ON COLLECTIBLES — Column #2002/Bonus
Two Hundred and Fifty Dollars and A Closet (2002)
When visitors to Rinker Enterprises in Vera Cruz see the storage shelves in the basement, their first comment is, “This looks just like a toy store.” It should. The shelves contain the toys that I have purchased over the last fifteen years as part of my annual “closet” shopping spree.
For those unfamiliar with this project, I began purchasing toys in 1987 as a two-part study—first to see if I was a good prognosticator of what toys would be collectible thirty years in the future and second to see if the secondary market value of my toys would exceed the gains I would have made if I had invested the money in certificates of deposit or bonds. In 2017, I will open the closet and revisit the toys I bought in 1987. In the interim, I rest content with the pile growing bigger and bigger as the years progress.
Initially, I only spent two hundred dollars. In the mid-1990s, I increased the amount to two hundred and fifty dollars. Each year I find it harder and harder to include what I want within the two hundred and fifty dollar restriction. I kept within budget this year. However, I am planning to add another $25.00 to the budget for 2003.
I stretch my budget by buying discounted toys, either old stock that has been reduced or new toys on sale. In earlier years, K*B Toys competed actively with Toys R Us for my dollars. However, Toys R Us has moved from offering large numbers of clearance priced toys to focusing on newspaper insert advertising featuring specifically discounted toys. Like a good merchant, Toys R Us changes the toys it discounts in each advertisement. If I had an unlimited amount of time and did not mind visiting the store on numerous occasions, I probably still would be buying an equal number of toys at Toys R Us and K*B Toys. However, I do not. I try to make all my purchases over a two-day period. As a result, this year, just as I did last year, I purchased most of my toys at K*B Toys.
I begin my toy wish list after reviewing the stories about the new toys introduced at the American International Toy Fair held each February in New York. I add to the list during the year, finalizing it in mid-November after mulling over the toys found in newspaper sales inserts and the mail order catalogs I receive throughout the fall.
I am a member of the old-fashioned generation that still likes to hold the toy he is purchasing. As a result, I have not yet turned to the Internet as a buying source. However, free shipping offers and deep discounting is increasing on Internet toy sale sites. I am keeping an eye on this and reserve the right to change my mind in the future.
This year I did add one new buying source—antiques malls. Older hoarded toys are showing up in antiques mall cases and booths, often priced below their initial purchase price. Sellers adopting a some money is better than no money philosophy have found they can do better in antiques malls than on the heavily flooded auction and secondary sales Internet sites.
Normally, I do my toy shopping prior to Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. However, this year I still had twenty dollars in my budget and K*B Toys was advertising Mattel Wheels Hot Wheels X-Treme Motocross, an electronic stunt bike slot racing set, for $19.99 discounted from $69.99. The newspaper insert said K*B Toys stores would open at 5:00 AM on Black Friday, but also noted “some stores may vary in opening time. Check your local store for details.” I checked the paper for times of other stores in the Lehigh Valley Mall, site of one of the local K*B Toys stores, and found that Macy’s opened at 6:00 AM, a slightly more reasonable hour than 5:00 AM.
I arrived at the Lehigh Valley Mall at 5:55 AM. As I pulled up, I saw two women stuffing the back of a suburban wagon with bags of toys. The store had indeed opened at 5:00 AM. In spite of this, there was a line of over one hundred people still waiting to get in. Forget it. A Toys R Us was nearby. It opened at 6:00 AM. I quickly drove there and could not find a place to park. A U-shaped line edged the large parking lot. A newspaper account the next day indicated the first buyers arrived at the store around 3:30 AM. I am not stupid nor a glutton for punishment. I turned the car around and headed home.
As I drove, I remembered there was a smaller K*B Toys store in South Mall, not far from my home. What the heck! I decided to chance it. When I arrived at 6:15 AM, I saw people walking to their cars with bags of toys. Casting caution to the wind, I went inside. To my surprise, there was no line visible outside the store. However, there was a U-shaped line immediately inside the two-aisle store.
