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Have A Happy Life Day.

Toy Scalpers:
Greed + No Education - Soap = BAD.

Matt - 6.27.01

There's a few things thirteen-year-olds should never become involved with. Drugs, sex, Yogi Berra biographies, and stupid trenchcoat mafia toy scalping bastards.

Friends, I was once thirteen. It was a long time ago of course, me being 67 and all, but I remember *this* experience with more vividity (I think I just made that word up) than I care to admit. You see, I was raped by the toy scalpers. And I'll never forgive them for exploiting my innocent interest in collecting obsolete and overpriced action figures. They jaded me - they took me in and turned my visions and outlooks on life into something blacker than Regina Hall's ass. Today I tell my story - today I get it off my chest.

Okay, first, the definition. A toy scalper isn't a guy who chops the hair off Barbie dolls and mimics Cripsin Glover's memorable performance in Charlie's Angels. A toy scalper is a guy (or in rare cases, a fat bald woman) who buys highly sought toys from the stores at retail cost and then marks them up to unfathomable, ridiculous prices. Now I know what you're thinking - this is just about those stupid action figures I talk about endlessly on the site that provide entertainment for nobody but me and the five people reading who understand what I mean when I infer that the Centurions couldn't have possibly been very buoyant. You've experienced the phenomenon too...ya just don't know it.

We got any parents in the HIZOUSE? If so, remember a few years back when all your daughter wanted for Christmas was a Tickle Me Elmo? Remember how gracious you were to shell out more than double the retail cost to some shady villain at a church holiday fair, almost blindly accepting the purchase as the guy doing you a favor? Make no mistakes about it - you just met up with a toy scalper.

In my toy experiences of yesteryear, and lord knows there's tons, I've met many different types of sellers. Some are just really cool fanboys who've managed to parlay their interest into a full-fledged business the right way - making a little cash, but not at the expense of anyone and never outright tricking people for the fast buck. I've kept touch with many of these guys, some of whom have been so successful in their odd little craft that they've given up full time jobs to do it full time. To most, this line of work doesn't sound glamorous I'm sure. And it's not glamorous - it's actually pretty boring, full of little nuances with bounced checks and ripped stickers - but to us, the toy enthusiasts, what better way to make some cash than dealing out the very things we'd otherwise waste our money on? Ain't nothing wrong with that, the entire freaking world was built on capitalism. If you can make 50 bucks for a toy you paid 50 cents for - more power to ya. But there's a darker side to this.

Some toy seller are so inherently greedy and without the social interaction one usually needs while building up their moral virtues that the customer is simply another test in the quest to make as much money as possible. I know this isn't a problem along the lines of world hunger or the horrifically increasing amount of 'reality tv' shows popping up, but I find something a little disgusting about a guy raiding a toy store in early December to swipe up all the stuff kids really want just so they can turn a profit. Parents are suckers - I know mine were. So what we've got here are poor people spending much more than they should, and sometimes way more than they can afford, just so they can get their kids what they want for the holidays. The worst part? In doing so, they put money in the pocket of someone who's probably only going to use it for three Taco Supremes and a 40-ounce Bud. Scalpers suck.

Anyway, here's my story.

I got into toy collecting at a really young age. I'm not sure exactly how or why it happened, but I guess I should be thankful because I wouldn't have much to talk about on here besides Nicole Eggert movies if I didn't spend so much time buying loose mailaway Cobra Commander figures. I'm pretty sure it had to do with the ratio of Starlog magazines to real friends outnumbered 46 to 1. Or maybe I just wanted to play with that silly Chewbacca figure again. Either way, by age 13 my daily life included making phone calls to every dealer I could find, wheeling and dealing with people twice or thrice or seventy-thousand times my age. I was in over my head, but fortunately, most of these dealers realized I was just an enthusiastic little kid and didn't take advantage of the situation. I got yelled at for calling dealers a little too often (somehow I thought these guys would want to talk about Snaggletooth for at least an hour a day, every day, with a thirteen-year-old stranger who overpronounced his 'S' sounds) All in all though, the experiences proved to be good ones: I wasn't the most social child out there, but all these various dealings really boosted my ability to speak without breaking down into a disconnected string of syllables and otherwise incomprehensible gibberish.

But, as always, one bad experience soiled all the good ones.

US1 was this old flea market building opened only on the weekends over in Jersey. It was famous for a few things, namely the peanut vendor strategically placed outside the exit in the ultimate impulse-buy-position who sold nuts in a paper bag so unbelievably hot that hardcore peanut fans had to wear gloves in the middle of summer just to taste the honey roasted heaven. US1 had no less than 250 different vendors, selling everything from gaudy vases to gaudy tapestries to gaudy brass elephants. The only prerequisite it seemed for the selling block was that it had to be merchandise everyone but Mexican gypsies would be embarrassed to display in their homes. It also played host to the only two vintage toy dealers that I knew about. For me, this was absolutely thrilling. Sure the shit was expensive, but this was like being given the end-all opportunity of walking through a Toys R Us as it appeared in 1983.

