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East Coast Toy Soldier Show Draws Record Crowd

Henry L. Kurtz | November 3rd, 2013


Carolyn Kurkowski, a dealer from Peabody, Massachusetts, featured toy soldiers by Marlborough and Ducal. Sets ran from $90 to $120; individual figures from $15 to $35.


Collectors inspect miniature soldiers that ranged from $50 to $250.


Figures by King & Country formed the mainstay of this diorama of a World War II battle pitting Russian troops and tanks against German defenders. Individual figures cost $29 to $49; tanks cost $200 to $230.


A group of well-painted and mounted model soldiers were offered for sale by New Jersey dealer John Molinaro. Prices ranged from $45 to $165 for individual pieces, and he asked $125 for a German army diorama depicting World War I trench warfare.


A view of the dealer tables and the crowd of collectors at the show.

Hackensack, New Jersey

Photos by Lee Berman, courtesy of Vintage Castings

A record crowd of enthusiastic toy soldier collectors and military enthusiasts streamed through the doors of the Rothman Center at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Hackensack, New Jersey, on November 3, 2013. Over 1200 attendees made this the most successful East Coast Toy Soldier Show and Sale in the 31 years since its beginning in 1983.

The collectors were served by 90 dealers at 287 merchandise-laden tables, which filled the spacious facility with all manner of lead and plastic toy figures and military toys, as well as books, DVDs, CDs, and other military-related items.

William Lango, the show’s founder and producer, whose company, Vintage Castings, sponsors the event, observed that this was a different kind of show from previous ones. “We had twenty percent more people than came to our last show. I believe this is due to social media—our Web site, Facebook, and word of mouth.”

There were also a lot more younger people than in the past. For the younger set, there were Star Wars figures and other futuristic toys. Lango also noted that “Collectors are more focused. They don’t buy as much, but they are willing to spend on items they really want.”

Bill Murphy of Hobby Bunker, Malden, Massachusetts, summed up the view of the more successful dealers. “You have to give people lots of new merchandise. Those dealers who come with the same toy soldier sets year after year are likely to go home disappointed. We bring the latest soldier sets and individual pieces from top firms.” He pointed to tables crammed with figures by W. Britain, King & Country, Black Hawk Toy Soldier, and other new toy soldier sets.

These are not the $2 boxed sets of Britain soldiers that your grandfather fondly remembers. Today’s new breed of toy soldiers runs from $25 to $75 each, sometimes more.

Even those dealers who experienced a decline in sales testified to the fun nature of the show. “I look forward to this event because it’s a wonderful opportunity to see old friends and make new ones,” said Tony Ciccarello, who puts out a line of plastic toy soldiers called Armies in Plastic. He noted that sales of his metal figures were down but that the plastics were “jumping off the table.”

A good example of the diversity of the show’s content was the large display by Belle & Blade, a company that specializes in military-related DVDs, T-shirts, baseball caps, and books.

There were collectors who happily took home unusual items at bargain prices. Bob and Jamie Katz, father and son collectors from Riverdale, New York, discovered two large plastic baseball statuettes (in original boxes) of New York Mets first baseman Keith Hernandez and pitcher Dwight Gooden for the highly affordable prices of $8 each. “I’ve had more fun at this show than any other I’ve gone to in years,” said Jamie, a view seconded by his father. “It is nice just to be able to walk around and see all these great toys.”

Lango anticipates an even better show next time. “I’m encouraged by the number of new collectors and dealers who attended the show,” he said, noting that many of the dealers had already signed up for the next show.

The 2014 show will be held at the same venue on November 2. For further information, go to the Web site (www.eastcoasttoysoldiershow.com) or contact Vintage Castings at (973) 831-8900.


Originally published in the March 2014 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2014 Maine Antique Digest

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