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Toy shopping tips for parents, kids and collectors

I am always at odds with myself when my sons ask me, “Daddy, can you buy me a toy?”

Don’t get me wrong, I love toys and love my sons – two of my favourite things that go great together! I love treating  them and I remember the excitement of a new toy (WALRUS MAN!) Heck, I still buy toys for myself. There, I said it, felt good… You are judging me now aren’t you?

Suffice to say, the value you get in a big chain box-o-store these days is pretty poor.  Take into account the over-abundance of packaging (a problem the manufacturers are starting to address,) the dipping quality of the sturdiness of the toys due to the rising cost of plastics and the shrinking value and I think you’ll agree, it’s just harder and harder to justify an impromptu purchase. It makes it a little easier to say, “Not today, son…” Even if that means enduring the inevitable fat lip guilt stare.

So, as a parent who has no qualms in making a dollar go farther and loves to share his own personal toy-experience with his dudes, there are some alternative solutions to a stop at the neighbourhood brick ‘n mortar behemoth. I suggest you keep an eye out for alternative toy sources in an attempt to make five point articulation and “batteries not included” a more interesting and engaging experience with your kids before they leave that space of play in their lives and start asking for phones for their birthdays and Christmases.

Certainly, you can start online. The usual suspects are sites like your local Used site and online auction sites. These sources are especially good if you can get a lot of toys sold together in one sale, the value is often greater than hunting for individual pieces. Keep in mind that if you’re not buying local, you’re usually buying without a recourse for return and will be paying shipping and handling so watch for reputable sellers and consider the fragility of what you’re buying. Those who take it seriously, package with care as their reputation is only as good as their ratings by buyers such as yourself.

You can try the garage sale and flea market route too but without advanced intel, this is very hit and miss. Often these sellers are most interested in getting rid of what they’re selling and often are not the most knowledgeable of sellers, which if you want to barter and if you know what you are looking for, can be a really great score. At my own last garage sale, I parted with a bunch of my vintage G.I. Joe figures for $45.

I feel the best and potentially the most fun toy sources, are toy and hobby shows. These dedicated weekend treasure troves are not only a great source for a big score, but are also a day out and a great way to share in a celebration of your own childhood with your kids.

Here in Victoria this coming Sunday, October 14th, my favourite event is happening — the Victoria’s 10th Ultimate Hobby & Toy Fair, organized by Cherry Bomb Toys. Not only are we talking about a great opportunity to get handfuls of toys for pennies on the dollar, but you also get a chance to outfit your kids with the same He-Man or Go-Bot (of Transformers if you were lucky enough)  you played with as a kid. (Excuse me for focusing on boy toys — you’ll find plenty of girls toys at these shows, as well)

Whether you’re looking for something mint or well-worn, a show like this is a great source for newer or vintage toys, collectibles and discoveries that you might not of thought of like old vinyl record or increasingly popular vintage video games. As a bonus, you don’t have to deal with shipping and handling, you might be able to haggle for the right price depending on the item and vendor and you are participating and engaging with your community, experiencing the shared deja-vu moment with other adults as well as your kids.

And speaking of the kids, the show this weekend has all the trappings for a family outing. A charity carnival, lego table, people in costume, door prizes and silent auctions! Admission for the kids is free too and the show raises money for great kid charities, a great value and a fine way to whittle away a Sunday.

The best part for me though, is walking out with a bag full of cool funky toys and goofy smile of a successful toy hunt… Oh, yeah, and my sons are happy too.

To find out more about the show this weekend in Victoria, check out their website at  Keep an eye out for when a show is coming up in your neck of the woods, there should be a few happening to coincide with the upcoming holiday season to help you keep a kung-fu grip on your Christmas toy budget.

A lifer of Vancouver Island, Shawn is an illustrator and a graphic designer with and is chock full of nerdy lore. A Father of two young boys and a lover, not a fighter.

3 Responses to “Toy shopping tips for parents, kids and collectors”


Thanks for pointing out that parents should be avoiding battery operated toys and poor quality plastics that kids will get tired of or break in a week. I (as a small business owner) am glad that you take the time to appreciate local brick and mortor shops with your kids because if we can’t support our neightbours we begin to lose the precious feeling of community.



Online buying many funny kids toys experiencing the shared deja-vu moment with other adults as well as your kids.



Beneficial information shared!!! Greatly enjoyed reading your article. Everybody likes toy shopping with lots of fun!!! This would probably be very helpful. Thanks for the share.


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