Flea Market Finds So Far This Summer

I write this blog for several reasons. For one thing, I learn things. Invaluable things. For example, a guy who knew the inventor of Otter Pops freeze pops commented on my blog once. He cleaned the guy’s golf clubs at a country club. He said the inventor’s name was actually Otter, and that he was a dirty old man who loved dirty jokes. I haven’t looked at Otter Pops in the same way since. Then there’s this other guy, who commented that he was security guard on the set of the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film. Okay, that was the entire story. But I did learn something important—that I was just one step closer to the actual Ninja Turtles commenting on the blog.

Another reason for the blog is to have an outlet for my writing. I challenge the notion that writers have to hone their craft in solitude, writing words that no one may ever read. It ought to be done in front of people, bleeding heart confessions, mistakes, and musings on snack cakes, all of it. You know, writing is a lot like rock and roll. But now I sound like a lame English teacher trying to get the class excited about reading Ethan Frome. Seriously guys, that book has the most rock and roll ending of all. A freakish sledding accident! Paralysis! Themes about the forbidden impressions of the rural working class!

And then I also blog just to show off my shit. The flea market Gods have been good to me so far. The gods of other things have not been as good. The Gods of weather? They’ve been fickle. One day it’s eighty degrees and sunny, and then we get new patio furniture and it rains every day since. The grocery store check-out line God? Total jerk. And the car god—who keeps your car in running condition—he’s been a downright asshole. But yeah, the flea market God has been awesome.

This is my favorite time of year. I may acquire stuff all year, but the summer is when I’m like a squirrel, storing up sustainment for the winter when hunting options are slim. So let me show you and review what I got so far.

This guy is the Mean Weiner from the 1988 Mattel Food Fighter line. I’m convinced Food Fighters are among the coolest figures ever made. Food Fighters are your basic good and bad guys, only this time they’re militaristic chocolate chip cookies or stacks of pancakes. They have amazing names like Major Munch, a donut, Lieutenant Legg, a chicken drumstick, or Private Pizza, a pepperoni pizza slice. The good guys were in a series called Kitchen Commandos, while the bad guys were a series called the Refrigerator Rejects. Honestly, I could live on this alone.

What’s shocking to me is that I completely forgot about them. I had one or two of these guys as a kid, but they were swallowed into the black hole of memory until I came across the Mean Weiner at the flea market. A woman had a bucket full of loose figures for sale. I had originally picked out a California Raisin, a gorilla, and the hot dog. California Raisins are really common figures, yet the lady told me the Raisin was three bucks. No thanks lady! She let me have the other two for a quarter a piece. Here’s the best part — the Food Fighters are pretty rare and sought-after. Some of the loose figures sell for $5 to $25 a pop on eBay.

Here’s the other guy I got:

I never turn down a perfectly good plastic gorilla. That’s the kind of advice you pass on to your first-born.

Also in the loose figure department, I’ve found my old friends Garfield and Odie:

And a pair of ET figures to add to the growing collection:

A friend picked up the packaged “phoning home” figure in the back for me, and I found the blanketed ET in a bucket for a quarter. Dig through those buckets. That’s the other advice to my first-born.

I’m not huge into Disney stuff, but I always like these tall PVC figures, and I got this Mickey for a buck.

I’ve been re-arranging my crap, and started grouping toys by theme. This is my 80s video game shelf, and so far this summer, I’ve found a couple of great new additions:

I know these early 80s mini-arcade things can be worth a hundred or two — particularly the Nintendo Game & Watch series. This one is a 1983 Tomy version — not worth quite as much, and unfortunately this one doesn’t work. I picked it up for two bucks and was bummed to find the battery compartment corroded when I got home. Still, it’s a great looking toy, and I love the artwork on it, particularly the attention to detail. The pretend slot for quarters, the miniature steering wheel, and mini gear-shifter are so freaking adorable I want to include them in the family Christmas card.

