Monday, December 23, 2013

Ask JKM a Question: To Play, or To Display?

A reader, James, writes:

“I liked your toys of childhood series of blogs recently which brought back many positive memories from my youth in the sixties and seventies when my favorite toys were the Matt Mason ones.

I also read that you allow your son to play with your vintage toy collection. Isn’t that irresponsible given the value of many of those toys today?”

James, thank you for the question.  I absolutely understand your point, and my wife winces every now and then when a vintage robot or action figure falls off the shelf, it’s true. 

But I made a decision when we moved into our house back in 2009 that my son would have access to the toys in my home office -- at least the open ones -- and that he would be allowed to explore them and play with them. 

There’s nothing wrong with owning toys for display, but most of the vintage toys I write about on the bog were manufactured to be played with…by children. 

I prefer to let my son enjoy these toys rather than worrying about them breaking, or fretting over their ultimate “value.”  Already, some of my most-prized plastic toys from the 1970s are yellowing, so they may not last long anyway, let alone long enough for the perfect re-sale.

And the memories Joel and I make and share while playing with toys like Big Trak, Star Bird, Castle Grayskull, Snake Mountain, the Knight of Darkness, or Voltron are --  in the final analysis -- worth more to me than owning the toys in pristine condition.  To misquote Indiana Jones, my toys don’t belong in a museum.  I have already played with some of them (as a child), or some were purchased in used condition (at flea markets and yard sales).  I don’t want to be too precious about "things."

Again, I’m not advocating my choice for anyone else. I’m just saying that it works for my family, and Joel and I are happy with the arrangement.

Besides, the deal is reciprocal.  Joel lets me play with his toys too, as long as I’m careful (and my god, he’s got a great Doctor Who collection…).


  1. John your office has an impressive toy collection and display. Like you, among my Space:1999 collection I have a framed Baldassari Eagle on launch pad cutaway poster. I think that the memories that you had as a boy playing with these toys and are now creating with your son are priceless. Besides you get to feel like a kid again too.


  2. Thanks for your thoughts on this, John. I have a meager collection myself, and almost all are out of their boxes. This is not so my grown kids or grandkids can play with them, but so that I can. I appreciate value and resale possibilities, but in the end it's not about such things. It's about memories and fun for me now. Of course, I respect the collector who keeps such things in the box, but that's not me and I've made my choices accordingly. Here's to hoping Santa adds to our collections soon.

  3. The experience of playing is ultimately vastly more valuable than the objects are. I noticed when reading (and ultimately writing my own) ten best toys list on this site that doing so brought back a flood of memories. People, places and events I hadn't thought of in ages came back crystal clear.

  4. This is a terrific question and one inhale strugged with my whole life. Ha.

    Ive found a balance along the way but was definitely good with giving some toys to my son. He's had access to Star Wars figures, Evangelion figures and I even let him have a die cast Phoenix from Battle of The Planets which is now gone for some reason.

    Still, my stuff isn't nearly as vintage as yours but I adore collecting these new molds in die cast of our favorite ships.

    Sometimes I buy two when I can. If I get one it's hard to open the box. I need to work on that. Opening the box is like Fonzi trying to say the word Sorry. Really tough to do it. I need work.

    Still sharing with the kids is absolutely the way to go. I'm not above holding back a few of my special items though.

    Seeing my son handle a few of my resin kits when he was younger could get me nervous. :)

    Fun question. It's a balance.

    1. THERE WAS A DIE CAST PHOENIX FROM BATTLE OF THE PLANETS?!?!?! How did I not know about this when I was a kid?

  5. Merry Christmas btw to you and your family.

  6. Anonymous4:22 AM

    Being a bibliophile and a DVD-phile I'm just happy that I don't have this toy thing going on for me. Nevertheless, I can totally understand this hobby, which is actually quite practical when you have kids.



Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: "Twiki is Missing"

In "Twiki is Missing," a space iceberg moves perilously near Earth, endangering the entire planet as an ion storm approaches....