From Russia with more than just love

Opinion Dec 06, 2017 by Bob Vrbanac Waterloo Chronicle

With Christmas gift giving season upon us, I’ve been exploring some alternative ways to fulfill the Christmas wish list.

It should come as no surprise to the people who know me that I’m a bit of a toy aficionado. I’ve worked diligently to collect all the toys I didn’t get as a kid, and even a few more I didn’t even know I wanted.

The great thing about having three sons is that I could also answer truthfully if toys were for my boys. But if I happened to collect and keep some, and make sure they remained pristine in the box along the way, that would be OK too.

My youngest son Ethan has taken an interest in something of the things I’ve collected and is looking to start a collection of his own. He likes something called True Heroes, fashioned after the original 3.75-inch G.I. Joe toys, that have come up with even more creative playsets and vehicles.

So I thought I would get him a few things from the original G.I. Joe line to bolster his forces. After finding a few hidden treasures at the local Value Village thrift stores, I went to the ultimate thrift store online — Ebay — to see if I couldn’t find a few more things.

The first thing I found out is that Ebay sure doesn’t have thrift store prices. These are adult collectors paying adult prices to recapture some of their youth with pieces they lost or never had in the first place. Now that they’re older they’re finally going to get that G.I. Joe Whale hovercraft no matter the bidding. Boys and their toys.

But one item intrigued me. The listing was for an Oktober Guard armored personal carrier.

Any fan of the original comics or cartoons would know the Oktober Guard was the Soviet era equivalent to the specialist found in G.I. Joe. So any vehicle that could be traced back to that lineage would be cool to own.

The own problem was the seller was from Russia itself, and with all the hacking and conspiracies floating out there about how the Ruskies influenced the U.S. election, I wasn’t sure of ordering something  from Saint Petersburg.

Another alarm bell went off when I saw he was only charging $1.25  for shipping, and there would be no import charges. The shipment would also go through Hong Kong, and take a circuitous route to get here in about three weeks.

Since it was so reasonably priced, I thought I’d give it a shot. If anything I’d have a story to tell. Despite the seller Vladimir’s personal entreaties to email him, I decided to keep the exchange purely business.

When the package arrived I could see why shipping was so cheap. He wrapped it in bubble wrap and put it in the Russian equivalent of a Purloator PuroPak.

Of course, one of the wheels of the vehicle was broken off. With a no returns policy, I thought I was out of luck until Vladimir graciously said he would replace it.

Apparently, Ebay feedback is that important. Or maybe it’s because I told him it was for my kid.

It just goes to show you maybe the musician Sting was right — the Russians love their children too.


From Russia with more than just love

Opinion Dec 06, 2017 by Bob Vrbanac Waterloo Chronicle

With Christmas gift giving season upon us, I’ve been exploring some alternative ways to fulfill the Christmas wish list.

It should come as no surprise to the people who know me that I’m a bit of a toy aficionado. I’ve worked diligently to collect all the toys I didn’t get as a kid, and even a few more I didn’t even know I wanted.

The great thing about having three sons is that I could also answer truthfully if toys were for my boys. But if I happened to collect and keep some, and make sure they remained pristine in the box along the way, that would be OK too.

My youngest son Ethan has taken an interest in something of the things I’ve collected and is looking to start a collection of his own. He likes something called True Heroes, fashioned after the original 3.75-inch G.I. Joe toys, that have come up with even more creative playsets and vehicles.

So I thought I would get him a few things from the original G.I. Joe line to bolster his forces. After finding a few hidden treasures at the local Value Village thrift stores, I went to the ultimate thrift store online — Ebay — to see if I couldn’t find a few more things.

The first thing I found out is that Ebay sure doesn’t have thrift store prices. These are adult collectors paying adult prices to recapture some of their youth with pieces they lost or never had in the first place. Now that they’re older they’re finally going to get that G.I. Joe Whale hovercraft no matter the bidding. Boys and their toys.

