Back in 1982 when a kid in Victoria tore open packaging for a Star Wars action figure and promptly lost the small bits behind the couch, the idea that Han Solo would become collectible and valuable never entered into the equation.
What were toys of long-ago childhoods are now trophies of the modern hobby collector. Bragging rights and prestige goes to the guy with a 1970s GI Joe kung-fu grip in mint condition, obscure Hot Wheels cars, or discontinued Lego bits.
All that is vintage, rare, nostalgic and collectible in the wide world of geek-dom – think Big Bang Theory in real life – will be found at Victoria’s Ultimate Hobby and Toy Fair at Pearkes Arena on Sunday.
“People get to relive their childhood on their own terms,” says Candice Woodward, who organizes the show and owns Cherry Bomb Toys in downtown Victoria with her husband Biagio.
“There’s such a big range of toys – there’s something for everybody,” including shooting volunteer zombies with Nerf guns.
Geared at kids, families, model builders, collectors and those seeking to revisit their youth, the show promises 200 tables of old and new toys, models, trains, comic books, dolls, Lego, Star Wars, GI Joe, Transformers, superheroes, diecast cars and vinyl records.
If there was a popular (or even unpopular) toy or cartoon from the past 50 years, its paraphernalia probably has found table space at the fair. In all, toys span from the 1920s and to the modern day.
The collectors and hobbyist demographic tends to skew toward males in their 30s, but as Candice points out, plenty of women collect vintage toys – a group of hard-core Barbie collectors should be on hand. “Collectors want to get stuff they didn’t have as kids.”
Candice herself is keen on collecting Transformers action figures from the 1980s, and vintage robots. Biagio keeps his eye out for vintage GI Joes and is a standing expert on their history and trivia: the original 1960s GI Joe looks like John F. Kennedy; the 1970s oil embargo shrunk it down to size; and the kung-fu grip was designed to chop Barbie’s market share. Then Star Wars blew them out of the water.
“GI Joes made possible the action figure. Boys would not play with dolls, so Hasbro made the action figure,” Biagio says. “It was huge. They had to do something to compete with Barbie.”
In terms of vintage goods, Biagio suspects Greater Victoria has many people who have unknowingly squirreled away pure gold – old toys, LP records, comics, magazines and even old shopping catalogues that now have the added value of retro cache and nostalgia.
“Shows like Big Bang Theory and Toy Hunter have brought collecting into the spotlight,” he says. “Victoria has a lot of untapped resources for collectables. There’s a lot of garages with stuff that hasn’t seen the light of day for decades.
“I know we have good stuff hiding here. A lot of folks moved here in the 1980s, a lot of retirees stayed here. Many of those haven’t touched what’s in their attic.”
Candice and Biagio launched the toy show five years ago with the aim to celebrate the varied but dedicated collector culture, while appealing to kids and raising money for charity –$15,000 so far.
This time they’ve drawn a few Victoria-based cartoon, comic and voice artists, including voice actor Jim Henshaw and Ken Steacy, who has illustrated for Marvel and D.C. comics.
The carnival games section is by donation and funds go to the B.C. Children’s Hospital. A Sideshow Collectibles one-sixth scale model of Skaar (son of the Hulk) will be auctioned off for the Multiple Sclerosis Society.
“Big conventions like the San Diego Comicon focus on entertainment and movie stars. We are very much focused on family,” Biagio said. “It’s our No. 1 priority.”
The Ultimate Toy and Hobby Fair is Sunday, Oct. 14, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Pearkes Arena. Adults $5, kids are free. See www.ultimatetoyfair.com.