A Critical Examination of the Modern Toy Market
Show and tell time! Ok so I desperately need to post something on my homepage about something besides the usual exercise log, so tonight I’m going to recap a fun time I had toy shopping. The object of my shopping today was to get toys for a Toys for Tots charity thingy, which in and of itself is not blog worthy but I figured if I’m spending hard earned bucks for it that I’m going to get blog material out of it.
First a little back story for me. My mom had way too many kids to financially support with different fathers that for all different reasons did nothing to support any of us, so me and my two siblings grew up with little to no real cash to back us. We often got gifts year to year from church charity toy gathering, the toys were lackluster and we often got crappy board games like chutes & ladders and “Sorry!” back then. My premium toy item my family (usually my great grandmother) would get me was probably the downfall of my childhood – video games – starting first with the original Nintendo Entertainment System and progressing through to the N64-era (after which I was basically an adult and got my own games). However inbetween all this I did have a period in time when I had toys… but not a ton of memorable experiences about them, just a lingering fondness for having a plastic object and some imagination.
My goal tonight was to get out there and shop AS CHEAP AS POSSIBLE because while I can support myself I really don’t have a lot of cash to give out, yet I wanted my contributions to this charity thing to be encapsulating the best parts of my childhood in as little cash investment as possible. Definitely looked for quality over quantity.
So to start my quest I pulled up to the local Toys R’ Us, having not shopped at one of these seriously for, well, ever. I don’t have kids (even though the idea of having one or two in the future is appealing maybe) and I don’t really get big into gift giving holidays (my family has been in a different state for over a decade, and I like it like that for now). So entering this place and just taking it in was difficult because the jealousy of how many toy options kids have these days was completely overwhelming. There was indeed a ton of cool things… but most was prohibitively expensive. So my quest to find frugal and sentimental toy items began!
So the first item I’m going to highlight is a no brainer. Wiffle ball and big plastic bat, right around $5. I don’t know about you but I remember just derping around when I was a kid in the back yard, playing with random toys and could’ve been entertained for hours with something like this. The ball is light enough to just throw up if nobody wants to throw it with you, but when you smack it, it won’t go really too far due to being just a light plastic thing. Practical, functional, cheap… things like this is what my childhood was about… just stuff to keep myself amused while in the back yard.
My second item to discuss here is a SUPER LEGIT AWESOME one. One of my favorite series to this day is the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and TMNT is classic as a franchise because the four ninja turtles characterize wide-sweeping personality archetypes. Really everyone knows someone like one of the turtles, or like all of them. Also you always tend to identify with one of the four characters most. Me, I was kind of a bland kid and I liked Leonardo, he was the leader, he had badass swords, and he knew how to take charge… he was intelligent but not a complete nerd like Donatello, more wise than anything else. Plus stuff like this just reminds me of all the other classic 80’s/early 90’s cartoons, all of which were basically franchising toy lines. Kid these days just deserve crass commercialism in the shape of badass toy action figures.
Some of you may not know but Nickelodeon plays yet another new TMNT cartoon… I’m not sure if it’s the fourth or fifth completely new original series based on the turtles but it’s definitely getting up there. I actually watch it routinely on DVR because it’s not a bad show, and I was surprised to find these action figures from the current run on sale (it’s the post-Black Friday holiday shopping weekend so I was hoping to find some good deals like this) for only $8.
One thing I did spend a lot of time with as a kid was Lego’s. In fact, there is a cool new Lego movie coming out soon that I look forward to seeing. Even as an adult me and my roommate Xavier went to a Lego convention back in Portland, OR about a decade ago that was a very rememberable experience. Anyways, when I would spend time playing with Lego’s they’d be little communities of Lego people. Usually they’d do mundane things like trade fictional currency (usually in the form of tiny bricks) and band together to fight off MASSIVE INVADING EVIL ROBOTS that would eventually get busted up and fall all over themselves.
There were a lot of options in the Lego section, but man Legos are NOT cheap. They are a mint and I kind of had to go small if I wanted to stay within the theme of being as cheap as possible. However I had to get a Lego product if I was to do any justice to this journey whatsoever, so I picked out this one. Simple is as can be, two Lego figures (a cop and a robber) with a car and a wheelbarrow full of jewels. Very usable with any existing Lego collection and one of the biggest things I always wanted/needed was people figures when I had Legos, and this one has two Lego people right in it. Was still kind of spendy at $13, and probably is a choking hazard for children under 3, but you can never really go wrong with adding Legos to a kid’s collection… it’s the essence of imagination based entertainment.
Alright this was my value bargain find of the day that was completely amazing to me personally. When I was a kid the nerf craze was new and big but there wasn’t a ton of availability for a poor family to come into the quantity of nerf gear required to have a real fun time with friends. So this type of a toy was the kind I envied.
It is surprisingly detailed as a toy, most Nerf products you just pump and shoot. This one has shotgun-shell like “darts”, an ammo clip and a reloading chamber you gotta twist and pump to shoot. The limited ammo means you gotta make your shots count… plus it just looks badass. I mean look at it, don’t you want to just stand down an army of cops with this thing? Well probably not, but something like this just makes the imagination run wild, and that really was the fondest part of me being a kid.
Plus, aparently this type of toy is commonplace because it was on clearance for only $10. I really had a hard time believing this thing exists, sort of makes me feel like my childhood just happened in the wrong era. Easy snag.
So different elements of my childhood all encapuslated in about $30 of toys. I felt really good about the choices and definitely had a fun time checking all this out, so I thought I’d share! Hope you guys all get a moment to go shopping down at the toy shop this year if for no reason but to relive some of your own fond memories. Enjoy your holidays!
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Projects & Links
The Thomas Jefferson Blog
My book that I wrote about a founding father who finds himself lost in time, set in the 2003-2006 post 9/11 Bush era of politics. Free for reading online, although I’ve abandoned efforts to get it published.
Read the Thomas Jefferson Blog ≫
Know True Evil
A small wallpaper page dedicated to those who lost their lives to the carelessness of government gone wrong.
Know True Evil ≫
Socialism WORKS! is a short website presentation I put together years ago with help from a friend. It is something of a snarky take on Socialism, critical of the advantages of Socialism from various origins of the idea.
Read Socialism WORKS!
My good friend Xavier Von Erck’s personal blog, he’s also the director of all the pjfi.org websites incidentally.
The Perverted Justice Foundation
Perverted Justice Foundation Inc. is a non-profit organization which works with law enforcement to help track and prosecute online predators. I help administrate all the sites on this network, in fact many of you may know me from my work there. If you don’t though, check it out.