“Well, we did it!” grinned Ronnie. “We managed to get a fair to go off with a bang, right from the start, and in our home-town too. The whole day was a massive success; well attended by the public, and with a fantastic mix of dealers from all over the country.”
The first-ever Swindon Toy & Train Fair took place on Sunday 7th January 2018, and it couldn’t have gone better. “Ronnie and I were both very happy with the way everything went,” admitted Tim. “We were entirely in the dark with how many people would show up, but we were delighted by the level of support from the public, which far exceeded our expectations. The ample free parking really helped!”
With such large numbers attending, Tim and Ronnie recognise that there may need to be some subtle changes. “Now that people know the toyfair is happening, and everyone realises how easy the County Ground is to find, it can only get better. The rooms were so busy at times, and the heating was on full blast, that I know it was almost too much, so we will be looking to spread out into additional rooms, turn down the heating a bit, and adjust the layout to give more space. We want to make it easier for visitors to see what our dealers have to offer, and generally enhance the overall experience.”
The feedback from public and trade alike has been excellent, and the support from the Swindon Town staff has been hugely encouraging for the future. “They were such a great help,” admits Tim, “and we feel our relationship will surely grow from this.”
Reports suggest sales were especially strong at the modern end of collecting, with Star Wars collectables doing particularly well, although sales of model trains and diecast were also good, provided the dealers were price savvy. “Now that everyone has a smartphone in their pocket, collectors can easily check on-line for pricing information and comparison, so dealers need to be aware of current trends and price their items accordingly,” says Tim. “They can usually beat on-line prices with sensible discounts combined with the benefit of not having to charge postage. Collectors also like to get hands-on and see exactly what it is they’re buying, alleviating any issue with condition and dodgy Internet descriptions. If they’re smart, the Internet can actually be a help to dealers.” Developing a good personal rapport can also lead to better discounts from a dealer who appreciates a new customer and recognises the opportunity for future business.
Following on from the fairs at Swindon and Didcot (on February 10th) there were excellent articles in both the Collectors Gazette and the Oxford Mail. “This kind of independent coverage really helps us,” admits Tim. “The public gets an insight into what happens at one of our events, and the dealers appreciate the benefits of a busy fair. We already have a waiting list of new dealers wanting to stand with us, but we always appreciate those that have showed their faith in us by attending a brand new fair, never knowing quite how well it’s going to turn out. Thankfully, Swindon went really well and we are super-happy with our home town’s support.”
“It was so pleasing that the people of Swindon showed they will get behind a new venture and prove our critics wrong,” suggests Ronnie. “We now have a great base to work from and we know we can build on this for years to come.”
Cirencester & Swindon …
Like the proverbial London Bus, you wait for ages, and then two or three come along at once. Following on from Didcot in early February, the next Cirencester Toy & Train Fair took place on Sunday 25th February, in the town’s famous Bingham Hall.
Then, a fortnight later, we were back at Swindon again for our second visit to the County Ground of 2018 on Sunday March 11th. As always, finding the venue couldn’t be simpler – visitors just had to look out for the brown “football” signs from all approach roads, and there was free parking right outside the door.
Wessex Auctions – Bidding to Buy …
With Retro Ronnie being West-Country based, we’re always on the lookout for places nearby to source our own stock, and buying from auction can often be a good bet.
Wessex Auction Rooms in Chippenham, Wiltshire, hosts regular auctions of toys and games, in between their General, Fine Art and Jewellery sales, and they had two in the Spring.
The first took place on 23rd February, and included a whole raft of interesting toys, games and collectables. The catalogue was listed on-line at The Saleroom, where it’s possible to register and bid “live” on the Internet. This sale included almost 200 Hornby model railway lots, nearly 100 Dinky diecast, more than 70 Star Wars related items, and hunderds of other models, toys and games.
There was another toy auction at the Chippenham salerooms on April 27th, while music enthusiasts would have been interested in the 6th April auction of vinyl and contemporary musical instruments, plus postcards, stamps and sporting memorabilia. Check out the full Wessex Auctions Calendar for details.
Dealer Profile – Abid Khan
Over the years, one of Retro Ronnie’s most consistent supporters has been Bristol-based Abid Khan.
Abid has been on the toy scene for many years, and started by selling retro gaming equipment, consoles and cartridges. Together with his son Aiden and daughter Izzy,Abid can be found at just about every fair we ever stage, as well as at other similar events up and down the country.
Abid’s stock is vast and varied, ranging from die cast and action figures, though to Star Wars and model railway. He usually sets out his stock on what’s become known as Abid’s Runway – a massive stretch of up to ten tables, groaning under the weight of his top-quality material. If there’s a big crowd in one corner of a room, rest assured, it’s probably collectors poring over Abid’s selection of trays, packed with fascinating stock.
The ever-smiling Abid is affectionately known as Big Money in the trade, and with Aiden and the rest of the family by his side, there’s always a good deal to be found. Abid attends most Retro Ronnie fairs, so if you’re planning on a visit, be sure to browse the Runway!