Shattering Conventions: Bob Calhoun vs. The San Jose Super Toy Show

November 14, 2018

Every turn down every aisle at the San Jose Super Toy Show fills me with an inescapable sense of product lust.

I understand why I want the 19 1/2-inch Shogun Warriors Godzilla doll. Sure, it’s going for $600, but it has a spring-loaded fist that can launch across the room.

What I don’t get is why I want the Star Wars Early Bird Certificate, a symbol of childhood longing and disappointment.

See, Kenner didn’t have Star Wars action figures ready to roll off the assembly line before Christmas 1977, so they sold my parents a big cardboard flap containing a piece of paper that you could mail off to Kenner.

Then Kenner would send you poseable Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, R2-D2 and Chewbacca toys as soon as they became available, but they didn’t become available for a very long time.

Today, Amazon is working on a fleet of drones that can get you whatever you order within an hour, but everything you mail ordered back in 1977 took at least six weeks to get to you.

Six long weeks of little Bobby Calhoun coming home from school and going right to that mailbox and being crushed by the Luke Skywalker that hadn’t arrived yet. I should want to burn the Early Bird Certificate that’s available at the Toy Show, but it calls to me anyway.

Joe Castro and Sharon Sullivan of Time Tunnel Toys in San Jose have been stoking such nostalgia by putting on these toy shows since 1994.

“We used to do only two shows a year, but we started adding a show here and there as collecting got more popular, and now we’re up to four,” Castro said.

And there are other toy shows like it across the country. Dwayne Williams, a toy dealer from Los Angeles, travels to toy shows throughout the year. “This is my third this month,” Williams said when asked how many toy shows he does a year. “I’m a carny. I’m a toy-slinging carny.”

Now I didn’t go to the San Jose Super Toy Show expecting to buy something for my wife, Rosie, but when I saw the 12-inch Cher doll from 1976 still in the box I knew I had to get it for her—especially with her birthday coming up next month. In a world full of blonde Barbies, the Mego line of Cher dolls meant the world to dark-haired Rosie when she was growing up.

Bob Calhoun Looking Victorious With His Mego Line Cher Doll Find

Bob Calhoun Looking Victorious With His Mego Line Cher Doll Find​

Cher looked like her, or someone in her family, and that meant a lot.

Rosie doesn’t have the dolls anymore (until now), but she has a book about them that she thumbs through longingly like an old Sears catalog.

As I put my money down to buy Cher, toy seller Danny Fuentz of Chaos Collectibles was disappointed that I didn’t want the Sonny Bono doll that went with her.

“My wife doesn’t really want Sonny,” I said. “Neither does Cher!” Fuentz said, as he scooted poor Sonny closer to the Farrah Fawcett doll, hoping that sparks would fly.

Cher is now wrapped and waiting in my luggage for our nice little trip to the Wine Country this weekend.

Every month in “Shattering Conventions,” author Bob Calhoun crashes a new tradeshow, convention or conference looking for a way to fit ineven when he doesn't always belong. Calhoun is the author of "Shattering Conventions: Commerce, Cosplay and Conflict on the Expo Floor." You can follow him on Twitter at @bob_calhoun.

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About the author
Bob Calhoun