Ever since my daughter was born, I’ve accidentally been training her as a geek… That much has come to my attention. She loves heavy metal music, is obsessed with My Little Pony, and cannot get enough of her superhero toys. She also loves to watch me gaming, especially if I’m playing Spyro The Dragon on PSX… And she even has her own tablet, the Amazon Kindle Fire for Kids.
So, when I heard about Collectorabilia, described as “the geekiest sales fair around”, I thought it could be the perfect day out of the house for both my daughter and I. So, I decided I would also document what the day was like as well! Let’s take a look, shall we?
The first thing that we had to do was actually get to Collectorabilia. You see, the event was being held in The Refectory at Leeds University. That meant a relatively long drive up the M1. Plus, I’ve only ever been to Leeds for work, getting in a taxi at the train station – in other words, I really don’t know my way around the city at all. Of course, The Refectory is pretty much right in the middle of the city as well, so I needed to get through the inner city maze too.
In order to try and make things easier, I opened up Google Maps and used it to plot the course… It said it would take me 1 hour and 45 minutes to get there. That’s a long drive with a two-year-old. But then I noticed that Google wanted to take me through a bunch of backroads around the city when there seemed to be a much quicker and more direct route. So, I manually overrode Google’s suggested route to the one I thought was better; the estimated drive time updates to just 1 hour 10 minutes. That’s a huge drop in time! So, the lesson here is not to trust Google immediately, instead, checking the route yourself as well.
In the end, it was even shorter than that, taking us just under an hour to get to the University’s multi-storey car park. From there, I put my daughter in her pushchair and made my way to the pedestrian area, thinking that was the right way to go. You see, the University itself isn’t very well signposted. So, we ended up coming across this huge flight of stairs, and I had to carry the pushchair up them, before walking a few more steps to yet another set of stairs. This is where I realised my stupid mistake.
You see, if I had walked back up the road that I drove down to get to the car park, I would have been able to get to The Refectory easily with the pushchair, avoiding all the stairs. However, due to my ignorance of the area, I took the wrong path. So, let that be a lesson that you guys can learn from my stupidity.
Once there, however, I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to get into the actual venue with a pushchair. So, good choice on the location guys! Seriously.
The event itself was huge, taking over the entire venue. Keep in mind that this is a place used for concerts, so there’s a massive amount of space in there. As we walked through the doors, I could hardly believe how packed it was with stalls! The first thing I saw was a raffle going on with a Nintendo Switch as a price (I would have entered, except the draw was at 4pm, and I needed to get back home to pick up my wife from work).
From there, we took a slight right into the main hall and were bombarded with geek culture. There were rows upon rows of stalls selling everything from comic books to retro games and even handmade memorabilia. It was such a beautiful sight.
We found a stall run by Demize, who create hoodies, t-shirts and even baby and toddler vests. I saw a wonderful Stranger Things vest that I wanted to buy for my daughter, but because we got to the event late, he had already sold out of her size. However, we will be ordering one from his eBay store soon enough. Next, I came across a stall that sold hand-knitted dolls of various anime and video game characters. My daughter pointed to one in particular, so I bought it. She now has a knitted Mario doll, which she loves. I also managed to find a Hack//SIGN doll of Tsukasa, which was awesome. I’m a huge fan of the Hack series of anime and games, so that struck me. But my daughter reached for it as well, so naturally, she got to keep it.
The final non-gaming stall we stopped at was actually my daughter’s choice. I was walking over to a stall selling Japanese imports of PSX games when I had to stop and wait for a space in the crowd. Whilst we were standing there, she turned her head and tried to grab a Batman stuffed toy, nearly pulling the whole pushchair over. I could see how much she wanted it, so I bought it there and then. And I have to say, the two ladies running the stall with incredibly friendly!
With Batman purchased and my daughter very happy, it was then time for me to take a look around. I had limited myself to spending just £10 on games because we’re running a bit low on cash at the moment. However, when I got to the aforementioned stall selling Japanese imports, something caught my eye that I just couldn’t ignore. You see, my favourite Final Fantasy game of all time is Final Fantasy Tactics for the PSX. Sadly, it was never released in Europe, instead only being available from the US or Japan. This stall had the Japanese version in stock, for £8. It used up almost all of my budgeted cash, but I couldn’t say no.
That’s why, as I’m sure you can imagine, I was ecstatic to find that it is in near-mint condition, with just the manual not being completely flat at the spine. It is also complete-in-box, with the Square Preview disc as well. So yeah, that was a great find for me, personally. It may not be the most valuable find, but from a personal perspective, it was amazing.
It also left me with just £2 to spend, so I wasn’t going to be able to get anything good. Or at least, that’s why I thought. After looking around all 75 stalls (yes, 75), I ended up spotting a game that I loved as a child, even though I never managed to finish it; In Cold Blood for the PSX. Instantly I picked it up, expecting to have to put it back down again as I only had that £2 left. Much to my surprise, it was going for exactly £2! So yes, I bought that too.
