Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Retro Spins: DJ Jazzy Jeff And The Fresh Prince - Rock The House



DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince
Rock the House
1987

I don't personally know when Will Smith became a household name and a top contender for his own television show. However, I know it wasn't in 1987 when he and his pal Jeff released their debut album, Rock the House. Though the album found a small following thanks mostly to its lead track, Girls Ain't Nothing But Trouble, nothing found any love in the charts.

For me, what I found most appealing about DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince was that they were obviously there to have fun. Their songs weren't about drugs, sex or violence. Rather, they focused on being almost comedically entertaining. It's as if they were blatantly telling other rappers, "We're not here to be serious." I think it was because of this that the duo were able to break barriers of color so easily.

Sadly, if you're looking to grab the original version of this album you're going to have to track it down on the 1987 vinyl or cassette. The reason being that when the album was released on CD for the first time in 1988 (thanks to the success of the duo's follow up album He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper) the song Girls Ain't Nothing But Trouble was re-recorded and released only in an extended remix format.

It was this version which would finally enter the charts in October of 1988, again, because of the success of the duo's follow up album. However, the success was short lived as the song would debut at the number ninety-three spot, but be back off the charts by the following week.

I enjoyed the album as a whole. Mainly because (as I said above) it was fun. It was lighthearted, comical at times, groovy at others and overall good. Every song, either as a whole or in part, had something enjoyable for me. Granted while I won't be grabbing all of them for my iPod or iTunes 80's mix, I will be adding a few tracks; Girls Ain't Nothing But Trouble, Just One of Those Days, Rock the House, The Magnificent Jazzy Jeff and A Tough of Jazz.

Definitely looking forward to hearing more albums in the near future.

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Monday, May 20, 2019

Planters Cheez Balls And Cheez Curls



Planters has given the general public a taste of nostalgia with the limited run of their Cheez Balls and Curls returning to markets in all their original canned goodness. Though they're being touted as Walmart and Amazon exclusives, I actually found these canisters at my local CVS while picking up some prescriptions.

While I remember popping my fair share of cans back in the day, I can't honestly say I remember their specific taste. However, I was still eager to take a trip down memory lane to see if something would spark my memory as I dove in.

Giving a sniff of each open can, there's definitely a strong smell of cheddar cheese within. The Balls seem to have the stronger scent out of the two.

Both are a nice bright orange color, definitely providing a delicious looking cheese based snack. Immediately after picking them up to place on the lid, I noticed a nice layer of cheese residue on my fingers.

With this much excess powder I was definitely anticipating a strong cheese flavor. While I got this at first, it dissipated fast, leaving nothing but a corn flavoring. It wasn't terrible, but it was disappointing that there was no longevity to the cheddar. To me, these were also a tad bit saltier than I prefer my "chip" based snacks to be. As I type this, I'm also noticing a pretty bad aftertaste in the back of my throat. I don't know if this is a result of the snacks themselves, or me being a bit under the weather.

Price wise, there's minimal value here. The canister of Curls is 4 ounces, while the Balls are only 2.75. Both were $2.99 a piece at CVS. Meanwhile, an 8 ounce bag of UTZ Cheese Curls and Balls was only $2.39 a piece. You're definitely paying for the nostalgia and Planters name on this one. While I don't mind doing it once, this isn't something I would continue to buy at this price point.

It was fun to try these again after a twelve year hiatus, but these aren't something I'm going to be stocking up on.

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Superman: New Krypton (DC Direct)



Superman: New Krypton
DC Direct
2010

New Krypton? What was wrong with the old one? Oh...Right...KABOOM!

The story arc of New Krypton revolves around Clark Kent coming to terms with the death of his adoptive Earth father as well as the presence of 100,000 Kryptonians now living on Earth as a result of the Braniac story arc.

Now, let me just stop here a moment. See, this is my biggest problem with comic books these days. How many different books and story arcs do I have to read to keep up? Ridiculous.

Sorry, had to get that off my chest.

Anyhow...Much as they often do, DC Direct threw out a handful of figures based on the series. Four to be exact. Superman, Braniac, Superwoman and one of the Kryptonians, Mon-El. The world is still waiting for the remaining  99,999 Kryptonian figures to be released. Expect them as an exclusive pack at an upcoming San Diego Comic Con.

 Superman*Superwoman

Braniac*Mon-El

As is the usual case with DC Direct figures, now that the line is over, they are not only difficult to find, but also expensive. Plan on spending anywhere from $60.00 to $75.00 for each one. Mind you, that's if you can find them. They are rather scarce these days.

