Contributed by collector and Overstreet Advisor Art Cloos
Photos by Alice Cloos
On Saturday, November 3, 2018, the 40th edition of the Allentown Vintage Toy Show was held at the Allentown Fairgrounds in Allentown, PA. As I have said in the past, the show is something of a legend among vintage toy collectors who come from all over the U.S. and internationally to buy collectibles there. By vintage, the show means pieces at least 50 years old, which is organized and monitored by their staff.
The show was open from 9 AM to 3 PM, with early buyer hours on Friday and early Saturday morning. Regular admission is a very reasonable $5 for adults and $3 for children from 6 to 12 years old.
A lot of pop culture history is on display at the show. I said this last year, but this year the variety of items for sale was especially strong, the best I can remember seeing at an Allentown show. Items included very rare Superman pieces, Popeye and Felix The Cat as well as an impressive showing of vintage 1950s and ’60s games and various boxed toys. There were a lot of Disney and TV and radio show collectibles to choose from, as well as comic character and pulp-based collectibles including Batman and the Hulk (both old enough now to fit the 50 year time age limit). Vintage cowboy items from Hopalong Cassidy and Roy Rogers rarities to cowboy six shooters with and without their holsters and rifles were on display along with steel toys and lots of Christmas items. Allie noticed a large amount of Steiff items for sale too.
Don’t plan to go through this show in an hour. It just is not going to happen for serious buyers looking for a particular item or items. The hall is very large, and Allie and I barely got through the aisles before the show closing. Word of advice, wear good shoes because the cement floor gets tough to walk on after a while.
One gets 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 at the show know their stuff and knew what an item should cost as opposed to what was being asked. Prices are not generally cheap but bargains can be found or negotiated. Hake’s, Morphy’s, Milestone, and Pook Pook Inc. auction houses were set up, which was more than we saw set up at the New York Comic Con in October. The reason for this is due to the strong nature of both the items offered for sale and the buyers who came to purchase them, or perhaps sell or consign a piece.
The Agricultural Hall where the show is held, is a large, open facility that can accommodate 500 tables with wide aisles for a comfortable experience. There is ample parking available for dealers and buyers during registration periods and the day of show.
I have learned that you never know who you are going to run into at this show. For example, I ran into my pal and dealer Nelson and his wife who I usually associate with New York and New Jersey shows. Later, I talked to Noel Barrett of Antiques Road Show, who was at the table representing Pook Pook Auctions. I was especially happy to run into David Bausch, a very intelligent car and toy collector. He’s a fixture of the community and co-founder of the Allentown Toy Show with his longtime friend Jeannie Lowe. He was diagnosed with cancer shortly before the 2017 show and told me that he is getting better now. When he told me that, I think that was the best part of the day.
In many ways the show is as much a gathering of old friends as it is a place to do business. There is a tradition that the Friday night before the show some dealers and buyers gather for a dinner to catch up, and there is an Antique Toy Club that is made up of collectors. It’s a more social than business organization that meet twice a year. Lowe is gone now, but Bausch continues to run the show even at the age of 87, along with Ray Holland. He told me that every piece has a story and he is right. All we have to do is listen.
There is not much advertising, except in some national collecting magazines and it is very much a word of mouth event. Both the dealers and buyers have been coming together for this show for a long time, and 20 minutes before the show ended, an announcement was made for last call on booking tables for the next show.
When we left the show, Allie and I went across the street to check out the Allentown Fair Grounds Farmers Market. With over 60 local merchants, just about everything one could need is at the market. There are lots of lunch and dinner items and an impressive amount of fresh produce, and a wine stand for a local winery.
There are several nice hotels in the area and local attractions to make it a full weekend getaway.
The next edition of the Allentown Vintage Toy show will be held Saturday, November 2, 2019. Those interested in learning more about the show can email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or call (484) 553-2947. The fairgrounds can be reached at (610) 433-7541.