The Thrill of the Toy Hunt

One of my favorite toys, Kota the dinosaur! Photo by Open Book Entertainment

I love toy hunting! In fact, it’s probably one of my favorite hobbies, and surprisingly, one of my most inexpensive hobbies.

First and foremost I’m a Jurassic Park collector. Anything Jurassic Park is instantly necessary. Especially Kenner toys. I like to think I’ve developed a sixth sense for finding Jurassic items almost anywhere I go; but some places are easier than others.

My favorite places to look are antique shops, toy shows, comic cons, and thrift shops. I have found my best luck to be finding Jurassic pieces at toy shows, though sometimes it almost feels too easy since the entire show is geared at vintage toy collectibles. Antique shops are a bit more of a challenge. Typically here the toys range more in the 1920-1970s timeline, and it can be difficult to come across more “modern” items. The perk of finding Jurassic Park items at antique shops is that they are usually priced way below their value. I’ve found that many sellers aren’t as familiar with the popularity of the Jurassic Park franchise and don’t see much value in these items. AKA, jackpot!

On one of my most recent hunts I visited a local Doll Show. This show was geared towards doll collectors who enjoy dolls from the turn of the century and popular classics like Madame Alexander and Barbie. For me, this was the perfect opportunity to scope out a booth that may be hiding some Jurassic treasures. After doing a couple of rounds at the show I final came across a booth that seemed promising. Here are some signs that tell me I may find what I’m looking for:

  • Clear bins full of colorful, plastic toys (like Happy Meal Toys)
  • Boxes and bins under the table that are full of items for sale, but not presented as cleanly as the items on the table
  • Kids toys shoved in piles or bunches in/around the table

Sure enough, under the table at this booth was a clear bin full of large Ziploc bags that each had a theme of toys inside. I found a dinosaur themed bag and inside instantly saw two Jurassic pieces. I was able to snag the entire bag for $2 and while most of the bag isn’t items I would keep, the two I did were totally worth it! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rarely do I have much luck at thrift shops. In fact, I usually end up leaving with things totally unrelated to what I originally went in for (like beer brand paraphernalia, old records, and bizarre coffee mugs). But that’s not to say it’s not worth stopping in. I’ve seen many people have luck finding Jurassic Park posters, hats, and toys. Even with never finding anything here, I always get excited when I walk in the door in hopes that I just may!

Do I know everything about Jurassic Park toys? Oh buddy, far from it. And because of my slips of knowledge here and there, I’ve missed out on a few great finds. My best “one that got away” was the infamous Gallimimus Kenner “Dino Screams” toy. I found it at DallasComic Con once loose in a Ziploc bag for $20 (ones in their package sell for upwards of $300). I was so focused on looking for a certain piece (Ian Malcolm) I picked it up and immediately tossed it aside. When I left the show I realized what I did and by then it was too late! If I ever come across one again I will treasure it forever!

A lot of people ask why I don’t just buy pieces I want from Amazon or Ebay. True, that would help me build my collection much faster; but it’s just not as fun. I love having a story behind each piece. Whether it has been given to me as a gift or found “in the wild” during one of my hunts, I love to have a little history behind each one. It makes looking at my collection and talking about it much more fun!

People collect many different things – from sports memorabilia to china plates, we all share the love of finding pieces that make our heart race. Whatever you collect, enjoy the hunt!

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The Intergalactic Nemesis to invade Dallas!

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If you thought the city was safe from monsters aiming to destroy the planet, think again!

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Talented voice actors bring The Intergalactic Nemesis to life.

From audio, to comic book, and now live on center stage, comes a full-fledged sci-fi adventure worthy of any nerd’s attention. The Intergalactic Nemesis tells the tale of sludge monsters sent from planet Zygon, set destroy planet Earth and all who inhabit it.

Never fear! What would any noteworthy comic be without a squad of super heroes? The three heroes, comprised of an award winning reporter, her research assistant, and a mysterious librarian, are willing to go to the ends of the Earth (and beyond!) to defeat the monsters.

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Talented voice actors bring The Intergalactic Nemesis to life.

