A few weeks ago, I found out about ToyConNJ through Facebook, and was surprised to find that such a large toy convention had been running in New Jersey for some time. I had been occasionally attending smaller shows, though it had been a couple of years since I checked one out. ToyCon seemed really on the ball, promoting through a Facebook events page as well as a website and Twitter account, listing 250 tables at the upcoming event. It seemed worth the longish drive for me to see what they were all about.
In comparison, the occasional shows I’d been to before usually had one or two rooms in a hotel, about an hour or less of time needed to fully explore them. ToyConNJ struck me as being massive in that context–filling three gymnasiums, hallways, and even had a food truck. I comfortable spent over 3 hours touring the full show twice and easily could have spent longer. For the admission price of $10.00, this was definitely a solid pop culture event. It was popular and well-attended on the Saturday of the two-day show, but not uncomfortably crowded.
Since I hadn’t been to a toy show in a couple of years, this was a good chance to update my observations on what fans are looking for right now. Previously, shows seem to be heavy on nostalgia memorabilia (I’m sure all toy shows are and will continue to be), with at least 80% of the items for sale from vendors hailing from the 90’s and prior. At the ToyConNJ, this ratio had considerably flipped. First, there was the strong presence of Funko products, not just random poppage, but really specific variants, exclusives, and signed Funko POP vinyls were for sale from savvy vendors. About 25% to 30% of the stock at the show was Funko related. If you are a Funko fan, it was a great opportunity to see a lot of rare items and make your choices among a range of pricing systems. If one booth’s prices seemed high, you could check out a different booth for the best price.
Funko items gave the show a more current feel, however, the rise of fandoms around new TV shows and films has resulted in a surge in collectibles (as any pop culture geek must have noticed) in recent years. That meant that there was a wide range of “newer” toys and collectibles available, particularly focusing on the Star Wars franchise and the Marvel and DC films.
This brought up more “current” items to around 30-40% of the products at the show, which was a good balance and, in my opinion, brought in a younger crowd. There were plenty of kids with their parents, of course, but also young people in their 20’s and the 30-somethings who could appreciate the newer items as well as the 90’s or 80’s nostalgia items. It seemed like a win-win combination and really shows how the rise of fandoms as well as conventions has influenced the tradition of collector shows on a local level.
I’d definitely attend ToyCon again and recommend it to friends–its another of the expanding options to represent fandom which is finding its audience.
Here are 100 pictures from the show, from Smurfs to Star Wars and more!