This is a Merlin Electronic Wizard, by Parker Brothers, 1978. I’ve been calling it the Merlin Phone. I got this for two bucks. Again, I love the artwork, and that creepy, spacey, liquid metal hand beckoning us with the Merlin Phone. It’s an electronic game where you compete with “Merlin,” a “remarkably intelligent computer,” playing games with what I’m guessing is a series of inscrutable beeps and lights.

The instruction manual comes with a series of long-ass codes you program into the toy to hear it play back beep-bop versions of “Frere Jacques” and “Cockles and Mussels.” Hmmmm. You can also play Tic Tac Toe on it somehow, and something called “Magic Square” that sounds utterly unfun. Nothing makes me shudder more than the words “electronic puzzle.”

And here are a wedding version of Mr. and Mrs. Pacman. I actually bought them on eBay, and it took me a couple months to win a pair. I didn’t want to spend more than five bucks, and it seems like everyone wants a pair of these, probably for the same reason I do. They’re going to be involved in our wedding somehow, sitting somewhere on a table, or something. I have no clue. The girlfriend wanted ’em, and when she found out I kept getting outbid on eBay, she took me to task. “This is our wedding — spend what you need to in order to get them,” she told me firmly. So I finally got them for about $7 bucks each, which kills me, because I’m a cheap ass, and I try not to spend more than a buck or two on everything I buy.

Finally, hoo boy. Ninja Turtles. I’ve been hitting the Ninja Turtle jackpot, so much that I had to buy an entirely new shelf to display everything. Note to other collectors: Target sells a selection of dirt-cheap five-shelf bookcases for $30. I recommend the white ones because they make your stuff really pop:

Building the Ninja Turtle shelf has been a punishment hanging over me and the girlfriend’s head for the past two weeks. I didn’t want to build it, and yes, I was going to make my girlfriend do it, but only because she gets it right the first time. She actually has patience and reads the directions. I desperately suck at that kind of stuff. I’m good at computer shit. I know how to click around until I get what I want. It’s not like I can just nail a bunch of boards together until I figure out how it works.

Well, finally, I ended up sucking it up and building the damn thing myself, and look—the cheaper they are to buy, the more insanely difficult the instruction manual reads. WHAT ARE THESE IMPENETRABLE DIAGRAMS? I somehow managed to build it backwards—not once, but twice. I wanted to kill something innocent and vulnerable, but now I’m never going to talk about that dark moment ever again.

So here’s what I found so far in the Turtle department:

I’ve been wanting one of these cases for a while now. I’d seen it around online and at toy shows, but again, I’m really cheap, and I didn’t want to spend more than ten bucks for one. Part of it is my need for feeling superior to everyone in the world, and getting some old-ass dirty 1980s toy for a quarter is really an Endorphin rush. Hey, it’s healthier than smoking cigarettes.

This particular case was in the best condition I’d seen one yet, and it came packed with figures, loose accessories, and random other crap. It was a guy and his eight-year-old son at the particular flea market table, and they were a beady-eyed, seedy tag-team. The kid had slickly asked me “if I liked antiques” when I looked at the case. Hey kid, I can get slick, too. The guy was asking for $25, but I knocked him down to $12, pretending like I didn’t care at all, even though I was excited by a couple of the figures inside.

The coolest inside by far was this Transformer-style Shredder. He’s some sort of sewer-drilling wacky vehicle who transforms into the Shredder. It took me about five hours to figure out how the hell to transform him. That drill bit attachment was the worst. Me and the girlfriend both messed with it for about half an hour until we realized it snapped right in. That’s when you know you’re old.

Rad Rollers were a series of collectible marbles that came in many varying character sets from The Simpsons to New Kids on the Block. There’s something depressing about trying to get kids excited about marbles with Jordan Knight. I had a set of the TMNT ones when I was kid.

Inside are little pictures of the characters:

You’re supposed to shoot marbles and gamble them with other kids, but I never found a single soul who owned any Rad Rollers, and that pretty much explains how so many toy lines fail. Eventually, all my Rad Rollers rolled someplace unreachable, like under the couch, and the dog probably ate them and somehow miraculously survived.

I love this Casey Jones marble, and I would have bet all my marbles for it, but in this case I paid three bucks for the whole set.