With elements similar to Orson Welles’ sci-fi drama, combined with classic comic-book style, this live-action event will leave audiences itching to go on intergalactic adventure for themselves.

So how exactly does a live graphic novel presentation work? Contrary to film, this live event features talented voice actors who reenact the novel panel by panel. The panels are projected above while a pianist performs the score, guaranteed to provide an engaging experience to audiences like never before.

The Intergalactic Nemesis will be live at the Dallas City Performance Hall May 12-14.

Tickets can be purchased here: https://tickets.attpac.org/production/39076?_ga=1.55384747.1818910793.1462406581

Ultimate Guide to Dallas Comic Con Fan Days 2016

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So you’re going to Dallas Comic Con Fan Days, are ya? Congrats! You’re about to embark on an amazing adventure! You may be wondering, “What do I wear,” “How do I meet the celebrities,” and “How much do things cost?” Here are some things you need to know before you go. I’ve taken the most FAQ’s and combined them into one place full of answers and advice.

*Fan Days veterans note: there are changes from last year including show length time, ticket prices, and rules!

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The Basics
When:
February 13-14
Saturday Feb 13: 10am-6:30pm
Sunday Feb 14: 10am-4pm
Where:
Irving Convention Center
500 West Las Colinas Blvd

Irving, TX 75039
Price:
Single Day:
Saturday $45 at the door
Sunday $30 at the door
Kids $5 with adult ticket
Both days: $65 at the door

Parking:

“The Irving Convention Center’s east parking lot is under construction, but they have made arrangements for fans to use another lot down the road once they reach capacity at the center.

Shuttle buses start 9am both days and end one hour after show closes. 4 buses provided by Roadrunner Shuttles will be running back and forth throughout the day. There will be convention center staff in uniform at both locations to assist.

Urban Tower pick up: Entrance of garage
Convention Center pick up: East side of building (front door)”

Parking at the Irving Convention Center is $8.00.

Q.Can I bring food/water bottles to Fan Days?
A. By technical standards I don’t think you are supposed to, but it’s a smart idea to bring a backpack and put a water bottle and small snack inside. If you have special dietary needs it’s definitely okay.

*Fan Days Virgin*
Q. I’ve never been to Fan Days. How can I decide whether I want to go or not?
A. Fan Days is a great first convention. It’s more on the comic book side, but you get a good mix of fandoms. Sci-Fi and Comics are the main fandoms but there’s always a good representation of Anime and other genres! The crowds are not too huge, but large enough so where you will see a lot of people and a lot of costumes! Expect some lines, but not insane (though Saturday will be the most crowded day).

