*This is the first in a two-part Q&A with Mark Bellomo, editor of “Toys & Prices, 19th Ed.”
The long-awaited 19th edition of “Toys & Prices” is here, and this old friend of toy collectors everywhere is already receiving a warm welcome. Not only is this new edition filled with updated listings, values, photographs and market reports for various categories of toys, there’s a new editor at the helm in renowned toy expert Mark Bellomo. To help usher in this new edition, we’ve reached out to Bellomo to share his experience working on this cornerstone of the toy collecting community.
Antique Trader: How do you perceive the health of today’s toy market? Is condition everything, similar to other collecting categories?
Mark Bellomo: It’s a poor time to sell collectibles. All but the most premiere pieces for each toy line will more than likely command less money. Most people (especially those readers
who’ve invested in collectible toys) don’t want to hear this, but it’s the truth and a fact of the current marketplace. An ugly truth, yes … but a truth, nonetheless.
Conversely, it’s a great time to invest; a fabulous time to buy. Magnificent. Wonderful. Heck, I saw an MIB (contents unremoved from its package and C-10 DEAD MINT) Captain Action Superboy outfit sell for $349.99 on eBay on May 8, with only six bids on it. If I was near my smart phone or any computer (or a person with a smart phone or computer), I’d have snatched that piece up in a hot minute. If this outfit were on sale before 2008, I believe it would have sold for quadruple that amount; prior to the recession of ’08, it would have been a $1,500 piece. Furthermore, the odds of finding that spectacular CA Superboy outfit in comparable condition for that price ever again is very, very, very low. So, then, it’s a good time to invest in toys and collectibles from the fifties, sixties, and early seventies – that time before Reagan de-regulated children’s television (circa 1983) and before we had media tie-ins to support toy franchises to further consumer interest in mass-produced toy lines and increase toy company revenue. There are fewer and fewer samples of these early post-WWII collectible toys in immaculate condition left on the secondary market, and they should make a great investment in the long run.
Right now, it is easier than ever to purchase toys for reasonable prices because there’s less competition for these collectibles, and sellers are a bit more desperate to make money. Unfortunately, due to the dire economic climate, no one has any money. However, if you’re one of the lucky few who has a bit of extra capital, you can use this excess revenue to pick up some premium toys for considerably lower prices.
And yes, when talking about toys, condition is everything. Absolutely everything. Yet, since toys are meant to be played with, usually by children, the type of manipulation that resulted in the wear common to most older toys oftentimes leaves loose samples in far worse condition (e.g. broken legs, missing accessories, damaged hair, stained clothes) than when they were originally purchased – a much different situation than such antiques as Depression-era glassware, Hummel figurines or a Tiffany lamp.
AT: Which categories in this new edition of the book do you consider the ‘backbone’ of the subject matter – the true examples of toys?
MB: In my opinion, the backbone of 2013’s “Toys & Prices” — those toys that leap to a casual collector’s mind the very instant the word “toys” is mentioned – are included in the following six categories: 1) Action figures (including G.I. Joe and Star Wars), 2) Barbie (and other fashion) dolls, 3) [board] games, 4) Character toys (and [perhaps] TV toys as well), 5) Sci-fi toys (we might be able to throw “robots” in here, too), and of course, 6) Vehicles (Hot Wheels, Matchbox, Tonka, etc.).
A few years back, when reviewing roughly 150 different subcategories of toys while prepping to write “Totally Tubular ’80s Toys,” I polled a few hundred casual, die-hard and novice toy collectors. Their responses to certain categories resulted in the above mentioned division. If you walk down modern toy aisles in your local department store, you’ll find nearly the same representations from these six categories. However, in modern toy aisles, there is currently a little less focus on sci-fi toys, and a little more on the fashion
dolls (if you include Littlest Pet Shop, My Little Pony, etc.) and action figures (if you include cartoon and movie figures [“Toy Story,” “Adventure Time,” “Ben 10,” etc.]).
AT: What is your favorite category and why?
MB: As most people know, action figures are my wheelhouse. I’m currently trying to obtain an absolutely mint, complete collection of every figure, accessory, vehicle, weapon system, playset, creature, and mail-away for every major (and nearly every minor) action figure line from the category’s birth in 1964 (with Hasbro’s G.I. Joe line) to the modern day.
