Today I’ve been on a toy hunt. In fact, I’ve not long got back.

The toy hunt involved a trip down to Birmingham’s NEC to attend the latest event from Barry Potter Fairs – one of the UK’s largest toy fairs. I live in Manchester City Centre, so it’s a bit of a commute to Brum, but as the event boasts around 550 stalls of toys, models and collectables, I felt it was worth making the journey.

Barry Potter Fairs at the NEC was open today in Hall 18, from 10:30am until 3pm. I arrived at the event around 11am, where quite a few people were just beginning to form a queue.

The queue, while sizeable, moved pretty quickly and after just a few minutes I had paid my entry fee (£7.50) and was walking through the entrance. Being able to get into an event efficiently is always a plus and the staff on the doors were very helpful and friendly.

Once inside, I took a quick scope around the layout before making my way to the back of the hall. I often find that the best place to start at a convention or fair is at the back.

People tend to mill around near the entrance when they first enter a hall, so this rapidly becomes the worst place to congregate. Moving towards the rear of the hall means you’re likely to get a bit of breathing room as the majority of the crowd shuffle their way into the venue.

So, starting from the back I worked my way around the hall, taking in as many of the stall displays as possible. Due to the large amount of stalls (and people) I quickly found my eyes darting back and forth to try and keep focus.

Fairs like this one have so many items on sale it all gets a bit overwhelming – in a good way of course – and it almost feels as if you’ve been dropped directly into a million eBay searches! Despite my best efforts to stick to a methodical pattern as I made my way around the hall, I still found myself wandering around like… well… an oversized kid in a toy shop.

The toys that cropped up today ranged from Corgi cars and Hornby train sets, to new (and well-loved) bears, action figures, LEGO (boxed and loose), fast food toys and pretty much everything in between. Outside of toys, a few stalls were also selling comics, badges, storage boxes, computer games, DVDs and someone was even selling tools.

If you could imagine it and you could be bothered to comb every inch of the hall, chances are you would find it on sale today. The temptation to buy was lurking around every corner.

Now I’m a BIG nostalgia geek, so there were a lot of items for sale which grabbed my attention, but alas I only had so much money and of course, I only have so much room to store things at home. Today I was determined to stick to a small budget and preferably stick to picking up small items – otherwise divorce was imminent.

My goal was to track down some Monster in My Pocket (MIMP) figures – a neat collectable from the early ’90s. I have a handful of them at present and want to add to this collection.

I failed at my goal.

I did come across a couple of MIMP figures, but they were either figures I already had or they were a bit too beaten up for my liking. I chose to move on and try for MIMP figures at another event in the future.

So, with MIMP off the table, I decided to go on a hunt for a few loose Playmates Toys action figures (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Toxic Crusaders etc). I’m a big fan of late ’80s/early ’90s Playmates toys (back when Playmates was at the top of its game) and I’ve already got a bit of a growing collection of loose figures from this legendary manufacturer.

Looking for loose figures can be both fun and stressful as a lot of sellers will dump their loose figures in boxes, set out in front of their stall for buyers to have a good rummage. The fun in rummaging through boxes is the thrill of finding a hidden treasure that has been overlooked by the seller. The stress of rummaging through a box is the realisation that other people are itching to dive into the box and if you’re not careful they will be in their with you.

After a healthy dose of rummaging in boxes (and on table tops), I came away with three figures: Two Toxic Crusaders toys and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toy.

The Toxic Crusader toys were in great condition but were minus their weapons. As much as I like complete toys, having all the accessories is never a high priority on my list so I was happy with just the figures.

The two figures – Major Disaster and Headbanger – set me back £3 and £5 respectively.

The TMNT toy I picked up was Muckman, who was priced at £4.

Muckman was missing a removable part of his head, which was less than perfect, but as he was priced at less than a fiver, I knew I’d regret not picking him up. Having looked for Muckman online in the past, I know he can prove to be pretty pricey.

With the purchases made I continued to wander around the hall to take a look at the rest of the toys exchanging hands. Highlights included a full set of Ranger horses from the Galaxy Rangers line (all boxed and in great condition); a heap of ThunderCats toys (boxed and loose); various Mighty Max sets; a lot of LEGO; some Visionaries; and a collection of carded Dick Tracy figures.

Throughout my time at today’s Barry Potter Fair I was able to get around the hall without too much hassle. The hall was busy, but not to the point where it was ever too hectic.

The overall atmosphere was relaxed, with lots of conversations taking place between dealers and buyers – even when money wasn’t changing hands. Everyone in attendance seemed to be having fun.

To date, I’ve been to three Barry Potter Fairs events – two at the NEC and one at the Macron Stadium in Bolton. The Birmingham-based fairs are hands down my favourite as the central location attracts a good mix of dealers, bringing toys for various age ranges and tastes.

Should you want more information about Barry Potter Fairs, check out the BPF website. The site includes a list of locations for forthcoming fairs.

Happy hunting!

Alex