7 Overlooked ‘80s Toys Worth More Than You Think

There was a time when the old saying “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” was especially descriptive of the world of toy collecting. For many people, when the kids outgrew their toys, those little hunks of plastic became nothing but garage sale fodder, or they wound up thrown in the trash with the leftover meatloaf from the fridge. But nowadays, more and more people have come to realize that there’s gold in the toy chest, and instead of dumping them at Goodwill, they put their kid’s Castle Grayskull up on eBay to help make a down payment on a new hot tub.

But not all of us have a factory-sealed, Mint In Box, professionally-graded Optimus Prime sitting in our basement that will sell for $3,750. What if all we have is a toy box full of figures that weren’t the star of the after-school animated cartoon? Don’t worry, there are still plenty of overlooked '80s toys you might actually have that are worth more than you think.   

1. Transformers Dinobot Swoop

$90 - $1,400

First released in North America in 1984, Transformers took kids' imaginations by storm, becoming one of the hottest toys and cartoons of the decade. In 1985, Hasbro released a new sub-group of figures, The Dinobots, five transforming dinosaurs, headed up by Grimlock, a Tyrannosaurus Rex. 

Although all of the Dinobots became popular, the pteranodon, Swoop, soon became a frontrunner due to his cool, chrome-covered wings and his heroic appearance in the second season of the animated series. For serious collectors, Swoop has become something of a Holy Grail because those chrome wings were easily chipped, the transformation process made it fairly common to break off his beak, and he was never released in the U.K., meaning some collectors never even had the chance to own him in the first place. 

Therefore, a Swoop in good condition—even one that doesn’t necessarily have all of his accessories—can sell for about $90 on eBay. In comparison, a complete Grimlock with the box, goes for only a couple bucks more. If you’re lucky enough to have a Swoop in a factory-sealed box, though, you could be looking at upwards of $1,400

2. Savage He-Man

$300

Sometime in the late 1990s, when '80s nostalgia started to become a thing, a strange He-Man figure began showing up on the collector’s market. While the original He-Man figure had blond hair, brown furry loincloth and boots, and a reddish-orange belt, this new He-Man figure had dark brown hair and loincloth, and a black belt and boots. To make matters even more confusing, the figure was sometimes found wearing black and white armor, and sporting a variety of rust-colored weapons and shields.     

This odd variation on the original 1982 toy was thought to have been part of a mail-in offer that coincided with Masters of the Universe trading cards found in specially marked packages of Wonder Bread. Others said the figure originated as a mail-in offer from Mattel if kids sent in three proofs of purchase from He-Man toys. However, some conspiracy-minded collectors believed it was part of a line of Conan the Barbarian movie tie-in toys that had to be halted when Mattel saw a preview and grew concerned over the "Sex and Violence ..., decapitation, slashing from groin to throat." But Conan's owners never mentioned a doll that looked like this in the trademark infringement lawsuit, and the possible connection with Conan gave the character the nickname “Savage He-Man” after the Savage Sword of Conan comic book. Some also called him simply “Wonder Bread He-Man.” Unfortunately, no one from Mattel or Wonder Bread has ever been able to confirm just where this mysterious action figure comes from. 

Regardless of how he came to be, Savage He-Man is considered one of the rarest toys in the entire Masters of the Universe line, simply because no one knows how many were produced. This has led collectors to pay upwards of $300 for the figure on eBay. However, because of his popularity, counterfeits are a common occurrence, so buyers must beware. 

As a winking homage to the mysterious action figure, in 2010, Mattel released "Wun-Dar: The Savage He-Man" as part of their Masters of the Universe Classics line. Along with the Conan-esque color scheme and the self-referential name, there are three circles on the back of his armor that resemble the red, yellow, and blue dots of the classic Wonder Bread logo, plus the figure comes with a plastic loaf of bread in case he works up an appetite fighting evil. 

3. Thunder Wings Lion-O

$500 - $2783

After three years on the market, by 1987, ThunderCats had run its course in the toy aisle. Kids had moved on, mostly to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and so the manufacturer, LJN Toys, began winding down production. In a last ditch effort to keep the remaining fans happy, they produced a few more new toys, including Thunder Wings Lion-O, an action figure of the ThunderCats’ leader with a pair of detachable, mechanical wings.

