Darby C Posts

Todd Coopee, Easy-Bake Oven Expert, Lights Up hobbyDB Advisory Council

todd coupee easy bake overn easy bake oven 1970sSometimes a light bulb goes off in your head, and you just have to chase an idea. For Todd Coopee, that light bulb was inside an Easy-Bake Oven.

Coopee, who lives in Ottawa Canada, is the world’s leading expert on collecting Easy-Bake Ovens, the light-bulb-powered kitchen appliances from Kenner. “We had one in the family when I was a child. It was from 1972, sunshine yellow with flower stickers,” he said. “As an adult, I ended up purchasing my first EBO on the web in 2007.” From there, he started on a quest to get one of every variant of the ovens.

The toy had receded to the back of his memories until he saw an exhibit at the National Toy Hall of Fame in Rochester, NY. If you don’t think there are enough different Easy-Bake Oven (EBO, to the insiders), you’re not the only one. “I wasn’t convinced there was enough material for an entire book, but the more I looked into the Easy-Bake Oven’s history, the more interesting it became,” Coopee said. “After some initial interviews with former employees of Kenner, I felt compelled to tell the story about how the Easy-Bake had become a pop culture icon.”

todd coupee light bulb bakingAccording to Coopee, there have been 11 different designs of the Easy-Bake Oven, plus variants in color and stickers. “Many of the models are simple cosmetic changes in color, sticker sets, etc., that occurred from year-to-year.” Anyone familiar with how we document collectibles on hobbyDB certainly understands the importance of such details.

There have also been changes to the engineering, utilizing different combinations of wattage to replicate a 350-degree oven. “The optimum wattage actually varied over the years,” he said.” At its initial release, the EBO was powered by two 100-watt light bulbs. Later models used two 60-watt light bulbs. A design change in the baking chamber in 1978 reduced the light bulb requirements to a single 100-watt bulb.”

While Kenner’s EBO dates back to 1963, the concept is even older. “Of course, it’s important to remember that working toy ovens were around for decades before the Easy-Bake Oven. Kenner just packaged and promoted the EBO in a way that made it appeal to a mass audience of consumers.”

As the Easy-Bake Oven grew in popularity, a slew of competing toy ovens also hit the market from companies like Argo Industries, Chieftain Products, Coleco, Peter-Austin, Topper Toys, and Tyco.

Of course, for Coopee it’s not all about baking at 100 watts. “I collect B-movies, mid-century modern memorabilia, and toys from the 60s & 70s, especially from Kenner Products. I’m drawn to toys that don’t have the ‘mass produced’ feeling you get from some of today’s toys.” To that end, he runs a website called Toy Tales, at toytales.ca. Articles are posted daily on a variety of toys, games, and other objects that were a big part of everyone’s childhood. His book is also available at lightbulbbaking.com.

toy timesSpeaking of books, Coopee is working on another book chronicling the entire history of Kenner Toys. The passion to research and write about a company that disappeared decades ago is the kind of thing that makes all our collecting community grateful to have him join the 70 other experts on the Advisory Council at hobbyDB. (It was Coopee who first reached out to hobbyDB for an interview with Christian Braun that got the whole ball rolling.)Kenner toys

His collection isn’t as big as it once was, however. “Initially, the main focus of my collection was to acquire all of the different Easy-Bake Ovens that were produced, so I could include them in my book. Since then, I’ve donated many of them to several different museums so they could be enjoyed by others.”

As for the best recipes, “Cakes and cookies are always the best places to start!” We’ll drink a tall, cold glass of milk to that!

Toy Hunter Phil Chapman Lends Tinplate Expertise to hobbyDB Advisory Council

Phil Chapman Toy HunterYou might not expect someone who was a child in the 1980s to be a serious collector of tinplate toys. Phil Chapman, aka “The Toy Hunter,” defies that idea. We at hobbyDB are glad to have his extensive expertise as a tinplate toy collector as a new member of our Advisory Council.

“The main focus on my collection is tinplate toys,” he said. “Any size, age or brand mainly focusing on vehicles like car, trucks, bikes & tractors. What appeals to me about tinplate toys is the cars & trucks are so well built just like miniatures of the real vehicles of the time, & with clockwork mechanisms to make the toys move is just fascinating.”

In the collecting world, he is known as the “The Toy Hunter.” He picked  up that monicker after being inteviewd by a newspaper and a TV station, both of whom referred to him by that nickname.’The name just stuck, and people at toy fairs that seen me on TV  said ‘you’re that toy hunting guy!’”

To that end, he can be found on Facebook as “Phil Chapman Toy Hunter

Phil, who lives in the small town of Liskeard in Cornwall U.K, started in collecting tinplate toys about twenty years ago. “After owning a full size vintage tractor & motorcycle & not really having the room to store them, I soon realized collecting tinplate toys was just as interesting,” he said. “So the tractor and motorcycle went, and collecting toys started.”

