All I wanted was a zombie…and they wouldn’t sell it to me.

The 1st Sixteen

I’m gonna be honest w/y’all. I don’t really know how to start off this post in regards to these collectible Minifigs or even Lego itself. Half of me wants to kick my own hiney while the other half wants to pat me on the back. Confused????? Don’t worry. I’ll explain in full detail, but this means that I’ll have to revisit aspects of a previous hobby of mine that I really don’t miss….and that hobby was (drumroll)…Hot Wheels.

Childhood toys. 

Hot Wheel from my youth

I was born in 1971. The first toys that I can ever recall were Hot Wheels that were bought by my Dad. When I was around 5 or so, I would go outside and play w/them in the dirt by making cool dirt tracks and scooping up dirt w/hands to resemble some type of driveway or a parking area for my cars, but…I was always fascinated w/the construction vehicles rather than the race cars, muscle cars and etc, so I can make the road paths in the dirt. I would go over my cousin’s house who was 5 years older than myself and his play area for his Hot Wheels had tree stumps and large rocks encrusted in his dirt area. If you’re catching my drift so far…it meant that he had a bada$$ play area for cars. He also had the better racing track sets, better Tyco Train sets….his stuff was just …..better.

Fast-forward a couple of years later, I happen to acquire my first Lego set back in ’77 and that opened a whole new door of toy play for me because that following year, Lego released a few small construction vehicle sets. wheel loaders, road cranes…anything to do w/road construction on the LEGOLAND genre….I got it. Playing w/Hot Wheels was something I lost interest in or it might be better to say that Lego’s were more interesting to play with than the Hot Wheels. The Lego construction vehicles led to other vehicles, then small buildings, then Police and Fire stations, road plates and the next thing ya know…I have a friggin’ Lego city in my bedroom.

Now I’d be lying if I said that my entire collection at this point was nothing but LEGOLAND: City sets. I was given some smaller space sets as gifts for either my birthday or easter and even though I was totally into the city stuff, the 1st space sets that I was gifted with were pretty cool. The first space set that I recall, was the Cosmic Cruiser (set #6890) and what I enjoyed the most about this set was the fact that it opened in the back to allow a smaller craft to fit into the bigger craft. Not to mention that it was made up of blue & white bricks instead of the dull and mundane grey bricks like alot of the sets from prior years.. My Lego universe was about to go cosmic at this point

City turned into space.

Around 1984, circumstances in life made it so that my Mom, Brother and I had to move into our Grandparents house in Pico Rivera, Ca. We no longer had a bedroom of our own so my brother and I slept on the fold-out bed while my Mom slept in another in the den next room over. My rather large Lego city at my old bedroom was approximately 6’x8′ and was a permanent set up. For obvious reasons, the City was no longer to be put back toghether. So I decided to take apart every single set and box’em up and stash’em away, remembering to save the building instructions for a later day.

Now my LEGOLAND:Space collection was relatively smaller than my City sets so I kept those intact and they were stored in some upper shelves in the den. I started to purchase the sets that I really liked from the previous year (’83) but the one set that I absolutely wanted more than any other set, was the Galaxy Commander (set #6980); which I received for Christmas in ’84 (Thanks Mom :D). Alot of personal Lego “firsts” in this set which include first set landing plates, first space set that contained over 400 pieces and the first set to include yellow space minifigs.

Around ’86, I was heavily into BMX and my intrerest in Lego was diminishing rather quickly, until ’87 when Lego introduced the Blacktron series. The first ever space sets that showed the darker side of the Space Genre and I had to have every single set that came out. A stark contrast in design via black, yellow , translucent red and translucent yellow pieces. Plus the fact that the minifigs came w/blacked out visors…another Lego first. But after that, I soon lost total interest in Legos.

Hot Wheels and the world of collectibles

In the risk of losing your interest (if I haven’t done so by now….nervous laugh), I’m just gonna mention how I was thrusted into the collectible aspect of toys, and yes….the vast majority was Hot Wheels.

In 2001, I started collecting Hot Wheels. I collected everything that was Hot Wheels that I could get my hands on via retail. Within a couple of months in my new-found hobby, I discovered a place that sold the latest Hot Wheels even before they hit the retail shelves. Because of this, the cars were not $.99 like you purchased at TRU, Target and etc. Depending on the style of the car, these cars were being sold anywhere from $2 to $5 a car. Yes….I did my share of buying some of these cars and these prices.

