ON COLLECTIBLES — Column #2000/Bonus
Two Hundred and Fifty Dollars and A Closet (2000)
This is the fourteenth year of my thirty year project to purchase toys that I believe have long-term collecting potential and store them away in a closet, actually a large room in the basement of the former Vera Cruz Elementary School that serves as my home and office. When I began this project in 1987, I set a $200 purchase limit. I decided not to automatically adjust the amount to cover inflation. In the early 1990s, I added another fifty dollars and have been spending $250 a year since. Although I considered increasing the amount to $275 or $300 this year, I did not.
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?
In early September in anticipation of my annual buying spree, I began accumulating and analyzing newspaper inserts for toy stores, Toys R US and K·B Toys, chain discount stores, Kmart, Target, Walmart, etc., department stores, and others selling toys. By mid-November, I had a wish list containing six to twelve toys I was seriously considering.
The local K·B Toys store opened at 5:00 AM and Toys R Us at 6:00 AM on Black Friday, the Friday after Thanksgiving. The newspaper inserts listed discounted prices for dozens of items, several of which were on my consideration list. What a great way to stretch my available money. I did not go, and am I glad. Newspaper accounts on Saturday told of long lines
Earlier this year, I believe it was February or March, I was visiting a K·B Toys store and was enamored by several discounted toys. My mind raced. What a great opportunity to get a leg up on this year’s shopping spree. I recall spending over thirty dollars. Alas, there are three problems. I cannot find the toys I bought or the receipt, and I cannot remember what I bought. If you saw my office and my storage areas, you would understand. I tossed aside these good intentions. I am certain I will discover the stash in the future. When I do, I will add them to the closet as an inflationary bonus.
I was in Portland, Oregon, November 16th to the 19th, doing personal appearances on behalf of Palmer Wirfs & Associates’ Oregon Convention Center Show. Jeanenne Bell and I went to dinner at Stanford’s in the Lloyd Center on Thursday evening, November 16. As it happened, there is also a Toys R Us store in the Lloyd Center. I could not resist checking it out. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Outside the security gate at the store entrance were tables piled high with deeply discounted Star Wars toys. I grabbed as fast as I could and gave no thought as to how I was going to get my purchases back to Pennsylvania.
The fact that the toys related to earlier Star Wars movies (“Star Wars: A New Hope,” “The Empire Strikes Back,” and “Return of the Jedi”) and expanded Star Wars stories (“The Power of the Force”) was not a consideration. I was on a high. When I came back down to earth, I had spent $38.64 and acquired twelve toys. For $1.97 each, I purchased four toys from Galoob’s Micro Machines Star Wars series—#65871 The Death Star, #65858 Planet Tatooine, #68031 Vadar’s Lightsaber/Death Star Trench, #68032 Luke’s Binoculars/Yavin Rebel Base, Kenner’s Star Wars Expanded Universe Assortment 69760/#69772 Speeder Bike from Star Wars Return of the Jedi Sketchbook, and Galoob’s Micro Machines Star Wars Action Fleet #73416 Rebel Flight Controller with Luke’s X-Wing Starfighter. For $3.97 each, I added three toys from Galoob’s Micro Machines Star Wars Transforming Action Set series—#65817 Luke Skywalker/Hoth, #65816 Boba Fett/Cloud City, and #65695 Royal Guard/Death Star II). For $4.97 each, I now own three toys from the Kenner’s Star Wars Power of the Force series, Assortment #69663—#69662 Darth Vader’s Tie Fighter with launching laser cannons, #69663 Luke’s T-16 Skyhopper with detachable cockpit, and #69732 A-Wing Fighter with pivoting laser cannons and retractable tripod landing gear.
Oregon does not have a sales tax, a savings I thought I would quickly lose shipping the toys home. Ron and Donna Miller, owners of Old Stuff, a regional trade paper, and personal friends, rescued me from my West Coast purchasing madness and not for the first time, I must add. Ron and Donna took my purchases home Friday and delivered them to me on Sunday in a large box that I checked through with my luggage when I flew home. They are superb packers—not a box was damaged.
Last year I spent almost all my money at Toys R Us and maybe I would have again had I had more time in the Portland store. However, when I went to my local Toys R Us, I encountered a very different situation. When last I shopped the store, it was loaded with bargains. Just the opposite was true this year. There was little discounted merchandise. The store now uses an “Every Day Low Price” philosophy. I do not like this. I want to see the suggested list price and the discount. As a bargain hunter, I am far more likely to buy when I am saving ten dollars than two. This year K·B Toys had the bargains I needed to stretch my dollars.
This is the first Christmas season in a long time without a “hot” toy. I am thrilled. When assembling my wish list, I did not include any of the new robot dog toys. Instead, I decided to focus on traditional collecting toy categories.
I always seize any opportunity to make my Star Wars collection stronger. The following purchases are all licensed “Star Wars: Episode 1” toys. Hope Industries Anakin Skywalker watch and Jar Jar Binks watch, each in a Qui-Gon Jinn Lightsaber display case, each cost $7.99 (discounted from $9.99 each). Intex Recreation Corporation’s inflatable Jar Jar chair and Queen Amidala chair were priced at $3.99 each (discounted from $12.99 each). I have acquired a number of inflatable character chairs over the years and was delighted to add these to the collection. The only two bargains I found at Toys R Us were Hasbro’s #40991 Electronic Lightsaber Duel Game—Darth Maul vs. Qui-Gon Jinn: The Final Battle for $4.97 (discounted from $19.99) and Hasbro/Milton Bradley’s #40997 Jar Jar Binks 3-D Adventure Game for $2.98 (discounted from $7.99). I bought Hasbro’s 12” Watto figure, Assortment Number 26231/#26233, at K·B Toys for $9.99 (discounted from $26.99). I bought a second one to play with and have not included that purchase in my total. Watto remains my favorite character from the movie.
