If you are of a certain age, perhaps some of the following names may give you a shiver of joy: Matchbox; Lite-Brite; Slinky; Easy-Bake Oven; Mr. Machine; Rockem’ Sockem’ Robots.
Depending on your philosophy regarding collectibles—whether you’re in it for the love or the money—Quentin Tarantino is either the best or worst kind of collector. Tarantino, a fount of encyclopedic knowledge about popular culture, reportedly has an enviable collection of vintage board games based on movies and TV shows. But he does not keep them under wraps, Famously, he played the “Welcome Back, Kotter” board game with John Travolta when the director was trying to convince him to costar in “Pulp Fiction.”
Conventional investment wisdom says this is a no-no. Unsealed items, or those not in their original packaging—even if in good condition—can lose half their value (of course if Tarantino and Travolta autographed that game, it would probably go through the roof).
Adults, taking their cue from Corinthians, are apt to put away childish things as they grow up. But when people remember the way they were, it’s more than just the laughter they will remember. It’s the games, the toys, the movies and TV shows, the hobbies, the dolls, the action figures, and other touchstones of their youth. Nostalgia, perhaps more than investment value, is the powerful engine that drives interest in vintage and classic toys.
As with all collectibles, experts advise only to buy and collect what you truly love. If you are of a certain age, perhaps some of the following names may give you a shiver of joy: Matchbox; Lite-Brite; Slinky; Easy-Bake Oven; Mr. Machine; Rockem’ Sockem’ Robots; Colorforms; Give-a-Show Projector; ViewMaster; Venus Paradise Coloring Sets; G.I. Joe; and of course, Barbie.
It’s not just Baby Boomers, the first TV generation, who are avid vintage and classic toy collectors. When asked who some of their biggest buyers were, an employee of the Volo Auto Museum in Volo, Illinois, which features several antique toy dealers, replied, “Hipsters buying ‘Star Wars.’” Millennials, too, might be moved to nostalgic reverie over Power Rangers, Pokemon, Furby, K’Nex, and Hit Clips.
But perhaps the most enthusiastic new generation of vintage and toy collectors currently is Gen Xers, offered Sharon Sullivan, an employee at Time Tunnel Vintage Toys & Collectibles in San Jose, CA. The most popular items include toys from the 1980s and ‘90s such as Transformers” Geneation 1. “Gen Xers are at an age where they have gotten their first really good jobs, so they can afford toys that take them back to their childhood.”
Experts recommend holding on to toys for at least one generation. The prices mint condition vintage and classic toys can fetch are anything but kid stuff. An extremely rare rocket firing Boba Fett Star Wars Figure (which was recalled and re-released without said projectile) may sell for up to $5,000. A 1961 Magirus Deutz Crane “Matchbox No. 30” with a light brown body and attached red crane has sold for $13,000. The G.I. Joe prototype is considered one of the holy grails of toy collecting. In 2008, Mandatory.com reports, a figure was sold at a Comic-Con auction for $200,000. Now that’s a lot of action.
Sullivan also offered these tips for the budding collector:
· “Collection the best you can afford, condition wise. That will pay of later for resale.”
· Collect only what you like. We never sold Beanie Babies here, though people were going nuts for them thinking they would be a big investment. Now you see them three in a bag at thrift stores.”
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.