His childhood featured a different kind of favorite toy. “My favorites growing up in the 1980’s were my A-Team figures,” he said. “Every Saturday evening watching Hannibal & the team getting themselves out of another situation to save the day! And yes I still have all my original figures plus the baddies!” he laughed. “I also have alot of early plastic toy vehicles, as the age of plastic took over from tinplate & batteries replaced clockwork motors, Phil said. “It shows how times were changing.”

tinplate tractor

Chad Valley Fordson Tractor from Chapman’s collection

Phil Chapman Toy HunterPhil is willing to share his toys, although not to play with. “All my toys are on display in Liskeard Museum,” he said. “It is one of the largest tinplate toy displays on show in Cornwall. With twenty years experience specializing in tinplate toys, we get many visitors from all over the UK either just wanting to visit the museum or looking for help identify a tinplate toy.”

He is also in the process of sharing his collection via the database at hobbyDB. His collection and expertise are extensive, and his sense of enjoyment of the hobby is what we’re all about.

Amiibo, hobbyDB Celebrate Reissue of Super Smash Bros. Game and Figures

amiibo groupamiibo mariohobbyDB now has the internet’s most up-to-date, complete database of Nintendo Amiibo figures, including the five-year reissues of the first ones. Half a decade might seem a bit recent, but the reissue is actually in honor of the latest version of Super Smash Bros., their hugely popular video game that first came out in 1999 for the Nintendo 64. The latest versions of the figures is for the new, revamping of the game for the wildly popular Switch game system.

Nintendo is a company that has been around a lot longer than people realize, so when they decide to honor anniversaries and reissues, it sometimes feels odd. But the world of video games moves pretty quick, and Nintendo has actually existed ad a toy, game, and card manufacturer since 1889. No, that’s not a typo. And they have made video games and related items since 1972.

amiibo characterSo this Amiibo project is not a short-term nostalgia grab. Amiibo is Nintendo’s wireless communications and storage protocol, for use between compatible toys-to-life figurines, and the Wii U, Nintendo 3DS, and Nintendo Switch gaming platforms. The figures are dynamically posed figures that have some special powers when connected to certain Nintendo game systems. And the new ones are designed work with the latest game on the latest platform. That’s why people love Amiibo.

But that high-tech features isn’t why everyone collects them. As figures by themselves, they are pretty cool, so some people collect the whole range even if they don’t own the compatible games. The name “Amiibo” (more accurately, it should be “Amībo” but that’s hard to type for most folks) comes from a Japanese term amii which conveys friendship. It also happens to sort of rhyme with amigo, which works as well.

amiibo charactersSuper Smash Bros. is but one part of the vast universe of Nintendo games and products. It’s an all-encompassing game featuring characters from all of Nintendo’s properties, including Legend of Zelda, Fire Emblem, and Kirby. They all join  Mario, Luigi, Peach, Yoshi, Bowser, and Toad from various games as part of the re-issued figures. In fact, there are well over 50 playable characters in the game.

amiibo pac manAlthough Amiibo are made by Nintendo, the range of characters includes the worlds of Namco (Creators of Pac-Man), Capom, (Mega Man, and others) and Blizzard (Diablo 3). It makes sense, as many of those games have been adapted to Nintendo’s various platforms for decades.

On hobbyDB you’ll not only find every single character created, but also various packaging variants including U.S. and Japanese releases as well as reissues of older figures, which feature multi-lingual labels. Each item includes price guide information, regularly updated from real online sales. And speaking of sales, hobbyDB includes a Marketplace to buy and sell Amiibos or anything else collectible.

Whether you intend to play with them arrange them on your desk, or leave them in the package, Amiibo figures are just getting to be hot collectibles even as they celebrate their relatively brief history.

amiibo mario

Hot Wheels 50th Anniversary Celebration Was a Nonstop Victory Lap

hot wheels 50th header

Ron Ruelle

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

The Hot Wheels 50th Anniversary celebrated half a century of the world’s most popular toy cars in 2018 with a year-long blowout. As the calendar flips to 2019, let’s look back at some of the highlights.

hot wheels 50th logoFirst for a sense of scale, consider what Hot Wheels did in 1993. In that pre-internet, pre-everything-is-collectible era, the Hot Wheels 25th Anniversary caught many fans by surprise. If you happened to be scanning the pegs for new cars, you might have been stopped in your tracks by the once-familiar red and orange flamed packages with the Hot Wheels logo. The wide custom cut card art, the button (reproduced in plastic) and the brightly colored cars were an instant time machine to the late 60s and early 70s remembered so fondly by kids of that era.

It’s almost cute how subtle the whole thing was. Original 16? No, Mattel only dragged out eight molds from the past. Heck, they may have even been caught off guard at how popular these would be, as the next year, “Vintage Series II” was released with eight more early favorites.

