OPINION: OPINION: The True Joy Of A Toy Show


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    Apr 2007

    OPINION: The True Joy Of A Toy Show

    There's No Price Tag For The Memories...

    By C.J. Stunkard

    On October 25, 2015, vendors from throughout the tri-state area (of DE,MD, and PA) came together for the 2015 Octoberfest Toy Show at Nur Temple in Wilmington, DE. My friend Dave and I were among their number, arriving on the scene frantically at 7:30 AM to put out bins and unpack box after box of old toys, new toys, used toys, and abused toys. Even with every fire exit open, the smells of an attic hung in the air - water damaged cardboard full of discolored plastics. Of course, the aroma of that new toy scent was also found in every nook and cranny of the sales hall. Blister cards and clamshelled collectibles covered the floor and reached toward the ceiling. In a way, it was a veritable toy museum, and curators of various ages and interests stood side-by-side and toe-to-toe hawking everything from rare cherished goods to obvious overstock.

    The SUV still full after two trips to the floor during set-up...

    I had attended the show the past two years, and I loved it each time. Essentially, the five dollar entrance fee is like a ticket for a trip down nostalgia-lane, a chance to see toys that time forgot and talk about how important they were way-back-when. I have a pretty standard M.O.: walk the entire floor, take mental note of where to buy, and once I've seen it all, go back to those tables to get well-priced treasures from a variety of brands and lines.

    Our faces given the overflow of stock into every facet of the vehicle.

    The show is different as a vendor. This was my first time selling at a toy show since 2005. Arrival was a blend of immediacy and enthusiasm. We had overloaded our vehicle with far too much inventory - from that epic 2008 36" Star Wars Millennium Falcon, to boxes of Micro Machine mini-figures - and the drive was an epic hazard. Set-up then felt compressed before the early-bird wave of buyers found their way to us, and we learned very quickly that it was time to hunker down and get to work. The impulse items and popular fare went right out front, while the more expensive stuff on-hand waited near the back of the table for that discriminating eye with the looser purse-strings.

    Show Floor

    That first wave of fellow collectors entered the hall and the morning passed like a whirlwind. Constant foot traffic, wheeling-and-dealing, countless "hello's", and a a barrage of sales made those early hours fly. Once that coin started changing hands, the blood got pumping; and the momentum just built from there. As our cash wad grew, we become more open to discounts. "I'm already ahead of my cost for the day," I told myself, and by hour-three it became easy to go 50% off on a playset or cut a deal on Pac Rim figures to essentially move them at cost. Hey, at least I wasn't taking them home with me!

    Our Table

    Then things slowed, not to a halt, but they slowed. Fewer buyers paid admission; fewer folks wanted to spend. But all my pent-up energy from the morning rush needed to get out, so I walked the floor, cash in-hand. And here's the fascinating thing: knowing how much inventory I still had at my own table, I was fairly disinterested in buying anything new (though my buddy, Dave, scored big). For the first time in three years, I wasn't shopping. I was strolling. As far as I was concerned, it was a museum - a hands off, can't take it with you, affair. I chatted with some other vendors about the attendance and the general mindset of folks in attendance, but my money never left my pocket--an odd development, to be sure.

    After a lap or two, I returned to the table. Buyers from earlier in the day who still had a hankering to hunt came back to see us. They were happy; we were happy. Why not experience it again? More sales were followed by friends showing up, and they too found goodies throughout the sale floor - one even bummed a cold hundo off me because he did not prepare for the warehouse of merchandise available; but of course, he found that one lot of things he just had to have. The event organizer, with whom I had been emailing for 4 months, stopped by to see us; it was great to put a face to the name.

    Our Other Table

    In time, the post-lunch crowd faded. The few late-comers trickled from table to table, and then the death-knell showed itself. The seasoned vendors - the ones who probably do a show a month - started packing; and I knew that once those guys thought it was closing time, the writing was on the wall. Our tables had run their course. The show was slated to go until 4 PM. By 3:00 we were one of the last sellers still unpacked; and by 3:45, that place was a ghost house.

    Once we had closed up our two little 8'x11' shops and got on the road, I had a chance to start counting our cash. Truth be told, neither of us did gangbuster business, but we moved nearly all the big stuff. It's not cost effective to sell on eBay, so that was an answer to prayer and cause for celebration. To be fair, after accounting for the price of the table, the time to label and organize everything, and the actual cost of goods sold, I would say I broke even for the day or did a little better.

    But that's just financially.

    Another View, Mid-day.

    From an experience perspective: I. GOT. PAID. Fellow toy fans, let me tell you the truth, the best part of the show was not the selling. Whatever fiscal benefits I got were icing on the cake. The real sweet stuff was being in a room where folks want to talk brand history, current trends, and the economics of collecting. The true rewards came in the form of connection - of seeing someone ecstatic because I had that one LEGO Minifigure they've been hunting, and I could give it to them at 30% below eBay. Being on one's feet for eight hours is a haul, but it was worth it to chat with folks about epic garage sale finds or why vintage Kenner Star Wars figures are still amazing. To see fathers and sons share the same hobby of LEGO, well, it was a treat, as was showing someone a playset that they never knew existed but now they felt they needed to have (it was the Lady Liberty from 2000's X-Men: The Movie tie-in line).

    Longtime readers may remember my article about local, small shows from last year (see HERE). I stand by those sentiments, and I echo them, even more so being on the other side of the table. It may be another year (or two) before I have the inventory warranting the time, effort, and energy to have table at a toy show; but if that day comes, I'll be excited - not so much to make big bucks, but to connect with fellow collectors. There's no price tag for the memories one gets from doing that.

    Special thanks again to my buddy Dave for sharing tables with me, to Brent for putting the show together, and to all the attendees who made it a worthwhile day!!!

    By C.J. Stunkard

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    Last edited by JeffSaylor; 12-29-2015 at 12:23 PM.

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