I spent every Saturday morning in 1997 and 1998 digging though a crib full of freshly shipped beanbag animals alongside a bunch of middle-aged housewives. I had to get there early or else the only choice you’d have would be Gracie the swan, and I’d already bought that one weeks prior when I was really really jonesing for a PVC pellet hit. I remember thinking I was extra cool because I had a relative that had the royal blue version of Peanut the elephant which anyone who had a Beanie Baby buyer’s handbook (I had 3) could tell you was worth upwards of $2,000. To this day, if you get me drunk enough, I’ll be more than happy to share my eerie talent for remembering every single Beanie Baby birthday. Nanook the husky? November 21st.
I was just recently reminded by my sister that we had a slammer with O.J. Simpson on it that said “O.J.: In The Slammer.” God, 1995 was the best. Years later one of my fancy electronic slammers started making noise unprovoked under my bed and I had to bring it out to the backyard and smash it with a hammer to make it stop. There was a weekly cataloguing system that went along with all these, but I’m far too embarrassed to explain it.
I mean, I had some pretty cool cards growing up, but I would pretty much buy whatever new cards Shinder’s was selling at the time. The most egregious had to be the TGIF lineup cards (BALKI CARDS), although I did at one time buy a pack of Close Encounters of the Third Kind cards that I realized were not reissues when I nearly broke a tooth biting into 15-year-old gum. At one point my sister and I were collecting cards with country musicians on them for the sole purpose of getting one with Wynonna Judd on it until we realized she wasn’t even part of the set.
My mom used to bribe me into going to Sunday night church with her by taking me to Target Greatland after and buying me a pack of these suckers a week. This was my first time delving into the world of actually trading my trading cards with friends, although after I ended up trading my Alakazam for a slightly bent holographic Chansey to some kid on the bus, I started hating myself and practically gave up for good.
Disney Adventures Magazines
Today’s publishing world is sorely lacking a magazine that dares to put Urkel on the cover alongside Sebastian from The Little Mermaid. I once wrote into an essay contest in order to win the complete archive and was shocked when I found out I didn’t win, although in hindsight, my entire letter was basically about how much I hated my mailman. My subscription shamefully lasted until the beginning of 8th grade because sometimes it’s hard to let go.
I kind of had a dodgy collection of Trolls because I think I was trying to collect them during a period when they weren’t being heavily marketed. Usually I gathered these on road trips and from weird, unfamiliar locations like Wal-Mart and Cracker Barrel. Troll Dolls were also instrumental in helping me get accustomed to the idea of pervasive nudity.
Save yourself a Google search: there was no mass-marketed cuddly-wuddlies based on tropical fruit. These were honest-to-God coconuts from the grocery store. It became a family tradition whenever my family helped my grandma get groceries from Riverside Market for my dad to take coconuts and start speaking to me through them. I thought the three little holes on them looked like faces, and he was often able to manipulate me with enough cries of “save me, Marcus!” for me to break down and beg that he purchase at least one of them. Once they were in my room, I usually just threw them in a bucket somewhere, although one time one cracked and spilled on my spelling homework, which was probably the most livid I’ve ever been at a fruit.
Having previously brought back Sesame Street and Winnie the Pooh to my third grade class in a purely ironic way (as in, “Like, aren’t these things for babies? But don’t you miss them?”), I figured I could try my hand at nostalgia and make something old school like marbles popular in the 5th grade. The only problem was that we were all too young to have ever played with marbles in the first place, and by the time I realized that all my good ones were getting scratched up when I actually used them, I pretty much threw out the entire idea. This was one of my earliest social failures and it still haunts me.
These really weren’t for collecting, but then they went ahead and introduced Tamagotchi Angels and it was all over. Not to mention Gigapets, which took Tamagotchi’s weakness (wtf are they?) and translated it to include real animals like koalas, kitties, and aliens. Ever the rebel, I still brought my frog Gigapet with me to school the day after my teacher banned them. It ended up making so much noise from my backpack that I had to ask to go to the bathroom at least 5 times that day to silence it which eventually lead my teacher into thinking I had diarrhea.
Honestly, I don’t even know what the hell these were. By this point, elementary school was coming to a close and I was just going through the motions. “Keeping up with fads is hard,” I probably sighed while I logged into AIM. I think there was one shaped like a television and I would carry it around with me and call it my “totem.”
Star Wars Pepsi Cans
This is probably the stupidest thing I’ve ever done in my life. If you recall 1999, Phantom Menace product licensing was out of control, so consider it perfect sense that Pepsi decided to feature 24 of its characters on the side of four different soda types. This consumed me so much that I actually ended up stealing a Mountain Dew can with Jar Jar Binks on it from a friend of a friend’s fridge because I couldn’t risk him saying no if I had asked. The kicker: I DON’T EVEN LIKE STAR WARS. By the time I actually saw the movie, it had already been out for a month and a half and I had already collected at least 13 cans. What’s wrong with me? But you know what? I got all 24, so good job me, I GUESS.
–Marcus Michalik’s birthday Beanie Baby was Chocolate the Moose.