After a year’s worth of build-up and hoopla…
JoeCon 2013, held this past weekend in Indianapolis, IN, is now officially, “a wrap.” And for all of the lucky(?) GIjOE fans who were able to attend, memories of this year’s 4-day event will undoubtedly be mixed, divided and somewhat conflicted. While it is always enjoyable to catch up with old friends and make new ones, the way fans of 1:6 scale figures will celebrate their love of the GIjOE hobby is clearly undergoing a change at the “national show” level. This year, attendees familiar with past national cons were struck by THIS show’s two undeniable and distinct developments:
1) There was LESS…of EVERYTHING.
Blame it on the economy. Blame it on “the Sequester.” Or simply accept it as an aberration unique to this year’s show. But there’s no denying it. This show was SMALL(er). While we’re not privy to official attendance figures, even the most casual observers were heard to be commenting openly how few fans, dealers, exhibitors, customizers, and “general public” visitors there were at the event. Only on Saturday, when the dealer room opened to the public, did anything resembling a “crowd of people” seem to gather.
Event workers, hotel security and volunteers all seemed to have less to do. Lines were extremely short (oohrah!) and the number of tables and quantity of merchandise for sale was clearly less than in previous years. By contrast, the more 12-inch friendly “Joelanta” show, held just 3 weeks prior in Atlanta, GA, is currently enjoying an explosion of growth in attendance and popularity. Interesting!
2) 12-inch fans are being SIDELINED at the national level.
Whether done intentionally or not, the national-level GIjOE Collector’s Club (GIJCC) seemed to be doing very little (if anything) at this year’s Con to dispel the growing belief among ALL fans that its version of a “national convention” is now predominantly planned around and targeted to the needs and desires of fans of 3.75″ RAH figures. According to GIJCC leader, Brian Savage, any “blame” for this development boils down to simple economics. During one of the JoeCon seminars (also held to sparse attendance), Savage defended the club’s decisions this way:
“Over the years, a lot of different GIjOE shows have come and gone. They were run by a lot of different groups with a lot of different ideas and ways of doing things. But they’re mostly all gone now, and we’re still here. I think that’s because we (the GIJCC) haven’t forgotten, first and foremost—that this is a BUSINESS.” —Brian Savage, GIjCC
Where will things go from here?
No one can argue with the GIJCC’s successful record while at the helm of GIjOE fandom. However, its recent decisions have undeniably diminished the importance previously accorded to 12-inch fans. Such moves leave many observers (including us here at The Joe Report) scratching their pith-helmeted heads. What’s going on?
Think about it… Most “1:6 scalers” are now only in their 40s or 50s. Their retirement years will be coming up in another decade or so. That means more disposable income and TIME to spend on hobbies. To turn away such a lucrative fan/consumer base, with so many collecting and convention-attending years still ahead of them, seems shortsighted from anyone’s “business” standpoint.
Yes, there was a “Secret Mission to Dragon Island” figure set produced for this year’s JoeCon and collectors of 12″ figures. But the quantity produced by the club was reduced to only 200. Was the club THAT worried about selling them all? If so, their fears quickly proved unfounded, as all of the sets are now “accounted for” and in the hands of happy collectors.
Where things will go from here remains to be seen. We may be witnessing the beginning or end of a consumer cycle, it’s hard to say. Fans come into and go out of hobbies all the time. Judging by 2013’s booming attendance at Joelanta, and a disappointing national con in Indy, its unclear whether such shows are in for a period of growth or decline. George Gray, one of the few 1:6 dealers at this year’s JoeCon, views the current conflicted situation this way:
“I don’t think the national GIjOE club reaches out to 12-inch collectors anymore. They think we’re a ‘dying breed.’ Regardless, I still sell at their shows because I loved GIjOE so much as a kid. And while I’m doing alright sales-wise, at these national cons, the days when you would see a lot of 12-inch collectors show up appears to be over. In recent years, fewer and fewer 12″ fans are coming to this show, and you start to wonder—who’s going to BUY this stuff in the future?” —George Gray
Bottom Line: We don’t pretend to have a crystal ball, or the answers to all the questions currently raining down in the fan forums across the internet, but this year’s JoeCon in Indianapolis was clearly a “wake-up call” for fans who prefer the 1:6 scale, 12-inch version of GIjOE. On the other hand, if you’re an advocate of the “little Joes,” you can rest easy. The GIjOE Club’s got’cher back!