Call for Action: Trash to Treasure Toys

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Vince Goviannini is a real kid at heart, which is why he occasionally stops in at the Big Fun Toy Store on Coventry Road in Cleveland Heights.

"It's nice seeing stuff from the past again," he told Call For Action Reporter Lorrie Taylor. "Stuff you thought was long gone and you forgot about. So it's kind of cool."

It can also be profitable because toys are collectible and they don't have to be that old.

"Somebody always asks me, "Where can I find valuable toys?" said Big Fun owner, Steve Presser.  He tells the curious, "In your basement, in your attic, in your garage..."

Presser opened Big Fun 22 years ago. He also operates a second store on Clifton Avenue in Cleveland.  Most of what you'll find in his shops dates from the 60s to the 90s.

"We're buying Nintendo. We're buying Power Rangers, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, three or four years ago we weren't buying that," he told Taylor.

Presser says demand runs in cycles. "The people that are 25 today want toys that were in their childhood, which were ten or 15 years ago," he said.

Anyone thinking about re-selling toys as a money-making hobby can learn a few things from Presser.  Boys' toys are more popular than girls and tend to bring higher prices, but that doesn't mean there isn't a market for girls' playthings.  For instance, the Strawberry Shortcake line is big today; a small doll Presser keeps locked in a glass case is priced at $50.

"She's loose. If she was in an original package she'd be worth a heck of a lot more," Presser said, referring to the Strawberry Shortcake doll.  "How much more?" asked Taylor, "At least double," responded Presser.

He also said original packaging drives up the price of a toy, and so does its condition.

"Obviously scarcity and rarity puts the highest value, but for a true toy collector it is a toy that's never been opened," he advised.

Tiny Care Bears that used to sell for $2.99 when they were first released back in the 80s are selling today for as much as $18 a piece.

As for boys' toys, Transformers, Star Wars and GI Joes not only hold their value, they're in demand.

"These are the GI Joes that are three and 3/4" made in the 80s and early 90s and they've become very, very popular amongst collectors,"' said Presser. "In fact, I find that I probably sell ten or twenty to one of the 80s over the original 1960s that I grew up with."

The tiny military figures originally sold for about 99 cents; today Presser can get as much as $30 for just one of them, as for the taller GI Joes?

"Some of them can be worth hundreds of dollars now," said Presser.

Goviannini told Taylor he knows there's money to be made from buying and selling toys, it`s just not the main attraction for him.

"Fun above all else?" asked Taylor, "Yea,' laughed Goviannini, 'I would say, yea..."

*Read more of Lorrie's Call for Action: Trash to Treasure segments here.