Contributed by collector and Overstreet Art Cloos
Photos by Alice Cloos
On Saturday, November 4, 2017, the 39th edition of the Allentown Vintage Toy Show was held at the Allentown Fairgrounds in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The con was held in the Agricultural Hall, which can accommodate 500 tables with wide aisles.
The show is something of a legend among vintage toy collectors who come from all over the US and overseas to attend. The vintage show features collectibles that are at least 50 years old. While other famous venues such as the ones in Atlantic City and at Kennedy Airport were required east coast stops on the vintage toy hunting trail 25 years ago, they are gone now ‒ but Allentown is still going strong.
Many of the dealers have set up there for years and the same can be said for the show attendees. There is a lot of history on display here, from Disney to 19th century cast iron toys, from TV to radio shows, from comic to pulp-based collectibles, there was a vast variety of items. Don’t plan to go through this show in an hour; it just is not going to happen if you are a serious buyer looking for particular items.
You get the sense quite quickly that this is a seasoned group of veteran dealers who know exactly what they have and what they are willing to accept for it. Likewise, it was quite obvious that the buyers know their stuff and know what an item should cost as opposed to what is being asked. Prices are not generally cheap, but bargains can be found or negotiated.
In many ways, the show is as much a gathering of old friends as it is a place to do business. On the evening before the show, about 70 dealers and buyers gathered for a dinner to catch up with each other.
I have learned that you never know who you are going to run into at this show. I was walking down one aisle and ran into comic book dealer, Basement Comics’ Albert Stoltz and his wife Tanya. I talked to Noel Barret of Antiques Road Show fame, who had a table at the show representing Pook Pook Auctions. Major auction houses such as Morphy Auctions and Hake’s were there and I got to talk to Mike Bollinger from Hake’s for a bit.
I have to say, though, that the highlight of the day was when I met David Bausch, the showrunner. Bausch is a soft spoken, gracious, friendly man who is extremely knowledgeable about collecting antiques. He is a lifelong resident of Allentown, who was the first Lehigh County Executive elected (serving four consecutive terms), was a hospital administrator, and founder of the Meals on Wheels Program. He has served as the Chairperson of the Allentown Home Rule Charter Committee and on Allentown’s City Council, including being the Council President in 1999. He was a president of the Lehigh County Historical Society, was on the March of Dimes Board of Directors, and is a retired Sergeant Major of the United States Air Force.
His collecting hobbies began when he was a kid. In 1948, while he was a teenager, Bausch bought a 1913 Ford Model T – which he still owns. Today he owns eight antique cars, including a 1927 Franklin boat-tail roadster. From there, he collected toy trucks, car calendars, brass lights, a brass mock-up of the 1913 Ford assembly line, a car etched on a pocket watch, and others. Through his appreciation for automobile-related material, Bausch made contacts with fellow collectors. This lead to he and his friend Jeannie Lowe creating The Allentown Vintage Toy Show 39 years ago.
Lowe is gone now, but Bausch continues to run the show even at the age of 86. He told me that every piece has a story, and he is right. All we have to do is listen.
Once done with the show, I heartily recommend checking out the Allentown Fairgrounds Farmers Market. With over 60 local merchants, you’re sure to find everything you need in one quick stop. You can find a variety of dining options items and there are areas to sit and eat if you are so inclined. There is an impressive amount of farm produce from vegetables to fruits to fresh meats.
As of this writing, the 2018 show date has not been confirmed, but I believe it is always the first Saturday in November. Contact Susan at firstname.lastname@example.org or Julie at email@example.com or call (484) 553-2947 for more information. You can also call the Fairgrounds number at (610) 433-7541 for info.