Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Storing LPS

Photo of stored FairyWinkles sets from the 80s Toy Ark.

When I decided to pack all of my LPS sets into boxes and store them, I tried to be as mindful as possible: I separated each set into a plastic baggie to keep pieces together and stored some sets in my playcases.

Still, when I opened up those boxes of LPS sets years later, I was disappointed to see that damage still occurred - rubbery pets, like the Mini Surprise Pets, apparently didn't have paint that would withstand the test of time very well...any plastic surface that they had been touching in storage had a bit of tacky paint on it from the pets, who ended up having splotchy marks on them from the paint damage.  Water leaked out of the ponds in my Sparkling Pond Pets sets, and anything that contained batteries - like the Pond Pets, the X-Ray machine for the Care Center, etc. - had to be cleaned thoroughly because the old batteries had leaked.

(The sad truth is that LPS sets, like most mass-produced toys, were made on the cheap.  Cheap paint, cheap plastic, cheap glue.  It doesn't hold up well).

Besides all the damage, I discovered that some pieces were still mixed up, despite all of my efforts to keep accessories together!

I'm fortunate to be able to keep my LPS in cabinets now, but a lot of collectors need to keep their collections stored.  What's the best way to store LPS sets in order to minimize damage and make sure that pieces don't get misplaced?

I have a few thoughts...

1)  Remove all batteries!

2)  Dust all of your sets and ensure they're as clean as possible.  If you use water to spot-clean them, make sure they're completely dry before storing.

3)  Keep sets with leaking potential, like the Sparkling Pond Pets bases, in separate waterproof plastic baggies, even apart from other accessories.  Leaking is practically inevitable with those things.

4)  Wrap any rubbery-plastic pets or accessories (the babies from the Mommy & Babies sets, etc.) in acid-free tissue paper.  If you're gentle with each set, the hard plastic pieces shouldn't rub paint off on each other - those rubbery pieces are the ones to worry about most.

5)  Put each set in an individual plastic bag or an individual storage compartment.

      a)  Go one step further...inventory your sets as you package them!  You could either photograph each set and place it in the bag as well, or you could write/type a list of what pieces you currently have in that set.  If the set is incomplete, that can really help you to see at a glance what you're missing without having to take everything out of the bag.  It will also help you to double-check your accessories as you package everything up.

Photo from the 80s Toy Ark: FairyWinkles collector AngelBear took a photo of each set and included it in the plastic storage bag, along with a label with the set's name.
Photo by Saradavo - Sara stores each set in a plastic compartment in a larger plastic container and has a text map with the set names.

6)  Store the individually-packaged sets in boxes/bins or tote bags.

What would you add to this list?

Saturday, April 12, 2014

LPS: a collector-built community

One aspect of LPS collecting makes the hobby simultaneously exciting and frustrating: these toys were released before the age of the internet really took hold, back when that familiar (& terrible) dial-up modem sound filled homes, and AOL was the norm. ;)

Since the internet was still so novel in the mid-nineties and was absolutely sparse in comparison with today's web, there was no official LPS presence online - information about LPS was gleaned only from back-of-box pictures & information, pamphlets, and TV commercials.  The Paw Print Club, which I had hoped would provide some sort of link with the amazing folks behind LPS, proved to be short-lived and didn't provide much of any communication between collectors & Kenner.  We generally had no behind-the-scenes access to all of the exciting LPS stuff that was happening on an official level.  Toy Fairs, where upcoming toys are showcased, are big news in collecting communities these days - I had no idea they even existed when I was little!

Response from Kenner employee to LPS collector Shannon K.

Kids could write letters to Kenner the old-fashioned way, of course, and many received responses (like the letter above) - but because the responses were individualized and not broadcast, the information wouldn't be disseminated anyway.  A vast web of LPS fans existed all over the world in the nineties, but none of them had contact with each other.  

Without the internet being used to catalog LPS releases as they came out, provide online sales venues for new sets, or bring fans together, so much of LPS collecting back when we were kids was based on hearsay and was very much limited by region... for example, I had no idea that the farm animals in the Zoo Play With Me Pets assortment even existed until a friend returned from an out-of-state trip, triumphantly bringing home the calf and the lamb!  I was shocked (and admittedly jealous), since I hadn't even seen advertisements of them on packaging.

