Starting a Collection, Part 3: A Field Guide
This is the third part of a series intended for new toy collectors. If you missed the first two installments, you can catch them here and here.
This time, we're going to be talking about one of the most important places to a toy collector: toy stores.
To win a war, a general must understand the battle ground. So too must a toy collector know toy their local toy stores.
First, let us consider the largest and most prevalent of the toy stores. Let us discuss the collector's home away from home, Toys R Us.
If you are interested in building a collection, this is where you should start looking. Note, however, that looking is not the same as buying: that comes later. No, your first expedition should be one of reconnaissance. Step in and look around: the layout varies from store to store, so you'll have to explore. Take a look at the sections you like. See what jumps out at you.
Of course, your real objective is the clearance aisle. Sometimes it's in the front of the store; sometimes it's in the back. Sometimes there are multiple sections, in other cases the clearance items are spread throughout the entire store. But, to the new toy collector, there is no greater destination.
But you need to look farther than the clearance aisle. Not all of their toys contain price tags, and often those that do are wrong. If there's something that catches your eye, don't necessarily believe the label. Every Toys R Us I've been in over the last five years has contained scanners, so you can check the price yourself. Walmarts and Targets often have these, too.
I've purchased countless toys from Toys R Us, and among them is one of the centerpieces of my collection. Sting, by Master Replicas, is one of the nicest toys I own. It retailed for over $125, though there was no price tag. So I strolled over to a scanner to check.
The rules are pretty much the same for other large retailers. Walmart and Target each have impressive toy sections, and their prices are often a little better than Toys R Us. On the other hand, you won't typically see the same clearance bargains you get at Toys R Us: I've gotten toys half off at Target, but I don't recall getting anything for 90% off there.
In addition, you're going to want to spend some time in KB Toys and Toy Works stores. You should find one of these at pretty much any mall in America. These have good sales, and, what's more, they have an uncanny tendency to retain toys... forever. Trips to KB can feel like excavations, digging into lost civilizations and rummaging through their toys.
You'll also find toys in other types of stores. Comic stores are perhaps the most obvious example. Most comic shops will have a selection of related merchandise, though it'll sometimes cost more than it should. Nonetheless, there are specialty items and figures you'll find at comic shops you're not likely to come across anywhere else. Plus, some of the best deals I've ever found were in comic shops, including my "The Dreaming" PVC set. Retail price: $39.95. Sale price: $3.99. When comic stores want to unload merchandise, they don't kid around.
But there are other places worth trying. In the New York area, I've found a lot of small, local stores carry a few toys. In itself, that isn't entirely surprising. However, a lot them have some really good figures at really cheap prices. I picked up a DC Superheroes Supergirl for about 8 bucks a couple blocks from my apartment.