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Crave’s cool Toy Box

Stop. Close your eyes for a minute. Think back, way back, to when you were a kid. Now think about your favourite toy, or a toy that was important to you. Was it a toy that belonged to your older sibling? Or maybe one that was your dad’s from when he was a kid? Or was it that one in the window of the toy store you used to walk past on your way to school? The one you started the paper run for – you were almost shaking when you finally took it out of its box.

Now tell us you’re not smiling (we don’t believe you)!

We all have that one toy. The toy that transports us to some of the happiest moments of our lives. We took care of these toys. Or we tried to, until our imagination got carried away and we found ourselves ramming Conan the Conqueror into Barbie’s convertible Jeep – we had to save Snoopy, after all.

This is the reason Paulus Maringka began collecting toys. Not because he had savings from his paper run. Or because he needed to save Snoopy (who is safely resting on top of his kennel, we assure you). But for the memories. The nostalgia. The joy. The emotions and memories these toys evoke.

That’s also why we thought it would be pretty cool to have a room full of toys at Crave. A heck of a lot of smiles come out of that room. Let us explain.

Sharing the pre-loved

Paulus has been part of the Crave scene since the very beginning. He started coming to Crave 1.0 while he was doing his postgrad degree. He was also a senior lecturer, so he’d bring his own students to Crave. Paulus was here a lot. And we would talk to him a lot. And through talking we came to realise that Paulus was kinda New Zealand’s godfather of vintage toys.

Paulus had a lot of toys. He had a whole container of them. But he didn’t have a place to display them. When we built Crave 3.0, it just so happened we had a bit of extra space. You can see where this is going.

Our extra space became Toy Box. The intention was never really to sell the toys (although they do get sold – we’ll get onto that later). The intention was to have a room full of wonderful memories that would make people smile, imagine, and reminisce.

As Paulus explains, the idea was also to promote a more environmentally-friendly approach to our possessions. “We wanted to encourage the younger generation to be more sustainable, rather than a throwaway society,” he says. If kids could see how much these toys meant to the adults, maybe they’d see their own toys in a different light.


Sustainability rules

Paulus is hugely passionate about sustainability. You’ll probably know that we are, too. That’s why everything in the Toy Box room has been recycled. Toys are displayed on ski-shelves, drum-tables, cabinets, and crates. It’s sustainable, and it looks pretty cool.

The toys themselves come to Paulus in all sorts of conditions from all sorts of places. As a lecturer he travelled a lot for work, and he picked up toys from flea markets, second-hand shops, and antique stores around the world. He also has toys donated to him, some of which he uses for parts. Not only is Paulus a vintage-toy-aficionado but he’s a dab-hand at restoration, too.

Paulus changes the toys on display every few weeks. Each time, the toys are carefully chosen to appeal to all generations. Some of the toys are from the ‘80s and ‘90s – some go as far back as the 1930s. Different toys trigger memories in different people. “That’s the joy in collecting,” says Paulus. “When you think about the toys you used to have, you think about the people you love. You think about the happy times, like the Christmas when you were waiting to open that present. You think about the people who gave it to you. The memories are even better than the object itself – the toy is just a vehicle.”

That’s why (just quietly) Paulus has donated a few of these toys. “For me, putting the right toy in the right place is better than selling it,” he says. Just ask Kind’s Cathie Cottle. Her father – to his surprise – came across a train set at Toy Box that his father once owned. It was perfectly packaged in an unopened box – manual and all. He and his siblings used to play with this very set as kids. Cathie’s father’s father had sold it late in life – he had no idea just how important it was.

When Paulus heard this, he removed the train from the cabinet so it wouldn’t sell, and later he gifted it to Cathie’s father for his birthday. Perhaps it was dusty – when Cathie’s father opened it, he got something in his eye.

Supporting our neighbourhood

Although some of these toys are worth a pretty penny, Paulus doesn’t do it for the money.

When a toy from Toy Box sells, part of the money goes back to the community. There’s an auction each year in December, in the weeks leading up to the Christmas Street Party.

The auction is used to help in funding the street party, and closes on the day of the event. (This is unfortunate for Paulus and the Crave team – they’re always too busy to bid!)

So, if you’ve had your eye on the Millennium Falcon, the Astro Boy figurine, or the clapping-monkey, perhaps keep the other eye out for the auction this coming December. And, if you haven’t been into the Toy Box recently – or ever – next time you come to Crave, take a wee trip down memory lane. Make sure you take the kids, too.

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