ON COLLECTIBLES — Column #2001/Bonus
Two Hundred and Fifty Dollars and A Closet (2001)
I am in the backstretch, running strong, and halfway home. In 1987 I began a 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 (Pennsylvania) Elementary School that serves as my home and office. In 2017, I will begin a series of annual end-of-the-year columns, comparing the current secondary market value of the toys I purchased thirty years earlier to their initial purchase prices. Hopefully, I will find that I was a good prognosticator, i.e., the secondary value of my toys will exceed the gains I would have made if I had invested the money in certificates of deposit or bonds.
I completed this year’s shopping before Thanksgiving. Traditionally, I wait until Black Friday, because (1) I enjoy the buying frenzy and (2) my tendency to procrastinate.
There were several events that triggered my buying earlier than usual and had a strong influence on the toys I purchased. I saw the movies Monsters, Inc. and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone their premier weekends. I loved them both, but confess to liking Monsters, Inc. the best. Star Wars: Episode II was among the preview attractions at Monsters, Inc. Its premier in May 2002 cannot get here fast enough as far as I am concerned. I also am in the progress of reading J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings series. I have finished The Hobbit, Part I: The Fellowship of the Ring, and Part II: The Two Towers. Part III: The Return of the King is scheduled as my airplane read at the end of the month. The Lord of the Rings Part I trailer also was part of the Monsters, Inc., previews.
Movie licensing challenged television licensing for toy industry dominance in the 1970s and 1980s. It won the battle in the late 1990s. For the past several years, my buying has focused on acquiring the most popular toys, my assumption being that the toys with which children play the most are the ones they will want to acquire when they grow older. I deviated occasionally, but not often.
This year I decided to abandon that concept, focusing instead almost exclusively on movie and television-licensed toys and personality toys, i.e., toys associated with a specific person.
As in previous years, I purchased more than seventy-five percent of the toys at K·B Toys. I stretch my two hundred fifty dollars by purchasing discounted toys. This year, the suggested retail cost of the discounted toys I purchased exceeded five hundred dollars. K·B Toys is a treasure trove for discounted toys. In fairness, I tried Toys R Us. I hate the new store arrangement. I feel as though I am in a maze, not a toy store. Clearance sections have been minimized. Toys R Us is about paying full price these days. Of course, you can use the coupons in their direct mail pieces but only “while supplies last,” a condition that never seems to occur when I visit a Toys R Us store to acquire an item I want to buy.
Let’s begin with the toys I purchased at list price. After visiting the New York International Toy Show in February, I decided that Mattel’s Harry Potter: Levitating Challenge Electronic and Action Game was a must purchase. It sold out on eToys at $39.99 and is scarcer than hen’s teeth in toy stores. I managed to acquire an example. Should it be excluded from my closet purchases because of its scarcity? I almost decided in the positive. However, I remembered that the childhood that most individuals buy back when they become adults is not their actual childhood but the one they wish they would have had if their parents had an endless amount of money. If there is a hot toy this year at Christmas, it definitely should be the Harry Potter: Levitating Challenge Electronic and Action Game.
For those unfamiliar with the game, the object is to guide a ball through a series of obstacles on a platform. Kids turn the levitating control and push the throttle to determine the height and direction of the ball. An air system enables the ball to magically levitate while traveling around the platform. Do I leave my example in the box or play with it? No contest! I am playing with it.
I purchased Mattel’s Nimbus 2000 Electronic Broomstick for $19.99 at Toys R Us. This will stay in its packaging. Curses! I saw it two-days later at K·B Toys for $17.99. Where is a crystal ball when you need one?
I paid $3.99 for a Push Puppet with Wonka Runts (candy) featuring James P. (Sulley) Sullivan with Boo riding on his tail from Monsters, Inc. Who besides me is going to save one with the candy intact? I liberated two Toys R Us plastic credit-card style gift cards featuring pictures of James P. Sullivan and Mike Wazowski. They were free. The McDonald’s Monsters, Inc. figures I have been acquiring with my Happy Meal purchases are not officially included in my closet. Neither is the ten extra pounds I acquired eating the Happy Meals.
My final full price purchase was Mattel’s Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius Heli-Pack Jimmy action figure for $8.99. I do not pay as much attention as I should to the Nickelodeon children’s television shows. However, I did catch a few episodes of Jimmy Neutron and liked the show. There is a Jimmy Neutron influenced generation.
While some of my personality toy purchases cross over into movie or television collecting categories, my principal motivation was the person. I bought three of the four McFarlane Toys: The Beatles Yellow Submarine/Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band action figures (Paul with sucking monster, Ringo with apple bonker, and George with snapping turk) for $5.99 each, reduced from $9.99. I hesitated momentarily because I could not find the fourth figure to complete the series. However, I made the purchase figuring three was better than none.
I like the long-term collectibility of personality dolls, especially now that I see the prices being asked for 1950s and 1960s personality dolls, e.g., Julia, at antiques malls and toy shows. Four of the five Living Toyz N Sync Collectible Marionette dolls (J. C. Chasez, Joey Fatone, Chris Kirkpatrick, and Justin Timberlake), initially priced at $19.99 and then reduced to $8.99 and finally to $4.99 each, now reside in my closet. I was told the Lance Bass doll is extremely difficult to find. It was not available in the half dozen toy stores I visited. Apparently, collectors bought all available dolls when rumors spread that Bass was leaving the group.
