GIjOE shows and toy conventions are ideal places for fans, collectors and dealers of all sorts and stripes to get together, talk toys, and buy/sell/trade until their wives (and wallets) scream for mercy. And on the first day of Joelanta 2014, word quickly spread about “some guy” who was offering to sell his entire collection for one big price. Such a “Super Sale” sounded like a serious opportunity, one of those rare occasions where a buyer with deep-enough pockets can acquire a significantly valuable collection of rare, vintage GIjOEs—all in one fell swoop.“This,” I thought, “sounds like a story for The Joe Report!”
Passing the Torch—of GIjOE Collecting
Wearing a Michigan Wolverines hoodie, dealer Jim Besse of New York paced back and forth in front of his wall full of vintage, boxed GIjOEs, vehicles and accessories. He’d shipped in hundreds of superb examples of almost every item you could imagine, and displayed it all temptingly in long rows on shelves, tables and deep stacks on the floor. He’d also hung huge hand-lettered signs that said: “50% off labeled price” and “$6,500 Takes ALL!” Why did he go to such trouble? The answer is that it was Besse’s PERSONAL collection he was selling. And despite the obvious emotions involved in such a massive “sell-off,” Jim hoped he would be selling it all today, and he wanted each item to be given the final, appropriate respect he felt it deserved. (Goodbye, old friends!)
As you might have expected, Joelanta attendees and buyers can practically smell quality, vintage GIjOEs. And many were soon hovering around Jim’s impressive personal collection like vultures. Clearly excited about the potential for a big “score,” they began swooping in to snatch up their favorite vintage Joes, and at half-price, who could blame them? Jim handled and eyed each treasured piece one last time, before handing it over to its new happy owner. He knew they were all going to other collectors who would love them as much as he had done, and he was glad that “passing the torch” of his collection was not as sad a moment as he had anticipated. Indeed, as the morning wore on, Jim was kept VERY busy with all the deals he was making and it looked as if he would have little trouble selling off most of his personal collection during the Joelanta weekend.
This is How it Ends—And Begins Anew
Nearby, a visibly concerned Ron Galletti of Florida, stood over to one side and observed the proceedings with growing angst and alarm. You see, Galletti was interested in buying ALL of Besse’s collection. And as a die-hard GIjOE fan and collector, he had actually tossed and turned the night before, unable to sleep, for fear that it would all be gone and sold soon. Today, as he silently watched Besse sell off yet another beautiful 5-Star Jeep, he couldn’t help but mutter:
“Dang! There goes something else!
Galletti continued to watch the giant collection being parceled out a piece at a time, and suddenly could take it no longer. Before any more was lost, he approached Besse about his “Take All” offer, and after the two had calculated what had been sold, they agreed the remaining items were indeed worth a little over $5,000. After further soul-searching (and bank account balancing), Galletti agreed to Besse’s price, shook his hand, and said, “Deal!” It was a big moment for both men. One of great relief for Jim, and one of obvious excitement for Ron. Curious, I asked Besse what had prompted him to sell off his entire personal collection. Such weighty decisions don’t come lightly. He replied:
“You’re right, of course. My decision to sell off everything wasn’t an easy one to make, that’s for sure, but I felt that the time was right and thought I’d give it a chance here at Joelanta. You see, I’ve been very fortunate in the financial markets and was able to retire early. Now I live like a king in the Philippines, just off the interest of my 401K.
But…my home was recently burglarized as well, and I lost the bulk of my GIjOE collection, over 320 vintage figures! As a result, I decided to sell the rest of it here at Joelanta and get out of the Joe hobby altogether. That way, I won’t have to keep going to toy shows, just to sell off my collection one piece at a time.”
I then turned to Galletti and asked what prompted HIM to buy Besse’s collection. He answered:
“Well, I didn’t come to Joelanta to buy a big collection, that’s for sure. It just sorta happened. In fact, I had already spent all my “show cash” before I even saw Jim’s stuff. Bottom line, I bought Jim’s collection because I love GIjOEs and I believe it could also be a good investment. When I went up to tell my wife what I had done, she just looked at me and said, ‘You didn’t.’ And I said, ‘Yup, I did!’
And you know, whenever you see someone selling their own personal collection, you know that the items are in good shape and have been treated with care. As a fellow collector, you also know where a guy selling his own collection must be coming from—deep inside. I mean, when I was a kid, I used to play with GIjOEs ALL DAY! Nowadays, back in Florida, I publish Born to Ride Magazine and also produce a ‘biker lifestyle’ TV show. But I’ll always love GIjOE!”
Bottom Line: The Besse-Galletti deal at Joelanta 2014 was clearly the exception to the rule. Rarely do fans with such deep pockets and dealers with such deep inventories get together in the same place at the same time. But, as collectors of vintage GIjOEs (or anything else, really) continue to age, ultimately transitioning to “empty nester” status and choosing to down-size their earthly possessions, this sort of big “sell-off ” is bound to become more commonplace at future toy shows. How will that effect prices between buyers and sellers? This evolution in the hobby will be VERY interesting to watch as other collectors attempt similar “big sales” in the future. Stay tuned!