Among the categories featured in my collection of nearly 60,000 toys & action figures are the following lines: Star Wars (vintage & modern), Transformers (vintage & modern), 12” G.I. Joe (vintage—unfinished), 3 ¾” G.I. Joe (vintage & modern), He-Man & the Masters of the Universe (vintage, ’89 He-Man, & modern MOTU Classics), Real Ghostbsuters (including all role-play items [Proton Pack, Ghost Trap, etc.], vintage & modern Mattel), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (vintage 88’-92’& SOME modern), Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Adventures of Indiana Jones (vintage & modern), Alf (plush toys + trading cards), Air Raiders, Alvin & the Chipmunks, [World of…] Annie, Army Ants, Atari 2600 & 5200 video game systems (+ MANY multiple cartridges & original boxes), A-Team (3 ¾” & 6” [+ LJN’s 12” Mr. T line]), Barbie Dolls (’59 blonde ponytail MLC, ’61 Ken MLC, and many representative 80’ samples [e.g. Barbie &the Rockers, etc.]), Barnyard Commandos, Batman: The Animated Series, Batman: The Movie, Battle Beasts, Battlestar Galactica, Beetlejuice, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Bionic Woman, Bionic Six, Blackstar, Bravestarr, Board Games (large assortment: Trivial Pursuit, Jenga, Pictionary, Simon, etc.), Buck Rogers & the 25th Century (vintage 3 ¾” + modern 8”), Cabbage Patch Kids (many MIB with paperwork; standard figures, Koosas, Preemies, etc.), California Raisins (original Hardee’s PVC’s), Captain Action (vintage [missing Sgt. Fury & Steve Canyon], neo-classics, and modern), Captain Power & the Soldiers of the Future (+ some Euro exclusives), Care Bears (vintage 13” standard run + all Care Bear Cousins + Grams + Babies Hugs & Tugs + Care Bears poseable action figures), Centurions, Chia Pet (assorted), Chuck Norris and the Karate Kommandos, Clash of the Titans, Colecovision, C.O.P.S. ‘N Crooks, Crash Test Dummies, Crystar, Comic Action Heroes (+ Pocket Super-Heroes), DC Super-Heroes (’89-’90), DC Infinite Heroes, DC Universe Classics/DC Signature Collection), Defenders of the Earth, Dino-Riders, Droids (Star Wars), Dukes of Hazard (3 ¾” & 8”), Dungeons & Dragons ([game] original boxed set + all hardcover books, modules, etc.; + electronic game), E.T. (LJN, plush + PVC, etc.), Ewoks (Star Wars), Fantastic Four (animated, + movie [Marvel Legends]), Food Fighters, Fraggle Rock (plush Tomy line + other promos), Game Boy (plus assortment of cartridges), Garfield (official Dakin plush only), Glamour Gals (vintage Kenner line complete [all variations]), GoBots (domestic product + Japanese Machine Robo line), Gremlins (PVC + plush line), Gummi Bears (plush + PVC), Hot Wheels (some gimmick cars of the 1980’s + 1960’s/1970’s Sizzlers), Infaceables, Inhumanoids, Inspector Gadget (12” deluxe figure & 4” line), Intellivision (+ Intellivision II + Intellivoice & many multiple cartridges & original boxes), Iron Man (animated & modern), Jem (select items), Karate Kid, Knight Rider, Laser Tag, Legend of the Lone Ranger (3 ¾” line—missing the horses), Lone Ranger Rides Again (Gabriel/Hubley, 10” deluxe figures w/ horses [incomplete—need a few Euro pieces]), Madballs, ManTech, Marvel Famous Covers, Marvel Legends (2002-present [Toy Biz + Hasbro]), Marvel Universe (modern 3 ¾” line), Marvel Super-Heroes, M*A*S*H*, M.A.S.K., Michael Jackson (12” figure line), Micro Machines (+ assorted Star Wars), Micronauts (vintage [select items] & modern Palisades), Mighty Crusaders, Monster In My Pocket (Series 1, 2, 4, Spaghetti-O’s mail-aways + Monster Mountain [x2]), Mork & Mindy, Muppet Babies (Hasbro Softies only), M.U.S.C.L.E., My Little Pony (select vintage items), New Kids on the Block (fashion dolls, select items [stage, etc.]), Nintendo (original + R.O.B. + many cartridges), Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, Pound Puppies (+ Pound Purries), Power Rangers (originals…), Princess of Power (the “She-Ra” toy line + modern MOTU Classics), Rainbow Brite, Rambo & the Forces of Freedom, Robocop & the Ultra-Police, Robotech (both vintage lines, Matchbox & Harmony Gold), Rock Lords (+ Narlies), Rubik’s Toys (Rubik’s Cube, Rubik’s Magic [Links], Rubik’s Magic Snake, Rubik’s Revenge, etc.), [Marvel Super-Heroes] Secret Wars (+ Euro items), Sectaurs, Sega Master System, Shogun Warriors (24” deluxe + UK Goldrake), Silverhawks, Six Million Dollar Man, Smurfs (vintage Peyo PVC figures, houses, playsets [both plastic + pop-up]), Spiral Zone (complete U.S. line + rare Japanese exclusives), Spider-Man (animated), Starcom (+ assorted Euro pieces), Star Trek: The Next Generation (Galoob, Playmates [+ 1701 ltd. figures]), Star Trek (Mego, vintage), Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (Playmates), Starting Lineup (various samples), Strawberry Shortcake (the vintage Kenner line + rare Brazilian exclusives), Super Naturals, [DC Comics’] Super Powers Collection, Teddy Ruxpin, ThunderCats (vintage + modern), Tron (original line + modern NECA line [& variant light cycles]), Visionaries, Voltron (vintage Panosh Place + Matchbox + modern Mattel), [Jayce and the…] Wheeled Warriors, Who Framed Roger Rabbit (Bendies), World’s Greatest Super-Heroes (and ALL assorted MAJOR 8” Mego action figure lines [Knights, Teen Titans, Pirates, Robin Hood, etc.), Wrestling Superstars (LJN, ‘80’s), X-Force (animated), X-Men (animated), and many, many more toys.