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Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Dirty Dozen - My Top Twelve Most Expensive G.I. Joe Figures



Back in July of 2017, I began collecting the first of what would eventually become many G.I. Joe figures. When I started, the goal was to collect strictly within the realm of 1983 to 1987, with the exception of a handful of figures I had as a kid from '88 and '89. As of yesterday, I've completed my 1983 run, with 1984, 1985 and 1987 having been completed on prior dates. As for 1986, I'm missing only five figures. The Special Missions Brazil set which featured Dial-Tone, Wet Suit, Leatherneck, Mainframe and Claymore. My plan is to finish those up in June.

In the interim, I thought I would share with everyone a new Dirty Dozen's post featuring the top twelve most expensive figures I've accumulated. Mind you, this isn't "bragging rights". More so, it's being presented for those of you out there who are actively looking at collecting vintage G.I. Joe 3 3/4 figures to be aware of the ones which will not only be difficult for you to obtain, but also quite costly. 

As we get into this list, keep in mind the key fundamental aspect of collecting, which is prices fluctuate often. What I paid for these figures isn't necessarily going to be what you will. Some could be more, some could be less. Instead, use this list as a benchmark.


At $81.00, Grunt (V2) beat out Storm Shadow for the number twelve space by one lone dollar. He was also the last 1983 figure I obtained, just yesterday in fact. A common theme you'll see as we go through this list, is that vehicle drivers tend to be some of the most expensive ones to obtain. They're only getting harder and harder to obtain as people who only want the figures and not the vehicles continue to collect.


Secto-Viper is one of the few 1988 figures I have in my collection as of now. I wasn't expecting this one to be so expensive and scarce. At the time I found him, there were maybe two to three for sale with the helmet and gun. While he's still rather scarce, prices seem to have dropped quite a bit since I bought one. Looks like you can get one for around $55.00 as of this writing.


1985 Snake Eyes (V2) is probably the most popular G.I. Joe figure out there. Collectors know it. Dealers know it. And prices show it. For a figure that is by no means uncommon, the asking price of $100.00 seems a bit ridiculous.


W.O.R.M.S. was one of the last two Cobra figures (Techno-Viper being the other) that I needed to complete my 1987 "bad guys". However, I was having a great deal of difficulty finding one complete. Being removable, the little antenna on the top of his helmet tends to be missing. As a result, this figure has skyrocketed in price. Without the antenna, this figure sells for $20.00 all day long.


I didn't actually buy this Steel Brigade figure. Instead, it was bought for me as a Christmas gift. However, having sent the link to the person who paid for it, I know it set them back $175.00. With five different versions available, not including the infamous blue version released later, this would be one expensive set to complete if you were going for all the variations. I am not.


When I first came across Rumbler, I actually ended up passing on him. Between the price and his very bland look, I didn't feel this was a figure I was really going to need in my collection. I ended up taking the plunge at the same time I bought Fast Draw, who finished up my entire 1987 run.


Cobra Viper Pilot was the second figure I received as a gift along side the aforementioned Steel Brigade. Again, because I sent the link to the person who bought it, I know what they paid for it.

What makes this figure so difficult to find is that the majority of them are missing the chest logo. This is because the figure came with the 1983 Cobra Attack Glider, and the majority of the toys got launched through the air to meet hard scraping landings on the ground. This resulted in a lot of the figures being damaged over time. Mint ones are not only getting harder to find, but more expensive.


Listen 'N Fun Tripwire, much like Rumbler, was a figure I didn't necessarily want in my collection. However, something about it started to intrigue me more and more, and it only got worse as I continued to tick off figures on my 1985 list. He was the very last one I purchased to complete the year.


The Defiant Space Shuttle is a rare vehicle in and of itself, and the figures which accompanied it are no exception. Hardtop suffers from missing accessory syndrome all the time. His little microphone on the side of his hat and gun are some of the toughest accessories to come by. However, even without them, the figure can sell for upwards of eighty to one hundred dollars.


Payload, Hardtop's counterpart, seems to be all the more difficult to find complete. The figure itself is incredibly scarce, and finding one with the arms / controls of the backpack can be challenging. There was only one listed as complete at the time I bought mine.


I knew that Starduster was a mail away figure, but I was ill prepared to find out just how highly sought after, and as a result, expensive he was. I learned all of this during a trip to Timonium for a Dave Hart Show, and after looking him up online as I held one in my hands, I decided I couldn't leave it there. Much like Steel Brigade, there are multiple versions, so collecting a complete set can easily cost you over a thousand dollars. I'll stick with one.


Something I typically don't do for my Dirty Dozen posts is give an honorable mention. However, since the 1993 Create A Cobra figure is one I hope to obtain soon, I thought I would throw him in. Technically, if prices stay the same, he'll end up in the number two spot on this list.


Number one on the list may surprise you as much as it surprised me when I bought it. When I first went to purchase 1985's Heavy Metal, I thought, "It's just another random and cheap vehicle driver that nobody wants. Shouldn't be difficult." Boy was I wrong. Turns out Heavy Metal is the holy grail of G.I. Joe figure collecting, and it all comes down to that little detachable microphone on the side of his head. Not only did this piece go missing on the majority of them out there, but the figure was re-released in 1989 under the name Rampage without the microphone and a different gun.