I showed the newspaper insert advertisement to a store employee at the head of the line and asked him if the X-Treme Motocross set was still available. He pointed to the base of the U where a substantial pile of sets remained unsold. I decided to stand in the slow moving line and take my chances. After an hour, I arrived at the checkout counter with my prized purchase in hand. While working my way up and down the two aisles, I noted that the store still had adequate quantities of every advertised promotional toy in stock. Kudos to K*B Toys for not having one or two examples available and then attempting to appease customers with an “until supplies are exhausted” excuse. I was tempted several times while slowly moving through the K*B Toys store. I finally gave in when I encountered a CE Urban Scooter with an aluminum chassis, 100mm 82a PU wheels, 5 bearings, foam grips, step on break, and foot mat for $7.99. Its initial price was $59.99, discounted to $14.99. As I looked at it the woman behind me commented, “Everyone must have one if they are priced this low.” I did not have one in my closet. At $7.99, I felt the scooter well worth the investment.
This year marks the last time I am going shopping on Black Friday for toys or any other holiday purchase. I learned my lesson. However, I do want to complement Andrew Doup, a K*B Toys employee, who made the hour I spent at his store thoroughly enjoyable. Andrew, a resident of Emmaus and recently discharged from the Marines, constantly worked his way throughout the store locating discounted and other toys and bringing them to customers who had just arrived in line or customers in line who missed a toy or had second thoughts about a toy they saw while going through the line. His cheerful disposition was contagious. I nominate Andrew for the K*B Toys holiday employee of the year.
Each year I try to add one toy to my closet that I believe mothers will tolerate for less than one hour after their child begins playing with it. This year’s candidate is Toy Biz’s Spider-Man dual Action Web Blaster, No. 43735, priced at $15.99. It shoots web fluid or water. Two cartridges that accompany it produce “600 Feet of Web Blasting Fun.” When I offered to buy one for Anna Kahn, my honorary niece, her mother said, “NO WAY!” I knew I had a winner. I also purchased a two-cartridge pack of Web Blaster Ammo, Toy Biz No. 43737, for $5.99.
As it turned out, my 2003 purchases included several Spider-Man toys. For years, I have wanted to add a remote control monster truck to my closet. The problem was that I was reluctant to spend the $60.00 plus necessary to buy a top of the line example. When I saw the Tyco / Mattel Wheels Radio Control Spider-Man Monster Truck at $39.99 at Toys R Us, I decided to go for it. Fortunately, I took a moment to read the box. The box did not contain the Tyco / Mattel Wheels 6.0v Jet Turbo Battery Pack and Charger, No. 32990 (89915), which cost $19.99 and is necessary to run the truck. Rationalizing that the truck had crossover buyer appeal, I made the purchases. As luck would have it, K*B Toys discounted the truck to $29.99 during its three-day post-Thanksgiving sale. I did make a second trip to Toys R Us with the K*B advertisement in hand. Toys R Us returned $10.00 to me.
My final Spider-Man toy was Toy Biz / Marvel Comics Spider Racer 1/18 scale remote control car for $12.99, discounted from $19.99. It comes in two variations. I chose the spider web design.
It has been awhile since I added a doll to my closet. When I saw Playmates’ Amazing Ally and her Kitty Cat box set, Asst. 198105, with bonus tea party ware discounted to $29.99 from $79.99, I decided I was a buyer. The doll is touted as the “first doll system with expandable intelligence, memory and adventure.” What do I know about dolls? I bought it because of the price. I am hoping I guessed right.
Mattel’s 22016 Rosie O’Donnell, Friend of Barbie, became part of my closet for $4.98, discounted from $12.00 plus. A note on the box said Toys R Us would donate $5.00 to The For All Kids Foundation for every doll sold. Assuming the company sticks to its promise, I received the doll free in exchange for my donation.
Contemporary Saturday morning children’s cartoon toys are under represented in my closet. Irvin Toy’s Sailor Moon doll at $4.99, discounted from $12.99, is a small attempt to close that gap.
Although I am still unconvinced that Jurassic Park toys will have long-term collectibility, I have several examples in my closet. I am counting on potential dinosaur crossover collectors to be the primary buyers if the Jurassic Park collectors fail me. This year I added Milton Bradley’s Jurassic Park III Island Survival Game, No. 40197, with is twelve official Jurassic Park dinosaur figures and giant 38in by 15in game board for $7.99, discounted from $19.99, and Milton Bradley’s Jurassic Park III Electronic Spino-vs. T-Rex Battle Game, No. 40178, at $9.99, discounted from $29.99. There was no way I could resist the latter with box promotion of: “They Bite! They Claw! They Kick! With ferocious roaring sounds.”
The choice of discounted robust, well-endowed female action figures was slim this year. I did spend $3.99, discounted from $7.99, for Toy Biz / Marvel’s Rogue with missile firing action platform, Assortment 43575, from the X-Man Classics series. As I was putting her in the closet, I discovered I had bought the same figure last spring for $3.99 as an advanced purchase for this year’s closet. Poor Rogue, nobody wants her.