The troll, sigh, had come inside the aforementioned case. I sort of hate it, but there it is. And then there’s the Madball-type Turtle balls, which are really cool.

And finally, here’s my favorite score this summer — a bunch of loose figures that I got for a buck each:

Some of ’em are pretty obscure and worth a few bucks on their own, like Mouser, Super Shredder, and Mutagen Man. I love those random figures they made of all the ridiculous villains that generally only appeared in an episode or two of the cartoon series.

I think at this point, I own a cooler and better selection of Turtles than I did when I was kid. Until the girlfriend pointed out, “where’s April?” She’s right. The collection ain’t shit until you have an April. And that, my friends, is the final bit advice I’ll have for my first-born.

130 thoughts on “Flea Market Finds So Far This Summer

  1. Good luck finding the original april. That figure was as rare as unicorn blood when it came out. The urban legend around her was that she only came one to every four cases. Most action figure companies assumed that boys didn’t want to play with action figures of girls! One of the ultimate short packs.

    1. Like Andrew and Michael, I also like that line. I used something very similar at a party on Thursday night to explain the friend I brought with me. “I don’t really like him – don’t touch me [said to the friend] – but inviting him seemed like a good idea at the time.”

      Wow, when I put it that way, I sound like a bitch but the truth is that he’s hard to like.

  2. Hi Pizza,
    I live in GB & was wondering if you’ve ever seen the tmnt car around town? I see it once every few weeks. Its black with cool shiny wheels and has the turtles painted all over it. I’m guessing it’s suposed to be a replica of the car from the show. It’s very cool, there is always some tough looking dude driving it.

  3. Nice haul so far. I had that Merlin phone for years.. that’s what we all played in the car on long trips. It was like Simon and tic tac toe and Reversi all in one. Ipod schmipod. : )

  4. With all the glorious Turtles stuff, this is kind of missing the point, but: I had a Merlin game! It was “The 10th Quest” version from the ’90s, slightly more colorful (a vaguely unpleasant combo of maroon, mottled grey, and grapey purple) and had a crappy little screen at the top. I enjoyed playing with it in short bursts, but was quickly bored/enraged by it, probably mostly because I could never beat the more difficult games (or even figure out how to play them, as mine came without an instruction manual). I do fondly remember the heft of it, though, the soft mashability of the buttons, the regal old-British-man voice that announced the game titles, and especially the awful “clashing swords” audio effects, which I think sounded more like people bashing cash registers with dinner forks tied to tambourines.

  5. Hey – a few Merlin comments! I feel ashamed now that I haven’t even tried to figure out if it works. I’m sure it does – but I can’t even figure how to take the battery lid off. I don’t have the “working knowledge” of these 70s toys. Then there’s the whole issue of 6 AA batteries. Geeez… that’s gonna mean going around the house and taking the batteries out one of the Wii controllers and a couple of remotes…but now I really want to see if mine has a “regal British accent” … could be worth it.

  6. Great post! I remember Food Fighters fondly, as I still have the frying pan helicopter from that line. Also, back when I worked in comics, I got a Christmas card from Mirage signed and sketched by Peter Laird, and I worked with a guy (David Wise) who wrote/edited over 100 episodes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. So, you’re one step closer to the Turtles, themselves!

    1. That’s awesome. I’m going to have to start planning what I’m gonna say and rehearse it so I don’t get nervous when I meet Michelangelo.

  7. Wow! That is one rad TMNT collection. The 80’s game shelf is looking pretty awesome too. Power Set! Is everything in the box?
    I use to have that E.T in the bath robe. Damn red paint on the front kept wearing off.
    My wife said I could..um..come over and play with your TMNT toys. You know, if that’s cool with you? :)

  8. yeah the Power Set I got was awesome – pretty much new – original Styrofoam packing, advertising post cards, twisty ties and everything. I got it off Craigslist for $20. it was a steal. I had no idea what I was getting until I picked it up. I was under the impression it was a loose NES and a couple games.