Because the toyline was ending, very few Thunder Wings Lion-O figures were produced, meaning there are only so many to go around for ThunderCats collectors today. A loose Thunder Wings in good condition can easily bring $500 on eBay, but if you’re lucky enough to have one “Mint On Card,” you’re looking at quite a bit more—like nearly $2,800

4. Star Wars Micro Collection Millennium Falcon

$60 - $300

The Star Wars Micro Collection, introduced in 1982, was a bit of a departure for toymaker Kenner. Instead of the plastic 3.75” action figures that set the toy world on fire, the Micro Collection featured diecast figures not much bigger than 1.25” tall with no articulation at all, more in the mold of classic toy soldiers. The scale of the figures allowed Kenner to make some plastic playsets that would have been too cost prohibitive to make in the regular 3.75” size, but still offered plenty of detail, moving parts, and could be interconnected to create impressive dioramas of iconic scenes from the first two films in the trilogy. 

The line wasn’t particularly popular with kids—mainly because the figures didn’t have any articulation, and the diecast paint jobs would chip off too easily—so the series only lasted for one year. In all, nine playsets were released, as well as four vehicles, one of which was a Millennium Falcon that was small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. Han Solo’s famous ship was only available at Sears when the Micro Collection launched, and the toyline was cancelled before it could be released to more retail outlets, making the Falcon the rarest toy in the series. 

Obviously its rarity makes the Falcon worth quite a bit more than the other playsets and vehicles. A loose ship, without any of the figures, can fetch up to $62 on eBay if it’s in good shape. But if you’re lucky enough to have all six figures and the box, you’re looking at anywhere between $250 and $300.  

5. Jem and the Holograms Merchandise

$135 - $355

When I searched for Jem and the Holograms on eBay, I expected to find quite a few Mint In Box dolls that would sell for a pretty penny. However, I was surprised to see that they’re generally available for less than $100, which isn’t out of reach for most collectors. The last thing I expected to find was that Jem-branded merchandise was selling for prices that can only be described as truly, truly outrageous (sorry, I couldn’t resist). 

For example, to complete your ultimate Jem collection, you have to have the Pop-A-Point pencils from Spindex. To jog your memory of fifth grade, Pop-A-Point pencils were plastic sleeves that contained 11 small pencil lead cartridges inside. When the top lead wore down, you simply popped it out and put it in the other side, pushing a new lead cartridge out so you could finish your geography homework. Kids were obviously so excited to use their new school supplies that they ripped them open without a thought for future resale value, so a rare sealed package of two Jem Pop-A-Point pencils recently sold on eBay for $135. To put that into perspective, two sealed packages of Return of the Jedi Pop-A-Point pencils with 22 extra lead cartridges didn’t even sell for $8

As if that wasn’t crazy enough, a pair of glittery Jem socks in kid’s size 2-3, still in the package from 1987, garnered an astonishing $355. I guess it just goes to show that accessories really can make the outfit. 

6. The Real Ghostbusters Proton Pack

$85 - $500

Everybody loved Ghostbusters in 1984. Seriously—everybody. So when the animated series The Real Ghostbusters debuted in September 1986, it was an instant hit with kids, as were the tie-in action figures and playsets. One of the most popular toys in the Real Ghostbusters line came in 1988, when kids could strap on their own pretend ghost-zapping Proton Pack and bust themselves some phantasmagorical bad guys. 

Although the Proton Pack was a big seller, there were a lot of parts to keep track of, including small pieces like a Ghostbusters armband, a ghost-finding PKE meter, and a yellow foam tube that stood in for the stream that shouldn’t be crossed. By the time a kid’s ghostbusting days were over, chances are some of those pieces were long gone. So if you find a complete set on eBay, it’s not unusual to pay anywhere between $85 and $115 to pick it up. Of course if you’re lucky enough to come across a factory-sealed box, expect to shell out over $500 to add it to your collection.

