Toy Shop Article

This article was recently published in the Toy Shop magazine. I left it in its original text eventhough some of the information about the Yahoo! groups is incorrect. See my Links section for discussion group updates.



By Scott C. Stewart
August 2006 · www.toyshopmag.com (no longer active)· 81

Best of the West

Famous Marx Line Gets Better With Time

My passion for Best of the West toys started on March 6, 1965. It was my 7th birthday, and Dad decided to take me to a local store in Canon City, Colo., to buy my birthday present.

     Now keep in mind that Dad was recently medically retired from the Army at Fort Carson, Colo. We were just scraping by because of the usual government mix-ups that happen from time to time. But Dad thought it important that we celebrate this great day. So off to the toy store (I think it was Woolworth's) we went.

      I can still remember the ride into town from the Army base. I was thrilled! We pulled into the parking space, and I jumped out, impatiently waiting for Dad. He came up and took my hand and said that I could have one present as long as it wasn't too expensive. In my mind, I think that meant about a $5 limit.

      We walked into the store, and I can remember going to the toy aisle under the bright lights and seeing a display for the Daniel Boone figure. I was hooked! I browsed the shelves a little, but I remember that I kept glancing at the display at the end of the aisle.

      Dad obviously saw my interest and walked over to the boxes to check them out. He lifted one of the boxes and looked at it (probably checking the price, too). He looked down at me, smiled and said, "Do you want this?" I about lost it. As they say, the rest is history.

     

The Evolution of a Collection

Over the next few years, I probably received seven or eight more figures for Christmas and birthdays. My last present from Mom and Dad was in 1968 or '69 when I got the Gold and Silver Fighting Knight sets for Christmas.

      I played with these guys for hours on end. I remember setting up opposing sides in the living room with these figures and some G.I. Joes my brother and I had. Then I'd have gunfights, Indian attacks and Cavalry rescues. There probably wasn't a day in those years that I didn't enjoy the company of these great toys.

      Unfortunately, I grew older and figured that "dolls" weren't a teenage thing to play with. Sad to say, my collection was lost to time and the misadventures of adolescence. I still have a few accessories that somehow survived the next 40 years, and those are what really started my current collection.

      I found my original Daniel Boone flintlock rifle, and thought, "I wonder if I could ever find this toy again?"

      That was shortly before eBay took hold. I was already on some Internet newsgroups that held auctions within the group. I had started to get the collecting bug by buying some vintage G.I. Joes. When eBay hit the mainstream, I was one of the first to sign up. I've been somewhat of an addict ever since.

      My first Marx purchase in adulthood was a loose Daniel Boone, and once again the magic that is Marx snared me. I started my obsession by going after the figures I had as a child. Daniel was the first, and I quickly re-acquired all of my childhood friends.

      Today, I have more than 250 figures, 50 horses, wagons, jeeps, play sets and other bits. Most of my figures are boxed, and I'm always trying to upgrade my collection. Online auctions are my best source, but I still go to live auctions and the occasional toy show. Although eBay is great for getting good deals, there's nothing like actually holding and examining the rare piece before buying it.

     

Rare Air

Since I now have the majority of the Marx figures and boxes from the Johnny West decade (1965-75), my collecting habits have turned to finding those very rare or one-of-a-kind pieces I was lacking.

      I picked up my first Jeb Gibson at the annual Marx Toy Convention held at the Kruger Street Toy and Train Museum Wheeling, W.Va. Jeb is now proudly displayed alongside a custom box made by a fellow collector. Some of the other interesting pieces I have include the Cowboy Black from Spain, the Red and Purple knight test shots from the new Marx company and a wide assortment of odd-colored accessories.

      It never ceases to amaze me how many different Johnny West-type figures were made in a relatively short time. After almost 10 years of scouring eBay, yard sales, auctions and friends' attics, I still come across a figure or box and say, "I didn't know Marx did this!" In fact, that just happened, as I was able to purchase a very nice boxed Best of the West series Johnny and Thunderbolt set that I never knew existed.

     

Custom Figures

Customizing is another huge facet of Johnny West collecting. Many collectors, like myself, make custom items such as heads and hats to sell or trade with other collectors. In fact, I'm known as "Stetson" on one of the two Johnny West collecting newsgroups (JohnnyWestviaKirbyLand on the Yahoo! Groups site). I'm also a proud member of the Circle X Ranch newsgroup.

      These newsgroups are great resources and are just packed with some of the most friendly and talented people you'll ever meet. These cyber-groups spill over into the real world for many of us, and I've met several of the collectors face to face at events like the informal JohnnyCons.

      Being a bit of a geek, I love learning little-known tidbits about the Marx company and the Johnny West series.

      Friends at the Official Marx Toy Museum, MarxFiles.com and authors such as Tom Heaton (The Encyclopedia of Marx Action Figures) share this drive to know more about our hobby.

     

Marx Reference Site

That is the primary reason I started my Web site - Stewart's Best of the West (www.stewartsattic.com/marx).

      My Web site is full of great information, from up-to-the-minute price guides and detailed information on figures and accessories to guest articles and almost daily site updates. I've tried to openly share what I learn.

      And if you're looking for that elusive figure or accessory, or you want a new hat, you can always visit my general store to browse the items I have for sale.

      It was great growing up as a Johnny West kid, and it's just as much fun today!

      Scott C. Stewart is a freelance writer from Gaithersburg, Md. To check out his Best of the West Web site, visit www.stewartsattic.com/marx.