Not just Toying Around

JOHNSTOWN – Toying Around Johnstown’s storefront on North Market street is an odd combination of the new and the nostalgic.

Although the merchandise, mostly action figures and games, invoke the styles and characters of popular movie, TV, cartoon and comic book franchises from the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s – like Star Wars, He-Man and a slew of superheroes – most of the items themselves are often fairly new, clearly manufactured since the turn of the century, often appearing to be better versions of the toys many 30-somethings played with when they were kids. The store also sells comic books and vinyl records.

Vincent McCallum, who operates the new collectible toy store with his step father David Warren, said a lot of the toys he sells are marketed directly to adults, collectibles manufactured over the past 10 years by big toy companies like Mattel that were made to be high-end, harder to find, limited-edition toys modeled after comics and cartoons from decades ago.

“You’re not going to find any of these toys walking into Target anytime soon. We do carry the new stuff like the new Marvel or DC wave [of figures] or Transformers, but we try to get products that won’t even be sold in those stores,” McCallum said. “Primarily, they don’t sell figures that are over 12 inches in size at Walmart or Target; we try to get figures that are more sculpted in detail. A child’s toy with simple sculpting might cost $15, but adult collectors will pay more for really top-grade, detailed figures, and that’s what we try to bring to them.”

The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates there was $1.41 billion in action figure sales in the U.S. in 2013, a growth of 2 percent from 2012 when there was $1.39 billion in sales.

Two of the action figure lines sold at Toying Around Johnstown are the Masters of the Universe Classics series and the DC Universe Classics series. Both include toys that are modeled after the style of earlier toys or comic books but feature many obscure characters or versions of characters. The toy lines are representative of a strategy by toy makers like Mattel to produce toys that are instantly collectible by adult buyers.

McCallum, who started collecting toys heavily three years ago after the birth of his first child, said manufacturer s intentionally make it difficult for collectors to obtain all of the toys in a given set, or “wave”, of figures by making some of them only available in certain states. These “sublines”?of toys help fuel the collector craze and are a key part of Toying Around Johnstown’s attempt to occupy the toy collector niche in the local region.

“We try to get products that people can’t even get locally without having to drive two hours,” McCallum said.

Another part of Toying Around Johnstown’s plan: a relatively low tech approach that emphasizes person to person contact and brick and mortar browsing. The store has a Facebook page, but not a dedicated website. The store has an email address, but not a phone number, because they say in the toy collector world it’s common for buyers to survey prices by calling or online messaging without any intention of buying.

McCallum said he sometimes sells stuff on eBay, but hasn’t had a great experience with the Internet auction website because of high listing fees and eBay’s cumbersome process for relisting items when an auction winner fails to pay for an item.

Warren’s contribution to the business: his large collection of vintage video games. Warren said he doesn’t view Toying Around Johnstown as in competition with stores like Game Stop, because their selection features much older games.

“Game Stop sells more newer games. They’re not really in the same market I am. I’m dealing in games that go back as far as Atari 2600,” he said.