I Found a Bunch of Carded 90s GI Joes at an Estate Sale

I went to an estate sale today in my hometown. A friend let me know that two of her friends were putting the sale on and that there were plenty of toys. Plenty of carded 1990s GI Joes, to be exact. That’s why I drove 3.5 hours, rented a little Vrbo, braved the hot sun, and spent a bunch of money.

Here’s the story behind the estate sale and what I found.

The sale was organized and put on by Mothball Estate Sales and this was their first big sale. Samantha and Melissa, the owners of Mothball Estate Sales, are collectors and vintage enthusiasts themselves. Sam also co-hosts an excellent, hilarious, and insightful podcast called The Mothball Prophecies that interviews collectors from all walks of life. 

They’re the perfect people to put on an estate sale like this because they’re knowledgeable and they’re passionate. They care deeply about these items and these memories. 

Here’s their writeup about this estate sale:

We can’t wait to introduce you to the jaw dropping collections of Eleanor*. Eleanor worked at a cherished small town general store for most of her adult life, where she eventually retired after decades of loyal service. Eleanor raised her three sons in the home and saved many of their keepsakes, clothes, and games, including an abundance of now vintage toys from the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Eleanor was a Jane-of-all-trades: She dabbled in Tupperware, glassware, Avon, gardening, crafting, and interior decorating. She especially loved Holdiday decor. We’re talkin’: Christmas, Easter, Halloween, and Thanksgiving. Always encouraging creativity among her children, her shop was used as a space to create hand-hewn log beds, complete with a spindle lathe. Eleanor’s home covers all corners of collecting and we can’t wait to share this home’s stories with you.

The general store in question was a “discount department store” called King’s, which I frequented as a kid. When my friend told me The Mothball Prophecies Gals were putting on an estate sale that included stock from King’s, I knew I had to make the drive.

As many of you know, my mom passed away last month. I just got her house cleaned out (which is a huge and crazy story for another time), so I was happily back home in Boise and not really expecting to return to my hometown again. But then my friend messaged me about this sale– so back to the hometown I went. 

I brought my friend Jason with me because he’s an expert on yard sales and estate sales. He also saw some board games he wanted in the pre-sale photos that were posted on Facebook, so he was happy to go with me.

Jason told me we should show up an hour early, and I’m glad we did. Thankfully, there was some shade in the driveway (mostly due to a thoughtfully placed tarp) and the hour went by pretty quickly. I played Wordscapes on my phone and chatted with some ladies who showed up before us. 

Finally, about five minutes before the sale was about to start, some people working the sale dumped the 90s Joes out on a card table outside. I was about fifth in line, so I scooted over there at 4pm on the dot and said “I will take literally every one of them.”

Then I got the chance to really talk to Sam and Melissa. They were lovely. They were eager to share stories about Eleanor, about King’s, and about their passion for vintage goods. I’d heard so much about them through our mutual friend (and I’ve been listening to The Mothball Prophecies for a while now), but it was great to finally chat with them. Melissa and I have crossed paths a few times before, but I’d never said much to her before today. 

So after I scooped up all the carded Joes, I looked in “the toy room.” This was a huge estate sale encompassing both floors of the house, the back yard, and the garage. There were thousands of cool things all over the home. I didn’t snap many photos, but I did find some bagged 82-83 Joes and accessories in the toy room. My friend found some stuff he wanted, including a carded Beast Wars Powerpinch.

There were so many amazing things in that toy room– I also found a Battle Force 2000 Vector Jet and a Lego Castle baseplate. There were so many more things I could have combed through, but I was already spending enough money.

Melissa got my stuff rang up and bagged. Here’s what it looked like. 

When I got back to the Vrbo, I laid it all out on the table. Here’s the leftover GI Joe stock from King’s Discount Department Store in my hometown.

I remember seeing some of these exact toys on the shelves at King’s when I was a kid. It blows my mind that I now own the actual figures I spent hours looking at when I was a child who only had enough allowance money for one figure. This time, I didn’t have to choose. 

I love that the King’s price tags are still on the cards, as well.

Most of these toys will be opened and reviewed. I’m looking forward to it. There are some figures here I don’t have at all, and the rest will be used to complete my existing figures. The duplicates will be sold or given away. I have a few giveaway plans, as well, and there are a couple pieces I want to go to friends.

Before we close out, here’s what I found in those baggies of 82-83 Joes and accessories.

I’ve always wanted an 83 Stalker, so it was worth it for that alone.

I’m so grateful for Samantha and Melissa. They put on a perfect, beautifully staged estate sale that drew in a ton of people. Everyone was so friendly and helpful and the vibes were immaculate. 

It’s kind of ironic that I returned to my hometown so soon after basically realizing I never had a reason to go back again, but I’m glad I did. It wasn’t because I got a “screaming deal”– Mothball Estate Sales does all of their research and they know exactly what they have. All of the prices I paid were perfectly reasonable and I was happy to pay them. But this wasn’t about getting a deal on stuff I’m going to resale later. In fact, I won’t be selling most of it. 

This was about reconnecting to a beloved store from my childhood and sharing that with all of you, through this silly website about army dolls and tiger robots. 

