Category: Uncategorized

Where Do You Hunt, Part 3

In this series I’ve described the places I ‘hunt’ for my various collection and resale items.  In the first round I covered garage sales and thrift stores; in part two I discussed flea markets.  Now it is time for perhaps the best known hunting grounds…

EBay (and other online markets)

Ah, EBay.  Perhaps the largest online source for used and new items, where people can create accounts and buy and sell almost anything.  Here you have an array of sellers, from casual ‘it’s time to clean out this closet’ people to professional stores run full time as someone’s main source of income. Because of this, the type of goods can really vary, as can the seller-set prices and description qualities.  I’m going on the assumption that you have at least glanced at EBay before now and have a passing understanding of how it works.  If not, feel free to post questions in the comments and go on over and take a stroll through their marketplace.

To buy on EBay is pretty easy- you basically need to create a user name and password, and set up a Paypal account.  EBay has a lot to offer buyers- the vast and varied goods, a guarantee of receiving your money back if the deal goes bad (within reason), and the chance to get a steal via auction or Buy-it-Nows.

Buying on EBay

Most of this advice will work across multiple platforms, including some of the new ‘app’ stores like Poshmark and Mercari.

First, look closely at the pictures and description! Don’t rush in to buy only to figure out the item is in poor shape, or not everything is included.  While you can back out of a purchase it can be tricky and put black marks on our account.  Also, be sure to check the shipping costs! Sometimes sellers will put a low purchase price up but have highly inflated shipping costs.  Check the seller’s feedback and look to see if they take returns- good sellers will have 98% good feedback or higher; returns are more open and many seller’s won’t take them.

Auctions have a proscribed length of time, and the highest bidder wins.  Buy-It-Now’s are just that- a set price that guarantees you the item if you purchase it.  I’ve bought both.  I like knowing I’ll get the item with a BIN, but auctions are lots of fun as well and sometimes you get a steal.  Because of the differences between these two, let’s break this down into two sets of advice:

Buy-It-Nows and Best Offers

My best advice for BIN’s is to save favorite searches and leave the page open, refreshing often.  I usually have EBay open as I work at home, or on my phone, with a favorite search open to the BIN setting.  For example, I’ll have my seach term be something like “Vintage G1 MLP My Little Pony”, set it for BIN only, and then select “Newest”.  This means that every time I refresh, I get the latest/newest listings.

dsc_0240_zps7f426e58
Diamond Dreams (red hair) with two other MGR ponies.  I got DD for a good BIN price several years ago.

Why the newest? Because there is always the chance that you can grab a great deal. Many people are using these sites to clear out old things they don’t value anymore, and they don’t necessarily do a lot of market research before they set their price.  This means that along with some crazy high prices, there are often some crazy low ones.

On EBay, sellers can also include a feature called “Or Best Offer”.  Like it sounds, this means that you can make an offer different from the set price.  You type your offer, including any extras like free shipping, and the seller has 24 hours to respond.  As with any deal, there is an art to shaving off $ from the price without offending your seller.  Proceed with caution- once you make an offer the seller accepts, you have committed to buy.

Best Finds: AG doll for my daughter, with two outfits, for 30.00 plus shipping; Lot of seven AG dolls plus tons of accessories and a horse, 200.00 (including two rare dolls I sold for over 100 each), various rare ponies for around 5.00-8.00.

Biggest Drawbacks:  Sitting with your browser open can be a time sink and distraction; you have to know your market so you can make buying decisions quickly; and you’ll see the ones that got away-I’ve spent too much time thinking about those before!

Best Strategies:  Know your market, including often misidentified items and the ones that go for high dollar, and know your timing.  For example,  a lot of toys go up for sale in the afternoon and evening, when moms and dads are home clearing out closets.  I make sure I have my browser open during those times.  Have the confidence and knowledge to buy quickly when the opportunity arises- the best deals are gone within 5-15 minutes sometimes!  I will do best offers, trying to get a good deal but not scalp the seller.  If your buyer doesn’t accept your offer you can still opt to pay the BIN price.

 

Well, that became quite a long entry!  I’ll cover auctions next time.  Thanks for reading!