This place was called Frank & Son’s. They not only had vendors that sold Hot Wheels, but other collectible toys like Star Wars, Transformers, comics and sports cards/memorabilia. They were open Wednesday evenings and Saturday day times and you could see me there during those days lookin’ for Hot Wheels.

This is the place where you can find vintage Hot Wheels in the 3 digit price point…depending on the style, color and condition of the piece. This went for every toy across every genre.

Gotta have it now.

My “disease” of Hot Wheel collecting lasted from ’01 through ’09. But during the early years of that time, I learned that there were grown adults that made a living of lining up at the retail stores before they opened up and ran like a pack of wild boars to a freshly killed carcass, when it came to them and the toy aisles in search of Hot Wheels, Star Wars and whatever was collectible,but mostly Hot Wheels. These “hunters” would grab the seemingly rare toys (at the time) and buy them, only to turn it around and sell’em to the vendors at Frank & Son’s or worse yet…..their own ebay stores where they command their own price for any given toy.

Now in all fairness, I’ve done the “lining up at the store before opening” thing” and participated in “the running of the bulls” (that’s what it felt like to me anyway) but it was not to “find-flip’n profit”, it was to find the car for my own collection before these “hunters” did so I wouldn’t have to fork over the elevated prices set by them via ebay or the vendors at Frank & Sons. I did this about 3 times until I saw 2 grown men grabbing the same item and fighting over it. With this vision I thought… PATHETIC!!!!! After that, I was done w/the “lining up thing” entirely.

During my “disease”, I’ve amassed a rather large collection of cars. A fraction of it is made up of some rare pieces that I’ve acquired through Hot Wheels conventions, on rare occasions-the store shelves  and yes….on even more rare occasions….ebay.

Buh-bye Hot Wheels….buh-bye.

If you’re still with me reading this….THANK YOU, you’re a trooper; and the whole minifigure relevance is coming.

In May of 2009, I was at our local TRU w/my then 6-year old son. He had some money he acquired through his allowance and wanted to see what he could find. He had about $10. I we wandered through the Hot Wheels section just to see what they had but I was not compelled to buy any cars. I’ve felt this way since the beginning of January of that year. My son has been into the whole Star Wars thing because his Dad showed him all the movies ;).   He’s been givin’ the Lego Star Wars sets by me since he was around 4, just the smaller sets mind you. So he was no stranger to the world of Lego. Thanks to Grandma and uncle, he was given the slightly bigger sets, then it spilled over to Indiana Jones and then….Power Miners.

On that day we went over to the Lego section and he let out a rather big WHOOOOOAAAAAHHHH DAD! I was lookin’ elsewhere but his eyes were fixated on this small-medium sized box of what appeared to be a little black rocket ship being driven by an alien that was accompanied my a minifig on what looked like a hovering police scooter. Then I let out a WHOA myself. Then we glanced around and saw all the sets that ended up being called “Space Police”. I haven’t felt a tingle inside me about a Lego set since the Blacktron sets back in the mid-late 80’s. Even though I had a history of Legos and I liked…ok, loved Star Wars, I could not find myself to purchase the Star Wars Lego sets for myself. There were just too many of them and I didn’t even know where to begin.

As far as the Space Police, it was the alien minifiures with their specially molded heads that appealed to my boy. So we ended up purchasing the “Freeze Ray Frenzy” set. We got home and he built it w/a little assistance from me.

With the Hot Wheels, I was good at researching everything I could about’em….so it was no accident that I did the same thing w/Lego’s. The following week after picking up the first Space Police set, I “googled” Lego Space Police, clicked on the image link and my son and I were met w/a virage of images that were not enitrely official Lego space sets.

We came across some highly detailed images of some robots or mechs. We clicked on the smaller image to see the bigger image and were sent to a Flickr account by a certain “legolover”. I almost fell outta my chair. I hollered for my son”SEBASTIAN!”, and he came a-runnin. He too was ooooohh’s and ahhhhhhh’s just like I was. We must’ve looked at that flickr account for most of the evening.