That little general store and its toy department will now live on forever. And I can’t wait for us to dig into more of those memories together. 

9 thoughts on “I Found a Bunch of Carded 90s GI Joes at an Estate Sale

  1. What an awesome haul and even cooler story! That’s so neat to know you’re about to crack into the same figures you used to look at. Incredible closure that doesn’t come around very often. Man, what it must be like from the toy’s perspective.

    Congrats on getting nearly the whole 1994 battle corp in one go!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sam Smith

    SO JEALOUS! What a fun haul. And a fun story. That 94 Flint is decent. The 94 Stalker is cool; you got the one without yellow highlights. Bonus! 94 Shipwreck is weirdly popular. He has deranged proprtions: A super fat torso and super skinny legs. My guess: Ole Shippy ate Polly. And all of Polly’s extended family.

    83 Stalker and 83 Major Bludd are great figures. I vote you write now-and-later posts comparing both figures to their 94 counterparts. (Also, now-and-later is an awesome candy from the 90s that fits your website’s color aesthetic.)

    P.S. ofc both Zaps have broken thumbs. 🤣 LOL

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dracula

    The idea of obtaining a bunch of dead-stock toys from a place you used to browse as a kid is so special that I can’t even put it into words. From a toy collector sense, it’s literally the stuff our dreams our made of – I mean I have had many an actual dream where things like this happen. Looking forward to the reviews that come out of this!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thats insane, bug so awesome you were able to snag some MOC Joes that you remember directly from your childhood. It’s funny how price stickers used to be shunned by collectors for ruining the cardbacks or boxes, but now (if that store has since closed) they are revered as ties to memories.

    I traded for a Cobra Bugg last year and it came with the original box. On it was a sticker for Caldor and that hit me the same way as I would often go there with my Mom and sister. As I got this near my house, odds are it came from that same store.

    I’ve been to a couple of estate sales over the years and I’m glad that the people running this one were respectful of the person who passed away. Because that’s what estate sales should be, people of like mind to the deceased purchasing their cherished possessions to give them a new lease on life.

    At the last sale I attended back in 2016, the woman was in her 90’s when she passed and her two daughters ran it. I remember walking into the kitchen and it looked like my parents kitchen from the mid 1980’s: she even had the old Rubbermaid kitchen garbage can that I remembered from my youth. I bought her entire cutlery drawer because she had these forks, butter knives, spoons with wooden handles from maybe the 60’s or 70’s and they struck alot of Nostalgia cords with me. One of the daughters made a point to tell me that her mother never put them in the dishwasher and always hand washed them, so I felt happy to continue their upkeep with my family.

    One bad experience at an estate sale was one I didn’t even attend. A local collectibles store went and found a Cobra H.I.S.S. II brand new and still sealed in the box. I know this because she told me about it, while having it in her store marked up to $90. I still remember her practically drooling over it like Gohlem from Lord of the Rings saying “It’s so MINTY….” which was odd to me as she didn’t collect G.I. Joe, and didn’t really know anything about vintage toys (why open a store then?? 🤔). She then told me, because I was a semi regular in her store, “I have it at $90 but for you I’ll sell it for $75.” Which at the time was still pricey for it or for me. I said I’d think it over as I had to check out my finances first.

    Later that night I text her “Hey! OK so I thought it over and I will take it for $75.”.

    Her reply?

    “So my husband says we can get more money for it if we sell it online so I’m not selling it to you. Sorry.”

    And I was crushed. First she tells me she finds it for $20 bucks then tells me she’s selling it for $90, then ‘cuts me a deal’ for it only to tell me to stick it. Then, a month or so later she tells me she sold it to someone in China who paid $250 for it and the way she acted you’d have thought she just won the lottery. I was like “Is this woman a sadist or just 100% socially awkward? WHY tell me these things??”

    Needless to say I don’t shop in her store anymore as I’ve been taken by her when selling her stuff way to many times and don’t want to give her business.

    I do have a bit of karma for her though. Through a friend who stops in there from time to time, he heard them crying over the fact that they let go a Star Wars Blue Snaggletooth figure for $7 bucks. How? Because the idiots didn’t look through what they had in their Star Wars bin and a collector saw it, grabbed it, and they rang it up 100% unaware that they were letting a $300+ figure go for a mere $7 bucks. I guess that evens out that $250 they got for that H.I.S.S. II then?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A-Man

    I’m almost jealous. No estate sale I’ve been to has been that good, the closet was one with vintage Star Wars that I had to wait 45 minutes to enter (and that was pre-Covid) and was lucky there was anything left. On the other hand I’d never open any of those figures, I would be able to force myself to sell them and they go in a Box/Crate O’ Hate.

    I’m also too lazy, I won’t drive an hour for a good sale these days (because it means getting up early and being the first there). But then it was your old home town, and that’s a bit different than driving hours to some place unfamiliar.

    Anyway, congrats on great finds.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Sergio Sánchez

    It´s a Great experience. Recall your child memories in hard moments when our beloveds go it´s no an accident.

    The carded Joes make me recall when I was in the University. Great moments too. And that green stikers¡¡¡¡¡¡

    Congratulations from México

    Liked by 1 person

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