How much is your childhood really worth? We find out just in time for Christmas
Spare a thought for your local toyseller this holiday season. Because – and this won’t come as a surprise if you have a child, know a child, or occasionally spend your weekends in an overwork-induced stupor, watching TV made for children – all of this year’s toys are about poop. Games about stepping in it, plastic rabbits that produce it, kits that let you manufacture your own from glitter and slime, and pretend it belongs to a unicorn* – yes, the Avengers are nice, but what today’s youth are most interested in, apparently, are all matters faecal.
Meanwhile, the toy market itself – maybe surprisingly, in the age of Fortnite – has never been bigger. It’s been seeing steady gains since 2012 and is predicted to top $99 billion by 2022, but that isn’t all down to the kids – sales of ‘collectibles’ have risen by a quarter globally, and over in the UK, one in 11 purchases in 2016 was an adult buying a toy for themselves.
But what, actually, were the best toys? The ones you’d tear apart the packaging for like a feral dog, and play with until they fell to bits and had to be duct-taped back together by your terrified, desperate parents? Why, they were the toys from the 80s and 90s – and these were them. Oh: and here’s how much you can expect to pay for them now. Just think: in two decades, you’ll be wishing you’d kept the unicorn poop.
Everybody had the same Slinky experience, didn’t they? You got one, you made it fall down the stairs, maaaybe you learned to do ‘the escalator’ if you were some sort of genius child prodigy, you got it tangled into a hopeless irretrievable mess and then, twenty years later, you saw that gif of a guy doing mesmerising tricks with one and realised you’d got it all wrong. Life is cruel.
Now worth: Sadly nothing. Nobody’s jonesing for an authentic 1940s Slinky. Sorry.
Mr Potato Head
The golden age of Mr Potato head, probably, was when you used a real potato, jamming eyes and facial hair into a genuine spud and then retrieving the whole soggy mess from under your bed a couple of weeks later. Fast-forward to the all-plastic version, and…well, it’s fine, isn’t it. Couple of hours trying to make the weirdest face you can, and you’re out. He certainly didn’t deserve a TV show.
Now worth: About AED500 for the original.
Action Man, with his weird dead eyes, was an odd one. Sure, he was realistic, and poseable, but his sheer size meant you’d never amass more than about two of him, and his sheer size made his participation in the kind of en masse death-battles your older cousins insisted on creating with all your other toys impossible. Still, his M60 was nice.
Now worth: Barely AED550, even for the rare ones.
The Real Ghostbusters
Think about it as an adult, and the Real Ghostbusters are weird – how are they in any way more real than Bill Murray (who suddenly has much more hair) and Harold Ramis (full quiff) from the actual live-action film? At the same time, they were friends with Slimer, and you could get those Fright Features ones that could dislocate their own jaws in fear, which was nice.
Now worth: About AED150, if you get a rare one.
Bit militaristic? Only if you’re prepared to suspend your disbelief hard enough to pretend that the military might recruit and field a crew of soldiers dressed like the Village People and cursed with codenames like Sneak Peak, Snow Job and Quick Kick. To be fair to the designers, they had to come up with a lot of them.
Now worth: It varies, but Keel Haul – the captain of the little-seen USS Flag Battleship – is one of the rarest, if you’re looking out for one.
Everyone knew someone who had loads of these, didn’t they? Not just Luke and Vader and Han, but Jabba The Hutt’s mates and those robots that never actually say anything and that one guy who just stands behind Admiral Ackbar during the strategy bits. They’re being revamped at hyperspeed, so there’s no real need to ever go short of a Star Wars figurine fix, but crikey the originals are expensive now.
Now worth: A decent Luke might net you AED3,500+ though rarer figures go a lot higher.
Noooow we’re talking. He-Man! Skeletor! Ram-Man! The one with a big metal fist! The one who was a giant muscular bee! It’s entirely possible that He-Man, years before 300 or the Marvel films came out, were the thing that gave you the creeping idea that you should be going to the gym every morning, since every single character including Skeletor was jacked AF. But who cares? He-Man was great.
Now worth: A mint condition He-Man might net you AED5,600, but the big bucks come in the form of the Eternia Playset – which you’ve probably never even seen, right? – a triple-towered, monorail-equipped monstrosity that goes for upwards of AED10k.
Be honest, it still niggles that you never did a Rubik’s Cube - not properly, not without peeling the stickers off or pulling the whole thing apart. And now? Hoo-boy, now, with YouTube and some fancy algorithms and one of those posh speed-cubes the pros use, well, you could probably learn to do one in minutes! You’d show everyone! Everyone.
Now worth: Nothing. Come on.
We’re going to be contentious here: Thundercats was better than He-Man. Yes, the premise was a ripoff, but Thundercats had better character design (Panthro and Tigro are both better than Man-At-Arms), an Obi-Wan figure (Jaga, who died in the first episode), and a much better villain (mummy-turned-bodybuilder Mumm-Ra). Advantage: Thunder-Thunder-Thunder…
Now worth: From about AED250 for the basics (Cheetara, Lion-O), to much more for obscure bad guys (Stinger, Tongue-A-Saurus)
Now that we’re surrounded by talking, self-checkouting, Spotify-playing robots, it’s easy to forget that the Furbies - which, let’s be clear, didn’t actually understand anything you said to them - seemed like sorcery back in the innocent late 90s, warbling and dancing away and then gradually ‘learning’ English in a manner disturbing enough to have them banned from at least one government office. Were they good toys, the kind of thing you remember fondly enough to find yourself hankering for a couple of days later? They were not. But they freaked a lot of people out, and sometimes that’s enough.
Now worth: Anywhere between AED500 and a cool AED4,000.
So you’ve missed the 1980s money train – but could loading up on what’s on the shelves right now help you pay off the mortgage before robots take all the jobs? We asked Craig Fullman, owner-operator of Nerd Base, to give his expert opinion
“These [little eggs with tiny glittery dolls in] are the most popular thing around at the moment - any sort of mystery box is huge, to be honest. You’re never going to get them all, there are about 150 of them. In 20-30 years, when the kids who are into them now have some disposable income, they’ll be trying to get them again.”
“These were supposed to be a fad, but they’ve lasted a decade. Even now, the ones that came out years ago can be worth a chunk of change. The Headless Ned one from GoT is worth a lot, there’s a rare Green Lantern one… but it’s hard to tell what’s going to be popular and what’s going to be worthless, to be honest.”
“There’s a lot of nostalgia going on at the moment. A lot of kids are playing the older stuff – because of Netflix running old shows, you’ve got young kids coming in asking for Thundercats and He-Man. These are nice toys, and again they’re a bit 80s – I can’t wait for a Back To Future line, to be honest.”
“There are a few toy lines that I think are going to be pretty valuable further down the line, and I’m keeping a few of them close to my chest. But one that I think’s ready to make the leap right now is Ben 10 – some of the older ones are getting to the AED450 mark already, so they’ll be really valuable in a few years…”