Monday, October 21, 2013

Jurassic Park

Universal Pictures has announced the title and release date of the fourth movie in the Jurassic Park series. Jurassic World, filmed in 3D and directed by Colin Trevorrow (Safety Not Guaranteed), will stomp into theaters June 12, 2015.

 As with the first three films—Jurassic Park, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, and Jurassic Park IIIJurassic World will be based on characters and situations created by Michael Crichton, who kick-started the popular dinosaur franchise in 1990 with his best-selling novel, Jurassic Park, in which genetically created dinosaurs run amok in an amusement park.

The Jurassic World announcement coincides (roughly) with the 20th anniversary of the original Jurassic Park movie, which came out in June of 1993, a busy summer that also saw the debut of such films as The Firm, The Fugitive, Sleepless in Seattle, Cliffhanger, and Robin Hood: Men in Tights.

Backed by a $65 million marketing campaign, Jurassic Park earned more than $900 million worldwide, making it the highest grossing film of all time up until that point (Titanic passed it in 1997, followed by others). In April of this year, Jurassic Park was re-released in theaters in 3D to celebrate the film’s 20 years of enduring popularity, pushing it past the $1 billion mark and making it the 13th highest grossing film of all time.
The initial release of Jurassic Park, which wowed theater goers with its cutting edge special effects, was accompanied by a slew of merchandise (there were more than 100 licensees in all), much of which has skyrocketed in price. An unopened box of Topps trading cards will only set you back $15-$20 or so, same with an unopened paint-by-numbers kit and various small action figures, but the more desirable toys—the larger dinosaurs, vehicles, and playsets—are another story, as evidenced by the following recently completed eBay sales:

*Boxed “Demon” Carnotaurus with Attacking Jaws: $505 (plus $16.85)
*Mint-in-box Electronic Command Compound 339.99 (plus $85.85 shipping).
*Mint-in-box Jungle Explorer: $199 (plus $18.39 shipping).
*Mint-in-box Capture Copter: $139.99 (plus $38.24 shipping).
*Mint-in-box Stegosaurus with Whip-Action Spiked Tail: $110 (free shipping).

The Carnotaurus mentioned above has a Wal-Mart sticker price of $13.96, so anyone who had the foresight to buy an extra (or two) to keep in the package made a wise investment.

Brook Andrews, the administrator of the YouTube channel, JurassicCollectables, is a big fan of the premium Jurassic Park items, especially the Tyrannosaurus Rex with Electronic Roar & Stomping Sound, which was in the first series of toys and is worth around $250 unopened. “It was the icon of the Jurassic Park toy world,” he said. “It’s just a fantastic toy. It’s giant—it represented the big brown Rex in the film. This was the toy everyone wanted when Jurassic Park came out. This was the daddy of the Jurassic Park toys.”

Andrews likes the look of the toy sitting on his shelf, but also the play action. “If you squeeze his chest around his ribs, he opens his jaws and makes an electronic roaring sound,” he said. “And if you slam him down on the ground, he makes a big foot-stomping sound, just like he did in the film…just brilliant.”

There’s no doubting that Jurassic World will spawn a merchandising blitz of its own. Only time will tell exactly what those products will be and if they’ll go up in price over time.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Peter Criss of KISS

I wrote this article for AntiqueWeek last year, but I thought it would be a good fit for my blog, so here ya go:

Pop metal rockers KISS played their first gig at the Popcorn Club (renamed Coventry shortly thereafter) Jan. 30, 1973, in Queens, New York. To celebrate their 40th anniversary, the band has released a mammoth book called Monster, which is as tall as a guitar and costs a whopping $4,250. Limited to 1,000 handmade copies, the titanic tome is loaded with rare photos and is signed by all four current members: Gene“the Demon” Simmons, Paul “Starchild” Stanley, Tommy “Spaceman” Thayer, and Eric “Catman” Singer.
For those of you who haven’t followed KISS during the last couple of decades, original members Ace Frehley and Peter Criss left the band years ago, embarking on iffy solo careers, plus projects with other bands. Of the two, Criss has had a higher profile post-KISS (though Frehley has sold more records), thanks largely to a very public bout with breast cancer in 2008, which included several nationally televised interviews.

Born George Peter John Criscuola, Peter Criss was the drummer for KISS from 1972 to 1980. Gene, Paul, and Ace maintain that he was fired from the band while Peter claims in his autobiography, Makeup to Breakup: My Life In and Out of Kiss (2012, Scribner), that he quit. The book also chronicles Criss’s hedonistic lifestyle during the band’s heyday (and after), which included copious amounts of sex, drugs, car crashes, and trashed hotel rooms.
“Like all coke addicts, I could never have enough,” Criss wrote. “I would stay up for days on end. One time I stayed up for seven straight days.”

