Vintage toys… From Transformers to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to the second Star Wars Power of the Force line! A store located in Westland, MI invites visitors to travel back in time to a period when life seemed simpler; when we were kids in the 1980s and 1990s and appreciated a good, solid toy from our favorite stories of heroes and villains. Geek News Now got a blast-from-the-past interview with Keith Libra; owner and operator of Time Blaster Toys.
Take a step back into the past and learn a little something about the passion of vintage toy collecting.
Is there demand for geeky/nerdy nostalgia in toys and toy collecting?
Keith: “Every single day I meet new people, whether they grew up in the eighties or the nineties, that maybe had stuff as a kid; maybe they collected it along the way that wanna reconnect with that stuff. At the same time, I end up meeting lots of young kids; sometimes there’s kids in here, six/seven years old that are talking to me about Kenner [The] Real Ghostbusters and it’s just blowing my mind cause it’s like ‘How do you even know what this stuff is?’ But with YouTube and Netflix and everything being constantly available there’s young kids now that are growing up on the same media that we did forty years ago!”
What are Keith’s favorite toys?
As a lifelong collector, the store owner’s favorites come down to three things:
Keith: “Pro-wrestling toys was always my number one that I was into forever since I was a little kid collecting WWF LJNs and Hasbros; so wrestling is my number one. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is huge for me. And then my third would be Kenner [The] Real Ghostbusters. Those are like my top three favorite things to collect as a kid and as an adult man.”
What is Keith’s favorite thing about operating Time Blaster Toys?
Keith: “One of the most rewarding things is just when someone comes in, or on social media, they just thank me for providing them a space to come in and look at things they may have forgot about or things they cherish. People come in with their parents or their grandparents and they’re looking around; it’s always fun to talk to the mom or grandmother and I always say ‘Oh, this isn’t the first time you’ve seen this stuff, huh?’ And they’ll tell me some story about hunting down the Megazord in 1993. And to be a space that provides people the opportunity to think back when times were simpler or a story that they may not have thought about in a long time.”
He added that it’s not only the shop, it’s the podcast too.
Keith: “There’s people that contact us almost on a weekly basis thanking us just because it’s bringing up memories of the past; you know what I mean? It reminds them of being a kid and growing up and when these things meant so much to us.”
Time Blaster Toycast: What is its aim?
Time Blaster Toycast is as you’d imagine: a show for talking about growing up in the 80s and 90s — “with a specific focus on action figures, video games, junk food and retro geek stuff” as the podcast page describes. Keith posits that where the shop provides people the opportunity to come in and remind themselves of the past, the podcast is kind of an extension of that.
Keith: “For an hour, you’re gonna get to hear dudes talk about memories and stories that are gonna make you think of your own. That’s the whole goal; is, like, I want people to know every Monday at eleven A.M. for one hour you’re gonna have a light-hearted fun time. It’s a show you can listen to with your kids; we’re not cursing on it, we’re not swearing on it, we’re not trying to be negative on it.”
What sets Time Blaster Toys apart from other vintage nostalgia stores?
They’ve got more of an experience type of deal. They have an homage to Blockbuster Video (called ‘Time Blaster Video’), a recreation area where visitors can chill watching something from the days of VHS video! They also have some free-to-play arcade games like The Simpsons and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Kids and kids at heart can try out the Lego table. Small children can enjoy a free ride in a classic 1980s TMNT coin-op style ride. Another bonus is that it’s clean shop as opposed to the stores many of us have been to where there’s merchandise piled from floor to ceiling.
Keith: “There’s the idea of this is a meeting space to come and hang out and talk. Yeah, you’re gonna buy something, but you’re gonna have a good time in here.”
Which are better: the toys of the 80s/90s? Or modern toys?
Keith prefers vintage and posits that there was more time and money invested in the ideas and the sculpts and the properties. To the point now where you walk down the toy aisle in Walmart or Target; “it’s the same stuff that we had thirty years ago just repackaged or slightly tweaked!”
Keith: “So yeah, I would say nineties for sure. I mean, same with packaging and everything. The art, the money, and the time spent on making sure that these things appeal to kids and collectors and caught your eye; nowadays there’s really nothing like that. Don’t even get me started on plastic-free packaging and the in-box figures of the last couple of years! If anything, that drove people away. Those figures, almost every one of them’s hit clearance at some point, because who wants to buy an action figure you can’t see? It’s ridiculous.”
What is the rarest and/or most expensive toy your store has ever seen?
Keith: “I had a mint-in-box sealed Ninja Turtles Technodrome playset. And with that being sealed and so sought after… That, you know, is a very, very expensive piece. I sold it last week. We were at a toy show in Novi, Michigan; sold that one playset for four thousand dollars cash in hand!”
What toys do your customers seem to prefer most?
Everything you would expect — Marvel, Wrestling, Ninja Turtles, The Simpsons, DC, it all sells. Although while Time Blaster Toys sees its share of interest in these things, something looms even larger.
Keith: “Two properties that I am personally not real fond of, I’ve never collected in my life, really, is Star Wars and Transformers; those are just, you know, not for me. Having the shop the last two years, it’s just shocked me that the amount of collectors in those spaces and the amount of stuff that I’ve bought and sold, be it Transformers or Star Wars is, like, insane! I have a ten foot wall of nothing but Star Wars that’s constantly getting picked through.
It takes nostalgia and passion to make a vintage things store happen; Keith Libra lives the dream regularly seeing happy faces old and new at Time Blaster Toys. If you’re ever in Westland, MI visit the nearly two year-old Time Blaster Toys; “your one stop shop for all things 80s, 90s & beyond!” If you want to have some fun looking back, give the Time Blaster Toycast a listen here — Got a question, comment or idea for the show? Call or text the Time Blaster Toyline which is open 24/7 at 734-494-2292.
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