Money Maker: Vintage Plastic Toys/Figures
So two weeks ago, if you remember, Sarah and I didn’t have the greatest of estate sale days…or so we thought at the time. I didn’t buy much that day, but one of the finds was a giant lot of old plastic figures (cowboys, indians, horses, army dudes, random animals, etc).
At the time, I kept kicking myself for how much I paid for these things, which was $25. I felt like I was taking a big risk on re-selling them for any sort of profit. I listed them on ebay a few days after purchase at a starting price of $19.99, hoping I could at least make back some of my initial investment.
When I bought the figures, I tried to haggle on the price, and the woman selling them said no because there were a lot “MARX” brand toys in the lot. I told her I had no idea what the meant, and proceeded with the sale.
Well, apparently MARX figures are SUPER COLLECTIBLE. Over the next few days, I had numerous bids on ebay and messages from people asking me to send them more detailed photos of the pieces. I knew something was up, so I started researching what I might have that was of so much interest here.
I realized quickly that I had posted this photo in my ebay listing, and assumed that the MPC meant MARX brand. It does not. It is some other undesirable manufacturer. I panicked that I actually didn’t have any MARX brand here, and thus lied to my numerous bidders.
But I did have MARX figures, and in some crazy alternate-reality-world I was temporarily living in, I had some of the RAREST MARX figures.
I had a little Davy Crockett man, from one of the earliest MARX Alamo playsets. He was only around for a little while before they started making a different, more common Davy.
I also had what are called “put-to-gether cowboys” or “swoppets” in which the torso and legs of the figure are separate and you can swap them out.
The collectibility of my set was seemingly endless. I had benefitted from someone throwing all of these figures together into one giant pile, mixing several valuable items together that were never originally in the same set.
Over a couple beers, I read and read. My figures were collectible because they weren’t painted, because many were light-colored, because they were clearly not reproductions, and because they were a mix of all types of figures.
I had reoccurring dreams about this lot, in one of which I payed off my student loans with the profit. In the end, these guys sold for $100.01.
I messaged the winner of the auction and asked him what made this particular lot so valuable to him. I thought maybe there was one figure I had not seen in my research that was the holy grail of MARX collectibles. Here is what the buyer said:
I’ll bet you were shocked! You probably spent $10 for the bag, right? Well, chances are, unless you get really lucky, you will never get a buy like this again! You will be one of ‘us’, people who are ‘hip’ to the profit margin on these guys. Do NOT, however, buy just any bag full of toy soldiers. The VAST majority of what you will find at flea markets, garage and estate sales, are garbage from China…like most stuff from over there, mass produced and definitely INFERIOR! Actually, it was the age of the stuff that attracted me. Most of it is from the ’60s, the golden age of plastic toy soldiers and playsets. I am 55, so was right in the middle of it. I have loved these figures all of my life, and have collected them as well. I have a full basement of them as a testament to my devotion. These figures are timeless, and although many of us who grew up with them are no longer around, there seems to be a renewed interest in them. Something about miniature figures facinates people (doll houses, train sets). If you really would like a good resource, get the book ‘Toy Soldiers’ by Richard O’Brien-it is the bible on the subject. Hope that helps, and good hunting! Can’t wait to get my fix!!!
I was really excited by John’s reply. He sounds a lot like my dad, who got me into collecting and has his own basement of treasures. And I was glad to know that these little guys were going to be proudly displayed amongst their fellow plastic friends. All in all, one of the coolest finds I have made.