Its 7:59 am. Do you know where your collector is?
October 21, 2008

If you have a Target within driving distance I’m betting you’ve waited outside its doors for the 8 a.m. opening. Its just one of those things we do. Since JLU became a Target "exclusive" I’ve been thinking more about the Big Red Bulls Eye. Here are some random observations and recollections.



Collector Sign and Price / Stockroom Scanners

What has been your experience with these signs? At the very least it is an acknowledgement of the adult collector community. Despite its stern message I’ve never had an employee refer to it and refuse my request that they "check in the back." I don’t do this often, but when I do most employees help.

Usually I’ll ask when I hear reports of a new wave hitting and, after scanning and receiving an "in stockroom: Yes," I’ll explain to the employee what I’m looking for and inform them that apparently there are some in the back. I should say, though, that this almost never works out for me! The odds I place on toy hunt miracles are around 100 to 1. A few times at Target a "new" case is brought out that has clearly been picked over at some point.

I do like the Price / Stockroom scanners, though. They at least make me feel better that I’m not missing out on something that’s just beyond those mysterious stockroom doors.


Hot Wheels Guys

One thing you’ll notice while standing outside Target’s doors in the morning are Hot Wheels guys. Although they can be spotted at any of the common collecting watering holes, this is where I run into them most. One particular Target I visited regularly in my early days of collecting drew a pretty sizable Hot Wheels crowd. These were the guys who helped me tune in on that particular corner of collecting culture. (Note – I’m about to engage in a little light-hearted stereotyping.) Now-a-days I can peg a "Hot Wheels Guy" rather quickly. For instance, a few Tuesdays ago I went by a local Target before work. While standing outside the door a man walks up and subtly positions himself so that he’d be first when the doors opened. When they do open he walks at an accelerated pace that’s slightly beyond normal. Just fast enough to stay ahead of the rest of us but just shy of outright jogging. He’s in his mid 50’s. Salt and pepper hair and beard that both need trimming. Oh, and a fanny pack. No doubt about it: Hot Wheels guy.

A collecting buddy and I would make up nicknames for the Hot Wheels guys we’d see regularly. I’ve forgotten all but one. He was an older guy who would always commandeer one of those Rascal scooters Target has available. When the doors opened he’d go for a scooter while the other Hot Wheels guys high-tailed it back to their isle. He’d always get there a few minutes later having missed out on anything new. We kinda felt sorry for him, but our (not-so-PC) nickname stuck: Wheels.

Now, although the Hot Wheels crowd is a different breed than the Action Figure crowd I’ve only once had an unpleasant run in. By and large, they are nice folks who seem to get just a bit friendlier once they realize you are not another predator treading on their turf. My most heated toy isle confrontation came one morning with a Hot Wheels guy who also had an annoying interest in HTF action figures. He grabbed the only two of a new Star Wars character before my "Go Go Gadget" arms could reach them. I mumbled "scalper" under my breath but loud enough for him to hear. It set him off. He literally got right up in my face and snarled something about "picking them up for a friend." Besides him, I’ve had good relations with the die cast crowd.


Target Friends

When I was living in NJ I used to commute to work with a friend. He was a collector, too. Each morning, either out of habit or just because we didn’t really want to get to work, we’d stop the Target off Rt 46 in Totawa. There was an old guy named Bill who worked in the Toy Department. Probably due to the regularity of my visits Bill and I struck up a pretty good friendship. We’d often chat for a few minutes each morning about this and that. I’ll go ahead and note that he had a fairly negative opinion of the Hot Wheels crowd because, as he would describe it, they’d explode through the pegs leaving him a mess to clean up. He was always very helpful keeping his eyes peeled for figures I was looking for. I really missed him when I moved away and I often wonder if he’s still working there.

Back in the heyday of the new Masters of the Universe line I was on the hunt for Buzz Off. One day as I was shuffling through the MOTU pegs a big guy with a ponytail and glasses asked me what I was looking for. "New Masters of the Universe," I said. He was looking for the same thing. After a moment he mentions: "I’m Cornboy, one of the Four Horsemen." I honestly didn’t believe him for a second. (After now having seen him at Comic Con panels a few years in a row I’m pretty sure he was telling the truth.) I’d run into Cornboy on occasion and always enjoyed the opportunities to chat. One day as we were walking out I told him how much I liked the 4H’s take on Ram Man. He replied, "Oh, wait until you see Roboto." He described how the guts and gears all move when you turn the waist, etc. I love that figure all the more for the early inside scoop I got from the source.


Well, so much for my Target related ramblings. Funny how a big box retail store can become such a part of your life. I’ll see you next Tuesday my red shirt with khaki pants friends!

Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann
Action figure anthropologist, Professor Cantina Dan Neumann has been a scholastic contributor to the online community studying the complex world of parumplasticus populus {little plastic people} since the turn of this millenium. His primary focus is the visual cataloging of species exhibits through photo-journalism.
Read other articles by Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann.