  1. How can I see all the events happening and where they will be?
  2. A pamphlet will be provided at check-in that will have a map and schedule of the events.
  3. How can I make sure I have the BEST experience at Fan Days?
    A. The best advice I can give to have a great time is to not be too scheduled and to expect the unexpected. Things happen – guest stars get sick, cancel appearances, and timings change unexpectedly. Go in with an open mind, back-up plans if needed, and just enjoy yourself!
  4. How is it compared to other conventions in Dallas?
    A. This convention is right in the middle. It averages around 5,000 attendees, but as the years go by it gets bigger! Previously named Sci-Fi Expo. Be prepared for a lot more vendors, and a wider variety of guests!! On the flip side this is also going to mean more traffic, lines, and crowds than we are used to at smaller conventions.
  5. What does a typical day consist of? What’s a simple play-by-play of the day?
    A. A typical day varies from person to person. It depends on what your interests are and why you’re attending the convention. But, here is a very basic run-down of what a very standard day could be!
    • 1. Get dressed and ready to go
    • 1a. Cosplaying? Make a checklist the day before of everything you are planning on wearing so that you can check it off as you get ready the next morning. Not cosplaying? A checklist is good to have anyway. Camera? Water bottle? Phone? ID/Credit card?
    • 2.Get directions and drive to the convention
    • 2a. If you are planning to get there when the convention opens, plan on getting there at least an hour in advance for the best parking/spot in line. Especially if you haven’t pre-registered. If you do not care about lines/aren’t in a rush, take it at your own pace.
    • 3. Arrive: pay for parking, park in garage/available lots
    • 3a. Bring cash for parking ($5-$10)
    • 4. Get in line to get your badge
    • 4a. Don’t forget your license/emails with receipt barcode of badge purchase
    • 5. Enter convention
    • 5a. Grab a schedule and establish a good meeting place in case you and your buddies get separated. Go over the schedule and narrow down what you want to do if you haven’t already pre-planned. (Sometimes there are some last-minute schedule changes, too!)
    • 6. Plan your attack
    • 6a. Grab a map and explore! Before you commit to doing something, it’s always best to get a feel for the convention floor and where everything is. Best bathroom? Panel rooms? Dealer’s room? Food? You never know when you may need to make an emergency run to the artist alley for a last-minute print! This is also a good time to scope out your food options like where the food trucks are parked, what’s available at the con, and what restaurants are nearby for after-con endeavors.
    • 7. Wander around
    • 7a. Wandering around is some of the most fun. A lot of the day consists of just walking back and forth to the same places. While this may not sound thrilling, just wait. There is always something new to see and always something happening. Cosplay red carpet, celebrities roaming the convention floors, and random acts of awesomeness make each experience unique!
    • 8. Attend at least one panel
    • 8a. I usually aim to go to one or two panels. More than two sometimes eats up the day too much for me. Between waiting in line for the panel, waiting for it to start, and then getting out, it all ends up being anywhere from a 2-4 hour experience. Worth it for some panels, not so much for others. Especially since the convention hours are relatively short (10-7, 10-5) there may be other things you won’t want to miss out on.
    • 9. Talk to artists/dealers and buy something unique
    • 9a. Artists work is unique and a lot of times are convention exclusives! I always try to buy at least one piece I really like and go out of my way to meet the artist. This gives you a deeper connection to the piece you get and makes you really treasure it! Although a lot of things you find in the dealer’s room you can find online and at retailers, there are a lot of vintage and rare pieces that you can’t! In addition, some of the dealer’s are some of the coolest people you will ever meet!
    • 10. Remember to take pictures (SuperHero Photos booth is usually located on one of the top floors, Joe, the photographer, is great and will make your costume look amazing!)
    • 10a. This may sound obvious but I always seem to forget! If you see something cool, take a picture. Chances are you may not see it again!

Pretend schedule:
• 10am: arrive, park, get in line
• 11am: enter building/get badge
• 11:15-12:30: explore dealer’s room, artist alley, convention floor
• 12:30-12:45: Grab food to eat in line
• 12:45: get in line for 2 p.m. panel
• 2:00: enter panel
• 3:00: exit panel
• 3:30: go get autographs
• 5:00: back to dealer’s room
• 6:00: Final walk through

*Kids Zone*
Children’s admission: $5 with adult ticket purchase
Q. Is Fan Days kid friendly?
A. Yes! A lot of conventions go out of their way to make sure that children are welcome. Fan Days is no exception! There is a lot for kids to do, and kids can even walk the cosplay red carpet and get their photo taken!

  1. Do cosplayers take pictures with kids? Is that okay?
    A. Absolutely! Ask any cosplayer – posing with kids is usually the best part of a convention! Don’t be afraid to stop someone and ask for a picture, most are more than happy to pose!
  2. There are a lot of people attending, should I be worried about my child getting lost?
    A. As in any setting, keep a sharp eye on your kid. There is times that there is inappropriate content at a booth or a cosplayer who may not appreciate their costume being pulled on/touched. Make sure you are respectful. If you have any concerns while at the convention, the volunteers are amazing and happy to help!

*Photos/Autographs*
Q. How does getting a photo with a celebrity work? Do I just walk up with my phone/camera?

A. Very rarely can you take a photograph with a celebrity at their booth for free. At Fan Days most celebrities will have specific “photo op” times where fans will line up with pre-purchased vouchers to get a photo with their choice of guest. If a celebrity is able to take a photo at their booth they will tell you so. Both autographs and photos cost money and unless you’ve preordered, those will be paid for at each celebrities table.