Oh, and I almost forgot! There was a whole bunch of people in cosplay, which my daughter found amazing. There were a group of people dressed up as Vulcans, weapons and all, which was awesome. In fact, there were so many people in cosplay that I can’t even remember them all right now… But it is worth stating that Collectorabilia is a cosplay-friendly event.
Anyway, at that point in time, we had to take our leave from Collectorabilia, as we had the hour-long drive home again. My daughter needed her bath and dinner, and we needed to pick up my wife from her shift. Neither of us actually wanted to leave though. It was a wonderful experience that we both thoroughly enjoyed, so you can bet we’ll be going back next year as well!
A Few Words From The Organisers
In preparation for our trip to Collectorabilia, as well as this post, I got in touch with the organisers of the event itself to see if they would be willing to answer a few questions about Collectorabilia. I assumed I wouldn’t hear back from them for a while, if at all, but they actually responded really quickly. So, here are my questions and their answers, for your reading pleasure.
I absolutely love the idea behind Collectorabilia, so I’ve got to ask, how did Collectorabilia first get started? What was the inspiration behind it?
I’m a big collector of retro video games, consoles and I’m still in love with many of my childhood cartoons, films, etc. So I thought it would be great to put on an event where people can buy back their childhood items and reminisce, people can also show their own children the kind of things that were available back then too. I had already run a couple of retro video game sales events and this was the next logical step for me. Since then it has progressed into not just a retro toys and collectables fair, but into other areas too like modern pop culture, art, crafts, gaming areas and other attractions too.
What were the biggest struggles you faced when putting together the first event?
The biggest struggle I had for the first event was when the venue had decided to sell the space to another event without telling me even though I had a signed and sealed contract. This meant I had under 2 months to find another venue with the same capacity on the same date otherwise the whole thing would have had to have been cancelled as I had all the sellers signed up. Slightly stressful as you can imagine, but we found the Marriott Hotel and that space has been a regular venue for over 3 years now.
How much planning goes into each event?
Each event takes a few months from start to finish to set up and organise, from selecting the date, creating the layouts, marketing, advertising, selecting the sellers, attractions, helpers etc. My system has been streamlined over the years so its a much slicker process now.
Why did you choose to host the 2018 Collectorabilia in the Leeds University Refectory?
I ran a Super Retro Games Fair at this venue in 2017 and thought it would be ideal for a Collectorabilia, there is plenty of space, its light, bright, can fit in lots of extras, there is a huge bar, great food etc. It is the perfect venue and we can accommodate double the traders of the normal event. So, going forward I would love to run more of them at this space.
What’s your favourite memory of the event’s history?
There are loads of memories with these events for me. As a collector, I have bought many amazing and wonderful things. At the very first one, I picked up an animation cel from the He-Man cartoon, at another one I picked up arcade trading cards from over 30 years ago. I love that nostalgic glow people get when they come in and see all of the cool things on sale too. The best for me was when we used Leeds Town Hall, there were 16 weddings taking place that day, each couple that got married came out of the wedding area onto the steps at the front of the building where the Star Wars troop was, so we had loads of photos of newlyweds with Darth Vader. It was awesome.
What about your favourite cosplay design that you’ve seen?
For me, every time they come the Sentinel Squad UK look amazing, they have been a few of these now raising money for charity, they always look the part and everyone wants their photos with them and Darth Vader. We have had people cosplay all sorts of characters too from the Walking Dead, Suicide Squad, DC and Marvel Superheroes and Disney characters.
How big is the average turnout for retro gaming?
The turnout varies depending on the event and the venue we use. We have had attendances from 1k to 3k people for the sales only events, and our Retro Gaming Nights attract an over 250 people per night.
Do you have any tips for parents who are bringing their kids with them?
Yep, have fun! But definitely keep an eye on the little kids as these events can be very busy, so it could be easy to lose sight of a child. Also, these events are great for showing children that there are loads more niche areas of entertainment that the mainstream media never really showcases much and that it is definitely cool to be a geek.
Finally, is there anything you would like to say to people who aren’t sure if Collectorabilia is the right event for them?
I’d say that definitely come along and have a look at what we do, we like to keep the entry price low regardless if its a big or small event so its affordable for everyone, so if you like gaming, comics, pokemon, star wars, cosplay etc there is something for everyone. We have an amazing community of attendees so there is also a great chance you will meet other people with similar interests too.
And That’s All Folks
Collectorabilia itself was an amazing event that both my daughter and I absolutely loved. From the stalls to the cosplay, and even the overall atmosphere was just awesome. We will definitely be going again next year and every year after that. You can find out more about the event here. I would also like to thank the organisers, Retro Events Ltd, for taking the time to answer my questions.
Have you been to Collectorabilia? Would you want to go? Let me know in the comments below!