ON COLLECTIBLES — Column #2007/Bonus
Three Hundred Dollars and A Closet (2007)
The months leading up to the Christmas toy buying season have not been very happy and bright for the toy industry. The media keeps generating an endless stream of stories about the lead paint scare relating to some of the toys made in China. In mid-November, California announced it was suing Mattel, Toys “R” Us, Wal-Mart, K·B Toys and others claiming they knowingly sold lead-tainted toys. Although the percentage of lead-tainted toys is minuscule, the entire toy industry has been painted with a wide brush as uncaring and unconcerned. Numerous consumer safety groups, including the U. S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, have issued warnings about hazardous toys. Media headlines suggest the public has lost trust in the toy industry. Virtual-world play sites are challenging the hold in your hand toys for children’s attention. Do not forget to add America’s current economic woes to the mix. It is as though Scrooge and the Grinch have teamed up for a good laugh.
I am not a big ho, ho, hoer myself. When Linda, my wife, asks me what I want for Christmas, my stock answer is “January 4th.” Loving toys as much as I do, I know I should be a big fan of Christmas. But, I am not. Suffice it to say, my Christmas Past (childhood) spirit is strong but my Christmas Present spirit is weak. Linda keeps trying to change this. My grandchildren hope she succeeds.
Spirit aside, I did my annual Christmas closet shopping spree. Given today’s toy prices, I had no trouble spending my allotted three hundred dollars ($300.00).
An explanation is necessary for new Rinker on Collectibles readers. Since 1987, I have bought toys and put them in a closet. My goal is to do this for thirty years. When the thirty years are completed, I plan to revisit the closet of thirty years previously and compare what I paid to the current collectible value of the toys. 2017 is not that far in the future. Since long-term collectibility is the primary reason for buying the toys, ideally their value will have increased considerably.
I have resisted all temptation to look back and see how I am doing. To what end? I am still seasoning the toys I bought in the past.
My closet is located in the basement of the former Vera Cruz (Pennsylvania) Elementary School, Linda’s and my home and headquarters for Rinker Enterprises. In truth, the closet toys are starting to spill over into other rooms in the school. After twenty years, the piles have grown quite large.
When I first started this project, my budget was two hundred dollars. It increased to two hundred and fifty dollars in 1992. In 2005 I increased it again to three hundred dollars. It remains at three hundred dollars.
I pride myself on stretching my budget by hunting for bargains, usually discounted toys from previous years. In the past, Toys “R” Us, K·B Toys, and Wal-Mart were my traditional hunting grounds. Not this year! These stores now send the majority of their overstock to on-line sellers. Bargain aisles are a thing of the past.
Toys “R” Us, K·B Toys, Wal-Mart, and other big box stores now entice customers through exclusives, toys found only in their store, and sales. My problem with sales is that when I go, I often find the toy I am after sold out. I was spending a great deal of time and winding up empty handed.
I completely changed my shopping tactics this year. First, thanks to a recommendation by good friend Jane Sarashon-Kahn, I discovered Tuesday Morning, a store that specializes in discount sales. One has to be careful when shopping there. First, many of the toys are generic brands. I prefer brand names, especially when considering long-term collectibility. Second, some toys appear as though they have been opened and returned, if not to Tuesday Morning then to somewhere else. This needs to be checked carefully. Third, the merchandise is so tossed around on the Tuesday Morning shelves that finding an undamaged box presents a challenge. This aside, I bought well at Tuesday Morning as you will see.
This year I added no toys to my closet from Toys “R” Us, K·B Toys, Wal-Mart, or other physical store sites. I spent November and early December studying their numerous newspaper insert advertisements. Each review left me with the same impression—most, if not all, these toys have little long-term collectibility. It was time to look elsewhere.
Elsewhere turned out to be amazon.com. I saved time, found plenty of discounted toys, saved on sales tax (which I never add into the cost but hate to pay), and paid a minimal shipping cost. Compared to the time it would have taken me to track down all the toys I found in less than half an hour on amazon.com, I saved more than a day of my time. And, when you are an independent businessperson, time is money.