  • Jeremy SpyMagician says:

    GREAT post Dan!

    Ah, the Target runs. Good times.

    Recently I’ve been hitting Wal Mart for that elusive Marvel Legends Ares wave. Actually hit paydirt at the Yuba City, CA Wal Mart. All but Crossbones and Vision (who I then went to ebay for as seeing Ares with no legs is just too damn sad…)

    Also had a rather civilized time at the K-Mart Cars Collectors event. My Fiancee and I each got a case to go through so we were able to get a few spares for our good buddy Julius Marx!

    Yeah, I still like Target best of the big box stores, but lately I’ve had the least luck there…

    Still, the hunt goes on!


  • Erik superfriend says:

    I agree. great blog.

    I only admit to doing this 8AM dance once. Disappointing – there was nothing new that day. The expected return is just not worth it for me to make that kind of effort.

  • lobsterfish says:

    ha ha ha, unfortunately after becoming a familiar face @ Target, I’ve been labeled a hot wheels guy and a scalper, but never a collector. They lump us together, ex: “they all look the same” basically. That’s a funny story on the Cornboy. That’s like running into Paul Newman hovering around the sauce aisle, scoping out people checking out his product. Kind of creepy actually.

  • MegaGearX says:

    I do this dance all the time. You have to find a local Target and go every day when they first open up. You can’t go only once. It’s the ONLY way besides eBay, that you’ll get the figures you want, unless all of the collectors and scalpers in the area get those figures first and start leaving them on the shelves.

  • Danny Cantina-Dan says:

    But Cornboy was actually looking for new product. Its not like Mattel sends them new stuff once it comes off the production line. He’s out there like the rest of us tracking down new toys! At least he was at that point. Seemed crazy to me at the time, too!

  • Bunger says:

    I guess my big problem now is: 14.99 for action figures that aren’t select/dc direct? That’s stupid. I honestly think paying 9.99 or so for the DC Universe Figures is rediculous (one reason I get them online now…shipping for me is cheaper than gas). But there I was at Target…I saw the Black Suit Spiderman, didn’t even pay attention to the price. Took it to the register…14.99. Stupid. I left it there and left. It makes it hard for me to pick up the ones I want now, as they become more and more expensive.

  • David says:

    I usually am able to make a morning Target run on Saturday or Monday; and last time, as several people were waiting for the store to open, there was a guy giving me the evil-eye, he had pegged me as a collector. He did the power-walk just like you described (though so did I) but went ahead to the next aisle. He was a Hot Wheels Guy. Until your post, I had no idea what that was about. Thanks!

  • Supermom says:

    Mom’s also make regular Target runs and fight off little kids in the toy dept looking for the latest action figure her “little boy” collector
    needs. Actually, there’s usually more “big” boys in the action figure isle

  • CantinaDan says:

    Mom, I told you not to embarrass me in front of my friends!

    (I’ll send you an updated list of what I’m looking for tonight.)

  • Lt. Clutch says:

    I worked retail at a Kay-Bee store about nine years ago and I remember these kind of folks well enough.

    We had a Hot Wheels Guy and a Star Wars Guy. Both had a habit of being there right on time every Thursday even as the truck was being onloaded. But where Star Wars Guy would patiently wait with his kid for the toys to be stocked (sometimes for hours) Hot Wheels Guy would sneak into the warehouse while we were carting tons of boxes atop each other.

    This was a major no-no with our manager and could easily get me fired. A point I kept trying to get across every week, but Hot Wheels Guy simply would not care: He’d walk into the back of the store as if he was family, heading straight for the unopened cases.

    And yes, he was a scalper. That’s how he made his living and he proudly boasted about it.

    It’s people like these why I started shopping online after I quit the place. Too many bad memories. Once you’ve been on both sides of the issue, things never quite seem the same again.

  • Howard the Duck says:

    Heh. Hot Wheels guys.

    it’s so true. They will give you an evil look if they suspect you to be treading on their little Hot Wheels cash cow. They do all kind of look alike. They are very predatory, suspicious, and territorial. And, they thankfully hardly ever venture one aisle over into action figure territory. At least they don’t when I’m around them.

  • Thatman says:

    You know, I’ve heard about the Hot Wheels guys, but I don’t recall ever actually seeing one…which is odd, given how I’m used to seeing all the regular collectors. We have a Target near us that my wife works across the street from and can usually hit up for me, but it’s only on rare occassions that we get there before late afternoon.

    I do have to say, though, that on days when I’ve been off from work and out and about at 8-9 AM…those are the days that I almost always find something I’m looking for at Target…so the strategy is at least somewhat effective!

  • jimm says:

    Befriend the HWG, amazing what kind of figs they come up with after they can’t sell ’em and you find a t-hunt to swap ’em!

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