Monday, August 27, 2012

Jaws Swims Onto Laserdisc

Laserdisc Cover
With the recent arrival of that famous great-white shark on Blu-Ray, I thought now would be a good time to dust off my Jaws movie collection and use it to explore the history of obsolete consumer video.  First up is the 1981 MCA Laserdisc pressing of Jaws under the DiscoVision label.  This extended play CLV version was the 2nd consumer release of the film after the 1978 standard play CAV version launched alongside the first Universal Pioneer laserdisc players in Atlanta. It doesn’t offer the best video transfer (as is evidence here), but the DiscoVision intro is a treat.  The jacket artwork also features a risqué drawing of the swimmer and a famous deleted scene.

Optical Analog
Contrary to popular belief, the DiscoVision moniker had nothing to do with the late seventies dance fad.  Instead, it was the name bestowed on upstart Gauss Electrophysics by parent company MCA after they acquired them in an effort to explore optical disc media as a viable video storage medium.  MCA DiscoVision began demonstrating the technology as early as 1972, although it would take them years to patent it and work out the kinks.  I won’t belabor the details further, except to point you to Blam Entertainment Group’s excellent website on the subject. 

It should be noted DiscoVision Associates (DVA) is still around, the owner of some 800 patents related to optical disc media.
Graphic Scene Cut from the Film

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Rookie Love

Valuable Cardboard
John Elway.  The retired pro football hall of famer receives the type of hallowed respect usually reserved for foreign dignitaries and business visionaries. His storied 16 year NFL career included 148 wins, (12) 3000 yard seasons, 9 Pro Bowls,  MVP honors (1987), 5 Super Bowl appearances (2 wins) and perhaps most remarkably, 34 come-from-behind wins.   Adored by NFL players past and present, fans and the city of Denver, his impact on the game continues long after his retirement.  Not surprisingly, his sports collectibles command premium prices and remain in high demand.

A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to stumble across a yard sale selling John Elway's rookie card, a Topps 1984 #63, graded and priced to move. I didn't hesitate when I bought it; retired HOFs are usually a safe investment.  The purchase did get me thinking about rookie cards in general, however.  Elway was drafted in 1983 by Baltimore (Colts), traded to Denver after one summer flirting with the Yankees and major league baseball. He would start for the Broncos opening day and begin the long and arduous journey from hyped rookie to elite quarterback.  In the world of cardboard, Topps included him in their 1984 set (along with fellow future hall of famer Dan Marino).  But if John was drafted (and started) in 1983, why not feature him in the previous year's set?  The answer lies in how much the hobby has changed in the last 28 years.

Before short-printed inserts and rookie speculation were driving factors in the hobby, card enthusiasts' primary focus was on set and team building. Only two manufacturers were printing and selling football cards in the early 1980s: Topps and Fleer. The former's 396 card set was an early year release highly anticipated by collectors for its focus on current and emerging superstars.  Unlike today, rookies were less important; players were sometimes featured years after their inaugural season. Combined with the fact the set came out before the start of the football season, and it's easy to understand why Topps held off on including rookies like Marino and Elway until the following year.

As the 80s moved on and interest from investors caused the hobby to explode in popularity, Topps borrowed a page out of their baseball playbook. Beginning in 1989 and continuing through 1990, Topps put out a short-printed, supplemental set called Topps Traded that highlighted midseason trades, acquisitions and high profile rookies.  Players such as Troy Aikman, Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith made their first appearance on cardboard in these Traded sets.

By 1991, card collecting became a national obsession and manufacturers Score, Pacific, Pro Set and Upper Deck joined the fray.  Unlike Topps, their sets were massive (up to 700 cards) and featured rookies drafted in the same year.  Topps had no choice but to follow suit, expanding their yearly set to 660 cards (and including rookies).  After the bubble burst in the mid ‘90s (taking much of industry with it), set sizes would come back down to earth (e.g. Topps 2012 base set is 440 cards with a handful of variations). Never again would rookies be neglected, however. In fact, the chase for the next John Elway (or Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, etc.) continues to this day.  Cards featuring autographs of rookie QBs Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are currently fetching hundreds on EBay, and neither has played a down in an NFL game.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Loftly Ambitions by the Dutch

