On Sunday, Barry Potter Fairs returned to the Birmingham NEC. The long-running toy fair, which takes place at various locations throughout the UK, visits Birmingham around three times a year, and brings traders and visitors from the surrounding area and further afield.
The Brum-based fairs are always worth attending, as they attract a lot of traders, so this Sunday I made the effort to drop in while I was passing through the area. I live in Manchester, but my past experience with Barry Potter Fairs has always been positive, so taking a detour was a must.
I’m so glad that I did, as I managed to find a number of toys that have been on my wish list for years. Toys that are often very difficult to come by – even on eBay.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me whizz through the event and then I’ll talk about what I picked up.
Walking the hall
The doors opened at 10:30am. I arrived a little later (around 11:00am) and was able to walk into the event without having to queue.
For those who have never attended a Barry Potter Fairs event at the NEC (or have never been to the NEC), the show takes place in one of the centre’s 20 halls. This weekend’s event was held in Hall 18 – a spacious hall with plenty of room for hundreds of collectors.
Once inside, I headed to the rear of the hall in order to work my way from back to front. This is something I always do, so that I move in a different direction to the majority of the floor traffic.
I find that early on, the back of the hall tends to be quieter as everyone is near the front of the hall. By the time I get to the front, most people have moved to the rear of the hall and this means it remains quieter while I’m looking at stalls.
My first impression upon seeing all of the tables was ‘wow, there is a lot of diecast cars and trains’. The first two-to-three rows of trader tables were filled with cars and/or trains and not much else, and I was worried I was in for a very quiet day.
Having a huge amount of car/train traders is fine if you happen to collect cars and trains, but personally this isn’t my area of interest, so I was a little concerned that I would find few toys at the fair. However, all this changed once I had progressed further into the hall, where I found more variety – including a great deal of ’80s and ’90s toys.
Masters of the Universe, ThunderCats and Lego had a very strong showing at the first few stalls (and across the hall in general), along with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. There were also numerous stalls selling The Real Ghostbusters toys, including mint on card, loose and figures that were… somewhat worse-for-wear.
A few traders were selling G.I. Joe/Action Force figures; a handful had Mighty Max sets; and some carried the likes of Visionaries, Centurions, and Captain Planet. Star Wars was also in plentiful supply, including a few traders with some great vintage action figures.
Transformers was present, but not as many toys as I expected. Perhaps this is because TF Nation 2019 took place only a matter of weeks ago and that took the majority of the Transformer traders.
Either way, the Transformers items that were on sale were pretty awesome – just check out the fantastic Megatron below!
Pretty sweet, right?
This item is an example of just one of the great toys on sale at Barry Potter Fairs. And while I don’t collect Transformers toys, just being able to see something like this on display at an event like this is truly amazing and worth the trip to Birmingham.
And it wasn’t just Megatron, there were so many great toys on display, including many ‘holy grail’ items. From Power Rangers and Swamp Thing to X-Men and Mask – it was all here.
First purchases of the day
Whenever I attend a show like this, I tend to walk the hall first before I make any purchases. That way I can see what is on offer to ensure I don’t blow my budget within five minutes of getting into the hall.
I would like to say that I stuck to this plan for yesterday’s event, but I would be lying. Within 20 minutes of being in the hall, I had already parted with some money.
Why? Because I came across two items that I’ve been after for many years – Swat Kats action figures!
For those unfamiliar with the name (or the toys), Swat Kats was a short-lived animated show which aired in the 1990s. Produced by Hanna-Barbera, the cartoon centred around a couple of junkyard cats who moonlight as a secret team known as the Swat Kats.
While the show was popular with viewers, it did not receive a great deal of tie-in merchandise. However, Remco did produce a wave of action figures, which occasionally crop up for sale online, but almost never in the UK.
As you can see in the image above, the figures were on Italian cards (‘I Gatti Volanti’ roughly translates as ‘the flying cats’). Seeing them on card in the UK was too much for me to pass up, and I had to take them.
