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July 21, 2003

Featured Article - Past Articles
Second childhood
The junk of your childhood has been saved online.

By Tom Prendergast

One day 15 or 20 years ago, my friend Steve marvelled at the stacks and stacks of old records, vintage magazines, baseball cards, and '70s memorabilia that cluttered my little apartment. "You collectors are all the same," he scolded me. "You spend your entire adulthood buying back your happy childhood." Fine. Guilty as charged. And judging by the mountain of evidence on the Web, I'm not alone. Fads, ephemera, and plain old garbage from virtually every era up to the 1980s, and even past it, are hot property, not just for collectors, but also for nostalgia fiends and folks who just like to look back.

The most interesting childhood collectibles are the ones that tended to get immediately trashed by their owners--later driving prices for mint-condition specimens through the roof. A good example is Wacky Packages, those silly, mildly tasteless stickers that parodied real products. Surely you remember Crust toothpaste, Horrid deodorant, and Awful Bits cereal, right? If not, Wacky has an alarming amount of information, scans, and various minutiae about these stickers. It also includes a rough price guide, so you can eat your heart out over the fact that a mint set of the stickers that you pasted on your loose-leaf binder in fourth grade is now worth $500.

Speaking of disposable silliness, do you know anyone who actually read and enjoyed those lame comics that were wrapped around Bazooka bubble gum, let alone kept them? Well, as with everything old, there are people devoted to collecting the adventures of Bazooka Joe and His Gang. The latest members of the gang are featured on the official Bazooka page, while a historical perspective can be found at the Bubble Gum Comic Collection. The Bazooka Joe Page takes a tongue-in-cheek intellectual look at the more recent Bazooka comics, which have introduced characters like Metaldude and Joe's dimwitted girlfriend, Zena.

Quick, what was on your lunch box when you were a kid? Of course you remember. The dumbest things stick with you through the years, but that's why vintage lunch boxes are so sought after (by some people, anyway; my Peanuts lunch box had a short life, and I don't miss it). Lunch Box Pad provides much more than price-guide values and nostalgic essays, including a nice slide show of some of the top collectible lunch boxes and shopping links to the hottest new ones (watch out for The Hulk).

Appropriately enough, one recent category of toys that seem to be appreciating almost instantly are computer games. Games and systems come and go so rapidly, so nobody hangs on to them. But that mint-in-the-box 1988 Nintendo "Balloon Fight" game you threw out ages ago is already fetching three-figure prices. If instant nostalgia is your thing, there are numerous sites devoted to Intellivision, Atari, DOS games, and other prehistoric sources of amusement at the Classic Video Game Syndicate. While you're at it, you can reminisce about "Dark Planet," "Fantasy Zone II," and other favorite old arcade games at The International Arcade Museum.

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