  1. Can me and my friend/fiancé/partner get a picture together with a celebrity? Does that cost extra?
    A. According to Epic Photo Op: The price of a photo is the price per posed picture, not per person. There is a limit of three people in each photo (excluding children 3 years or under, and media guests).
  2. What has been your best and worst experience with autographs or photo ops?
    A. Best experience is that I am able to just walk up and get the autograph I want with no wait. Worst experience was that I waited a long time to meet an actor, and then he had to leave for the day, so I waited over an hour for nothing. A lot of times a long line can be worth the wait though. For example, I waited about an hour to meet Felicia Day and she was amazing. She even did a shout out video for my professor (and yes, I got an A).

*Panels*

  1. How early do I need to line up for a panel?
    A. This really depends on how popular of a panel it will be and the day. Typically in the past at Fan Days the rule of thumb is to line up about an hour before the panel. Sometimes the wait can be shorter, or longer. It depends how popular the panel is. Remember, VIP guests get first entry/dibs on seats.

*Cosplay/Wardrobe*

  1. What should I wear to Fan Days?
    A. There’s no right or wrong answer to this one. For guys, typically a nerdy shirt, jeans (or shorts), and sneakers are a classic convention look. Ladies have looks all over the place – I’ve seen anything from casual tee and shorts to full decked out high heels and short skirts. If you’re planning on staying a while I’d just advise you wear something comfortable! Unless it’s for a cosplay, conventions typically aren’t the best place to test out new footwear!
  2. I want to cosplay but don’t know what character to be! What are some popular male/female characters for Fan Days I could be?
    Classic comic characters are usually very popular. Harley Quinn, Dr. Who characters, Poison Ivy, Captain America, etc. But don’t be afraid to branch out! Don’t dress as a character you don’t like just because it’s popular.
  3. A weapon goes well with my costume and is a necessary prop. Can I bring it?
    A.Metal weapons are not allowed. If you bring a sword it needs to be wooden, plastic, or kept in it’s sheath and closed with zip ties. Toy guns will need to be capped with an orange tip. There will be a weapons check as you walk in (it is FREE to get your weapon checked) and they will tell if you if your weapon is not allowed or what you can do to make it convention appropriate. Keep in mind tight spaces and children.
  4. Is it required for me to cosplay in order to go to Fan Days?
    A. Not at all! Even though cosplay is a big thing right now, typically there are less people dressed up than not!
  5. I’m not planning on cosplaying, but I do want to wear a costume. Is that okay?
    A. YES! To many cosplaying means taking the role of the character and not breaking said role. Whether that’s your definition or not – dressing up in a costume and just being your kooky self is 100% awesome!
  6. Is there a cosplay contest?
  7. YES. Adults is on Sat. Line up at 4 pm at the cosplay hideout. First 60 in line will be entered. There are different categories for winners! (creative, anime, comics, etc.) Sunday is Kids Cosplay Contest.
  8. I am planning on cosplaying but my materials are heavy/hot. Is there anywhere I can sit down and take a break without being asked for photos?
    A. Yes!! There will actually be a Cosplay Hideout lounge located on the map thanks to North Texas Cosplay. Water/Snacks?Place to rest
  9. We are still on the fence for Cosplay. Do you always go in costume?
    A. I usually go in costume, but when I don’t I usually sport some sort of nerdy apparel.
  10. What are your personal experiences, both good and bad with going in costume?
    A. The fun thing about going is costume is getting to show off your work (if you made it) and getting your picture taken! It’s fun to have some spotlight. Also, you can connect with people who love the same fandom as you, because it’s pretty obvious what you love. The downside is it can be hard to do lots of things because you are being stopped for photos, your costume is restrictive and doesn’t allow you to do other activities. For me, a lot of my costumes don’t have pockets so I try to integrate some sort of carrying device (backpack that fits, utility belt I can put money in etc.)
  11. You might not know since its a new company, but what has been your experiences with other Cons and prop guns?
    A. Make sure your prop gun has the orange tip and is plastic. Metal guns and props are prohibited at DCC.

*Hotel*
Q. Do I need to get a hotel room?

A. There is a hotel next to the Irving Convention Center. Information can be found here. Since the convention isn’t located in a hotel, there isn’t really much hotel nightlife (like you would find at A-Kon, Dragoncon, etc.). The nightlife will be at the after party Saturday night.

