Thursday, February 26, 2004
Old toys bring joyful memories
By VICTORIA ALDRICH
NEWS-JOURNAL STAFF WRITER
DAYTONA BEACH — Growing up on Edith Drive, my uncle Bruce and his friends fought monumental battles with their toy soldiers and G.I. Joe dolls, "executing" the losing armies and pocking our yard with mass graves filled with tiny plastic and metal corpses.
Marie Miller, 72, dusts one of her dolls, January 29, 2002. She has over 400 of them in her Ormond Beach home and is preparing along with other members of the East Florida Doll Collectors Guild, who come from all over Volusia and Flagler, for the 24th annual show February 9 at the Ormond Beach Rec. Center. (Photo: News-Journal/Joanna Kaney)
At age 43 and an ex-soldier himself, he still collects G.I. Joe memorabilia and looks a lot like that doll, who had a bristly beard and a gnarly stare. It's a shame he didn't keep those little soldiers since they'd probably be worth a small fortune today.
Poor old Stretch Armstrong might even have amounted to something had he not died a sticky death, spewing goo all over my brother and me during "open heart surgery."
Those of you who hid a pre-1970 Japanese toy robot, Mrs. Beasley doll, Tonka die-cast truck or Flash Gordon rocket from Mom's spring cleaning binges should visit the International Toy Collectors Association's Toy Roadshow, which began Wednesday and runs through Saturday at the Hampton Inn Daytona Beach Speedway, 1715 W. International Speedway Blvd. You might leave a little richer, according to the consortium's vice president, George McCurley.
"We rarely do a show where we don't give away at least $20,000 to $50,000 so it's like winning the daily lottery," he said. "That's what's cool, some of these offers never get offered or matched again. Some will come away with just enough to buy dinner, while others may come away with the down payment for a house."
Based in the small town of Athens, Ill., near the state capital of Springfield, the group buys vintage toys using a wish list of about 5,400 die-hard toy junkies around the world, "whatever old hippies and baby boomers like," McCurley said jokingly.
For example, a person selling a mint-condition 1937 Shirley Temple doll will be matched to buyers who've specified the price they are willing to pay. The highest bid gets the prize, so McCurley said that some collectors offer outrageous amounts for toys they crave.
He characterized them mostly as baby boomers seeking toys from their youth. That's the reason the association doesn't solicit toys made after 1970, though there are exceptions.
"There are a lot of toys in the pre-1975 bubble that are worth more now to collectors than some vintage toys," he said, explaining that Barbie and G.I. Joe dolls are always in demand, along with space toys and robots, which are hot now.
"A lot of people dream about being involved with the aerospace or space technology industries," he said. "Anything related to a television or movie celebrity is good. I think it was a childhood dream for many children to grow up and be ventriloquists with their Charlie McCarthy dolls."
According to McCurley, our vintage blue Darth Vader light sabers aren't worth much now. Perhaps they would have been in a few years, had they not vanished after one duel to the death too many.
Pretty soon, those old Strawberry Shortcake dolls, Smurf figures and Pound Puppies may be worth something more than a ribbing from your children.
"In 2010, I'll be saying that people should bring in toys made in 1980. A person born in 1980 will be 30 and maybe have some money in their pockets and they'll want to find things from their childhood," he said.
McCurley has some tips for prospective sellers. Don't try to clean anything, since that can damage a toy. Broken or rusty toys often are valuable since collectors often seek spare parts, meaning a Barbie whose hair was butchered by an aspiring little hairdresser isn't a total loss.
Hand-painted metal toys made between 1880 and the 1930s, vintage mechanical banks, model trucks with hard rubber tires and rare or foreign toys also are in high demand, so McCurley said not to worry if an old wind up or doll is damaged. His favorite find was a vintage 1880 Old Lady and the Shoe mechanical bank, for which an investment banker paid $326,000.
"It was in exceptional condition," he said. "Just bring the entire toy box with you, don't prejudge what you think we will think it's worth."