Olympia, Kensington, London W14 8UX
Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday | 23rd – 25th January 2018
History of The Toy Fair
Est. BRIGHTON 22nd-26th FEBRUARY 1954
The Toy Fair Today
The Toy Fair is the only dedicated toy, game and hobby exhibition in the UK. In 2017 The Toy Fair welcomed more than 260 exhibiting companies – ranging from the large internationals to the new start up companies, showcasing thousands of brand new toys, games and hobbies to the UK’s largest gathering of toy industry professionals.
The Toy Fair provides visitors with a real overview and insight into a fun, innovative and exciting industry, as well as a great opportunity to touch, feel and experiment with the products of the future. The exhibition is a showcase, a networking opportunity and an ideal event to do great business in an exciting environment.
Toy Fair – The Story So Far – 1954
The first British Toy and Hobby Fair was organised by Jack Watkins MBE for the British Toy Manufacturers Association and took place in Brighton from 22nd-26th February 1954. The fair occupied rooms in the Metropole, Grosvenor, Grand, Queens, Bedford, Adelphi and Palace Pier hotels as well as in the Corn Exchange.
In 1954, Sooty became a Chad Valley hand puppet, and Painting by Numbers, Scrabble and Matchbox vehicles were big hits at Christmas.
Over the next two years, the fair moved to Olympia and then to Earls Court at the British Industries Fair. Celebrity-linked games came to the fore with Stanley Matthews recommending New Footy Table Soccer.
In 1957, the decision was taken to move back to Brighton.
In 1958, the Hula-Hoop was the toy of the moment, Plasticine celebrated 50 years and Frisbees took off.
Toy Fair – In The 60’s
In the 60s the fair opened its doors to European manufacturers. It was in 1960 that Lego was seen at the fair for the first time. The retail toy market was worth £85m. Airfix, Fuzzyfelt and Scalextric all did well in the early sixties.
In 1963 one of the biggest attractions at the fair was the board game Diplomacy and Matchbox showed cars with doors that opened!
The mid-Sixties witnessed the introduction of Corgi classics and Dr Who and the Daleks and, in 1965, the James Bond Aston Martin Car became the first ever Toy of the Year. In 1966 Action Man caused a sensation as the first doll in the UK for boys and 1967 saw launch of Etch-a-Sketch. Sindy won Toy of the Year in 1968 (and again in 1970) and Hot Wheels in 1969.
In 1960, the fair became the British International Toy Fair and expanded into the new Brighton Conference and Exhibition Centre. Clackers and Space Hoppers were all the rage. 1973 saw the launch of Mastermind. Children’s pocket money was 9p a week.
Toy Fair – In The 70’s
In 1974 The Wombles were everywhere. The mid-Seventies were celebratory times for Meccano (75 years old), Monopoly (40) and Cluedo (25).
In 1977 the fair moved to the NEC in Birmingham and the association changed its name to British Toy & Hobby Association and in 1978 the fair changed its name to British Toy & Hobby Fair, celebrated its own Jubilee and witnessed the debut of the Star Wars toys. In 1979 the fair moved to Earls Court.
Toy Fair – In The 80’s
The Rubik’s Cube and video games appeared in the 80s and, in 1983, My Little Pony became one of the most successful girls’ toys ever. The 80s were also the decade of Masters of the Universe, Trivial Pursuit, the Care Bears, the Cabbage Patch Dolls and Sylvanian Families.
Toy Fair – In The 90’s
In the 1990s queues formed at toy shops for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. 1992 saw Thunderbirds’ Tracy Island become the hottest item leading to shortages. The British International Toy & Hobby Fair celebrated its 40th birthday in 1993. Barbie was 35, Thunderbirds 20, Captain Scarlet 15, Action Man 27 – all in the top 10 toy list.
In 1994, the fair was moved to the Grand and National Halls at Olympia and the BTHA celebrated its 50th Golden Jubilee. POGS was the craze sweeping 1995. Barbie won Toy of the Year in 1996 and Buzz Lightyear was the most sought after toy. In 1997 we all wanted Teletubbies and Tamagotchis and Ty’s Beanie Babies appeared.
The late 90s were dominated by Furbies and the Yo-Yo made a comeback. In 1999 after outgrowing Olympia, the momentous decision to move to ExCeL was made.
Toy Fair – In The Millennium
2001 saw the first Toy Fair at ExCeL – the first major exhibition to occupy the venue and in 2003, The Toy Fair celebrated its 50th birthday.
To mark the beginning of a new decade, at the age of 57, the event returned to Olympia’s Grand Hall in west London. The show took a step into the future with the first 4-D jigsaw and embraced the Go-Go hamster craze.
The Toy Fair expanded to the gallery level of Olympia in 2011 and the show was subject to huge media attention featuring on BBC Breakfast, Daybreak, Radio 1, Radio 4, The Sun, The Telegraph and the Mirror to name but a few.
For the 60th Toy Fair in 2013 the exhibition expanded into part of the brand new Upper West Hall at Olympia.
In 2014 the show expanded further to occupy the entire Upper West Hall.
Since 2015, Toy Fair has consistently welcomed more than 260 exhibiting companies, occupying the entire Grand and West Halls, including the upper levels.
Look back at the 2017 Show
Here is your chance to look back at the 2017 show…
The 2017 event attracted more than 260 exhibiting companies, ranging from large renowned brands to smaller start-up companies, all looking to showcase their innovations across the toys, games and hobby sector.