I also own full runs of every major comic book super-hero from at least 1965 to the
present: From Captain America to Superman, from the Avengers to the Justice League of America. From “Amazing Fantasy” #15 to “Journey into Mystery” #83, from “Brave & the Bold” #28 to “Uncanny X-Men” #94.
AT: What collecting category did you find a new appreciation for through your “Toys & Prices” experience?
MB: A very good question! I think there were actually two categories that I really grew to appreciate quite a bit more now than before writing this edition of “Toys & Prices”: Fisher-Price Toys and Western Toys. I long one day to own a mint, complete (dare I say boxed with tags?) set of the beautiful and iconic horse-and-rider Hartland Western figures with moving arms, detachable hats, and removable guns. Among my favorites of these are the über-rare Gil Favor from “Rawhide”; Bill Longley, The Texan; and Jim Bowie with his magnificent horse, Blaze. I’d also dearly wish to possess an original 1959 Fisher-Price Safety School Bus, the unbelievably cool premiere piece for the Fisher-Price Little People “Play Family” line – a series of toys that I was absolutely devoted to as a preschooler. That series of toys was my first taste of collecting anything. Ah, the Fisher-Price Farm and its mo-o-o-o-ing barn door. The Airport and its standard, stock, stout orange/yellow helicopter. The glorious Castle with its ridiculous (and incredibly rare) pink dragon. I can’t wait to assemble my collection of these Play Family pieces.
AT: What new features of the 19th edition of “Toys & Prices” would you like to point out? Such as updated prices, new additions, new found variations, etc.
MB: Yikes! There’s always so very much to add – and so many prices to update – in a limited space and time. Unfortunately, as a result, there’s little room to deal with the nuanced details of specific toy variations – unless there’s a distinctly different shift in price.
However, there’s always a bit of shuffling of prices going on from edition to edition, and I take this responsibility very, very seriously. Let’s use the first section in the book, Action Figures, as an example. I made sure to spend a good month researching these prices on and off; from performing hundreds upon hundreds of “completed items” searches on eBay to cold-calling some of the premiere collectible stores in the U.S.
I’m making this point and talking about my research on prices because one thing I’ve always loathed about many collectible guides is the fact that many of these “reputable” books refuse to lower the values of the items featured in their books even as the market fluctuates. Or, in the case of more recent events (2008-2013) has suffered a most serious setback. I find this tact of refusing to lower prices for accuracy’s sake both misleading and disingenuous; it’s simply dishonest. If a particular action figure is worth approximately $30 in 2010, and drops to $25 in 2011, then falls to $22 in 2012, and finally, ultimately, rests at
a mere $15 in 2013, then it is my responsibility as a serious recorder of accurate prices to enter the lower $15 price. As an honest man, you simply can’t hang onto a value because you personally believe, or dearly wish, it to rise – even if the declining value for the toy in question is your favorite toy of all time. A true value should always reflect what the market will bear. No more and no less, with honesty first and foremost in mind; without any opining, editorializing, or artificial inflation. My job is to record the facts, and I take this occupation seriously.
AT: In your opinion, what are some inexpensive toys now that will see appreciation in value over time?
MB: There are very few inexpensive toys now that will see appreciation in value over time. Most collectible toys require a modicum of modest investment that will eventually pay off. In recent years, two toy lines that have already provided dividends are Mattel’s ingenious Monster High fashion dolls (combining the selling power of fashion dolls with the edginess of public-domain monsters such as Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Mummy, the Wolfman, etc.) and Moose Toys’ super-clever Trash Pack PVC collectible figures (harkening back to Mattel’s old school pink M.U.S.C.L.E. characters) – with some of the rarer, limited edition Trash Pack figurines commanding hundreds of dollars online.
*The second part of this Q&A will be published during the month of July 2013.
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