Fresh Finds of the 80s: G.I. Joe

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Got to get tough, yo Joe!

Every generation had a toy that defined their youth. Mine was undoubtedly dominated by the world of G.I.Joes. In fact, I was the “G.I. Joe kid” on my street, with an obsessive collection that topped 130 or so action figures, including a few dozen vehicles, including some of the larger, more expensive ever to be sold.

Only if I knew how much they would be worth today, I wouldn’t have built dirt trenches in my front yard and used a hose to simulate a cobra trap. I mean, the movie was based on the mythical Cobra-La so how could a kid not totally decimate the value of all their toys?

I recently went on ebay and found out exactly what my toys would have been worth. Some range from a hundred bucks new in the package and peaks around $700 for the more rare figures. Well, I wouldn’t say rare, but the figures that people managed to not open and keep in a climate controlled place out of view of sunlight.

The same phenomenon could be said for the original Star Wars set. For anyone that has ever watched Toy Hunter with Jordan Hembrough, you know just how much those toys have skyrocketed in value.

I guess I would have a hundred grand or so in toys, but I wouldn’t trade the experience of being young with no problems during the dawn of the video game age.

We traded baseball and football cards in the late 80s.

We rode bikes.

We built forts.

Played war.

Lost all our accessories to our action figures.

And didn’t give a shit. Our parents didn’t give a shit.

In essence, we were built to not live in the past in contrast to the kids today. There are a billion special editions on toy shelves each year that the meaning is lost. Funko Pops are meant to be saved in their pristine boxes. Every TV and movie show needs a line of toys, mostly marketed toward adults of the 80s who remember collecting. The value of all the crap today will be very little in 20 to 30 years because Funko Pop armies are not being lined up in trenches in the front yard ready for war. The “pristine” supply will always be high.

The same phenomenon happened in the 1980s boom of baseball cards. All the kids of the 50s grew up and had money 30 years later and started bidding up stuff from their childhood. They wanted to get the cards they never found. They wanted the best condition. Prices shot up and companies over produced baseball cards.

The same shit is happening today. All current toys will crash in value. There is a reason why The Phantom Menace toys sell less today than they did when the movie came out. There is simply too much of it. Add in Disney over producing Star Wars each and every Christmas from her and forever and what you have is basically the end of collecting. G.I. keeps releasing different lines of toys, confusing new collectors and annoying the old faithful.

But hey! People collecting for fun, right?

Bullshit.

People like both. The same goes for car collecting and vintage comic books and fine art. People want their rare stuff to go up in value. People speculate. They commiserate with friends. They take trips to conventions around the world for the thrill of the hunt.

The prices of the original line of Star Wars and G.I. Joes will always go up in value, even as the original kids grow old and die. The franchises will continue.

I just look forward to when trenches are built in yards again.

As for me, this all started because my wife found for me a 1992 G.I. Joe still sealed in the package, purchased for $3 at a thrift shop. I guess it’s worth a couple Subway Sandwiches more, but I don’t care, I’ll keep it. Hopefully someday, I’ll be able to get the toy I never got; An original B.A.T.S sealed in the package.

In the end, I have the memory, and that’s all that counts.

Thrift Treasures (The Nora Roberts & Brad Meltzer Score)

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I don’t know what the hell is going on. I’m finding autographs left and right. I have a few theories; most of them having to do with houses getting cleaned out in estate sales and the rest of the stuff getting dumped at Goodwill because it is too much work to search through books. I wasn’t even planning to go, but I’m taking a trip to Las Vegas starting tomorrow, and I needed to run to the ATM (obviously). I stopped by two stores on the way to my bank’s ATM and somehow, someway, I found 3 autographed books. Considering the fact that two of them were 99 cents and one was $1.99, the deal wasn’t that bad. The first book I found was Nora Roberts aka JD Robb, autographed to someone back in 1993. IMG_9620.JPG

She has probably signed a ton of books over the years, considering she has sold 400 million books and probably has a yacht the size of Florida. Pretty cool pickup, and as of now, there are none on ebay.

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I picked this book up, yet, I have no idea who this author is. The sticker on the front made it obvious; he probably signed at a local store or something. I thought it was interesting President Clinton wrote an introduction to the book, which I don’t think he does very often.

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It was highly bizarre that he chose not to sign the usual author title page, but rather the page before. What a weirdo or a pretentious asshole.