He left my side and returned to me sometime later w/his version of a mech that was clearly inspired by what we saw on that Flickr account. When he showed me what he built, I made like an AC/DC tune and was THUNDERSTRUCK. From that point on, it was very clear what I had to do. Sell all of my Hot Wheels (w/the exception of a few rare pieces and some cars that I wanted to keep) and use that money to bankroll my new-found hobby. SO LONG HOT WHEELS, HELLOOOOO LEGO’S

Within a few weeks, I managed to sell off  the majority of my collection and purchase the entire first wave of  the Space Police collection. This was possible thanks to WalMart taking back  older Hot Wheels stock in its original package and giving me store credit. But they didn’t take everything.

Back to Frank & Son’s.

It’s been years since I stepped foot over at Frank & Son’s. But I gathered what was the last of all the cars and sets that I no longer wanted and headed back to there w/several tubs full of cars being hauled in a yellow dollie. As I finished w/my transaction, I returned to Frank & Son’s to just look around. What was once a place for me to spend my time and money was now like  a huge waste of time and money and could not believe I was in some type of association w/most of these people. While I was looking around at the different vendors for what I thought was the very last time, I glanced at some of the displays and was surprised to see Lego’s being sold there. But the majority of it was of course……Star Wars Lego. We are talking anywhere between the first sets in ’99 to the present. LEGO HAD INVADED FRANKS, not just in the way of vintage sets or current sets, but the Minifigs as well. Don’t know how long this has been going on but in all truth….Does it really matter?

Finally….the Minifigs. 

Minifigure packet

In my constant search for info relating to Space Police, I happened on some article in Brickipedia written earlier this year of some minifigures that were to be released by the TLG. These were to be collectible and not released in any sets of any genre of Lego. Didn’t think anything of it since I was primarily on Brickipedia for the last of the remaining sets of the 2nd wave for the Space Police. Did you miss some key words in this paragraph just now like I did when I read the article on the Minifigures????? The words “collectible” and “not released in any sets”. Catch that? Because I didn’t. and it sort of bit me in the behind.

I’m into Lego for the sheer fun of creating and expressing myself and for sharing in the fun w/my son. Hot Wheels didn’t to that. So the collectible aspect must’ve left me totally.That’s why the article didn’t jump right out at me until Sebastian said the following words…”Dad, can we get the Zombie minifigure?” No, he didn’t read the article like I did. He saw them on youtube in a review of some kind. Curses.

Zombie search.

This was just last Friday,I’m thinking no big deal and we head over to our closest Lego Store (Downtown Disney-Anaheim, Ca). A clerk asks me if I’m finding everything ok. I told him that I was looking for the 16 minifigures that were recently released. He replies w/mentioning that they have the minifigure sets that are on magnets. No….no….no, shaking my head in dis-belief.  “I’m looking for the robot, the clown or the zombie”. He was like “Oh those came and gone within days of their release”, as if he was gonna add……”What rock did you crawl out of, buddy?” He mentioned that the only place that I could find’em would be the likes of ebay (@#?$%#*$) or bricklink (hmmmm).

Sebastian wasn’t too thrilled about the news and I know he wasn’t gonna be excited that I planned on visiting the PAB section for the purpose of looking for bricks for the Lego MOC disclaimer I wrote about a few blogs back. When I’m at the PAB I’m either there for 1 minute or 1 hour. So I bought him a 32×32 blue baseplate for his builds….I know, I’m all heart. LOL.

So I hit bricklink.com since I know that’s where I can find them but at a higher price vs. finding them at the Lego store. (Sigh) Had to find a merchant that was in the U.S. and wanted no ridiculous minimum purchase amount. One dude wanted $4.99 (not bad) but he wasn’t gonna include the accessories that came w/them when you buy them in the bag. Then another dude had one for $5 and some change, but he NEVER had a single transaction under his belt since he was just starting to sell out of his own store….no thanks….a little risky, I don’t feel like wasting money today.  Then I came across another seller that had experience and the price was just under $6. But he mentioned that he may be delayed in sending the item due to him being involved w/some large volume orders. Aaarrrghhh! The next guy wanted  $7 plus change and everything else looked good until I got to thinking. After shipping and other material handling fees, this Zombie mofo is gonna end up costing me about $10 or a little over that. Nope. I was convinced that I could find it on the street for less, so away we go.

I told Sebastian that I have a couple of places that we can check for the minifigs. Remembering that Frank’s had Lego’s at some of their vendors, I knew of a couple of stores  that had Hot Wheels in consignment (vendors not on prem that sold items in a store and received $$$ when the items sold while the store received a small percentage for commission) and maybe….just maybe some of these places were following suit w/the minifigs as well.