  9. Summer’s starting up pretty good for you Pizza! I got my only Food Fighter off of Ebay about 4 years ago for $3.00. It also happens to be the only one I owned as a kid(Fat Frenchy). I would like to eventually get the whole set. You’re TMNT shelf is friggin’ awesome! I actually think the Turtle trolls are kind of cool, and I’ve never seen those Mad Ball styled ones.

    I actually need a not-carded April(can’t put loose in front of a girl), as my original is MOC and the hang tab is un-punched.

  10. I fully agree with you on the cheap furniture. I have injured myself and screwed up the directions more times than I can count. One instance lead to one of my wive’s favorite phrases I have uttered “It was all going along great until I f@#$ed up step 1.” Wait until when (if) you have kids. We bought my son this airplane teeter tooter for Easter and spent about 10 hours putting the thing together. It still is not finished yet due to a screwed up part.

    Your TMNT collection is awesome, I need to pull mine down from the attic. Luckily my wife never threw anything of mine out, so I still have all of toys from when I was a kid. I have started letting my son play with some of them. Other kids are talking about Dora, he is talking about Voltron and He-Man.

  11. Great TMNT stuff! Your posts that show off all your cool shit always make me jealous and go out and buy some more cool shit of my own. Which Mrs. Zen just loves. Like you, I completely forgot about Food Fighters until you posted the pic of Mean Weiner (how timely). I loved those toys!

  12. Okay, you might be able to solve a puzzle for me. Was there an early nineties TMNT toy – a miniature set – that involved treasure hunting and mummies? It was one of those tiny little playsets that we had 5000 of that all disappeared when I turned twelve.

  13. I think your Mickey Mouse is a Bathtime Mickey. You wash off the dirt marks with warm water and they disappear after awhile they come back. My daughter had one, it was one of her favorite toys. I hadn’t thought about that in years, just seeing the picture made me laugh.

  14. One degree of separation from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?!?! Totally cool…

    Nancy Grace once told me I had great hair. That’s my only claim to fame!

    And btw, I TOTALLY had a Merlin when I was little. Thx for the memory…


  15. Love your collections. Don’t think I have room for all them myself but way cool. Also I spoke to someone today who was in a James Bond film!

  16. Awesome, you’ve got some real dope finds there! I love flea markets and garage sales. Sometimes you can find toys that you can D.I.Y. into musical instruments. That’s what I’ve got my eye on at least.

  17. I love it when a plan comes together. I have been banned from collecting and now only have my Bonsai. Almost everything else has gone so I respect anyone who is just that little bitcrazy and has an obsession such as yours.! Fabulous.

  18. For the arcade game, couldn’t you replace the battery thingy and solder the connecting wires? Just a thought! The pac-mac figures should be your cake toppers!

  19. Wow!! Is that a TMNT Pizza Thrower Van I see? Our oldest had one and we (stupidly) didn’t hang on to it… still have his TNMT purple suitcase though. I loved looking at all your cool stuff but the TNMT and the rad rollers … super cool! Cheers, MJ

  20. Oh my God! Food Fighters were my favorite childhood toy ever and noone ever knows what I am talking about! I had them all, and the egg carton vehicle and the one with the spatula to fire objects…wow, thanks for letting me know I wasn’t the only one to have played with these! haha

  21. Oh lord (the flew market one, I guess), this looks more or less exactly like my room did back in the eighties. (Although we didn’t have that weirdo loocking ET finger light thingy. Probably wasn’t kid approved back then.) What are you gonna do with all that stuff? And don’t tell me it’s the heritage for your first born. Unless there’s a huge, unimaginable valorisation going on…Nonetheless liked that post a lot, made me remember our lists of wishes when we were little ones. You covered it all.

  22. You guys should put Mr & Mrs Pacman on your wedding cake!! That would be so cute! Then you could have an 80’s toy themed wedding & use your figurines to decorate different tables (just a thought).
    I am kinda jealous of all your TMNT stuff. I never have luck thrifting & all that, but you’ve inspired me to try again & “dig in the buckets” :)

  23. Jealous that you found a mini-arcade! A few years ago I found a batman pinball machine (plastic, granted) for $8. And I got overly excited. Yay for flea markets and yard sales!

