Spokane native Josh Scott, 39, credits a G.I. Joe action figure he found at a garage sale with triggering his first childhood nostalgia trip, and soon after, the launching of a vintage toy store here he named Time Bomb.
Scott says the G.I. Joe toy that he discovered in 1992 soon after graduating from Ferris High School intrigued him both because of its size and the memory of playing with the action figure.
"I started going to garage sales, and I found a 12-inch G.I. Joe," he says. "I grew up playing with the 3 3/4-inch G.I. Joe, and I didn't understand why this one was 12 inches. I did my homework, and I learned they were bigger in the 1960s and 1970s."
"That was my first hook," adds Scott, who is the sole employee at the store he operates in a leased 1,200-square-foot space at 711 N. Monroe, just north of downtown. "I started picking up older toys, mostly a lot from the 1950s and 1960s for my personal collection."
The hobby quickly became his vocation. He opened Time Bomb 17 years ago, then at the corner Sprague Avenue and Napa Street, east of downtown. The store has stocked some clothes and vinyl records, but mainly it carries vintage toys Scott has found at yard sales and estate sales.
Scott says he's operated the store at the Monroe Street location for nearly eight years now.
"I'm just trying to make Spokane a little cooler," he adds. "I figured out I could buy all-era toys, and sell them, so I could buy more for my personal collection."
The store's inventory includes older Hot Wheels miniature cars and classic Lincoln Logs sets as well as vintage lunch boxes, action figures, tin toys, steel toy trucks, comic books, and model kits. Other merchandise is tied to popular television shows and movies, such as "Star Wars," "Strawberry Shortcake," and of course, "G.I. Joe."
Some of Time Bomb's items for sale go back to the 1930s, but most of the toys in the store today first fell into children's hands from the 1950s through the 1980s.
"I try not to get into the 1990s," Scott adds.
Most store shelves are crammed full, with some items grouped by decade, others in a hodge-podge fashion, and certain spaces by the type of plaything, including a wall section with larger toy trucks.
Time Bomb's collection recently caught the attention of a Travel Channel television show, called "Toy Hunter." The show features episodes with toy dealer Jordan Hembrough traveling to U.S. cities in search of rare toys.
In a recent episode, Hembrough finds a Partridge Family lunch box in Time Bomb's store for celebrity collector Danny Bonaduce, who was the red-haired child actor in the early 1970s television show about a family pop-music singing group.
"'Toy Hunter' came here in March, and I was in an episode that ran in May, where they were finding toys for Danny Bonaduce," Scott says. "He's now a radio DJ in Seattle."
Scott says the majority of Time Bomb's toys are from the 1980s, to appeal to potential buyers from his own generation. When customers ask him about a toy, Scott's face quickly lights up with a childlike smile, and he often describes a little trivia about its history.
"The people who grew up in the 1980s now have decent jobs and are buying back their childhood," he says. "I usually get asked the most for the Transformers robot toys, and I don't have a lot because people held on to them or they were trashed because kids played with them so much."
He says other popular '80s items that Time Bomb carries include a line of toys from the TV show "Masters of the Universe," as well as hand-held electronic games.
"I sell a bunch of them tooPac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Galaxian," Scott says.
He says he finds most of Time Bomb's merchandise by going regularly to garage sales, usually on Fridays and Saturdays. "I don't open 'til noon," he says. "It's like a treasure hunt that I have to pay for."
He says he does buy items occasionally from people who come into the store offering to sell toys, but he estimates he receives only about 30 percent of his inventory that way. He offers to pay a portion of a toy's value based on online sources or information printed in a popular toy collecting book.
Prices for the toys stocked in Time Bomb currently range from $5 for a figurine and up to $150 for an older toy cap gun, Scott says. "I also price based on how bad I want to keep an item," he adds.
He admits it's getting harder to find toys from the 1950s and 1960s, but he still scores some of those playthings. Toys from these eras often hold a high price value nationally because they're sought by Baby Boomer collectors who were children then.
"Most of my customers are collectors," Scott says. "During Christmas, you get people coming in to buy for someone who is super hard to buy for."
Scott says his personal toy collection mainly includes Hot Rod toys and "Rat Fink" model kits. He says sales of toys at the store remain steady, and that revenue is up a bit from a year ago.
Meanwhile, he plans to continue treasure hunts in a quest to find those rare collectable items. Among his better finds in recent years, Scott says he once found a Major Matt Mason action figure still in its box at a rummage sale. Elsewhere, he found a space station replica set, also still in the box.
Scott adds, "To be in a box, in the original packaging, is always a plus."
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