 

 

Where Do You Hunt?

Where do you hunt for treasure? I have found that thrifters, much like fishermen, are reluctant or downright impossible to pin down on their “best spots”.   And as a thrifter myself, I share that reluctance.  I’ve spent untold hours exploring grungy charity shops, strange flea markets where the people watching was far better than the merchandise, and odd neighborhoods with just the right age homeowners selling off 80’s toys.  I don’t want to share only to have you get there before me and get all the ‘good stuff’.

Of course, that position becomes a little awkward as a blogger whose express purpose is sharing things…

So I thought I would share my general observations about different locations.  This also works in that most of you probably don’t happen to live in my city; hopefully my observations will be relevant for your area, too. Today I’ll talk about garage sales and thrift stores; next, flea markets and online sites. Please chime in with your own comments and observations!

 

Garage Sales

These are definitely a mixed bag.  First you have to find them.  Then, they have to actually have the things you are looking for, and finally, the price has to be realistic.  Not to mention you have to get up early if you want the best things!  I have dedicated whole days to garage sales only to come home with nothing in the toy or vintage area.  That being said, I’ve also gone to a few where I hit paydirt, and found useful items for my home or family along the way.  And when the price is good, it’s often very very good- spare change for excellent vintage stuff that to the owner is junky old toys and housewares. I like to find church sales and neighborhood sales to help ensure there is enough there to look at.

Best Finds: Nice Bitty Baby doll for 50 cents(!); set of 10 vintage Culver glasses for 2.00 that now grace my bar at home; various pieces of vintage jewelry for .50-1.00.

Biggest Drawbacks: Time needed to hunt; small sales with nothing you are interested in; crazy prices from attached owners:)

Best Strategies: Be early; be willing to dig; have change and small bills on-hand; learn your neighborhoods and keep track of regular church and neighborhood sales

Thrift Stores

These are my mainstay as a thrifter, collector, and reseller.  Their strength is their reliability, especially chain charity stores such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army.  They receive a ton of stock, they are open particular hours, and they often (but not always!) have reasonable prices and a pricing scheme you can understand.  Items are usually stored/displayed in a meaningful way, too, so you can concentrate on your own areas of interest.  However, those strengths lead to one of their biggest weaknesses- everyone hunts there!  Often you have to be early or lucky regarding getting the best things.  And they sometimes don’t take good care of their items- many is the beautiful piece I have found in pieces, carelessly jumbled on a shelf or stuffed in a bag of other porcelain items (why?!).  Sometimes they even damage the item themselves with their pricing methods (I’m looking at you and your sharpie markers, Goodwill!).

I have developed a couple of regular circuits I travel depending on the amount of time I have where I routinely check for items. I find that each store has its own personality and often seems to specialize in certain types of items.  Some are great for toys, some for furniture, others for dishes and knicknacks.

Best Finds: Numerous 1980’s My Little Ponies for 2.00-10.00 a bag; American Girl Doll for 4.00; gorgeous vintage yellow and cream dresser 1970’s dresser that is now my buffet for 35.00; half my work wardrobe with no piece over 10.00…

Biggest Drawbacks: Picked over merchandise; broken items; sometimes silly prices in non-chain shops; sometimes in questionable parts of the city

Best Strategies: Be early/ know when they put out stock; shop often; explore to find the stores with the best prices or pieces; know the discount days/cards/ specials they offer

Next I’ll talk about flea market adventures and online sites.

 

 

 

Old Toy Review: My Pretty Pony

From time to time I would like to review some of the vintage toy lines that I enjoy collecting.  Although not a review in the typical sense (you can’t run out and get these at Target after reading about them!) I hope to give a little history and insight into some of our favorite toys.

As I started my collecting with My Little Pony, it seems fitting to begin this series with the start of that one: My Pretty Pony.