Sometimes the smallest finds can generate the most enthusiasm.  One such item, a 2 disc VCD copy of Beverly Hills Cop, arrived from EBay two weeks ago and subsequently sparked my interest about all things CD-i.  For the uninformed, the Philips CD-i was a fourth generation video game console released by Dutch electronics giant Philips in 1991.  Although manufactured by multiple vendors over a period of five years, the system’s initial high cost, somewhat crippled hardware, poor analog control and lackluster software support ultimately doomed it to a niche market.  Originally positioned as an edutainment device designed to rival the personal computer (which by then was sporting CD-ROM playback, digital audio and hardware-accelerated 2D/3D video acceleration), Philips promised a multimedia experience families could use to learn, work and play without the added equipment or expense of a PC.  Although a novel idea when it was publicly announced five year earlier, consumers were apathetic by the time the console hit US shores.  Philips' reluctance to brand it a ‘video game machine’ hurt its chances further; while Nintendo and Sega battled it out over a burgeoning billion dollar industry, consumers who would have considered the CD-i as a viable...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Best At What He Does...

Iconic Cover Reprinted
It's funny how the genesis of a pop culture icon is often not what you'd expect.  Although sometimes met with appropriate pomp and circumstance, it's far more common for the individual (whether real or imagined) to show up on the scene unannounced with little fanfare. If they happen to be fictional, their creators often consider them unimportant or ancillary characters, simple archetypes designed to introduce or help resolve short-term conflict.  Only after readers or audiences respond to their personality do these characters grow beyond the boundaries of the original story and into their own adventures.  If popular enough, they can even transcend the medium to other forms of artistic expression (be it music, movies, etc.), firmly supplanting themselves into our collective consciousness. 

Marvel comics superhero Wolverine is a prime example.  One of several characters developed by the braintrust of art director John Romita, Sr. and writer Len Wein, Wolverine was first brought to life by artist Herb Trimpe during his silver age run on The Incredible Hulk during the early 1970s. Although the costume, claws and Canadian heritage were all there, however, his appearance over three issues (#180-182) did little to capture reader interest.  Fortunately, Len Wein saved a roster spot for him on the new X-men team, where he 'debuted' roughly a year later with along with X-men mainstays Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler and Banshee.

Future X-men contributors Chris Claremont, John Byrne and even Frank Miller would expand on Wolverine's character, developing an elaborate backstory to match his gruff, sardonic personality.   Popularity would come in the form of his own storylines and eventually his own books. Similar to characters like Venom, Wolverine became the embodiment of the antihero spirit very much en vogue in comic books during the middle to late 1980s. When Marvel saw its fortunes take off at the start of the early nineties, Wolverine became one of its hottest properties. He was featured prominently in Saturday morning cartoons, video games, collectible cards and toys. Even when the comic book market collapsed and Marvel was forced to fight bankruptcy to stay alive, a stellar performance by Hugh Jackman gave the character new life in a successful X-Men live-action movie adaptation.  After two sequels and a film of his own, Wolverine is a now a super celebrity rubbing elbows with the likes of Spider-man, Batman and Superman. 

While I was yard-saling this weekend, I came across a lasermatic cover printing of the issue in which he first appeared*, The Incredible Hulk #181. Given the comic's insane collectability, it's unlikely I will ever be fortunate enough to own a copy.  That said, the framed print is pretty sharp looking, all the more special because it's sign by artist Herb Trimpe himself.  Unfamiliar with a lot of Trimpe's work**, it was interesting to read how influential he was developing the Silver Age Hulk. Remembering Wolverine, he was quick to point out the character was never intended to be a series regular.  That said, Herb was the first artist to draw the character publication, and that distinction alone deserves special attention.

*Technically, Wolverine first appeared in the last panel of Incredible Hulk issue #180, known in the comic book world as a cameo.

**Check out this blog for a breakdown of Herb's work on the Hulk.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

What's so special about it?