Once again, I consulted Anna Kahn, Linda’s and my honorary niece and daughter of Robert Kahn and Jane Sarashon-Kahn, and Isaak Weaver-Herrera, Linda’s and my step-grandson. Once again, I am afraid I am going to disappoint Ms. Anna. I seriously considered her suggestions, but ignored more than I followed. Ms. Anna is now eleven and moving into the world of electronic toys. I am sorry, but I do not classify hand-held electronic games as toys.
Enough already! I know you are chomping at the bit to know what I bought. I begin with my Tuesday Morning purchases:
I still am somewhat neutral about the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. I did not like the second movie and swore I was not going to see the third. I did anyway and liked it tremendously. I know the franchise was supposed to end with the third movie. But, I do not believe this will be the case, a view held by most individuals with whom I talk.
I bought a Ziggle’s (#00146) Pirates of the Caribbean, Dead Man’s Chest Glowing Davy Jones figure with Electroluminescent Technology. It lights up Davy Jones’ sea-filled veins with a neon-like glow for $14.99. Toy pricing stickers at Tuesday Morning have three prices: (1) regular price, (2) sale price, and (3) the Tuesday Morning price. One has to take these prices at face value. My own feeling is that the sale price is usually the shelf price in a typical toy store or toy section in a big box store. Hence, the true discount is between the sale price and the purchase price. The Davy Jones figurine had a regular price of $29.99 and a sale price of $19.99.
Mega Block’s (#1067) Flying Dutchman, which also had a glow in the dark feature, was my second Pirates of the Caribbean, Dead Man’s Chest item. It has 240 pieces and great box graphics. I bought it somewhat reluctantly. First, I was concerned its age group focus, 4+, was too young. Second, the figures included were Davy Jones, Penrod, Bootstrap Bill, and Admiral Norrington. I would have preferred Jack Sparrow, Elizabeth Swann, or Will Turner. I paid $29.99 (Reg. $59.99, Sale, $49.99).
Once Lego began issuing cartoon character and movie licensing sets, I began adding Lego items to my closet. Before I make a purchase, the box has to have great graphics and be unopened. Kids tend to open Legos, discard the box, and dump the pieces into a general box with pieces from other Lego sets. I acquired three Batman licensed Lego sets: (1) No. 7782, The Batwing: The Joker’s Aerial Assault, 523 pieces, for $29.00 (Reg. $59.99, Sale $49.99); (2) No. 7884, The Batmobile: Ultimate Collector’s Edition, 1045 pieces, for $29.99 (Reg. $89.99, Sale $69.99); and, (3) No. 7783, The Batcave: The Penguin and Mr. Freeze’s Invasion, 1075 pieces, for $29.99 (Reg. $89.99, Sale $69.99).
I am a guy. Some readers of previous closet columns have accused me of including far too many boys’ toys. They are right. However, if you attend an antiques toy show, the guys in attendance do far out number the gals.
This aside, I have been following Disney’s Princess franchise for the past few years. Having shown significant staying power, I decided to add one princess item to the closet this year. Disney Princess: Story Book Dress-up Set Enchanted Tales: Enchanted Cinderella & Sleeping Beauty Dresses cost $29.99 (Reg. $65.49, Sale $49.99). Concerned that if Sofia Monserrat Goldberg-Herrera, our two and one-half year old granddaughter and the apple of Grandma Linda’s eye, saw it, she would want to play with it, I pleaded with Grandma Linda to buy a second example for Sofia. I did not have to ask twice
Every year I make the same pledge—no more Barbie. However, when the price is right, I give in. As a result, a Barbie Pin-Up Girls Collection: Way Out West, Gold Label for $19.99 (Reg. $40.00, Sale $29.99) and a Barbie NASCAR Jeff Cordon No. 24, Pink Label for $14.99 (Reg. $39.99, Sale $29.99) were added to the closet. Okay, I admit it. The Pin-up Barbie was for Pop-Pop. However, since it is my closet, I am allowed some liberties.
