Goodies from Goodwill!

What should have been a routine trip home from Philly turned into an absolute nightmare, with the kind of demoralizing traffic normally reserved for setup montages during coffee commercials.

This was yesterday afternoon, and as hellish at it was, the experience came with a major bright side. A desperate attempt to cross bodies of water using only local streets went about as well as you’d suspect, but it did place us squarely in front of this incredible Goodwill store:

Many illegal and dangerous maneuvers were made to get us into that parking lot, because I saw this for what it was. A chance to turn a negative into a positive.

We don’t have Goodwill stores around here. Is this what I’ve been missing? I must have seen over a hundred thrift shops in my life, but never one like this. Never one that was as big as a supermarket. Never one where the customers use shopping carts.

The store was enormous and had everything. Clothes, toys, games, books, movies, glassware, paintings – you name it. That’s not unusual for thrift stores, but the difference here was the sheer volume. I’m used to going to thrift stores where finding even one reasonably priced “cool thing” is like discovering the Ark of the Covenant.

When we first walked in, I chuckled at the sight of everyone using shopping carts, because who needs a shopping cart in a thrift store? Well, ten minutes later, there I was, pushing a cart around and wondering if one was even enough.

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A lot of the stuff was legitimately OLD, too. In the territories I’m more familiar with, this store’s stock would’ve been instantly depleted by hopeful eBayers who knew, JUST KNEW, that a 1988 Sea World hurricane glass HAD to be worth more than 50 cents.

That’s the other thing. Everything was cheap. I all but gave up on the thrift stores around here, because they’ve all come to think of themselves as real life eBays. “Oh, you’re interested in that incredibly stained Betty Crocker cookbook from 1970? THIRTEEN DOLLARS.”

The last time I visited a local one, I had my eye on a small and half-busted globe. This was not a traditionally sized globe, mind you. Maybe twice the size of a softball? Twice the size of a softball, and so beat up that its original owner may have actually used it as one. The place wanted 25 bucks for it. Are you kidding?

So, yes, this Goodwill store was like some miraculous throwback to fifteen years ago, when the theory that “all trash sells online” still hadn’t fully ripened. We ended up staying there for nearly an hour, because every new pile brought some new treasure, and this wasn’t the kind of place where you wanted to leave stones unturned.

Below are five of my favorite finds. I’m intentionally leaving some stuff out, because certain items really were good enough for individual tributes.

Tiger Electronics Paperboy Handheld Game (1988)
Price: $2.99

Three bucks for this was on the high side, but I couldn’t turn it down. I absolutely had this as a kid. It was one of my few “handheld conversions” that was truly fun to play and not incredibly frustrating.

I just replaced its twenty-year-old Sunbeam batteries with new Energizers, and it still works!  Its assorted noises sound like a bunch of happy crickets attempting to mimic country songs! I’m in heaven. These old handhelds are durable fuckers, but I never considered the idea that this might still work.

Jumbo Universal Remote
Price: $.99

I took a dive for you on this one. I have no use for an extremely dirty universal remote, but it was too damn interesting to leave behind. The world deserves to see this!

I tossed a battery into the photo so you’d have some idea of size. The thing is large enough to be comical. I mean, I get the point of it. Big, easy-to-read buttons, and a remote that’s too large to misplace. But this goes so far over the top that you’d need to be Rancor-sized to use it without looking funny.

The cheap price was likely Goodwill’s admission that they shouldn’t be selling items this filthy. I see the stains of many ancient dinners on this remote. The stains are really in there, too. Like, there’s no way to clean this without making a part of that grime a part of you.

I don’t know what to do with this. I guess I just love art-through-gigantism?

Domino Rally Domino Dealer (1992)
Price: $1.99

Of course I was going to buy this. I never had a Domino Dealer as a kid, but seeing it work its magic on TV commercials used to totally fascinate me.

Included are an oddly-shaped motorized car and one hundred dominoes. When turned on, the Domino Dealer drives around, dropping perfectly aligned rows of dominoes into place.

Since All Things Domino Rally were at least 50% exercises in frustration, I can’t imagine that it perfectly practices what it preaches. Still, it’s a cute little robot car that happily shits dominoes during its adventures, and that seems as unbelievable to me now as it did back in ‘92.

(Fun fact: This was the first thing I grabbed after we walked in, complete with an “OH WOW A DOMINO DEALER” screech that I very immediately regretted.)

Challenge Yahtzee (1978)
Price: $1.99

This had to be a new arrival, because even if it’s worth jack on eBay, it’s exactly the type of thing that eBayers snatch up quick. (Board games are a crapshoot, but when they’re this old and in this condition, you kind of have to roll the dice.)

I didn’t buy it to sell, of course. I bought it because I like Yahtzee, and also because the box somehow reminds me of a fondue party. The contents have never been used, right down to the yellow felt being in gloriously perfect shape. Yes!

Pairing the game with The Odd Couple seems too random to have started and ended on the box, so there must have been a Challenge Yahtzee TV commercial starring Tony and Jack. On the other hand, the fact that I can’t find it, but CAN find a video of Freddy Krueger dancing to Eminem, might mean that there wasn’t.

If you’re curious: The basic premise of Challenge Yahtzee is that all players choose their scores from the same roll. Which actually seems like it could be a fun way to play. Yes, I can see it now. A party at my place, with Challenge Yahtzee as the star.

The party will be short and little-attended.

The Dream Master VHS Tape (1988)
Price: $.25

This was my favorite find of all, and for so many reasons!

Obviously, I love the movie. A Nightmare on Elm Street 4 is one of Freddy Krueger’s best works, and if I’m remembering things correctly, it’s Robert Englund’s personal favorite from the entire series.

Of course, liking a movie that I already own on DVD was not a good reason to buy this. No, the big appeal was the box art. The original videocassette art for the Elm Street flicks was phenomenal, usually replicating the eerie teaser posters. The later versions (and many of the DVD releases) featured much plainer art. Maybe you’d need to be old enough to remember choosing movie rentals on box art alone to get why this was such a thing, but I’m telling you, it was.

Speaking of movie rentals, check out that swank “3-3-3” sticker! This was actually some old video store’s copy of the movie, which transformed it from something I wanted into something that literally made me weak in the knees. That measly quarter brought me so much nostalgia on so many fronts!

So, with the way things turned out, I’m actually glad that that drive home was so awful. If it wasn’t, I never would’ve discovered this magical Goodwill store. Pain works when it has a purpose. I’d have happily suffered far worse annoyances for Domino Dealers and Freddy Krueger.