14th Sep2012

LoEB Presents Thrift Justice: The Series!

by Will

My name’s Will, and I wish to be an extraordinary blogger. My pal Brian over at Coolandcollected.com came up with idea for the League of Extraordinary Bloggers a few months ago, and it has really taken off. Essentially, he lists a topic every week, and the members of the league run with it. I’ve never contributed, but I’ve lurked since the beginning, learning about a lot of great bloggers along the way. I’m not always the best team player, but when Brian suggested that we all present our ideas for a reality show starring ourselves, I had to jump on. I’m a bit narcissistic (williambrucewest.com, anyone), but not in the bad way. It’s not that I think highly of myself, but it’s that I’m always VERY self-aware. With that in mind, it’s not hard to spin that into how I would look in a reality show about myself.

So, recently I’ve been having discussions about the “reality” of reality shows in the comment sections of certain sites. To boil it down, folks are insisting that shows like Toy Hunter and Collection Intervention are staged, and that we’re fools for believing they’re not. I get this line of reasoning, but is it wrong to wish that they were real? I mean, there was a time, before the genre took hold, when what you saw was really something that had happened. No one looks back and says that Cops was fake. Was that not a reality show? Anyway, this got me to thinking about what my reality show would be about. They say that you should stick with what you know, but I decided to give it a TV twist. I give you Thrift Justice: The Series!

Archival set photo from unaired pilot

Here’s how Thrift Justice: The Series is structured. The premise is that I’m a lawman who hits thrift stores, yard sales and flea markets when he’s not hitting perps. Am I actually in law enforcement? No. Here’s what I’d do: I’d get in one of those programs where I’d become a sheriff’s deputy, but really only have to be on duty one weekend every six months. Remember how Shaq did that? Most of the time would be spent thrifting, but I’d still probably always have my taser and my Oakleys on me. The title has “The Series” appended on it to show that it’s a natural extension of the Thrift Justice segments that I already do on this site. Basically, I’d be creating cross-platform synergy, where the site feeds the show, and vice versa.

My cast of characters would include my common law wife Robyn, my thrifting pal “Special Forces” (not pictured, for his protection), and my mom, “Bruce” – who actually got me into the world of secondhand stuff, but now thinks I’m in too deep. Each episode would start with me coming off a bust (by framing it this way, it makes it look like I’m constantly bringing criminals to justice, though you’d rarely need to see them), and I’d stop by a thrift store or yard sale on the way home.

On location shot

I’d stick to my normal haunts, but sometimes there would coincidentally be a suspected criminal at these venues. I’d stumble upon something like a vintage Transformers Metroplex, and begin to educate the audience.

“Metroplex is one of the most sought-after Generation 1 Transformers. It’s rare to find him in such good condition. There’s even fan speculation that he was originally meant to be Optimus Prime’s father. (It’s good to throw in something false/outright lie to A: cause the fans to question my experience and B: it’ll fire up the message boards).

Watch the guy in the cowboy hat!

During my little soliloquy, out of the corner of my eye, I’d see someone notice me and they’d run. Innocent people don’t run. I’d have to run after him, catch him, AND hope that Metroplex is still on the shelf when I get back. Once the justice has been dished out, I’d return to my exposition:

“Manuel Garcia was wanted in 2 states for armed robbery. Based on the condition I left him in, he won’t be holding a gun for a long time. Anyway, I’m picking up this Metroplex for $5, but he easily goes for around $50 on the secondary market (note how I didn’t check anything to verify this price, plus I’m already suspect due to that incorrect nugget about him being Optimus’s father). That’s ten times my original investment, and I’ll take that kinda action any day of the week.”

My show would air on Spike or TruTV, as it would really appeal to the demographic that loves Bar Rescue and Lizard Lick Towing. In my mind, Thrift Justice will be Dog The Bounty Hunter meets American Pickers. I’d be followed on the schedule by Pegwarmers, starring my Twitter friend @Th0r4z1n3, a toy collector who runs a gentleman’s club. That’s actually a true story; follow him if you don’t already! The lineup would also include the following shows by fellow “extraordinary bloggers”:

What’s In The Box?: originally an adult program in the UK, the American version will be decidedly different.
Penny Hunter: during sweeps, they plan to have guest appearances by Kaley Cuoco, Cree Summer, AND Janet Jackson!
Mike’s Bunch of Crap: The #1 show amongst Yankees fandom!

10th May2012

Thrift Justice: The More Things Change…

by Will

So, when you read these posts, you probably think I’m all over the place in terms of what I buy. While that’s true to some extent, there are things that I’ve actually been collecting. Some of these things you already know about from previous posts, but a few of them might surprise you. Hell, they even surprised me!

We’ve already covered that I like to collect Power Rangers morphers. During the early years, I made it a priority to get the main morpher, the main Megazord, and the core team figures. Then, I went to college, Saban sold the franchise to Disney, and the toys seemed like less of a priority. Anyway, I’m on my Morpher Quest to reclaim all the morphers I missed, at a fraction of the original price! Since the last post, I’ve acquired the RPM Rev Morpher, RPM Cell Shift Morpher, Jungle Fury Wolf Morpher, Mystic Force Fury Edition Mystic Morpher, SPD Patrol Morpher, and the Mystic Force Mystic Morpher. At this point, I’ve made a nice dent in the Disney seasons, but I actually hate most phone-based morphers, as well as the stupid sunglasses morpher. I’ll have to get them eventually, though.

I’ve also been collecting cutesy versions of comic heroes. Whether it’s Spider-man & Friends or the original Fisher Price DC Super Friends line, I like anything comic related that comes in what I call the “Rescue Heroes scale”. Like any smart toy company, they released that same Batman in, like, 6 different paint schemes, so that’s where the blue and yellow came from. I also acquired Hulk, Thing, Spider-Girl, Iceman, and Hang Gliding Spidey. I did not get these all at once, but rather picked them up here and there on various thrift visits.