History

Before the smaller, colorful ponies that many of us are familiar with came the original My Pretty Pony.  Released by Hasbro in 1981, she was designed by Bonnie Zacherle, who would go on to create the My Little Pony line.

x6emqly
Image courtesy The Stong: National Museum of Play

My Pretty Pony has some big differences between the MLP line that would shortly follow.  In addition to size (see what I did there?) MPP was made of a hard plastic.  She has a downward pose that would be reproduced in the first MLP line (now often called Collector’s Pose), with all legs straight and together and her head fairly bowed. She also sports inset eyes that can open and close, and very thick soft lashes.  Like the ponies that would follow, she had soft, thick, and brushable play hair.  Original accessories included a hat, blanket, brush and comb, and hair ribbons.

The pony also has an internal mechanism triggered by the somewhat awkward but not awful lever on her chin.  Pulling down as if you were giving your pony a chin scratch lets her blink her eye, wiggle her ears, and swish her tail.

Some versions of My Pretty Pony were brown, with white on the legs and face, and blonde hair.  Other versions were more like the My Little Pony toys with a pink or blue/lavender body and symbols on the flanks.  In fact those colorful versions would later be copied in the MLP line.

Thoughts

Because of the size and the hard plastic body, I personally find her to be something of an unwieldy toy.  This might just be in direct comparison to the later ponies, but she seems a bit awkward to me- too big to hold in one hand and ‘gallop’ around, to round in the body for Barbie-size dolls to ride, and the downward facing expression limits imaginary ‘talking’ to me- you have to her at an odd angle to have her look in the ‘face’ of other toys. Not to mention the noticeable lever under the chin that would have really bothered me as a somewhat picky kid. That being said…

s0dujx6

Those eyes!  Oh my goodness, they are gorgeous. Mine are a beautiful pale green color and look like high quality, large doll eyes- they have a lovely soft expression that does really remind me of live horses.  And the lashes are amazing- thick and soft.  They eyes are weighted and so ‘sleep’ if you lay the pony down, and the blinking mechanism adds liveliness to her.

Also, the hair!  Another high quality feature, the hair on my 35 year old toy that I found at a flea market for 3.00 (!) is soft, shiny, and thick.  It is incredibly playable and I think perhaps a slightly different fiber than later My Little Ponys.  The feel of it is soft and slippery and the strands are thicker than the MLPs that I have. It cleaned up easily when washed with shampoo and conditioner.

42o7snq

Finding Today and Things to Look For

As I mentioned above, I found my girl at a local flea for 3.00.  She was pretty dirty and had no accessories, but was otherwise in good shape.

To find her you would need to hunt on sites like Ebay, or local thrifts and flea markets.  The nice thing is My Pretty Pony isn’t nearly as well known as MLP, so in person you can often get these larger toys for very cheap.  Finding her cheaper on an auction sight will be a little harder, but are still usually inexpensive.  Just watch the shipping, as this is a bulkier item.  A quick browse of Ebay sold prices put the brown MPP as going from between 15-40.00 depending on condition and accessories (not including shipping, searched 1/8/17).  The more colorful versions sell for considerably more as they are not as common.

Common problems include the hair being dirty or cut, mechanism no longer working (very very common), and cracks in the body which can get quite brittle.  You will also see the usual wear and tear of scuffs and scratches to the plastic, and stuck sleep eyes.

To Buy or Not to Buy

If you are an MLP fan and have the opportunity to pick on of these girls up I would recommend it.  They are inexpensive and the toy that started My Little Pony!  That being said it’s a larger toy and you’ll want to make sure you have room for it. The backstory, as well as the quality of the hair and eyes, make it a worthy purchase to me.

Sources: My Little Wiki; The Strong National Museum of Play

 

 

 

Thrifting Finds over Break

Over our holiday break, my husband and I had a big thrifting day- being out for hours hitting various thrifts across the city.  I love these days.  Not only do we almost always find something interesting, useful, or unique (or all three!), we enjoy the time together.

Of course my hope is always to find vintage toys or American Girl dolls and items, but when thrifting, you have to leave yourself open to the unexpected…

dsc_0216
Art Nouveau Sash Brooch, 1890s-1910s?

