Life in Plastic: A Toy Collector’s Dream Business
Expensive ’90s Pokemon cards fill up the glass counters while a mix of newly released and Redline Club Hot Wheel cars flood one side of the wall, newly released Lego Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter sets cover up the top shelves, and the hottest Star Wars and Marvel figures sit on display in their original package that money can buy. This isn’t just a toy lover’s personal collection. It’s a 14-year-old toy shop run by people who love toy collecting.
Toy collecting enthusiasts Derrick Nguyen and Noah Epp run their indoor toy vending business, ThePokiMark, at Frank and Son Collectible Show, a 65,000 warehouse in the City of Industry that’s open to the public on Wednesdays and weekends. If you crave that nostalgic feeling of having the toy lines you once grew up with or are anyone who is a toy lover, this is the place for you. Becoming a toy collector means being part of a bigger community. According to MagnifyMoney, a personal finance site for comparing products, “61% of Americans are self-proclaimed collectors.” Of the people who collect things, 12% collect trading cards and another 12% collect dolls–so toy collecting is a hot business.
Growing up in Tustin, in Orange County, Derrick wondered why his older cousins would buy duplicates of toys and keep one in the box and one out of the box. After finding out that keeping a toy in the box would hold its value, his parents started buying him duplicates too. Learning to value toys at the young age of 10, he began collecting toys like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Star Wars figurines, and Hotwheels cars, just to name a few.
Noah always considered himself a collector. Growing up in Placentia and Yorba Linda, he began his collecting addiction at the age of 7 or 8. If he collects one thing, he has to have a set of it. For example, at the front of their shop sit Noah’s Mountain Dew bottles that he began collecting last year, with flavors like Red Code Cherry, Spark Raspberry Lemonade, Mystery Flavor, Major Melon, and Original. Noah has also collected comics, shoes, cereal boxes, and watches. Growing up, whether it was buying a Lego set with his dad or collecting rocks in his backyard, his items would have a narrative behind them. “Usually the things I collect have a story to tell,” Noah says.
Noah likes to believe that toy collecting will always stay relevant due to the memories kids will make when playing with their toys. “Toy collecting is always going to be there. I feel like toys are ingrained as a kid and some of your best memories are when you’re a kid. So it’s something that you’ll collect throughout your life and something you’ll always remember.”
Through Derrick’s passion for collecting, he began selling collectibles with an old friend at a comic shop they opened years ago, kicking off what he and Noah do today. Previously operating out of Fullerton, they eventually relocated to Frank and Son for better infrastructure like space, lighting, AC, and somewhat better parking. Today, they find themselves dedicating up to 30 hours a week to this hobby. And even though it’s a business at the end of the day, that’s not why they do it. “This is more of a hobby thing for us and not a business,” Derrick says.
They strive in making their toy shop unique, with a variety of items like toys, video games, board games, consoles, and even pins. “We have a little bit of everything,” Noah says. Derrick says, “Everything we sell is hype stuff, things that are trending.” The trendy stuff like Marvel legends, a line of 6-inch action figures; Funko Pops, bobblehead figurines, and Star Wars black series, another line of 6-inch action figures. Even toys they’ve been selling for eight, 10, 12 plus years became a trend again, like Pokemon trading cards.
With ThePokiMart having a customer age demographic that spans from kids to seniors, toys will always have a special place in people’s hearts. Noah says, “I think collectibles will always be around. They won’t go anywhere, kids will always love toys.”