Today I’m gonna show you the highlights from the 1984 Consumers Distributing catalog. Don’t run — it’s more interesting than it sounds!
I’ve mentioned Consumers Distributing before, but to save you a click, here’s a primer: The odd stores were more like OTB centers, where instead of wheeling around shopping carts, you stood at little kiosks filling out catalog order forms. Workers would then seize your goods from a warehouse in the back. If not for the financial frivolity, it might have seemed dystopian. With little space dedicated to “ambiance,” costs were kept down, and Consumers could price things lower than most department stores.
Physically being there was never much fun. With so few things on display, the store was all-business and not at all for mindless browsing. Still, I had a special affinity for Consumers, since their catalogs were nearly as good as Sears Wish Books!
Even as a kid, I couldn’t believe their prices. Everything was cheap, but certain things were really cheap. (Of course, this often led to disappointment. You’d go to Consumers clutching their clearance pages, only to find out that nothing you wanted was in stock. 49 cent Karate Kommandos? I knew it was too good to be true.)
Those old catalogs have been one of my “grail searches” over the years. I was recently able to acquire a big pile of them, and they’re every bit as sweet as I remember. For starters, let’s check out the highlights from their 1984 catalog!
Star Wars Figures!
Price: $2.97 each
If I’ve not made this clear in prior articles, Kenner’s original Star Wars line is my favorite action figure series of all time. Those toys shaped my childhood, and were absolutely what drove me to become a collector in my teen years.
One of my literal earliest memories is of sitting in my childhood bedroom, throwing a party for my Star Wars figures with the Ewok Village playset. There were over a hundred available, and I damn well tried to collect them all. While falling short of that lofty goal, I certainly had every single figure pictured in that spread. What amazes me is how each one sparks a different memory.
The Gamorrean Guard? My mother brought me along when she visited her best friend, who happened to be my godmother. I didn’t see her often, but she always lived up to her title with great gifts. That afternoon, she gave me the Gamorrean Guard, and hoped it’d keep me quiet as she and my mother smoked their way through eighty cups of coffee. It did.
Nikto? On some ridiculously long ago evening, I was at TRU. (Which, come to think of it, is the same TRU I just did that shopping spree at.) The goal was to get a new Star Wars figure, but as the line’s vitality was already waning by then, the pickings were slim. From the poor selection, the only one I didn’t have was Nikto. I chose him begrudgingly. He was a fresh face, yes, but not a very interesting one. I should’ve just gotten an extra Boba Fett.
The Emperor? As mentioned in this article, I got him through one of Kenner’s mail-away offers. You haven’t lived until you’ve received an ostensibly free Star Wars figure by mail, trapped within a stark white cardboard coffin.
I’ll stop there, but I could write similar paragraphs for each of the pictured figures. God, I loved that line. I still do. Nothing else has come close. Read More…
Here are thirty dumb haikus
About what I saw. Read More…
I found an old Toys “R” Us gift card while cleaning, and was happy to discover that it still had 59 bucks left on it. I hope the card enjoyed those eight months under our microwave.
This left me with three options. One, I could save it until the Christmas season, when I’m due to blow hundreds of dollars on gifts anyway. Two, I could put it towards one extravagant item that I wouldn’t be able to afford without a 59 dollar assist. Three, I could immediately drive to TRU and blow it all on goofy crap.
An easy decision. Let’s go on a shopping spree!
My TRU visits are usually fruitless. I’ll go in, look around, want stuff, but ultimately leave empty-handed, confident that groceries and rent are more important than a few extra Ninja Turtles.
By contrast, a gift card shopping spree is an open invitation to be six years old. Even so, fifty bucks doesn’t go as far as it used to, and if I wanted an overstuffed shopping bag that fired on every cylinder, I had to play it smart. I had to be choosy.
The hardest part was keeping track of my total. These days, almost nothing in TRU wears a price sticker. I had to continually run back to that little scanning-zapping-thing for mental math. (The reason this became a $55 shopping spree rather than a $59 shopping spree was my own paranoia. I didn’t want to spend one cent of my own money, so at the last second, I removed the big bag of Peanut M&M’s. As it turned out, I could’ve bought them and still been under my limit. Damn.)
I didn’t just stick with my usual three aisles. I covered every inch of that place, looking for sales and clearances. (And also Sea-Monkeys, which are now so well-hidden that an entire game show could be forged around challenging contestants to find them in TRU.)
The results are below. I wasn’t just aiming for cool stuff, but a variety of it.
As many of you know, this hasn’t been my favorite week. Since our apartment is currently a minefield of memories we’re not ready to deal with, getting out of the house is a good thing. Thank God for yard sale season.
Longtime readers should remember last year’s Yard Sailin’ series, where I spent my Saturday afternoons buying complete strangers’ garbage. Starting now, the saga continues! I doubt I’ll do one of these every week, but whenever the mood strikes, expect more reports about the junk I found on foreign lawns.
Today was the first excursion of 2015, and I definitely got off on the right foot. Check out my scores, down below!
Pee-wee’s Playhouse Magic Screen Figure!
Can you believe this? A still-packaged Magic Screen, from Matchbox’s 1988 Pee-wee’s Playhouse collection! Sure, the card is dirty and water-warped, but this is not the kind of thing I’d have ever expected to find at a yard sale.
Keep in mind, this wasn’t spotted at one of those “phony” yard sales run by the same dudes who normally rent space at comic book shows. Magic Screen wasn’t on some pretty table, next to baseball card sets, high dollar comics and tiny ceramic busts of Marvel characters that for some reason cost more than dinner for six.
No, I found Magic Screen in a filthy box on some guy’s lawn. Inside the box were six more Magic Screen figures, in similarly destroyed packages. It’s hard to articulate why finding my Magic Screen in such fashion made the event so cool, but I feel like anyone who goes to yard sales on the reg already understands.
I would’ve bought them all, but the $5 price tag wasn’t so much a “steal” as a “bargain.” Had the packages not looked like they’d spent three years serving as dog toys, then we’d be talking. Read More…
After flipping through hundreds of yellowed pages that all stank like old glue, I’m now armed with another batch of old comic book ads. When you’re done reading this, go check out the previous editions.
Nightmare on Elm Street Dream Package!
(Pulled from unknown 1988 comic)
Our pal Larry P. snail-mailed this to me, presumably because he knew I’d love it enough to use some archaic Vistaprint template to turn it into a giant poster. Oh my God, it’s the NOES Dream Package!
For 98 bucks, fans got everything pictured: The mask, the hat, the glove, the poster, the book, the board game AND the videotape. As much as I want to make jokes about a late ‘80s comic book ad that banked its success on the notion that thirteen-year-olds could conjure hundred dollar bills out of thin air, this was a good deal.
None of the eight items had less than a $10 retail value, and several were in the $30 range. I’m worldly enough to know that Monarch Avalon wouldn’t have mailed all of that stuff in a single box — it was a rare case when mailing an order in several packages would’ve worked out cheaper — but man, as a kid, I totally would’ve expected everything to come in one giant red and green Freddy Krueger box. That would’ve been the biggest draw for me. Read More…