I found this pin (I thought) at a Goodwill near my house that I frequent regularly.  I always glance in the jewelry cases purely for fun- as a teacher I use thrift stores to keep up with trendy items I don’t want to purchase at new prices.  I have an interest in brooches and I really want them to make a comeback, so I’ve been eyeing their selection.  This one caught my eye for the quality of the workmanship, the oak motif and the size.

Once purchased I had to research it more; I could tell it wasn’t a normal brooch.  Not only was it very large, but the pin itself was very thick- far too thick to pierce most clothing items without damaging them.  My first thought was a coat/cloak pin, but I couldn’t find anything similar.  Finally a Google image search started turning up sash pins-sturdy, large decorative pins placed on sashes at the waist or breast during late Victorian times.  Mine doesn’t have a makers mark but the parameters all fit this type of pin, including the basic C clasp and Art Nouveau style.  It’s not everyday I come home with a genuine antique!

Thrifting to me is often playing a game of ‘what doesn’t belong here?’.  Unusual items and high-quality workmanship become easy to spot with some practice.  Leave yourself open to seeing new things and you never know what you will find!

How I Collect

How I Collect

 

There are many different types of collector.  Some people are completist, having to have the entire set, entire years’ worth of items, or even everything ever made for a particular line.  Others will pick and choose different runs or sets and happily let the other toys pass by.  Some people I know of have different parameters, for instance I know of a few pony collectors who are only recreating their childhood herd, or only collecting ponies they find in thrift stores.

As I was drawn more into the world of toy collecting, I realized pretty early on I needed some limits to be comfortable.  There were hundreds of different My Little Ponies made in the 1980’s, and there have been more ‘generations’ of ponies since then.  While I love my toys, I draw a line at having a toy filled house.  Because my interest was first sparked by remembering childhood toys, I have concentrated on those items.  This helped to keep my collection small and somewhat within my budget- a plus as I was in graduate school at the time!

However, as I joined communities I saw many ponies and other toys that were awesome.  Things I’d never seen as a kid, or had known about but didn’t have.  I looked for ways to expand my collecting, but within limits.  After keeping a few ponies with planets and stars as symbols I decided to collect celestial ponies (any pony with a celestial symbol).  At the time I was also teaching an Earth Science course at the local community college, and so the celestial ones also fit in with meaning there (you study space when you study Earth Science, in addition to the Earth itself).  I decided against collecting any non 80’s (G1 or generation one) ponies, as they came along after my childhood toy days were over.  If you combine my childhood heard with the celestial ponies you would have a sizable but not unmanageable (for me) collection, and I liked the defined boundaries of it.

Acquiring Ponies

But..what about all the pretty and unusual ponies that didn’t fit those two categories?  Sometimes you see pictures of something amazing and you just want it.  I gave in to that a few times and had a few odds and ends ponies that I thought were cool.   Sometimes my collecting parameters overlapped with other, interesting groups.  For example, Night Glider is a gorgeous pony covered in stars and planets- covered because she is also a Twice-as-Fancy (TAF) pony.  One of my childhood ponies was Diamond Dreams, a beautiful Merry-Go-Round (MGR) pony.  The more I looked and enjoyed these ponies, the more I wanted others done in that style.  After looking over those groups I decided to include them, as they were small (6 MGR ponies and 12 TAFs).

I do, however, have a specific way I like to acquire my ponies- by thrifting!  I especially love buying dirty and discarded ponies and cleaning them up.  The cheapest way to do this is often to buy lots from thrift stores and flea markets, taking a chance on the contents.  This aspect really appeals to me for a variety of reasons.  I love fixing old items up and seeing their quality shine through.  I love finding things other people didn’t value and revealing their coolness.  I love a bargain, and wanted my thrifting to pay for itself.  What I didn’t realize when I started this was how this aspect keeps my collecting under control.

Because I bought lots and resold the ponies I didn’t want, I have been able to have a variety of ponies and toys pass through my hands.  I get the joy of researching them-their names, who made them, etc.  I get to hold them and shine them up, and then, I let them go.  I have found that for me much of the pleasure of collecting anything- My Little Pony’s, Fairy Tail birds, American Girl dolls- lies is seeing the items, touching them, and fixing them up.  Owning them isn’t actually as important to me as seeing them and researching them.  I still get the thrill of the hunt; a major pleasure for any collector, I think.  I get the excitement of finding something, the thrill of a package in the mail, the joy of opening up a new toy- but without the crowding of my spaces or the pain in my wallet.  I also really enjoy knowing I am passing along these items to new homes and the people that have been looking for them.  This helps me remain satisfied with my small collection.

