I am the ruler and supreme master of all in my empire. As I write this, I’m looking at a table, piled with treasure, plundered from every retailer in an 50 mile radius. The colorful and cute plastic toys that make up my mother lode, to the untrained eye, look like nothing more than pencil topper figurines, in reality, these babies are worth more than gold at the moment. I’m talking about the current worldwide obsession for girls ages 3-100, Shopkins.
As all great titans of industry, I started small, matter of fact, in a million years I couldn’t predict the fortunes that would come my way in the form of hastily Chinese-manufactured toys. This is my tale.
Well, Part 1 at least, let’s call today’s essay: “Humble Beginnings.”
“Mommy, mommy, can I have this!?” It was 6:30am on a late- July Saturday, I was awakened by having a blaringly bright iPad screen shoved in my face by a wild-haired little moppet, with waaaay too much energy for dawn. My eyes burned from the nuclear white beacon of entertainment, I saw Angry Baby had been visiting her favorite internet haunt, YouTube. More specifically, she was engrossed in TOY REVIEWS, her obsession for over a year. “Mom! Mommy! Mama! LOOOOOK!”
As I adjusted my vision, an adorable figure came into focus, it was my first look at a Shopkin, the latest (and greatest) toy offering from Moose, an Australian toy company that prides itself on peddling a multitude of kid obsessions. “What IS that,” I huskily blurted out. “It’s SHOPKINS!” She then proceeded to sing an impromptu Shopkins jingle for the next 2 minutes. “Can I please, please, please have some?” Seeing as I’m a stone cold marshmallow when it comes to the kid, her infectious smile, sweet little helium-tinged voice got me. I was sold. Besides, Shopkins seemed tiny and cheap, two things I not only look for in a male escort, I also apply to my impulse toy buys. “Sure, kid. As soon as I get up and dressed, we’ll head over to Target and pick some up.”
At 8:00am that morning, we arrived, seeing as I’d never seen these little suckers in person, I had no idea what we were looking for, so I decided to ask for help, an elderly gentleman was ready for the challenge. “Excuse me sir, I’m looking for Shopkins, where do you keep them?” To my surprise, the old man began laughing at my request. “Ma’am, we don’t have any. No Target in 100 miles has them in stock.” Not taking the hint, I asked, “When do you think you’ll get more?” He just shrugged and continued to laugh, “good luck!” After being eye-rolled out of every toy retailer in a 50 mile radius, I finally went to the interwebs, where I found Shopkin packs for sale, but at 3x the price of retail. Gullible and desperate, I went ahead and purchased a 5 pack from a 3rd party vendor on Amazon. Yes, the markup was egregious, but so was the level of Shopkins envy my daughter had every time she watched them dance across her iPad screen.
2 days later, her 5 pack arrived, the scene was a frenzied and overjoyed carnival of squeals, giggles, and needless plastic packaging. As the unbridled joy gave way to hours of play, I noticed an insert that came with the product, something called a “shopping list,” intrigued, I unfurled the brightly colored 2 foot sheet of paper. Much to my horror, I learned that there were over 150 Shopkins available to “collect.” Much like a horrible car crash, everything went slow motion as I attempted to dispose of the list before the child caught sight of it. I was too late.“Oooooh give me that!” Before I could object, Angry Baby had the adorable and colorful double-sided list. “AHHHHHHHHHHHHH! I’m going to collect these, this is what I want for my birthday,” (2 + months away at this point.) “AND Christmas!” (4+ months away.)
The damn toy company played it flawlessly, what I thought was going to be a simple (yet overpriced) 5 pack of tiny toys, instantly mushroomed into an all-hands on deck obsession that required over 146 be swooped in the name of the cause. Never in my life did I hate someone more than the JERKS at Moose who decided to include the shopping list in each and every package. They had me by the short and curlys (or in my case, the long and wirys.)