Criss, along with Frehley, rejoined KISS during the mid-1990s and early 2000s, engaging in a series of reunion tours (including an “Unplugged” performance on MTV), but Makeup to Breakup paints Simmons and Stanley in a decidedly negative light, saying they treated him as an employee, not a partner. The book also states that the KISS reunion paid Criss $40,000 per show while Frehley got $50,000, a painful blow to the drummer’s fragile ego.

Peter Criss’s biggest claim to fame is composing and writing KISS’s biggest hit single, “Beth” (1976), a ballad he devoted to his first wife, Lydia. Ironically, the song was also his greatest downfall as it inflated his ego and gave him an overstated impression of his importance to the band, and of his potential as a solo act.
Despite his tumultuous life during and after KISS (he resents Eric Singer wearing his Catman makeup), Criss remains a popular figure with KISS fans and is a valuable commodity in the field of pop culture collectibles. A recent search of completed eBay auctions turned up the following Peter Criss items:

Signed “Beth” stool from Love Gun tour with accompanying poster: $2,584.98
Lizard necklace worn by Criss during 1978 concert: $799.00
Tiger portable KISS record player signed by Criss: $599.99
Concert-used drumstick from 1977/78 tour: $500
Sideshow figure (#8 of 1,000) with autographed base: $405
1977 Pearl Drums promo poster: $389.00
1980 reel-to-reel tape cut from his second solo album: $372
1978 Halloween costume in box: $316.11
1977 Mego doll in box: $265
Factory sealed 1978 Aucoin T-shirt: $150
1978 Aucoin Pacifica belt buckle: $148.50
1978 Majic Market cup: $80


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Sega Master System

The following article on the Sega Master System, written by yours truly, recently appeared in AntiqueWeek. I've reprinted it here for your perusal:

Even the most casual of gamers has heard of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), the popular console that resurrected the video game industry in the U.S. from the ashes of The Great Video Game Crash of 1983 and introduced the country to such iconic Nintendo properties as Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda.

Far fewer people are familiar with the Sega Master System, the closest thing Nintendo had to a competitor at the time. Originally released in Japan in 1985 as the Sega Mark III, the Sega Master System hit U.S. shores in June of 1986, which was less than a year after the NES made its debut.

Unfortunately for Sega, Nintendo, despite the short lead time, had already signed exclusive deals with most of the major third-party game publishers, meaning the Master System missed out on many popular series, including Castlevania, Contra, and Mega Man. Titles such as those, along with Nintendo’s popular first-party games, helped propel Nintendo to an 83% share of the entire video game market by 1988.

Derek Slaton, author of the newly released The Sega Master System Encyclopedia, believes the Master System hardware is better than the NES console, but for one admittedly large component: the size of the game library.
“For a variety of reasons the NES had a ton of third party releases, which is why there are over 700 games for the NES,” he said. “The SMS, on the other hand, barely had any, which is why there are barely over a hundred games on the system (well, in the USA that is).”

Slaton, who says that “video games were pretty much my entire childhood,” has fond memories of hanging out with his best friend, “staying up to 3:00 a.m. drawing maps on graph paper so we could figure out how to get through the later dungeons in Phantasy Star,” a great role-playing game that is a cornerstone of the Master System library.

Slaton also enjoys Wonder Boy III:  The Dragons Trap, another terrific RPG. “The graphics and the music are amazing and still hold up very well today,” he said. “The gameplay is a nearly perfect mix of action, platforming, and Metroid-style exploration. The boss battles are epic, there are tons of secrets to uncover, and, most importantly, it's just a heck of a lot of fun to play.”

In the video game collectibles market, role-playing games tend to be among the more sought-after titles, but a near mint-in-box copy of Wonder Boy III:  The Dragons Trap will only set you back around $35 or so. A copy of Phantasy Star in similar condition is worth $60.

According to Slaton, the most valuable U.S. release for the Master System is James “Buster” Douglas Knockout Boxing, but only because it was released in small quantities, not because of the quality of the game. “There are only a handful of the games floating around, and even loose copies go for $150,” he said. “Which in my opinion is about $149.50 too much.”
In an article entitled “The Rarest and Most Valuable Sega Master System Games” published on, the top spot goes to the U.S. version of Sonic the Hedgehog (not to be confused with the common Sega Genesis cart), which is worth $500 complete in the box. However, the article warns that buyers should beware that the valuable U.S. release is hard to discern from the European game: “The only way to tell the European versions from their North American counterparts is that U.S. releases have a sticker barcode on the back (of the box).”

The rest of the list is as follows:

*James “Buster” Douglas Knockout Boxing: $150 – $400.
*Golden Axe Warrior: $65 – $200.
*Out Run (Blue Label) 1990 Re-Release: $50 – $100.
* Power Strike II: $60 – $85.
*Phantasy Star: $23 – $60.
* Out Run 3D: $40 – $80.
*Spiderman: $45 – $70.
* Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker: $30 – $50.
*Alex Kidd in Shinobi World: $30 – $50.