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Preserve Contest Results

Here are the top 'toy hunting' stories that were sent in for the Preserve Contest. There is a tie for first place due to the romantic nature of each story - I'll divide the first place spoils somehow and fulfill the winners. Thanks to everyone who entered!

  • First: Tie between Miss Fox and doctorkent
  • Second: Steen
  • Third: Mikey K.

It would be difficult to understand now, but at one point, pre-eBay, your only sources for second-hand collectibles was through what you could find locally or mail-order. Mail-order was never an option for me, because my father was inherently distrustful of any offer he couldn't see in person - "how do you know they will send you the item after you send them the money?" So I was never that big on mail order until eBay. I had been reading Tomart's Action Figure Digest for a few years, and always marveled over the number of great-sounding collectible stores in the back, but as a teenager, how would I get to a store that was a four-hour drive away? Around 1998 or 1999, I had been involved with my soon-to-be wife for some time, and she asked me what I wanted to do for Valentine's Day. I made a list of six collectible stores, spread out over a few hundred miles in New Jersey, and said I wanted to go to all of those stores. Surprisingly, she agreed, and the mission was on. Again, it might not sound that crazy now to people - we have GPS, so address-to-address navigation is pretty simple. We have online maps that you can put seven locations into and it will tell you the best order to drive to them in. Back then, we had a map and The World's Crappiest Cell Phone (TM) that seemed to have no coverage in the state of Jersey. Navigating the wild roads of Jersey for the chance at IT, whatever IT was at the time that I was collecting, by a map and luck was quite an experience. We went and saw the gamut of offerings available then - a hole-in-the-wall comic store that had "toys" that turned out to be a shoebox full of Gi Joes, the sorely-missed Explosion Toys (great source for Japanese toys), to the legendary Toys from the Outer Limits!, an incredible store that carried vintage Japanese chogokin robots and rare Microman.

Explosion Toys is gone, killed by the Internet. Outer Limits closed, reopened, closed, and reopened; I took a trip out there in 2009 was essentially a trading-card game store now, the legend killed. I imagine the only survivor is that comic store which I cannot remember the name of, selling comics to the locals and tempting long-distance drivers with their promise of "toys".
Miss Fox
There are times in your life when you think you know the madness of collecting. I had dated men before who had collectibles, but my husband shattered all of those perceptions forever with a simple question: "do you mind if we go pick up an aircraft carrier?"

Collectors think about the things they do not have CONSTANTLY. Over the lifetime of a relationship, wives might hear about the scalpers, the $1000 Mazinga robot, 2-feet tall transforming robots, or "the holy grail" thousands of times. I was always hearing about the aircraft carrier, some seven foot long Gi Joe playset that my husband never had as a kid. There are a lot of things he never had as a kid that he would constantly talk about, but the aircraft carrier was a major topic of discussion. Not that we had space for it in the condo, but he wanted it anyway. He must have lost ten auctions for it on eBay. One day, he is smiling and he tells me he finally won one, it was only $150, blah blah blah. I know the shipping on something that large is going to be crazy, but he is already talking about how we have to go and pick it up in North Jersey. I have a pickup truck, so no big deal. Happy, he starts to leave, but then he turns back and says, "By the way..." Because he was getting such a good deal on the aircraft carrier, he bought two other items from the same seller. They turn out to be the space shuittle base and some kind of Cobra base. And the damn things are big. We drove up to this guy's house, and it is a nice house. Inside are the guy, his friend, and the guy's wife and her friend. The guy has a complete collection of Transformers in addition to everything else. My husband goes downstairs to look at the merchandise and I'm left with these girls. They are telling me about how they hate toys, and she's tired of all the toys, and that her husband wanted her to go to Botcon, which is funny, because I went to Botcon the previous year with my husband. We load up the entire bed of the truck (with the special parts inside the cab, because they might blow out on the highway or get snatched by a passing hawk or something) and roll out. Even though we now have the aircraft carrier and those other sets, he is still talking about how he can't believe that he finally got it. Little did I know that this is how everything would be during my life with him.