The next few days, Angry Baby played and played and played with her new “friends,” yes, in our house amalgamations of plastic and shoddy painting are considered friends. As the hours of uninterrupted productivity began to seep in, it occurred to me that these Shopkins weren’t just great for the kid, the real winners in this situation were Lover Fo’ Life and I, as our savage little nut was quietly tamed and enraptured in hours of Shopkins play. Maybe they weren’t so hard to collect, after all.
I enlisted the help of my Mother, who before she went off to that Great Michael Bolton Concert in the sky, was a legend in parenting circles for her ability to procure the latest, hottest, and greatest toys. Growing up, we had the tickle me Elmos, the Ghostbusters Proton Packs, and the Cabbage Patch dolls, if it was a toy craze, Mom was on it, and ahead of the game. Since this was pre-internet days, she let her fingers and feets do the walking, the woman was incredible. “Mom, I’ve got something I need you to track down before V’s birthday/ Christmas, this is a near impossible task, so please don’t be disheartened by small setbacks and toy-defeats.” I went on to explain Shopkins and the fact that there were 148 to collect. We had 5.
“Are you kidding me? You’re taking to the woman who swooped up the last Baby Lambchop doll from an 80-year old grandma’s arms!” (I remember that Easter, Baby Lambchop was the ONLY thing I wanted in my basket, and I was elated when that slutty rodent, the Easter Bunny, delivered her.) “My Valor wants Shopkins, so help me, she’ll have them all, BEFORE her birthday.” Mother’s bravado and hubris were nothing new when it came to the Toy Search game, the woman had earned her stripes. I’m not going to say I doubted her, but the task seemed insurmountable, even for the Toy Maven. That night, I received an email, it was an online order receipt from Amazon, several Shopkins were on the way, seemed the Ol’ Gal was already having luck.
The following morning, a phone call: “Target gets them on Wednesdays and Mondays, Toys R Us has a truck of them arriving today, I sent your father to meet the managers at the door at opening. I really wish you weren’t such a wimp, these things are a breeze to find, I thought I taught you better.” Of course, this was just Mimsy’s patented “trash-talking,” AKA a completely un-serious, friendly, fake-feud that ebbed and flowed since I was out of college. “I shoulda known that the master would have it done in no time.”
Well, it wasn’t really no time, it took a little while, and help from 7 adults. Her loyal army of footsoldiers included Dad, my Sister and her hubs, L4L and I, and the Rooster. Including Mom, that was 7 grown-assed adults, all taking no prisoners in the quest for all Season One Shopkins. After just one week of beating the pavement, we had amassed them all. The plan? Slowly parcel out the Shopkins, offering them as rewards for good behavior. By Christmas, she’d have earned them all and the shopkins collection would be complete. Relieved and exhausted from the grind, I was prepared to put Shopkins out of my mind, there was just one problem, we had a mountain of duplicates AKA “dupes.”
For those of you lucky to have been out of the Toy buying Biz for decades, the latest thing the evil toy companies do is a little something called “blind bags,” meaning, you don’t get to see/ choose what you get, you just pay for it, like a dope, because your child’s excitement and joy is a drug like no other. I decided to see if I could palm off the extras on eBay. I was not prepared for what I saw.
What I found was a heady world of Shopkins resale, overmarked up with multiple people fighting it out, auction style, the prices were ridiculous and the demand was greater than the paltry supply. I gazed upon the glut of duplicate plastic before me and knew at that very moment what had to be done.
And that’s where this story ends…for today. Stay Tuned my Darlings. Ahead of you lies the chronicles of a champion at the top of her WORLD WIDE game.
While my shark-like business instincts will not allow me to completely divulge the inner-machinations of my SHOPBIZ, I can tell you that I’m giving you all a front row seat to witness the swirling, whirling excitement that comes from flipping the “hottest toys,” to the highest bidder. Welcome to my world, a place where I am feared and worshipped, lauded and hated. Wallets and paypal accounts crumble happily for me, for I am the true Soverign of this seedy little internet niche, and while I’m not the biggest, Hands-down I’m the best.