At the time I purchased it, there was only one available. When I saw a second one pop up a few weeks later, I figured I would buy it too as an investment to get more Joe's later. However, that one went for over $400.00 to someone else! One sold in the past week went for even more, and there are currently none available (complete) on ebay.

This figure should be taken into strict consideration when deciding whether or not you really want to start collecting G.I. Joe figures. Especially if you're a completest. He falls right in that sweet spot of Joe figures, 1985. This is an era which many fans find highly desirable and are collecting rampidly. As such, he's only going to get harder and harder to obtain.

Again, prices are subject to change daily, so take this list with a grain of salt. If you're utilizing it, then do so with the understanding it's a benchmark for when I bought these figures, which was between 2017 and yesterday.

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Saturday, May 18, 2019

Star Wars Retro Collection: Escape From Death Star Board Game With Grand Moff Tarkin



Fresh on the heels of my post about brick and mortar stores was the mailman with my Star Wars Retro Collection Escape From Death Star Game. The draw to this otherwise overpriced hunk of nostalgia was Hasbro's inclusion of the long awaited Grand Moff Tarkin in vintage style. Tarkin has long been at the top of vintage collector's lists when discussions are had about the blatant omissions from the original Kenner line. It took forty= years, but here we are finally able to add the character to our collections.

At $19.99, this Target exclusive board game / figure combination isn't too ridiculously priced. Personally, I was expecting a $30.00 to $40.00 retail price. However, it is worth noting that scalpers are currently getting this higher price range just for the figure alone. I guess people aren't bothering to check Target.com before buying because it's readily available as I type this.

Like most people buying this item, I have zero interest in the actual board game itself. I just wanted the figure to add to my vintage collection. Hasbro knew this was the stance of the majority of buyers, and quite frankly, I feel like they packaged it with the board game simply so they could get a higher price for it.

The figure is individually carded, which will thrill mint in package collectors who don't necessarily want a bulky board game. Packaging wise, it captures the nostalgia of the original Kenner figures.

I'm admittedly not a fan of the forced wear and tear that Hasbro went for on the card. I also don't particularly like the giant red sticker which takes up twenty-five+ percent of the photo on the card. These two production choices really detract from what would otherwise would have been a rather beautifully carded figure. From what I've heard from other collectors, I don't appear to be alone in this line of thinking.

With that said, these gripes are easy for me to put aside because I'm not a mint in package toy collector. My intentions were always to get this figure for the purposes of displaying it along with my vintage figures. A somewhat continuation of the series if you. So with that said, I cracked this bad boy open.

Right off the bat I noticed a flaw with it. While the right hand is sculpted with the intentions of holding the gun, it doesn't. The grip of the hand is sculpted too wide, and the blaster keeps falling out of his hand when his arm is down. Oddly enough, the work around for this was to put it in his left hand, which didn't look like it was able to hold anything. 

Overall though, the figure doesn't look all that bad. It certainly captures the look and feel of a vintage figure. The five points of articulation are spot on with that of the '78 - '85 releases, and it has just enough detail for you to be able to say, "That's Tarkin," without it being a one to one accurate rendering.

To mention a little more about the blaster, it too looks straight out of the vintage era. Albeit a lot darker in color than the translucent blue ones from the past. I may have to break down and do a float test just for giggles. Vintage collectors will know exactly what I'm talking about.

At first, I thought the figure had too much detail with its wrinkles in the fabric, but as I looked closer at my vintage figures, I found that those too had much more detail in their sculpts than I apparently remembered. Still, side by side, I can't say I'm 100% convinced this figure fits with the line.



I didn't know if it was my mind that just wasn't willing to accept that this figure belongs alongside my original figures, or if it truly didn't fit in.



My goal was always to tuck this figure at the back end of the original Power of the Force line on my shelf as a continuation of the original lines, so that's exactly what I did. That's when it hit me. I realized what was wrong. Look at the face of all the other "human" characters, and then look at Tarkin's. His face is too thin and long. All the other vintage figures have rounded faces. Regardless of which character they were.

At the end of the day, I'm glad to finally have a "true" vintage style Tarkin figure to add to my collection. I also hope that Hasbo plans to continue this line with more figures that were missing from the original line. I'd start listing them, but depending on who you ask, that list could be infinite. I just hope if Hasbro does continue on that they avoid packaging exclusive figures with vehicles, playsets and further board games. I also hope they never release one as a convention exclusive. That would kill this line for me.

As for the board game...That's either going in the trash or to the neighbor with the four children. I haven't decided which one is more convenient.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Why I'm Over Brick And Mortar



THE SET UP

A few years back I used to be a major advocate for brick and mortar shops. There was something about the thrill of going to a store, finding all the latest Nick TMNT figures and gleefully walking out with a massive bag full of them.

