ON COLLECTIBLES — Column #1999/Bonus
Two Hundred and Fifty Dollars and A Closet (1999)
This is the thirteenth year of my thirty year project to purchase toys that I believe have long-term collecting potential, and store them away in a closet, which is really a large room in the basement of the former Vera Cruz Elementary School that serves as my home and office. When I first started this project in 1987, I set a $200 limit for purchases. I raised it in the early 1990s to $250. I do not automatically adjust the amount to cover inflation. My 1999 limit remained at $250, albeit I am strongly considering an increase to $275 or $300 for my year 2000 purchases.
In 2017, I will begin a series of annual end-of-the-year columns comparing the current secondary market values of the toys I purchased thirty years earlier to their initial purchase prices. Did I turn out to be a good prognosticator? Did the value of the toys increase at a greater rate than had I put my money into a savings account or invested in government bonds?
Toy merchandising has changed considerably since I wrote my first “Closet” column. Toy manufacturers now release toys on a quarterly cycle. They no longer reserve the vast majority of their releases for the final four months of the year. Consolidation within the toy industry continues. Mattel and Hasbro keep getting bigger and bigger. Bigger is not always better, as both have found. Giant toys stores, such as Toys ‘R Us, have lost their dominant market position, replaced by super stores such as Target and Walmart. Lionel’s Kiddie City toy store chain is a rapidly fading memory. Many of these large merchandisers insist on exclusives, toy variations available only through them. Many of these large merchandisers do not have stores nationwide. As a result, these exclusives can be difficult to find and quickly become fodder for toy scalpers and Internet sellers. Finally, the sale of toys on the Internet is increasing. Prices can differ significantly for the same toy. Many buyers fail to factor in the cost of shipping and handling when buying on the Internet. For the moment, the best buys remain in the toy stores, albeit the sales tax that one has to pay offsets a high portion of the shipping and handling costs of buying on the Internet.
Prior to beginning my shopping, I read a newspaper article indicating that Toys ‘R Us was not waiting until after Christmas to discount merchandise, especially back stock. The claim was bargains would abound. Normally, I start my shopping at a K·B Toys, proceeding next to Toys ‘R Us, Walmart, and other stores. This year my toy-shopping spree started and ended at Toys ‘R Us. Taking advantage of bargains and finding all the toys on my “must have” list, I quickly spent my $250.
I saw Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story 2 shortly after it was released. It should be compulsory viewing for every adult. Hopefully, Buzz Lightyear’s observation to Woody, “you are not a collector’s item, you are a children’s toy,” will become a classic movie quote. As a result, my shopping began with a search for several Toy Story 2 items. My first selection had much to do with my favorite character from the movie, Buzz Lightyear. I spent $29.99, full price, for Thinkway Toys’ Ultra Buzz Lightyear Wake-Up System with infrared remote control unit. The control unit allows you to activate Ultra Buzz’s special programmed actions, direct him on his ultra power wheels, press alarm message button, doubles as an arm communicator, and includes Gamma Quadrant docking unit. It sure beats the bedside alarm I am using now. I chose this Buzz over Thinkway Toys’ Interactive Buddies Ultimate Talking Action Figures, Talking Room Guards, Woody Talking Bank, and Talking Model Kits. Assuming the Ultra Buzz Lightyear Wake-Up System does not make it as a toy collectible, something I do not envision happening, it has crossover potential as a figural alarm clock.
My second Toy Story 2 purchase was $24.99 for a 4Kidz Bullseye Soft Ride toy. Normally, I do not buy infant toys because I view them as having very limited long-term collectibility. This is why there are no Sesame Street, Barney, or Peanuts items in my closet. The Bullseye riding toy found a home in the closet because of its size and high display factor. I also felt it was a toy that was far more likely to be used than hoarded.
The 1997 release of the revised Star Wars trilogy led to my conversion from a Star Trek to a Star Wars fanatic. I believe in the sustaining power of The Force. I was delighted when I was able to add four discounted Star Wars toys to my closet: (1) $4.97 for Parker Brothers’ Star Wars Escape The Death Star Action Figure Game, with two exclusive action figures of Luke Skywalker in trash compactor and Darth Vader with removable dome; (2) $4.90 for Estes’ Star Wars Star Destroyer Flying Model Rocket; (3) $14.99 for Hasbro’s Royal Elegance Queen Amidala doll from Star Wars Episode 1 Queen Amidala Collection; and, (4) $19.99 for Galoob’s Micro Machines Star Wars Double Takes Death Star which transforms from the Death Star into the Planet Tatooine.
A few explanations are in order. I prefer character dolls whose features closely resemble the actor or actress who played the part. I violated this preference twice this year. I am not enamoured with the face on the dolls in the Queen Amidala Collection. However, I do like the costume. Further, everyone knows she will become the mother of Luke Skywalker, thus a major figure in the Star Wars story. I selected the Royal Elegance version over the Ultimate Hair and Hidden Majesty versions, which were also on sale, because I felt the costume variations offered more display possibilities.
I had every intention of adding one or more of Galoob’s Star Wars Episode I Action Fleet racers to the closet. Anakin’s Podracer would have been my first choice. However, I obtained several Action Fleet examples earlier this year. Hence, they already were in my closet. Consider adding one or more to your collection.
