“Although we’ve come to the end of the road…” Yes, this is the last time we’ll be introducing a topic for this series and after the new year we’ll be back to something more familiar. For now we can play around because all of December is dedicated to something that will be bought in abundance this month. No, not gift cards, but toys.
From the classics like Barbie and Hot Wheels to the trends such as Giga Pets and Tickle Me Elmo, toys are never going to go out of style. Yes, Giga Pets are now relics of the past but I just saw a commercial for the sadder version, Tamagotchi, the other day — so hey, someone is still into handheld, virtual pets.
So because it’s a huge consumer month for toys and because they are the things we couldn’t get enough of as kids, and even today — we’re going to dive into the toy box.
Toy Facts & Stats
- Barbie may be the best selling toy of all time, but do you know the yo-yo comes in right behind her?
- Brobible.com named Furby the stupidest toy ever. No, they really should’ve declared it the creepiest.
- An 18k gold Game Boy will set you back $25,000.
- In 1984 the first teddy bear museum was opened in Petersfield, Hampshire, England.
- The world’s largest LEGO structure was completed in Budapest in 2014 and stands 114 feet high.
Fan Focus: Fandomania’s Founding Father
There are no words to express how thankful I am for Jason Dorough. He and his wife Celeste run this site not because it makes them contenders to be on the upcoming revival of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, but because they are passionate individuals who love it. I’m even more thankful they allow me to submit something every week that’s usually me just going on and on about this and that in a manner that mirrors a 12-year-old with too much to say.
I knew Jason was the guy to go to for something when it came to this series, but it was a matter of what. He knows about a lot of things but, being a toy fanatic and avid collector, this is where he ended up so that’s where we are today. So let’s get to it because he had a lot to say.
Kendra: First off, what was your favorite toy growing up?
Jason: I don’t know that I had just one individual favorite toy, but I was all about my collection of Star Wars toys. That is the series that was my gateway into geekdom, and it’s still my biggest fandom. I was very much a Star Wars kid when I was growing up, so most of my best toy memories have to do with my Star Wars action figures and playsets. I also was big into M.A.S.K., He-Man, G.I. Joe, and all those other great ’80s toy lines, but the Star Wars ones always were my favorites.
Kendra: Do you still happen to have it or a variation of it, like maybe not the exact one but you managed to find it on eBay as an adult?
Jason: Even though I played with all my toys all the time when I was a kid, I somehow managed to keep them all in good shape. I do still have my whole Star Wars action figure collection from when I was little, and about 12 or 15 years ago I had wall-mounted display cases made for all of them. I still collect new Star Wars stuff, a lot of which is just new versions of the original toys, but all those vintage Kenner toys are very much present and accounted for in my collection today.
Kendra: I think everyone has that connection to playthings, but what’s your personal connection to collecting toys today?
Jason: I’m a huge fan of all sorts of things, most of them geeky, and collecting stuff that’s connected to those characters that I love gives me a tangible and visible connection to my fandom. We have toys and statues on display throughout the house, and we have plans to build or buy even more shelving so that we can fill up even more wallspace with this stuff. Gaming, watching, and reading all are fantastic escapes, and being able to see little pieces from those fantastical universes throughout our house makes me feel like I’m where I belong. I turned toy collecting into a career 15 years ago when I started an online retail store. I’m getting out of that now, because most of the time when you monetize something you enjoy you run the risk of losing your original enjoyment and making it all about the business. I’m looking forward to being out of the collectibles business so that I can just focus on being a collector and fan again.
Kendra: Lauren said back in August that there definitely is a high you get when you find a new piece to add to your collection. Do you agree?
Jason: Most of what I collect now are newly released items, so the high comes for me when I first see something really cool get announced or unveiled somewhere like Comic-Con or Toy Fair. There’s usually a fairly long lead time (anywhere from several months to over a year) between when a new toy or statue is announced and when it actually releases, so my big excitement point comes when I see the advance pictures for the first time and know I want to get whatever it is. It’s very cool when whatever it is eventually arrives into my collection, but the biggest high is when I first find out that it’s being made.
Kendra: Hypothetically speaking since we all know Celeste is a sweetheart and would never — BUT is there one piece in your toy collection she could do some harm to that’d kill you?
Jason: I’d certainly be sad to have any of my collectibles damaged, but at the end of the day it’s all just molded plastic and resin. With the Internet, it’s not as hard to replace collectibles as it once was, although it can get expensive. I have a Ms. Marvel statue that I’ve seen on eBay selling for $1000-1500, so things like that would hurt to see damaged. From a sentimental standpoint, I guess toys that I’ve had from my childhood would be the hardest to have destroyed, because any replacement wouldn’t be the exact same pieces I grew up with. But there’s nothing she could accidentally (because she’s into this stuff, too, and wouldn’t intentionally break anything) wreck that would be a deal-breaker for me.
