On Wednesday, January 17, 2018, after I clocked out from work, I decided to do a 5 for 5: Hit all five of Med City’s thrift stores (at least that I know of) — 2 Goodwills, 2 Salvation Armys, and a Savers. I also dropped in at Nerdin’ Out, a store that specializes in collectible comic books and action figures.
It was a challenge, as I had just sprained my ankle that morning, and the walks down the aisles started to feel longer and longer as the day wore on. By the time the sun was setting, I had adopted the limping, shambling gait of the recently undead. But the increasingly incredible finds that I kept stumbling upon at one store after the other released enough adrenalin to keep me going — all the way until I got home, pulled off my snow boot, and found my ankle swollen to double its size.
Here (sharing only the finds that would be of particular interest to readers of this site) is my haul. Not all pickin’ days are this fruitful, I assure you. If they always turned out like today, hell, this is all I’d ever do.
From schlocky VHS horror flicks and classic sci-fi paperbacks to giant rubber snakes and other rare collectibles, today’s pick turned up treasures from across the entire spectrum of what I hunt for.
[Click the images for Nick-sized versions.]
For highbrow literary tastes, I’ve got some Borges (an icon of magical realism) and the B&N omnibus edition of Dante’s trilogy (I think I might already have that copy, but grabbed it in case I didn’t — it does reproduce all the Gustave Dore prints, which are the epitome of dark fantasy illustration, aren’t they?).
But check out this other find (I love coming across these cool vintage paperbacks I’ve never heard of): The Werewolf of Ponkert by H. Warner Munn “Inspired by H.P. Lovecraft.” A quick check reveals you can’t get this for less than $14 currently on eBay. And a quick perusal of Munn’s entry on Wikipedia tells me why his name sounds so familiar.
I don’t normally buy VHS tapes (who does?), but I make exceptions for certain horror fare (which has its own burgeoning collectors’ market). Like Hell Night, a low-budget slasher from the ‘80s (I remember watching it when it first came out on VHS with some of my friends at a slumber party). The other one is Alien Interview, a 1997 “documentary” that purports to contain real footage of an alien (yes, part of the X-Files era boom of “real found footage” like Alien Autopsy). It has never been released on DVD and you can’t get the VHS for less than $13 on eBay.
Lots of other fun finds, including a Dr. Who 50th Anniversary Essential Guide and an illustrated collection of ghost stories. Every story in this particular anthology I have multiple times over — the most anthologized classics like “The Monkey’s Paw” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” — but I grabbed it for the illustrations: especially the foreboding Victorian house on the frontispiece, since I collect depictions of haunted houses in various mediums.
I’m tellin’ you, weird stuff turns up in thrift stores.
I also collect vintage rubber jigglers (the monsters, snakes, insects, Ben Cooper superheroes and untold other detritus of pop culture lovingly mass produced in oily rubber). Just about every kid had a few if you grew up some time in the ‘60s through the ‘80s. They ranged in size from vending-machine prize to large and heavy enough to club your sibling with. Not a whole lot of them survive intact, because it was so tempting to see how far a limb or a tentacle or a tongue would stretch until it broke, or to bite off the tail, or to hide it in your sister’s closet and forget about whatever happened to it.
So I was delighted to come across this SIX. FEET. LONG. Python! A true Hong Kong original. My parents bought one for me on a trip to Disneyland, purchased at the gift hut outside the Jungle Safari ride. This specimen is all there, from the tip of his tail to the tip of his forked tongue. Since I got him for 99 cents, that comes to roughly…17 cents a foot. According to my haphazard research, I believe this to be the single largest, heaviest mass-produced jiggler ever made (he weighs 2 lbs. 2 ozs.). In the wrong hands, this thing could be a whip that would leave marks. But you don’t have to worry. Now he is in my hands. Until my son gets ahold of him and pulls his tongue out.
There in the center is a big Goodwill Grab Bag of cowboys and army men. I always get excited when I see these, but they usually turn out to be modern. Not this time. These were all vintage, including some Tim-Mee Toy and Tempo figures. And if you look closely… squeezed in there amid the drab green soldiers and neon green cowboys is an MPC witch. That figure alone is worth over ten bucks. Another ten for the Tim-Mees and Tempos, and another ten for the rest of the bag: That’s thirty dollars worth of plastic bliss in a bag, had for a mere $4.99. (And if this is reminiscent of drug talk; yes, I do get a little high off plastic cowboys and witches. Pose them just right alongside a gargantuan rubber snake and it’s almost hallucinogenic.)
There’s a special place reserved in my heart for two comic masters who combined humor and the macabre in a way no one else has come close, except perhaps Gahan Wilson: Edward Gorey and Chas Addams. So you can imagine how chuffed I was to find not one, not two, but THREE original hardcover Addams collections with their dust jackets at Salvation Army. Hallelujah!
And this was apparently an Addams Family theme day, because these were at the second Salvation store I stopped at. At the first one I found another minor treasure that I forgot to include in the collage picture: the 1965 Addams Family Card Game, complete. I paid a little more for that than I typically spend on a single item at a thrift shop — $15 — but you can’t get one online for less than $45. (And since I already have it, there’s going to be another one coming soon to an eBay near you.)
Lots of stuff I pick up just to entertain both my inner child and my two outer children; hence, the Pokemon book and that giant alligator gar. Not worth much, but way cool and my son will get a kick out of it. That gar is from an Animal Planet collection I believe. They’re putting out some of the most mind-blowing playsets (my gauge for mind-blowing is when I see a toy and desperately wish it was out when I was a kid), including Yeti and Bigfoot hunter sets that have some of the cooler designs of those monsters you’ll find.
But the Big Score (the one I can use as an excuse to my wife for buying all this junk) is up there in the upper left corner of the picture of today’s Haul. That’s a sleeve of unfolded Arby’s Adventure Meal boxes from 1987, a Looney Tunes tie-in. Rare and collectible, you won’t find one for under 20 bucks on eBay. I found sixty-seven of them. (And, again, how do these happen to wind up on a Goodwill shelf in 2018?) If I get just ten bucks apiece for them, that’ll almost pay my mortgage for a month. To celebrate, I stopped and had a roast beef sandwich at Arby’s.