I recall seeing the 1995 Sparkling Ponies (the fillies) in a pamphlet as a kid and searching for them, but they never appeared in our town.  When I started collecting as an adult I was surprised by how little I knew about LPS - so many sets & so much merchandise had been released, but I hadn't seen many of the pieces!  With toys being released nowadays, they are almost always for sale online as well as in stores and are cataloged online as they are found.

My childhood LPS folder - I did my best to organize the collection!

So, without an official guide from Kenner, LPS collectors in the 1990s & early 2000s got creative and tried to organize the collection themselves.  I tried making my own hand-written checklists, but they were only based on incomplete pamphlet information and my own collection.  When I was in high school and had gotten a web site editor, I decided that I wanted to make an LPS web site (called the Country Garden, of course!), and you can also see my little hand-scribbled design for it in the folder above.  (I ended up not building the site until much later - 2010!)

When I was daydreaming about making an LPS ID site, I went in search of LPS information online and found Tabby's List of Littlest Pet Shop (I believe the site appeared in the early 2000s) - it was a goldmine!  Looking at it was bittersweet, though - there were so many sets I was missing or hadn't ever even heard of, and by that time, LPS had been discontinued.  Still, I printed out Tabby's list and used it as a way of inventorying my own collection.  A lot of Tabby's information was based on prototype photographs in pamphlets, so some of the colors weren't quite right, or variations were missing (I wouldn't realize this until much later) - but, overall, it was an amazing compilation of info & photos, and the LPS community today has Tabby to thank for getting us started.  Her site gave us the skeleton of information needed to map the whole LPS collection, which, as you know, is quite an intricate web!  Tabby also had a message board to facilitate sales & trades.

In the late 90s/early 2000s, the MLPSC also appeared - it was a club for My Little Pony & Littlest Pet Shop, run by collector Jill R.  I must have not come across this club until after it had closed, since that's the only explanation as to why I wasn't a member...but it was a great start at uniting collectors.

I didn't do anything with LPS during college, but in 2008, my love of these toys was rekindled, and I went in search of information online again.  This time, I found Zuse's fantastic site (oh my gosh - all sorts of variations I hadn't ever seen!!), which led me to Misty's Kenner LPS Forum.  I was a bit astounded to see a whole community of LPS collectors, and being a part of that forum has taught me so much about LPS.  I decided to try my hand at making my own reference site, which had been a long time coming, and it has really been a labor of love.

The sticking point, though, is that we still have no reliable way of getting "official" information about LPS - we have to make assumptions.  Collectors are fortunate to occasionally find former Kenner employees who can offer some perspective, but we ultimately have very little contact with them.  The Perky Playful Bunnies, for instance, are assumed to have been an Easter release that was exclusive to Target - but this is just based on what collectors can remember about when the set was released (I personally never saw it as a kid).  As I've continued to flesh out my LPS web site, I've done my best to use any "official" LPS information available to make corrections (groups of similar sets, like the Ready to Go Pets, for instance, were called "assortments" in Toy Fair catalogs, so that's the terminology I use).  Still, a great deal of information is based on assumptions - especially regarding international releases, which are especially mysterious.  (We only recently discovered that the "Italian bundle" was in fact released and not just a prototype, and we're constantly revising our understanding of international variations in the My Real Pets assortment!)

The LPS line was brought to life again in the early 2000s by Hasbro (who bought ought Kenner), but the toys had little resemblance to the ones of our childhood.  Collectors have tried to engage Hasbro in an effort to get information about LPS from them (what was the story with the Pony 'n Pet Stable?!), but we've all come back empty-handed.  It seems that they either don't have older records or aren't willing/able to share them.  Funnily enough, Hasbro's web site has some .pdf instruction files for G1 LPS toys posted!

