This past Saturday my little brother and I hit the Phoenix Toy Show. Before going he asked if it was going to be like Comic-Con. "Well . . . in a mini sort of way," I replied. I had been to this semi-annual show, which is held in a high school gymnasium, before. I try not to miss events like this partly because I want to support the local scene and partly because I think these things are really fun!
Before we even got through the doors we ran into show organizer, Neil Kotler. We chatted for a bit about the event and the Phoenix collecting community. "Phoenix has a large and active action figure collecting crowd," Neil told me. With that in mind he envisions holding an "Action Figure Show" sometime next year. Here’s hoping that he can entice local action figure maker McFarlane Toys to have a presence. The Phoenix Toy Show is more general. Although there are plenty of action figures attendees can also pick through die cast, pop culture memorablia, military collectibles, comic books, trading cards, vintage toys, etc., etc.
This was the third "Phoenix Toy Show." Neil expressed a little disappointment that, as far as the number of exhibitors was concerned, it was the smallest so far. But that had to do with a scheduling conflict that necessitated changing the date by a few weeks. None-the-less, it was plenty busy while we were there and people seemed to be buying.
There are not many toy shops left here in what we call "the Valley." In fact, unless I’m mistaken, if you want a dedicated action figure brick-and-mortar store you’ve only got one choice: Toy Anxiety. This place is a must visit should any of you happen to ever be in Phoenix. Neil mentioned to me that in the past there were half a dozen or so such shops, including one he ran. But most have closed their doors and, if they’re still in the business, sell their wares online and at shows like this.
I didn’t buy too much. Just a 1977 TOMY wind up robot I had as a kid and a set of 1988 MGM/Turner Wizard of Oz 3 3/4 scale figures. Both total kitsch but, hey, its the perfect stuff to pick up at a show like this. The robot was a buck and the Oz figures were a couple dollars each and for buying the set the seller threw one in for free. Plus, no shipping!
Granted, you could get the things you are looking for on eBay and other online outlets. But I find it grounding to go to these local shows and interact in person with the vendors and other collectors. For instance, I ran into a guy named Casey who I’ve been seeing on occasion at a Target I go to in the mornings. He knew I was looking for the Indiana Jones "Temple of Doom" wave and said his friend had an extra set. We did a little mid-show transaction and now I almost have that rare set. (He couldn’t part with Short Round, drat!)
All in all it was a great way to spend a couple hours on a Saturday morning. It was good to pull myself away from the computer and actually dig through some dusty Rubbermade bargain bins. What I really enjoy about these shows is stumbling upon unexpected things. And usually it runs the gamut. Saturday I saw everything from a sheet of Marvel Secret Wars stickers that jarred some memories to a vintage carded vinyl caped Jawa. Note to self: bring more cash next time!