Charles Bellows is proud to say he’s passed on his hobby to his son as an addiction.
A school teacher in Lake Whitney, Bellows said he was four or six years old when he got his first G.I. Joe. Now that his son Alex Bellows is that age he brought him to his first G.I. Joe convention.
Bellows said he didn’t get anything for himself, but his son made off like a bandit.
“They’ve got a lot of stuff here, and they’re not asking for a mint on any of it,” Bellows said. “It’s very reasonable prices for collector's items.”
Lisa Egner said she’s been coming to the convention with her family for all four years it’s been in Arlington. She said she kept her son Jim’s toys in the attic and when he found them again in the ‘80s, he got nostalgic and began collecting again. Now he has more than 90 vintage figures.
Jim Egner’s sons, Bret and Ryan Egner, collect Joes too. Bret Egner said he and his brother have about 25 together. Lisa Egner said her grandsons are knowledgeable about the trade.
“It’s just a wonderful hobby,” she said. “It’s wholesome. It’s fun, and they also learn how to negotiate -- wheel and deal.”
Jim Egner said it has become difficult to find the 12 inch figures and his buying and selling has moved online.
Egner used to take out ads in publications called the "Thrifty Nickles" and the "Toy Shop" to build up his collection. He said he used to be able to find them at garage sales, toy and grocery stores. But now they can only be found online and at conventions like this one.
Lisa Egner said the whole family is glad they can come to these conventions where everyone can find what they’re looking for.
“We hope G.I. Joe stays on the forefront and doesn’t get lost in time,” she said.
The convention’s marketing director Greg Brown said that the 12 inch figures make up about 60 percent of the convention, but that every type of action figure is welcome at the show. Everyone from the A-Team to World War II figures -- and everything from Air-Soft guns to dioramas have a place at the show.
“It started out predominately G.I. Joes, then it evolved,” he said.
Brown said he’s been a G.I. Joe fan since it first came out in 1964.
“They were the best army men in the world because up until then the only army men you cold get were eight inches tall and green,” he said. “G.I. Joe came out, it was very pliable, plastic weapons, cloth uniform, really great adventure stuff for a kid.”
Brown said between 400 and 450 people attended the show, down from about 1,000 two years ago. The economy has hit the attendance pretty hard, but he still considers it a success.
"Those who attended were good spenders," he said.
Brown said he's already working on next year's show, which might move to April.