It’s not uncommon for me to suggest putting on a movie after a night of fun in the city, when those of us still left standing retreat to my friend’s apartment for a nightcap.  Although most people are amiable to the idea, I admit the filter comes off when my facilities are less than 100%.  All too often I take this opportunity to speak at length about the movie we’re watching, divulging behind-the-scenes information, breaking down story and plot or delivering sociopolitical commentary.  It turns out the more movies you watch, the more opinions you have about what exactly makes one good (or bad).  Whether the people still awake are prepared for it or not, this cheerful deconstruction can become a diatribe if the film we’re watching proves to be less than stellar.  While the casual observer may not recognize bad lighting, lazy writing or shoddy editing, those elements can have great thematic importance and can become ‘nails on a chalkboard’ for the drunken cinephile.
I mention all this because I coaxed my friends into watching James Cameron’s Aliens last Friday night.   One of my favorite movies of all time, this should have been a treat; unfortunately, I was not prepared for the 17 minutes of changes inserted into the special edition.  Perhaps the memory of seeing it on the big screen for the first time last year* was still fresh in my mind, but I found myself more anxious and confused as this altered version unfolded before me.  

At first, I took to pointing out the subtle differences:  a brief moment between Burke and Ripley concerning her now deceased daughter, or administrator Van Leuwen delivering Ripley’s sentence following her hearing.  Although minor changes, they expand on Ripley’s character, displaying a maternal instinct that was implied instead of shown in the theatrical version. Then the changes start to get bigger; you see the colony of LV-426 flourishing before the alien attack, and you’re introduced to Newt and her family as prospectors who stumble across the derelict space craft.  Now you’re changing tone and shifting the tension of the movie. 
In the original cut, you’re introduced to Ripley as someone with a psychological imbalance, suffering from nightmares of an event that happened millions of miles away more than fifty years ago.   Clearly a fish out of water, you’re strangely reassured that an event so terrible could not happen again, particularly when the odds are stacked better.  The Nostromo was a mining vessel, and her crew was sparse and small in number.  Ripley’s 2nd trip to the planet is with a group of battle-hardened space marines, packing ‘state of the art firepower’.  You don’t see the colony beforehand, so you’re not quite sure what happened to it until after the marines get there.  All this builds tension and adds to the mystery.

In the special edition cut, however, you show the shark** right away and all of audience’s fears are confirmed before the troops even get there.   Now the audience is focused on dramatic irony, confident the marines are not prepared for what they’re about to encounter.  This tactic is often employed in traditional horror fare, moving the tension from the unknown to the known in favor of character development.   Developing archetypes allows the audience to identify with the cast and provides an emotional anchor which can be yanked to deliver shock value.  Although not a bad story mechanic by itself, it doesn’t fit the mold of the movie’s predecessor, Ridley Scott’s 1979 masterpiece Alien.

You have to remember Sigourney Weaver was not cast as the lead in that film, but was rather an ancillary character who eventually became the sole survivor.  There’s very little character development going on, so you’re not sure what kind of person she is outside of smart and resourceful.  That’s what makes the original so terrifying; the audience expects more prominent actors like Tom Skerritt to make it through, and there’s natural confusion when they don’t (think Janet Leigh in Psycho).  Fast forward to the sequel, and you’re still not sure what drives her character.  Will she survive this time?
Unfortunately, the special edition delivers the goods prematurely, and immediately starts flushing out Ripley’s character to compensate.  Now she’s a mother without a child, and when Newt becomes a child without a mother, it’s only natural for the story arc to become uniting the two.  The raw action feel of the original cut, which many critics have referred to as rambo-esque*** and what makes the movie unique, has been curtailed as the story becomes more personal.  Ripley goes in with the troops when they first enter the compound, and we’re forced to rely on her worried expressions to buoy our fears.   Gun sentries are introduced as protection, and the movie intercuts their presence with personal exchanges between Ripley, Newt and Hicks. As the marines meet their unfortunate end, the audience cares less about them in favor of the surrogate family dynamic that develops. 
I won’t deconstruct the film further; suffice to say I was upset and disappointed by these changes.  I was surprised I noticed so much given how much I had to drink, but it makes sense considering how many times I’ve seen the original.  Although I won’t take this opportunity to decry all movie special editions (that’s another topic for another post), I will say I’m glad the theatrical cut is still in print and available for purchase.  To anyone that hasn’t seen the movie before, I strongly suggest watching that version first. In my opinion, there’s nothing special about the special edition.

*Two theaters in our area, the County Theater in Doylestown, PA and the Ambler in Ambler, PA showcase old movies as part of their summermovie series.
**Due to technical problems during the filming of the movie Jaws, Spielberg and crew resorted to showing the shark as little as possible.  As a result, the audience’s imagination works overtime to fill in the gaps.  This only adds to the suspense.
***James Cameron wrote the screenplays for two sequels, Aliens and Rambo: First Blood II simultaneously, although the latter was never filmed in its initial version.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Where's the Daddy Market??

