There's a lot of great things to hunt for in thrift stores. Wonderfully impractical furniture, infernal machines, headless figurines, psychotic record album covers, suggestive kids books... Some of my favorite finds are not-so-fun toys and games.
Of course, I seek the bizarre, and the tangled, jumbled, jungle-like thrift store toy aisles do not disappoint. What I love about some of these toys and games is that rather than being fun, they instead provoke fear, unease, stress, boredom, or out right anger. I guess that's why they're relegated to the thrift store and not still in the game closet back home.
Okay, I suppose somebody out there has this as their favoritest game ever, but c'mon, the "World's Liveliest Trading Game"? It's called "Pit" fer Christ's sake! It has pictures of wheat on it! WHEAT! And it was apparently owned by some dude named "Burmesiter." They might as well have called it "Let's Watch Grass Grow, America's Favorite Horticulture Game."
Then again, a round of Pit sounds somewhat more entertaining than a round of "Finance," which apparently is a bit lower on the list of World's liveliest trading games. As the unwanted child of Monopoly and Life, two games that start out fun but start to suck after about the 3rd hour, Finance has to go down as the #1 least likely purchase at Toys-R-Us.
It's a moot point that dolls are scary. But the scariest dolls live in the thrift store. Take Talky Tina here. She obviously tried to kill her previous owner (or better yet her previous owner's older brother). That's why she's on top of the junk heap here, naked (except for her Keds) with her guts ripped out, in rigormortis. But notice the unfazed plasticized devil's grin? You know it and I know that she's silently plotting her revenge. It's only a matter of time.
There's of whole genre of family games from the 60s and 70s that seemed designed to give one of the players a heart attack. Usually they came with a ticking timer, assaulting colors, and the probability of exploding game pieces, as represented by this game of "Tension." Some friendly competition is fine, but is this kind of nerve-wracking humiliation really healthy? Especially if Mom's on Valium, Dad's a two-pack a day smoker, Junior's flunking out, and Sis is a social misfit? I wonder which player on this box top will have an embolism first?
Now, Lego blocks are pretty cool, a plaything that encourages real creativity, something sadly lacking in much of today's 100% computerized, interactive, talking, walking, tickle-me-whatevers. This Lego pen, on the other hand, seems more likely to disturb the peace than to stimulate brain cells. Take a closer look to see what I mean:
Oh, yeah? Well you're fat and ugly and nobody likes you. Stupid pen.
So, is the object of this game to determine how obtuse and thick you are? Or is it another Parker Brothers/Milton Bradley avoiding embarrassment challenge? Maybe it's just taunting us to wipe the sh-t-eating grin off this cube boy's face. This box makes me want to scream "No, you're the damn blockhead!" Okay, I have some issues. Stupid blockhead.
A 42-inch modern walking doll, with fashion outfit, huh? What a totally non-creepy idea. By the looks of that box, she might just be able to get around on her own, in the dead of the night, with those creepy mannequin arms outstretched, the stubby fingers scraping against the wall, the faint whiff of curly polyester hair in the darkness, and those lifeless doll's eyes, watching from the foot of my bed... Oh, just see the previous post about Talky Tina the robot terror, they're probably close friends.
Here's a great party idea. Get all your closest friends together. Ply them with food, party balloons, and alcohol. Then interrogate them! Hilarity/ animosity/ ruined dignity ensues. Why does this remind me of the Watergate break-in? I bet this toy was later repackaged as the "Marathon Man Home Game"
Nothing spells Father and Son quality time more than cooking up batches of Anthrax in the garage with a Gilbert Experiment Lab. Judging by the condition of this box, things didn't end too swimmingly for Timmy and his Pop, one of them has horrible scalp burns, the other is missing an eye. That or Timmy immediately got a job with Monsanto or Dow Chemical cooking up food additives and industrial herbicides. I will say that Gilbert's prediction of "Today's adventures in science" creating "tomorrow's America" seems just about right.
Finally, every thrift store on the planet has two things: 1) an LP copy of Herb Albert's "Whipped Cream and Other Delights." Guaranteed. And 2) a Barbie doll orgy. It's one of America's darkest little secrets.