ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — John Chavez was really glad Monday that he didn’t toss the box in the garbage.
Inside were a Hot Wheels Thermos bottle without the lunch box, a Beatles lunch box without the Thermos bottle, a few Hot Wheels cars, moving stock and tracks from a Lionel train set, various superhero figurines and an old and incomplete Monopoly game.
Instead, Chavez, 57, a construction worker from Albuquerque, brought the box to the New Mexico Vintage Toy Buying Show at the Marriott Courtyard hotel where toy expert Joel Magee, of TV’s “Pawn Stars” fame, was appraising and buying odds and ends that often wind up in a landfill but may actually be worth something. Chavez walked away with $150.
“I’m here because my wife told me to get rid of them,” Chavez said.
“I can think of 150 reasons why that was a good idea,” said Magee, who is known as the Toy Scout.
The Vintage Toy Buying Show is being held through Wednesday in Albuquerque and then will move to the Marriott Courtyard hotel in Santa Fe on Thursday and Friday.
Magee, 58, a leading vintage toy expert, has been appraising and selling toys for about 35 years. On “Pawn Stars” he is the go-to expert on all toys related to the world of Disney.
Magee was in his 30s when he went to a flea market in Sioux City, Iowa, where he grew up, and saw the G.I. Joe lunch box that he coveted as a child but never owned. He purchased it and that one act set him on the path he walks today.
“It started slowly, collecting for myself, but people kept seeing me around all the flea markets and antique sales and they’d say if you ever come across this or that let me know. I began taking people’s information and all of a sudden I had piles of phone numbers and thought maybe I can make a business of this.”
And he did. He has conducted more than 300 toy-buying shows in the past 30 years, many of which span several days and each of which attracts hundreds of people.
He also recently completed filming a pilot for his “Toy Scout” show, which he hopes will be picked up by a network interested in seeing him as he travels the country to vintage toy shows and other venues, and reuniting celebrities with toys that were patterned after their lives or the characters they played on television shows.
Sounds good to John and Lorraine Barksdale of Corrales, who came to the show with still-in-the-box 1970s Donnie and Marie Osmond dolls, Sonny and Cher dolls, and the Bionic Man and Bionic Woman dolls, as well as 1940s baseball season roster booklets, and a Mickey Mouse story book from the early 1930s, which Magee noted precedes the introduction of Superman or Batman comic books.
“These are some of the things we collected over the years, but we’re trying to downsize,” said John Barksdale. “We’d rather get them into the hands of someone who collects them or for whom it has some meaning or who wants to fill out their collections.”
It didn’t hurt that the Corrales couple walked away with $210 in their own hands.
One woman wished to remain anonymous because she didn’t want her adult children to know that she was cleaning out her garage and thinning a collection of vintage 1960s and ’70s diecast toy ships, airplanes, cars, trucks, and construction and military vehicles made by companies with names like Bachmann, Corgi, Eko and Ertl.
“They belonged to my father,” she said. “He just put them away in their boxes. They’re in pristine condition. I’m not sure he collected them because he thought they’d be valuable. I think he just loved them, but I don’t remember him ever taking them out of the box and admiring them. That’s the unfortunate part.”
The fortunate part is the woman took home $310 and was going back to her home to do a little more garage cleaning.
“Everybody asks me when does the value of a toy go up, what’s the magic date,” said Magee. “I tell them, when the kids who used to play with those toys reach about the age of 40, there’s a little genetic marker that goes off and they say ‘I want my toys back.'”