The following article appeared in the Dallas, Texas edition of Current Technology magazine, circa 1997. It’s very out of date, as you can imagine. Still, I thought some of you might be amused at my attempt to introduce Megos to the computer world at large. 🙂 Please note than most of the links are out of date and probably will not work!
Online Community: Collecting Toys on the Web
by Joe DeRouen
What do you get when you take a bunch of baby boomers, throw in some
twentysomethings and add a little disposable income? As it turns out,
you get a whole lot of people with a little spare cash and nothing to do
with it but buy back their childhood and invest a little in the
nostalgia of the future. Welcome to the world of collecting toys!
Okay, so maybe that’s a little simplified. People have always collected
things; stamps, coins, dolls and a little bit of everything else. But
never before was American society so collection-orientated, so driven by
the need to own special things and keep them hidden away in their
original boxes never to again see the light of day. Beanie Babies,
Barbie Dolls, G.I. Joes, Transformers, Pocket Dragons, even McDonald’s
Happy Meal giveaways; America is toy collecting crazy. And it doesn’t
show any signs of stopping any time soon.
So what’s all of this got to do with the Online Community? Once you add
the Internet into the fray – giving collectors a forum literally as big
as the world – and everything gets a little bit bigger.
There are a plethora of Web sites, newsgroups and mailing lists devoted
to collectors of everything from dollhouse furniture to Steiff stuffed
bears to Mego action figures from the 1970’s. No matter what you toy you
collect, you’re bound to find some little corner of the Net devoted to
your hobby. And, more than likely, a place on the Net to spend a little
more of that disposable cash as well.
For years, Usenet has been host to all sorts of newsgroups devoted to
toy collecting. Today, the number is well into the hundreds.
Alt.collecting, a catch-all group for just about anything, has ten
different sub-newsgroups, two of which are devoted to collecting Barbies
and Teddy bears. Rec.collecting, a group similar to its alt counterpart,
has twenty sub-groups, with several devoted exclusively to toys as well.
Then there are the groups that aren’t related to either original forum,
such as rec.toys.action-figures (for discussion of action figures of all
shapes and sizes) and rec.arts.sf.collecting.starwars, for collecting,
well, Star Wars figures and memorabilia. If you can collect it and have
a name for it, chances are there’s a group on Usenet dedicated to your
particular toy obsession. If there isn’t, you can always start your own!
Once you’ve subscribed to one of these groups, you’ll be surprised at
the amount of mail that passes through them every day. Casual fans
discussing the merits of one Barbie costume over the other, sellers
advertising the newest offerings of Kiddles and Barbies, even collectors
seeking to trade a rare Star Wars figure for an even-rarer G.I. Joe;
it’s all there. Once you get used to the spam (read: messages posted
just to waste space) you’ll find an invaluable forum for both the
serious collector or the person just wanting to find out how valuable
their green plastic Godzilla really is.
Mailing lists are like newgroups in theory, but somewhat different in
practice. And, sometimes, a little harder to find. With Usenet, you
simply load up a newsreader (something like Netscape Communicator or
Agent) and wade right in. With mailing lists, you have to subscribe to
them through email. Then, after you’ve received verification of your
subscription, you’ll start to receive messages from others posting to
the mailing list, and can send your own as well.
There are thousands of mailing lists on the Net devoted to collecting,
the majority of which cost absolutely nothing to join and can be just as
much a boon to collectors as the newsgroups can be. Mailing lists are,
for the most part, streamlined. Only the serious collectors will take
the time to join, for example, the Mego Action Figure mailing list, and
therefore there’s much less noise-to-information ratio to put up with.
Also, mailing list members tend to post their for-sale list there first
and to the newsgroups later, so you can often times find great deals on
whatever it is you’re looking for.
The best way to find mailing list devoted to your particular bent is by
looking on Web pages devoted to the hobby, asking around in newsgroups
or searching online mailing list databases. For example, both the Mego
Museum and The Ultimate Beanie Baby Page (see Web Sites, below) list
mailing lists dedicated to their genre of toy collecting.
