It’s play time: How my hobby became my passion

I am one of those kids that never grew up. Like most children, I had wonderful memories of unwrapping toys that unlocked my imagination and opened up new worlds to me. My favorites were the playsets, especially knights and castles, cowboys and Indians with covered wagons, jungle explorers, soldiers, fortresses, and spacemen with rocket ships. And there were those wonderful boxes they came in, each illustrated with a promise of exciting, new adventures for my companions and myself. As an adult, I shared my love for toys with my children and I bought for them as well as for myself.

I started collecting once my children outgrew their toys. I started searching for the exact toys I had played with as a youngster.

However, when I tried to find the old illustrated toy boxes that my sets came in, I found that few parents or kids had bothered to save them and they were now quite rare. Most were out of my price range or in poor condition.

One day, I learned that a coworker of mine, Alan Lortz, had a collection of “horror movie” collectibles. When Alan was very young, Alan would sneak down the steps late at night from his bedroom and watch horror films after his dad fell asleep in front of their black and white Zenith television set. It reminded me of myself sitting with my father watching Westerns in the ‘50s and ‘60s … Gunsmoke, The Rifleman, Davy Crockett, Wyatt Earp.

Alan is an artist and illustrator. I soon asked him to help me create a toy box for one of my playsets. His artwork was wonderful so I asked him if I could list it on eBay and, much to our amazement it sold immediately.

We soon began creating hand rendering of other boxes that I had as a child. Each box was individually created and illustrated. They include playset boxes originally made by Marx, Mattel, Ideal and a variety of cap gun boxes. These were ones that most toy collectors probably could never acquire any other way.

This led to another idea, something we call the “concept box.” Concept boxes these were for playsets that collectors wish were made, but never actually did. We started with a “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” created a unique box and filled it with a specially selected group of characters and even a replica of the famous submarine itself.

Then we got requests for toy boxes’ for John Wayne at the Alamo and all sorts of movie and television theme boxes. With the success of these early sales, we realized that we could turn our hobby into a business, as well. Now, we’ve streamlined our process: while each piece of artwork is still individually created, we are able to apply them to multiple boxes, resulting in facsimile boxes at a very low cost to our collectors. Sincere collectors believe their toys deserve a box.

These boxes were introduced at a recent toy soldier show in Indianapolis and were a hit with collectors and dealers. We’re adding new titles to our collection.

We have a Web site www.nostalgiatoybox.com and are also on eBay under “Prosner” (as a seller).

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