I was tipped off to the dealers' existence by my brother, who after watching me read price guides and shill the value of these old plastic things had gotten moderately involved with collecting himself. While I merely justified the spending by saying the toys were worth that much, his plan was to just hold on to 'em for a while for the quick buck. Needless to say, the lure of having a Bib Fortuna in a Kenner baggie proved too much for him, and I don't think to this day he's sold a damn thing. Anyway, I met up with the first dealer - complete with a bag of my own stuff as trade material, and my life savings of a hundred bucks.

Remember Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons? Well, for all intents, this was him. Just add in a black trenchcoat, a heavy dose of death metal, and the stench of rancid chicken. Somehow the creature had a wife, but I'd bet she just wanted to become a part of the glitzy, whirlwind world of dusty toy flea market selling. They did have some nice stuff - items I've only seen in toy guides up to that point. I had taken a pretty rare Star Wars toy with me to trade for some of his stuff - and trade we did. Thing is, I'd later find out that I was outright swindled on the exchange - I gave him something worth well over a hundred bucks, and in return got a few things that I didn't even want - and based on their value, I wasn't alone. Basically, the guy acted as though I was being childish by not wanting to trade, and made like he wanted to write the whole thing off in his efforts to get my cash cow. It worked. I was 13...this guy had to be at least 35, and roughly the size of the elusive Himalayan Yeti. The powers of intimidation were clearly on his side.

That's not the big incident though.

With our trade business out of the way, Scalper Scum went back to cataloging his satanic CDs and paid little mind to me - until he noticed me counting my money to see if I had enough for the vintage Star Wars 12" C-3P0 and R2-D2. I asked how much they were, and got back a shill so hardcore than the most grizzled used car salesman would feel like a failure. By the time this guy was through, I believed that these figures were obviously worth several hundred each, and were so rare that I'd never see them again. He offered 'em up for 100 bucks. 100? I wasn't sure - that's a lot of money to spend on two action figures...albeit two big, beautiful, sexy action figures. Making matters worse was the scalper informing me that the price would only be good for fifteen minutes. Talk about a hard sale. Like the guy really wandered around his little shack of a store choosing which toys needed to appreciate in value in fifteen minute intervals. Please. I'm not even sure I believed it back then - but I ended up paying the hundred bucks.

Then I walked to the other toy dealer in the market, and saw the exact same figures again for sale...this time, both for 65 dollars.

With that, I took my magic beans to my older sister who took me there and explained that I had royally goofed up. I had just been swindled out of all the money I had. By a guy who smelled like old chicken. She was a tad furious, having asked the guy before she left to 'go easy on me', and we fully expected the devil to refund all my cash. That wasn't to be. I'm paraphrasing, but the conversation went something like this.

Me: Hi - you know those figures I just bought? I think I made a mistake, that's a little bit too much money for me to spend.
Devil: You think you've got problems? I haven't seen my dick in thirteen years.
Me: Also...I noticed that the other dealer here is selling those figures much cheaper than a hundred dollars. Could you at least refund the difference?
Devil: ::quickly scribbles on a Taco Bell baggie:: See this sign? All sales final!
My Sister: You know, his brother comes here every week and buys stuff from you. Don't you think this is bad business, you took way too much money for those figures...that's all the money he has.
Devil: No it's not - I counted 102. He's still got two bucks left. Gimme some credit.
Me: What's that smell?
Devil: Morphine. It usually doesn't smell, but when you mix anything with that many Snickers bars...bad things will happen.
Me: Look can I just have my money back?
Devil: ::grabs the nearest John Travolta Mego figure:: Can't you see I have a customer here? John, are you interested in any of these Desert Isle records?
My Sister: My god it stinks in here. My eyes haven't teared this much since Dear John went off the air. Let's get out of here.

They're just bad people. The extra 35 bucks was worth enough to this guy to send some little kid home crying because he just wasted all his birthday money. Over the years, I've met many similar types. These people need to be stopped - I have no qualms with how people make money...I myself would rather rip off my head than work a 9-5. But some of these guys can be absolutely vicious, like pitbulls. Pitbulls who roll around in their own feces and drink a lot. It's hard to stop the bad ones who sell vintage stuff, as the prices aren't really set in stone. But you can stop the really bad ones - the ones who take current items and mark 'em up for your displeasure. Just follow three simple rules:

1) DO NOT BUY anything that's still being sold in stores at a marked up price from a dealer. These people exploit and cheat the idea of supply and demand and literally take money out of your pocket by denying you regular service and forcing you to utilize a middle man. If enough people stop feeding their greed, fewer of us will have to pay 60 grand for a Game Cube this fall.

2) Bring golf clubs to toy stores. If you see old guys in trenchcoats and painter's caps stockpiling all the desired figures into their wagons of sin, use the sand wedge to nail them straight in the balls.

3) Blow up their houses. If you're afraid that this may seem a tad extreme for crimes involving action figures, just tell everyone that they were pro-life.

We live, we learn. I still have those 12" Star Wars figures...they serve as a constant reminder to let the buyer beware. Pfft. Who am I kidding? I just really like SW toys. It's still a valid point though, remember it. Other hobby genres ruined by scalpers: sportscards, beanies, Hot Wheels, Fabrege Eggs, obscure TV guides with misprinted L&S ads, and soccer.

- Matt
I Mock.
AIM: xecharchar

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