From reading all this stuff you might think that going to a toy fair is no big deal for me. Well you’d be wrong. Despite having a lot of my free time revolve around arbitrarily valued pieces of plastic, I’m really not in with the whole community – I guess that’s what this still unnamed blog is about to an extent. I mean I shoot the shit with a few guys at the used toy store and their outlet at the flea market, but that’s about it. Being that I share most of this stuff with the kiddo, he’s pretty much my sidekick when it comes to this stuff. If I see an event pop up, I’m not all that likely to go on my own, but if it’s during a time I have him, we sometimes make it a point to go.
That being said, I remember one event in particular we went to; I even made special arrangements with the ex so that he could stay a little longer. I live in a smallish but rapidly growing town about 10 – 15 minutes north of the state’s capital (Raleigh). So we’re not right in the middle of the biggest hustle and bustle, but we are within driving distance, and we’re big enough to have our own little things pop up from time to time. Anyway, this little “mini Comic-Con” was being advertised a few months back. I shit you not, it was a drab little affair in some upstairs storage loft with about 8 fat guys dressed in Batsuits and Spidey suits of varying degrees of quality, awkwardly peddling the same ol’ over-priced Batman busts, Harley Quinn comics, and life-sized Deadpool figures. It was laughably pathetic and immeasurably disappointing.
Now I know I can’t let one crap show monopolize my opinion. I know even the best things have bad days. I guess one thing that turns me off from the get-go is that these things are almost too nerdy. I mean I know that’s the point of the whole thing – to nerd-out free of judgement and with like-minded folks – but it’s almost intimidating. I wish there was a slightly more casual side to these things where I didn’t feel like the guy I was talking to ate slept and breathed Wolverine…or Gwen Stacy…or Constantine…or who the hell ever. It’s kinda like Magic: The Gathering. I actually sortta like playing. If I had some friend who were into it I’d probably go out of my way to play regularly. But have you ever been to these “events” regarding Magic? They are so damn nerdy that some sort of foreign asexual wave overtakes me and instantly triggers several points of discomfort
Alright alright, I don’t want this to turn into a full blown rant, so let’s get back to the toy show in question. I actually hadn’t planned it out at all; my son wanted to go to the flea market the previous weekend but for one reason or another we had to put it off, so I said we’d be sure to go the next weekend, which turned out to be this past weekend. The flea market – well, I’m sure there are others in Raleigh (the other major one closed a year or two ago, but there are smaller soirees in muddy parking lots often called “flea markets”) – but the flea market is up at the Stat Fairgrounds. NC has a spectacular State Fair every year (it’s coming up in just a couple of weeks!!!) to celebrate agriculture and the harvest and yadda yadda. It’s pretty cool really, and from what I understand is one of the largest and most popular state fairs in the Southeast, if not a reasonable contender for one of the best in the country. Ok, I just did a cursory look at “best state fairs usa” and the NC State Fair clocked in at number 6 on one list and number 7 on another. Not bad, I’d say. There’s really something for everyone: loads of food, crazy rides, beautiful lights, a ton of folksy and traditional stuff if you get there during the daylight hours…it’s just a fun place to be.
Any-damn-way it looks a lot different when it functions as the flea market for the other 46 weekends of the year. (The fair itself spans 2 weekends, and the flea market is closed for 2 weeks before and after to allow for setup and dismantling.) There are several other buildings on the premises, and I have no idea what they’re for, but on the weekends various buildings function as interesting shows and exhibits. I never really think about it until we’re up there and see the signs, but they host all kinds of stuff like car shows, gun & knife shows, reptile shows, and naturally the occasional toy show.
Last Sunday happened to be one of those days! The spread was impressive, but pricey. About half the room was devoted the cards and the other half toys. We glanced through the area of cards quickly; I was hoping to see some of those old sets of comic cards or maybe some of those weird throwaway card games from the 90’s. We saw a few comic-ish cards, but they were mostly inconsequential and the majority of vendors were stocked up on baseball, football, and basketball.
The toys side was much more interesting, and a welcome refresher from the piecemeal, sunbleached, and often stained remnants of childhoods found at many flea market stalls. In fact, I was surprised at how much stuff was NIP and what wasn’t appeared to be in great condition. Now don’t get me wrong – this wasn’t creme de la creme material all nice and neat and boxed up – it was fairly modern stuff. Lots of Star Wars…and I mean LOTS. I think they really overdid it with The Black Series and what should’ve been a nice little collectible line turned into an oversaturated mess. Buyers must’ve felt this too, because there were loads of these things for sale at $15 to $20, when they generally retailed for $19.99. Remember those K-mart exclusives that were snatched up in droves? What a disaster.
Action figures were well-represented in general, including lots of discontinued stuff from movies in the MCU that have come and gone. Are they worth much? Who knows. The superhero market is pretty oversaturated as well, bringing me to both DC’s “Multiverse” line and Marvel’s “Legends” series, both comparable to The Black Series. The issue with these is that literally dozens, if not hundreds, of different figures were made, yet the same 8 or 10 are all that appear on shelves for a given time period. This leads to individual items that are actually worth a decent amount because they are in fact rare, but unfortunately they end up as part of a series that fans are generally disenchanted with overall. It’s kinda like spotting that Walmart-exclusive Diablo figure for $50 – “hey that’s not bad, I might actually buy that had I given a damn about the series in the first place and bought the other matching figures.”