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The shocker today, was a third autographed book in a very short time span. Notice the ripoff at Goodwill these days; it was at Big Lots across the street for 3 bucks. Goodwill dropped it by a buck. Even though it was a blue sticker day, it was still more expensive than the independent thrift shops. Yes, I know they say Goodwills are essentially “ebay supply stores” these days, but damn, they are pricing stuff like an antique store for crying out loud. When I started scalping twelve years ago, prices were 50 cents a book. Eventually their raising of prices, along with the postal service raising their rates, along with amazon raising their cut, then competition cutting prices to a penny basically destroyed my little operation and many others back in 2004-05. I’ve noticed this tendency with practically anything that looks of value. Not to let any penny go to a flipper, they do stuff like take a framed picture and price it at $80 bucks, although it won’t ever sell at that price. They will wait until it goes to half price sticker day and hopefully someone pays for the frame. Oil painting? $200 bucks despite knowing nothing about art. The store is pretty backwards these days which is why the flippers and ebay folks still pick the stores clean everyday (some in my town sit all day at each one in teams … yep, I call them the ebay mafia), but the collector types like me hunt in more obscure places they don’t know about. Plus, there are scams going on with the employees themselves. Tonight, as I walked out, I checked the record section, and only saw crap, until I walked on and in another section, buried beneath expired calendars, were two Frank Sinatra vinyls in pretty awesome shape. Stuff like this goes on all the time; I’m not a picker newbie. I know the workers in the back text their contacts when they see something good and coordinate a time to bring it out. IMG_9617.JPG

In any case, there it is, the last autograph by Brad Meltzer, boldy signed. Pretty cool for a buck. So, 3 autograph books, 2 Sinatra Albums, 1 Duck Dynasty sealed Chia Pet, and a first edition of Message in a Bottle … all for 9 bucks. Pretty good stop before hitting the ATM.

 

Thrift Treasures (The Oliver North Score)

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I quickly stopped in a Texas Thrift, and was shocked a little by the prices. Some books were as pricey as $3. I stayed for 30 minutes and found some good scores.

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I found a pretty good score. The Pimsleur Approach Spanish 1 language set was selling for $2.98. Brand new, this went for $250 back in 2010. On ebay now, this goes from $35 to $60 depending on the seller and condition. Many of the languages, especially advanced levels go for $99 to $150, so I’ll keep my eyes peeled in the future. I actually might listen to these on the way to work the next month and then sell online in August.

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This was my book haul. All in all, I overpaid. One I bought as a joke. I’m an Anne McCaffrey fan, so I paid $2 for this first edition since I didn’t own it already. I bought a first edition of “The Historian” because it might be collectable down the road. Who knows. I bought The New New Thing by Michael Lewis because I read most of his books. He had me hooked after Liar’s Poker although most people know him from The Blind Side, Moneyball, and The Big Short.

The score of the day? Oliver North, autographed. You can buy this for as low as $11.98 on ebay, but who knows in 20 years. IMG_9511.JPG

The big hint was the sticker on the front cover.

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An autograph is an autograph. I couldn’t go wrong for $2.

 

 

 

Thrift Treasures (The Annie Hall Score)

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I want to start with full disclosure. This is a combination of trips to Goodwill and actually happened in between the Tom Clancy and Bo Jackson score this week. I was going to write this blog but got excited with the Bo Jackson find that I wanted to share that first.

So on my trip to San Angelo, I visited a few of their stores. The prices were generally good, around a quarter to 50 cents for each book. This is much better than the 99 cents to 1.99 that San Antonio stores have tried to charge (prices fluctuate). I’m not sure if it helps with profit margins as anything of value is usually picked relatively fast. In any case, I picked up a bunch of books (maybe around 30, some will be blogged about in the future). I found a first edition of Confederacy of Dunces, however it was like a 10th printing and ex-library book (might be worth $30 on ebay). For 50 cents, I thought it was worth it to find a hardcover version. Maybe I’ll spot a first edition, first printing in the future, who knows. I picked up a Stephen King novel I didn’t now already for 50 cents. Despite the disappointment, I figured a buck for Harper Lee’s second book was worth a shot.

