Thursday, October 26, 2006

Twenty Years of Shelfwear

Things have changed a lot in the twenty years since I was a kid in the early half of the 1980's. Most notably, just about all of the stores my mom used to buy Transformers from have gone out of business. All of them-Winn's, TG&Y, BEST, and Revco. All gone. Only K-Mart and newer stores like Toys R Us remain back in my hometown. It seems all those little mom & pop stores that used to have vast selections of Transformers and other robots died out and were replaced by the big box stores.

I've gone to the public libraries and looked at their old newspaper archives everywhere I've lived since I left home. In each new place I look up the old toy ads and remenisce about times and toys gone by. Now that I'm living in Rapid City, South Dakota, I've been spending time at the public library looking at those same old ads from a new set of ancient, long since extinct toy stores. As usual the pattern of old stores with fantastic toy ads dying out and getting replaced by Wal Marts holds true. Until yesterday, that is.

Two nights ago while I was going downtown I noticed a small store along the freeway. I've passed it a million times but it's so bland looking that I never stopped to notice the name. I've been in Rapid almost seven months now and I'd say I pass this store at least four times a week. I should have recognized it after looking at all those twenty year old ads from the newspaper, because this was one of the mom & pop stores that used to sell Transformers twenty years ago! It's called Motive Parts & Supply and unbelievably it's still around!

Motive Part&Supply 11/23/85
Maybe it's not so unbelievable. Motive Parts & Supply is actually a store that sells a wide variety of products for your ranch, home, and auto. It's like an animal health products store combined with an auto parts store combined with a farm supplies store. So it's not just a toy store out in the middle of nowhere. Although from looking at their holiday toy ads I almost came to that conclusion. Man they had everything toy robot related back in the day! Transformers, GoBots, Star Wars, M.A.S.K., Voltron, you name it. Plus you could find a saddle for your horse and some hay for your goats there, too.

I decided to stop by just out of nostalgia's sake. Not that I'd ever been there before, but reading all those ads almost makes it feel like I've been a customer there for 20 years. As soon as I walked in I saw the toy aisles immediately to my left. What struck me as odd was how old many of those toys were.

I'm more or less knowledgeable on what's current in the world of the Transformers nowadays. So I was a little surprised to find toys still on the pegs that have long since disappeared off the shelves of the normal retail outlets. They had Transformers and Star Wars stuff from two to three series past. Stuff like Universe Depth Charge and Tankor with Obsidian, Energon Wing Saber and Six Shot, Built to Rule Thundercracker, and Star Wars Episode 1 battle bags were all there as if they came out last week although they're actually 3 to four years old!

Here's where the story gets wild. Not only did they have stuff that was 2-3 years old, but there were figures there from 15-20 years ago! Still on the shelves and still at retail price! They had MicroMachines from 1990 and Starting Lineups from 1989! They had at least one or two figures from obscure toylines of the eighties like Air Commanders, COPS, SuperNaturals, and GoBots. They even had a plush Cubby Gummi from the Gummi Bears. Gummi Bears came out in 1985! And the kicker is that all this stuff is still priced at or below retail. They're trying to clearance a lot of it.

They had two Go-Bots Space Hawks on the shelves. The Space Hawk was the last vehicle released in the Go-Bots line way back in 1986. This store had two of them and they were clearance priced down to $7.79. I bought one and the cashier told me she might have a Go-Bots carrying case in the back, so she went and brought it out. It was still sealed with the factory twist tie and it still had the cardboard Go-Bots product tag affixed to it! They had it clearanced down to $5.95. I was stunned. It was like walking back into a time warp.

The Space Hawk is actually pretty cool and I might go back and buy the other one. The other one had a damaged box-I think the window was collapsing a bit. Of course they both had about 20 years of dust and shelf wear but they were still pretty much untouched since the day they were put on the shelves. These Space Hawks still look better than any I've seen on eBay.

So I bought the Space Hawk, the collector's case, and a Sky Commanders jet. I'd like to go back but there's not much left that I want. It really is like a toy museum out in the middle of nowhere and I can't stand to speculate what they may have had still on the shelves only a few years ago.

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