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Thrift Store Finds: I Never Believed the Stories Until it Happened to Me


Every long-time toy collector has fantasized about walking into a garage sale or a thrift store and finding vintage or rare action figures or comics in fantastic condition that cost mere pennies. I know I have. And we’ve all heard stories about how so-and-so found a complete G1 Jetfire at a garage sale for $5, or “Oh hey — look at the perfect Mego Spider-Man I found at my local Salvation Army for $1.” These stories have always amounted to little more than urban legends, as far as I’m concerned, because I have never, ever found anything worth mentioning at a thrift store or at a garage sale — never. In essence, I always thought those stories were fake until this past Thanksgiving weekend when I spotted something on the shelves of my local Goodwill that I could not quite believe.

Goodwill toys
The magical toy shelves at Goodwill.

Looking through the toy shelves at any thrift store has always been a depressing proposition for me. All I ever see are broken, well-worn toys intended for toddlers that were too crappy to sell for any amount of money at a garage sale, so they ended up at, say, Goodwill, where the store valiantly tries to get something for that sad piece of plastic. Who even buys this stuff? I’ve always wondered. But this is all I ever see at thrift stores, and this has been the case for so many years that usually whenever I set foot in a thrift store, I don’t even bother looking at the toys because ugh — why bother? Usually if I go, it’s because I’m hoping to score an old Black Sabbath T-shirt in that elusive size “M” or complete seasons of the Gilmore Girls on DVD (don’t judge). I don’t go looking for toys . . . and I don’t go often.

Thanks to a bad case of cabin fever over the weekend, I took a walk to my neighborhood Goodwill just to kill an hour in the afternoon. I made my usual rounds: checked out the books, records, DVDs, and black T-shirts. Didn’t really find anything interesting, but I wasn’t yet ready to leave, for some reason. To kill just a few more seconds, I took a stroll over to the shelves along the back wall where the toys are usually kept. I stood and scanned the shelves, and then I froze . . .

Ultra Magnus

Is that a Transformers box? No. Stop. Of course it isn’t, you idiot.

I pulled the box from the top shelf and took a good look. G1 Ultra Magnus. This is a boxed G1 Ultra Magnus. And it’s an import. What the . . . I can’t even . . . what’s happening . . . what’s going on . . . The box is beat up a bit, but the figure inside looks perfect.

I’m FREAKING OUT. My hands were shaking.


Then I scan the lower shelves. Starscream, Skywarp, Smokescreen, and Tracks. All boxed G1 figures. IN A GOODWILL IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD. I grab them all and spread them out on the floor so I could take a pic to show people. Customers are looking at me like I’m crazy. I’m looking around for a hidden camera in case someone is playing a prank on me.

My haul

Now, none of these are original G1 Transformers, mind you; they’re all reissues. But I’m finding these at a GOODWILL STORE for dirt cheap. I grab a nearby shopping basket and put them all in and frantically scan more shelves in case there are more. Yeah — more. Because what I had already found wasn’t enough for me, evidently.

And there were more!

Robots in Disguise Optimus Prime

I spotted a Robots in Disguise Optimus Prime (the firetruck Optimus Prime) and a Cybertron Optimus Prime. WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING. Those two I left on the shelf because only the G1 figures mattered to me right at that moment. So, with my full shopping basket, I took a tour of the store in case Prowl or Hoist were lurking somewhere. Or, heck, what about Thundercracker? I’ve got Starscream and Skywarp in my basket, so surely Thundercracker must be hanging around somewhere too, right? But, alas, he wasn’t.


A security guard spotted me frantically casing the joint and took a good look in my basket as I walked past him — the look on his face was priceless as he recognized the toys I was carrying. It’s funny — no matter how mature, tough, or “grown up” a person may be, show them a toy from their childhood and watch them melt. Or maybe he was a collector himself and I’m making unfair assumptions? Either way, after he saw what I was carrying, he went straight to the toy section himself. I had to chuckle.


As I made my way to the checkout line, I kept expecting someone to walk up to me and tell me that this was all a mistake and the Transformers weren’t actually for sale. But no one did. The clerk who sold them to me kept marveling at what I found as he scanned each one. “I didn’t know we had these! These are cool!”


I paid for my haul and exited the store, still in utter disbelief because finally, after all these years, I had a real score at a thrift store — I spotted Sasquatch, basically. Perfect timing, too, because my birthday is this week. Maybe this was just the universe giving me a high-five for my making it through another year. So from now on, if I hear about a ridiculous score someone made in a thrift store, I’m not going to cynically doubt them like I used to. I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt because it COULD actually happen — and I know from experience.