Along in the batch, I picked up a pretty decent score of older science fiction paperbacks that I want to share, but I need to do some research first. I still buy everything on a hunch and try not to spend time on documenting what I have, outside things I suspect are of value (autographs and rare first editions). So I don’t focus too much on that old DAW paperback first edition bought for a quarter and can be flipped for $15 on ebay. Just not my style. I am open to trades, but for now, I just buy what I like and recognize as value from a decade of researching.

So that brings me to the Annie Hall score. Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 10.37.18 PM.png

Right inside the jacket was this sticker and her autograph. I guess a couple years ago she attended this event, here in San Antonio and signed a ton of books (according to the news, the event raised $400K). This is what you would call 100% authentic. There was news coverage. There is the date stamped. Her name is on a sticker where she spoke as protestors screamed outside. Then the signature matches. Pretty cool find I think. Annie Hall was a good movie. The Godfather is a masterpiece. On ebay right now, this goes on average between $35-60.

Thrift Treasures (The Bo Jackson Score)

I stopped by a Goodwill on the way home Monday and found something after 15 minutes. The store was a hot mess, but to me, this is where pickings are better; nobody knows what is going on there.

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This is the typical scene at this particular store. It is one of the worst ones for books. I rarely go in because they churn through so much (located next to a Burlington). So it was here I found an oldie but a goodie for those NFL fans of the late 1980s. Bo Jackson the duel threat phenom before he blew out his knee. IMG_9477.JPG

The only other thing I picked up was a first edition Stephen King book, Bag of Bones. There was nothing special about it other than I collect Stephen King Books. Unfortunately, since I collect all on memory now instead of stressing out with an inventory sheet, I found out I already had this book in first edition. On well, minus 99 cents unless I find someone else who likes him. IMG_9482.JPG

I combined this score with two other books I bought the previous weekend at a random quick stop. I found a pretty pristine copy of Sphere by Michael Crichton, a first edition, one of my favorite novels of all time (the movie was horrendous). I had found 4 BCE in the past, so this one stuck out to me from a quick scan. Can you see the difference? The real first edition has the reflective metallic details in the lettering. All I had to do was wipe off a few scuff marks (Like some random leaf or something in the O) and it looked like it came from the book launch. Believe it or not, a first edition Sphere runs around $45. All an all, another solid 1.99 purchase (a higher end thrift shop … grrr) IMG_9530.jpeg

The last book of my was a first edition of Legends. This is pretty much mandatory in every fantasy collector’s shelf. Just look at the authors. You’ve already seen Anne McCaffrey from my first autograph score. I have a Stephen King score from 12 years ago I can show if I ever hit a dry spell. IMG_9483.JPG

The back of the novel is just as loaded (with Terry Pratchett, Orson Scott Card, Robert Silverberg, Ursula K Le Guin, and George R. R. Martin). As a huge fan of a bunch of these authors, getting a first edition of this was huge. The novel debuts “The Hedge Knight” which is the first side story he published, showing Dunk and Egg and their adventures. So far, I have yet to find a first edition of A Game of Thrones or A Clash of Kings, the only two books before this (I do have a first edition of Tuf Voyaging). It is funny to note he wrote a Dance with Dragons was forthcoming, instead of a Storm of Swords that came next. In any case, the novel is cool to have, notwithstanding it is worth $25-$30 despite being a $1 purchase at the thrift store.

As for the Bo Jackson Book? I did it again. Call me the autograph whisperer, but I seemed to have crafted a process to find autographed books at garage sales and thrift shops left and right.The Heisman winner still commands a fanbase and charges around $100 per autograph at conventions. On ebay, this book when signed goes between $39.99 and $60. So it was a pretty good score for 99 cents. Below is the picture of the autograph as I was standing in the middle of the shop looking like a fool.

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READ ABOUT MY ANNIE HALL SCORE

Thrift Treasures (The Pink Floyd Score)

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For about ten years, since I started thrift shopping here and there, once in a while I would peruse the old vinyl bins. Thrift shoppers have seen the smorgasbord of crap in the record bins of thrift shops and should be familiar with the site: Lots of musicals, symphonies, old singers of the 1940s and 1950s that nobody has ever heard of. Even though these records are unknown and worthless, they are beat to shit as if they were touched a thousand times. I have two theories on this.