Kendra: Was there ever a period in your life where you thought, “I’m too mature for this?”
Jason: Never! Becoming “too mature” for something that still feels fun really is just convincing yourself that you should feel guilty about liking something based on nebulous rules in society. My interests have evolved and shifted around over the years, but collecting toys never has been something I felt like I shouldn’t do, just because of my age or maturity level. I built a career around fandom and collectibles, so I was able to evolve my love for this sort of thing in a way that tracked into my adulthood in a quasi-responsible way. There are some things I used to collect that I’m not into anymore, but I think that has more to do with my taste changing over time than with my age making me too cool for the hobby in general. Over the past few years I’ve been collecting more high-end statues like the ones made by Sideshow Collectibles and Gentle Giant than standard toys and action figures. Those statues are designed for and marketed specifically to adults, so my own interest fits right into the intended demographic.
Kendra: To branch out and talk more about toys in general, do you think toy stores are dying out because of the Internet or because kids just like crap like apps now?
Jason: Not being a parent myself, I don’t see or know what kids are into these days, and my sector of the collecting world mostly has to do with adult collectors. I don’t know the overall factors causing physical toy stores to shut down, but I do know that adult collectors have an easier time finding the things they want online. And a lot of the time the physical stores just don’t or can’t carry the niche items collectors are looking for. Just look at the recent and ridiculous petition that’s caused Toys “R” Us not to carry Breaking Bad action figures. There’s no reason for collectors to take the time and energy to go out to a store like that when they could order what they want online, and probably for cheaper.
Kendra: Kids that are into toys — should they be kids and just play or should they start their collections young?
Jason: Kids absolutely should play with their toys. I’m not a big believer in leaving toys in their packaging, even as an adult collector. But kids especially should open up their toys and play with them. Part of the value in building a toy collection later in life is its link to nostalgia and the memories of the factor of coolness you felt about toys when you were little. If you grow up in a museum, you’ll never really “get” a big aspect of what makes toys awesome. Besides, toy collecting isn’t something anyone should get into just for the monetary returns. Most toys won’t even keep their retail value, so it’s a dicey thing to gamble on. You should get into toy collecting because you like having the toys, not because you think you’ll be able to retire on them someday (because you most assuredly won’t be able to do that!).
Kendra: Just because I’m curious… to you, what are the coolest and stupidest toys that have ever been sold, past and/or present?
Jason: Some of my favorite current toys are the 1/6 scale action figures made by Hot Toys. Hot Toys is a production house based in Hong Kong that creates really stunning versions of pop culture characters. The toys’ faces always are uncanny in their likenesses, and the figures are super-poseable and always come with a lot of cool accessories. These figures are high-end and pretty expensive, so they’re marketed to collectors and not for kids to play with. Because of that, they can make stuff you wouldn’t typically see made as kids’ toys. I have Hot Toys figures from things like Inglourious Basterds, Sucker Punch, and other surprising licenses. Of course, they also make toys from expected areas like Marvel, DC, and Star Wars.
For me, the stupidest toys are ones that capitalize on a popular character or brand but present it in some way that makes no sense whatsoever. For example, I remember seeing a Batman action figure a long time ago that came packaged with some sort of battle rig thing you could strap him into, and the thing was just covered in guns. Because that’s what Batman likes to do, right? Straight up murder fools from his combat rig? You see a lot of this silly kind of stuff coming from the bigger toy companies. There have been so many “deluxe” packs from Star Wars that will come with, say, Boba Fett and then some ridiculous fuschia-colored vehicle thing that never appeared in any source material and that no self respecting Mandalorian would use. There’s even a line called Star Wars Choppers, where Luke and Darth Vader come on these ridiculous looking motorcycles. You know, from that episode of Sons of Alderaan.
Toy Icon: Barbie
She’s a Barbie girl just taking over the world. Yes, her stock took a hit when those disfigured Bratz dolls came out and today Monster High are on the top of every girl’s list, but neither can compare to the timeless ways of Barbie and her world that has her as everything from a McDonald’s worker to a doctor. She spans the spectrum in terms of occupations, fashion, and imagination. Even I was under her spell as a kid and when I told someone that recently, they said, “Really, you don’t seem like the kind of girl who would’ve been into dolls.” Yes, this tomboy was obsessed with her Barbies, Skippers, and Kellys and only retired from them because she got into boy bands and would rather have a Bop magazine instead of a new doll. Do I wish I could still play with them and not seem like a creep? Most definitely sometimes. Anyways, Barbie continues to stand the test of time and when the world ends she’ll go down as the coolest toy to have ever lived.
Next week an interview with a guy who gets to make those Pop! Vinyl’s we can’t get enough of!