Good ol’ TMNT had a few reps in da house, and by that I mean the original toy line that concluded back in the early 90’s and those insanely valuable toys that dropped at the end. There was a smattering of other stuff – overpriced LEGO figures, a few larger vehicles and playsets, and a few other bits and pieces that children of the 80’s and 90’s probably remember.
Hot Wheels were surprisingly well-represented as well. Now if you asked me, I would sortta condense things and say, “I collect Hot Wheels” but realistically my collection is a little more honed in and more geared towards my personal tastes rather than what’s actually deemed valuable. You can certainly find Character Cars amid the others; they’re great for a quick cash grab and people don’t mind dropping 4 or 5 times the price for 2 or 3 discontinued or hard-to-find cars that would complete their collection. I saw Looney Toons, Mario, Muppets, Marvel, DC, Spongebob, Despicable Me 3, and Star Wars cars at the event. (This only excludes Toy Story, Power Rangers, and DC Super Hero Girls subsets.)
But collecting Hot Wheels, really collecting them, is all about vintage specimens and grabbing up limited production, exclusive, and commemorative items. I had fun sifting through them nonetheless and so did the kiddo. Unfortunately I had limited cash on hand so I was trying to be frugal with my purchases…I hope to know what the hell is going on next time and show up and little more prepared!
Our final spoils were pretty small though. I went ahead and let my son pick out something he really wanted first of all. He made a good choice too: back when Arkham Knight was all the rage, there was a beautifully detailed yet woefully short-lived series of action figures based on the game. For $20, we snatched up the Arkham Knight himself. I have no idea where he put the toy in the week since our visit, so I took a quick shot of the back card!
We made a lot of cool find when it came to cars that were really hard to pass up, and though I can’t remember everything we were bombarded with, I trust we made the right decisions! He really digs the Twin Mill design, not to mention variants like the Twin Mill II, Twin Mill III, and the “Tooned” Twin Mill, and he made a great find: a ZAMAC Twin Mill III back from 2014!
At that same booth, I found a couple of cool things as well. One of them is Ecto-1, the iconic car driven by the Ghostbusters. Now I have a lot of versions of the Ecto-1, but this was unique as it came from one of those Walmart exclusive series’ that never made its way to any Walmart! (Around here, at least…) And then I got another Ecto-1; this one was released around Halloween with other Halloween-themed vehicles and its very own Halloween-themed paint job!
My “big spender” item was yet another Hot Wheels. This one was also taken from a limited Halloween series (though it doesn’t appear to be the same series as the aforementioned Ecto-1) and is one of those things I’ve often oggled at online…a freakin’ purple & orange 1966 Classic TV Series Batmobile! Fucking cool. It was a little more than I would’ve liked, but a quick search on eBay told me that I’d be unlikely to ever snatch it up online for any less, especially with shipping included.
Oh and I almost forgot: when we were up front getting our ticket, the woman let my kid pick out a toy for free from a small stash. He grabbed an Easter car from some time in the past and it’s pretty cool looking. I’da picked the same damn car.
Oh OH and I almost forgot again as I sift through this little pile of stuff at my feet. A long time ago, like, when I was a kid, the most cost-effective way to build up a collection of starships from Star Wars (among other franchises) was via MicroMachines and those tiny little flimsy plastic things, albeit with exceptional detail. Well, we still have MicroMachines, but I’d argue they’re of a much, much lower quality than they used to be. Sometimes it looks like they’ve been painted by the blind. Sometimes a small appendage would break off while removing it from the packaging. The worst is seeing them there in their package, already contorted into hideous versions of themselves.
Thank the damn heavens that Hot Wheels began manufacturing high-quality diecast versions of said starships. Hasbro must’ve noticed the gap as well, because some time way way way back during the days of the prequel trilogy, they developed the Titanium Series. These are arguably more detailed than their Hot Wheels counterparts, often including moving parts! Anyway, I like both, and I wish I had more of the older ships from Titanium Series, if for no other reason than that they made lotsa ships that Hot Wheels hasn’t. And lo and behold, I stumbled across a Sith Infiltrator from Hasbro for a cool $5. I also happen to have a Sith Infiltrator courtesy of Hot Wheels’ Starships series and a lucky break on eBay (the card was ripped and the guy was letting it go for like $6 and a very reasonable shipping charge). Nowadays it looks like the Infiltrator is hella cheap, but if you go back about a year ago, it was at least a $12 – $20 item. At any rate, it’ll be fun to compare the 2, which is all I’d really intended to say about it!
Sooo there you have it. Like I said, not a huge haul, but I think we made some good picks. If you really want a lesson in poor money management, stick around for a few entries and I’ll get into what I bought not 30 minutes later at one of our favored stalls over in the flea market area….
We got LOTS of fun stuff comin’ yo way mah peeps: a couple of exclusive Walmart collections, the dumbass spending move I mentioned above, some new pieces in a couple of unexpected areas, some new puzzles I ran across…it’s nuts man! Nuts!