Action figures not just for kids

Adult collectors relive their youth for fun, profit and better mental health

At 12 years old, James Chillcott decided he was too much of a man to play with toys.

“I was much more focused on extreme sports, travel and girls,” he says.

Chillcott lined up every action figure he had on a fence and smashed them to pieces.

It wasn’t until he was in his 20s that he rediscovered the joy he used to take from action figures, thanks, he says, to the wave of nostalgia brought on by the release of the 2007 Transformers movie.

When you’re 12 you’re in a rush to be old, but when you’re in your mid 20s you just want to rewind.

—James Chillcot

After that, Chillcott hunted on eBay and a few thousand dollars later he had rebuilt his toy collection.

He’s not alone.

Grown women and men like Chillcott buying vintage and designer toys is not uncommon, says Sari Kirshenblatt, co-owner of Temple of Toys, a vintage and new toys store located at 587A College St.

“Our biggest target audience are adult collectors looking for things from their childhood,” she says, adding adults generally have more expendable income.

Sometime during his splurge on the way to rebuilding his collection, Chillcott, an experienced web designer, saw an opportunity to make some money and started ShelfLife.net, which he calls “the future of collecting.”

He describes it as Wikipedia, eBay and Google all in one. Essentially, ShelfLife.net is a hub that allows collectors to research, buy, sell and trade products.

What makes ShelfLife.net unique, Chillcott says, is that it’s run by curators, similar to Wikipedia editors. Curators create catalogues of collectable goods and earn a commission from sales of those items. Anyone can do it and earn a buck, he says.

Though the goal for many collectors is to build a collection worth enough to trade and sell for a profit, Chillcott does not describe his personal collection as a business.

“The buying and selling of toys to me personally is just a hobby,” he says. “I have a $50,000 toy collection and some people might call it a business just because of the scale.”

Having a hobby is beneficial in several ways, says Ali Crosthwait, a psychotherapist at the Centre for Training in Psychotherapy.

“It’s very important to have something you are very interested in,” Crosthwait says. “It is really important for mental health.”

As people age, hobbies can reduce stress and the feeling of being alone, she says.

“When you’re 12 you’re in a rush to be old, but when you’re in your mid 20s you just want to rewind,” Chillcott says. “It’s interesting how your perspectives shift over time.

“Once you have already been a man for a while you don’t really care what anyone thinks. Suddenly you are more then willing to fool around with an action figure.”