Sometimes while reading about Star Wars action figures that sell for the same amount as a house deposit or rare pre-production Dinky Toys that require a bank loan to pick up, it’s easy to forgot that for many people, it’s not about the big ticket items. For plenty of us, this is still a hobby where we’re looking for smaller collectable items simply to enjoy owning, rather than high value pieces that are bought as a potential investment.
We hope that toy fair organiser Malcolm Townsend won’t mind us saying that his popular Kirkby-in-Ashfield event, which takes place at the Festival Hall (known locally as the Fez), isn’t competing with the likes of Sandown for high value rarities. This is a far more practical affair with around 30 traders, spread across 100 tables, offering competitively priced items that are more likely to be needed for a model railway layout, rather than being placed in a cabinet for all to admire. The highest priced items are likely to clock in under the £100 mark and it’s not uncommon to see mixed trays with items costing just one pound.
But the format clearly works and, as Malcolm told us, he’s now in his fifth year at the Fez. “I live in Kirkby and I always used to think this would make a great toy fair venue,” said Malcolm. “In fact, our family has got connections to the Festival Hall, which has been around for decades, because my mum used to help on a market stall here.
“So this was the first fair I decided to put on and it quickly spiralled from there. Within a few months I was organising fairs here, Nottingham, Burton and then Alfreton. It was meant to be a casual job but now I’ve organised about 120 fairs across the different venues since Easter 2011.”
Although Kirkby continues to be Malcolm’s favourite fair – probably because he lives just down the road – there are some potential storm clouds on the horizon. “The powers that be are talking about knocking this place down and replacing it with something more up to date. That would be terrible because we would lose a great venue and we would have to find a new home.” This is something that has troubled the nearby Mansfield Toy Fair because, due to numerous venue changes, it now takes place in Shirebrook, which is actually about five miles out from the centre of Mansfield.
Still, here’s hoping the local bigwigs don’t get rid of this lovely venue because it’s a real piece of history.
On the toy fair front though, Malcolm told us the split is normally about 50/50 between railways and diecast, although on our visit we definitely felt there was a bias towards locos, rather than diecast; mainly due to a couple of semi-regular dealers that specialised in model railway pieces.
During our tour round the various stalls, there really was a huge variety of pieces (both old and relatively modern) for the OO collector – Bachman, Tri-ang, Wrenn, Hornby and Kitmaster all put in appearance. Some were in the box but still priced reasonably around the £25 to £50 mark, while there were plenty of loose items too. One stall, for example, had a huge selection of wagons and rolling stock that were all priced between £4 and £7.50… perfect for finding the right accessory to complete your layout.
Also on the accessories front, numerous traders were offering reasonably priced buildings, track, signals and terrain too. Again, you could most certainly pick up a bargain and one stall even had what looked like an OO scale medieval castle… just in case you fancied including a little bit of time travel on your layout. Should you be lacking inspiration like that, one trader had a couple of classic Hornby track plans booklets that would no doubt fill in some gaps in your imagination. And at £4 a pop, they’d be worth picking up just to gather up some tips. If you prefer to find your inspiration from the real thing, there was one stall selling vintage black and white photographs of stream engines across the years.
Meanwhile there was some diecast to be had, although most tended to be more modern Oxford Diecast and Corgi, rather than classic pieces. That said, we did spot the iconic Lady Penelope’s FAB1 from Dinky on one trader’s stand, while another had a selection of unboxed Matchbox 1-75 Series and Dublo Dinky diecast up for grabs. One of the most interesting diecast options (although again it wasn’t terribly old) was a Batmobile. Now, we’re all familiar with the classic 1966 Batmobile but this particular model was based on the older 1950s edition, which came with a shark-like fin on the rear. If we’re not mistaken, this was part of a range that Corgi produced, around the turn of the Millennium, of Batmobiles through the ages, which included numerous weird and wonderful rides for the Caped Crusader that appeared in the comics. Priced at £15, we’re sure a Batfan would have been keen to add the item to their collection.
So, overall then, another enjoyable event from Malcolm. Yes, it may not have the headline grabbing rarities that we see elsewhere but it’s hard to fault the decent, well priced items on offer in Kirkby. And judging by the smiling faces and bulging bags of many of the punters, it’s clear we’re not the only ones that think that