The absence of a post in the last two weeks or so would suggest I took a break from yard sales.  On the contrary, the warmer weather has translated into a noticeable uptick in yard sale opportunities.  In total, I visited roughly two dozen sales, ranging in size from small, single family garage sales to large community rummage sales and church flea markets.  Unfortunately, the pickings have been slim, and the hauls have been small.  I couldn’t quite put my finger on why, considering the locations were dispersed and income levels were variable.  Where were the toys, movies, collectibles and games of my youth?  A few movie magazines here, a Nintendo GameCube there; not exactly treasures to write home about.
Awesome? No.  Crap?  Yes.
Overwhelmed by the sheer number of baby clothes and toys that seem to be everywhere, my wife was quick to provide an explanation.  Unlike me, she’s more familiar with the ebb and flow of the yard sale season.  It turns out this is the time when young parents look to clear out closets full of clothes their children have outgrown.  Apparently, babies grow a lot between 12-24 months, and there’s only so much room in a toddler’s closet.  The warmer weather also means the tiny winter coats and booties have to go; there’s little chance of them fitting six months from now when the colder weather returns.
While my wife considers this a blessing (more opportunities to buy clothes for our niece), I must admit I’m less than enthused. I understand the novelty and popularity of the Mommy Market concept, but I have to ask: where’s the Daddy Market?  If I spend another Saturday driving around the neighborhood only to find boppy pillows and swimmies, I think I’m gonna lose it.

I’m reminded of the Obi-Wan – Yoda exchange in The Empire Strikes Back:
Yoda: “The boy has no patience.”
Obi-Wan: “He will learn patience.”
Yoda: “Much anger in him…”

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Lion's Roar

It's tough to put into words the thrill of pulling a valuable card at random from a sealed pack of sports cards.  No matter what your primary motivation is as a collector (e.g. team/player fan, set collector, autograph chaser, etc.), every unopened pack is an opportunity to pull something great. 

Barring high-end products (where a single pack of cards will run you upwards of $200 or more and shorter print runs guarantee scarcity), the odds of pulling something rare from your average pack of cards is often directly proportional to the pack's cost.  For example, a single pack of Topps 2011 football will run you $1.99 and get you (10) cards.  The odds of pulling a card autographed by a player start at 1:239, although buying an entire box (36 packs) will net you slightly better odds. Conversely, a single pack of Topps Chrome 2011 football will run you $3.99 for (4) cards. The odds of finding a rookie autograph improve to 1:24, or effectively one per box.  Although not always the case, it's reasonable to temper your expectations when you buy low or mid-grade products like these.
It's also important to remember that rare does not necessarily mean valuable; a parallel refractor of a star player or rookie is sure to bring more than your average wideout or QB, even if both cards were short printed to 50.  The true value of a card is often subjective, with factors that include scarcity, condition, player appeal and collector interest. You never really know what a card is worth until you sell it, and it is that sense of the unknown that makes finding good cards even more exciting. I mention all this because I experienced the pull of a lifetime just a few weeks ago, and the experience was surreal.

The Pull of a Lifetime (so far)
Wiping the sleep out of my eyes on a rainy Saturday morning, I decided to forgo breakfast and instead bust the 2nd of two Bowman Chrome Football 2009 boxes I bought on the web ($55 each).  The first box was a dud (no-name auto and refractors), so I wasn't particularly happy.  Roughly ten packs in, however, I noticed a 2/5 marking on a card back.  This indicates the only five copies of the card exist in the world.  Flipping it around, I saw an even bigger surprise; a red refractor Matthew Stafford rookie autograph card. From a collector’s perspective, the Detroit Lions QB is still considered to be the most coveted player from the 2009 draft class.  I knew right away the pull was valuable, and when I couldn't find it in my Beckett price guide, I became even more excited.  Never before had I pulled something worth (potentially) so much*. 

