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Collectible Kids
Strange New Worlds Issue 9 - Jun/Jul 1993

An Adult's Guide to Children's Toys and Collectables

by Adrienne Reynolds

What is it that makes us collectors? For many, it is a fondness for things important in our youth. Why a science fiction collector? I cannot answer that globally, but one thing that universally characterizes science fiction fans is a belief in the future, whether we think in terms of Utopia or cyber-wastelands. We work towards making that future full of the meaningful things. For us, that incorporates people who loxfve learning, have a sense of our past, imagination, and the ability to believe in a future, too.

Some of these people of the future are currently very short, sometimes do not speak clearly, and are perpetually embarrassed by things we do or say. Someday they will be the ones to implement the future that we have been dreaming about.

This column is not about collectibles for you; it is about toys for them. Someday they will remember a present you gave them with the same sense of affection and wonder you have when you find that Thunderbirds model or the Star Trek poster that used to hang in your room. Some of the toys in this column will enable children to take joy in collections of their own, share an interest with you, or allow them to play in fantasy worlds that will give them roots to grow with and wings to dream on.

Information for the non-parent, too!

If you think you do not need this because you are not a parent, think again. I get to be the coolest Aunt in the family because I know to get the 30th Anniversary Marvel Comic for my comic-collecting nephew. Even if the rest of the family is mundane and generally thinks you are regressing, the kids will probably think you are the best and want to talk with you at family gatherings. (They are the ones worth talking to anyway.) You will be the one they thank as they pick up the Nobel prize for altering the laws of the universe. If you do not have any idea what kids like, at least this column will narrow the vast array of toys down to a few recommended ones that coincide with your interests. All toys in this column will actually be play-tested by real kids.

Tips on Caring for Your Toys

If your kid’s action figures are stiffening up around the joints, use dry lubricant in the action to ease friction. Spray the lubricant on a paper towel first to make sure that it dries clear.

To keep fashion dolls playable, but still collectible, the first thing to look after is their hair. To protect their hair, use Johnson and Johnson’s No More Tangles spray. Follow the instructions for spraying on dry hair when applying to the doll. Comb thoroughly and then braid the doll’s hair for storage or play. My niece has Barbies that are five years old; they are frequently played with and their hair is still flawless when unbraided.

Jurassic Park tie-in toys

The Jurassic Park toys have uniformly gloomy packaging, and ridiculous gimmicks. The toys seem unappealing outside of the commercials, and the human action figures are the only ones that seem to have any production values. I will not even get into the fact that these things are marketed towards kids too young to see the movie. I do have to note the unique sense of humor at the Toys R Us. They have a complete 1st aisle selection of Jurassic Park merchandise right next to a large selection of Barney stuff.

Dakin is producing the most interesting Jurassic Park toys — stuffed animal versions of the movie dinosaurs. The skin almost looks like silk-screening and they are very esthetic. Be warned: they are soft, but are too stiff to be cuddly. Two toddler and preschool boys did not want anything to do with them. But boys and girls in first through third grade who were "into dinosaurs" liked them. At $25.00 each, do not buy them unless you are collecting or you are sure the kids absolutely love them.

Colorforms Jurassic Park Playset is the only Jurassic Park toy seen so far that seems to have real playability. With Colorforms children can easily set up the scenes and have the dinosaurs eating one another. T-Rex’s mouth actually covers the victim and the two stick to each other so if you shake them around, it looks like a real fight. Unless the kid is particularly fond of Colorforms sets, I would not buy this for anyone much over eight or nine. Do not buy it for children under four who will want to chew them or try to figure how far colorforms stretch before they break. At $7.99, it’s a pretty good buy.

Do not get Craft House’s Jurassic Park Magic Rock Set. You remember Magic Rocks: drop the pellets in water and you get a crystal rock formation over a period of time. Kids will initially want this, but the project ends up abandoned. (Plus the water gets gunky and Dad throws it out.) The addition of the tacky dinosaur to the standard Magic Rocks set is the only thing that makes this different from any other Magic Rocks set.