Now that we’ve covered the familiar stuff, here’s something new: 3M Bookshelf Games. I’m not really into games, as I was an only child, raised by senior citizens. I’ve never played Monopoly (outside of the McDonalds version), and I pretty much only know how to play chess and Stratego. That said, I’m not sure if it’s my love of Mad Men, but I’m drawn to these due to their aesthetic. Produced by the 3M Company (the Scotch tape guys) in the late 60s, these were board games that tucked into a nice slipcase that you can place on your bookshelf. To the untrained eye, visitors will assume you have a full library that smells of rich mahogany! Anyway, I’ve been grabbing these whenever I come across them, so let’s take a look at what I’ve found so far.

I LOVE this box cover! I imagine the dad asking, “So, Roger – how do you feel about the Negro Problem?” While this game looks like a familiar mass market game, I’m sure you’ll never see a break thru film starring Rihanna!

White dudes making mo-NAYY!! Stocks & Bonds is probably the most boring box of my collection. Sure, these games were marketed towards adults, but it looks like the Clone Saga starring Floyd the Barber.

This cover is so damn awesome! I like to think of it as “What if Hef ended up in Alice in Wonderland?” Dude in the smoking jacket is so frustrated, while the chick is taunting him from one of the cards in the distance. It’s like he’s muttering, “Why is this bitch making it so hard for me to fuck her?!” Foil either refers to what he’s trying to do to a plot OR it refers to the condom wrapper he plans to open. Wait, it’s the ’60s; condoms are only for sailors!

I really don’t have anything to say about High-Bid: The Auction Game. Yeah, I’m disappointed in me, too. Next!

THIS! Screw Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, as this is clearly the most badass lost Lincoln story EVER! I’m convinced that Alan Moore looked at the Facts In Five box and was inspired to write The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Based on the art alone, I can only assume that Abraham Lincoln teams up with a geisha girl and Joe Namath in order to save Charlie Chaplin, who’s been trapped in a painting. It’s a globe-spanning tale, involving knights, cosmonauts, and a test pattern color wheel! As an added bonus, when they make the movie, it’ll be called “Facts In 5ive”. I hear Paul Walker is in talks to play Lincoln.

Rich Mahogany!

Tune in next week, when I’ll…I don’t know what I’ll have for ya. I don’t plan these things out. Anyway, just be sure to come back!

03rd May2012

Thrift Justice: YSE – Box Office OY, Son!

by Will

Yeah, that title doesn’t really make sense, but I needed something. So, you know the drill. This is where I showcase things I’ve found on the road. The “YSE” means it’s a Yard Sale Edition, so these are things I found on an early Saturday morning. The yard sale season started up in full force about a month ago, which means that I don’t get to sleep in anymore. It’s cool, though, as there’s treasure to be found! I’ve had a month of great Saturdays, but I wanted to start with last week’s batch, just so I can file the stuff away.

Pretty late in the morning, I was running low on funds, plus I was pretty tired as I’d only gotten a few hours of sleep. In any case, there was one more sale on my list (yeah, I actually plot out sale routes; “Freestyling” just wastes gas and time. I’ll post about that another time). It turns out that this is a “community sale”, which is my ideal scenario lately. I get to hit multiple sales without having to move the car. That said, the problem with community sales is that it seems like everyone’s pressured to participate, so there’s a gap in the quality of items offered. One house might have a ton of video games and collectibles, while the house next door has an unattended card table with some used candles for sale on it.

Anyway, one particular house in this neighborhood had some hidden gems. You see, the homeowner owned a bunch of Blockbuster franchises. Sure, Blockbuster’s a joke now, and he’s left the business, but he owned them during the golden age of home video rentals. This meant that he had a few mementos from his time “in the industry”. We’re talking a table full of screener DVDs, he had press kits, posters, the works!  He had started out in the 80s, so that’s where most of these were from. He had a lot of the posters laid out on the lawn for display, and there weren’t any prices. I asked him how much they cost, and he said “Just put together a stack of stuff that you want, and I’ll make you a deal ya can’t refuse.” So, I got to stackin’! Here’s what I got:

I left behind a few, such as Flashdance and some more forgettable movies. As far as I was concerned, I had grabbed the best of the bunch. While I couldn’t necessarily refuse the price he quoted, given the age and condition of these guys, let’s say I paid more than I would have liked. So, if you see anything you want, let me know. I’m keeping a few (the Chuck Norris ones and Back to the Future), but everything else is fair game. These are larger than your stander 24 x 36 retail size, and sadly they’ve all been folded. Still, they’re awesome, so make me an offer. PLEASE!

26th Apr2012

You’re Gonna Love It In An #Instagram

by Will

Since this seems to be introspection week, I figured I’d check in and give a social media update. If you’re new here, every so often I like to take a look at the digital world, and explore how my role in it has changed. My entry to this world started with this blog, so it’s only fitting that I track my progress here. In the past, I’ve discussed Friendster, MySpace, Twitter, and the rest. This time around, I think I want to talk about Instagram.

First off, I think I’m over Facebook. Every change that’s meant to “enhance” the experience has really made it worse to me. Let’s get down to brass tacks: I like the “spying” aspect of social media. It allows me to keep tabs on people that I don’t really feel like calling on the phone. It’s nothing against them, but I just don’t like the phone. The latest change to Facebook has been the introduction of Timeline – a new profile design that essentially changes Facebook into a digital scrapbook. By grouping events and status updates by year, it has essentially changed the purpose of the site. In the beginning, Facebook was a connectivity tool – it allowed you to keep in touch with people and share moments/thoughts/pictures/jokes/etc with them. This change, however, really turns into into a digital equivalent of “This Is Your Life”. It turns the focus inward rather than outward, and I feel it’s more isolationist than communal. Of course people are upset about it, but people are upset about every change that occurs online. That’s just the Circle of Digital Life. This, however, is worth being upset about, as it basically changes the mission of the site. I don’t need a digital time capsule. I want to see pics of the skank that my friend met on Spring Break!