In the case of a toy line like My Little Pony, the collector community is huge, and Hasbro regularly references earlier generations of the toys - the MLP Fair logo often has G1 ponies on it.  LPS, however, remains mysterious - perhaps our community is small enough that it hasn't caught the attention of folks in more official positions.  Whatever the case may be, we're left guessing for the time being, working to build our understanding of the collection on anecdotal evidence and on advertisements.

That's half the fun, though! ;)  Like I said, it's a bit frustrating at times, since it often seems that we're in the dark - but it's also a fun adventure & helps to unite our close-knit collecting community together.  Ultimately, LPS is a collector-built community - we've cataloged the information together, and I'm so proud of the effort that everyone has contributed!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Packages, hooray!!

I looooove getting packages in the mail!! Almost as much as I love the items inside the packages, hehe!! Today was great, I received a box that I had been anticipating for a long time and it's arrival was a bit unexpected, hooray! The item I was most excited for was the Twinkling Sledding Party. I have loved this set for a long time and I can remember going over to Sarafina's house and wanting to take it off the shelf to look at it. The colors are so beautiful and of course…the glitter. Wonderful. Absolutely stunning. And now I have one of my own! I am one lucky LPS collector :) It is missing the comb, which I hope to someday find either on the Kenner forum or on ebay. But for now, I will sit and stare lovingly at the adorable husky puppies and their fabulous igloo habitat.

Another set that came (complete!) was the Zoo Baby Bobcat. I was not very familiar with this set, but when I saw it for sale on Jeapos's site I instantly fell in love with it :) I was highly amused by the toy mouse that the set comes with, since it appears to be the same one from the Charming Kitties set, except that there's nothing to put the end into!! Oh, Kenner… I also snagged the blue food bucket for the Jungle Bunch set, which you can see at the edge of the picture.

Some other accessories that I acquired were the black and white checkered bed for the Collie as well as the blue bed and pink bow for the Poodle. So close to complete!!

And finally, I got a few starter pieces for the Fluffy Persian set. I usually find the fluffy tails to be a bit odd, something about the combination of plastic and fuzzy that strikes me as unusual, but this one is quite lovely. I think her tail seems fluffier than the other pets or something, and I absolutely love the action of her flickering tail!!! I hope to complete this set soon too :)

These wonderful finds, along with the other mixed lot that I received in the mail a couple days ago, made for a great LPS week for me! I was able to complete my '92 Playset with the arrival of the cardboard cut-out backing, as well as start a few other incomplete sets including the Itsy Bitsy Mice which is pictured above. I even managed to be surprised by the paper "litter" that was just loose in the box, so I added it to my Busy Hamsters set. I remember the litter as a kid and being annoyed with how easily it seemed to disappear after transporting sets to and from Sarafina's house, hehe!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Hungry Kitties-So Adorable!

Today I received a very exciting package-the Hungry Kitties with Eat-It-Up Food! This set is soooo cute, I absolutely love it! I'm a complete sucker for anything sparkly/glittery, and the fluffy tails make it that much more appealing as well :) I didn't have very many sets to begin with as a kid, and even fewer from the later years, so I have a lot of catching up to do. I have really been enjoying finding these little treasures over the past few months and building up my collection.

While I really like finding complete sets, it can also be fun to scour different websites looking for individual pieces, sort of like a treasure hunt of sorts :) I'm expecting a mixed lot next week that I found online, and while I know some of the pieces that it's coming with, the pictures were a little hazy for the most part, meaning that a lot of the items will be a surprise!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Royal Carriage Ponies Saga--Close to Complete!

A few days ago I had written on the Kenner LPS forum about my sad "mint" Royal Carriage Ponies mishap. I don't want to totally rehash the disappointment, other than to say that it was not mint and was missing a bunch of pieces. BUT! Today I received in the mail an eBay find that I immediately snatched up-the pink saddle blanket! I was also thrilled to find that the mini lot also came with the aqua carriage harness, since my box came with the magenta! So now I have a variant, yay! In case anyone is curious, the aqua harness appears to be the same as the one from the Royal Palace Ponies (a set that I could write a whole topic about since I find it very curious).

