably for you to the point where, “Oh, sweet, we could do exclusives here.” And what was that feeling like for you going from that one-day event to now?

Ben Goretsky: It’s awesome. And really, I cannot take any credit for it because I have to really think all the companies that really go out of their way and are part of the show. Without them, we’re really nothing. And we share a mutual respect for each other basically. We were very thankful that these guys are able to put on their schedule DesginerCon and actually have exclusives allocated for us. During our show, some of these guys, especially companies like Medicom Toy or Mighty Jaxx, or companies like even Paradise Toys. These are all companies that are overseas, and they can literally put a product up online and sell out in minutes. But they have taken the effort and the time to create something special for our audience. And then have it exclusively at the show. Mind you unlimited quantities that are still gonna sell out. But the fact that you get to buy it from the company and then on top of it, most of the time they have the artists there to sign it. That’s huge for us and it’s a big deal and it hurts my wallet so much every year, but it’s totally worth it.

Nerd Reactor: What makes DesignerCon different from all the other conventions out there?

Ben Goretsky: And that’s really the big question. People are like, “What really makes DesignerCon separate from all the other shows?” We’re definitely not like a comic con. We’re not one of these comic cons that are out there. We’re not. We’re actually not like any other show that’s out there. Because we take elements, all elements of design. So there are designer toys, there’s design in original artwork, there’s design in prints, there’s design in apparel that artists are involved in, plush toys, resin figures, customizations, and one-offs. I mean, even this year, we’re working on things that have artists involved in like furniture. It’s a touchy subject, you know, digital collectibles are out there, all things like that.

So, we embrace all things that have that design element and have the artist’s touch to it. And that’s really what makes us unique and really what keeps the show growing. There could be somebody who’s really into toys, and then we introduce them into this whole line of mini-figures, plush, or apparel. And vice versa. You know, there might be somebody that’s really into apparel, but has no idea about 3D figures, or all they do is collect two-dimensional artwork, and they have a collection of prints and originals, but they had no idea that there are these amazing limited edition figures coming out of all parts of the world with the same artist involved. So that’s really what drives us and what keeps us so unique from the other shows.

Nerd Reactor: And so this year, there are exclusives and also artists working on different IPs and companies, for example, Marvel. Would you want to talk a bit about that?

Ben Goretsky: It’s funny because a lot of the artists that are at the show have their own booth. They work for companies like Marvel, they work for companies like DC. They even work for companies like Hasbro and Mattel. They design a lot of the stuff for them. But when they’re at their booth and when they’re at DesignerCon, a lot of the stuff that you get to see is their unique artwork. And it’s so freakin’ cool seeing what they come up with.

For instance, we’re in Anaheim. We’re in the House of the Mouse. We have a lot of artists that work for Disney, and they do a lot of Disney stuff. And they even are in WonderGround Gallery, which is Disney-owned. But they have their own booth at DCon and they’re selling their own artwork and they have originals and they make resin figures and they make low-production-run vinyl figures. So a lot of this stuff is out there and people get introduced to their artwork, and it’s really amazing to see what they can come up with. So it’s really cool that way.

Nerd Reactor: Do you get to have some input on exclusives coming out for the show?

Ben Goretsky: We actually do have some input. A lot of companies that do approach us. They want to know a little bit more about our audience. And they do ask us, “What is our audience like? What are they into?” A lot of the time, we also help them get acquainted with an artist for collaboration. So we actually assist a lot of these companies in talking to artists and doing a collab piece, whether it’s a collaboration toy, maybe a shirt, maybe a print, something special for the show. And we know how our audience will react to it, or we hope that we know how our audience will react to it. Usually, we’re right. And yeah, we have a bit of a hand in getting some of the items that you see on the floor the way they are.

Nerd Reactor: Because you’re behind the scenes, you see things. If there were trends for one year compared to a different trend for another year, do you see that ahead of time?

Ben Goretsky: Yeah, it’s interesting. And that’s kind of where you have to stay on the pulse is the say on what people are into. We kind of just gauge where the collector base is headed. But honestly, we don’t want to emphasize too much on just one thing, either. Look, something that we may like, even though we have a team of people here, and we’re like, “Yeah, this is really cool,” and we would love it and we would buy it. We understand that there’s a whole segment of our audience at the show that likes completely different stuff. So anytime we get approached by people who are making exclusives, we may be like, “What is this? It’s cool. We don’t really get it. I don’t know if I’d buy one, but we know that there’s an audience out there that would.” And really, that’s what makes the show so unique. There’s something for everyone. There are a lot of these shows out there where the dads and the boyfriends or something show up, and even the female audience or the kids don’t feel like there’s anything really there. We’re a very family-friendly show, and our attendees say there really is something for everyone.

Nerd Reactor: Is there anything this year that you’re really excited about?

Ben Goretsky: Well, I think one of the big things that we’re really excited about is that we actually teamed up with the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Hollywood Sign. And we’re going to have 100 artists doing their version of the sign on these blank 3D figures. So this is going to be an amazing art show featuring artists from around the world. You’re going to have 100 different pieces celebrating the 100th anniversary. That’s going to be a lot of fun.

We also have things like Secret Walls that are going to be doing live art battles on stage. We’re going to have artists as well as DJs doing collaborations with Def Jam Records for the 50th anniversary of hip-hop at the show that’s going to be happening on the stage. We can’t let too much out of the bag, but there’s going to be a lot of companies bringing in a lot of cool exclusives and a lot of artists, companies like Medicom Toy, Mighty Jaxx, there’s a lot of them. There are so many. I would say take a look at our website and take a look at our social media.

DesignerCon 2023 Info

DesignerCon 2023 is held at the Anaheim Convention Center on December 15-17. Tickets are available here.

Featured image: Andrew Heath’s Frozen Culture. Photo credit: Nerd Reactor