So, how do you collect?  Does your collecting fill a shelf, a room, or your house?  Are you a completist, or do you just collect what catches your fancy?

 

Review: Evan Doll by Lori

DSC_0163 (3)I wanted to do a quick review of the new Lori Doll, Evan. A new doll in the Lori line of 6inch dolls (aka mini dolls), I purchased him from Target yesterday.

First up-yay, a boy doll!  Does this mean we might eventually see an 18inch boy doll in the Our Generation line?  Maybe-we know Wal-mart’s ‘My Life As’ just introduced them.  I was excited to see this fine gentleman at the store and for ~$10.00 was happy to purchase him, even though I don’t officially collect the Lori line.

He is the exact same size as the Our Generation and American Girl mini dolls. Like the OG and original AG line, he has a soft cloth body and vinyl limbs.  Clothes are interchangeable between the lines.  (Note-AG now has all vinyl minis, who might be more slender.  I don’t currently own any of those and so can’t compare.) .

Both Our Generation and Lori dolls feature inset plastic eyes; the original (vintage) AG minis did as well.  Now AG’s line features painted eyes (see Marie Grace, above, in pink). The inset eyes are more realistic, but can also be wonky as it seems difficult to ensure they both look the same direction.  This Evan doll has an excellent gaze but I passed over one that had a lazy eye.

Evan came in a hanging box with his name on it, dressed in boots, pants, a shirt/vest/tie combo, and an English style riding helmet.  Overall packaging was nice and light- two clear rubberbands and plastic insets anchored him into the box.  But, oh, but-look at the T tags anchoring on the helmet.  That means we have a hole through the helmet and into the head.  How does that look?

Well, not so great:(   He has rooted hair at the top, but the sides are flocked and do nothing to hide the hole on his left side.  How your kiddo would feel about this depends (I suspect many wouldn’t care) but as a collector that is a disappointment.  I damped the flocking and gently rubbed it, but it didn’t help hide the hole.  On his right side the rooted hair hides it.

Holes aside, this doll has a great face.  Their are subtle differences in the face paint that help him be a little more boyish-no painted lashes, slightly thicker and straighter brows, and a more neutral lip color.  He compares well to my OG and AG mini ladies, I think.

His clothing is pretty standard, and I don’t expect mini dolls clothing to be perfectly finished, especially at Target price points.  The boots are slit up the back to get on and off easily, which would be especially important with children.  Pants are a soft cotton fabric and close with velcro.  Shirt, vest, and tie are sewn together and also velcro closed.  Plastic helmet of course has two small holes (sigh) but is nicely flexible and can actually be tightened down to fit and stay on the doll’s head.

Overall I like this doll quite a bit.  I’m excited to see a boy doll and especially pleased with the differences in facepaint that help distinguish between him and other OG/Lori minis.  The clothing is cute and good quality for the price.  Playability when combined with the new Lori stables, horse trailer, and other dolls seems high to me.  My only complaint, and it’s a big one, is that he has actual holes in his head!  There are two other new equestrian dolls that are girls with long hair.  They could have worn a helmet and hidden the anchoring holes; an accessory swap (the two female dolls have different horsey items) would have eliminated this flaw completely with no overall change to the set. I would buy him again, but I also hope that we will see more boy dolls in the future without damage directly from the box.  he is a handsome fellow, however, and how nice to add a boy doll into the play!

The Pull of New Toys…

So today I went to Target, which is always a dangerous proposition for wallets and want lists.  I enjoy cruising the toy aisles for Our Generation Dolls.  This is a line of dolls comparable with American Girl that Target carries exclusively.   And in some ways they give AG real competition; while their quality in dolls and items is less (clothes are thin and often poorly sewn, dolls have very limited face molds, stiff joints, and inexpensive rooted hair) some of their items are almost as good, more creative, and way, way cheaper.

