Is there a Star Wars toy, a Hot Wheels collection, a stash of comic books or a Barbie doll gathering dust in your closet? You might have just the treasure that America’s Toy Scout wants.
Joel Magee is coming to Rapid City for a Vintage Toy Buying Show from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday. The show will be at the Residence Inn Marriott, 1314 N. Elk Vale Road. Admission is free.
Magee will offer on-the-spot cash payments for popular toys from the 20th century and earlier. No appointments are needed, and people can bring as many items as they want. Assistants will be on-site to help transport items in and out of the hotel.
“I’ve had people come back five or six times over the course of a couple of days. To me, the more the merrier,” Magee said. “I’ve been doing this for 30 years. People bring me toys by the thousands and at every event there’s toys I’ve never seen before.”
Magee is America’s Toy Scout, the leading vintage toy expert in the United States. In July, he made his first appearance on the History Channel TV show “Pawn Stars” as the program’s newest Disney expert. "Pawn Stars" is expanding to an hour-long show and will increasingly focus on history, Magee said.
“We’re going to be doing some really cool Disney stuff. We’re going to have some road trips, and I’m going to be doing some really amazing things this year,” he said.
Later this month, Magee will head to Los Angeles to film the pilot episode of his own TV show, “America’s Toy Scout.” It will chronicle his travels across the United States searching for vintage treasures. If his toy-buying show in Rapid City produces an especially good find, Magee said he plans to come back to Rapid City to film a segment for “America’s Toy Scout.”
Magee also restores toys and sells them to collectors. He manages the FXToys! eBay store where he sells items such as 1960s board games, original 1970s band posters, GI Joe collectibles, vintage Barbies and toy model cars.
Reliving nostalgic memories with people who come to his toy-buying shows is Magee's favorite part of his job. Becoming a toy expert happened by accident, he said, when he started collecting vintage lunchboxes. That grew into a quest to acquire every toy he had when he was a child. Other toy collectors began asking for his help, so Magee hosted his first toy-buying show.
"I was shocked. People were bringing me everything you could ever imagine. I was seeing all these cool toys," he said. "It's still amazing. It's so cool to revisit your childhood."
Magee is astonished by new-in-the-box vintage toys he acquires — most often from forgetful parents. Magee hears story after story of moms and dads who were determined to hide Christmas or birthday presents from their overly snoopy children. Then the parents would forget where the toys were until they came across them years later while cleaning out a closet or preparing to sell a house. Sometimes, the toys are still in the bag with the original sales receipt, he said.
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At a typical toy-buying show, Magee sees such items as Pez dispensers, Beatles memorabilia, super hero figurines, baseball cards, 1940s, 1950s and 1960s comic books, Shirley Temple dolls, Hot Wheels and Hummel figurines. Magee offered some advice about what's likely to be most and least desirable at the toy-buying show.
Barbie dolls are popular collectibles; this year is the 60th anniversary of the fashion doll’s debut.
Hot Wheels have enduring appeal because they bridge generation gaps. They’re a toy that grandparents, parents and kids played with. In particular, Hot Wheels from the 1960s and 70s with red stripes on the tires are sought after, Magee said.
The 50th anniversary of the moon landing has sparked an interest in space-themed toys, and the surge of super hero movies in theaters recently has boosted demand for older comic books, such as Superman, Batman and Spider Man.
However, Cabbage Patch dolls and Beanie Babies, which were sold as limited edition and collectible and caused frenzies in the 1980s and 1990s, are not valuable, Magee said.
"Everybody had to have those. If there's any tagline of 'collectible' or limited edition,' stay away from it like the plague. It's not going to go up in value. That's just a ploy to sell things," Magee said. "Old toys go up in value because they were made to be played with."
Toys that are still around after surviving someone's childhood are less widely available than a toy that was made to be collected.
If tempted to discard any vintage toys, comic books or memorabilia, take them to Magee for appraisal first. A toy or other item that seems too worn to be valuable might surprise you. Magee recalls a man who brought a well-read copy of the first Spider Man comic book to a toy-buying show. Magee appraised it and bought it for $10,000.
Take toys — even dirty ones — to Magee as is. “Don’t clean your toys. You can damage a toy by putting the wrong cleaner on it. People spray a toy with Windex and the paint starts dripping off. Even it a toy looks horribly dirty, I can see through that,” he said.
If parts of the toy are missing, it still might have value. Slot car collectors, for example, prize the cars even if the transformers and track are gone, Magee said.
"It's an educational thing. I'm more than happy to look at anything anybody brings in. I'm happy to tell people either way, good or bad (if something is valuable). They're happy both ways because they can put closure on something they always wondered about," he said.