Two Star Wars Episode I objects completed my toy store purchases. I continue to remain strong relative to the long-term future for Star Wars toys. I bought Lego Technic, Battledroid, Lego 8001, 328 pieces, for $19.99, marked down from $34.99, and Lego Gungan Patrol, Lego 7115, 77 pieces, for $5.99, a four dollar savings from its initial $9.99 price.
My store purchases added up to $200.84. The discount savings over their initial purchase price were almost equal to the purchase dollars. By buying as many discounted toys as possible, I hope to cover the initial value drop when a toy enters the secondary resale market.
I made my antiques mall purchases at the Brass Armadillo Antique Mall in Grain Valley (Kansas City), Missouri. There were two major groups—Star Wars Episode I and Hallmark Keepsake Ornaments.
The Star Wars Episode I items included two Party Express / Hallmarks Cards, Inc. party items, a Treat Snack, pack of eight plates, at $1.50 and a pack of eight party invitations for $1.25. A dealer offered a package containing a notebook and two folders for $3.00 per package. I bought three for a total of $9.00. The first contains a notebook with an Anakin in a pod racer cover and two folders (Jar Jar Binks / Queen Amidala), the second a notebook with a Darth Maul cover and two folders (R2-D2 / Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Won Kanobi), and the third a Naboo Starfigher cover and two folders (Darth Maul / Anakin Skywalker).
I also found the complete series of four Koosh toys in their period packaging, priced at $4.00 each. My $12.00 resulted in adding Jar Jar Binks, Kaadu, Sebulba, and Watto toys to my closet.
Most toy collectors do not classify Hallmark Keepsake Ornaments as toys. They are correct. However, each year dozens of Hallmark Keepsake Ornaments have a toy crossover connection. At the Brass Armadillo, I found a case dealer selling ornaments that initially were priced at $14.95 and up for $4.50 each. I bought five for a total of $22.50. They were: the Naboo Starfighter, Star Wars, Episode I, 1999, sculpted by Chris Webb; Harley-Davidson Barbie, 2000, sculpted by Anita Marra Rogers; Flash, no date (1999?), sculpted by Anita Marra
Rogers; GI Joe, Action Soldier, 35th Anniversary, 1999, sculpted by Ken Crow; and Samantha “Sam” Stephens, Bewitched, 2001, sculpted by Robert Chad. Admittedly, my purchase of these Hallmark Keepsake Ornaments was influenced by the fact that I had spent seven hours touring Hallmark and its Keepsake Ornament unit the previous day.
The above selection took a great deal of time. Not added to my closet, but available for $4.50 each, were the following ornaments: Kristi Yamaguchi, 2000; Barbie and Kelly on Ice, 2001; 1968 Murray Jolly Roger Flag Ship / Kiddie Car Classics, No. 6, 1999; Jet Treat Car with Case, Hot Wheels, no date (2000?); Han Solo, Star Wars Collector Series, No. 3, 1999; Queen Amidala, Star Wars Episode I, 1999; and, Worf, Deep Space Nine, 1999.
I came close to eliminating the three Star Wars Episode I notebook and folder packet sets and two of the Hallmark Keepsake Ornaments to make room in the closet for the 2002 Hess Toy Truck and Airplane which sells for $19.99. The truck failed to find a parking place in my closet when the sales person at my local Hess gasoline station remarked that this year’s sales were lagging far behind those of previous years, clearly indicating a strong decline in interest among adult collectors. Hess trucks are simply toys once again and not speculative investments. Hurray!
While spending Thanksgiving with my good friends the Kahns, Jane Sarasohn-Kahn told me about the new chain of K*B Toys discount stores. They offer heavily discounted toys throughout the year. Jane provided me with two locations.
You probably have observed that this year’s closet contains no new Harry Potter toys. I wanted to include several but felt I could buy them at far deeper discounts after Christmas. I intend to visit one of the K*B Toys discount stores in mid-January to see if I am correct.
Finally, several toy manufacturers have announced they will be reviving a number of toys from the late 1980s and early 1990s as part of their 2003 toy offerings. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toys are among them. There are more than a dozen Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toys in my closet. If a revival of collecting interest occurs in these earlier toys, would it not make more sense for me to sell now rather than wait thirty years? Does the old adage of “strike while the iron is hot” apply? Keep an eye out for next year’s column to see what I decide.