Twenty years ago, I used to write articles about toys for a living.
I was recruited by a friend of mine, who in turn had been recruited by a friend of his. There were a bunch of us sci-fi fans who worked at this site, Collecting Channel, once it was up and running. I spent hours roaming the aisles of Toys “R” Us, Kay-Bee Toy and Hobby, Wal-Mart, and others looking for interesting things to write about. Back then, specialty retailing was still strong — not a dying breed like it is today. I had to generate a ton of content – several short, newsy pieces every day, mostly about new releases or industry news – and three or four feature articles to headline the toy section. It was challenging, but fun, and I learned a lot about writing for a schedule those days.
Like most Internet sensations, Collecting Channel passed quickly. Less than a year after I started with Collecting Channel, I was informed that I was being laid off while out of town at a convention. It was hard news to swallow, as I’d left a full-time gig to take on the job, but still, I had no regrets. For one thing, I had, for a time, been writing for a living, and making a decent living at that. And for another, I DID learn an awful lot about writing non-fiction – skills which served me well later in my writing career.
The most enjoyment I had from that job was shopping for toys! I spent far too much money on them — many of which still reside in my basement today — but it was fun. I LOVED Micromachines – bubble packages of cars, spaceships, and figures. I was also fond of action figures of all sorts, from Simpsons and Babylon-5 figures to GI Joe and so many, many more. SOme I couldn’t bear to part with: most I was holding for a day when they would be valuable. That day may never come, though some have already increased in value several times over. A great deal of time spent on eBay is in my future.
I was thinking about this recently as I passed by my local Toys “R” Us, shuttered, now, and empty. The space was rented last fall to host a Hallowe’en-themed store, and we found some great stuff the time we went shopping there. I miss those days writing about toys, but interesting and wonderful toys are always to be found somewhere. Online is an option, of course, but many small, mom-n-pop stores are springing up to fill the void. Will one of them be the next toy superstore? Only time will tell.