However, since the end of that line, I've actually taken a stout dislike of going to a physical store to buy collectibles. This point was drilled home today, and I'm to the point now where I don't think I'll ever set foot into another Target, Walmart, etc.

UNHELPFUL EMPLOYEES

In today's day and age, the majority of people I've come across working in retail stores aren't helpful. They have no knowledge of the products they're selling, don't want to be bothered by customers, sometimes don't even speak English, and in general, don't want to work. They will give you the queue card answer to most questions, which typically involves saying, "If it's not on the shelf we don't have it," and some will even roll their eyes at you and sigh.

The worst part about it is that most stores have come to realize that customers simply don't want to deal with their useless employees. Yet rather than train people to be better, they've added kiosks all over the store so that shoppers can check on items themselves, and even done away with human cashiers. Now you're driving to the store just to have an online experience anyway.

THEY DON'T HAVE WHAT YOU WANT

9 out of 10 times, if you're going to a retail store for a toy, they won't have it. In today's case, as I'll go into further below, that's even if the computer tells you they do. It's frustrating and disappointing to walk away empty handed. It's even more so frustrating when the only reason you went there is because their own website said the item was in stock.

IT'S A WASTE OF TIME AND GAS

Due to the fact that most stores don't have what you're looking for in stock, it's simply a waste of time and gas to go to a brick and mortar store. Especially if you live in a highly populated area. Driving to a local store can take as much as thirty to forty minutes just to get there. It's just not worth the time and hassle.

THE FINAL STRAW

After stopping by G.I. Jigsaw today, I saw that George had obtained the new Retro Collection Death Star Escape. As a fan and collector of the original Star Wars figure line, I was excited for this particular board game because it included a retro style Grand Moff Tarkin - A figure the original series ominously omitted. I was excited to see the figure had finally hit shelves, and went straight to Target.com to see if it was available. Not only was it, but the website stated the item was in stock literally down the street from my office. I decided I'd take a half hour and go get it vs. ordering and waiting for it to arrive.

Upon my arrival at the store, I went straight back to the toy section. I figured it would be in one of two places; 1) Board Games or 2) Action Figures. I searched both, but came up empty handed. I was, however, able to flag down a store clerk, and asked him where I could find it. A quick search on his store issued device, and we were back over at board games. Despite his search, he too couldn't find it. Additionally, he couldn't even find the tag for where on the shelf it should have been. I asked if the item was still in the back stock room, but was told no as the employee walked away.

As the clerk walked away, I shook my head. I was disappointed and annoyed. I found myself saying out loud, "Brick and mortar stores are so useless and a waste of time." True words as far as I'm concerned.

Rather than leave empty handed, I went up to customer service and asked if I could place the order there to have it delivered to my home. Not only was this possible, but I found out that doing it via this route also provides free shipping. Had I ordered it via logging into a computer, I would have paid six dollars for shipping.

CONCLUSION

Hearing of a brick and mortar store closing down used to sadden me. I would think of the people losing their jobs or the loss of yet another great place to have an experience for the thrill of the hunt. However, for me, I'm long over it. Online shopping is dominating the retail market because it's quick, easy and convenient. You can do it from anywhere, have it delivered right to your doorstep, and with the exception of an occasionally incorrect item, you never have to deal with one single person. Most importantly, what you're looking for is no more than a simple click away. It's sixty seconds of shopping vs. sixty minutes of empty searching. Kind of a no brainer if you ask me.

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Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Retro Spins: Fat Boys - Crushin'



Fat Boys
Crushin'
1987

Since hearing Run DMC's Raising Hell, I've been a little more open to embracing 80's rap albums. I've grabbed up a few albums I'm going to be working my way through and the first one I selected to actually listen to was Fat Boys Crushin' from 1987.
I've honestly never heard a Fat Boy's album until doing so for this Retro Spin post. My only exposure to the trio is the 1987 film Disorderlies and quite honestly I couldn't tell you a thing about the movie other than they were always eating. What can I say, I was really young at the time.

The album was not for me. The beat boxing was fun, but as a whole the songs just didn't hook me. Sure, I could say Wipeout was a decent cover of the Beach Boys hit, but in all truth, I won't be going out of my way to hear this song again. I found the short (ten to twelve second) tracks to be more entertaining than the actual music.

Just to be sure it wasn't just me, I went ahead and cross referenced the album to the charts and found that only one song actually managed to make a mark - Coincidentally, it was Wipeout. The song charted and made its way to number twelve between July and September.

I wish I could sit here and write more about this album, but I'd honestly just be wasting my time writing for the sake of writing and your time reading. I tried it, I didn't like it. Do I at least get credit for being open to trying something new?

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