I admit I was anxious to get it graded right away.  3rd party authentication services will inspect a card's condition, assign it a numerical value (or grade) and encase it in hard plastic for protection.  The grade can greatly impact a card's value; a rating of 10 (Gem Mint) can increase a card's value by up to 200%.  Fortunately for me, the card came back with a 10 grade, guaranteeing its pristine condition to would-be buyers.  A five-day listing on EBay led to a flurry of e-mails from collectors offering me cash to close the auction early.  Although tempted, I chose not to and was eventually rewarded for my patience. 

I won't go into details about the final selling price, although I admit I was shocked a modern day card could sell for so much. Suffice to say it may be awhile before I come across another card like that; given the odds, it was really just dumb luck.   Now that I have so much spare cash available, however, I feel the itch to buy more packs (a lot more).  Perhaps lightning will strike twice? 

*My wife has been a good sport about the whole thing.  The morning I pulled the card, I woke her up just to show her.  Instead of grumbling, she expressed interest and was offering to drive to a card show up in northern NJ to get it graded in person.  Although we didn’t make the trek, she’s definitely entitled to some of the proceeds.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

You Gotta Blow Into It!

Two straight weekends of cold, rainy weather have kept me indoors and away from my favorite past-time.  Fortunately, I have a closet full of video game just begging to be played, and Steve Kent’s The Ultimate History of Video Games has me aching for some quality time with the older consoles in my collection.  A few months back, I ordered a new 72 pin connector for my Nintendo, and it was high time that I installed it. 
For those of you too young to remember, the Nintendo Entertainment System (or NES for short) was an 8-bit juggernaut that dominated the video gaming landscape for half a decade (1985-1990) and single-handedly resurrected the medium after the market crash of 1983. Iconic game franchises Zelda, Metroid, Final Fantasy, Metal Gear, Tetris, and Castlevania all got their start on Nintendo’s little gray box, and Mario (although introduced years earlier as Jump man in the seminal classic Donkey Kong) became a household name.  A far cry from the white and red-colored, top-loading Japanese version (dubbed the Famicom*), the NES is two-tone grey with black and red accents and a front-loading cartridge slot.  Nothing about it screams video games, which was exactly the point; Nintendo of America decided to combat public apathy and retailer weariness by disguising the console as an electronic device more akin to the VCR.  They even gave it a Robotic Operating Buddy (R.O.B.) to add to the novelty. 
Video Game Console or VCR?

While its low-key appearance and gimmicky add-ons may have encouraged some early buyers to take the plunge, there’s no question what made the initial console launch so successful: Super Mario Bros.  The diminutive red-and-blue plumber (along with his taller sibling Luigi) ran, jumped and swam their way through eight colorful worlds the likes of which the world had never seen.  With smooth animation, precise controls, excellent sound FX and memorable music, the game was an all-out assault on the senses.  Although the concept of a pack-in game for a new system launch is somewhat foreign now, Nintendo included Super Mario Bros. in three of its four original North American bundles (Deluxe, Action and Power Sets).  By packing in their best launch title and using Worlds of Wonder** to distribute, Nintendo was able to shift millions of consoles and develop a huge install base. Moves like these left competitors Sega, NEC and Atari in the dust and eventually led to total market domination for the remainder of the decade.

To combat piracy and assuage customer fears that the games they bought would less than stellar (similar to the shovelware that dominated the consoles of the early 1980s), Nintendo maintained strict licensing with its 3rd party publishers and installed lockout chips (10NES) in its ROM-based cartridges.  Although publishers would eventually found ways around it (e.g. voltage spikes), these measures had an unexpected and unfortunate consequence: the blinking red power light.  The horizontal loading cartridge slot was billed as a zero insertion force (ZIF) socket, but that was not the case.  Anxious gamers would quickly slam in new cartridges, bending and tarnishing the nickel-plated pins.  Over time, the bent, dirty pins would fail to make contact; because the 10NES lockout chip requires constant, this would lead to the console turning off and on (or blinking) every second until the cartridge was re-seated.  Legions of kids tried countless methods to keep their NESs working.  Blowing on the exposed ROM chip of the game was common as was wedging matchbooks and other objects into the slot. 

72 Pin Connector
Today, I’m fortunate enough to have two NESs: one in good condition I keep for show, and the other I use for play.  The latter frequently blinks if the game is not seated exactly right; after an hour-long session trying to get a beat-up Zelda cartridge to work, I finally broke down and bought a replacement 72 pin connector.  I won’t go into the details of installation, although it’s one of the less painful surgeries you can perform on a game console (all you need is a standard Philips screwdriver and some patience- no soldering!). 