 

*Expenses*
Q. How much money should I bring?

A. This really depends on how much you are able to spend and what you are looking at getting. Tickets at the door can be purchased using credit card. Most vendors take card, but it’s usually a lot easier to pay cash and sometimes vendors are willing to cut deals for cash sales. If you are looking to get some high-dollar items, bring enough to support that. If you aren’t looking for anything particular, my go-to amount is $100 in cash for food and misc. spending.

 

*Dealer’s Room / Artist Alley*
Q. Should I try and bargain in the dealers room?

A. Most vendors are willing to haggle a bit. Just make sure you are courteous and not pushy about it. In my opinion, it’s usually easier to strike a good deal on the last day of the con. Most times big retailers are unable to make further markdowns on their merchandise, but have convention exclusive sales.

Let’s get nerdy this weekend at the North Texas Comic Book Show

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Come visit the North Texas Comic Book Shows and meet new friends, like Captain America, Daniel Calhoun!

New year, new chances to let your nerd out; and there’s no place better to do that than this weekend at the North Texas Comic Book Show.

The North Texas Comic Book Show will run Jan 30-31 at the Doubletree Hotel Dallas Market Center, 2015 Market Center Blvd, Dallas, TX and is $10 to get it (kids 11 and under are free).

NTCBS has a cosplay contest that’s different than the norm. Instead of the standard contest where contestants model their costumes, NTCBS judges the contestants based on their ability to perform a skit as the character they are dressed as. After attending the last show, I can testify that this is so much fun to watch. These talented cosplayers really put a lot of thought and heart into their acts, it’s definitely a must see!

In addition to cosplay guests attending, there will be some legendary comic book artists as guests of the show. Amazing Spider-Man & Dr. Strange artist Randy Emberlin, and James O’Barr, creator of 12472265_623645841109179_5702962452941214434_nThe Crow, are a couple of the artists who will have tables at the show. Not to mention a very special four-legged hero – Tugg the Bull Terrier, will be in attendance both days providing many smiles.

As a large advocate for shows “by the fans and for the fans” I appreciate all NTCBS does to make this show truly one that fans will appreciate from beginning to end. I love toy and comic book hunting, and I’ve found some real treasures at this show. There are so many different local vendors and comic book artists; it really isn’t hard to find something really unique.

This show is a great size and allows a relaxing atmosphere while also having enough going on to keep attendees entertained. The local nerd community is so encouraging and supportive; it really is such a great time getting to spend the weekend with fellow nerds.

Cosplay Lip Sync Rocks at G33k3 Con

This past weekend I had the pleasure of being a judge at the G33K3 con Cosplay Lip Sync Contest. It was a great opportunity to see cosplayers g33k3-web-logoin a whole new light.

Typically seeing a cosplayer fully embrace their character is a treat only seen during a cosplay contest, but G33k3 con gave cosplaying a whole new look with the lip sync contest. Over ten competitors entered and gave their best shot at winning the $50 cash prize.

Judging was a lot harder than I thought. With so many strong competitors it was really hard to only choose one. Some of the attributes I looked at to choose the winner were:

  1. Knowing the lyrics. I know this seems obvious but if someone doesn’t know all of the lyrics it makes it difficult to believe that they really know the song.
  2. Personality and crowd interaction. This is a big deal! In any sort of performance when someone is dealing with a live audience, it’s important to interact with them.
  3. Cosplay. I definitely looked at the accuracy and technique put into a cosplay and how it related to the song. Someone may know all the lyrics, but if you’re competing in a cosplay contest of any kind, costume is a large factor.

Keeping these factors in mind I was able to make a decision, even though it was very difficult! It was so much fun watching everyone compete and it makes me want to do it one day, too. I hope other conventions will join in with this fun idea, I think it would be a great idea for late night panels and activities.

Retropalooza to bring gamers, internet personalities

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Celebrating the world of retro gaming, Retropalooza is hosting much more than a standard gaming convention. September 26-27 at the Arlington Convention Center, Retropalooza will gather gaming geeks from all over to bask in a sea of retro arcade and console games.

