The Great Toy Purge of Aught Five
“How long before all of us simply get in the way?”
-Captain James T. Kirk, Star Trek Episode 54: The Ultimate Computer
How long, indeed?
This past weekend, I executed the single biggest action figure purge of my collecting career. As you know, there are times I fell somewhat overwhelmed by the little plastic men, women, monsters and robots who inundate our lives. So, the shipping box for the 19” Donald Duck Big Figure I acquired on our recent Disney vacation was stuffed to the secondary brim (I taped the flaps up to create more box capacity because, you know, I got it like that) and, along with a few Glad bags of superfluous packages, taken to the trash room/basement of our building. It was cathartic.
Just to give you an idea of what was excised, the following lines were either reduced to the bare minimums or eliminated from my collection entirely…
G.I. Joe 12”
Hercules (Sorbo, not Disney)
The Mummy Returns
Power Rangers: Wild Force
The Scorpion King
Starting Line-Up 12”
Star Wars Jedi Force
There were other odds and ends; an inventory would have been depressing. The above list is off the top of my head.
This is not the first time I’ve done this. During the last collection cast-off, lines like Mummies Alive, Jurassic Park and Titan A.E. were sent packing. I wanted to pare my pre-school “chunky” figure collection down to my first love in that category, Rescue Heroes, so Spider-Man & Friends, Transformers: Go-Bots and Disney Adventurers were ebayed. Also ebayed within the last few months was my entire Jakks WWE collection with the exception of the Classic Superstars line.
I’m not done with the current cleansing either. G.I. Joe 3.75” is on the chopping block (though the October Guard will be nigh impossible to part with), and I’m whittling away some DC Direct, Marvel Legends and Transformers. Transformers may take quite a hit. As a massive fan of the Beast Era, I’ve accepted Hasbro is not returning to that continuity or those characters, and so my Armada, Energon and even Generation One figures have lost a great deal of their appeal.
Except for Unicron. He’s not going anywhere.
So, that’s what I’ve been up to lately. Using my finely honed powers of perception, I can see you are thinking three things…
“Good gravy, did this guy collect a lot of crap!”
“How could he throw _____ away? I love _____!”
…and, on a more serious note…
“He’s just putting stuff in his building’s basement? Why aren’t these toys going to charity?”
First, I’ve never found a charity willing to take unwrapped toys. I don’t know if that’s the case everywhere or what, but around here, it seems everyone wants MOC/IB stuff only. I think the Salvation Army might take unwrapped stuff, but their outlet nearest me isn’t really near me at all, so they’re not particularly an option.
That’s the practical reason, here’s the kind of whimsical one.
There’s a kid on the ninth floor of our building who seems to take everything I leave.
I’ve never actually thrown these toys away, I always set the boxes, bags etc. outside the little recycling/garbage room in the basement on the off chance someone might have a use for anything I no longer do. One day, my wife told me a kid we know in passing on the ninth floor was taking the figures as I periodically left them, somehow deduced it was me leaving them, and asked her to thank me.
This created an interesting question for me. Now, whenever I decide not collect X anymore and give up what I have, do I liquidate through ebay or would Ninth Floor Kid be interested?
More often than not, Ninth Floor Kid gets the right of first refusal.
And so, as we dragged the massive box of, mostly loose, but some MOC, figures to the basement last Saturday night, I wondered what would go through the mind of not just my young almost-friend on nine should he see it, but of anyone who came across this nearly obscene release of Marie Antoinette-esque largess.
It felt good to be free of all the languishing figures. But what must they think of me?
We left through the basement on Sunday afternoon because the car was on the street. The big box that brought me Donald Duck was now in the recycling/garbage room proper, but there was not a single figure in sight.
I don’t know, at least not yet, if Ninth Floor Kid is now the custodian of anything (or, perhaps everything) I gave up on Saturday, but I’d like to think someone has it because what’s given me the most pause in periodically placing no longer wanted parts of my collection in the basement is this…
It may be sitting outside the garbage room, but I don’t consider it to be garbage at all. At one point or another, all that stuff was part of my collection and, thus, part of me.
Am I throwing me away? Leaving parts of who I am behind? Even some unexplored, MOC parts?
The transitory nature of life demands almost everything material we acquire will someday leave us, be it practical or frivolous. Nothing lasts forever; you can’t take it with you and all of that. One could look at what I did Saturday night as everything from charitable, to arrogant to wasteful, but I rather see it as something else, something not quite definable in a single term.
Life is about stages of being. The me who bought the toys I let go Saturday is clearly not the me who bought toys yesterday, or else what I boxed up would still be here. For me, the time for those toys has passed. But, for Ninth Floor Kid or whomever cleaned that big box out, a new stage of being was created, their time with those toys.
Toys, things, can mark individual experiences or whole eras of our lives. Most of us can identify two distinct periods in our toy lives; the figures we played with as kids and the figures we collect now as adults. When Ninth Floor Kid sees something in a box I’ve left and takes it, those figures are, in effect, traveling backward in time. The toys pass from the critical, fastidious hands of an adult collector to the busy, imaginative hands of a child who sees wonder in them I no longer can. They become TOYS again and, in doing so, form a sort of bond between two people who would otherwise have little to say to or do with each other.
And I think that’s pretty cool.
Now, only one question remains…
What the hell am I going to do with all these packages from the figures I still have?
Got a comment? Send me a line at email@example.com!