My first theory is this: They are beat to shit because they have been there many many years and have had people sort through them dozens of times every day for a decade. You see, they are the “Records Left Behind.” The music gods came down and took the good ones. What you have left are the records that do not deserve to be in anyone’s dream collection.

My second theory is there is a donation wave that happens when technology changes. The people who bought records of the cool artists of the 1960s and 1970s and early 1980s got rid of their old stuff in garage sales when CD’s came about. Say you have a person born in 1955. When they turned 18, and bought Pink Floyd’s The Wall in 1973, they played the shit out of it. They hung the poster on their wall and put the stickers on their locker. By the time CDs came about in the mid 80s, they might have replaced the record with the CD. They would have been around 30 by then, and keeping up with the Joneses. So maybe they had a house so they bought a new CD player and bought all those albums they had when they were younger, because many of us listen to stuff we associate with our youth. (Half the stuff I listen to is from 1994-1999 when I was “growing up”). So starting in the mid 80s, they began throwing out their old records. Parents cleaned out their kids old bedrooms and threw it all out (much like in the 1950s when mothers threw out all those Micky Mantle baseball cards). Most of these were beat to shit or scratched up. By the mid 90s, the vinyl market was dead. This is when I suspect all the great record finds could be had at Goodwill, Salvation Army, and other thrift shops.

By the late 90s, a peculiar things started to happen. Records were growing in popularity again. I think this had something told do with the internet, CD’s not being unique anymore because music was being ripped from the internet. The buyer is now in his mid 40s and maybe a little nostalgic. He has planted his roots and maybe gone through his midlife crisis. So from here on they might start collecting their old albums to listen to the records they used to love or, the new generation takes over. Their kids could be entering high school or college and might find the records their parents used to listen to pretty hip, so they hoard them, and start collecting them.

As a result, thrift shops don’t receive well known records anymore like they would with VHS or DVDs today (which who knows, might be a market for that in 30-40 years). What you see are the remainders that have been picked over 800 times, possibly because ebay now provides a market to make a quick buck. When they do get quality music, it only happens on accident I think and in bulk. Major collectors would likely get stuff liquidated in an estate sale. Small time collectors won’t donate their stuff if they spent years building their collection back up. If they have held it this long, it isn’t getting donated. The peak picking era for records was likely from 1985 to 1998. Those that buy vinyl now are too familiar with ebay to ever unload their precious music.

So back to the picture, where did I find my Pink Floyd The Dark Side of the Moon albums? In ten years of of visiting goodwills or a Salvation Army maybe once a month (sometimes going 7-8 months without visiting one), I have amassed most my collection in 3 scores. I have found some pretty cool stuff in really good condition. By the early 80s, many people who bought records would only slit open the side and pull the record out, so the album is well preserved. Many of the art inserts are still inside. I like the ones with the original store sticker on the cover of the plastic. It’s pretty funny to see how prices change.

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One of my Pink Floyd Albums for which I bought for 99 cents (worthy maybe $50 for the quality) still has the poster and stickers which is pretty awesome. The other album isn’t exactly a gem mint 10, but that’s ok (might be worth $15-20 on Ebay). The good condition album, along with a box of 20-30 pretty iconic records were found at a Goodwill in Las Vegas when I lived there in 2010. I forget if it was 50% off day, but at most I paid $20 for the curated box, likely left behind by an old collector or their kids. Half of the albums had plastic sleeves which was nice. It was good luck to find a single album worth anything at a thrift shop these days, so to find an entire box put out and priced for 99 cents each is a score.

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I also have a couple Purple Rain albums for when Prince went by that name. Just look at that cover. The purple bike, the purple jacket. The duality of the vinyl cover. Pretty crazy. One of the copies was also found in big score.

The rest of my collection came from similar situations. A random box is put out with no kidding good quality records from good artists, and happened to be there. My current record collection stands at around 100 albums I think. I have some doubles. It is very rare that I find an random album of good quality.

Back to the beginning. That buyer of Pink Floyd would be in their early 60s today. Maybe there is a random shot they will donate well-preserved albums now and hope it isn’t picked up in 5.3 seconds by “the flea market” or “ebay” or “super collector” people that hit up the stores practically everyday. Maybe I’m wrong and just miss out every time? Who knows.

For now, I will keep picking up quality stuff and sticking them in a box. Maybe in 40 years, my grandkids will clean out my place and have no idea what the hell these things are, and toss them to a Goodwill.

