Recently on the weblog here, I mentioned my Uncle Henry, who was a Captain in the Navy. I also had an Uncle Aaron, and I was thinking
about Uncle Aaron last night. No matter where you went with Uncle Aaron, he'd point to some huge building or shopping mall or real estate development
and say, "When I came to California, I could have bought that whole property for two dollars an acre!" Even as a kid, I had the good sense not to
reply, "Boy, you were dumb" or even, "Why didn't you? Then you could have left me a ton of money when you die."
But I think we all have such regrets. Anyone who's been a comic fan for any length of time recalls buying some #1 issue years ago and
wondering why they didn't have the brains to buy fifty copies because that book is now worth a thousand times its cover price. We all remember things
we could have purchased at a tiny fraction of their current worth. I have countless such memories.
The other day on the web, I saw someone selling the four plastic Revell models of The Beatles that came out in 1964. Unassembled and in
good condition, the set goes for around $3500. Once upon a time and long ago, I had a huge supply of them for free and destroyed what would now be
more than $10,000 worth of them.
Around 1965, my father had a friend who worked for Revell. One day, the friend told him, "Hey, you got a son, right? Well, I have a
garage full of Revell models. Bring him by. He can help himself to as many as he wants." I was not particularly big on models. I had recently bought,
assembled and badly painted the Aurora Superman figure and my father thought I was interested in hobby kits, whereas I was just interested in
Superman. In any case, Dad didn't believe in ever turning down anything that was free so I soon found myself in his friend's garage staring at crates
of new, unopened Revell models...from 20 to 50 (I'm guessing) of everything the company had put out in the preceding decade. "Help yourself," the
friend said. "Take as many as you want. I'm going to throw them out one of these days. I need the space for my new bandsaw."
I had zero interest in all the battleships, airplanes and car models and only slightly more in the Beatles. But I selected two or three
of each of the Fab Four, took them home and assembled them as a joke. I stuck parts of Paul on the Ringo model and glued George's feet on John's
head. Near our house, there was a thrift shop that raised cash for a childrens' hospital, and I sometimes found old books and other treasures there.
One day, I spotted an unassembled Aurora Wolfman model there for a quarter, bought it and incorporated some of its pieces in my Beatles
(de)constructions. And of course, I painted my genetically-altered Liverpool Quartet in garish alien colors. I'd had to purchase a whole kit of
paints to make my Superman model and I had all the ugly non-Superman hues left over. Eventually, I got tired of my aberrant creations, so some
friends of mine and I had the pleasure of dropping an old bowling ball on them and watching the mutant Beatles shatter.
But the other model kits in that garage did not go to waste. That thrift shop gave me an idea and one day when I was in there, I asked
the proprietor, "If someone had a garage full of new, unwanted toys, would you send a truck to pick them up?" He said, "In a second," so I called my
father's Revell pal and told him. He was delighted at the prospect of getting rid of the models without having to haul them somewhere himself...and
within a week, the thrift shop was well-stocked with them. For a year or two, you could have bought the Beatles and a wide array of cars and planes
for a buck apiece there. Later, they added a "five for $4" option so if you purchased John, George, Paul and Ringo, you could take a U.S.S. Missouri
battleship or an old Dusenberg for nothing. I always thought it would be interesting to take five models like that, mix all the pieces together,
throw away the instructions and see what you could build.
Or maybe not. I recall having a lot of fun building and unbuilding my versions of the Beatles. Every time I see what those kits now
sell for, a little more of that fun slips away from me.