By Bert Ehrmann
January 21, 2011
I can remember the day as a twelve year old that I stopped collecting toys. At that age, I was well past the point of playing with toys but found myself still buying them because of some strange appeal. But that warm summer day when I realized that I had essentially spent most of a week's allowance on a seemingly useless hunk of plastic I decided that I was done with toys and would never buy one for myself again.
That notion lasted just about six years.
What happened in the meantime was that I had grown a bit and had a nice part time job where paying $5 for an interesting looking toy now and then didn't seem so dumb. So it came to be that on another warm summer day I found myself buying the next toy in what's since become a nearly 18 year odyssey of collecting.
Which was fine, except within the last year my focus on collecting new toys has shifted to vintage toys; mostly those made in the 1980s. Be it toys from M.U.S.C.L.E. Men, Super Powers, G.I. Joe, Star Wars or M.A.S.K lines, there's not much from that period I haven't swooned over on eBay or searched distant vintage toy shops for. It's like I'm trying to buy back the collection of toys that twelve year old had and lost years ago. I've become a re-collector.
Talking with friends who also collect vintage toys they agree that nostalgia plays a big part in the search for them. My friend Sean said, "I think I collect them because they remind me of my childhood where I was a pretty happy kid." My brother Jay said, "It's nice to connect to a part of childhood that has such positive memories. Toys make it possible to remember a time in your life when your biggest problem was that you lost so-and-so's gun."
Andrew, from Kokomo Toys in Kokomo Indiana, says that lots of people visiting his shop who buy vintage toys do so because particular toys bring back fond memories. "Or maybe they're just getting back something their mom threw away!"
Oddly enough, other than the cost of the toys -- I've seen toys that cost a few dollars 25 years ago being sold for THOUSANDS today -- finding places to display them seems to be the hardest part of collecting toys. My cousin Matt said, "There is only so much room and no matter how much you plead with your girlfriend sometimes part of your collection gets put in a box."
Though some vintage toys might be fetching top dollar Andrew said, "With the economy in a slump means that right now prices for vintage toys are low and it's a buyer's market."
Just when I think I'm done collecting toys, that surly I don't need any more Battle Beasts, that I've reached my limit on Transformers Decoys or that my army of G.I. Joe figures is large enough that they're about to be deployed to Iraq, all it takes is one visit to eBay and I'm in danger of adding a few items to my collection.
Recently, I had to take a break from eBay as a visit there would inevitably lead to me watching several items which would turn to bidding on some and, horror of horror, sometimes winning auctions. For a while this fall I was receiving so many packages in the mail I was convinced the person delivering my mail had to suspect that something fishy was going on at my house because surly no sane person would be receiving so many packages over the course of such short of time.
But is what we're building a collection? My friend Tim thinks not. "Collecting kind of implies your building an 'investment' portfolio. Accumulating may be a better word."
It doesn't help matters that there are a multitude of websites online all focused on accumulating vintage toys. Some contain checklists of toy lines while others point out the best places to find the deals on toys. The other day I even found myself perusing one site that was selling custom made toys that were in the style of vintage ones and had the price to match.
I think Sean put it best about collecting toys as adults when he said, "You have to be comfortable admitting that the toys on the shelf that is too high for you kids to reach are yours."