The 1990s is the golden age of movie licensing. Having grown up in the 1950s, the golden age of television licensing, I could not resist spending $10.00 for Toy Island’s B-9 Remote Control Robot from Lost in Space: The Classic Series. It is not as neat as the Trendmasters’ Lost in Space robot toys, which were also discounted. However, the Trendmasters’ robot boxes were heavily damaged. If you are faced with a choice between the two and the price and boxes are equal, buy one of the Trendmasters’ robots.
This past Halloween, Connie dressed Antonio, her grandson, in a Winnie the Pooh costume. Antonio wanted to be a dinosaur. Compromise was reached when Connie told Antonio he was a honey-colored dinosaur. Collecting and playing with dinosaur toys is part of almost every male’s growing-up ritual. When I found Trendmasters’ Godzilla dinosaur action figures on sale for $2.00 each, I spent $14.00 to obtain seven of them—Baby X Baby Godzilla with Battle Damage; Capture Net Phillipe with Blasting Net Launcher; Claw Slasher Baby Godzilla with Gashing Terror Talons; Grapple Gear Nick with Rappelling Action Backpack; Hammer Foot Baby Godzilla with Thunder-Kick Attack; Razor Fang Baby Godzilla with Savage Bite Strike; and, Tail Trasher Baby Godzilla with Street-Quake Tail Swipe.
For years I have avoided collecting any toy associated with wrestling, primarily because I find television wrestling disgusting and not entertaining. Having made my point, I found myself drawn to the Toy Biz Electronic Monday Nitro Arena as I reviewed the newspaper supplement advertising from Toys ‘R Us, K·B Toys, Walmart, and others. It is big and showy. For $29.99, it is now housed in my closet.
A wrestling ring without wrestlers makes no sense. For $9.97 I bought Toy Biz’s World Championship Wrestling TV Horsemen, a set featuring Ric Flair, Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, and Steve “Mongo.” I cringed when I realized I recognized two of the names.
Jakks Pacific’s Jaqueline Signature Series action figure at $4.99 was my final purchase. She is now part of my overly endowed female action figure collection. If her build matches that of the action figure, I fail to see how she can stand up straight.
I do not like the facial and body sculpture of Toy Biz’s 12” Collector Series or action figure Xena toys. Yet, I recognize that if I want to include Xena items in my closet, I have to buy the Toy Biz products. Fortunately, Toys ‘R Us had them on sale. I spent a total of $18.91 for an Evil Xena “Armageddon Now Part II” 12” doll, a Callisto 12” doll, Harem Xena with Pillar of Power action figure, Xena Conqueror of Nations action figure, and Xena Warrior Huntress One Against an Army action figures. The dolls were $5.00 each, the action figures $2.97.
I was able to locate all four figures in McFarlane Toys’ Kiss Psycho Circus set—Ace Frehley with the stiltman, Gene Simmons with the ring master, Peter Criss with the animal wrangler, and Paul Stanley with the jester. A bargain at $3.97 each, total cost for the full set was $15.88. The $9.98, approximately half price, I spent for Playing Mantis’ Captain Action’s Dr. Evil was another of my bargains. I like to add comic book character material to my closet whenever I can.
It has been a few years since I added a Hess truck to the closet. I simply could not resist spending $19.99 to acquire the 1999 Toy Truck and Space Shuttle with Satellite. In fact, I bought a second one, not included in this year’s closet costs, to play with. The truck includes working head- and taillights, shuttle bay doors, shuttle lights and sound, automatic satellite launching arm, and satellite with real lights, sound, and retractable solar panel. Of course, I also saved the plastic bag featuring a picture of the truck and space shuttle.
I had decided in advance of shopping that I wanted to include one of Equity Marketing’s Headliners XL figures in this year’s purchases. The choice was tough. I especially liked the James Dean and Babe Ruth figures. However, it was the Austin Powers figure at $9.99 that finally made the closet.
I spent $241.51 thus far. A final $7.96 was spent to acquire four McDonald’s Toy Story 2 Happy Meals. On occasion, I am cheap. If I have to buy a Happy Meal, I spend $1.99 for the hamburger version. There is no sense in paying extra when all you want is the toy. In this instance, it was not the toy I wanted but the Happy Meal box. The Toy Story 2 Happy Meal box features a jigsaw puzzle as one of its panels. There are two versions. I wanted two examples of each.
No way am I getting caught up in the twenty Happy Meal toy series rip-off that is part of McDonald’s Happy Meal promotion. Twenty toy series are nothing more than a racket. However, no way am I going to buy a meal and not take the toy. What four toys do I want? After careful consideration, my closet now includes, still in their unopened bags, Rex, Jessie, Buzz Lightyear, and Zorg. Sorry Woody, Tour Guide Barbie, and all you generic toys. You simply do not turn me on.
Speaking of being turned on, this year I bought a toy that is going to live in my bedroom, not my basement closet. Having spent $249.47, there is no way I can justify a $59.99 purchase as part of my closet column expenses. This one is for me. Welcome Jessica Rabbit from Mattel’s Disney Collector Dolls series. This “I’m not bad…I’m just drawn that way” gal has captured my heart. If there is a Santa, I’m wishing he will arrange for me to meet her or a few gals like her. HO, HO, HO!