I love living in sunny San Diego. It seems like our town is blessed with endless Summer-like weather, beautiful beaches, beautiful girls, lively surf, etc. etc. However, one thing it is NOT blessed with is places to buy vintage toys. Sure there are your Craigslist listings, but listings offering Vintage GI Joe are extremely rare. If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time then you know that 99% of my collection has come from Ebay simply because San Diego lacks vintage toy sources and I don’t have too many options. But it really is no fun just sitting in front of the computer and simply clicking “Buy it Now”. I’ve always been fascinated with the fantasy of going out and finding the mother load of vintage GI Joe at a garage or estate sale and making out like a bandit! but alas it is not to be, at least not here in San Diego.
So once is a while I hop on the I-5 freeway and head North to City of Industry in the Los Angeles/San Gabriel Valley region – Home of the (in)famous Frank and Sons collectible toy show. I say infamous because the show has a reputation of being a haven for scalpers. On the other side of the coin though, I’ve found there are also a number of smaller booths with honest sellers specializing in both MIB and loose vintage toys to offset the “bad guys”. In my personal experience, these sellers are more often than not, happy to work out a mutually beneficial price. All it takes is a little bit of extra work to dig through their boxes of loose toys in search of buried treasure. But hey, that’s half the fun right?
Such was the case this past weekend where I found a little bit of treasure hiding in plain sight. I worked my way around the show as I always do starting from front to back. Up front you’ll find sellers with the latest waves of everything from Hot Wheels to Barbie and everything in between. I spent a few minutes looking at all the newest waves of GI Joe Retaliation waves in hopes of filling a hole here and there in my small and humble modern collection. Continuing down the isles you start to come across booths that sell loose toys along with their newer MIB toys. It’s fun looking at display cases with row upon row of loose 3 3/4 figures of Marvel, Star Wars, and GI Joe from many different eras. The cool thing is that sometimes you want a particular figure or piece from a multipack or vehicle set, well this is the place to find those types of figures…for a price that is.
Further still you start to come across booths with nothing but vintage toys, both loose and holy grail MIB samples behind glass to keep them safe from salivating collectors (guilty as charged!) Now this is where things start to get interesting! Sometimes I’ll spend up to 30 minutes in one particular booth making sure I look in every box, tote, nook, and cranny because you just never know what you’ll find. Sometimes the sellers themselves forget what they have! as I walked past one such booth I happen to look up and saw a pile of what looked like vintage GI Joe vehicles, more interestingly – I saw the Tomahawk’s distinct camo pattern peeking out from underneath the pile. I stopped dead in my tracks and walked into the booth and met Sam and Pete, a pair of brothers running the booth. I wasted not time in asking to see the pile of vintage vehicles and sure enough, there was an incomplete Tomahawk. I know what you’re thinking “big deal” right? Well, I have an incomplete Tomahawk on the workbench and I didn’t want to spend 40$ plus shipping for a used T-Hawk on ebay just for parts -So yes, very big deal to me. I put on my “poker face” and stated that I might be interested in the toy depending on price. Sam put a price of 15$ on it, which I thought was more than reasonable. He then asked if I was looking for any figures, to which I responded yes to because I’m always on the hunt for new Vintage figure to work on and add to the blog and my collection. He pulled out a tote with dozens of figures and said any figure was 5$ – I started digging and sure enough found Lift Ticket in pretty decent shape, he didn’t have his commonly missing helmet mic but for 5$ I wasn’t going to complain. His elbows had no cracks, his O-ring was a little loose but nothing I couldn’t fix
I then looked behind the counter and noticed some loose Joes poly-bagged complete with uncut cards on a peg. I started flipping through them and toward the back I found a complete Lt. Falcon in great shape with a price tag of 12$ – trying to disguise my excitement, I put the figure on the counter and said “I’ll take this one too”. My total thus far was 32$, I’d have paid that for Falcon alone to be quite honest. Before I paid, Sam and I started chatting and got into a great discussion about vintage toy lines and some of his prized pieces. It really was rather wonderful having a conversation about something I’m so passionate about with someone equally as passionate. We touched on his experiences at the show, his inventory, and his collection. When it came time to pay he looked at me and said “eh, gimme 20$” 20$?! hells YES! Making a new friend paid off handsomely today.
I walked out of that booth a very happy GI Joe fan! not only because I scored a great deal, but because I was able to experience that “Garage sale” victory I mentioned earlier and met two very cool brothers along the way. The trip was a great success and a lot of fun- Now if only traffic had cooperated on the drive home…Till next time!