Enthusiasts share information, form bonds in club for collectors
By Susan Gonsalves, Contributing Writer
Norwood – Stephen Lanzilla’s favorite childhood toy, discovered in a new display at his then-downtown Woolworths, is a metallic copper painted 1966 Husky Model #26 Sunbeam Alpine Convertible, the first small die cast car he ever saw. In addition to its stylish features, Lanzilla admired the fact that the steering wheel was on the opposite side because the real car was made in Great Britain as well.
It wasn’t the first time, as a kid, that Lanzilla displayed an interest in knowing about the world. He liked collecting postage stamps and coins from other countries and learning a bit about their history.
As years past, and he moved to Randolph, his job in sales and marketing for the predecessor companies to Sprint took him to 66 countries and involved traveling three weeks out of every four. Eventually, he decided to step down and to care for his late wife Beverly and “re-engage with the world.”
His fascination with toys re-ignited in 1996. The following year, he founded the not-for-profit Boston Area Toy Collectors Club (BATCC). Today, approximately 200 members hail from several New England states and are supplemented by the legions of fans on social media who join in with questions and offer information.
For more than two decades this growing group has met the first Sunday of each month at the Second Level food court of the popular South Shore Plaza (SSP) indoor shopping mall in Braintree, beginning at 9 a.m. and finishing at 11 a.m. or earlier depending on presentations. Surprise visitors have included former senior executives of Rhode Island based Hasbro with stunning STAR WARS, GI Joe, and TONKA stories and once by the chairman of the board of Indianapolis-based SIMON PROPERTY LLC, the owner of SSP. These and other unexpected guests have given the BATCC the highest praise possible as they immersed themselves in the fun of toy collecting.
Presently, due to current COVID-19 limitations at SSP to protect the public health, BATCC monthly meetings are being held on the same schedule for members only via Zoom calls until further notice. Prospective members can still join now, or wait until current limitations change.
“We function like an extended family. There’s a lot of camaraderie,” Lanzilla said. “All the major and minor companies know who we are…DC Comics, Warner Brothers license holders, Lego, etc. What we talk about is of interest to manufacturers.”
So, what do they talk about?
Well, for one thing—die cast cars like Matchbox, Hot Wheels, Corgi and many other domestic and international brands.
Club members also discuss the latest action figures from Star Wars, Doctor Who, Star Trek, Transformers and the like as well as die cast military vehicles, vintage and rare toys and collectible toys including Lego, Fast Food Chain Promos and Urban Vinyl, to name just a few.