7. Bubble Power She-Ra

$150 - $505

Princess Adora, the twin sister of Prince Adam/He-Man, could also transform into an evil-battling superhero, She-Ra: Princess of Power. First introduced in 1985 as a spin-off of the Masters of the Universe line, She-Ra was billed as a “fashion action figure.” This was a sort of “Barbie meets He-Man” concept, in that there was an emphasis on the mostly-female cast’s hair, makeup, and outfits, but it had some good old fashioned sword and sorcery adventure in the mix, too.  

Unfortunately, the line didn’t have the longevity of He-Man, sputtering out by 1987, when only a handful of new toys were released in the final wave of products. The last version of the She-Ra action figure was an odd design known as “Bubble Power She-Ra.”  

The figure came with a new pink outfit, a redesigned sword and shield, and a “bubble wand”—a pink gun that had a rotating wheel that dipped into soap solution to blast the bad guys with bubbles. The figure has since become a rarity, not only because production was limited due to the toy line’s drop in popularity, but because a bottle of bubbles came inside the package. Most kids who got the toy would instantly open it and pour some of the bubble mix into the bubble wand, so a sealed package with the bottle intact is a truly unusual find. If you happen to have a Bubble Power She-Ra—complete with the bubbles—expect a bidding war to start, ending somewhere around $500. But even if you don’t have the bubbles anymore, just having the figure and some of the accessories can still bring about $150

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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10 Facts About Real Genius On Its 35th Anniversary

Val Kilmer stars in Martha Coolidge's Real Genius (1985).
Val Kilmer stars in Martha Coolidge's Real Genius (1985).
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

In an era where nerd is a nickname given by and to people who have pretty much any passing interest in popular culture, it’s hard to imagine the way old-school nerds—people with serious and socially-debilitating obsessions—were once ostracized. Computers, progressive rock, and role-playing games (among a handful of other 1970s- early '80s developments) created a path from which far too many of the lonely, awkward, and conventionally undateable would never return. But in the 1980s, movies transformed these oddballs into underdogs and antiheroes, pitting them against attractive, moneyed, successful adversaries for the fate of handsome boys and pretty girls, cushy jobs, and first-place trophies.

The 1985 film Real Genius ranked first among equals from that decade for its stellar cast, sensitive direction, and genuine nerd bona fides. Perhaps fittingly, it sometimes feels overshadowed, and even forgotten, next to broader, bawdier (and certainly now, more problematic) films from the era like Revenge of the Nerds and Weird Science. But director Martha Coolidge delivered a classic slobs-versus-snobs adventure that manages to view the academically gifted and socially maladjusted with a greater degree of understanding and compassion while still delivering plenty of good-natured humor.

As the movie commemorates its 35th anniversary, we're looking back at the little details and painstaking efforts that make it such an enduring portrait not just of ‘80s comedy, but of nerdom itself.

1. Producer Brian Grazer wanted Valley Girl director Martha Coolidge to direct Real Genius. She wasn’t sure she wanted to.

Following the commercial success of 1984’s Revenge of the Nerds, there was an influx of bawdy scripts that played upon the same idea, and Real Genius was one of them. In 2011, Coolidge told Kickin’ It Old School that the original script for Real Genius "had a lot of penis and scatological jokes," and she wasn't interested in directing a raunchy Nerds knock-off. So producer Brian Grazer enlisted PJ Torokvei (SCTV) and writing partners Babaloo Mandel and Lowell Ganz (Splash, City Slickers) to refine the original screenplay, and then gave Coolidge herself an opportunity to polish it before production started. “Brian's original goal, and mine, was to make a film that focused on nerds as heroes," Coolidge said. "It was ahead of its time."

2. Martha Coolidge’s priority was getting the science in Real Genius right—or at least as right as possible.

In the film, ambitious professor Jerry Hathaway (William Atherton) recruits high-achieving students at the fictional Pacific Technical University (inspired by Caltech) to design and build a laser capable of hitting a human-sized target from space. Coolidge researched the subject thoroughly, working with academic, scientific, and military technicians to ensure that as many of the script and story's elements were correct. Moreover, she ensured that the dialogue would hold up to some scrutiny, even if building a laser of the film’s dimensions wasn’t realistic (and still isn’t today).