What sets Retropalooza apart from other gaming shows is that it’s a “by the fans for the fans” convention, meaning the content at the show is organic, true to what the fans want to see, and genuinely all about the games.

In addition to a free-play arcade complete with console gaming, there will also be a vendors room with over 100 tables ready to allow gamers to grab a piece of nostalgia they may not be able to find anywhere else. Got some video games you’d like to trade? Bring ’em!

Guest personalities include YouTube personality BlackNerd blacknerdcomedyComedy, Andre Meadows. From video game reviews to movie and TV show reviews, Andre is one of the funniest, most knowledgeable, and most genuine reviewers you’ll find.

ProJared is another YouTube personality who’s off the wall game reviews and gameplay are amazingly projaredhilarious. ProJared will tell it like it is and doesn’t hold back when it comes to making sure his audience knows how he really feels. Wondering if you should buy that video game or what indie games are “actually worth a damn”? ProJared’s the guy to ask.

Come out and enjoy a full weekend of video games, awesome panelists, great vendor lineup, and much more.

When: September 26-27

Where:

Arlington Convention Center

1200 Ballpark Way, Arlington, TX 76011

How Much: 

Advanced tickets:

$20 Saturday

$15 Sunday

$25 weekend

AnimeFest: A perfect convention

AnimeFest (Sept. 4-7, 2015) is easily one of, if not definitely, my favorite convention. Held at the Sheraton in Downtown Dallas (A-Kon’s old home), AnimeFest is what I consider to be a perfect convention.

A “perfect convention” is definitely personal preference and here is my (somewhat condensed) list of how I determine if a convention is “perfect”:

  1. Is it affordable
  2. Is it in a hotel or near a hotel thats easily accessible
  3. Are the events exciting/how is the dealers room, artist alley
  4. Does it have a good night life
  5. Is it well run, managed

AnimeFest is about average price wise (current rate for the weekend is $65), however while most conventions run for three days, AnimeFest runs for four. Paired with their special hotel rates, by convention standards the price is definitely affordable. The Sheraton, located in the heart of Downtown

Krystle Starr and I at AnimeFest 2014

Krystle Starr and I at AnimeFest 2014

Dallas, is spacious and with the addition of the skybridge that connects to the Westin hotel (complete with food court) allows guests large walkways and easily accessible food options. Additionally, I’ve had great success booking a room up until the last week before the convention, while many events have you hoping you’ll get lucky enough to grab a room.

AnimeFest hosts a large Dealer’s Room and an extensive Artist Alley (and in the past multiple Artist Alley locations). While the Dealer’s Room does require a badge to enter, the large range of vendors and products makes it worth it. The Artist Alley is open to the public and usually staffed until the late hours of the night, allowing guests to continue to shop past the Dealer’s Room hours. AnimeFest has a reputation of treating their artists and dealer’s well and accommodating special requests.

AnimeFest has brought in some large guests in the past, including Japanese rock sensation Flow, and typically has a strong panel schedule that includes famed voice actors in the Anime community. Additionally AnimeFest hosts a large cosplay contest that brings competitors from all over the country.

Fans line up to meet members of J-Rock sensation, Flow.

Fans line up to meet members of J-Rock sensation, Flow.

Fortunately since the convention is hosted inside a hotel, AnimeFest easily has an established nightlife, whether they plan any events or not. Typically some sort of masquerade or similarly themed ball is hosted one of the evenings. The other nights become host to midnight dances with DJs who play everything from current EDM to nostalgic remixes of video game soundtracks, and cartoon and anime theme songs.

Anytime I’ve ever had an issue at AnimeFest (which has been rare, but occasionally there’s a badge mix-up or small issue) it has been quickly and professionally resolved. The staff is well trained and mindful of the guests, and with a convention growing as rapidly as AnimeFest’s numbers has proven, keeping the convention running smoothly is no small feat.

Of course any convention will have it’s flaws, and by no means am I saying that AnimeFest will run without hiccups, but given it’s track record and my 5+ years of attendance, it is easily a convention I look forward to the most. I hope to see you there!

For more information about AnimeFest visit their website here.