4th Annual Hershey Park (1997) Convention Review

Here it is again, I took another trip to Hershey, PA this year for the "4th Annual Hershey Park Convention and Toy Show." This is the second big convention & toy show I went to in the month of June. The Convention was held at the Hershey Convention Center on Saturday June 28 1997 in the evening with a sit down dinner. The toy show as held on Saturday (6/28/97) between 9:00am and 5:00pm while on Sunday (6/29/97) it was between 9:00am and 2:00pm. There was no entrance fee as usual.

I arrived at the convention center at around 10:30 in the morning. The toy show was in the Chocolate Ballroom with tables all over. The hall was packed with people in the morning and then later on at around 3:00pm it kind of slowed down a little. I was told that over 5,000 people attended the show on Saturday alone. While talking to a few dealers I found that although there was no in-room trading on Friday night like the Matchbox USA convention, Mattel/Tyco hosted a reception for all the dealers. What happened in that reception? I am not sure but if any dealer wants to share that information with the collectors please do so.

At the entrance there were free MB1-75 miniature models for kids under 12 years of age along with the 1997 line poster. This was a big change from previous years where everyone used to get a free model (no complaints on my side though). Right hand side of the hall was all Matchbox/Tyco/Mattel. The first table was registration where Matchbox was selling the toy show model (A Viper GTS in black with orange stripes and rubber tires) and T-shirts. Next table had auction models for view. There were two different auctions this year. A silent auction whose results were announced at dinner and the live auction after dinner. Next there were tables for kids to pickup their prizes for the free model they received at the entrance. Then there was a computer attached to a giant size T.V showing the official Matchbox web site. Next to that was a play area for small children to play with Matchbox play sets. At the end of the hall was a small area for TYCO Remote Control cars. Children as well as adults took special interest in that area.

On the Left hand side of the hall was a big display of the 1997 Matchbox line. Although there were a lot of models on that display, I don't think that the entire line was there. Next to that was a stall from Matchbox collectibles. They had displayed the models that have already been released plus what is coming for 1997 Christmas. There is only one miniature for this year Christmas. Guess which one? Yes right! A Cobra Mustang in silver gray with premiere style release and a plinth, similar to the 1996 Christmas Pontiac GTO. There were a couple of T.Vs with V.C.Rs showing how a model get into the Matchbox line. I think it was an informative video but too bad I did not get to see it. I should have but I did not. Now it is too late. Just don't ask me why.

In between there were many dealers including (in no particular Order) Kiddie Kar Kollectibles, Linda & Craig Hill Toys, Neil Wheels, Just Matchbox, Die Cast Toy exchange, Two Crazy Collectors and other dealers. Sorry if I missed any major dealer but they were all there. I think Matchbox collectors club (Everett Marshall) had the biggest stall as usual with Paul Carr of Carr Collectibles. Bob Rosconni of Auto Models had a stall on the other side of the hall. Charlie Mack had a table also where he was showing his upcoming book. "The Encyclopedia of Matchbox Toys." I spent some time checking out the book. I think this would be a MUST for any collector. Great pictures with excellent text and price guide. The book is schedule to release in October 1997. Personally I think Charlie should have waited till the end of 1997 so that all the models until the Tyco era would be included but I think he wanted to release the book for Matchbox 50th Anniversary. Anyway, a great book to have and I am looking forward to getting a copy for myself.

All afternoon, I stayed in the hall and visited different dealers. I picked up a lot of models for my collection. Some new and some old from my "Want List" I was able to add 3 new Challenge cars to my collection. I think the deal of the day was the MB17 The Londoner with "TYPHOO" label. I have been looking for this model for quite some time and there I found one In mint condition for just $40.00. Matchbox Collectors club had a code-2 London Bus with "Matchbox Collectors Club Hershey 1997" label. This model is available with black, charcoal, and unpainted base plates.

Convention started at 5:30pm. Downstairs in the Monarch Room. I must say that Matchbox did an excellent job for the registration. Everyone was assigned a number and all of us got a nice round card. The card had "Matchbox Get in the Fast Lane logo," our registration number and our name for auction bidding. The bidding was registered via a computer with only the bidder number. No need for the name as the name was in the computer already. This was a great idea and I think Charlie should follow it for his auction next year. There were 22 tables with 10 people on each table. I was sitting all the way up front with Charlie Mack, Tom & Mike Sarlitto of Just Matchbox and some other fellow collectors. Door prizes were given during the dinner and for the first time in my life I won a door prize. A nice pre-production version of Dodge Dakota in purple with lime/pink stripes. All together our table won 4 door prizes. No one was allowed to buy any extra tickets hence everyone had the same chance of winning a door prize. I like that idea.

After the dinner, Gene Murtha, Senior Vice President of Matchbox Marketing gave a brief speech about what is going on with Matchbox. One good thing to know that Matchbox brand is staying with Mattel taking over Tyco. Man! What a relief. He mentioned that Mattel's mission statement said to add equity to core brand and that is what Mattel wants to do with Matchbox. They want to make it bigger and better. There will be more tooling added to the line as well as there will be more product development. He said that Hot Wheels comes with the attitude of speed, power, & performance while Matchbox attitude is realism, authenticity, extra detailing, manipulation, Fantacy and adventure. There are some overlaps between the two brands but Mattel would like to keep the two brands separate with their respective attitudes. He also mentioned that starting Fall '97 there will be some Models available through the Matchbox official web site and that collectors should keep an eye on this site. He requested all the clubs to start a Kids corner. Any club with over 15 members would get up to $2,500 subsidy from Matchbox towards promoting the kids area. In last he mentioned that Matchbox has decided to continue to hold this convention at the same place for the next 4 years. For those who are interested, the next year dates are June 26 & 27 1998. I kept on waiting for a bomb shell as to what is new for 1997 but no! there were no new Gold Coin cars nor there were any new limited edition models announcement. Thank God, I am broke these days.

Around 9:00pm the live auction started. As usual the auction was hosted by "T. J. the Auctioneer." He has a great style that keeps everyone interested. Like last year Matchbox had an overhead projector so that everyone could see the lot/item on the screen. I left after the 14th lot but those 14 lots raised around $2,000. What happened with the other lots, I don't know. What I do know is that there were 75 lots altogether for the live auction.

Now is the time to end this review. I hope the collectors enjoyed it. I tried to cover every detail that I remembered, I may have missed something but I don't think so. Please feel free to make comments and let me know via email.

Shabbir Malik../
July 1997.

G Book

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