Ironically, replacing the connector did little to fix the problem (sometimes games are too beat up for a new connector to remedy).  I did get to spend some time with Mario, however, playing Super Mario Bros. 1, 2 & 3***. 

(*Although Japanese sounding, Famicom is short for ‘Family Computer’).

(**Worlds of Wonder was a key player in 1980s toys distribution.  They also brought Teddy Ruxpin and Lazer Tag to the masses.)

(***Although you may not have an original NES, you can still enjoy Mario on your PC.  Check out Exploding Rabbit for an over-the-top flash-based homage to the first game that lets you play as different 8-bit characters.)

Super Mario Bros Pack-In Cartridge- Nintendo Approved.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Episode 7: The Rise of Inflation

Inflation.  It’s a scary word, one that brings with it thoughts of financial hardship, unemployment, and recession.  The idea that the value of fiat (paper) currency is relative, and that external factors affects its purchasing power, can be a troubling thought.  While I might spend time outside my room contemplating the financial future of our country, however, there’s little room for concepts like inflation inside my closet full of action figures, video games and pop-culture nostalgia.  Or is there? 

A few weeks ago, Target was again blowing out Star Wars toys on clearance.  This time, the prices were the lowest I‘d seen for a modern day action figure ($2.36).  As you can tell from previous posts, I relish the opportunity to snag items on clearance.  The spirit of the yard sale is all about the hunt, so it’s no surprise I look for other opportunities to find good deals.  It was an easy decision to buy up what they had, but it got me thinking about just how good of deal it really was.  Would I ever find toys cheaper?   The answer, it turns out, has to do with inflation.

The toys I bought, Star Wars: The Clone Wars action figures, were released by Hasbro in February 2011 with an initial MSRP (Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price) of $7.99 USD.  (Here’s the press release with their description).  Although the final clearance price of $2.36 represents a 70% discount, I found several clearance stickers underneath that suggest a steady level of decline.  Because clearance stickers have no noticeable date indicators (at least without intimate knowledge of Target SKUs), I can only estimate the dates for the price drops and assume the toys were priced at MSRP through the 2011 holiday season:

Shortly after the New Year, the toy’s price was cut 40% ($4.96).  Successive price drops to $3.94, $3.47 and finally $2.36 means the price decreased roughly 10% every 2 ½ -3 weeks. Although interesting information, the question remains: what does this have to do with inflation?
I decided to compare these numbers with pricing for an original Star Wars action figure, one produced in 1983 by Kenner toys.  I choose a Star Wars: Return of the Jedi Rancor Keeper (No. 71350) from my collection because it has a clearance tag along with the original price sticker.  Sears priced the toy at $2.99, which works out to $6.66 adjusted for inflation (see here for a cool CPI calculator).  It was then reduced to $1.49, or $3.32 in today’s dollars.  Although the toy was not discounted multiple times before purchase, the data we do have suggests a similarity in the way both toys were discounted.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars Mace Windu (2011)
Discounted Price
Percent of MSRP

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi Rancor Keeper (1983)
Discounted Price*
Percent of MSRP
(*adjusted for Inflation)

Separated by 28 years, an annual inflation rate of 2.90% and higher petroleum costs*(the action figures themselves are made of plastic, which comes from oil), the difference in how much both toys were discounted is only one half of one percent (0.54%).

What does that mean?  For starters, the data suggests toys are discounted today the same way they were back in the 1980s.  It’s entirely possible I will be able to walk into a Target store five years from now and buy clearance toys at 70% off.  Unfortunately, the data also suggests the toy will be more expensive (or rather, my dollar will be worth less).  Both toys are the same size, made from the same materials and packaged similarly, but the MSRP increased $1.33 (20%).  Even a 2% annual inflation rate over the next five years suggests the toy price could jump to $8.99, which translates to $2.70 at 70% off.

Barring a significant change in world monetary policy, it looks I will never again find toys this cheap.  It’s a sobering thought, but it’s comforting to know that bargain hunting will be alive and well.  I guess that means this blog could be too…

(*Some economists argue that oil prices can directly influence inflation.  Known as cost-push inflation, this can lead to an increase in the cost of consumer goods such as toys.)