When discussing these changes with an online friend, he responded that it really shouldn’t matter, as social networking “can’t be taken seriously”. I was really struck by that argument, and I can’t say that I agree. I feel that an outsider would feel this way, but it’s so odd to hear that point of view from someone “within the system”. This person and I are connected over several different platforms, and I actually take it seriously. I don’t know if this is sad or just proof of how social media has changed interaction, but I talk to certain people online more than I talk to my family. I can go 3 days without talking to my mother (we’re close and she lives 10 minutes away), but I worry if someone hasn’t tweeted in 24 hours. I’d rather livetweet Star Trek with them than go out in the “real world”. That’s just how I am. I just feel like, considering some of my closest interactions now occur online, it’s definitely something to be taken seriously. When a popular platform, like Facebook, vastly changes its interaction model, that’s something to take very seriously. Hell, that’s a chink in the armor of the digital landscape. Anyway, with these changes, I’ve pretty much moved away from Facebook. Hell, I’d pretty much just used it for Farmville, but that’s a game I haven’t touched in months. It started out as fun, became an obsession, but then they expected me to manage 4 separate farms at once. Sorry, but I’m not a shut-in or a stay-at-home mom. Maybe I’ll go back one day, but I’m mainly just rocking Twitter.
I know I discussed it in the past, but I just haven’t been able to get Tumblr to work for me. Microblogging is not my strength, and I’m not mesmerized by gif files. Tumblr is the most ADD social network out there, and it seems like the “junior college” to MySpace’s “high school”. Lord knows I’ve tried to embrace it, but I haven’t figured out how to make all of my posts blink in glitter font.More recently, I dipped my toe into Pinterest, which is essentially a digital pinboard. Since I’m not really acquainted with the notion of “pinboards”, I think of it more like a “junk drawer”. We all have that drawer that just holds a bunch of random shit, like movie ticket stubs, and that thing from that time you went to that place with that chick. It’s all the shit that doesn’t fit neatly on a Splurgg from IKEA. That’s Pinterest. You find stuff online that you like, and then you “pin” it, which puts it in one of the folders that you publicly display on your profile. They say that 90% of its traffic is women, and I don’t doubt it. Unlike Twitter, where I feel I need to stay on top of updates, Pinterest is something that you just check in on while waiting for an oil change. There’s no real pressing content, but it’s a way to pass the time. While Tumblr has established a bit of a reputation as a porn portal, Pinterest has yet to really establish a niche to make it a worthwhile time sink.
We’re not here to talk about Pinterest, though – we’re here for Instagram. If you’re not familiar, Instagram is a social media platform that allows you to apply filters to photos you’ve taken, and then share them. In the beginning, this app was exclusive to the iPhone, so it had a hipster elitist vibe to it. Also, because these people seemed to ONLY use the “Toaster” filter, it gained a reputation as the “app that made new shit look like old shit”. We all had a good laugh, half because it seemed stupid, and half because it wasn’t compatible with our phones. About 3 weeks ago, that all changed when Instagram became available for the Android, and we all became a bunch of hypocrites. I downloaded it on Day 1, and haven’t looked back. I love, love, love this social media platform more than I ever thought I could.One of the biggest issues with Instagram was that it “made hipster douchebags think they were real photographers”. While  there are certainly examples of this, I think it also took mediocre photographers to the next level. I don’t toot my own horn, bu I’ve always had a keen eye. Whether I’m looking for a needle in a thrift haystack or noticing how the light hits certain things, I’ve had moments when I’ve felt “that would make a great picture”. Since I skipped photography class in high school, and I’ve never had what one might call a “good camera”, I never really got to take a lot of those pictures. I don’t understand the basic rules of photography, as you might notice from pictures on the ecrater site. A lot of it is due to ignorance, while the rest is due to lack of patience. I find that Instagram has bridged that gap for me. To real photographers, I might be “cheating”, but I’m finally able to realize a desire that I couldn’t really do anything about in the past. I enjoy trying the different filters, and it’s a great feeling to have someone “like” something that I’ve shared. There are some shots that I’m more proud of than a lot of the creative stuff that I’ve done. If that makes me a hipster douchebag, so be it. All I know is that this has opened a new door for me, as I’m interacting with artsy people instead of the usual comics/toy bunch. Don’t get me wrong – a lot of my pictures are of toys, but it’s helping me explore other facets of myself at the same time. So, if you’re on Instagram, I’m williambrucewest. If you’re not on Instagram, I highly recommend that you sign up!

24th Apr2012

Reflections At 30: My Life at H&M

by Will

 

Since I turned 30, I’ve become a lot more introspective. This came as a surprise, I didn’t know that I could devote any more time to thinking about myself. I mean, I’m fairly self aware. Not in the “I’m so awesome” narcissistic way (even if I do have a website named after myself) but in a “why are people friends with me?” kind of way. One thing that has occurred to me is that I’m a much more successful toy peddler than blogger. I mean, it’s nice to be good at something, but this isn’t necessarily where I wanted to be. Sure, 10 years ago, I swore I’d eventually work in the toy industry, but I didn’t think this would be how I did it. Honestly, I’ve done more with the toy industry in the 4 months of having Will’s World of Wonder than I did in 10 years at Toys R Us. Most of that time at TRU was spent hiding from customers, and engaging in debates as to who were the hottest female cartoon characters. Looking back, I also realize that I don’t much talk about my time at H&M anymore, which is odd since I have quite a few opinions about that time and that place.

