Taking a Tour and Walking the Loops at ToyCon UK 2023

hobbyDB Champion-level contributor and curator Cat Davies, aka catxx, takes us on a tour of ToyCon UK 2023, the United Kingdom’s only dedicated designer toy convention.

ToyCon UK is the UK’s only dedicated designer toy convention, run for fans by fans. Held in Hammersmith in London, the 29th and 30th April 2023 marked the Con’s 10th anniversary. The anniversary show saw the world of designer toys come to life with exhibitors, artists and products from around the world. Designer toy enthusiasts were tremendously excited and the queue was enormous on the run up to the 11 a.m. opening.

There’s always some key artists or figures which will get people really enthusiastic and set them RUNNING the moment the doors open, keen to get to the front of the queue for limited edition figures. This year, the first queues formed with the legend that is RealxHead from Japan, as well as Goccodo, Uamou and Dead Beat City, British artists, 2PetalRose and Koncrete and Muffinman from Germany also had queues form very quickly. RealxHead won the award of selling out all his figures both days in record time, with Muffinman and Goccodo close behind!

The wonderful thing about ToyCon is that you can walk around the stalls for hours, on each loop finding something new you didn’t see the first time round. There’s a wealth of custom one-off pieces, original sculpts in so many different mediums, super limited edition colourways and you might get lucky grail pieces which have come from artist’s or retailer’s archives. The more you wander, the more you hear interesting chats, so many accents from around the world, and can join in and get to know different artists, learn about their work.

The whole event has a very warm and welcoming atmosphere with so many people so incredibly passionate about the designer toy hobby. I come away each year knowing that bit more about individual artists, always new friends, and learn a bit more about how some of these toys are made. I was very surprised when I learned a few years ago about the sofubi (soft vinyl) figures I adore literally cannot be made in the UK because the process is technically illegal here. Fine in Hong Kong, China and Japan though where the majority of this sofubi comes from in all its wonderful forms.

Every year there’s new methods of toy making on show, with artists pushing the boundaries. I loved the look of Muffinman’s jumbo clear resin Robin filled with gold flecks which was in fact made of resin, but it looked so much like sofubi. Beautiful work. Sadly I wasn’t in the queue to get one!

So what did I come home with? I had learned my lesson from last year when I really should have had a responsible adult with me and not struggled financially for a month or two post Con. I was more restrained this year! I felt it was a very good idea for the artists from Japan to be cash-only (working out cash machines when you don’t have a UK bank account is just not worth the headache). If they had not been cash-only I would be in trouble.

I adore Uamou, Ayako, the artist behind Uamou, is so lovely and her work is beautiful, I was very pleased to get one of her rabbit Uamous (I have pet rabbits so it had to be done), as well as her ToyCon special edition colourways of Uamou & Boo and a giant Uamou dinosaur. This was a nod towards ToyCon’s Toyconosaurus mascot (of which there’s an enormous one everyone has to pose with at the Con!).

Of course I also came home with this year’s colourway of Toyconosaurus himself, every year there’s a different colourway. This year it was a nod towards the Sex Pistols in bright yellow and pink. I also found the 2019 colourway, a clear rainbow version, which also had to come home with me. Speaking of ToyCon colourways, I was also very pleased to get hold of the special ToyCon edition Sametan from CometDebris, it was great seeing Koji back at ToyCon and I adore Sametan!

I always love having a nose around Unbox Industries and Ko-Re Ko-Re stalls, there’s always so much there. Unfortunately I couldn’t afford the giant Slimer figure from Unbox and Refreshment Toy, and a snoozed and lost on their fabulous BadMeaw (next time!). I did find some fabulous figures from Merry Go Round at Ko-Re Ko-Re and came home with a Phantom Fox from Tangent Toys x Genkosha, and Genkosha’s Nekomata which I had been pining for.

It’s also a ToyCon tradition for me to buy a one-off Staglett from RachMakes, I have 10 of her figures now, spanning that many years I think! Each one is completely unique and handmade and they get better every year. One day I’ll be able to afford one of her newer larger Mothman figures who are beautiful.

I will always say there’s something for everyone at ToyCon. I even found something for my non-toy-collecting husband, a 5” vintage Superman from Rob from Triclops’ stall. Everyone paused at his stand to reminisce as he was selling off some of his own vast vintage toy collection. It was a real throwback spotting Boglins, vintage figures from lines I had heard of, such as Captain Planet, to others that were completely new to me such as Creepy Classics and Horror Pets.

I have not even come close to mentioning every artist in attendance at the show, from the carded figures from Delicious Again Peter, RYCA, Trap Toys and Hakon Collectibles, to the steampunk style of Doktor A, the adorable whimsical work from Mujuworld, Mumbot and Dolly Oblong, Creature Bazaar brought even more sofubi style toys (as well as a special Cinema event on Saturday night!), and there’s still so many I haven’t mentioned. Please do check out ToyConUK’s 2023 Exhibitors for the full list of everyone in attendance. Go and find your favourites on social media, give them a follow. I’ve definitely missed more things than I have included here!

ToyCon UK will return next year, and I’m going to have to start saving now!

If this blog has got you interested in the world of designer toys, but you’re not sure where to start, do pop me a message. There is something out there for everyone, no matter how deep (or shallow!) your pockets are.

Enjoy some more snaps from the show here –

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