[Event Review] Renton City Retro (2017)

The first Renton City Retro happened this weekend in the greater Seattle area. It’s a flea market that specialized in videogame and toy collectibles featuring convention staples like artist booths, free-to-play arcade cabinets, raffles, and competitions. Events like this, including larger conventions in Washington, Oregon, and Texas that have broader content, can easily appeal to collectors and hobbyists. How about for others that may only be casually interested in any of these subjects?

Rating for collectors: ★★★★☆ [4/5], otherwise: ★★★☆☆ [3/5]

Let’s start with the practicality of flea markets.

Thanks to online shopping, you can casually search for any item until you find a decent price. That’s how I got my first purple and orange Dr. Mindbender. Shouldn’t that mean there’s no use for buying anything in person, especially when you might have to pay to get in? Isn’t that why bookstores and mid-sized retail stores are closing up?

For new stock like books, videogames, or electronics, I’d say so. The used market is thriving, to some degree. Older editions of books, physical music releases, out-of-print videogames that aren’t available through digital distribution platforms, and action figures that only have a finite supply might be easier to find in person at a better price.

Price was this convention’s biggest strength and weakness as well.

$10 is a steep entry cost for casual onlookers. There weren’t any usual convention experiences like celebrity guests, panel discussions, or lectures to round out the cost. The upcoming local Lake City Toy Show has a compromise between venue overhead and broadening audiences: a scaling entry price. Serious collectors can arrive early and anyone else can arrive later.

That said, attendance was great!

I asked “how’s business?” or “what a turnout?” to maybe six vendors while browsing. Everyone was surprised and excited about how many people had shown up, and not just to buy, but chat about their hobbies as well. Some vendors told me about the upcoming toy show along with the convention that recently passed my radar.

Events like this are fun when you have a mental checklist of stuff you might like to get and haven’t yet. After digitally cataloging Game Boy games, I researched popular titles, asked friends for recommendations on what games I’d enjoy playing, and looked for good prices. Also fun finding lingering “wishlist” items that you just haven’t found a good deal on yet.

That second Dr. Mindbender was even cheaper than the first! I got a X-Men Beast that wouldn’t sell well since it’s missing some limbs. I don’t mind that. I recently passed on a retail-priced boxed Contra Bill and Lance. They were opened, displayed, then returned to the box in complete condition. I also don’t mind.

I’m happy with the stuff I got, fully enjoyed the event, and looking forward to next year. While I didn’t mind the price of entry, because I got some great deals even factoring in the cost of driving and entry, it might be just too much to prevent casual attendance, so I gave two scores.

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