My final personality purchase was Hasbro’s The Dr. Laura (Schlessinger) Game for $4.99, reduced from $39.95. Not every television personality sells well. I am storing Dr. Laura right next to the Morton Downey, Junior, game.
Additional Star Wars: Episode I toys head the list of my movie-related acquisitions. All were bought at discounted prices. Alas, Toys R Us no longer provides the initial list price. Hence, I am not certain how deep the discounts are for the toys I bought at Toys R Us. In several instances, I am certain they are seventy-five percent or more. My Star Wars: Episode I collection now includes: Applause, Qui-Gon Jinn Mega Collectible #48,660 with certificate of authenticity, $7.97; Rubies Dauth Mawl Light Saber, $4.98 reduced from $9.99; Hasbro’s Assortment No. 26231/No. 26233 12” figure of Watto (my favorite character from the movie) with Datapad; Applause Jar Jar Binks Kids’ Collectible action figure for $1.99; and, Applause Obi-Wan Kenobia and Queen Amidala Character Collectible action figures, $3.99 each.
The remaining movie-licensed material consisted of: Hasbro’s Planet of the Apes Thade with Battle Steed, $9.98 reduced from $22.95; Mattel’s A Bug’s Life Battle Bird (flapping wings, fires two cherry bombs, carries two battle ants), $1.99 reduced from $12.99 (I bought a second one as a present for Antonio, my grandson); Mattel’s Toy Story 2 Buzz Lightyear Space Cycle with rocket firing action, $7.99 reduced from $19.99; and McFarlane Toys’ Austin Powers Special 9” Edition Dr. Evil doll with pull string sound, $9.99 reduced from $19.99. I selected the Planet of the Apes toy in hopes the movie becomes a cult classic. Based on my son Harry Junior’s advice, I did not see it on the big screen. I plan to rent the video someday. I added the Dr. Evil doll to my pull string doll section. This is another doll collecting subcategory with good long-term potential.
The problem with Disney collectibles is that they cross over into a number of categories. Mattel’s Walt Disney Pictures Presents Dinosaurs: Alador’s Quest boxed board game, $4.99 reduced from $9.99, fits into the Disney, movie, and game categories. Mattel’s The Wonderful World of Disney Word Crossing Game, $5.99 reduced from $14.99, is more typical of a straight Disney collectible.
Lack of Simpson material is a major gap in the comprehensiveness of my closet. Cardinal’s The Simpsons Trivia Game, $9.99 reduced from $14.99, is the first of several Simpson items that will eventually be stored in the closet.
Other television collectibles include: Mattel’s Star Trek Trivia Game with its four highly detailed scale model starship movers, $9.99 from $29.99; Hasbro/Milton Bradley’s Pokémon Monster Trainer boxed board game, $7.99 reduced from $14.99; and Mattel’s Survivor Game, $4.99 reduced from $27.99. I bought the Pokémon Monster Trainer game because I needed something that will force me to learn the characters’ names, e.g., Pikachu, Charmander, Mewtwo, and Ivysaur. The Survivor game was too great a bargain to pass. It joins the many items in my closet and collection as a whole that prove the fickleness of television ratings.
Three more purchases, and this year’s list is complete. I bought the Dixie Cup Holder featuring James P. Sullivan and Mike Wazowski from Monsters, Inc., $8.99 reduced from $10.99. Technically, it is not a toy. I do not care. I wanted it for my closet. Mattel’s Bowling Champ Barbie has been on my list for several years because the color scheme of the box matches that of the living room and kitchen in my bachelor pad. Now, she is part of the front room décor, $19.99 reduced from $39.99. Besides, Barbie belongs out in the open, not in the closet.
My final purchase was one of those too-good-to-resist items. Endless Horizons Entertainment’s Cobretta, $9.99 reduced from $16.99, joins my collection of well-endowed female action figures. Cobretta is featured in the Stark Raven comic book series. For those unfamiliar with her, Carmen Mejia, a.k.a. Cobretta, is a private investigator and detective for the San Francisco Police Department. She formerly was a field-training specialist for N.E.S.T. (Network of Elite Soldiers and Technology). With cobra boots and a cobra whip, this is one lady the bad guys should definitely avoid.
This year’s total purchases amounted to $253.64. While over budget by $3.64, I found there was nothing I wanted to delete from my purchases. I was short a dollar or two in previous years, so I feel comfortable spending a little more.
Once again, I was able to hold purchases to around two hundred and fifty dollars. However, the unit price for toys continues to increase. I started initially limiting my purchases to two hundred dollars. Inflation eventually caused me to increase the amount. I am leaning toward three hundred dollars for my 2002 closet purchases. Why not? I have a huge closet.
POSTSCRIPT: I did encounter the first of the Lord of the Rings licensed-toys. I had the Frodo action figurine in my hand when I stopped and carefully considered one important point—the Lord of the Rings is an adult not a children’s movie. There is no room for Lord of the Rings collectibles in my closet.