Online Business Jives Well for Collectible Toys
Some aspiring musicians dream of a life of drugs, sex and rock and roll; as a drummer, Mark Pedersen dreamed of collecting more vintage monster toys from the sixties.
Pedersen is owner and operator of Dr. Tongue’s I Had That Shoppe, located in a northeast neighborhood of Portland, Oregon.
This is not Pedersen’s first gig.
Pedersen was the owner of another brick and mortar retail store called Dr. Tongues 3-D House of Collectible Toys, which he operated from 1993 to 2005. He describes this shop as, “catering to your inner child.” Collectors came to his pop culture shop from all over the world to dig through his menagerie of weird and wonderful collectible toys. After doing mail-order business from 2005 to 2015, Pedersen decided to open up another shop. He began selling many of his items as a vendor on Etsy.
“We changed our name a smidgen, we’re smaller and more far out — literally and figuratively —than the old store, but we’ve retained the same great vibe, “said Pedersen.
Pedersen grew up in Beaverton, Oregon, in the suburbs of Portland, where he discovered punk rock and a penchant for collectible toys.
“I had an insane thirst for stickers when I was a kid. I loved Topps Wacky Packages because instead of saying Pepsi Cola, they turned the logo into ‘Poopsi Cola.’ I did the comic book thing too.” Pedersen loved the old school ‘GI Joe’ action figures and accessories. “I inherited a lot of them and continued to collect them until they were discontinued in the late seventies.
Pedersen is a longtime musician: he’s performed with several Portland bands and has been playing drums since the age of six. Around the same time he opened his new shop two years ago, Pedersen decided to hang up his sticks. Pedersen is more likely to be found at estate sales hunting for collectible toy items these days. Even though the 53-year-old doesn’t beat on the drums anymore, he still hits the streets.
“I tried doing the full time musician thing,” said Pedersen. “It didn’t work out well for me and it made me want to stop playing altogether.”
Pedersen says there are parallels with the music industry and his current job as a retail shop owner.
“You are serving the public but in different ways,” said Pedersen. “If you’re a bad musician, you don’t get a gig. If you’re a restaurant and your food sucks, you don’t stay open. If you’re a store owner, and you’re rude to customers, word gets around.” We live in a world of Yelp reviews and social media. “If something bad happens at your business, word gets around.”
During his early band days, Pedersen discovered the world of collectible toys and vintage toys. “I was in Powell’s Books and I happened to look over at this huge magazine rack,” said Pedersen. “I noticed a magazine called Model and Toy Collector. I saw things in the magazine that I had stored back at my parent’s house that were worth money!”
Pedersen deals in toys. “I am a Character Toy Dealer. I deal in licensed character toys, movie, television and items that cartoon related.”
Pedersen would prefer to go by the title of THE GRAND EXALTED WIZARD OF PLASTIC. Some people call him Dr. Tongue. The store’s mascot is a Skeleton Ambulance driver named Dr. Skele-Tongue.
When asked what makes a good collectible seller and owner, Pedersen said it’s important to know your items and to have good manners.
Giving customers background on an item is important. And if you’re going to mail order, learn patience. You get a lot of stupid questions. When people ask obvious questions, grin and bear it. Learn to pack a package. Shoving an item into a padded envelope is not enough.
Small business owners who want to get into the collectible toy business should start small. “As a part time gig, collectibles are a good business,” said Pedersen. “You can start selling things on Ebay, Craig’s List and Etsy. Like every business, there are costs involved: fees, shipping, your time, etc.”
If you don’t have previous retail experience, Pedersen doesn’t recommend the business of collecting. People think he sits around playing with toys all day, but it’s not a picnic.
Selling online has become a very important part of his business and he believes it’s a must. “You have to do online sales this day and age,” said Pedersen. Although he hasn’t sold on eBay since 2009, Pedersen does a fair amount of his business on Etsy. Pedersen stopped selling on Ebay when they took away the ability for sellers to leave negative feedback for a bad buyer.
“I like Etsy,” said Pedersen. “People shop, pay, and you can print your mailing label on the website. There is no jumping site-to-site, getting hit with a bunch of different fees.” He loves that all items have to be 20 years or older in order to be sold on Etsy’s vintage platform.
Pedersen’s wife, a crafter, mentioned to him that they were starting to allow vintage collectible toys and other items for sale, spurring him to jump on the Etsy bandwagon.
Like any business, there have been ups and downs. “Christmas time is super busy, but late spring and early summer have also seen strong sales,” said Pedersen. Twenty percent of his business has come from online sales. Locally there are only so many people looking for one particular item to add to their collection. It’s better to open up your market nationally. There are actually a lot more platforms for selling online today. In the nineties you had to have a website or sell on eBay. Now, Facebook has opened up a whole new collectible toy world, and lots of people are finding things to put up for sale in Facebook groups. You can also sell on Instagram.
As his sales grow, so does his thirst for finding items that he would like to collect and sell. Pedersen collects vintage Monster toys from the 1960s through the 1980s, as well as Haunted Mansion items, Japanese vinyl toys, etc. Although there are way too many to list here. Pedersen adds: “If anybody has a spare Marx Garloo laying around, I’m interested.”