And that was pretty much it. Hot Wheels did a few commemorations for their 35th and 40th birthdays, but those numbers aren’t as magnificent as the big 5-0.

hot wheels 50th lionel train2018 started off kind of subtle, with the new “50” logo on all the packaging for new models and old. Not a huge deal, actually, although it set up some packaging variants to keep track of. In fact, the really special merchandise kind of just trickled out at first. Lionel surprised collectors with an elaborately decorated Hot Wheels-themed train set (complete with orange track!). It’s a really nicely done set, but that wasn’t quite what fans were expecting.

hot wheels 50th twin millhot wheels 50th flyerThe first 50th cars arrived early in the year, the “Black and Gold” series, a set of seven castings from various eras (six plus a mystery Treasure Hunt). If you hadn’t been paying attention to signals from the various insider clubs and rumor mills, that almost seemed like that was going to be the whole shebang.

Shortly after those cars came out, however, a little flyer arrived… a tear sheet available next to the store displays, outlining the rest of the commemorative models. A lot of them. Suddenly, it was game on!

Stars and Stripes,” “Zamac Flames,” and blue “Race Team” themes were all on the way, but some more “commemorative” lines were also promised. The 20 car “Throwback Collection” featured a mix of old and new castings. One interesting trend was that most of the celebration focused on models based on real cars, with only a few unlicensed, original, fantasy designs to be seen.

hot wheels 50th originalsThe “Originals” Series was kind of an odd mix… the late ’60s flamed card art, plus Spoilers-era cartoon illustrations of the cars, plus… well the castings were interesting.  They included a VW Beetle, a ‘Cuda, a Camaro, a Cougar, and a Mustang, staples of the original 16. But not the original castings: these were versions of later models. For the price, the overall effect was neat, but kind of a near miss for some collectors. (A few years ago, on the other hand, the RedLine Club did a much more accurate tribute by re-releasing castings of all of the “Original 16” cars. They even got the wheels right, with the covered center hubs. And the packaging was a much closer replica, as real as you could get without causing authenticity questions. More on these in a bit…)

hot wheels 50th mediaThe History Channel broadcast a one hour History of Hot Wheels in the summer. It was fun to watch, but it zoomed down the orange track too quickly. August brought about another amazing retrospective history of the brand in a more permanent form. The book “From 0 to 50 at 1:64 Scale” by Kris Palmer featured colorful layouts, terrific photography great sidelights, and an intro by Larry Wood (it was a big year for him and the other historic designers). Oh, and it came packaged in a vinyl carrying case that looked and smelled like 1970!

Speaking of good reading, Jim Garbaczewski teamed up with hobbyDB to publish the latest Hot Wheels Casting and Price Guide this past Spring. With 228 pages of details and 3,300 color photos, it’s as accurate and complete a listing of castings as you can get.

hot wheels postage stampsSeptember brought possibly the most welcome surprise of the anniversary… Hot Wheels postage stamps! Ten designs featuring cars from the original Twin Mill to 2018’s Mach Speeder made the mail flow just a bit faster. (How many of you used them on your holiday cards this year?)

hot wheels 50th convention carsThe conventions had a more celebratory feeling than usual too. The 18th Annual Collectors Nationals debuted a VW T-2 Rockster, a new casting that is sure to be popular among premium offerings for years to come. The 32nd Collectors Convention got into the spirit of things with an outstanding array of amazingly detailed paint schemes on the convention cars, including early castings of ’65 Mercury Cyclone of the new Dragstrip Demons gassers.

hot wheels 50th favoriteshot wheels 50th favorites drag busFall brought the 10 car “Favorites” series to stores. Sharp black cards stood out among the rest of the offerings, with colorful, Real Rider-adorned, metal-chassis cars. And what a selection it was. The Drag Samba Bus, the ’55 Chevy Gasser, and the ’67 Camaro anchored a wide variety of vehicles from different marques. They were kind of hard to find, but not impossible, making the hunt challenging and fun, but not over the top.

Then came one final present… a very limited edition replica of the Original Hot Wheels Store Display that kicked things off in 1968. This large cardboard unit included another round of repops of the original 16 in Spectraflame hues. Since it was limited to 1,500 pieces, it has sold briskly. Even at $500, it was worth it almost for the cars alone.

hot wheels 50th displayThroughout 2018, Mattel did an amazing job rekindling some of the memories that today’s collectors felt as kids. The celebration was downright fun, which is what made Hot Wheels an instant success from the start.

What was your favorite part of the Hot Wheels 50th Anniversary? Let us know in the comments below.

Hey, That’s Not Santa! Collectibles in Claus Costumes

santa claus lead

Ron Ruelle

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

One of the greatest, most mysterious super-spies in history is hitting his busy season. He’s been surveying you and everyone in the world ‘round the clock, ‘round the calendar. He’s been compiling notes on everyone’s behavior in order to exact his own special brand of justice. But on Christmas Eve, Santa Claus rolls up his sleeves and really gets down to business.

