'Boomerabilia' is booming among collectors


October 10, 1993|By Lita Solis-Cohen and Sally Solis-Cohen | Lita Solis-Cohen and Sally Solis-Cohen,Contributing Writers Solis-Cohen Enterprises Peter R. Solis-Cohen contributed to this story.

Just when baby boomers think they've finally bought their last plush purple dinosaur for their kids (or someone else's), Dino the dinosaur, Fred Flintstone's purple pet, is making a comeback, and not just in TV reruns or on the movie screen.

The rumblings from the front line of the collecting world is that "boomerabilia" is booming: Toys, promotional giveaways, political memorabilia, ephemera and licensed character merchandise from the 1950s, '60s, '70s and early '80s -- long staples at flea markets -- are getting serious attention from collectors and dealers who once vowed never to pine for plastic. With robots, comic books and lunch boxes now crossing the auction block even at tony Christie's East gallery in New York, there's no denying that boomerabilia is the latest noisemaker in the sometimes loony-tune world of collectibles.

While junior's jumping for "Jurassic Park" promotions, chances are Mom and Dad Baby Boomer have been bitten by the nostalgia bug and are doting on Dino and focusing on Fred. A circa-1962 Fred Flintstone on Dino battery-operated toy by Marx, 12 inches tall by 18 inches long, now is worth about $250 to $350 in good condition without its original box. Boxed and in mint condition, it can fetch around $600 to $800, according to the "grandpop" of boomerabilia, dealer and auctioneer Ted Hake, of Hake's Americana and Collectibles, in York, Pa. Attics nationwide are being searched for childhood relics to enjoy once again or turn into cash.

"What people seem to remember is what they liked when they were 12 years old, but they don't begin to collect it until around the age of 30," Mr. Hake observes. It's deja vu all over again in the toy and entertainment worlds. Trolls are back in demand and "Trekkies" old and new are exploring the vast frontiers of "Star Trek" collectibles. Don't look now, but Hula-Hoops, Mickey Mouse Club trinkets, Gidget posters, and even pet rocks soon may be vying for the attention and money of Memory Lane mavens.

"The real money is in mint-in-the-box toys made between 1955 and 1968," says dealer and auctioneer Barry Goodman, of Toysensations, in Woodbury, N.Y. At the mammoth "Atlantique City" antiques and collectibles fair at the Atlantic City (N.J.) Convention Center, Saturday and next Sunday, the 32-year-old Mr. Goodman will be selling vintage G.I. Joes, Barbie dolls, "Planet of the Apes" figures, Matchbox cars, action figures and character toys like those he and his friends could have played with as children.

Toys currently in production that are marketed as collectibles from the start are less interesting to Mr. Goodman, who generally doesn't sell ones made after the original "Star Wars" figures (circa 1977).

"To be collectible, toys should have parts that were made to be lost, not last," he says, noting there's little fun in collecting something made to be stored boxed on a shelf. Mr. Goodman is particularly partial to a hard-to-find complete, 200-piece boxed plastic play set of Yogi Bear at Jellystone Park, made by Marx, circa 1962.

"It has real emotional pull," he confesses. He expects it to fetch about $325 to $650 in his mail-bid auction closing Oct. 18.

Entertainment value

Mr. Hake got into plastic toys, games, figures, character lunch boxes and advertising premiums 27 years ago (when many of his current customers were young) upon realizing that his pin-back button-collector clients also coveted anything adorned with their favorite comic characters. While branching out into Disney collectibles was relatively easy, other areas required greater leaps of faith.

"At the time, I never thought I'd be selling G.I. Joe figures, but here I am," says the pop culture entrepreneur, who can get "in the $2,000 range" for top-of-the-line, 12-inch-high, late-1960s G.I. Joe "foreign soldier" figures.

Although he doesn't consider himself a collector, Joel Siegel, entertainment editor of ABC TV's "Good Morning America," occasionally acquires boomerabilia such as Roy Rogers or Hopalong Cassidy scarves to frame and hang in his log cabin, or lithographed tin Disney character toys to display. "I couldn't afford these things when they were 49 cents," he says, "but now that some cost $249 I can buy them."

Mr. Siegel waxes nostalgic for the cowboy, comic character and radio premium memorabilia he first previewed as a youth in the late 1940s and early '50s. Although born four years before the baby boom's official start, he grew up alongside many boomers, and it's the TV and film world he covers that fueled the production of bountiful boomerabilia. He had the prescience to save much of his childhood stuff. "I still have my comic books from when I was 11 and my Hank Aaron rookie baseball card from when I was 10," he says proudly.

Action-figure action

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