They both appear to be in very good condition which is always nice since you just never know with eBay… This means that I am soooo close to completing this much coveted set! I would also like to add how absolutely beautiful I find the ponies from the set to be. Their colors are simply stunning, and I find myself transported into a lovely medieval fantasy land every time I look at them.

Display dilemmas

I recently bought another cabinet for my LPS collection, since my sets were feeling awfully cramped.  It has been wonderful having some more room for the pets to stretch their legs (so to speak), but it has left me with that strange dilemma of modern life: too many options!!

I'm trying to decide how to display my sets, and I'm finding myself doing the same thing with my LPS collection that I do when we get a new piece of furniture: fretting about where things will go, as if moving them in the future or changing the arrangement isn't even possible.  I always want things perfect, now! - and as Voltaire said, perfection can often be the enemy of 'good'.  It's funny how even the little things in life - like my LPS sets - can teach volumes about patience.

I decided to stop wringing my hands about where to put everything (so much new space - three whole shelves!!), and I started setting up the sets and rearranging.  (The extra room even allowed me to release my SeaWorld sets from their cavernous box).  

Setting up the new cabinet!

My instinct was to group sets into little "environments" - I have a few shelves dedicated to my wintry pets, as you see in the photo above...there's ample room for a color variation of the Twinkling Sledding Party pond, if I ever manage to grab one, and I love having all of the snowy, icy sets near each other.  My ultimate plan is to decorate all of my shelves with backdrops and grounds that fit their themes, so I'll find some fluffy cotton snow to put underneath the igloos, etc.

The categorization-nut in me, though, is just a tad bit distressed about separating sets from others in their assortments - so I'm not sure how I feel about having the Twinkling Sledding Party so far away from the Water Garden Kitties, for instance.  As an adult, a big part of the way in which I get to "play" with LPS, since my childhood play was gone a long time ago, has been to categorize and organize the collection.

After setting things up, I decided to look back at my collection photos from childhood, and I was a bit surprised to see that a lot of the setting up of my collection that I've been doing echoes my childhood arrangement so closely - without having looked at those pictures for reference!  I know, it's not exactly shocking - but it was really lovely to find that I had sort of "invoked" a bit of my younger self when arranging these important pieces of my childhood.  

A bit of my childhood display...
In this picture of my childhood display, you can spot the Polar Pets & Twinkling Sledding Party hanging out together in their little winter wonderland.  I laughed a bit to see that my Country Fun Pets were sharing the stage with the Hop 'n Hide Bunnies and the Swimming Ducklings - I still keep those ducks and bunnies with my Country Fun Pets rather than with their respective assortments, because they always looked so at home with the swans & other country pets, and in my childhood LPS world of stories, they were always neighbors.  Without referencing my childhood photos, I recreated most of the displays.  

It's as if 11-year-old-Sarafina, with all of her LPS tales and world-building and youthful creativity, was peeping up to remind the 30-year-old-Sarafina - an adult who lost the ability to play a long time ago and gets caught up in categories and organization - that the important part of collecting is the nostalgia and the honoring of youthful play.  Just set them up, remember their stories, and enjoy!  Don't fret!  Setting up by assortments is great and I'm sure works for many - but this is where my instincts led me, so I followed.  And now I'm making a mountain out of a molehill. ;)

At any rate, I've found that this method of creating environments works for my set-ups, but everyone is different.  How do you display your collection?  

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

New Blog!

Hooray for the blog! And Sarafina for setting this up!!

Well, this is my first time blogging, so we'll see how this goes :) My LPS had a very similar beginning to Sarafina's in that I started collecting around 1992 when I got my very first sets at a birthday party. The Color Change Chameleon and Mommy and Baby Kitties were given to me by our mutual friend, Amanda. I remember how incredibly cute the sets were, and my love of LPS began immediately! My Grandma bought me quite of few sets later on when I would go visit her, including my beloved 1993 Playset! I took a break from collecting in junior high, and just recently rekindled my passion for these lovely critters (thank you Sarafina!).

I'm really excited to share my LPS experiences on this blog and will apologize in advance for my terrible grammar :) This will be a fun journey for both of us!