Over the past year, I've made an effort to parse down, document, and complete areas in my toy collection which I have amassed over much of my life. Having a house with my wife has enabled me the space to clean out my parents' attic, and understanding how my collecting has changed over the years has lead me to believe that the days of opening a giant box of mystery toys is over.
I was always into my toys a bit more than the rest of my peers as a kid. It could be due to the fact that I generally didn't have as many, but I was also a child who delighted in the imagination of the toys that were out there. While my toy collecting has gone through periods of feast and famine, it's fortunately never been broken up or sold off over the years. As I attempt to finish a number of toys in my collection, I have reflected on how they came into my possession. A small number of figures I received as a child. Typically, I still have the boxes and most of the accessories in this instance. Many more toys came as part of lunchroom dealings and trading/buying off other kids who grew tired of their figures. The majority of my collection, however, came when my collecting heated up in the 90's. There was a lot to love about collecting toys in the 90's. The Internet was young, and ebay was not yet the toy Mecca, but for those looking to do the legwork, there was treasure out there. On the weekends, my friends and I would load into a car, and make the rounds. Yard sales and flea markets were at the peak of productivity. Being the 90's, there were more toys from the 70's and 80's just hanging around. Parents cleaned out garages of their kids who were now beyond the age of appreciating toys, and sold them off en masse on their front lawns. Flea market dealers were not as educated about toys (outside of Star Wars) so there was a lot of scores to be had. The local dump featured a 'swap hut' filled with free unwanted toys that were one step away from a landfill. Comic book and toy shops were choked with customers. If that wasn't enough, WantAds were another resource for the avid collector.
But, it wasn't all roses and rainbows. Due to the nature of where these toys came from, it was a small miracle to find even one accessory. Condition of toys from shops and conventions was always a problem. Dealers would say things like, "It's missing [blank] but where else are you going to find one of these rare [blank]?" Back then, it was true. Forget trying to complete collections, it was enough to try and find one or two scarce figures. Prices were set regionally and were sometimes extortionate. For all the deals that could be found at the bottom, at the upper end, there was no regulating force like ebay to establish prices and keep sellers honest. Information wasn't as easy to find, either. There have been instances where I didn't even realize a figure was missing a part until the Internet informed me years later. Currently, the Internet has unburdened the collector for leg and guess work. It seems that anything can be found online - as long as you are willing to pay.
I often longed for the camaraderie and adventure of collecting back in the 90's. I miss the excitement of buying a box of unidentified toys from the 80's and separating it into toy lines. However, now that I have experienced life with ebay and being able to source anything, complete, it would be hard to go back. I still feel amazement when I go on ebay and see how many Dune Sandworms, Clash of the Titan Krakens or 24" Shogun Warriors there are for sale. Those were Holy Grail toys! Now, a paypal linked account can have them at your doorstep by the end of the week. It's not easy, being spoiled like that after so many years of scrounging together figures. 15 years ago, it would be enough to have Centurions with a gun or two. Now, the thought of incomplete figures sitting around is enough to give me fits.
Yesterday, two small parcels arrived in the mail. One package I received had a reproduction hammer for my Mego Thor, and the other package had the boots and belt for my Mego Iron Man. Both of these figures I picked up in the 90's. The Iron Man was a flea market score. He was missing the parts I mentioned, but he was otherwise in fine condition and only $3. The Mego Thor came from a toy shop and cost me a whopping $75. He was missing his bracers, belt and hammer when I bought him, but you know, when else was I going to find such a rare figure?
Each package in the mail brings me a little closer to 'completing' my collection, but for the most part, collecting in the 90's is why I'm still looking for parts today. I'm sure many people can relate.