Old toys - don’t bin them, restore them! - Activfirst
During this difficult period for all of us, it’s hard to keep ourselves occupied, as well as find productive and worthwhile tasks during isolation, especially if you have a young family. Trying to occupy the kids as well as keeping them up to date with schoolwork, leaves spare time at a premium, even during the current lock down period.
However, as a keen Star Wars toy collector I realised this was a perfect opportunity to look at the condition of some of my vintage toys, as I’ve always wanted to find time to look at possibly restoring them back to their former glory, and this is where you come in. How many of you have kids with old toys kicking around the house? Or better yet, an old toy box with old and tired toys and action figures swimming round at the bottom? If that’s the case, why not try a small restoration project. Let’s be honest, if they are tired looking and worn, then it often means one thing, your kids loved playing with them, and if they can be restored would they play with them again? Or could they even be displayed? Either way don’t be tempted to just bin them, I guarantee you’ll have fun giving this a go, and you might just become a star to your kids along the way (not that you aren’t already of course).
Now as I mentioned earlier, I’m a huge star wars fan and toy collector, but minor restoration can be performed on most toys, as most original / vintage star wars action figures that I collect are 40 years old give or take a year or so, finding them in good condition is virtually impossible, and if you do, the chances are they will be very expensive. Because of this I pick most of mine up for a few pounds here and there, at places like car boot sales, charity shops, and most often eBay. But as I buy my figures as cheap as possible, the condition is often poor, as you can see by the images above of 3 figures from my personal collection, which show various levels of paint loss.
So, with time on my hands I decided to start restoring my action figures. Now I know what you’re thinking, I’ve done this before and I can do it because I have experience in restoring toys, and while that is true now, the figures you can see above are the first ones I ever restored with no previous experience at all, barring a few basic tutorial videos on YouTube, which are there for everyone to use, and like me, self-teach.
The process is far simpler than you may think. Below are a few basic steps to help you along the way, and hopefully make sure your restoration has the best possible outcome.
1.Give them a good clean with soapy water. It may seem obvious to give things a clean before any restoration work is done, but with things like plastic toys it can make all the difference. Most plastics that toys are made from, especially older toys, naturally degrade over time, as well as picking up dirt and grime throughout their lives. A good clean makes sure the toy is free of any dirt or debris, which helps the paint take to the surface, giving the best possible finish.
2.Use the correct paint for the job. Again, this may sound obvious, but like household paint, model paint varies in finish type, as well as how they adhere to different surfaces. Most toys use enamel model paint which come with a gloss, satin, or matt finish, these can be obtained easily on-line typically for between £2 – £3 pounds, so they won’t break the bank.
3.Find an image for reference, take your time, and enjoy it. Finally, find an image on-line (unless it’s clear were the original paint was) to make sure you know where the paint goes and what colour. After that, take your time, and enjoy it, this should be a pleasurable, not stressful experience.
Thankfully in a lot of cases, assuming the toy is still in working order and in one piece, most toys don’t need huge amounts of work to get them back to their former glory, often it only takes a little paint restoration to get them looking back to their best. But maybe the end goal isn’t for the toy to be played with again, maybe your kids are now grown up, and restoring their favourite childhood toy could be for display or nostalgia purposes.
This was the case for me when I started collecting toys as an adult, been able to display a lot of the toys I possessed as a child has a huge charm and nostalgia element for me. Looking at the toys I once possessed through adult eyes brings a completely different dimension to what I once thought was nothing more than plastic action figures that would come and go as quick as the last ones. So maybe restoring that toy, or whatever you decide to do, is because it reminds you or a loved one of a simpler, and happier time. A time without mortgage or rent payments, a time without bills to pay, a time without stresses and strains of family or work, a time without social isolation and scrambling for that last pack of toilet roll. That is certainly the reason why I buy and restore toys as an adult, the feeling and memories I remember when I look at them restored to their once shiny best.
We all know our children have short attention spans when it comes to toys, which is why a toy played with every day for weeks on end, could the next day be at the bottom of the toy box never to be seen again, but that doesn’t mean that toy isn’t loved anymore, it just means they also love something else, as a child I had numerous toys that I loved and played with, and jumped almost daily between different toys for different adventures, and that’s what we loved about them right? they brought escapism, even as a child, and like me now, as an adult too.
According to a nationwide survey, 28% of UK parents admitted to throwing toys away on a weekly basis, and half of those parents admitted to throwing toys away that were in perfect condition, some even admitted the toys had never been opened!
So, the next time you’re in your son or daughters room tidying up, picking up all those toys on the floor, on the bed, or wherever you find them. Take a second to look at them and try to remember why you loved them so much as a child, and it might just remind you why they were so important to us then, and why they are to your child now, and even could still be as an adult. If I visited my parents and they pulled out a box of my childhood toys that they’d kept for over 30 years, that I thought were long gone, it would blow my mind! All the memories flooding back remembering where I was when I was playing with those specific toys.
Now don’t get me wrong, of course I’m not suggesting you restore yours or your children’s toys then store them for 30 years, just so you can have a trip down memory lane occasionally. But what I am suggesting is, just re-consider throwing them away. Restoring old toys, or anything you may have laying around the house for that matter, can be a very satisfying and rewarding experience, possibly bringing with it some happy memories, and you never know, you might accidentally have some fun along the way.