Toy Talk - Trapped in Time


You'll find there are a variety of tastes when it comes to the final plight of those prized collectibles. Are you the guy or gal who on purchasing that coveted action figure, rip it open at first chance? Or do you lust over it, again and again in its original packaging, as if it were to lose its soul if removed from its cardboard prison?

Or perhaps, like me, you're down the middle. You've already established that certain collectibles will not see the light of day. However, on the other hand, there are things that the kid in you scream, this item must be touched and displayed to be fully appreciated!

There was a time when the notion of keeping something, such as a toy, in its original package, seemed somewhat outlandish. The box served its purpose to transport and keep safe its contents. And the toy? Well, it was meant for playing. So why do we do it? Why do I do it? It's an undeniable fact that things hold their value when kept in pristine status. But is gaining value the sole reason for this superfluous behavior?

Keeping those action figures glued to the card or those bulky vehicles sealed in the box may very well preserve the value and in many cases increase it. But, when it comes to storing that collectible in its packaging, value is only one part of the bigger picture. Many, like myself, search for treasured items from our past that gave rewarding sentiment, that has left a permanent impress into our minds.

Let's illustrate the point. Walking through a toy aisle, was like strolling through an array of colorful candy. You couldn't help but be enamored by the eccentric images, exciting blurbs, and overhead kiosks. You see, the packaging art and verbiage were all part of the overall experience. From the time you craved it in the toy aisle, from the time you walked to the checkout. You knew every part of that box or card back, that is now been etched in your mind. Your emotions of anticipation and joy inundated every moment until the seal was broken.

I distinctly remember, sometime in the mid-eighties, being in the Kmart toy aisle, scanning the shelves, and sifting through the pegs. Once my eyes spotted something of interest, on to find mom, who had just reminded me she wasn't buying anything. Of course, that did not stop me, as we all know with tact, and persistence you may be able to reverse that parental decree. In this case, my efforts paid off, as I had won that battle and walked out the store with a Jabba the Hutt Playset.

Old location of Kmart in Poway, California. Ever want to stroll through memory lane? Simply go to Google maps. There is a time machine function that lets you see street view back to 2007! Certainly not far enough but you will be surprised just how much things have changed in just a short period, at least in my neighborhood. I found this tool useful in particularly digging for old memories that otherwise would have been completely forgotten.

I have many memories like this, but this particular event has remained clear in my head for over 30 years. So much, that I remember the time of day and the exact store I was at. But I wondered, can those feelings surface again so many years later?

When in my mid-thirties, I set out on a quest to regain all the toys I had as a kid. Jabbas Playset was on the top of my list. Of course, I paid the higher secondary market price, but on receiving him, something priceless happened. Holding that box, dated 1983, did something that many of you have experienced. It took me back. Yes, this old toy represented so much. Not just a time period but a discernable awareness. An awareness of what it was like to be nine again. Did I open it? No, mine is sealed, and it will remain that way. Why? I'm not exactly sure but perhaps keeping that 80's slug within the confines of the cardboard box, I somehow preserve that novelty of eager anticipation. To occasionally pull it out and hold it in my hands transports me back to the rear seat of our 1976 beige VW Beetle, on the way home.

Now, on the other hand, there are times I must set those toys free. Stuff, that as a kid, I carried with me in my pocket, or stored in that old Vans shoe box underneath my bed. Here is where another type of collector in me exposes himself. With hours of interaction, my toys got full use. Ahh, the stories I would create! Worlds I would visit! It was like I was watching a new movie unfold each evening, and I was the director. Laying down at eye level, I saw things from a unique perspective that as an adult I somehow forget. Yes, these characters and situations were real and holding them in my hands today, rekindles that youthful imagination years later.​

Collecting packaged toys does create specific challenges. The foremost is storage! Perhaps you're limited on space, this can cause you to rethink your options. For me, it was just a matter of choosing my battles. As I have gotten older, however, my appetite for packaged items is starting to wane. More and more I am finding myself opening new toys just like my younger self did. I can't worry about their potential future value or get distressed if it drops to the floor. Eventually, at some point just like you, those toys will be gone.

So whether you strictly collect boxed and sealed toys or you buy them loose as a goose, the outcome is the same, delight. Delight in the connecting with that kid in you and letting him know, you didn't forget.

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