Ah, we ran into the seller of the aircraft carrier a few years back. His darling wife had made him sell off everything or she would leave him, then he sold it and she left him and took half the money. The guy was trying to collect all of the Jakks wrestlers mint-in-box. I'm laughing on the inside because I know that Jakks released about fifty Stone Cold Steve Austins that he would have to collect to have them all - and I realize that I've become part collector too.
From the summer of 1994 to the summer of 1995, I was traveling the world with a suitcase, a garment bag, and a knapsack. Despite these limitations, I managed to pick up a couple of action figures along the way as mascots, like the Carnage figure from the animated Spider-Man line and the first Spawn figure. I'd use them to break the ice with kids at host families I stayed with, and they all found alternate homes along the way.

It was the beginning of November and I'd just started a month-long visit to the Quebec province of Canada, when I made it to my first international Toys R Us. There, on the peg, was a figure I'd never gotten around to purchasing before starting my trip: Kane from X-Force. I picked him up for fear that I'd never see one again (yeah, a bit naive back then) and stashed him in my suitcase.

For the next TWO MONTHS I carried him in my luggage, doing everything I could to keep the card in mint condition (rather than thinking I could, I don't know, SEND IT HOME). I rearranged shirts, shoes, books, and all of the rest of what I was carrying all around this one figure. Even things like my audio recording setup.

It was a miserable failure. By the time I took a break for Christmas, the edges were tattered, the card was curved and creased, and it looked like it had something like 10 years of shelf wear. But dammit, I still had a MOC Kane!

While I sold off my X-Men figure collection several years ago, I still have Kane, still mint on extremely battered card, to remind myself that I'm collecting toys because I think they're cool, and if I can't play with them, then perhaps they're better left for another collector.
Mikey K. (Submitted on his behalf)
Back in 1999, Star Wars Episode I was going to be released, and he came home after New Comics Day wide-eyed. "They're going to do a midnight release for Episode I!" I immediately rolled my eyes, because I knew he was going to want to go out at midnight to find these toys. But that would be okay - how many people would be out there at midnight getting these things? Over the months leading up to the release, he told us more about the release. There was some massive amount of new figures coming out, plus vehicles, Lego sets, 12 inch figures, "Jabba Glob using the original molds!" - his words. He said he didn't want to go to the TRU in our own neighborhood, as the scalpers would probably be there buying everything - in the late 90's, every other word out of his mouth about toys was "scalpers" - so he wanted to drive over to New Jersey to go to the store there, because there would be nobody looking for these in New Jersey. On a cold night, he picked me up and a bunch of friends. We had two carloads of assorted geeks and nerds looking for the new figures - for a movie that no one had even seen yet. Yep, the nerds wanted to get toys for a movie that hadn't even been released yet. But they were convinced that the toys were going to be pure gold, Jerry, gold!

We get to the TRU in Jersey around 11:15 pm - and there are about 100 people in line. For Episode I toys. We get in line. Another 100 people line up behind us. At midnight, madness occurs. Nerds are running throughout the store into the pegs. One guy gets pushed into the pegs and screams. A young woman who works there pushes a cart of sealed cases down an aisle - the cart is mobbed. "I can't find Darth Maul!" yells Some Guy. He has disappears into a crowd of nerds. Another guy with us, Chris, has grabbed a cart; the general plan seems to be "grab everything you can, bring it back to the cart for sorting." Since we need multiple sets of every figure, this could take a while. Eventually, everyone has returned to the cart and is sorting through. Of course, there is some item that has sold out or wasn't available. So He says "let's go to another TRU!" Three more TRUs later, the adventure has ended. There are three sets of these figures and everybody bought some of the vehicles - He bought all of the Lego sets too, of course - and there is finally time to examine all of the figures. "Who the f*** is Chancellor Vallorum?" says one guy from South Philly. I roll my eyes - the nerds will never learn.

Posted by charlie on March 21st 2010, 07:14 PM
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