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.