3rd Annual Hershey Park (1996) Convention Review

Here it is again, yet another review. This time on the "3rd Annual Hershey Park Convention and Toy Show." This is my second review on any convention. Although I have learned a lot from my previous report, please ignore minor (as well as major) mistakes as I am still learning. Remember this is an incomplete report as I attended the toy show and the dinner on Saturday July 20, 1996 only. I did not stay for the auction after Saturday's dinner plus I was not there for the Sunday toy show. I also did not attend the Friday night's MICA gathering. For further information please wait for the review from one of the clubs. This report also includes my detailed conversation with "Mr. Jay Udow," Director of Marketing for TYCO Toys. I would like to thank Mr. Udow for spending roughly 30 minutes with me just before the dinner and answered my questions and told me the future plans. Later on he mentioned the same things in his speech, so there is nothing confidential here. Now enjoy..........

The 3rd annual Hershey Park convention, sponsored by TYCO Toys was held on the weekend of July 20 & 21 at the Hershey Convention Center, Hershey, PA.. Boy was that a great day! What a change in weather from last year (102 degree) to this year (83 degree). It was a gorgeous day with lots of sun shine and very low humidity. I left New York at around 9:00am and reached at the convention center around 12:30pm.

This year the event was marked with several changes. The most notable change was the hall. Instead of a hall on the upper level, the toy show as held in the lower level and the dinner was held on the upper level. White Rose was giving away free Matchbox models to everyone entering the toy show. The entry was free as usual. Collectors from Australia, Canada, England, Germany, Holland, Norway and USA were present. This year's convention model produced by TYCO/Matchbox was the MB 215 Chevy Panel Van with the "Get in the Fast Lane" Logo.

I was told that the toy show started at 9:00 am. and that there were more dealers this year as compare to last year. TYCO took less space but they had a nice corner where the entire range of MATCHBOX was displayed. This was the first time I (and I am sure many other collectors) saw the full line (1996 released models and future releases) of Matchbox Toys at one place. In the same corner there was a small area for kids to play with "Matchbox Action Central" and "Zero G" play sets as well as with TYCO's remote control cars. At the entrance TYCO had a table were they were selling the convention model, t-shirts, as well as doing the registration for the dinner. One important thing that was catching everyone's attention was the computer with "Matchbox Action Central" web site for all collectors' view. I was able to show my web site to a couple of my friends who have not seen it before.

All afternoon, I stayed in the hall and visited different dealers. I picked up a lot of new promotional models. It was so sad that I could not find anything from my "Want List" this time. I guess models on my Want List are now getting to be tough to find. Anyway, the evening brought more fun for me as I was finally able to talk to Mr. Jay Udow, Director of Marketing for TYCO Toys. The dinner started at around 7:00pm. I personally counted 20 tables with every table had a seating arrangement of 10 people each, i.e., 200 guests. There were 13 people from TYCO/Matchbox, 5 people from Matchbox Collectibles and 4 people from "Freeman Public Relations" who organized the show on behalf of TYCO toys.

After the dinner there were two speeches. Mr. Jay Udow discussed the future plans for Matchbox and then Mr. Mike Dukes discussed the future releases of Matchbox Collectibles. Later both speakers answered questions from the audiences. Mr. Udow mentioned that later in 1996 there will be 20 models released, from the 1996 range, in different colors just like last years. Many people called them "Transition Model" but the term TYCO is using this year is "96 1/2 Re-colors." A set of these re-colors was displayed for collectors. I am sorry I don't have a list of these models yet but watch for some nice re-colors on the shelves soon. Mr. Udow also mentioned that the Premiere Series 3, 4, 5, & 6 would be released before the end of the 1996 calendar year. There will be a Premiere series set (6 models) released, exclusively for the European Market, before the end of 1996. Series 7, 8 & 9 would be available in Spring '97. In Jan or Feb of 1997 there will be a set of six Premiere Rigs. They would be highly detailed convoys from the 1996 (?) range.

Now hold your breath and read the next two paragraphs very carefully.

There will be a set of 10 models (Viper, Porsche 944, Corvette Stingray, BMW M1, Ferrari Testarossa, Porsche 959, Mitsubishi Spyder, SK 120 (?), Plymouth Prowler and one more) available in 10 different stores in the next 2 or 3 months. The production of these models are limited to only 5,000 pieces. Every store will have only one model as TYCO are producing these models for their 10 largest stores. The stores are : AIMS, K-Mart, Valmart, Target, Kee Bee Toys, Fred Myers, Thrifty, and three more stores. Surprisingly Toys R Us is not in this list. The name of this series would be "MATCHBOX GOLD COLLECTION VEHICLE." They would be highly detailed models with gold coin and a certificate of authenticity.

"MATCHBOX GOLD COLLECTION RIGS" will also be available in the same limited quantity (5,000) at only two retail stores, Hills and one more (sorry I cannot even read my own notes). The models will be highly detailed convoys from the 1996 range. As to Action System Play sets, they would continue for the next year with numbers starting from 11.

Mike Dukes mentioned the release of their new 24 piece "Micro Brewery" set. He also mentioned that a new Holiday Catalog would be coming out soon with lots of goodies. There will be some new addition to the "Fire Engine" family. He also mentioned that their (Matchbox Collectibles) database is now reaching a half million mark. A half million Matchbox Collectors around the world (????????) I don't know if this is correct or not but this is what he said.

After these two speeches and the question answer session there was a 10 minute break and then the auction started. The auction was hosted by "T. J. the Auctioneer." He has a great style that keeps everyone interested. TYCO had a nice overhead projector set up this year so that everyone could see the lot/item on the screen. I left after the first two lots but those two lots went for over $300 each. What happened with the other lots, I don't know. What I do know is that there were 134 lots for auction.

Overall I enjoyed the show and the convention. At the end, I would like to mentioned a couple of interesting things for my fellow collectors, which I learned from Mr. Udow. "Dodge Viper" is still the hottest selling models for the second year in a row. Even "Plymouth Prowler" could not beat the "Viper's" sale this year. For a normal MB 1-75 the production run for any model vary from 250,000 to a million pieces. Another interesting thing I learned as to why some models have "Thailand" base and some have "China." This is a nice story that I will leave for next time. All you need to know at this time is that Matchbox has two factories, one in China and one in Thailand.

Now is the time to end this review. I hope the collectors enjoyed it. Please feel free to make comments and let me know via email.

Shabbir Malik.

G Book

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