September 18, 2009

Catalogue shopping

Filed under: 13 movie, collecting, nostalgia — fairplaythings @ 2:07 am

This is the story of why I still sometimes find the love for eBay.

One of the collections I hoard and covet are company toy catalogues that are released by companies like Mattel, Hasbro and ToyBiz, to entice merchants to buy their stuff to stock their shelves. The pictures are usually phenomenal and you get a real sense of the marketing push behind each and every product line. Even better, you get to see a lot of prototypes and unreleased toys that just didn’t make it out to the shelves for one reason or another. Along with Star Wars Droids and the unreleased Super Powers Darkseid Tower of Darkness, there have been a number of Transformers that fall into this category, including the original planned releases of what became Scorponok and Polar Claw from the Beast Wars years and a number of Generation 2 planned repaints like Soundwave, Jazz, Sergeant Hound and General Optimus (which frankly could have worked if Hound had been the dozer and in the greens reserved for Prime), and Megatron ATB. Another is the aborted Wonder Woman and the Star Riders which Mattel pitched in 1992.

Anyway, I’ve been picking up catalogs for decades now, starting when I worked as a box boy at the local variety store back home, and rescued the toy catalogs each spring. Ten years ago this summer, I found a great collection of mid-1990s Hasbro catalogs through eBay, which started me down this particular hoarding path anew. And in the years since, I’ve picked them up here and there when the shipping and the pricing is good. So while I haven’t gone overboard and bought some of the truly expensive and rarer ones (1970s Megos and Star Wars-era Kenner), I have a really solid collection.

In fact, right now, Perulator is holding an order for seven Mattel catalogs from 1990 to 1996, a few of which I have but the offer of which I could not pass up because of theĀ  bulk saving on postage and overall price.

If eBay is good for one thing, it is letting you know when items meeting a basic description come up for sale. But I have my reminders sent to my hotmail account and I don’t check it frequently, so I frequently find neat offers after the fact. So you can imagine my surprise very early Wednesday morning when I learned that someone had offers for Hasbro catalogs from 1996 to 2001 starting at a penny a piece. Wow! A lot of times you get exorbitant starting bids or “buy it now” on eBay and catalogs are no exception. But sometimes you get lucky and this was lucky. So I clicked the links and raced over.

Only to find the auctions closed. As Max Short might say, “I missed it by this much”. 30 minutes in my case.

For me, the biggest hassle with eBay is shipping. A lot of people can’t be bothered to ship to Canada. Others try and use shipping and handling practices to cover the expense of PayPal and eBay. So the five dollar 1996 Mattel catalog I bought as a one-off ends up costing $20 after the shipping. So finding almost a dozen catalogs, a number of which I need (because I am not above buying doubles to fill out the collection and use in future trades) in one spot is an amazing thing. And missing the chance to bid is very disappointing. But it gets worse because, among the half dozen catalogs that I need from this collection, are a number of pre-toyfair catalogues, slimmer volumes that are released in advance of the annual toy show in New York. Pre-toyfair catalogues are harder to find. While they frequently pitch a smaller assortment of the upcoming years toys, they are also a way of testing the waters to see if there is interest from merchants in a particular product line. If there is insufficient pick-up, the line will die a quick death before the main offering is underway at Toyfair. Jem, Battle Beasts, and Air Raiders have all had offerings made in the pre-Toyfair catalogue that were dropped as a result of this situation. So pretty cool stuff.

What to do, what to do.

Taking matters into my own hands, I email the seller and offer him $10 per catalogue (total $110). Yes, I might be able to get them for less individually but it will take time and any savings will be negated by shipping costs. And I’d totally pay $10 at a toy show for similar items, so why not try my luck at swaying him with a big price tag at the front end. It worked. The seller was disappointed by the inaction on the catalogues and pulled the auction, but agreed to put up a special “buy-it-now” for me to take advantage of the collection. Fearful of eBay’s wrath and/or to protect himself through eBay’s policies, he wanted to do it officially through the website as oppose to informally. So after much nervousness that some delay at my end would allow another collector to swoop in and take the collection for themselves, I was able to find the auction this morning and seal the deal. The result? I have an uninterrupted Hasbro collection that spans from 1987 to 2001, including eight pre-Toyfair catalogues. Add to my run on Mattel catalogs from 1988 to 1996, and Kenner run from 1986 to 1992 (minus 1988), the collection is pretty impressive.

And I have plans. Terrible, terrible plans. :)

Now to round out some of those other titles. ToyBiz? LJN? I’m looking at you.


  1. Hi, I came across your page here doing a search trying to track down some info on a fig. I have here. It’s marked Hasbro ‘87, is a 2″ fig. that looks as though it should be an Air Raiders Wind Tyrant, however it’s not quite. The body is grey with some silver and black for what appear to be hoses running down to it’s belt, and the head, arms and legs are purple, the inverse color sceme for the Wind Tyrants that had purple bodies and grey head, arms and legs. The right foot has the same notch, and there are similarities to mold features, but it is definitely not any of the standard mold for the troops from either side nor for their leaders. If you have any idea or know of another line Hasbro released in ‘87 with figures the same scale and similar design to the Air Raiders any info would be great. Thanks much and hope you might be able to help out a little.

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