I’ve been collecting toys for longer than I care to admit.
Most of the time when I was a kid you found out about a new toys was to be surprised by it when you saw it in a store. Back then (and we’re talkin’ the 70s here) there were only a few ways to hear about toys before they hit stores. The biggest ones for me were the Christmas catalogs from Sears, Montgomery Wards and JC Penney, the BEST catalog (now defunct catalog-based store chain) and, especially, the Heroes World ads that ran in comic books at the time.
Obviously, back in those dark days there was no public internet, or home computers for that matter. There were no action figure news sites, or even print magazines such as Tomarts, Lee’s or ToyFare.
One might argue it was a more magical time for toys and toy collecting. There was, as I mentioned, element of surprise that is missing today for participants in the online collecting community. I can’t tell you the last time I walked into a store to be surprised by a new action figure that I knew nothing about. Generally today we know about new product 3, 6 or even 12 months out from when it is going to start appearing in stores. I love knowing about stuff ahead of time, but the downside is it makes the wait for that high anticipated figure/character much longer.
I still vividly remember walking into Kiddie World toy store in Santa Clara, CA one day in 1982 and seeing this blond, Conan-like action figure of some guy with the goofy name of He-Man. I was stopped in my tracks. I picked him up, examined the figure, read the back of the card and put him back on the peg. I thought he, and his companions and enemies were a bit on the goofy side.
But, after going home I found I just couldn’t stop thinking about those crazy, colorful figures. The wild blending of science fiction and fantasy already had me hooked. I knew I had to go back and get them. Which I did, and a Masters of the Universe fan was born. But, until that fateful day I had absolutely zero inkling about the Masters of the Universe.
I miss those days.
For you younger collectors, I found a page that has archived some of those classic Heroes World ads at the Mego Museum.
They were produced by the Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art, and were more often than not the first place I heard about new Mego figures coming out. It was always so thrilling to see a new ad that showed some new characters that were coming out soon. As a kid I would incorporate this new found knowledge into my play pattern. The Falcon was coming out soon? Cool. Suddenly, the Falcon had been kidnapped by the Green Goblin and Spider-Man, Captain America and Thor would have go on a search and rescue mission to find him. When the day came that my parents bought the Falcon our intrepid heroes would finally succeed at their mission, and the world was safe yet again. Until next time…
I mentioned Christmas catalogs as being another early source of pre-release knowledge. Here’s a site that has archived some old Sears Wishbooks, so you can see (or relive) what it was like to read one of these magical tomes back then.
I love the internet and the news access it provides us, but I do miss the magic of those days of collecting more or less in the dark.