Eager little toy traders learn to play the game at Broadway swap meet

August 02, 1994|By Kelly A. J. Powers | Kelly A. J. Powers,Special to The Sun

Six-year-old Mark Hurt bounds into the Broadway Street Market looking for a good trade. While he's missing two teeth, he's not going to miss what he holds in his hand -- a coloring book of "The Emperor's New Clothes."

Yesterday afternoon, more than 50 kids brought their least-liked toys to the 33rd annual Kids Swap Shop in hopes of trading them away. At noon, everyone lines up to register. The little people take a hesitant look at the toys about to leave their arms forever, while the big people assess other toys that would make a great trade.

The toy swap offers a quick assessment at how quickly toy fads fade. There's a proliferation of Barney, dinosaurs and trolls. There are also lots of cars and trucks -- things every kid has too many of.

There's not much sentimentalizing over the old toys. Shenae Carver, 9, would prefer to get rid of all the toys her baby brother has. "He gets on my nerves all the time," she says. Instead of giving her brother magnetic alphabet letters, she's decided to trade up to a better toy.

In fact, most of the kids -- many from day camps, summer schools and day care centers -- have brought their baby toys to give away. This creates a problem, because nobody wants to trade their baby toy for another baby toy.

Shenae stands up and is paired with another girl. "Do you want to trade?" asks Susan McCardell, the Kids Swap Shop emcee. Shenae holds out her alphabet letters, hopefully. "No way," says the other girl.

Other trades are more successful. Justin Mayd forgot to bring a toy, so a teacher from his school gave him a car to trade. The blue plastic car is kind of beaten up, and Justin, 10, worries it's not attractive enough to trade. Finally his number is called; he holds up the car.

The other little boy holds up his intended trade, a remote control Stealth Fighter plane. Justin can barely contain himself.

"Yes! Yes! Let's trade!"

The other boy is not so sure, but then relents. Justin bounces back to his seat, turning the plane over and over, saying: "I got what I wanted! I got what I wanted."

The Kids Swap Shop was started in 1961 by Baltimore legend Virginia S. Baker, who ran the Recreation Center at Patterson Park. She noticed kids would give away their old toys to their friends. The first toy swap flier invited everyone to swap everything from "Tops to Tiddlywinks." Soon a new rule was installed: "Children and pets are not permitted to be swapped."

Lessons of sharing, generosity and recycling are the underlying aims of the toy swap today. Ms. McCardell, who took over when Ms. Baker fell ill, says the event has gotten national publicity. Since the event is listed in Chase's Annual Directory of Events, she fields dozens of calls from schools and recreation centers around the country initiating their own swap. The Kids Swap Shop, run by the Office of Adventures in Fun, under the Baltimore Recreations and Parks Department, is the only event of its kind in Baltimore.

Lorrie Coudle, from Sterling, Va., brought her two kids after reading about the event in National Geographic's World magazine. "It's a nice day activity, and we get to get rid of a toy TTC they don't like." Her son, Joey, 4, has brought a barely used Barney game. "Barney is out, Power Rangers are in," shrugs Ms. Coudle.

At the swap, almost every toy is eventually popular. One boy, David Hunt, has a red football helmet. Four times he tries to make a trade, but no go. Each of the times he is rejected, he gets a ticket redeemable for a prize. Four tickets later, he wins the biggest prize, a huge Pop Bazooka air gun. He is thrilled, and in the next round, he is finally relieved of the football helmet as he trades it for football collector cards.

Soon the Kids Swap Shop is over. Some kids never step up to trade and go home with their old toys.

But David's friend, Mark Hurt, still holding the "Emperor's New Clothes" coloring book, is not so willing to take home his old toy. Despite many attempts, he cannot make a trade. Then a thought occurs to the little boy.

"Hey, I can still give it away," he says. "Hey, David. Hey! Want a book?"

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