  24. 1) congrats on being freshly pressed.
    2) your ET collection is unbelievable…very funny
    3) The things that you look forward to buying have motivated me to get more serious about having a yard sale. I have much that I need to get rid of, but have been stalling because I fear no one would want my stuff.Thanks for helping keep the hope alive ;)

  25. God, just when I thought I would stop going to garage sales and flea markets because I have too much stuff, I read this and see all your cool collections and am reminded that the best season for pickin’ is upon us. Terrific blog and pics.

  26. You’ve got some interesting stuff it’s amazing the stuff you can find in flea markets. About 6 years or so ago a gal bought a neat painting she liked for $6.00 everyone was raving about it and told her she should get it appraised it turned out it was a lost work of some American impressionist artist and was worth 24 million dollars now that’s a flea market bonanza !!!

  27. The flea market gods have been good to me too, though the stuff I get there is very different… weather and car gods are dealing me the same deck as you, but the writing gods are doing you pretty good. I completely feel the same way about writing/blogging, gods and flea markets! Here’s me probably making one of those mistakes for everyone or no one to see about my flea market purchases: http://featheraniweda.wordpress.com/2011/07/01/a-day-of-renewal/

  28. THE MERLIN!!! I remember Merlin. I might have even had one. Or maybe my cooler friends had one and I just got to play with it sometimes. I’m scared about what this says about my age.

  29. All crap I definitely DON’T need, but fun to look at anyway. Once, at a flea market, I found an action figure that was a humanoid figure made up entirely of eyeballs of different sizes. To make it even better, one or two eyeballs were attached to strings, and there was a button to push on the back that made the eyeballs shoot out! I had never seen anything like it, so I bought it for my sons, but sadly, they were not as impressed as I was.

  30. I have to agree with you about writing in front of people – I’ve learned so much about writing from blogging! None of my blogging stories are as interesting as yours, but I was pleased to have someone who actually lived in Paris comment on my post about Paris.

  31. Wow – we had a Merlin when I was a kid (the one in your pic). That picture brings back vague memories of electronic awesomeness. Playing songs, tic tac toe, magic square were cool but the Echo game was my fav as I recall. Makes me want to dig through the toys at my parents house to see if I can find it. Thanks for the blast from the past!

  32. “I never turn down a perfectly good plastic gorilla. That’s the kind of advice you pass on to your first-born.”

    While I don’t ever plan on having kids, I was recently picked to be a godfather. This is advice I’d be remiss to forget. Thanks and awesome post!

  33. This is an awesome collection you’ve gathered here. It’s like a toy museum. I am trying to get my hands on an original, yet useless Robbie the Robot (Nintendo) from my single digit years. Very interesting and well written! I will come back for more.

  34. I had Merlin when I was a kid! LOVED it. My kids…not so much. It’s too lame compared to the stuff out there today. Still, I love that it’s around and that you found one! And yes, I totally pretended that it was a super-cool phone.

  35. My prized TMNT item: a mint in package TMNT calendar with each month having original artwork from the original artist. I got a few of them dumpster-diving in the Hallmark dumpster back in the 90s :)

  36. Congrats! Very nice collection of Turtles collectables and great to see some ET stuff too. You did well to find the boxed Merlin, I have some neat vintage French Merlin adverts on my site + USA Turtles and Danish ET. No such luck for me yet at my local flea markets for these toys, but I keep trying :-)

  37. Very nice finds, you have an awesome TMNT collection.

    I’m kind of jealous of people in the US as it always seems that you get really nice hauls at fleamarkets and thrift stores compared to us in the UK. Saying that though I did manage to find a copy of the ‘Art of Walt Disney’ for £1.00 and a little while back I managed to get my hands on a previously unknown G1 My Little Pony varient for very cheap. (Should I feel stupid for feeling rather proud of that?)

  38. Cool collection and as my first born are now young adults, I am anxiously awaiting their departure from the nest…Especially before they find out the mad cache of stuff I siphoned and squirreled from them (over the years) in mint condition…

  39. Did they actually sell the ET Finger Light in toy stores or did that come from an ‘adult’ toy store? Keep that thing in the plastic… it looks lethal.

