Vendors at Renton City Retro told me about Seattle’s hidden collecting secret for the last twenty-two* years: Lake City Toy Show. Unlike the more mainstream retro show that had videogames, action figures, and other fun activities, this was where you’d find anything more obscure. Cool for serious collectors. How about for everyone else? If you were in the area for the car show, or happened through town in the early afternoon, was there anything worthwhile?
Rating for collectors: ★★★★☆ [4/5], otherwise: ★★★☆☆ [3/5]
The show’s major weakness was parking. The humble Lake City in northern Seattle possibly didn’t expect the response. If you didn’t arrive before the start, good luck finding nearby valid parking! There were at least two overhead announcements about potential tows. Maybe coordinate with local officials to allocate secure parking?
Early access cost more than general admission, so you might get better deals on rarer items. Other nationwide or worldwide events might be cheaper, or free, though I respect the cost of organizing and hosting. Even if there wasn’t much formal entertainment besides seeing interesting stuff, it was still packed!
You could find fun collectibles for most any taste: die-cast cars, tin vehicles, model kits, old license plates, Barbies, dolls, ponies, plush, records, comics, videogames, puzzles, board games, movie memorabilia, happy meal toys, trading cards, lunchboxes, Halloween props, stickers, buttons, art, posters, pins, patches, coins, porcelain figurines, and action figures.
- Here’s mainly what I collect:
- 3 3/4-inch scale G.I. Joes
- 6-inch scale Marvel Legends
- 5-inch scale ToyBiz X-Men
- Occasional pre-90s toys
- Other cool junk
My strategy is casually browsing until something really catches my eye, such as two more cheaper Dr. Mindbenders, because can you really ever have too many Mindbenders? Even if it’s the super common 90s variant. This was also the first time I’d seen anything from BraveStarr, or the 80s Trigun.
If you didn’t arrive before the start you probably could’ve waited for general admission. There was still plenty to buy and admission was half price. As a trade show, unlike entertainment conventions like Renton City Retro or PAX, there weren’t many options if you aren’t materialistic or didn’t find anything.
A side room for videogames or chatting could encourage growth, since people were already meeting in the lobby. It was just too crowded for conversation. I’ve felt insecure with collecting toys as an adult, even legitimately using them as writing props, so it would’ve been nice to befriend fellow enthusiasts.
This was my first formal trade show and I really enjoyed it! One vendor from the previous convention, that told me about this one, said Crypticon is coming up next weekend. Other vendors formal or casual were enjoyable to talk with about our mutual hobbies, and though online shopping and local businesses are great for getting stuff, shows like this are great for socializing.
* Steve Vermeulen, founder of this show, passed away two days after the show. I admire his efforts inspiring this community. The crew is planning a fall show to carry on the legacy!