…fortunately, the monsters, dolls and race cars of Toy Shack are mostly too small to terrorize citizens of Las Vegas.
Toy Shack, an addition to Downtown Las Vegas’ Neonopolis that is holding its grand opening on Oct. 1, is home to wonderful toys from all eras.
“For some people, picking up a $1 Hot Wheels car is equivalent to going out for a drink or gambling,” said Toy Shack owner Johnny Jimenez. “Different people have different ways of getting away from it all.”
And for those people, there are so many ways to “get away from it all” at Toy Shack.
It doesn’t matter if you grew up with die-cast cars, Barbies, “Star Wars,” “Transformers,” “Strawberry Shortcake” or “Power Rangers,” because the second you enter Toy Shack, you’ll be sent back to those happy childhood years.
“We get all sorts of walks of life here in Downtown, which is nice. [At the old location], we’d get a lot of people coming in with a specific collectible in mind, but here we get all sorts of people,” he said.
“Now, we get everyone. Especially because it’s not just expensive stuff, we sell the big collectible stuff, but we also sell new toys. We’re here for collectors just the same as we are for kids and kids at heart.”
One aspect that makes a trip to Toy Shack a much cooler experience than going to a chain toy store or big-box retailer is Jimenez’s understanding of a toy’s history. Jimenez is happy to take his time and chat with customers, perhaps sharing Matchbox’s elementary school show-and-tell origins, or how “Transformers” went from a few obscure Japanese toy lines to an international animated sensation.
“There’s a lot of neat history to toys,” he said.
Viewers of the History Channel’s “Pawn Stars” might even recognize Jimenez as the program’s featured toy expert.
“‘Pawn Stars’ has revived the whole collectibles market. People see toys on there and they remember ‘Wow, I have one in the attic,’” Jimenez said. “We get so many people coming in because of the show.”
Jimenez expertise comes as no surprise: He has been collecting and selling toys his whole life.
“My dad was an ex-Marine who got a job as a garbage man, so he’d bring home boxes of toys from the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s – a lot of these were rare tin and cast-iron toys. Over time I’d take some of them to antique shows and get some money to buy clothes or just save up for my Nintendo,” he said.
Of course, he held on to the stuff he liked.
“Basically,” he adds, “my room back then looked like this store looks right now.”
Some of the most interesting toy finds and appraisals include a small scale white Camaro, of which only 17 were made, and a set of tin German toys dating to World War II.
“What probably happened was a soldier found these and sent them back home to his kids after the war,” he said. “They were probably hard to come by in Europe back then, you had to be pretty well off to even have these in the first place. These things could be in a museum.”
A good toy can be around for a long time.
“Toys are built to last,” Jimenez said. “The weapons [and accessories] on the other hand… [laughs].” Jimenez joked that the sound of toy accessories being sucked up by the vacuum cleaner as a kid would prompt him to later rescue those parts from the vacuum bag, to his siblings’ dismay.
Fortunately, the toys for sale at Toy Shack are safe from being vacuumed up any time soon.