With these guys in my possession, I then continued working my way through the hall. Occasionally taking the time to rummage through dump bins to see what bargains could be found amongst the endless collections of loose figures.
Many figures caught my eye, but I decided to pass them up for the moment. This also included a Galaxy Ranger figure – another item on my ‘wish list’.
This was a tough pass, as I am always trying to get hold of Galaxy Rangers figures on eBay and I am always outbid at the final moment. But I had just spent money on the Swat Kats and I couldn’t spend more until I had seen what else was on offer.
As I continued, more items grabbed my attention, including some space-themed Lego. I’m not a Lego collector, but these Blacktron sets (see below) were some of the best Lego toys around when I was younger, so I did consider adding them to my collection.
But once again, I passed them up in favour of continuing to walk the hall. And I’m glad that I did, because I soon came across yet more items on my ‘wish list’ – two ThunderCats figures that I’ve wanted for some time.
The figures were Wilykit and Wilykat (aka the Thunderkittens). As soon as I saw them together on a trader table I spoke to the trader, made a deal for taking the pair as one purchase, then popped them in my bag.
It was at this point that I was near the end of my walk around the hall. I wanted to revisit past stalls, but I also needed a bit of a break from the nostalgia overload of seeing all of these amazing toys.
Instead of revisiting stalls I decided it would be a good idea to take a break. I was in need of a drink and a bite to eat, so I moved towards the back of the hall to the refreshment area.
I had intended to get a cola and something to eat, but this plan soon fizzled out when I discovered the vendor had run out of cola(!) and the cost of food was ridiculously expensive(!!). Fish and chips was around £12 – far too costly in my opinion – and the lack of space to eat the meal completely put me off.
It was at this point that I had a re-think and decided it would be more sensible to leave the hall and head back into the NEC. Outside of the halls there are a number of other vendors, which would give me more choice, for a better price and in a quieter space.
And this brings me to a good point. If you are attending an event like this, and you are going to be purchasing refreshments rather than bringing your own, you are best off leaving the main hall and finding a nearby vendor.
In the case of Barry Potter Fairs at the NEC, simply get your hand stamped as you exit the hall, and this will allow you to re-enter at your leisure. Twenty minutes away from the hall sat with a drink or something to eat can really help recharge your batteries, especially if you’re finding the hustle and bustle of a convention hall a little too intimidating.
And it was during this time that I made a plan for the rest of the afternoon. The event was due to end around 3pm and that gave me around an hour to revisit some traders.
I had two ‘must-buy’ items already in my possession, but I knew that I wouldn’t be content with these purchases alone. The Galaxy Ranger figure that I had previously passed up was still weighing on my mind.
If I left the event that day and didn’t take him home with me, I knew I’d regret it. So, after finishing my meal I headed back to Hall 18 and made a beeline for the trader.
Finishing off the day
Thankfully he had not sold the figure, so we discussed the price and then made a deal. This deal involved knocking £5 off the price (yay), which left me with £5 remaining in my budget!
With this remaining £5 I revisited a couple of additional stalls, finally landing on one that I had visited at the very beginning. This was a stall that sold a selection of Care Bears and Keepers.
Here I picked up a Care Bear – which was not on my ‘wish list’, but it was certainly something fun for my collection. Once this purchase was made, I was done for the day and I headed for my train, content that I had added items to my collection that I really wanted.
I’ve attended a number of Barry Potter Fairs and without doubt, the events held at the NEC are my favourite. Being in a central location such as Birmingham helps to attract a wealth of great dealers and this in turn results in great finds such as the ones I picked up.
All in all, a great day out. Plus, the traders are all very friendly and always willing to talk toys.
Oh, and it is worth nothing that the event wasn’t purely about vintage toys, there were a number of stalls selling new toys too (Funko Pops!, Marvel Legends, BotBots etc). If that’s your thing, then you must attend the next event, so you can spend a few hours in the company of toys, both old and new.
- Is my vintage toy from the ’80s worth money?
- What is the best order to watch the Transformers movies?
- Are vintage toys worth money?