But one item intrigued me. The listing was for an Oktober Guard armored personal carrier.

Any fan of the original comics or cartoons would know the Oktober Guard was the Soviet era equivalent to the specialist found in G.I. Joe. So any vehicle that could be traced back to that lineage would be cool to own.

The own problem was the seller was from Russia itself, and with all the hacking and conspiracies floating out there about how the Ruskies influenced the U.S. election, I wasn’t sure of ordering something  from Saint Petersburg.

Another alarm bell went off when I saw he was only charging $1.25  for shipping, and there would be no import charges. The shipment would also go through Hong Kong, and take a circuitous route to get here in about three weeks.

Since it was so reasonably priced, I thought I’d give it a shot. If anything I’d have a story to tell. Despite the seller Vladimir’s personal entreaties to email him, I decided to keep the exchange purely business.

When the package arrived I could see why shipping was so cheap. He wrapped it in bubble wrap and put it in the Russian equivalent of a Purloator PuroPak.

Of course, one of the wheels of the vehicle was broken off. With a no returns policy, I thought I was out of luck until Vladimir graciously said he would replace it.

Apparently, Ebay feedback is that important. Or maybe it’s because I told him it was for my kid.

It just goes to show you maybe the musician Sting was right — the Russians love their children too.


From Russia with more than just love

Opinion Dec 06, 2017 by Bob Vrbanac Waterloo Chronicle

With Christmas gift giving season upon us, I’ve been exploring some alternative ways to fulfill the Christmas wish list.

It should come as no surprise to the people who know me that I’m a bit of a toy aficionado. I’ve worked diligently to collect all the toys I didn’t get as a kid, and even a few more I didn’t even know I wanted.

The great thing about having three sons is that I could also answer truthfully if toys were for my boys. But if I happened to collect and keep some, and make sure they remained pristine in the box along the way, that would be OK too.

My youngest son Ethan has taken an interest in something of the things I’ve collected and is looking to start a collection of his own. He likes something called True Heroes, fashioned after the original 3.75-inch G.I. Joe toys, that have come up with even more creative playsets and vehicles.

So I thought I would get him a few things from the original G.I. Joe line to bolster his forces. After finding a few hidden treasures at the local Value Village thrift stores, I went to the ultimate thrift store online — Ebay — to see if I couldn’t find a few more things.

The first thing I found out is that Ebay sure doesn’t have thrift store prices. These are adult collectors paying adult prices to recapture some of their youth with pieces they lost or never had in the first place. Now that they’re older they’re finally going to get that G.I. Joe Whale hovercraft no matter the bidding. Boys and their toys.

But one item intrigued me. The listing was for an Oktober Guard armored personal carrier.

Any fan of the original comics or cartoons would know the Oktober Guard was the Soviet era equivalent to the specialist found in G.I. Joe. So any vehicle that could be traced back to that lineage would be cool to own.

The own problem was the seller was from Russia itself, and with all the hacking and conspiracies floating out there about how the Ruskies influenced the U.S. election, I wasn’t sure of ordering something  from Saint Petersburg.

Another alarm bell went off when I saw he was only charging $1.25  for shipping, and there would be no import charges. The shipment would also go through Hong Kong, and take a circuitous route to get here in about three weeks.

Since it was so reasonably priced, I thought I’d give it a shot. If anything I’d have a story to tell. Despite the seller Vladimir’s personal entreaties to email him, I decided to keep the exchange purely business.

When the package arrived I could see why shipping was so cheap. He wrapped it in bubble wrap and put it in the Russian equivalent of a Purloator PuroPak.

Of course, one of the wheels of the vehicle was broken off. With a no returns policy, I thought I was out of luck until Vladimir graciously said he would replace it.

Apparently, Ebay feedback is that important. Or maybe it’s because I told him it was for my kid.

It just goes to show you maybe the musician Sting was right — the Russians love their children too.