Mattel now uses a four label color coding. A pink label means “invitation to collecting” or unlimited mass-production, a silver label up to 50,000 made, a gold label limited edition of 25,000 or fewer (hardly limited from where I come), and a platinum label 1,000 or fewer made. I have my doubts about the effectiveness of this marketing ploy, but I have to admire Mattel’s efforts to save a gal who will turn 50 in another year and two months.
The final total for my Tuesday Morning purchases was $199.72. Worth noting is that every single toy I bought was “Made in China” or had some parts “Made in China.” Personally, as Rhett Butler so aptly said to Scarlett, “I don’t give a damn!” Get a life! If someone decides not to buy their children or grandchildren toys made in China, their children and grandchildren are going to have a very bleak Christmas.
How toys are positioned in a store says a great deal about which toys are king of the hill. When it comes to dolls, Bratz are up front and Barbie is in the back. I got the message—add more Bratz dolls to the closet.
I bought the MGA Bratz The Movie Funky Fashion, Cloe for $16.00 ($39.00, save 60%/$23.99), Bratz Special Feature Walking Doll, Cloe for $17.99 ($29.00, save 40%/12.00), and Bratz Groovin’ Moon Chair for $11.99 ($14.99, save 20%, $3.00) on amazon.com. While I am a big fan of buying a complete series of toys, I opted for variety as opposed to buying all three characters in The Movie Funky Fashion series. If you want to know why I picked the blonde character, check out a picture of Linda on www.wcsu.edu.
Even though 1980s and 1990s personality licensed dolls have not done well in the secondary collectibles market, I decided to take a chance on Hanna Montana. I bought Play Along’s Hanna Montana “In Concert Collection” Deluxe Singing Doll with “The Other Side of Me” for $19.75 ($19.99, save 1%, $0.24). Initially, I was planning to buy Play Along’s “Best of Both World’s” Singing Doll for $19.99. But, who am I to argue when you can save $0.24 and achieve the same goal.
There were plenty of bargain Harry Potter items on amazon.com. I opted for Scene It!: Harry Potter DVD Game, the first edition for $14.99 ($39.99, save 63%, $25.00). A new second edition sells for $34.99. This is my “risk” purchase for this year.
One more purchase to go. I looked at page after page of Nerf toys. I almost was ready to buy one when I remembered that I wanted to start adding Super Soakers to the closet. As it turned out, Hasbro’s Super Soaker Helix Spiderman 3 at $19.99 was the only list price toy that I bought this year.
My amazon.com purchases totaled $100.71, meaning that I spent $300.43 this year, not counting sales tax and shipping. In respect to my amazon.com purchases, one of the items I purchased required a second shipment. However, the total shipping cost only came to $8.97 when I chose the Super Saver shipping option, a small amount compared to my discount savings. Sales tax was $1.38 as opposed to the 6% or more I would have had to pay if I had shopped in a store.
Traditionally, I end my column with a few notes about what I did not include in my closet. I checked out licensed character wristwatches. I found several, e.g., Bratz and Harry Potter, at attractively discounted prices but decided against them. I might have been tempted had amazon.com pictured the box or packaging in which they came. I need to check these out in the store.
Both Miss Anna and Izaak requested Tamagotchi V 4.5 for Christmas. Most list at $14.99 and were discounted to $11.99. However, I decided that no matter how popular these are, they are first and foremost electronic games and, hence, do not belong in my closet.
Last year I added an American Girl doll to my closet and had every intention to do so again this year. However, these dolls rarely sell at discount. When I walked out of Tuesday Morning and realized what I had spent, I crossed an American Girl doll off the list.Finally, I came very close this year to deciding not to continue my closet column. Last year’s column was my twentieth in the series. I was concerned I was running out of gas. However, as you know from what you have read, I have decided to go forward. Ho, ho, ho – nine more years to go.