I knew #23930 Lingerie Barbie, Mattel’s new Barbie Fashion doll, would join my closet the moment I saw her last February at the New York International Toy Fair. Her new silkstone body is something else. She is definitely my kind of doll. I bought her from Sandi Holder for $32 (discounted from $40), the only toy I bought this year on the Internet. I also added three other Barbies to my closet. The crossover potential of a woman’s sport collectible plus political correctness prompted me to buy Soccer Teresa, #20207, and Soccer Kira, #20352, both discounted to $9.99 from $19.99. In their team uniforms, these dolls were issued to honor the Women’s World Cup 1999 team. The picture of Mia Hamm was a bonus. Working Woman Barbie, #20548, a talking Barbie with a bonus CD-Rom for extended play, was $12.99 (discounted from $24.99). I have several career-theme Barbies in my collection.
Last year I cast good taste aside and purchased my first World Wrestling Federation licensed material. This year I added significantly to the collection. Toy Island Manufacturing’s #36710 Steve Austin vs. The Undertaker inflatable chair, another great addition to this sub-collection, cost $3.99 (discounted from $14.99). JakksPacific #7610 Titan Tron Live, an entrance stage unit with a figure of Vince McMahon and featuring Steve Austin’s entrance music, for $19.99 (discounted from $34.99) complements the Toy Biz Electronic Monday Nitro Arena I bought last year.
No sense having a ring and entrance stage without some of the players. Two Toy Biz electronic interactive Turf Talking Wrestler sets from Assortment #77220—Goldberg vs. Kevin Nash and Sting vs. Diamond Dallas Page—were a real bargain at $7.99 each (discounted from $34.99). Ringside Supplies’ Attitude Superstar Undertaker Sound Bank was $6.99 (discounted from $12.99). Each time you put money in the bank, he says “The Undertaker. Rest in Peace.”
When paying for my purchases at K·B Toys, I found I was eligible for a $20 bonus card. I asked the clerk to back off $20 of purchases so I could use the card on the spot. Since the backed off total exceeded the $100 minimum for the bonus, she honored my request. For a total of $3.94 (actually $23.94 less the $20 bonus), I acquired six JakksPacific’s Assortment W80750 Backlash Superstars action figures—Kane, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H, Undertaker, and X-PAC. They were an even better bonus because they had been discounted to $3.99 from $5.99 each.
I added two movie items, both again discounted. Mattel’s #88160 “Toy Story 2” Buzz with RC (a dune buggy-type car) with tethered remote control cost $19.99 (discounted from $24.99). The absence of several remote control cars in the closet is a major omission. Each year I have one at the top of the list, only to get side tracked. I have acquired a few used examples at garage sales. I always read my previous year’s column before going shopping. Hopefully, this paragraph will remind me to stay on track and put one or more remote control cars in next year’s closet. In addition, Antonio, my six-year old grandson, just told me he wants a remote controlled truck for Christmas this year. Enough said.
Purchasing Playmates’ Assortment 11430, #11431 Zorro & Tornado with dismount action for $12.99 (discounted from $19.99) was prompted more by nostalgia than sane reasoning. I loved the Zorro television program, did not care for the movie except for the sword fight scene in the barn, and felt deep remorse at the 2000 New York Toy Fair when I learned that Playmates was not holding its annual special preview for the toy periodical press.
I had made up my mind to add any “Dr. Seuss How The Grinch Stole Christmas” material. I much prefer the Grinch character from the television cartoon special over Carey’s interpretation. However, I relented based on the fact that Dr. Seuss is the major collecting motivation, not the characters. Pyramid’s Grinch face plush child’s backpack at $14.99 joined Kellogg’s The Grinch Stole Breakfast Pop Tarts: Wild Strawberry with Holiday Sprinkles at $2.99 and Hershey Foods’ Sno-Balls (candy coated malted milk balls) at $1.99 in my closet. I am going to eat the food and save the boxes. I do not want any mice or other vermin in the closet.
My total purchases came to $249.35, not counting sales taxes where applicable. This is close enough to $250 to stop. I did save the K·B Toys credit gift card I was issued and picked up the three blank credit gift cards used by Toys R Us—facial portraits of three children, “Dr. Seuss How The Grinch Stole Christmas,” and “Barbie.” I never turn down a free collectible.
Before ending, I’d like to tell you some of the things I did not buy. I did not acquire JakksPacific’s three new Charlie’s Angels dolls—Alex, Dulan, and Natalle. At $19.99 each, I plan to wait until they go on sale. Play Along’s Brittney Spears dolls appear to be a slow sell. I am certain they will eventually be discounted. I want to add more character/portrait dolls to the closet, but not at full price. Also missing are any fast food toys. I have one of the new “102 Dalamatians” toys from McDonalds. Last time I spent $101 and ordered the entire series. This time McDonalds wants $150—greedy, greedy, greedy.
I only used the Internet to make one of my purchases. While new toys are often discounted on Internet sites, the discounts never seem to match those of last year’s toys at the major toy stores.
Time to unpack my extra Watto and put the cute little holiday cap on my extra (forgot to mention I bought a second) lingerie Barbie and get ready for my long winter’s nap. Happy Holiday Dreams.