H&M, in case you’re not a 17 year-old girl, is a retailer that basically exists to provide a “disposable wardrobe”. The clothes aren’t well-made, but you don’t care because you paid $7.90 for a shirt, and $29.90 for a blazer. It’s perfectly priced for college kids and recent grads who need to beef up their business casual work wardrobe. In recent years, they have been as plentiful as roaches in the ghetto, but it wasn’t always that way. In fact, if you go back to the year 2000, there were only about 5 of them in North America. In college, we used to take road trips to Syracuse just to shop there, as one of those few stores was located in the Carousel Mall. As a Swedish company, it was basically The Gap abroad, but it was still a quaint treat here in the States. I loved all their clothes, and due to some freak weight loss junior year, I was actually able to fit into them. This was the beginning of my whole what they used to call “metrosexual” phase. I was shopping at H&M and watching Queer Eye. So, OF COURSE I’d want to work there, right?

If you go back in my archives, you’ll see posts I wrote during the time when I first came home from school. It was during a time when I wrote like no one was reading, so it reads like a goth kid’s Livejournal. That said, I don’t really talk about that era, as it was probably the worst time of my life. I was an aimless kid, working with a bunch of other aimless kids, thinking I was big shit. I guess I was a late bloomer, ’cause this was also the “You can’t tell me what to do!” phase that most people go through around 17. Anyway, how I started working for H&M …I saw an ad in the paper, explaining how they were opening a store in nearby White Flint (according to the property owner, it is NOT to be referred to as a “mall”). They were providing paid training, and they’d also handle any travel expenses, etc. I’d worked in retail before, but this seemed above normal. I mean, I’d never been a part of something on the ground floor, and I was also excited about the prospect of a nearby H&M.

I’d worked in retail at Toys “R” Us, but H&M is a different kind of animal. I can’t attest to how it is now, but it was a company that took itself way too seriously. It was something about that whole European thing, but I’ll get to that later. One unique part of it was that they really made you think you had a future with that company. That’s why you couldn’t tell me shit. I was convinced that in a year I’d have my own store in Brooklyn, and there’d be some kind of 30 Under 30 article about me. So many possibilities: you could be a Visual Merchandiser, which just meant you dressed mannequins, you could be an Admin and count the money, you could be a manager or even a store director. The fact that you could actually be promoted to manager from associate was foreign to me; at TRU, if they needed a new manager, you got some guy who just came from Foot Locker. At H&M, if you were feeling macho, you could join the Building Team to set up new stores. If you were really awesome, you could join the Support Team, which meant you constantly traveled to help out newly opened stores or understaffed store – kinda like a retail mercenary. I mean, this wasn’t just “retail” – we were changing how the world shopped! Oh, how young and stupid I was…

An interesting thing I noticed was that H&M wanted you to better yourself through them, and not elsewhere. I saw store directors try to convince people to drop out of college. I mean, who needs school when you could make $40,000 a year?! You could buy a fucking boat for that money! Wait, no, you can buy a lot of happy hours.  You see, that money sounds really good when you’re 22, but then you have to realize that it’s a bitter 42 year old divorcee trying to get you to take a bite of that apple -the one who’s wearing the same thing she wore the day before, and slightly smells of Hot Pockets and sadness. Still, I was certain I’d soon be working at H&M HQ in Europe, living in an apartment furnished by the good IKEA stuff (not the dreck that we get, but the stuff they put their hearts into making – ALSO, notice how I’ve already jumped from Brooklyn to another continent?).

The best thing about H&M was also the worst thing: customer service. In layman’s terms, their customer service policy was basically “Fuck the customer.” You see, in Europe, the shopping experience is a bit more…self-motivated. If you want something, you find it. When you’re ready, they’ll ring it up for you. When H&M came to America, they felt that American shoppers expect you to hold their hands, and that it was a pathetic way to go about the retail experience. Instead of adapting to America, they were determined to retrain the customer. So, there wasn’t a bunch of “Welcome to H&M. Can I help you with anything?” Nope. Instead, it was best not to make eye contact until someone specifically asked you something to your face. If they were in the fitting room and asked you to get them another size, the answer was, “I’m sorry but you’ll have to get it yourself. I can hold your room for you, though.” If Cornell had already given me a chip on my shoulder, this experience provided the entire Frito-Lay bag. Oh, to be young and smug! Those halcyon days, however, couldn’t last forever. Eventually, H&M got enough complaints that they realized they had to change to fit their customers.

I eventually made it to Admin, but realized I still had to do registers, but it also included counting money at the asscrack of dawn. Plus, the people were just kind sad. Such a transient bunch, and most of them not memorable. I’m sure they say the same about me. What an impetuous little shit I must’ve been! It’s like if Holden Caulfield actually had to read Catcher in the Rye and think to himself, “How did I not end up getting shot.” I hear a lot of people do dumb things in their twenties, but those things are usually fun. I can’t say that I had that experience. I had a few years of a grandiose sense of self worth, fueled by selling cheap blouses to trophy wives. Huh. Where was I going with this? Oh, who cares? I’ll write about some thrift store stuff next time for my regular readers. If you came here for my toy store, you’re on the wrong site, but you can still click that box up in the right hand corner of the home screen. Until next time, take care of yourselves, and each other.

 

07th Mar2012

Thrift Justice: The Hardest Thing I’ll Ever Have To Do…

by Will

Cue the 98 Degrees! So, in all my thrift trips, I come across things which I just can’t justify buying. Sure, they’d make great conversation pieces, but that’s also the road to life as a hoarder. It’s hard, though, leaving this stuff behind. How will I ever be the King of Kitsch if I don’t buy all this stuff?! Thanks to the miracle of camera phones, I can’t take a little bit of the item with me, without having to store it somewhere. This time around, I thought I’d share a few of those thought-provoking items with you!