As Christmas approaches, he has a network of “helpers,” doppelgangers who pop up at malls and shopping centers and street corners all over the world in December to give the illusion that he’s close by. Of course, some of those Alt-Santas have other motives, many of them quite naughty indeed. Here at hobbyDB, we decided to compile a list of Santa’s subterfugers (is that a word?) from the benign to the sinister to the positively evil. And of course, we have our own intel on each one.

yoda darth vader santaHarmless Imitators

There is a long history of fictional characters donning the red suit mostly for good natured hijinks, or simply to sit in the chair at the mall. Generally affable characters such as Yoda, Mickey Mouse, and Freddy Funko have all gone red for non-canonical merchandising reasons. Which really fits the spirit of Christmas if you think about it. Heck, even Darth Vader can be found in Santa garb, but since it’s not in any of the movies, we have to assume he was just goofing around, right? Right?

gizmo gremlinCuddly But Creepy

Anyone who doesn’t think of “Gremlins” as a Christmas movie really needs to have their spirit checked. The Gremlins start out cuddly, but (Spoiler alert for a 35 year old movie) if they get wet, or are fed after midnight, they turn into horrifying little monsters. So it’s tough to say which side of the fence Gizmo, seen here, falls on. Also, is he really impersonating Santa, or just wearing a hat to be festive? Intentions and consequences unclear.

jakc skellington droppoGood Intentions, Bad Ideas

Jack Skellington has to go here, right? Sure, he plotted to take over Christmas, and sure, he usurped the good name and costume of St. Nick, and sure, he actually hijacked the sled (Spoiler Alert for a 25 year old cartoon) and attempted to deliver the goods on his own… but he swears it was all in good fun. Okay, and a bit of jealousy. However you want to judge his intentions, he probably could have done some jail time for his malfeasance if he ever went to court.

funko psycho santaAlso in this category, we have Droppo, the lovable goofball from Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, possibly one of the worst holiday movies ever. In any event, Droppo dons the suit to cover for Santa while he… look, I don’t want to spoil this one for you. You really should watch the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version of it, though.

Looks Kind of Scary, but Who Knows?

Psycho Santa’s main motive is… well, that’s hard to say. He’s a crazy goblin-looking creature, with wily eyes, a mischievous grin, and a creepy tongue dangling out of his gap toothed mouth. The Psycho Goblin character is an original Funko creation, so he’s still building his back story.

santa grinchYour heart’s an empty hole, Your brain is full of spiders, You’ve got garlic in your soul

And of course, Santa’s most sinister imposter has to be the Grinch, right? His elaborate scheme to steal the spirit of Christmas by stealing the materialism of the holiday was diabolical. He didn’t just wear the suit, he mimicked the sled, the reindeer, the mannerisms. And of course, (Spoiler alert for a 50-year old cartoon) his diabolical plot could only be derailed by… his own heart. Now for a real mystery… in Who-ville, does the real Santa look human, or Who-man?

robot santaBad Intentions, Bad Ideas

Oh, wait, you thought the Grinch was the best of the worst? In the year 3000, Santa’s duties are relegated to a harmless four-ton robot from Neptune. Well, Futurama’s Robot Santa Claus would be harmless, except he was erroneously programmed to judge the naughty from the nice with extreme prejudice. (Spoiler Alert for a 20 year old cartoon) He deems just about everyone naughty and worthy of a death sentence. 

Speaking of robotic Santas, over the years, “Doctor Who” has ended many of their seasons with a Christmas special, some of them featuring Santa.  It makes sense: He doesn’t hop across dimensions, and he doesn’t travel in time, but Santa does manage to cover a heck of a lot of square miles in an absurdly short amount of time. So it figures he would know Doctor Who to some degree. But he’s the good guy. In most of those specials, anyway. One year did feature a super creepy Santa Robot, the kind who occupied the uncanny valley, so he was the stuff of nightmares.

eric cartman santa suitThe True Meaning of Christmas is Ham… no, Presents!

The very first five-minute South Park cartoon features Santa Claus battling Jesus to settle the true meaning of Christmas. As bad as that Santa might sound, (and in subsequent appearances he’s not the nicest guy) he’s not an imposter, so he doesn’t really count for this list. On the other hand, Eric Cartman has been spotted in a full Santa suit several times over the years. Whatever his specific motive might be at any time, we can assume that Cartman Claus must be the most truly evil imposter of all.

Regardless of intent, it’s clear that the spirit of Christmas lives inside all of us. So merry Christmas to all and to all… make sure you look closely at who actually slides down your chimney this year.

Do you have a favorite undercover Santa Costumed character? Let us know in the comments below!