Two words. CASTLE GRAYSKULL.
Castle Grayskull is like the entry-level castle for Masters of the Universe collectors. And I guess that’s me now, a collector. At first, I was just picking up a few loose figures to sell on eBay or trade with a friend for Beatles records, but now I’m buying them ALL FOR MYSELF. I also picked up some more figures including Kobra Khan and Ram Man.
Originally I saw Grayskull two weeks ago when the seller was asking $25 for it at the flea market. I had passed at the time although I was secretly kicking myself. The thing is probably worth that. However I was surprised to see it still sitting on the table this weekend, and I jumped on it for $15. The condition of it is great, with nothing broken and containing several pieces inside. It has the throne, the trapdoor, and the drawbridge. The parts are worth more than the whole. Each of them has sold individually on eBay for $15 a piece.
I love the look of the thing. Old toys have a different aesthetic from contemporary toys, which have a very slick and digital feel to them. Older toys have a warmth and depth. Even the light-weight and brittle plastic lends a certain vulnerability. The artwork of the cartoon and design on the original box make Castle Grayskull seem foreboding, but something was lost in translation when the manufacturers made the mold. I love how the castle has an almost tired and forlorn look.
Okay, I’m projecting.
The 1982 commercial makes this thing look hilariously huge. Either they found miniature children to play with the castle or they…actually there is no “or.” OF COURSE they found miniature children.
Next I found this Bravestarr figure. Bravestarr was a space-western cartoon that ran from 1987 to 1988. I don’t remember it at all. I only bought the figure because it was an alien lobster in cowboy boots. But it looks like Bravestarr is available on both Netflix Instant and Hulu, so I’m going to watch a few and then pretend I knew about it all along. This particular figure I found is Sand Storm. Apparently he is more walrus than lobster, and his super power is exhaling giant clouds of sand that can put others to sleep.
It was the last series produced by Filmmation, the animation company that also did The Archies cartoon as well as Masters of the Universe. Set in New Texas, a wild frontier in outerspace, the series was also notable for having a Native-American lead protagonist, Sheriff Bravestarr, as well as a laser-toting horse that walked upright. In fact, I think I do vaguely remember the horse. After all, you never forget a biped horse with a gun.
Next I found this nifty Go Bot and a 1981 diecast Voltron figure. The GoBots were a cartoon and toy series about transforming robots, much like Transformers and Voltron. I’m sure there’s some very fine distinctions among the three series that divides the nerd factions these days, but back in the 1980s we loved any and all transforming robot things just the same.
I love the retro-robot look of the Go-Bot. When I got home and did some research on it, I found out he actually transforms into a squirt gun:
Seriously, whoa. This is one of my favorite toy finds, ever. I’m surprised it doesn’t go for more money online. (My wife is surprised it goes for any money at all.)
The Voltron is sort of banged-up and the chrome is wearing heavily, plus he’s missing the wings. But for fifty cents, it was a deal.
Paid: .50 each
Here is a Donald Duck bank I found. I already had Mickey Mouse and Figment banks, and now I’m just showing off. I keep finding these for fifty cents a piece at the local thrift store, and they’re worth about $10 each. Old rubber banks are just cool, plus I dig the 1980s style of Disney. I hate the way they draw them now. Mickey Mouse just looks foreign to me these days.
This is my favorite find of the weekend by far. There’s a lot going on in this clear work of art. For instance, there’s a topless woman, a string bikini, and a pile of obese men in Hawaiian shirts. But for me, I’m drawn to that beach ball with the disembodied and free-floating heads of the Beach Boys on it. What are they doing there? It’s kind of creepy.
I have a sickness for weird and awful Beach Boys records, and basically it’s all weird and awful after Pet Sounds, more or less. Most often more. Which means I can feed my sickness eternally. In fact, I’m even going to see them live next month on their 50th anniversary tour. Mike Love will be in rare form doing his Branson, Missouri-style handwaving and winking, Brian will have the look of a broken animatronic, perpetually frozen in horror sitting behind a piano he’s not even pretending to play, and Al Jardine will be himself, a hobbit who can sing and play guitar.
It’s going to be an alternate universe where 80 year old men sing about sun and fun, with a little bit of melancholia and schizophrenia thrown in. And maybe if we’re lucky, John Stamos. It’s going to rule.
Value: Absolutely nothing to normal people
The Omega Virus. You had me at the words talking electronic game.
Take a minute to soak all that amazing artwork. The inside of the box could have been filled with dust bunnies and dead mosquitoes, and I still might have bought it without question.
I used to overlook board games at yard sales and thrift stores, until I realized some of these games can be worth a nice chunk of change. Don’t get me wrong—most board games, 99% of them are worth a dime a dozen. But every now and then, there’s something that catches my eye and hits the right nostalgia mark. The Omega Virus nails the nostalgia mark for corny “evil computer taking over fears” and gobblety-gook science involving plasma weapons and probes.
The Omega Virus was a game released by Milton Bradley in 1992. It was a science-fiction game set in the future, 2051 to be precise. An evil alien computer virus is trying to destroy the planet earth and it’s up to you, chosen commando, to stop it. Actually, the back story is far more detailed than that, meticulously described in a fully-illustrated comic book included inside the box. The game was designed by Michael Gray, who was also behind other innovative electronic board games Mall Madness and Dream Phone. The Omega Virus was like Mall Madness for boys. But let’s not forget there were plenty of boys who would secretly jump at the chance to get in on a little Mall Madness action, because hey, it was “the mall with it all.”
The centerpiece of the game was a talking computer that players used to input codes to advance between the rooms of the game board in search of the virus. Meanwhile, the virus would tease and taunt the players as “human scum” and “fools” while counting down the time left before the virus would take over and destroy earth.
The production value of this game is immense. From the comic book to the game board to the individual pieces, everything is full of detail and quality. Just look at the game board, fully set up. The picture doesn’t do it justice in showing how huge it is. It’s at least three feet across. I could barely fit it in the frame.
And check out the game pieces:
Those things are as cool as real action figures. Those pieces would have been lost in about eight minutes after opening this board game because I wouldn’t have been able to resist not adding them to my general “play with” toys. That the game still had all twenty commando, probes, guns, and lazer pieces is more than a rarity. It’s a modern wonder of the world. No wonder this game has commanded over $200 dollars in brand-new, sealed condition on eBay.
And then there’s the twenty-page instruction manual. That’s right TWENTY-PAGE.
Words. So many words. And diagrams. Someone online rated this game’s difficulty as “moderate” for a child and “easy” for an adult. Uh, yeah right. I’m rating it “impossible” for a child. Okay, well impossible for eight-year-old me. And make that impossible for adult me as well. In some ways it’s a shame that this game ended up in my hands, because I will never play it. I can’t even get past the first page of the instruction book. It would take me far longer to read the instructions than it would to play average length of the game, which is ten minutes.
So instead, I’m just going to privately worship the art work and baffling complexity for a children’s game. And sometimes I might secretly put batteries in the computer and let the electronic voice mock me. But only sometimes.