In mid-April, I made a little trip out to Chicago to meet up with some friends/colleagues of mine for the Wax Trax! Restrospectacle. For those out of the loop Wax Trax! Records is a long-gone, legendary industrial rock record label which originated in Chicago. A bunch of the original artists on the label came together for a limited 3-day show at the Metro, I was lucky enough to attend (Thanks Brent and Patrick).
(Here's a "popular" Revolting Cocks cover from back in the day – "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy.")
Sure, the weekend involved great music, camaraderie and deep-dish pizza, but as we all know, that's not why you're reading this blog entry.
All you guys want is toys. I can hear you asking now – "What about the toys?" "Any cool toys?" "What the hell does this have to do with toys?"
Well, as luck would have it, (and thanks to some of my Twitter followers), I was tipped off to some pretty cool toy places to visit while in Chicago. The two stores which piqued my interest most were Quake Collectibles and Rotofugi. As you'll soon see, they may both be in the toy world, but they truly seem worlds apart.
First stop was Quake Collectibles. My buddies and I actually arrived just before store opening. That was the perfect way for me to announce "I'm a toy dork who cannot wait for this store to open." Hey, I'm not ashamed. As we waited outside, I was already getting antsy. I tried peaking through the front windows, but they were so crammed full of random crap, I couldn't see in. Window toy clutter – this was gonna be my kind of place.
After several minutes (which seemed a lot longer on a cold, rainy Chicago day) we finally stepped in, and let me just say. I was floored. Sooo much crap everywhere. Every inch of that place is covered by a poster, a sticker, a toy or a lunchbox. If your mom threw it away when you were a kid, it probably ended up here.
I love places like this. There's just so much stuff, you have to just stand in awe and inspect every millimeter. Some may find it overwhelming or annoying, because you may miss something, but I find it charming. It kind of reminds me of an episode of Hoarders… featuring the homes of some toy collectors.
Oh yeah. So among all the clutter, I didn't actually find much that I was looking for, but I did manage to pick up some "bargain bin" figures – a wrestler manager figure James bond Jr.'s "Oddjob." that "Dinosaur Neil" guy from The Tick, "Bob the Goon" from the Batman movie toyline and the haunted Mailman from The Real Ghostbusters.
I actually left Quake saddened and confused. The store was so great and I was thrilled to be in there, yet I found so little. I think it's all due to my tastes in toys. They've become too discriminatory or something. Well, that feeling left quickly as we continued on to Rotofugi, (on foot) through a pretty chilly, windy day. I don't know if we were being dumb for not calling a cab, or just cheap... but at least we got some exercise.
Next stop on the toy express was Rotofugi. As soon as I laid eyes on it, I knew this place was pretty much the complete opposite of Quake (well, aeshetically anyway).
For example, their walls were glass with a handful of HUGE figures on display. Statues basically.
And once you walk in, it's pretty clear that this is so much more spacious, clean, crisp and bright retail environment.
Not only that, but it has a small art gallery attached displaying various paintings and custom toys. The market for these toys weren't random comic geeks looking to find a vintage Jawa w/ plastic robe... This is the place where some artist will rip off a Jawa, paint it neon pink and ask $75 for it. Ha! Seriously though, this seems to be Chicago's home for designer toys. They present toys as art. Which is cool... just don't expect to find any bargain bins.
The store is spacious and organized and feels very much like a gallery. This presentation really does sell "toy as art" really well. but there are tons of little toys to check out from some of your favorite designer toy companies and artists. I didn't get much here either, because all the figures I liked were $60+. I really loved so much of the creatures/characters on the shelves. (If only Weirdo Toys had a financial backer.) They are just so quirky and fun.
Aren't they beautiful.
I, of course, passed on the higher-end stuff and decided to pick up a few blind-boxed figures. I got a Dunny from the Azteca 2 series and some Blow-Up Dolls Series 3 figures. I even managed to get a Crappy Cat BUD. Pretty cool huh?
So that's that. Just a brief glimpse at the cheapy-quirky world of toys vs. the pricey-quirky world of toys. I know it's a matter of someone doing low-run figures manually vs. mass-producing them and selling them at Toys R Us, but I also think it's all in presentation and marketing. If I put an OBEY logo on Bob the Goon and called it "OBEY GOON," it'd sell for $100 instead of $2. Maybe I should try that 😉