This…this I actually bought. I didn’t mean to buy it. It just happened to be in an action figure grab bag that I bought. Yup, it’s The Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, in scuba gear. In fact, if you take the mouthpiece out of his mouth, and remove his goggles, he has a horrified look on his face. No, this wasn’t made after his death as some sort of joke piece; this was made before his death. THIS FIGURE PREDICTED HIS DEATH! I just couldn’t have that in my chi, so back to the thrift store he went.

In case you can’t read it, the tagline is “Now the excitement of the Double Dare game show is in a book!” BULL and SHIT! If you’ve EVER seen Double Dare, you know that there’s no possible way to capture that in print form! Unless the pages are made from sheets of Gak, this book is full of lies. This sounds like the product of Marc Summers’s OCD: “Guys, isn’t there a…cleaner way we could do the show? How about a book? Yeah, where they’d only have to touch pages and there’d be no goo! I’ve gotta go count the fringe on my rug now.”

I’m not sure if it’s the result of new meds, but I had a dream yesterday where a panda bear fell in love with me. It knew English (no accent – very impressive) and had an unhealthy infatuation with me. It lived in a shopping mall, and my family thought it was the funniest situation. Because my family would find something fucked up like that to be funny. Anyway, I think this thing might have been messing with my brainwaves. Don’t look into its eyes!

Try not to pay attention to the dead baby legs in the bottom corner. No, you need to focus on the cover. Here’s a little backstory. This is actually on the cover to a “rainy day detective mystery book”. The selling point, however, is that the book provides “Hours and Hours of ‘By-Yourself Enjoyment'”. And get this – the “By-Yourself Enjoyment” has the little “rights reserved” R after it. So, not only does this sound like some kind of sketchy, masturbatory manual, but someone actually OWNS the phrase “By-Yourself Enjoyment”! Mind. Blown.

This would be the official timepiece of my Man Cave. I love everything about it! The 80s flair. The shoddy, “I made this in woodshop” nature of the clock; the brunette who looks like Kelly Kapowski after eating a well-needed sandwich. The wine glass stickers that had been affixed to give it a bit of a feminine touch.

I feel like I could’ve made this…ya know, if I hadn’t quit woodshop. Funny story, that. The one year I went to public school, I was all set to take woodshop, but my mom didn’t trust the kids in the class to not saw off my hand. So, I made the social faux pas of telling the teacher in the middle of class, “My mom’s not sure she wants me in this class”. From that day on, the supposedly sweet girl around the corner decided to call me “faggot” every day on the walk from the bus. Good times. Anyway, this clock reminds me of what might’ve been.

This couple has never seen a black person. Their eyes are just incapable of focusing on that spectrum. The same with poor people. The dude, however, looks like a character Will Arnett would play.

I love children’s programming, but I hated the FUCK out of Big Bad Beetleborgs (later Beetleborgs Metallix). It was your standard “pretty kids turn into Japanese heroes” show, but this seemed to cater to a younger age than Power Rangers. To drive this point home, the show’s “mascot” was Flabber, who’s pictured on the box. Flabber is what you’d get if Jay Leno were a Liberace impersonator and then you murdered him. He was this gaudy, ghostly fuck who was supposed to lend comic relief, but he was just annoying as all Hell. Plus, the show featured one of the TV tropes that I hate most: Grandma who doesn’t act her age. Get the fuck off those rollerblades, grandma! You want your fate to be at the hands of a death panel?!

Finally, we have this little gem. I’ve heard of “tough love”, but DAMN! Yes, I understand the purpose of the “For Dummies” brand, but didn’t anyone think about this one before they sent it to press? I can see the Amazon listing now “People who bought this also bought “Suicidal Thoughts for Asshats” and “A Very Fat-astic Paula Deen Christmas”

So, as you can see, I buy a lot of shit, but I don’t buy everything. Tune in next time, when I’ll show you some of the recent stuff I hid in my trunk until my fiancee fell asleep!

01st Mar2012

Pimps Up, Toys Down

by Will

Ever since I opened Will’s World of Wonder, I’ve dealt with situations I never really thought I’d encounter. Since I don’t feel like writing about comics or thrifting, I thought I’d give you a peek at the travails of the online e-seller.

Surprisingly, the venture hasn’t required too much promotion, as the items appear in Google searches. Sales were amazing right before Christmas, as most of my business seemed to be stay at home moms doing online gift shopping. After the holidays, however, things slowed down. That’s when I explored other channels to get the word out – facebook groups, Craigslist, message boards, etc. Throughout these interactions, I’ve begun to realize that it’s not that much different from online dating or (so I’ve heard) dealing with a john. People wait til they see what they’re looking for, you strike up a conversation, and you hope to make something happen. Even though it’s toys and not a lifelong relationship (or easy sex), the highs and lows are still the same.

Recently, I’ve joined a SHITLOAD of online groups, from 80s toy collectors to toy traders to what I’ll call the “justified scalpers”. Oh, you don’t know what a justified scalper is? Those are what I call the folks who buy up all the good toys, and then pop online saying, “I grabbed all the Marvel Legends at Toys “R” Us, so let me know what you need.” They feel justified because they’re not necessarily charging a mark-up, but their actions are still preventing others from being able to buy the toys.

