Back in August 2019, it seemed hard to believe that the summer was almost over, although the weather hadn’t exactly been very bright and cheery! We’d had a break from our own toy fairs, but that was all about to change with a return to Cirencester. It gave Ronnie Davies a chance to look back over the year so far …

“All in all, it’s been a great year,” was Ronnie’s verdict. “Cirencester has been as steady as ever, with the fantastic Bingham Hall now a premier event location in the Cotswolds. We’re into our seventh year there, and our last visit (in February) managed to achieve a record attendance, which is a fantastic achievement. It’s the perfect venue for new dealers feeling their way into the business, but we’ve also seen and retained so many of the established names in toy dealing, who not only support us at Ciren, but also trade at other major fairs all over the country.”

“All in all, it’s been a great year,” was Ronnie’s verdict. “Cirencester has been as steady as ever, with the fantastic Bingham Hall now a premier event location in the Cotswolds. We’re into our seventh year there, and our last visit (in February) managed to achieve a record attendance, which is a fantastic achievement. It’s the perfect venue for new dealers feeling their way into the business, but we’ve also seen and retained so many of the established names in toy dealing, who not only support us at Ciren, but also trade at other major fairs all over the country.”

“One aspect we felt needed to be improved was the parking, and we now invest in both car parks at the schools at each end of King Street.” The following weekend’s Cirencester fair would be the biggest yet, with the management allowing Retro Ronnie to expand into the Rifle Range extension, giving space for even more dealers.

“Didcot is, in my opinion, a cracking fair,” continues Ronnie. “The dealers generally love to trade there. It has a more traditional feel than our Swindon venue, and is a firm favourite due to its close links with GWR and ideal location for road links. It’s our closest venue to London, and certainly draws in visitors from the capital. We have had to work hard with the new management, and the first year was so tough that we seriously considered looking elsewhere, but I’m glad to say we are now through that and the future for Didcot looks secure. Again, it’s a great fair for our catering crew and the car parking on site is excellent.”

“Swindon Town is our most challenging location, and is by far the hardest fair to set up and run. We have a great working relationship with the event management at the club, and it’s now firmly entrenched in the toy-fair calendar, with visitor numbers steadily increasing – a great relief after the threatened boom and bust of our first year! One aspect that appeals to our regular visitors is that Swindon seems to attract a different set of dealers, when compared with our other fairs.”

Action Man Ronnie!

How many of you caught our own Action Man, Ronnie Davies, on Bargain Hunt? Regular presenter Eric Knowles donned military uniform to introduce a special piece on the 12 inch action figure, and then interviewed Ronnie as part of the mid-show feature first aired on 12th August (Series 53, episode 8).

The programme was available on iPlayer for a few weeks, but for now you’ll have to be satisfied with this still image from the day …

In the Pipeline …

Always looking for ways to make the Retro Ronnie fairs cutting-edge, and introduce new ideas and concepts, there are some radical plans in the pipeline for future fairs. “We will be bringing an entirely new concept to our toyfairs in the very near future, thanks to a developing relationship with Toy Planet from Wantage, and we will soon be featuring a new Retro Gaming section,” enthuses Ronnie. “Our fairs have always been known for the broad cross-section of toys and games on offer from our dealers, and we’re keen to see representation of all genres in the Toy World, and this is one way we can embrace a huge growth area in vintage gaming.”

Like so many elements of play, there are swings and roundabouts. “We have been facing increasing overheads and rent rises in the past year,” says Ronnie. “We’ve absorbed those expenses as best we can, but a recent escalation in costs means we can’t do that any longer, and we’ve made the difficult decision to pass on some of these costs to visitors. From September, the entrance fee is going to become £3 at all our venues. We really regret this, but have no choice.”

This 50 pence rise is the first increase in five years. However, in typical Retro Ronnie style, we will be offering a £10 season ticket wristband at all venues that will enable regular fair-goers to attend all four fairs at each venue for the same price as before. The added bonus is entry from 9:00 am for season-pass holders, instead of the normal 10:00 am. “This is one way of thanking visitors for their loyalty and support,” concludes Ronnie.

Facing Changing Trends

While Ronnie reviews this year’s run of fairs, fellow organiser Tim Pearson considers the changing times that face toy collectors …

“We’ve noticed several significant changes in some areas,” he suggests. “The value of certain toys is definitely rising, and one only has to consider the astonishing amounts being achieved at auction by Star Wars figures, for example. To see an ugly, unpainted, grey plastic figure of Boba Fett fetching close to £90,000 seems incredible.

The 3.75 inch plastic figure of the bounty hunter was proposed by Kenner in 1979. The figure was scheduled for release when The Empire Strikes Back hit the screens in 1980, but the rocket-firing feature was deemed too dangerous, and the toy was scrapped. Roughly 100 prototypes are thought to have escaped the factory.

“There has also been a marked increase in the value of early electronic gaming equipment, especially the fairly primitive hand-held examples,” Tim observes. “As with all things, it’s significant that those who grew up with these toys are now the ones earning the money to buy back the video games of their youth … or the ones they once dreamed of owning!”

“Diecast is still popular, of course, and remains a huge collecting area. I suspect it will always have a strong following, even if it might decline a little in the years ahead. It’s seen as a focus for the older generations, but having said that, some of those collectors are now selling, as they look to fund other avenues or perhaps supplement a pension, and that has released some very rare examples into the marketplace. Better that, perhaps, than gathering dust (and value!!) in someone’s display case.”

People & Faces

There have been some personnel developments at Retro Ronnie. “One of these involves a much over-looked member of our team,” says Tim. “Marco-the-Door will be stepping up to take on other roles in and around our fairs. He’s always done a first-rate job, and this is a thankyou from Ronnie and me. He has a remarkable knowledge on Action Man figures and is always more than happy to help with valuable tips and information.”

“We’re also looking forward to welcoming Ricki Davies to our fairs,” adds Ronnie. “He specialises in a Britain’s Deetail and Timpo figures from the Sixties and Seventies, and is new to the toyfair world. He has a vast stock which he’ll be bringing to Cirencester this Sunday. We wish him the best of luck.

… and that’s an edited edition of our #19 Newsletter, published in August 2019. If you found that interesting, you can always subscribe directly to our Newsletter, and receive your own copy as soon as it’s released. Enter your name and email address in the widget near the top of the right-hand column.