Vintage toy store benefits from loaning inventory for exhibits

SAN BRUNO, Calif.  – Harry Costa’s shop, Just Things, is a 6,000-square-foot specialty store that is filled with collectibles just waiting to be discovered. Though it holds such offerings as 1939 San Francisco World’s Fair items, comic books and 1920s and 1930s ephemera, the shop’s focus is vintage and antique toys, which makes up about 90 percent of the inventory.

Costa told Antique Trader the San Francisco International Airport often borrows shop inventory for the terminal museum displays. (For those unfamiliar, SFO has several exhibitions on display at any given time throughout the various terminals.) About two months ago, Costa loaned out several of his space toys; this summer, the airport will be displaying many of Costa’s vintage board games. He said they’re interested in  displaying just about anything to do with television. When an exhibit is in full swing, he said he notices a definite upswing in both store traffic and sales.

Costa, himself a collector of pre-World War II toys, has more than 10,000 Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars in the Just Things inventory. The store also has Corgi and Dinky toys; Franklin Mint and Danbury Mint collectible cars; and all types of die cast toys. If you’re in the market for a vintage battery operated toy, the store has more than 75 to choose from.

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For the upper-level collector, Costa reports he has an original Johnny West store display. The piece measures about 6 feet long, is holding 20 or 30 figures and carries a price tag of $3,500. He also has an original 1958 Matchbox store display with all 75 of the original toy cars. Though the cars were originally priced at just 49 cents apiece, this entire set, along with the display, will now set the buyer back about $8,000.

Just Things currently has more than 500 prewar and postwar Lionel trains and accessories, many of which are still in their boxes. They don’t carry HO trains or accessories; Costa explained those items just don’t have the resale value that O-gauge and O-27 trains do. He was excited to tell Antique Trader about the rare Lionel toy electric stove he has on display; he said this small, working stove from 1929 is in fine condition and he is asking $4,000 for it. He has only seen two others like it.

Costa has been in business since 1960 and buying and selling toys for about the last 20 years. His shop, Just Things, is located just 5 minutes from the San Francisco International Airport at 575 San Mateo Ave., San Bruno, CA 94066 (15 minutes from San Francisco).

The shop can be reached at 650-871-9410; fax 650-588-7545; or The store is open most days from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., but Costa advises a call first to confirm the current hours.

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