What gets me, though, is that they also don’t seem to understand supply and demand. They seem to think there’s a magical, neverending stockpile back at the warehouse just waiting to be shipped out. So, they hop on and say “Make sure to check your local Targets because mine had the latest wave of DCUC and I BOUGHT THE WHOLE CASE. I had them check the other Targets in the area, and I’m gonna make a few more stops on the way home. Hehe.” Thanks, asshole. You just cornered the market. Sure, it’s a small market, but it’s cornered nonetheless. If you live in a town with 2 Targets, and they’re the only ones carrying a particular line, if you hit them ALL and bought up all the cases, you have effectively cornered that market for your area. And it’s not like you have 64 friends who need the figures. No, you’re “just helping out fellow collectors” . The best way this plays out is if they return them after a few days, but most either keep them for trading fodder or, worse, end up charging $30 for a $15 figure. Oh, and did I mention that they’ve opened the figure, and removed the build-a-figure piece? Anyway, long and short of it is that I’ve interacted with a lot of different people.

It all starts about the same way. Instead of waiting for them to come to me, I go looking for them. I spend some time online, and when someone posts “I’m looking for a G.I. Joe Rise of Cobra Gunship”, that’s when I pounce. Send ’em a link, and tell them to PM me if interested. They message me, asking what I’m looking for in exchange, which always frustrates me because there’s clearly a price listed if they had simply clicked the link. Anyway, I do the dance, and repeat the price. Then, they ask about shipping. Again, the shipping is listed. If I can ship cheaper, I refund the difference, but I don’t have time to run searches on each and every zip code. OK, so after the volley, if everything goes well, you’ve got a transaction.

Sometimes, though, these people throw you for a loop. Everything is going well, and then they tell you “Oh, by the way, you’ll have to ship to The Netherlands.” THE NETHERLANDS?! I don’t even know where the fuck The Netherlands are! Do I look like Carmen Sandiego?! Why are you doing business with Americans? Why didn’t you tell me this in the beginning? It’s seriously like a betrayal. I thought we were gonna make things happen, and now I have to worry about this distance and whether or not you’re on board to do what it takes to make this work. Real grown folk drama!

Anyway, I’ve told you enough of my secrets. I think you should pay me back by buying something from me. Go, make it happen. Unless you live in the damn Netherlands. I’ve already been down that road.

15th Feb2012

Thrift Justice: All’s Fair In Love and Toys

by Will

In the last post, I finally documented my time at the 2008 Toy Fair. It was a nice little coincidence that Toy Fair started last week, but I really needed to set the scene for this post. If you remember, I mentioned that there are a lot of industry-only things available at Toy Fair, and most 80s toy collectors would love to get their hands on that stuff. Well, wait’ll you get a load of these!

For those not in the know, @specialeteacher is from Denver, so I end up spending one of the family-centric holidays out there. In my travels, I’ve discovered an AMAZING antique store that I have to visit every time I’m out there. The funny thing is I still don’t know its name. I kinda know where it is, but I don’t know what it’s called, they don’t put their name on their receipt, nothing. A lot of the time, I wonder if it was just a hallucination. It’s manned by a dude with no legs, who has a cute dog that pees on the floor. CRAZY! But it’s real. I know it is.

On my last visit, I didn’t really find a lot that excited me. In fact, it seemed like the store hadn’t changed since my visit the previous year. So, I headed for the door, and that’s when I saw it – a box right next to the door with an 80s Mattel catalog in it. I immediately snatched it up, and noticed there were other catalogs in there. Coleco, Galoob, Hasbro – all industry-only, rarely seen by fans. The owner told me that they were brought in by a guy who used to be a toy exec, and he’d gotten them all from various toy fairs. It was like finding Hef’s own special stash of porn! We’re talking the rare, good stuff! Of course, I grabbed basically all of them. I didn’t care how much they cost. I didn’t care that you could find most of the info online. I just wanted to own these. I’ve always loved catalogs, and those were just the retail stores like BEST Co and Evans. This…this was something totally different. So, here’s what I got:

 

 

 

 

For toy aficionados, you’ll recognize Coleco as the folks who gave us the mass-market Cabbage Patch Doll, several licensed ride-on vehicles, and a lot of action figure lines, like Rambo, Sectaurs, and Starcom.

 

This is the Galoob catalog from 1988. The most notable lines from that era are Micro Machines and the first Star Trek: The Next Generation toy line.

 

Of course you all know Hasbro. This is from 1987, which featured a lot of Jem, Transformers, and G.I.Joe toys. In fact, it has the Defiant shuttle gracing the back cover!

 

Finally, we’ve got Hasbro from 1989. This one is surprisingly thin. I remember back when I read Toyland that this was a soft year for toy releases. Still, it’s got the Joe stuff you expect, as well as a few other lines.

So, where do we go from here? Well, I’ve got a plan. Over the course of this year (well, the 10 months that are left), I’m going to spotlight each catalog in a post. I’ll post scans of pages (no more of this phone pic mess), we’ll run down 5-10 of the coolest items in each. After all, I feel this is information that should be shared with other toy fans -at least in the digital sense. They’ll have to pry the actual catalogs out of my cold dead hands!

21st Dec2011

Thrift Justice – What You Leave Behind

by Will

It’s funny when people find out about my whole thrifting obsession. One of the first questions I get is “Where do you keep all of the stuff?” Well, it’s spread across the state of Maryland in various strongholds. Or am I lying? The point I wanted to make today is that, contrary to popular belief, I don’t buy every quirky little thing that I come across. In fact, there are a lot of items that I’m simply thrilled to see, and don’t really need to go through the trouble of lugging them home. There have been many items that caught my eye for various reasons, but I had to leave them where they were. I thought I’d share a few of those with you today.

If this isn’t your first time here, then you already know that I have an unhealthy affinity for boybands. It is what it is. That said, it was a lot worse when I was in high school. I bought more YM and Teen People than any heterosexual male should ever purchase. I couldn’t help it, though – every issue seemed to focus on some boyband du jour, and I LOVED the embarrassing stories letter columns. Those chicks were TOTALLY MORTIFIED!