3. One element of Real Genius that Martha Coolidge didn’t base on real events turned out to be truer than expected.

From the beginning, the idea that students were actively being exploited by their teacher to develop government technology was always fictional. But Coolidge learned that art and life share more in common than she knew at the time. “I have had so many letters since I made Real Genius from people who said, 'Yes, I was involved in a program and I didn’t realize I was developing weapons,'" she told Uproxx in 2015. “So it was a good guess and turned out to be quite accurate.”

4. Val Kilmer walked into his Real Genius audition already in character—and it nearly cost him the role.

After playing the lead in Top Secret!, Val Kilmer was firmly on Hollywood’s radar. But when he met Grazer at his audition for Real Genius, Kilmer decided to have some fun at the expense of the guy who would decide whether or not he’d get the part. "The character wasn't polite," Kilmer recalled to Entertainment Weekly in 1995. "So when I shook Grazer's hand and he said, 'Hi, I'm the producer,' I said, 'I'm sorry. You look like you're 12 years old. I like to work with men.'"

5. The filmmakers briefly considered using an actual “real genius” to star in Real Genius.

Among the performers considered to play Mitch, the wunderkind student who sets the movie’s story in motion, was a true genius who graduated college at 14 and was starting law school. Late in the casting process, they found their Mitch in Gabriel Jarrett, who becomes the third generation of overachievers (after Kilmer’s Chris and Jon Gries’s Lazlo Hollyfeld) whose talent Hathaway uses to further his own professional goals.

6. Real Genius's female lead inadvertently created a legacy for her character that would continue in animated form.

Michelle Meyrink, Gabriel Jarret, Val Kilmer, and Mark Kamiyama in Real Genius (1985).Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Michelle Meyrink was a staple of a number of ‘80s comedies, including Revenge of the Nerds. Playing Jordan in Real Genius, she claims to “never sleep” and offers a delightful portrait of high-functioning attention-deficit disorder with a chipper, erratic personality. Disney’s Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers co-creator Tad Stones has confirmed that her character went on to inspire the character of Gadget Hackwrench.

7. A Real Genius subplot, where a computer programmer is gaming a Frito-Lay contest, was based on real events.

In the film, Jon Gries (Napoleon Dynamite) plays Lazlo Hollyfeld, a reclusive genius from before Chris and Mitch’s time who lives in a bunker beneath their dorm creating entries to a contest with no restrictions where he eventually wins more than 30 percent of the prizes. In 1969, students from Caltech tried a similar tactic with Frito-Lay to game the odds. But in 1975, three computer programmers used an IBM to generate 1.2 million entries in a contest for McDonald’s, where they received 20 percent of the prizes (and a lot of complaints from customers) for their effort.

8. One of Real Genius's cast members went on to write another tribute to nerds a decade later.

Dean Devlin, who co-wrote Stargate and Independence Day with Roland Emmerich, plays Milton, another student at Pacific Tech who experiences a memorable meltdown in the rush up to finals.

9. The popcorn gag that ends Real Genius isn’t really possible, but they used real popcorn to simulate it.

At the end of the film, Chris and Mitch build a giant Jiffy Pop pack that the laser unleashes after they redirect its targeting system. The resulting popcorn fills Professor Hathaway’s house as an act of revenge. MythBusters took pains to recreate this gag in a number of ways, but quickly discovered that it wouldn’t work; even at scale, the popcorn just burns in the heat of a laser.

To pull off the scene in the film, Coolidge said that the production had people popping corn for six weeks of filming in order to get enough for the finale. After that, they had to build a house that they could manipulate with hydraulics so that the popcorn would “explode” out of every doorway and window.

10. Real Genius was the first movie to be promoted on the internet.

A week before Real Genius opened, promoters set up a press conference at a computer store in Westwood, California. Coolidge and members of the cast appeared to field questions from press from across the country—connected via CompuServe. Though the experience was evidently marred by technical problems (this was the mid-1980s, after all), the event marked the debut of what became the online roundtable junket.