?Fads come and go. It’s why they’re called “fads” and not “zeitgeist.” One thing gets popular, but in a few months or years time they’re replaced by something else. And oftentimes, what’s hip and hot can command high prices from fans. For example, I spent $45 on a “George Harrison” doll that turned out to be Jordan from New Kids on the Block.
But sometimes yesterday’s hits don’t wear so well. That $500 you spent on a valuable collector’s item is now a distant memory, while you have a full set of Phantom Menace Dr. Pepper cans just sitting there begging to be recycled. Among a whole host of others, here’s 10 of former collectible fads that can be had for mere pennies these days.
10) McDonald’s Toys
?The toys that come with Happy Meals are often advertised as “collectible,” and to an extent they are; you can have more than one of them and there is a finite amount of them in this world (many in landfills). It’s no surprise that McDonald’s toys (and those from rival fast food chains) can occasionally hit the secondary market and score big. Usually as a tie in with a hit movie, like Star Wars or Willow, and completionists want the whole set. But when the buzz for that movie’s over, it’s off to the $1 Rubbermaid tubs underneath the skuzzy comic con dealer’s table.
9) The First Batch of New Star Wars Figures
?There was a big push for vintage Star Wars toys in the ’90s as Gen-X got some money to spend reliving childhoods, so the Star Wars reissues and Episode 1 series got a lot of speculator attention. People fought to get complete sets, just like everybody else who fought to get the complete set, so the people who wanted them got them and… everybody else did too. Surprisingly, there’s not a huge market for them now.
8) Baseball Cards
?The first of multiple cards on this list. Make no mistake, baseball cards could mean you’re financially set for years. Honus Wagner? One of his bad boys is worth a yacht’s worth of moolah. I just saw a shitty condition one that sold for $227,500 (no joke, Heritage Auctions is awesome). And those dynamite old school dawgs from the ’60s and ’70s? Still valuable. But nothing lasts forever. With every major and minor team fielding cards for all players, the market is still flooded and will probably never pull itself out. Now the money’s all in old cards, team sets sold to fans, and entire seasons sold as a set. The days of casually opening a pack for fun are over, now you have to be in it to win it.
?Vending machine toys have next to no value. Flat-out, they don’t. Homies, the little neighborhood folks commemorated in plastic, were a strange blip on the radar, garnering attention and line expansions, and odd collectability. But like so many other fads, people are selling and no one’s buying. The larger sizes, riding on the vinyl toy high, are easily found, but aren’t moving, according to eBay. And the little ones are literally a dime a dozen.
6) Magic Cards
?Magic: The Gathering cards made newspaper headlines when they hit the market, and there is still a thriving Magic-playing and collecting community. It’s still a big game. But the high prices and speculation days have passed. The secondary market now exists to sell graded cards at high prices (that aren’t selling) or entire collections from players who are getting out of the game. If you like the game for its competitive aspects, now’s your time to jump in. You can purchase entire sets of 1500 cards for the cost of three trade paperbacks. Also, ebay is selling Magic-related web domain names for $19,000. Sorry bro, this Gathering has ended.
5) ’90s Comics
?Some are kind of worth some money. Really. I can’t buy the first appearance of Deadpool without parting with a bit of money. And it was a fun little run while it lasted. Most of us remember those days when you walked into a store and a holofoil double-gatefold cover sparked the “I can retire on this shit” thought. Stories abound about guys in suits buying a full case of X-Force #1 the day they came out, thinking they were sitting on a goldmine. Now those books are languishing in $1 bins, 50-cent bins, 25-cent bins, and getting used to pad out eBay lots.
4) Beanie Babies
?The simple fact that a video exists called How to Spot Counterfeit Beanie Babies shows how out-of-control this fad was. And actually, that video is a pretty good collector’s item, for fans of bizarre VHS cassettes. People thought this trend was going to go on forever, but manufactured scarcity and a flooded market was no match for the laws of supply and demand. What’s sad is that the collectible trend ignored the best part of Beanie Babies: most of them were cute and really nice stuffed animals for kids. DAMN YOU, MONEY HUNGRY ADULTS!
3) Cabbage Patch Kids
?The must-have toys of the ’80s, parents bought their kids piles of these things. 1983-86 were the gravy years, when parents absolutely needed to give these things to their offspring, girls and boys alike. The varieties spewed forth, with premature kids represented (underdeveloped lungs assumed), talking versions too, and a chewing version that was pulled off the market when it happily chomped down on kids’ hair and wouldn’t stop chewing. eBay has hundreds of the things, some even with huge prices. But is anyone buying? Nope. Deluded folks might think charging $500 for a Cabbage Patch kid is the path to financial gain, but not if no one opens their Paypal.
2) Comic Trading Cards
?I got sucked into these from the moment a Marvel Universe “Ulik” card fell out of a library book in 7th grade. These things were churned out from every single comic producer from the late ’80s to the late ’90s. They were packed in polybags, sold by the box, and opened the door for comic geeks to attend sports card shows (they don’t anymore). And don’t get me started on the holograms and foils and glow-in-the-dark gimmicks. Now? They’re nostalgia, nice to have around, but mostly taking up space.
?Ha ha, this one felt like a joke even at the time. “What’s the big deal?” we asked, “They’re round pieces of cardboard with images slapped on them. We’ve seen better graphics on schoolyard acid tabs.” But they sold, and you collecting them was a huge hobby. (Remember Batman: Knightfall pogs? The Tick? X-Men? Yeah, they’re out there.) The bottom dropped out almost immediately and the value as well, as they’re just cardboard. You can buy them by the thousands on eBay for less than the cost of a value meal.