Looking at all the collector sites on the Web, one can almost believe
that the Internet’s entire reason for being is to provide collectors
with a forum for their hobby. The Web hosts everything from fan-created
sites to online collectors speciality stores to live electronic
auctions. Take, for example, Eugene Son’s G.I. Joe Archive. Eugene’s
page, devoted not to the 12″ vintage G.I. Joes of the 1960’s but to
their 3 3/4″ counterparts of the 1980’s, offers just about everything
you ever wanted to know about the action adventure toys but were afraid
to ask. There’s even a section of the page where you can view images of
the figure, in order to help you figure out just exactly what you’ve
been carrying around in that cardboard box for the last 12 years.
Scott Carroll’s Mego Museum is another example of a fan-created site.
Scott’s site offers full-color photos of nearly all of the Mego 8″
action figure line (including The World’s Greatest Super Heroes, The
Wizard of Oz, The Planet of the Apes and even Starsky and Hutch) and
offers up all sorts of other tidbits, including a history of Mego, tips
on customizing your figures and links to other sites. Sure, Scott’s a
little obsessive, but he fits right in with everyone who visits his
Claire Shefchik’s Ultimate Beanie Baby Page is the quintessential site
for the Beanie Baby generation. Complete with photos and lists of the
Beanie Babies (including the special McDonalds happy meal Beanies!) this
site also offers information on buying and selling and even a story
contest with prizes. Design-wise, the page is a little drab and could
use a some improvement in that area, but as it stands Claire’s site is
one of the best out there dedicated to this new stuff animal craze.
Yahoo is one of the best resources available for helping you to find
collector sites. Because Yahoo is an index rather than a search engine
(like AltaVista) you can find all sorts of good, working links dedicated
to your particular hobby. Searching for something like “collect” and
“barbie” will usually get you pointed in the right direction.
MAKING A PROFIT
Some sites, however, aren’t fan-based and are designed with another
motive in mind: profit. The Ebay Auction Web site is the perfect
example. Visitors to this site can both post their collectibles (and not
just toys; you can sell anything you want!) to the auction list for a 3,
5 or 7 day auction, as well as bid on other items up for sale. Ebay
charges a fee ranging from $.25 to $2.00 to put an item up for bid and
also gets a percentage of every winning bid on their site; as you can
imagine, the Ebay profits probably add up pretty quickly.
Despite the obvious consumerism, the auction site is a must-add for the
serious toy collector’s bookmark file. If you’re careful not to overbid
on the things you want, you can often get lucky and find a real bargain
on that vintage 1967 swimsuit Barbie. By the same token, once the heat
of competition (bidding against other collectors) sets in, you’re just
as likely as not to win an item and then realize you probably could have
found it much cheaper somewhere else. Just remember: never bid more than
the item is worth to you, and always be sure that you can actually
afford to pay up if you end up outbidding everyone else.
THE COLLECTOR’S BEST FRIEND
There are countless many more toy collecting resources available through
the Internet – not to mention America Online, CompuServe and Prodigy –
than I could ever cover in one column, but this should give you a
general idea of what’s out there. The Internet can be the collector’s
best friend, if he uses it wisely. Just remember, when it comes to
buying and trading, get a feel for the person you’re dealing with, and
Most everyone out there is more or less just like you – a collector of
Megos, perhaps, trying to recapture nostalgia in the form of childhood
toys, or a speculating entrepreneur, hoping to come across the next
Cabbage Patch Kid. But, like in most things, there’s people out there
waiting to take advantage of you, to sell you something that isn’t
nearly as valuable as it is. Get to know your fellow collectors, and get
them to give you more tips on collecting through the Net as well as
references on the various sellers you might encounter. Above all else,
have fun. When it’s all said and done, that’s what collecting is all
Joe DeRouen is a Contributing Editor at Current Technology who’s always
on the lookout for Mego action figures. If you have any, you can write
Joe at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to check out
Joe’s Web page at www.sparkynet.com/jderouen while traversing the Web!
(c) 1997 Joe DeRouen. All rights reserved.
Mego Mailing List
Robert Levy’s Mego Mailing List can be joined by sending an email to
XXXXXXXXXX containing ONLY the following in the BODY of your
Toy Collecting Newsgroups
EBay Auction www.ebay.com
G.I. Joe Archive www.cyberpass.net/~yojoe/index.html
Mego Museum www.slip.net/%7escarroll/mego.html
The Ultimate Beanie Baby Page www.geocities.com/Heartland/5024/beanie.html