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For collectors, toys are serious business

November 15, 1998|By LAURA ERNDE

STATE LINE, Pa. - Harlan "Doc" Greenfield is serious about his toys.

What started as a hobby, collecting the toys that are distributed at fast food restaurants, has become a side job for the Martinsburg, W.Va., man.

Greenfield has so many Smurfs, Beanie Babies and figurines from countless movies - roughly 30,000 - that he had to build a shed near his house to store them all.

"You get hooked. It is a good addiction," he said.

Greenfield joined 40 other toy collectors who were selling and trading Saturday at the State Line Auto Auction.

About 600 people came to look and to buy. They saw a vast array of toy hot rods, Hess trucks, Barbies, Star Trek figurines, teddy bears and die cast metal cars such as Matchbox and Hot Wheels.

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There were some antiques, such as an Archie Bunker card game for $18 and a Dragnet Crime Lab for $595, complete with fingerprint powder and a microscope.

The most expensive toy was a replica of a red-and-white 1976 Service truck, which had a price tag of $1,300. Owner Keith Long, 38, of Hagerstown, said the toy is so costly because the company made few of them and it is still in the box in mint condition.

On the other hand, there were many inexpensive toys such as Greenfield's that sold for $1 or $2 each.

Greenfield started collecting about four years ago after seeing a book that pictured the many promotional toys that McDonald's has given out with its children's Happy Meals.

Greenfield didn't have to buy 30,000 Happy Meals to amass his collection. Mostly, he shops at yard sales, auctions and flea markets.

He then trades with other collectors to get the toys he wants.

He even has some toys from the Netherlands and London, which are more detailed than the toys distributed in the United States, he said.

Greenfield's two youngest children, ages 9 and 3, have taken an interest in the hobby. But he hasn't had as much luck with his wife.

"If my wife had anything to do with it, the landfill would love this," said Greenfield, a receiving clerk at Variform Inc. in Martinsburg.

For many collectors, toys are a link to their childhood.

"It all started back when I was a little boy," said Benjamin Kriner, 33, of Marion, Pa., who collects mostly antique cars and trucks.

Kriner used to collect full-size 1963 Chevys and had as many as 10 at one time. But he traded that hobby for one that is more affordable and takes up less space, he said.

Bob and Lisa Groves of Williamsport had hoped to find some Christmas presents for their 2-year-old daughter, Heather. Instead, they found gifts for their older relatives.

"I thought it was a toy show for kids. It's for the older kids," he said.

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