  40. Wow, some interesting finds. I loved the ninja turtles growing up. They are some knarly characters hah.

    I’m new to this site and was trying to find some more “blogging friends”. Would you mind checking out my page and telling me what you think? Thanks!



  41. Weiner from the 1988 Mattel Food Fighter line , I very like it,I love this Casey Jones marble too , I also would have bet all marbles for it

  42. Awesome post! You sure deserve being on Freshly Pressed. Good job!
    [If you have time, please check out mine… :) ]

  43. This is just too good. It’s like the rules to life – what to tell your first born, whats healthier than cigarettes, how to admit when you have had a dark thought AND best of all when to admit your girlfriend is just better than you at something! The Gods bit – hilarious! But what does the God of storage say to you? This is just such good writing – congrats on being freshly pressed, loved it!

  44. You should have a twitter account Titled: Advice for my first born son . I’d follow . :)

  45. I love to collect stuff like this. I search through charity shops, car boot sales and vintage fairs whenever i can. Me and my boyfriend only have a small flat but we’ve filled it up with so much clutter. It’s amazing how much cool stuff you can actually come across. Whenever I see toy cars at any of these places I pick them up for him. He’s started to gather quite a bit collection! K

  46. I’m pretty sure I had a Mean Weiner when I was a kid, as well as a few other Food Fighters. Like you, I had completely spaced on their existance all these years later (it’s amazing how quickly the mind succeeds in blocking out the trauma that was the 80s!). Thanks for the trip down bizzare toy memory lane.

  47. This is one of the best flipping things I’ve seen in AGES, mate, well done! And I gotta ask about that E.T. photo: in the back there is a rather suspect looking figure that I had to do a doubletake on, only to find it is called an “E.T. Finger Light.” That’s what she said, right? ;)

    Congrats on being freshly pressed!

  48. My brother had the original April! I think my parents made sure we had one bc I was such a tomboy and it was the closest thing to a doll that I’d actually play with! There was also an April as rat mutant figure to go with one of the cartoon episodes. Or was she a cat mutant? I’m a bit fuzzy.

  49. The Merlin electronic wizard! I had one of those back in the day and I recall it as a nine-year old version of doing your taxes..

  50. Wow…you should see my collection! The yard sales around here had boxes of TMNT for like $2 because the moms were just getting rid of them! I’ll have to check for an original April for you…I’m pretty sure I have one!

    I saw one a few weeks ago, a woman who owned a toy store in the 80s found a few boxes of stuff that never sold and was selling it all at a yard sale! Even some TMNT stuff never opened…I got a giant button that’s bigger than my hand! Haha. I even have some of the boxes their old cookies came in…the box was shaped like their van so I kept it.

    I’ve been yard saling stuff for years. I have a lot of the ET stuff you have, plus more. We would make the worst yard-saling partners every bc we would fight over everything. My passion is original Transformers, though. Love them!

  51. Me and Dad’s Collectibles in Geneva IL and in St. Charles IL (two locations in adjacent communities) has a great assortment of vintage toys, many of which are in big bins just waiting to be explored. I go there often. Last time there they had a very large ET; like a couple feet tall. They also sell on ebay; google them for their phone number and call for details. Also awesome in the same west suburban Chicago area is the Kane County Flea Market, which is also in St. Charles IL. This has been going on for over 40 years. It is family owned and operated (on their third and fourth generation!) Maybe a couple hundred vendors; everything from antiques and collectibles to tie-dyed shirts. Vintage toys, comics, etc. also, mostly scattered among vendors who have a bit of everything. Like a very huge yard sale. Website is sort of primitive, but is at http://www.kanecountyfleamarket.com.

  52. Wow that’s some pretty crazy stuff! But I’m about to bring you another degree closer to TMNT! I guy I grew up with did Tai Kwon Do with one of the guys in the turtle suits!

  53. The Dirty Mickey Doll!! i bought one of these for my kiddo in the early 90’s. Take him to the bathtub and he magically gets clean (for awhile)

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