So I bought this on Mandarake. That's how all of my stories begin. It also works great as a pick-up line.
It was labeled as something like "small Chinese mouse figure / Gargamel," so no one bought it on the morning that it came up. Yeah, you people don't blindly buy mystery toys? What on earth is wrong with you?
After blowing a couple of hours on fruitless research, I finally turned to the ultimate resource: the board peoples. Making the mystery even more mysterious, an inspection of the figure in-hand revealed that the foot stamp was dated 2008- meaning it was fairly… new? After about 5 minutes, I had an answer, which people supplemented over the next few days.
This toy was created and distributed by Gargamel in 2008, but not in the way you might think. This little mouse was sent in a tiny plastic can with fake grass as a New Year’s card from Gargamel to their clients, customers and friends. The figure is actually supposed to represent the Rat from the Chinese zodiac (2008 is the Year of the Rat), which I guess seems sort of obvious when I look at the long rat tail sculpted around the base of its robe. Ugh, that reminds me of my rat. Rats. Always rats.
The vinyl is sort of an interesting feature of this toy. As explained in part by Baikin, there appears to be a slight amount of metal flake mixed into the vinyl. As a result, while it looks like a matte grey-blue, it is slightly sparkly up close, and is supposed to mimic the look of weathered bronze.
Material quality is really an overlooked element of the newer JP vinyl toys. With mass production toys, you basically have soft PVC versus hard ABS plastic (versus the cheap-y chew-toy vinyl, I suppose). Because the ‘mixing’ process is highly customizable in the typical small runs of new vinyl toys (as I understand it), these toys, in contrast, can have an almost unlimited variation in appearance, weight and feel. Gargamel typically uses a thick, glossy type of vinyl. EXOHEAD toys are extremely thin and delicate. And Amapro uses a hard plastic-like vinyl. And so on. They each have their own distinctive smell, as well, but toy-huffing is a story for another day…
Man, I can just go on and on about this crap. I’m a joy at parties. Really.
Anyway, the main reason why I felt this little piece of toy trivia warranted a blog post was the fact that this is actually a gift from Gargamel to an acquaintance. Obviously, said acquaintance then sold it to Mandarake (I’ve always wondered how this works- do collectors just come in with a box full of toys and dump them on the counter? Are they sold by weight?). While not an ethical dilemma, I’ve always felt that gift items should stay with the original recipient- or at least, if abandoned, should be re-gifted to the next person. While I’m not going to stand on my soapbox and pick out sinners from the crowd, I’ve seen a fair share of gift items resold or retraded- particularly with these low-run vinyl toys. The idea of someone turning a profit on something that was freely given to them seems, well, just wrong. And, frankly, greedy. I guess this is not an attitude that will win me a lot of support given the frequency with which this happens.
While I’m not quite content with the origin of this toy, my need to preserve the knowledge of its existence prevails over any sense of shame for the collector who resold this to Mandarake. And thus, I guess it fulfills a grander purpose for the moment… maybe until it becomes a gift again.