They’re Action Figures moves to Dover

Walt Carrol stocks a case of collectible toys at his store They’re Action Figures in Dover. Mr. Carrol moved the store from Camden to the Greentree Village shopping center in July.
Delaware State News/Ian Gronau)

DOVER — About 24 years ago, a discussion about childhood toys with his girlfriend had spurred Walt Carrol to do a 3 a.m. Ebay search for old G.I. Joe action figures. After having a look around, he found a reasonably priced “lot” or collection of them and ordered them.

“It was kind of on impulse,” said the Delaware native. “What ended up happening though, is I kept three of the action figures from the set I really liked and ended up splitting up and selling the rest of them individually — doubling my money in the process.”

Little did he know at the time, he’d hit on his business model. Since then, Mr. Carrol has been scouring, buying and selling vintage/collectible toys and action figures. About a year and a half ago, he opened They’re Action Figures in Camden. After gaining a local following, he decided he wanted to move to a retail location with more foot traffic, so in July, he moved the shop to 61 Greentree Drive in Dover in the Greentree Village shopping center.

In an industry does a large amount of its transactions online, at trade shows and even at garage sales, Mr. Carrol says opening a retail location has helped tremendously.

“How I used to do it would be going to shows, going on Craigslist or spreading word of mouth — it could take up to six months at a time before I’d come across a good collection to buy and resell,” he said. “But since opening a store, people are just coming out of the woodwork. We have interesting toys and action figures coming through the door daily at this point.”

Though he sells newer toys, some comic books, cards and other collectibles, what he’s most interested in purchasing and selling are vintage action figures of all stripes.

Despite heavy competition in the toy and entertainment realm, Mr. Carrol says the niche he occupies has continued to grow in recent years.

“I’ve heard other people say — and I believe it’s true — that being a nerd or a geek really used to get you ridiculed, it was looked down on,” he said. “But these days, it actually seems like a badge of honor to be a nerd, it’s a cool thing to be — as it should be. The Dover Comic Con is a good example, it started six years ago and has grown like crazy. People love it.”

Additionally, some buyers prefer to handle and inspect toys before buying them, which makes a retail location preferable to ordering merchandise online, he says.

The biggest selling point, however, remains nostalgia, noted Mr. Carrol.

“We do have younger kids coming in, but a lot of our customers tend to be adults building their collections or just buying something for the nostalgia,” he said. “More than a toy, we’re selling memories. There are so many things when you walk through the store that you’ll see that will take you back to a certain point in your life — it’s a great feeling.”

Himself not immune to the longing for bygone days, Mr. Carrol recalls coming across a still boxed G.I. Joe Sky Striker toy he’d always wanted as a child but never got.

“I’d seen some in pieces before, but nothing that was in good condition, but this one was perfect — it was still in it’s box with an unexploded parachute and everything,” he said. “I remember taking my time opening the box just looking at it. I teared up. The guy selling it to me was like: ‘whoa man, are you okay?’ But I was like: ‘this is as close as I’ve ever been to opening a brand new one for the first time after wanting it so badly as a kid.’”

After buying and keeping it in the store for several months, he ended up selling it to a customer who said his dad had always wanted the same figurine, added Mr. Carrol.

“I knew I’d miss it, but I like passing that feeling along,” he said.

The store is open from noon to 8 p.m. on Fridays, closed on Mondays and open from noon to 6 p.m. the rest of the week. For more information, call (302) 603-3918 or visit theyre-action-figures.mybigcommerce.com. To follow updates and planned “meet ups” search “They’re Action Figures” on Facebook.

Staff writer Ian Gronau can be reached at 741-8272 or igronau@newszap.com

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