Posted on December 18, 2015 - at 9 : 30 am
Cornwall’s collectible aficionado
Chris Leger’s house could very well be a museum. Upon entering its front door, one is taken aback by the amount of highly collectible and valuable items the one they call The Vintage Toy Man has amassed.
His living room, neatly organised, holds some of his treasures such as several hundred vinyls, video game consoles and vintage toys. Before taking a seat on his red chair, the bearded man reaches into a milk crate containing several records before retrieving something he recently acquired.
“I had been looking for Nirvana records for a while,” he says, pulling out the round black disc from the pocket of the album and putting it gently on one of the many record players he owns.
Following some light scratching noises, drumsticks can be heard before some of grunge’s most well-known musicians start to perform.
It certainly will be an interesting interview.
“My love of collecting started when I was young,” admits Leger, stroking his beard and staring around the room. “When I was younger, I had plenty of toys I would get at yard sales.”
Therefore, much of the items collected by the man are from the 1970’s to 1980’s era. “I’d rather collect things from my youth, but here and there, some things from the 1990’s show up.”
To amass such an immense and impressive collection, Leger, along with some friends, go hunting at yard sales and flea markets. The interesting man recalls two important house sales he attended here in Cornwall.
“They were organized when someone either died or was going to a nursing home,” he explains, a smile appearing at the corner of his mouth. “The person who was in charge of them didn’t really pay attention to what was being sold.”
In other words, $10,000 worth of toys was purchased by Leger, for about $100.
Worth much more than you think
But what makes a toy, video game or record so valuable? “There are several different factors,” explains Leger. “The packaging has a lot to do with it. It can represent around 60 per cent of the item’s value.”
He then points to the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) near him. “I sell them individually for $40 to $50,” he says. “But if I have the original box, I can sell it from $250 to $300.”
It seems buyers want everything to be complete, just like it would’ve been if they had unwrapped it from under the Christmas tree many years ago. Rarity therefore plays an important factor. The man highlights that collectors crave rare things and will spend a good amount of money on them.
Consequently, the collector and his friends will often travel to many different areas of the province, looking for empty boxes.
“One time we came across a box for an NES at a garage sale,” he recalls. “It was full of Christmas decorations. The man selling it told me that I could have everything for $10, so I bought it. I then emptied the whole box. He starred at me with a weird look.”
So what is The Vintage Toy Man’s most prized possession? He ponders for some seconds before smiling once more and uttering, “The Six Million Dollar Man and my Mego figures.”
The mint condition Six Million Dollar Man, still in its original packaging, can fetch upwards to 250 to 300 dollars. In addition, Leger owns several accessories that can be added to the figure. Yet he’s quick to point out that a similar toy, devout of its original packaging, can be bought for under $40.
The Mego figures he owns are also quite rare, worth 1500 to 2000 dollars. “They are very sought after,” says Leger.
A hobby that became a business
Many are the people who hope someday to transform their hobby into a full-fledged, full-time career. For Leger, however, this dream recently became a reality. “I used to work for Canada Post,” he says, lying back in his chair. “But then I got hurt and couldn’t work.”
The man then turned to his lifelong passion. He launched a website that quickly went mainstream and made his name quite well known throughout the collecting community. “I have several regular customers,” he explains. “Cornwall is home to several specific collectors.”
From Transformers to X-men and from vintage video games to records, Leger sells them all. But although it may seem a tad hectic, the man points out that his business consists of four pillars: comic books, vinyls, toys, and video games.
“Vintage video games are very hot right now,” he says. “I’ve sold for over $1000 in video games.”
As for comic books, Leger admits that he only sells the kinds he likes. “I usually sell Marvel, I can’t sell what I don’t like. My rule is also that I usually buy comics that were printed before 1983.”
Some of his older comic books pre-date Marvel altogether.
To reach more customers, the man relies not on eBay, like many other sellers, but on a hands-on, face-to-face approach.
“Comic conventions are my bread and butter,” he says jokingly. “I go to comic book shows, record shows and toy shows. I meet a lot of different people.”
The bearded man admits that he makes a decent living, being The Vintage Toy Man. “I never thought I’d be doing this,” he acknowledges. “I hope to open up a shop sometime in the future, but right now, it’s only an idea.”
So what does the collectible aficionado think of the Cornwall and Area Pop Event (CAPE) that made its debut last year? “It truly was great,” Leger says. “There was so much traffic there. I sold more at the event than I’ve sold in Ottawa over the past couple of years. It’s a great initiative!”