Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Eternal Struggle between Money and Merchandise

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (1993)
Growing up in the nineties meant that I was one of the lucky few to witness the birth of some of the most popular franchises of the last couple of decades. Can you believe that it’s been twenty years since the release of the first Pokémon game? Mighty Morphin Power Rangers had its television debut twenty three years ago in 1993, the same year that saw Jurassic Park hit theaters in a roar that would change the concept of summer blockbusters for years to come.

As an only child I spent most of my time after school at home watching TV. Fantasizing over these brand new worlds that cartoons, TV shows and movies created in our collective imaginary. I used to dream about going into outer space, traveling through time, discovering new dinosaurs, and saving the planet from evildoers. Everything was possible, limited only by our own imagination. I soon became a fan of the stories that best captured the wonder of a curious child eager to learn, to jump head first into a world of adventure, to travel to the unknown.

Of the many franchises that painted the background of my childhood mind, and plagued my parents’ wallet, three stood out among the rest: Jurassic Park, Power Rangers and Pokémon. Jurassic Park showed me how a Dinosaur could look like in real life. This single film brought these beautiful creatures back to life after millions of years. They were no longer fossilized bones or pictures in a book, they were real, they were big and they were wonderful. But even though the original movie caught my imagination from the very start, the first ever franchise to crawl its way into my toy collection was Power Rangers. 

I have yet to find a nineties kid who didn’t want to be one of the chosen teenagers with attitude to protect Earth from Rita Repulsa and Lord Zedd’s attempts at World domination. Sure, the acting was really bad and the story was at times confusing, but those costumes and, especially, their Zords won me over in a heartbeat. I confess that it didn’t hurt that two of their original Zords happened to be Dinosaurs, and that the other three were based on prehistoric animals. 

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was the show that had me out of bed on early Saturday mornings just to watch the next chapter in their ongoing struggle against evil. All my birthday and Christmas gifts were, for the next four years, Power Rangers Zords, Weapons and Action Figures. From Mighty Morphin to Zeo and In Space, my Power Rangers’ toy collection isn’t that extensive, but it’s still one of my favorite mementos from my childhood.

Being a collector is in my blood, so much so, that I have begun to realize I’m literally running out of room to store, let alone display, most of my toy collection. Like every other little kid, I was pretty much broke throughout my entire childhood. My parents never really grasped the concept of an allowance, so I was only given enough money to buy lunch and school supplies. I was always a responsible child, even when I didn’t really understand the true value of money, or how much a certain toy cost, I was never too keen on the idea of spending what little money I had on such a futile thing.

So, every toy I had, at least, the ones that I really cared about, were always kept safe and somewhere where I could easily reach them. Sadly, I didn’t care much about my Lego collection back then, so a lot of them ended up losing a few parts, or getting lost altogether. A decision I would later live to regret.

Even though I cherished most of my Power Rangers collection, the same could not be said about their boxes. Sure, I still own most of them, since it was the best way for a kid to store his Zords, but Christmas Eve anxiety or just the cheer willingness to play with your new toy meant that most of the boxes were torn open on the first day. After all, I was a little kid, and little kids play with toys. Although my Zords and my Power Rangers Action Figures are pretty much complete, they were played with. A lot. And I mean a lot. Two of them have suffered from battery corrosion after my teenage toy neglectful years, and don’t work anymore. The earlier ones have high sticker damage, and some have a lot of dust incrusted deep in their individual crevices do to years of neglect and from being displayed in inappropriate places.

When my parents and I finally moved to our new home, they bought a few display cases for me to show off my Power Rangers toys. They’ve been well kept since then, and they’re still there, waiting for my occasional visit. I cared for them the best that I could over the years, in part because I thought they could gain in value as I grew up, but mostly because they were so dear to me. The sad truth is, even though they did increase in value, most of them didn’t really increase that much, and if you adjust the original price for inflation, I’m going to bet they still cost about the same, especially since they’ve been played with and most of their boxes are either ruined or covered in impossible to get rid of dust. 

Because of the new movie, that’s about to premiere in early 2017, I decided to start putting aside some cash that’s naturally going to be invested in Power Rangers merchandise. I’ve decided to buy the action figures, their Lego sets and, of course, the Zords. I might invest in some other movie merchandise if I find it appealing and if there’s any money left from my tight budget. 

To my own personal misfortune, I started googling about Power Rangers movie merchandise and ended up discovering that over the last four years, a new Legacy line of original Power Rangers Zords, action figures and weapons has been sold, sold out, traded and brought back. It has yet to reach Portugal, if it ever will, but it’s a huge success overseas. Had I known about this sooner, and I might’ve saved up to buy it and renew my current collection, but sadly most of it is now out of stock and second hand price is just going up through the roof.

It’s hard being a collector, especially when most of the stuff you want is never sold in your own country, not to mention when your income doesn’t allow you to truly take this hobby into the next level. 

A few years back I finally found a stable income situation, and after trying to save as much as I could for a couple of months, I’d decided it was time to start spending some of my hard earned cash on myself. Looking back, I should’ve slowed down a little bit, but I don’t regret most of the things that I bought. Sadly, no Power Rangers item made the cut, since I was very happy with my current collection and I had no clue about the existence of the Legacy line.

As the years went by, I found myself wondering about why I felt the need to own these things. As a child I would open each action figure, each board game and each Lego set and I would play with them. Now, I only keep them either on display, or saved away in their unopened boxes. 

The truth is, investing in my toy collection only means buying more stuff that is going to be sitting on a shelf, gathering dust, after I played with it for about fifteen minutes. And when I eventually run out of room, those that I’ve actually opened will go back into their original boxes, destined to sit forever at the back of my closet or up in the attic. 

It’s a hard thing to realize, but the truth is I don’t really need any of these things. Still, the urge and the need to buy them is just too damn high. I’m not an impulsive buyer. I might leave something sitting in my checkout cart for months or even years, either waiting for the right price, or discount, or for that moment when I decide it’s the right time to buy it. However, the urge never truly goes away, and it’s very rare when I can convince myself to shake off the idea of owning a certain item, especially if its price is actually within reason. 

I hardly ever suffer from buyer’s remorse, but to be honest that is only because I’m really good at rationalizing the need to own everything that is able to fit nicely in my own personal collection. I may have outgrown most of my stuff, but I still cherish and keep it close to my heart. Regardless of their current or future value, I would never be able to part ways from them. The pain of losing them would be just too hard and I would eventually end up buying back every single one.

Being a collector is part of who I am. It’s in my blood. No matter how many years go by, no matter how cheesy and poorly acted the original show was, Power Rangers will always carry a special place in my heart. It’s due to this very same strong emotional tie to the show, and to the impact that it had on my childhood, that these mementos are so dear to me, even after all these years. 

I might be a young adult, but I’m still a child at heart. And part of me is still in that playground yelling, ‘it’s morphin time’, wishing I’d be one of the chosen few to save the Earth from evil aliens from outer space.