I often look at the dolls and admire the variety of playsets (another thing they do somewhat better than AG, in my opinion) and the cute accessory packs.  However, I don’t often buy anything unless it’s for my daughter and her contemporary dolls.  But today, I gave into temptation and purchased a Lori doll-a boy!

Lori is a newish line of mini-dolls that seem to be the same molds as the Our Generation Mini dolls, and are the same size as AG’s mini dolls.  I have been very impressed with the Lori line since they started out with a bang, producing lovely dolls and a ballet studio for them.  Ag doesn’t offer any mini-doll accessories, let alone playsets.  And lately they have been expanding, coming out with a full dollhouse  and furniture sets. All very mod in style, with cool details like lights that work and neat furniture.  Of course AG minis fit right in there as well…

So upon seeing a boy mini-doll, I decided to purchase him and talk about him on my blog. The world needs more boy dolls, and more acceptance that perhaps boys would like to play with them. I don’t know if he will stick around.  I seem to like the mini-dolls more than my daughter, and he doesn’t fit into my collection.

But the new things Lori is putting out are great, and I can see them being someone’s vintage toy in the future; a toy they spent long hours with and are delighted to find one day at a thrift store, or dig out of their old closet at home.  Perhaps Evan and that awesome house and stable will be my doll’s dolls…

“Evan” with a few lovely AG girls…

And, Evan still at the store, showing off the cool new playsets to go along with him.

What are tactile memories?

What are tactile memories?

Several years ago now, I was talking over childhood memories with my soon-to-be husband, Michael.  I don’t really remember how we got there, but we started talking about childhood toys.  Suddenly, I had a vivid memory of a favorite and long forgotten toy, a small plastic bird with long hair, and little plastic feet that would cling to your finger like a real bird.

I could feel the hard feet and its slightly rough mold lines pinching my pointer finger.  I could smell the plastic and see the chartreuse hairs in the multi-colored tail.  I could also recall the feel of brushing the long hair and the softness of the furred breast of the little bird. A tactile memory.

This was huge for me.  My childhood was somewhat rocky when I was small, and I don’t have a lot of memories of those times.  In particular I don’t have too many clear memories, and timelines and details are fuzzy and almost impossible for me to recall.  But I could remember this little bird.  I could feel it in my hands again and how beautiful my small self found it. My face and voice changed as I described it to Michael.  We were near a computer, and I had to try to find them.

At the time I had no knowledge of the toy collecting community at all.  I wasn’t even sure I would be able to find them, didn’t consider there would be any for sale-I just wanted to know their names, see a picture of them again to lock in that startling, vivid childhood recollection.  But, thanks to living in the age of the internet I did indeed find them again, along with a whole world of toys from my past.  As I browsed pictures and community forums memories came back to me of the toys I had, and the surrounding memories-who I was with, where I was, sharpened accordingly.

Some of these toys were for sale!  Some were even worth…well, more than I had imagined a little plastic item from the 80’s could ever be.  And there were people who proudly owned them, collected them, displayed them, sold them, shared their knowledge in communities full of more people who also liked these toys.  I was tentative a first- a purchase or two on Ebay of a most beloved bird or pony; a membership on a collecting forum where I mostly lurked.  But as time passed I realized how happy these items made me, and my hobby was born.

Over the last few years it has expanded to include toys I never had a child, toys from other generations, and even other items from the past that evoke a feeling in me of beauty or pleasure or cleverness at the making of them. Eyecatching colors, pleasing textures, and unnoticed quality have all become reasons for me to pick up an item and occasionally take it home or pass it along to someone I know will love it.   I have found and learned from wonderful collectors who help unloved toys shine again and discovered another love in cleaning and restoration.

Now, I wish to share the knowledge I have gained and have conversations about these vintage items and the memories they invoke.  I hope this site will serve as a resource and inspiration for others to find those things that will spark your tactile memories and help you find the same pleasure I have in seeing and perhaps owning them again.

And for those of you who were wondering, that little bird was a Fairy Tails bird from Hasbro.