A visit to the My Little Pony Fair and Convention
The plastic pastel pony toys aren't just for little girls anymore
Published: July 26, 2012
The convention, which took place July 7-8, attracted pony lovers of all ages. Vibrant colors loomed from the vendor tables like a bioluminescent bay, and little pastel ponies were everywhere.
Vendors can make a mint selling My Little Ponies and related merchandise – handmade throw pillows, candles, lollipops, figurines – and for some, it's become part of their livelihood.
"I made more money here in the past two days, than I did in the past three months at my real job," says Katie, who works in retail at a department store in Illinois.
She and her husband Alex have been attending My Little Pony conventions for the past five years. "I'm sort of her pack mule," Alex says about his role in their business. "She puts a lot of time and effort into it."
The couple say they made more than $4,000 selling ponies at this convention, but Katie sees the convention as more than an opportunity to sell. She says that the convention is a place for fans to meet in person, since much of the communication between them happens on Internet forums – two of the biggest ones are My Little Pony Arena (mlparena.com) and My Little Pony Trading Post (mlptp.net).
"It's a great place to trade and see a person's customized ponies," Katie says. "I treat them, myself, as art projects."
Some collectors buy up old, used My Little Pony figures – which they call "bait ponies" – and give them new lives. Ponies with missing eyes, shaved manes, scuffs and dings are reinvented with paint and dyes. Some are even remolded, giving them different shapes, personas and costumes. For instance, My Little Ponies have been customized to become Star Wars stormtroopers, zombie ponies and superheroes, among other things. Once they've been restored, the throwaway ponies quickly go from being worthless to coveted.
"People will turn a $3 bait pony into an over $100 sale," Katie says. "By customizing, people can put their own take on them."
Katie has a personal collection of My Little Pony figurines that hits the 1,000 mark; her vendor booth spanned three tables at the convention, and her collection contained ponies from all of the toy's series, also known as generations. My Little Pony is currently in its fourth generation (Gen4, or G4 to collectors) being produced by Hasbro; the first generation of ponies (G1s) are a collector's dream. Getting your hands on one of those puppies – sorry, ponies – can cost you.
"One lady sold a mint, on-card Gen1 of Mimic [a rare character] for $1,300," Katie says. "She sold it out of the trunk of her car in the hotel parking lot. Some people even sell them out of suitcases."
Which is the approach that Jamie and Brandi, a couple from Jasper, Texas, took at the Orlando convention. A paddle and a black ponytail hung from the belt loops of Jamie's black jeans – "my own interpretation of one of the ponies," he said – as he stood next to the blue-and-blond-haired Brandi, who wore a black corset over her blouse. To her side was a knee-high suitcase filled with valuable Gen1 ponies.
> Email Christopher Balogh