What are collector fairs/shows and what do I need to know?
Collector shows are basically antique fairs which showcase collectable items. Collectables are deemed to be items made within the last 100 years (as opposed to antiques). Most of the shows I know of seem to have a mix between vintage and newer pieces. You may find some really special old and rare items, or have an opportunity to pick up that recent comic book or limited edition figure you may have missed the first time round. The shows consist of numerous stands of 50-500+ dealers selling everything from comic books, Disney Classics, X-Files, Star Wars, Simpsons, Felix, Bonzo, vintage character china, animation art (of course!), etc. It’s like visiting hundreds of terrific stores all located within the same place.
I think that these shows are really terrific and offer collectors a great way to see what’s out there, meet other collectors, and find great stuff! There can also be special apperances by X-Files stars, or film and TV celebrities. There are a few wonderful fairs in England, and you may contact me in New York if you would like details of the ones I attend and think are relevant to animation.
Rules of Thumb
1) There is usually a nominal charge of a few quid, which isn’t bad for a whole day of entertainment! There are sometimes gift bags of items worth the price of admission which are handed out upon entrance.
2) Get there early! These shows get crowded, so show up early for the best selection. Also, some shows have early admission for an extra charge. If you’re a serious collector, I recommend getting there early.
3) Bring cash. Some dealers may accept credit cards or cheques, but cash is king. It also increases your odds for success in that great British love of haggling.
4) Enter with some knowledge. If you know your pieces and your prices, you’ll buy wisely. (But there’s nothing wrong with the odd impulse buy!)
5) Shop around a little once you get there. You don’t need to jump at the first piece you see, and if it is something that is not rare, you may just find it cheaper around the corner. But if it is something that is rare, I would recommend buying immediately to avoid disappointment later. I know that for some of the shows I attend prices for animation for the same or similar pieces can vary a fair amount.
6) If you are unsure about something, ask to put a piece on hold. The dealer may ask for a non-refundable deposit which I think is fair.
7) As always, buy from someone with whom you feel comfortable. If you’re spending a few hundred pounds, it doesn’t hurt to know the dealer, or about the dealer.
8) Get a receipt. If there’s ever a problem, you have something in writing.
9) Leave a heavy or cumbersome item with the dealer until you leave the show. You’ll be much happier, trust me.
In terms of animation art specifically, there are often a few dealers (although not many), so have a look at the pieces, evaluate the people selling the art and compare prices. You should be able to see much more art than you would by visiting any one gallery. Get a detailed receipt, and ask for a detailed certificate of authenticity to be sent to you. Whether or not you purchase a framed piece is up to you. A framed piece is there and done, ready to hang on the wall, whereas with an unframed piece, there is more work involved, but the upside is that you get to select the colours you like, and ensure that the framing is of a high quality. Some dealers have loads of framed pieces, displayed wonderfully, for sale, while others of us (who aren’t quite as strong or may come a long way!) may have the art in display cases. It shouldn’t matter as long as you follow the rules above- your experience should be an enjoyable one!
All of my experiences at shows have been pleasant ones. Whether buying decanters and bits and bobs for the flat, or hosting the Nostalgia, Toy, and Disneyana Fair (which sadly was too difficult to do from the States), or standing at fairs in the UK, these shows are fun and a great way to meet new clients and contacts. The other dealers I run into for the most part are reputable and knowledgable, but it doesn’t hurt to be a little prudent!
Until next time, happy and knowledgable collecting!