When you’re a lifelong toy collector, you end up with a lot of junk. It isn’t necessarily stuff you set out to buy, or have a real personal attachment to, but for whatever reason you’ve kept it around.
I used to have a basement full of the stuff: broken Batmobiles, wingless X-Wings, and a battalion of decommissioned tanks, jets and boats. The bigger stuff sat alongside split-seamed cardboard vegetable boxes packed with assorted figures and their gear, as well as rails, cannons, and computers from a dozen long-lost playsets. I had milk crates spilling over with leftover parts and accessories, countless Lego bits and pieces. And then there was the truly random stuff: antique wooden spools, chunks of glass and coal, plus bags of wires, transistors, and various computer and tech salvage. It took an abrupt move and years of purging, but I’ve managed to clear most of it away. Still, in spite of my best efforts, spots like my desk drawer become dense, black, hole-like pockets of toy weirdness. As an offbeat Thanksgiving treat, let’s take a look inside the junk drawer!
If you were a kid in the 1970s, then you’ll remember this guy. The Ben Cooper Jigglers were first produced in 1973 and quickly became a staple of drugstore grocery checkout lines all across America. While the Ben Cooper company was primarily known for their ubiquitous line of children’s Halloween costumes, their agreements with Marvel and DC Comics allowed them to produce these non-articulated rubber figurines as well. Their constant availability and low price-point ensured they sold by the crateload, but in this case you definitely got what you paid for. Crude, almost Primitivist sculpts, shoddy paint, and cheap rubber bodies meant these went from the bottom of the toy box to the top of the trashcan in the blink of an eye. Somehow this Batman has evaded that fate, missing hand and all. He’s clearly a survivor.
Another staple of the 1970s was the Tomy Rascal Bot wind-up walking robot figure. Tomy actually beat Kenner’s Star Wars toys to the market, happily taking the cash from a ‘droid-starved public. Known for their trademark dome heads and retro-styled bodies, the Rascal Bots have an almost universal appeal among collectors. Whether you’re into classic robots, Star Wars knockoffs, or just 1970s kitsch, there’s a place on your shelf for a Rascal. I’ve had this guy forever, although he’s usually displayed somewhere a little more upscale than the bottom of a drawer. I’ll have to work on that.
Not Jaws, but an incredible simulation. Okay, maybe its not so incredible, but my standards are fairly low when it comes to shark toys. I don’t think I’ve ever owned a representation of one that did the great beast justice. They were always oddly proportioned, walleyed, or exhibiting some other chromosomal damage, like they all came in together on the short bus. Metaphorically enough, I fished this guy out of a kiddie pool of quarter toys at the dear departed Groovy Pop Culture Emporium in Pittsburgh. I just liked the cut of his jib, and the fact he had an open mouth that could chomp unwitting prey only added to the fun. I’ll probably give him to my three- year-old daughter after this — she’s at the age where she needs a rubber shark. At least, I think that’s what the parenting book said . . .
If you grew up here on planet Earth, there’s a good chance you’ve owned a few little green army men. These unpainted, unarticulated figurines traditionally stand between 54mm to 70mm, and are usually molded in olive-colored plastic to mimic military fatigues. The figurines often came in playsets, or were sold by the bagful from the 1950s on. And while the army figures are undoubtedly the most commonplace, there were countless other archetypes manufactured in plastic form over the years. Without really trying, I’ve amassed robots, spacemen, firefighters, police, cowboys and Indians, knights, and wizards. They’re easy to collect thanks to their small size and work great in toy photography.
Food Fighters have been covered here before, but they’re weird enough to look at again. I didn’t collect these when they were new, so I have no nostalgic connection to them. I appreciate them for their sheer ugliness and freak value. Consider Mean Wiener, below. This thing is an acid casualty’s nightmare come to life. Is it supposed to be eating that hot dog, or is it meant to be part of its body? If so, what’s up with the “mustard?” Most importantly, how does it see to tie its shoes? Too many questions make my head hurt.
And in the same vein, here’s more goofy anthropomorphized food in the form of “pencil toppers.” Those who wish to argue for the continued use of GMOs in our food, here are six reasons why its a terrible idea. I found these at a flea market and had to buy them — I mean, they’re mint on card!
Sure, the card itself looks like it was found under a vending machine that hadn’t been moved in thirty years, but its still cool to have these in their original package. The label says NOT FOR CHILDREN UNDER THREE YEARS OF AGE and I can see why: these little bastiches are terrifying. The cheap paint and nasty-looking plastic make for some unappetizing-looking food and their frenzied expressions makes it clear who’s really at the top of the food chain. And with that, I bid you a Happy Thanksgiving, Fwoosh! Be good to each other!
What’s in your junk drawer? Discuss it on the Fwoosh forums!