Recently, my husband and I have taken up time travel in an attempt to convert our basement playroom’s past to a future hangout for our teens. It’s an agonizing process—every childhood toy, book, stuffed animal, board game and picture whispers “Save me,” whenever I get close. There’s Mr. Timeout Duck, Pancake Bear, and a now-worn Lamby; a host of dinosaurs, buckets of Legos, Lincoln Logs and a pretty awesome Peter Pan puppet theatre. These inanimate squatters have taken up permanent residence and I can’t just kick them out. Or can I?

Let me think about that. I don’t see my boys moving into their own home someday stopping by to ask, “Hey, Mom, where is that old stuffed dog I used to drag around?” or “Hey, Mom, have you seen my fidget spinner?” But, I’ve learned that the very day I donate the ignored and neglected toys is the day they ask, “What happened to all the Hot Wheels?” Gulp. Gone. I can almost hear Hamm, the wisecracking plastic piggy bank from Disney’s Toy Story, saying, “Yes sir, we’re next month’s garage sale fodder for sure.

And so I wait. And wait. Until the age gap between the abandoned toys and my children has become so pronounced it no longer pains me to throw out the cap guns, Pokémon cards, Rubik’s cubes and some grimy bottle caps collected in a Bahamian parking lot over spring break.

Adopt the childhood toys, please.

There are still a few books and toys that deserve to be adopted or at least fostered with another family, lest they find themselves on the shelves at Goodwill. Truth be told, I am very selective about this process. Whoever it is, I have to REALLY like them AND their children. It may not seem like a big deal, but to me, I am “gifting” a piece of my children’s past in hopes of continued love. Maybe I’m just too sentimental. Or delusional. Or both. Either way, around our home this is referred to as “magical thinking,” where we pretend everything will work out fine, even when our buried intellect tells us otherwise.

Despite my best efforts to declutter, divide and conquer, I still hold on. After all, I could be sitting on a goldmine. I’m convinced that our WALL-E robot, multiple Furbies, and a dancing Elmo will become classics—and valuable—just like Hot Wheels (oops) Pokémon cards (double oops) and all the Disney VHS tapes I recently threw away. And Legos! The Ultimate Collector’s Millennium Falcon set, originally priced at $499.00, now resells for over $2,000. And if you own a Royal Blue Peanut Elephant, you could grab $650.00 for your collectible foresight.

Just in case you wonder if that Polly Pocket Pollyville set you’ve held onto since the ’80s is worth anything, there are numerable online resources listing the most valuable toys from each decade.

Here are just a few:


Suddenly my discarded childhood treasures look like lost money at a casino: Barbie dolls (yes, I’m that old), Pez dispensers, lunch boxes, even old Monopoly games that I hated. Yep, my mother threw them all away.

So, sentimental toy hoarders unite! Your walk down memory lane may be instead headed towards the bank.

not my toy story


  1. Hi Julie

    Great piece and so on pointe! Our toys were so well loved they never commended a worthy price so either Habitat for Humanity, Vail Cares or the trash. But I will say my mother only saved the LEGOs her mother purchased for the grandchildren (my generation) and they inspired an architect and restoration contractor over two generations. That was a good save!

    Those LEGOs traveled from Indiana to a closet and hutch in the Northern Michigan cottage which then was filled with my children’s, niece’s and nephews’ toys. I admit about ten years ago I wanted to purge that collection of LEGOs, Fisher Price favorites, dinosaurs, Transformer weapons, Lincoln Logs and 3-D puzzles, but then my grandchildren arrived and viola the toys came alive again. Our children’s favorite books are now becoming my grandchildren’s favorites. I don’t believe in purging books anyway, even if I love the new family almost as well as my own.

    And even the really expensive “important” toys like the puppet theater (or the Steiff animals and FAO Schwartz longed for items) of my husband’s childhood were saved in my in law’s attic to be brought out and less gently played with by our children when they visited. Unfortunately, they did not last to make the Penske truck trip to Avon or enlarge the children’s college fund.. However, my sister in law’s dollhouse is sitting in our storage locker. Oh! dear, did I just admit to being a hoarder? Just remembering that having grandchildren seemed so far off when I needed to purge the toys in our house all those years ago, but they arrived soon enough so I’m glad we didn’t purge the stash at the cottage.

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