[See new Jurassic Park toys at]

Mattel’s Mighty Max

This is a boy’s answer to Polly Pockets. The entire set is the size of your hand. The figures measure between ½ and ¾ inches. We play-tested Mighty Max Liquidates the ICE Alien and it’s just great! Being the subversive influence on children that I am, I play-tested it with a girl first. It kept her occupied through a four hour dinner meeting. I strongly recommend it. (It was my meeting.) Next, it was play-tested at a softball game when children aged four through thirteen were watching their parents regress. The parents spent more time with Mighty Max.

The packaging is wonderful, bright, and explanatory. There is a comic strip in the back that begins, "The story so far:" Each hand-held unit is called a "doom zone." ICE ALIEN comes with Max in a green cap with a sling shot. He does not move. The cygenoid’s torso comes off to reveal that he is just a cyogenic head in a tube. The Iceasaurous has a mobile head and is a weird pink and blue. Grown-ups can stand playing with it for about thirty minutes before getting bored. When their parents are finally done playing with both girls and boys will have great fun with it. And it’s just $9.99.

Mattel’s Disney dolls

My four-year-old daughter is working on a complete collection of Disney dolls. We currently have the complete cast of Little Mermaid, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty 11½ inch dolls. Mattel has now introduced Snow White and each of the seven dwarves. Most of the dolls include reversible clothing and accessories. Some have tiny Golden Books of their stories included in the box. Both girls and boys under the age of eight play together with these dolls since no one thinks the prices are wimpy. Girls over the age of eight play with them the same way they play with Barbies. Anybody, any age, stops what they are doing to play with Aladdin toys.

Interestingly enough, the children do not limit their play to re-enacting the fairy tales or movies that inspired the dolls. (One of our test-play sessions had Prince Eric and Prince Charming fighting over who gets to marry Sleeping Beauty. Beauty promptly left in a huff saying that she was not going to marry any of them because they were being silly. Then the girl playing the little mermaid reminded Eric that he was already married to her. And this was a play group that was under six!)

If you shop early, Snow and the Seven Dwarves make perfect Hanukkah gifts. (A dwarf a night.) These dolls are great for parents who do not want to buy into Barbieland but still want their daughter’s to have fashion dolls so they can play with their friends. Obviously they saved this tie in for this summer’s re-release of the movie. Still, this is one of the best examples of how to give the joy of collecting to children.

Mattel’s Disney dolls average about $15.00; the dwarves are about $6.00 each. You grown-ups might want to save the boxes. The doll market is one of the strongest collector’s markets, and Disney memorabilia gets very hot every thirty years or so.

All of the toys in this column are available at Toys R Us and other mainstream toy dealers. l


Collectible Kids Column:
About Educational Toys and Collectables that are Fun to Play With!

Articles written by Adrienne Reynolds:

bulletPassing on your Science Fiction ideals to your children
bulletChildren's Dollhouses - Playsets for Boys and Girls
bulletScience Fiction the Kids are Watching
bulletGirl Toys That Might Not Make You Gag
bulletPremiere column: An Adult's Guide to Children's Toys and Collectables

ABOUT COLLECTIBLE KIDS: The Collectible Kids column ran in Strange New Worlds in the early 1990s. It reviewed and recommended children's products that encourage imagination, creativity, a love of learning, a sense of history, and a belief in the future. Plus, any toys listed as "recommended-to-buy" should also be just plain fun to play with. Products were play-tested by actual children. Testing was performed with three different child groups: 1) Coed, ages four through eight, 2) Female, ages eight through fourteen, and 3) Male ages eight through fourteen. Depending upon the toy, a fourth group may be used: Coed, ages eight through fourteen. Following the play-testing, all toys were donated to charity.

ABOUT ADRIENNE REYNOLS: Adrienne Reynolds is the creator and editor-in-chief of "Gateways Past, Future . . . Sideways," a quarterly magazine of character-based stories with a sense of the unexpected. A writing instructor, Ms. Reynolds ran the Fantek Writer’s group.


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