Shop for secondhand toys and save big $$$
Our colleague Mark Wood has a great article on how he has perfected the art of toy shopping at yard sales, thrift stores and secondhand shops. He's found a $30 Transformers Optimus Prime Voice Changer Helmet for $3 and a $55 Fisher-Price Imaginext Batcave for free because the owner of the yard sale he was shopping said she simply wanted to clean her son's room out and handed him a yard bag full of toys.
He's on the lookout all year and he knows how to order replacement parts, do minor repairs and check for recalls. Luckily for us, he's willing to give out his secrets. Here are his tools and shopping tips for scoring a slew of secondhand toys for pennies on the dollar:
Tools of the trade
Secondhand items often need a little TLC — repairs, even a bath. Have these things handy to make toys ready for play.
Disinfecting wipes: Dirt, drool, germs and more can accumulate, especially if toys are stored for long periods. These wipes clean and kill germs.
Hard-surface cleaner: Clorox makes a version of this in a spray bottle to get disinfecting liquid into hard-to-reach spots. Use carefully on toys with batteries and sound and light components.
Cotton swabs: Use these to press wipes into ridges or to apply hard-surface cleaners where wipes won't reach.
Magic Eraser: Mr. Clean's product is my secret weapon. Colored scrapes and scuffs disappear with a few rubs. Also available in generic versions.
Black permanent markers: Scrapes can remove black from plastic. Sharpies and the like can put it back on for a new look.
A set of small screwdrivers: Sometimes toys have to come apart for cleaning or minor repairs. Have screwdrivers in a variety of sizes.
Glue: I prefer Gorilla Glue for repairing plastic toys.
Yard sales: If you see one, stop. Luck is key in top finds. Always plan to go to community yard sales, and the earlier you go, the better.
Thrift stores: Visit thrift stores and consignment shops regularly. Inventory cycles through daily, and bargains abound.
Craigslist: Do regular sweeps. Plug in keywords that match your child's favorite toys, characters and brands.
Know your child: Look for what he or she likes. Superheroes, Barbie and Dora the Explorer toys abound.
Check toys: Broken toys and missing pieces — especially projectiles — are common. Rummage to find matching pieces, and don't be shy about asking whether toys and games are complete.
Be aware of recalls: Don't bring home a potential hazard. Check the Consumer Product Safety Commission's list of recalled toys regularly at cpsc.gov.
Check battery-operated toys: Keep an assortment of batteries and screwdrivers in your car. Open compartments and install fresh batteries to test toys before buying.
Follow us on Twitter @WhoaMomma