When Portland's one toy show shut down a few years ago, Michael McClafferty mourned. Then he started his own. "I have a Rolodex of fellow pickers," he says.
The Vintage Toy and Record Show at Vancouver's Pearson Air Museum this Saturday marks his fifth. He added the record room so "girlfriends who have cars will drive the boyfriends who don't have cars to come see the toys."
Turns out toy collecting is a little sexist and ageist, and a lot like a gang war. Here's what we learned, with comments from McClafferty.
Model trains are out. Beanie Babies and the Beatles are in.
"People who collect trains are dying off, so the value is dropping. Toys from the late '80s or early '90s are popular now, because the people who grew up with those are hitting their prime nostalgia years. Beatles records will always be valuable because every 12-year-old will always love the Beatles."
Furby is never in.
Any time we mentioned a Furby to McClafferty, he laughed. "You can bring a bag of toys for me to look at. Don't bring a Furby."
Your mint-condition Barbie isn't worth as much as that
headless G.I. Joe.
People think every Barbie or G.I. Joe in their attic is worth hundreds. A pristine Barbie is worth less than a G.I. Joe. Why? "Girls take good care of their dolls. Every boy took an M-80, dug a hole to put their G.I. Joe in, and blew it up. It's all supply and demand."
Don't say "mint."
"That's for coins. You want something that's NRFB [never removed from the box] or MOC [mint on card]."
My Little Ponies are, like, mer-ponies, bro.
Bronies are still a thing, and they're driving up the price of coveted Ponies.
Late-period Star Wars toys are where the action is.
Forget original 1978 action figures. "In 1985, when the movies were in a lull, they didn't make many figures. It's like impossible to find a loose Amanaman for $200. You can get loose R2-D2s for $25 all day long." The most valuable is a "double-telescoping" Darth Vader. Less than 100 were made, and one can be worth up to $10,000.
Seattle is for the transportationists.
"In the toy world, there's so many genres. I'm a vintage action guy. Some people just collect transportation toys. Like in Seattle, because they're so much closer to Boeing."
This isn't like comic con.
"I'm anti-con. The day my show turns into a venue for third-level wrestlers giving autographs and a Princess Leia costume contest, I'm out."
Don't bring Grandma; she will be exploited.
"Vendors cannibalize the market by buying and reselling before the shows even open. They find the virgin vendor—that little old local lady—and buy her out."
The Vintage Toy and Record Show is at the Pearson Air Museum, 1115 E 5th St., Vancouver. 10 am Saturday, April 23. $3, $6 early bird (9 am).