For the last half-dozen years or so, a new kind of toy has appeared in shops around the world. Designed by quirky hepcats, these nutty little figures are called art toys. A set is usually manufactured as a series of characters, often in limited editions, each character packaged in a “blind box,” meaning that you don't know which one in the series you're buying. (The basic concept isn't new: It delivers the same mystery and rush one would get buying a pack of baseball cards, putting quarters in one of those capsule machines in front of supermarkets, or tearing into a box of Cracker Jack to get the secret prize.) In L.A., you'll see these unique little tchotchkes at stores such as Meltdown on Sunset, Munky King on Melrose, and Wacko in East Hollywood. And a convention that started out devoted to these odd little creations, called Designer Con , is now in its fifth year. The event (formerly Vinyl Toy Network) has expanded its scope as an annual art and design convention, smashing together collectible toys and designer apparel with urban, underground, and pop art. Almost two dozen artists will be present, many personally signing their toys. There will be several exclusive items that you can only buy at this convention, there'll be live painting, an exhibition by artist Bwana Spoon featuring more than 100 paintings of vintage Star Wars action figures, Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School (the world's premier alternative drawing movement that has spread to more than 100 cities around the world), and the largest recorded group blind box opening (bring a blind box from home or buy one at the show to participate). What will you find in your blind box?

Sat., Nov. 20, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., 2010

LA Weekly