Well, we did find minifigs but they were…..you guessed it….Star Wars,Lego Batman,Indiana Jones and Toy Story. The ones that are popular due to their respective movies or video games. Sebastian and I are discouraged at this point and he just wanted to go home. I don’t blame him one bit. But remembering what day it was, I told him that tomorrow is Saturday….and guess what’s open on Saturday…..

Frank & Son’s (….again).

Sebastian was very familiar w/Frank’s. He’s been going there w/me since he was an infant, when I was “diseased” with the whole Hot Wheels thing. It’s been several weeks since the last time I was there to unload the last batch of my car collection. The minifigs were a certified collectible based on what I saw on bricklink.com and ebay. So we should be in a good position to find’em there.

HA!!!!!! Was I wrong. We spent a couple of hours over there rubbing elbows w/geeks of every comic, toy and sport  genre, looking for these damn things…..that’s right, I’m cursing at this point. A bunch of the same ol’ Star Wars, Batman and even custom minifigs. Nothing on the 1st sixteen. Disgusted, we started to head out the way we came in when my eye just happen to catch a Lego Logo affixed to some display cabinet that was not in plain sight. It was like a sixth sense or something that drove my attention to that particular point where I saw the most decent display of minifigs at Franks. Not just minifigs but THOSE minifigs,the ones I’ve been chasing. HE HAD THEM ALL!,except for the zombie and a cheerleader. Then I noticed that he also had the Minifigures in their original packaging. I never saw them in person before. I felt like Charlie Bucket gettin’ my impoverished hands on a Wonka bar with a golden ticket. Now here’s something that I forgot when I blew through the Minifigure article way back when; the packages did not allow you to see which minifig was inside.

When the vendor saw us ogling over the minifigs, he asked if we were looking for something in particular. I told him the zombie minifig. He said that he didn’t have anymore. I asked him that if he did, how much was he selling them for. His reply….”I’ve been gettin’ $15 for them. My inner-voice immediately kicked in…..”WELL F%@K ME W/A CHAINSAW”. The first place I have a shot of finding one and he wants above than what I saw at bricklink.We left quietly and humbly.

Having patience, Saving money.

After leaving Frank’s and gettin’ all the bad words outta my thoughts, I reflected on all the peeps that were at Frank & Son’s. Lurkers, lookers, buyers, sellers, suckers, blood-suckers, dreamers, reamers,posers,hosers, the gotta-have-its and the have-nots. Frank’s was laden w/the uninformed, gullible and the impatient w/the pocket book at the ready. Those 3 things I mentioned are what drives the rediculously high prices of comics, Hot Wheels and Lego Minifigures. It’s like a fire because there’s always oxygen somewhere. But from now on, I’ll always bring  a handy lil’ fire extinguisher w/me and use it often so I don’t get burned.

Later that day, I go back to bricklink and jump on the page where I was just a couple of days back when I was viewing all the sellers that had the zombie minifigs in their shops. I’ve noticed a few new sellers that just came into some zombies and were selling them at their stores. Found a seller that was asking for $6.95 and a shipping fee of $2.50 and had a good rep for selling so I took the plunge and made the purchase.

The formally elusive zombie minifigure

I realize that all of this could’ve been avoided if I had my head outta my ass and payed close attention in what I was reading. I’m finding out that the 2nd sixteen are to be hittin’ the Lego Stores around September. Sebastian wants Dracula (I imagine to go w/his zombie) and you best believe this time around that I won’t be the one w/my cheese left out in the wind.

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2 Responses to “All I wanted was a zombie…and they wouldn’t sell it to me.”

  1. Jose Camey Says:

    I’m enjoying reading about your little adventures. BTW, I still love my Hot Wheels and I haven’t sold any. I don’t go hunting anymore, but if I hit a Target, I’ll stop by the diecast isle and check.

    I’m glad you’re finally collecting something that both you and Sabastian really enjoy. Keep up the blogging, I really enjoy it!

  2. Jose, you represent a minority of the collectors out there that are in it for the right reasons. After a few days of posting the above, I was wondering if it was just a tad harsh on the collecting community. Then I decided to leave it be because the reality is…..the collecting community IS harsh. I just pointed the spotlight on the reasons why it is harsh. I’ve left one hobby to join another and the “hoarding” is alive and well in Lego’s too. Stay tuned for a post that I plan on posting in regards to the rarest Lego minifigs.

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