Have we learned nothing from Beanie Babies® (other than how the real mercurial stock market works)? And to whom will we leave these pristine toys?
We called it The Intersection. As in, "Let's go down to The Intersection and get a Co-Cola" (our truncated patois not only for Coca-Cola®, but any soft drink in general). There were any number of intersections dotting the 3⁄4 mile or so between my trailer and The Intersection, but this one was The One because of the stores: The Piggly Wiggly grocery store, Pitner-Brewster hardware store, Lile's Drugs, and, best of all, Mullins' Five & Dime. My sister Carolyn was the head cashier at the Piggly Wiggly, and I eventually worked there as a stock boy; I bought my first real target arrows at Pitner-Brewster (goodbye, rubber suction tips!); I bought crack vial-shaped bottles of pure cinnamon oil at Liles in which I soaked toothpicks (just like all the cool kids at school); but I spent most of my grass cutting money at Mullins'.
Mr. and Mrs. Mullins weren't a lot of fun, at least not to us kids. It could've had something to do with the fact that many of us visited them at least once a day during the summer (they were air conditioned!) and we rarely bought anything (we were poor!), but we were unfailingly polite (shoplifting wasn't even a consideration!). I spent many an afternoon, like Dionne, wishin' and hopin' and dreamin' that I could save up enough money to buy Silly Putty®, Wham-O Superballs®, a Secret Sam Attache© Case®, and, most of all, the newly introduced Hot Wheels® cars. I cannot recall exactly how many Hot Wheels® there were in that initial run, sixteen or so, but they hung from the peg board hangers like jewels, all metallic and candy colored. My favorite was the futuristic, bubble-topped Silhouette, and it was the first I bought.
No doubt much to the absolute chagrin of serious toy collectors, I ripped open the package as I left Mullins', eager to play with my new toy. I'm sure I carried it home in the pocket of my Sears Husky jeans, peddling my banana seat bicycle as quickly as I could. I played with that Silhouette until the paint was chipped and the springy axle system sagged. Would I love to have that car now? Sure! Do I regret the joy playing with that toy brought to me, though this collector's item has been lost to time like so much effluvia of my youth? No.
If you've surfed at eBay these days, you know that toy collecting is big business, fed, no doubt, by the twin desires to either make money or reclaim long-gone childhoods. Toy manufacturers know this, and they flood the market with the latest Thing That Must Be Bought by children. Have we learned nothing from Beanie BabiesÂ® (other than how the real mercurial stock market works)? And to whom will we leave these pristine toys? Our children? Will they keep them unopened, mint condition, and climate-controlled until they, too, can pass them on to their children (along with the same passion for preservation)?
Upon growing up, I was bitten by the collecting bug, too. When Conde Nast reintroduced Vanity Fair back in the early 80s, I subscribed thinking the magazine wouldn't last and I'd have the entire collection. Well, VF still going strong, and I still have a subscription. Ditto for Entertainment Weekly (Who graced the first cover? k. d. lang [as a new, up-and-coming artist!]). Everybody seemed to hate Jar Jar Binks from Star Wars, so I was able to collect all things Jar Jar at bargain prices (Do you have an unused tube of Colgate Jar Jar Binks toothpaste or an unopened Jar Jar Binks board game? I didn't think so.). But the past couple of years have been somewhat of a watershed for me. I don't want my family to sell all of my treasures in a yard sale for a fraction of their value. To whom am I going to leave all of this stuff? I started small. I gave away some of my Jar Jar Binks collectables to the young son of dear friends who I know for a fact is playing with the toys, not keeping them pristine. In these dangerous economic times I am even considering letting my two decades-plus subscriptions to Vanity Fair and Entertainment Weekly lapse. Heck, I can read them free at Barnes & Noble while drinking a venti soy latte. The hard part will be giving away any CDs I have replaced with newer remastered releases (Do you have any idea how many times the back catalogs of David Bowie and Elvis Costello have been released, re-released, and re-re-released?).
It is scary folks, but, the older I get, the more I am convinced that toys were made for playing, CDs were made for listening, and magazines were made for ephemeral enjoyment.
Of course, if there are any investors out there who are interested . . .