Anyway, I just found the cover to this to be hilarious. 98 Degrees were in a weird place, as they actually came out prior to the boyband explosion, and then had to change their image to fit with the times. Just look at the nerdlinger in the middle. I STILL don’t know how he got in that group. Was he just a really old Make-A-Wish patient or something?

Once upon a time, Haim Saban gave birth to a really gifted child, known as the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Since Haim had a success on his hands, and he LOVED money, he decided to give birth to another child. This second child would take advantage of the world’s new fascination with the concept of “virtual reality”. He created VR Troopers, in which a bro, his black friend, and the chick who won’t let him bang, all have the ability to enter a VR world, where they fight a white businessman who hasn’t yet learned that the real fun is in foreclosures. Oh, and there’s also a talking dog. Anyway, Saban’s second child was seen as the retard of the dynasty, and we done away with after 2 seasons. What you’re seeing is a GIANT figure of main character Ryan Steele in his VR form. This thing is a good 15 inches, at least. It was made by Kenner, so it boasts minimal articulation. There was a part of me that felt it would make a quirky mantle piece, but I just didn’t want such a totem of failure messing up my chi. So, I had to leave Ryan behind.

OK, now this one is a real kicker. I was in an antique mall, and stumbled upon this little piece of history. You’re not going to be able to read the text, so let me spell it out for you. On the left is a letter written to James Earl Ray, who you might know from history class as Martin Luther King’s convicted assassin. I put the word “convicted” in there, as an article featured in the New Times magazine on the right implied that King’s death was part of a vast conspiracy. If you want to know more about that, there’s always Google and Wikipedia. No, the interesting part is on the left. It was a letter sent to Ray while he was in prision. The author of the letter was giving Ray his support, saying that the article had provided enough evidence that the case should be reopened. At the bottom of this letter, Ray actually wrote a reply, with prisoner number, signature, and all. It’s also funny that he writes “Ray” the same way it was written on the movie poster for the Ray Charles biopic. Now, THAT would be a conspiracy!

Before he became an internet meme and Texas Ranger, Chuck Norris was just a dude with a beard who starred in borderline shitty movies. He also had a actually shitty 80s cartoon, called Chuck Norris: Karate Kommandos. Ya know, considering how many shows kept replacing “C” with “K” in their titles, it’s no wonder our generation can barely read. Hell, one of your friends might be reading this aloud to you as we speak! But I digress…The 80s were an odd time, what with deregulation and all, where you could have a 5-episode miniseries that’s rerun throughout an entire season and also spawns a toy line. FIVE EPISODES! But that’s exactly what happened here.

I got one of the figures when they first came out. Still have him. You can’t imagine the torture I inflicted on that thing. The one toy that I always wanted, however, was his car (or would that be “kar”?). Actually, its proper name is the “Karate Corvette.” I honestly can’t believe they didn’t go with “Korvette”; who was steering this ship?! Oddly enough, I’ve been having dreams about this toy lately. Don’t ask why – I couldn’t tell you myself. The dreams must have been an omen, however, that the Karate Corvette would soon enter my life. Ever since I started doing these thrift runs, I had a mental list of toys that I expected to see, and this car was always on it. Last week, my search was over, as it was right before my eyes. This car is 80s badassery cranked up to 11. Not only is it a Corvette, which was THE pussydrencher automobile of the decade, but it had fucking ninja blades that popped out of the sides and hood! It’s like a 4-wheeled assault on homeless guys who try to wash your windows at red lights! I always wanted this car, but this one wasn’t in the best shape, plus it’s almost the size of a Barbie Corvette. No, I would have to leave it behind. After all, Chuck can’t drive it in the World of Warcraft, anyway.

Back when I was 12, and before I learned that they showed boobs during Masterpiece Theatre, Ghostwriter was the coolest thing on PBS. Basically, it’s about a bunch of New York tweens who solve mysteries through the power of literacy. They were aided by Ghostwriter, who appeared like a karaoke ball and would rearrange available letters to send them messages. Sure, it sounds pretty dumb now, but it was pretty engrossing, especially when most story arcs were 4-5 episodes long – somewhat unheard of in children’s programming. None of those kids went anywhere, except for Spanish Kid #2 who ended up as Token Gay Guy on The Real World: Philadelphia. Nope, no room for this in my lair. Plus, I’m still kinda pissed off that they never got around to telling Ghostwriter’s origin!

Blue Collar Ninja! How awesome is that?! It’s like something out of The Adventures of Dr. McNinja. I’m STILL kicking myself for leaving him behind. He would’ve looked GREAT on a shelf, but I was put off by his bootleg nature. He looked like the kind of thing that would just fall apart once I got him out of the bag. Blue collar ninja! He pays bills, drives a truck, and SILENTLY KILLS PEOPLE!

So, on that note, I think I’ll wrap this up. This is most likely the last Thrift Justice post of 2011, so I thank you all for joining me for the ride. Be sure to come back in 2012, when I’ll be another year older, yet hopefully just as funny. Until next time, keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars!

07th Dec2011

Thrift Justice: YSE – Yard FAILS

by Will

So, you read all of these posts, and you simply MUST wonder at all of the luck that I seem to have. “Where does he get all those wonderful toys?” Well, my friends, it’s not all sunshine and sloppy joes over here at Casa West. You see I, like you, sometimes fail. I’ve been trying to put this post together for a while, but recent events seemed to dictate that now was the time. During my last real yard sale run, I decided to bring trooperlite along with me. Known as “Special Forces” from my TRU days, we both share a love of thrifting and Power Rangers. I figured it’d be fun to have a partner in crime, so off we went. And this was single-handedly the worst yard sale run I’ve ever experienced. He apologized for jinxing me – while I don’t blame him for my misfortune, it probably was his fault. I mean, when I’m alone, I’m UNSTOPPABLE! All kidding aside, though, I’ve found that “you can’t win ’em all”, and every trip is still a learning experience. I figured I’d let you in on a few of my biggest yard fails. NOTE: The pictures are crappy to hide my shame.

