MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga. -- Many people can remember playing with G.I. Joe action figures or Barbie dolls when they were children. Parents must tell their children, "You can't have that," or "You don't have enough money," when the children ask for the latest action figure - leaving that particular toy in the realm of unfulfilled dreams.
Many of these children grow up, have families of their own, pursue successful careers, and finally have the money to fulfill some of their childhood dreams. Subsequently, many adults find toy collecting an enjoyable hobby that rekindles childhood feelings.
The MARZ Productions Inc.'s Florida Extravaganza, a toys and collectible show, at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., last weekend, drew more than 15,000 people from around the country.
"A lot of the success of this hobby had to do with people who want that toy they had as a child but never had the money to buy it," said Eric Lee a representative with MARZ Productions.
According to Lee, a Las Vegas native, the hobby is sometimes referred to as the poor man's stock market.
Some people spend thousands of dollars for one toy, Lee said. The show displayed items of the 1960s such as vintage G.I. Joe action figures or Major Matt Mason toys and action figures of today such as Pokemon and Star Wars characters and paraphernalia.
For example, a collector can spend $3,000 on a 1979 vintage Star Wars Boba Fett action figure that has never been opened. This item was originally sold at Sears Department Stores for around $3.
Even today, a collector can purchase a figure for $5 at the local toy store and sell it two months later for $100. One vendor sold a $5 figure he picked up at K-Mart to a customer for $90. The figure was rare and contained a manufacturing error. Because the customer was willing to pay, the vendor made a large profit on the transaction.
Like any collecting hobby, prices depend on supply and demand.
One collector of G.I. Joe action figures is Staff Sgt. Robby Knott, the base armorer. As a Marine, Knott has a deeper appreciation for the realistic figures that depict various military units throughout the world.
Knott has collected G.I. Joe figures for more than 10 years, he said.
He remembers playing with some of the vintage figures that were released in the 1960s and started buying the toys in 1991 when Hasbro and other manufacturers of the 12-inch dolls began producing the line again.
Knott said that as an adult, he can afford to collect the Joes, therefore fulfilling his childhood desire. His love for G.I. Joes is contagious, and his sons, 5-year-old Justen and 12-year-old Marcel, have "caught the bug" as well. The boys and their father spend many days together searching local toy stores for the newest figure.
Knott said he usually purchases one figure a month with his sons.
Knott has more than 60 action figures, which includes a few vintage Joes he played with as a child. The vintage figures bear the scars of many campaigns he launched as a child, said Knott, who displays many of the Marine Corps figures in his office.
Some of his sons' favorite figures are those that depict the Civil War era, which may seem too realistic for play. But Knott said he enjoys collecting any of them that are military related.
The latest addition to the Knott family collection is a large action figure of a Marine in Dress Blue Alphas that the staff sergeant gave Justen for Christmas. He said this should become a highly sought-after collectible in the future because it's the first toy of its kind that was designed for boys.
Unlike many collectors, Knott does not collect the figures for investment, but for the enjoyment of the hobby as a family project.
According to Knott, collecting can be a treasure hunt of sorts, searching the local toy store for that illusive figure to complete a collection. Whether a person is interested in horror movies or World War II figures, the local toy store will likely an action figure to suit any individual's taste.