READ ABOUT MY BO JACKSON SCORE

Thrift Treasures (The Tom Clancy Score)

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My bibliophile hobby continues. I don’t know how many books I have at this point. I stopped cataloguing books around 7 years ago. It became no fun if I was constantly inventorying my collection. So now I just buy buy buy, but ensure I keep within a limited budget. In the old days, I use to be a decent seller on Amazon in the days before prices plummeted and before Borders went belly up. This is how I funded my old buying habits. Now, for the price of a couple hardbacks a month, I go out into the wild and pick books up a flea markets, thrift shops, garage sales, along with other things I collect. So for me, the thrill these days amount more to the hunt for treasure.

Sometimes I collect certain author’s first editions.

Sometimes I go for genre (Sci-Fi and Fantasy for me).

A bunch of books I collect just to, you know … read them.

Most of the time, there is little of value to be had. From the picture above, I bought Dan Brown’s Inferno, first edition, that is probably worth the 99 cents I paid for it. When the movie comes out this summer, I think it’ll be worth 99 cents. So many were printed that it is a little pointless collecting Dan Brown first editions. For me, since I found a first edition The Da Vinchi Code, I now have all his books in first edition. I even picked up a swanky Angel & Demons illustrated edition for $2 on the same excursion (5-6 stores). It’s worth $5-6 on ebay, so as a Dan Brown Collector, this was a decent pickup.

I found a copy of a BCE of A Time to Kill by John Grisham, printed by Wynwood Press. When Grisham wanted to become a writer, he did hard work of getting it printed by a vanity press, putting the books in the trunk of his car, and driving town to town to sell them off. To find a first edition out in the wild is pretty tough. Some newbies pick up the reformatted version after the movie came out, which isn’t rare at all (aka the green book). The BCE edition of the original fetches $20-50 on ebay over the last 8-9 years. I’ve followed this as I now have 3 in my collection.

I found two copies of Galactic Empires volume 1 and 2. I already have this set, but to me this was a nostalgic buy. For $75 cents each, I bought a set worth around $20, but to me, this anthology edited by the late Brian Aldiss holds some weight as having one of my favorite short stories of all time in included, The Star Plunderer by Poul Anderson. 

I picked up few gaming guides for my video game collection. Believe if or not, these things are pretty collectible if in good condition. I bought mine for 99 cents each. Worth $5-10 but whatever, I want it for my gaming room. I would do a video tour of it, but I need to complete it out more. It is getting harder and harder to find the really good, vintage stuff, like old nintendo games still in the box.

I bought lots of hardcover first editions in the haul in the Sci-Fi and Fantasy genre. I might have duplicates, I have no idea. Maybe I’m meet another collector nearby who will want to trade in 10-20 years. There are a couple books made into movies recently, The Fault of our Stars by John Green, Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot by Kim Barker (Title change from first book). Why movie books? Well, if you want to be a writer, you better learn what the hell worked from those that broke out.

The grand prize of the haul, was the Tom Clancy book. No, not Against All Enemies by the ghostwriter in small print. (Tom Clancy has been dead for a few years, so this marketing ploy is a bit strange). I’m a Clancy collector, but grow frustrated at the insistence to keep printing off his name. In any case, no, my score was finding a first edition Patriot Games autographed. It was sitting in the cart by the shelves because there were just so many unorganized book madness at that particular store.

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I have no idea if that is to Dane, or Jane, or if Bane himself went to a book signing 30 years ago. Based on the few available on ebay, it seems as though “Best Wishes” was a standard line for ol’ Tom. This is actually better than a flat sign because there is a larger sample of his signature for authentication purposes. Online, they all range from $89-150. A bunch are stalking a buy it now price of $99 for one seller, so I believe this is the value. Like all my autograph finds, I’ll be holding on to it in my lifetime, unless there is some better nostalgic trade. I have two holy grail books I want, in autograph condition. Not sure how long it will take, but I aim to get them someday.

How much were all the books, including the autographed Tom Clancy?

Around $27. How much if I went to Half Priced Books? Probably $175 (not including autographed book). How much if there was as book price collapse and I bought each for a penny on amazon? Probably $110 in shipping.

Garage sales and thrift shops remain the best port of calls for the book collector and aspiring writer.

READ ABOUT MY PINK FLOYD SCORE