 

Transformers are proving to be my blind spot. I can’t pretend to know more about Transformers than Bumblebee, Optimus Prime, and Megatron. I have the Transformers knowledge of a suburban soccer mom – “Ooh, look how cool and yellow this little guy is!” That said, I know that TF toys are highly collectible, so I find myself taking chances on things that I really shouldn’t. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s “stick with what you know”. I don’t yet have a TF expert in the fold, so this had led to quite a few disappointments. Mainly, I’ve learned that you’ll NEVER find a complete Transformer in a yard sale/thrift store capacity. That being said, for me the main criterion is “Can it still transform?” Basically, if it can still be changed from mode to mode, and isn’t missing important appendages, it’s good enough for me. Even worse is when dealing with Beast Wars/Beast Machines toys. About a month ago, I bought around 12 Beast Wars figures, and after sorting through them I could say that only 3 of them were anywhere near a “complete” state.  That’s why there are very few Transformers items coming to Will’s World of Wonder – I don’t want to pass off crap to people. If you see a TF toy on there, it’s been extensively researched to make sure it’s worthy of someone’s collection. *end of shameless plug*

ALWAYS check DVD packages! If it’s open, make sure the disc is in there! You see, a few months back, I discovered the USA show PSYCH, and fell in love. Where had this show been all my life? So, as luck would have it, the following week I ran across a yard sale near my house. This yard sale was a bit shady, based on the quality of items I saw. A recent trend I’ve noticed is that the popularity of Storage Wars has gotten more people into the storage auction game. Unfortunately for them, most units aren’t filled with rare artifacts, but rather the personal effects of some single mom as she left town under the cover of night. So, they win these lockers, and then host yard sales to make their money back. Everything is usually a dollar, because it’s dirty and/or there’s no guarantee that it works. That’s exactly the kind of sale that this was. However, I conveniently forgot all of this when I looked on his DVD table and saw PSYCH Season 1. I can experience this magical show from the beginning! And for a mere American dollar! God bless America! So, I snatched it up, along with some other things, and I paid the man. So, I got home, and threw it on the shelf with the rest of the unwatched DVDs. A few weeks later, I decided to check it out, and I noticed that there was a disc missing. Damn it! And not just any disc, but Disc ONE – with the pilot episode. Double Damn it! I wanted to see how it all began. If I wanted to see any random ass episode, I’d just watch ION late at night. So, I can’t sell it without a Disc 1, but it’d also be foolish to buy a new one just for one disc (which I almost did on Black Friday). Curse you, yard sale guy!!!!

You’d think I’d learned my lesson with that yard sale guy, right? Wrong. You see, he managed to approach me in such a way that I found myself visiting his weekly sale throughout the season. Here’s how he did it: I wanted some IKEA desk lamps that he had, but I wasn’t sure if they worked. I asked him about them, but he answered that he didn’t know. Great sales pitch, right? He, then, followed up with this pearl of wisdom: “Think of it like a scratch-off ticket. It’s only a dollar. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but you’re only out a dollar.” The greasy prophet was RIGHT! And I LOVE scratch-off tickets! Seriously, my aunt started buying them for me when I was 8, and I’ve loved a good scratcher since then. In fact, it’s part of the reason that I don’t regularly carry cash – if I end up at a 7/11, I’m wasting that money on scratch-off tickets. I wouldn’t say I have a gambling addiction, as I’m not betting on the ponies, nor have I been to a casino. I will say that I’m addicted to “chance”. So, after that beautiful soliloquy, he had me as a loyal customer.

So, what did I end up foolishly buying? A used Super Nintendo. I never had one growing up, but I figured it would fit in nicely with the rest of my antiquated gaming systems, like my Sega Saturn and my Gamecube. Again, I asked him if it worked, and because it was higher than the $1 price, he guaranteed me that it worked. He even threw in some games, like Super Mario All-Stars and some other notable stuff. At the end of it all, I threw down $10. OK, audience: who knows what happened when I got home? Did the SNES work? OF COURSE IT DIDN’T! My dumb fault, I know. So, the next week, I went back to his sale (remember, these were a weekly occurrence) and told him how the system didn’t work. He feigned surprise, and was like, “Here, take some more games.” He grabbed all the SNES games he had left, and piled them up in my arms. Excellent customer service, right? Well, yeah, unless you realize one small tidbit: I DIDN’T HAVE A WORKING SYSTEM ON WHICH TO PLAY THEM! So, now I’ve got a shitload of SNES games that I can’t play, nor can I even test them to sell. I’ll tell you this, though: the minute yard sale season starts back up, I’ll be right back there at his sale. I’m a sucker.

Epiloque

So, based on the weather, the “yard sale season” is pretty much over. Even still, mixed in with various holiday and church bazaars, I’ve managed to find a few yard sales. Last week, I made somewhat of a dumb purchase. It’s not exactly a “fail”, but it’s hardly a success. Yes, I bought a Disney animation cell. It’s from Robin Hood, and on the back it’s signed by the voice actor for the character. Pretty nice, right? Except for 2 things: 1) they stored it in their attic, so it has sustained some sort of heat damage and 2) the autograph is made out to “the Levitts”. So, I spent money on a damaged item that was personalized for someone else. But it’s a Disney animation cell!!! I’ve spent $25 on worse, and at least I didn’t have to get tested afterwards!

So, the yard sale season may be over, but I’ve still got more stories you haven’t heard. Summer may be over, but Thrift Justice: YSE is just getting started!

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