One might think that the Florida Toy Soldier and Action Figure Show would consist primarily of Star Wars dolls and vehicles from the original trilogy wrapped in the original packaging. "For God's sake, you can't take that Han Solo doll out of his plastic casing!" you might imagine some collector shouting. "Sure, if it was the real guy, you'd want to liberate him from the carbonite, but this is different. In this case, he's worth 50 grand."
But the show is about more than plastic action figures and money. The history of the toy soldier runs deep in Americana. It goes back in time to long before anyone had heard of Luke Skywalker. The first full-color book devoted entirely to the art, American Dimestore: Toy Soldiers and Figures by Don Pielin, Norm Joplin, and Verne Johnson, is a story penned by three men with way, way too much time on their hands. But much to the delight of action-figure aficionados, the tome describes more than 3,000 figures sold in five-and-dime stores and traces the history of the toys from 1900 to 1960. After reading this volume, you'll put the toy soldier ahead of such venerable playthings as teddy bears.
And after reading it, you may want to attend this weekend's show at the Airport Holiday Inn. Granted, some attendees will be locoabout collecting. But a lot of us have a bin full of action figures from bygone days. And if we're lucky, our Star Wars guys are even protected in handy Darth Vader carrying cases. So hey, let's head on over and see if we can find that one figure needed to complete the collection. Is it Chewbacca, with bandoleer and crossbow? Or perhaps the Endor Moon Han Solo, complete with removable camouflage duster? Or maybe it is one of those random aliens hanging out in Mos Eisley or Jabba's palace. In any case, like those products on TV infomercials, they are not sold in stores. At least, not anymore. Which makes the Florida Toy Soldier and Action Figure Show the one place where we can relive this insane part of our youth.