Gillian and Bill Thomas-Martin keep connected with their childhoods by collecting toys and memorabilia

Gillian and Bill Thomas-Martin keep connected with their childhoods by collecting toys and memorabilia

Big kids, with big allowances

Vintage toys and childhood connections drive collector subculture on display at weekend Ultimate Toy and Hobby Show at Pearkes

If the beach-ball sized Lego Death Star doesn’t catch your eye, the illuminated statue of Lex Luthor towering over a fallen Superman just might.

The home of Bill and Gillian Thomas-Martin is a tidy shrine and ever-expanding museum of toys and pop-culture collectables from bygone eras.

Justice League action figures, Hot Wheels cars in original packaging, Stars Wars models and boxy 1960s robots line shelves in about every space in their home. Aquaman has his own place of honour in the downstairs washroom.

“It’s probably easier talking about what we don’t collect,” says Bill, a 36-year-old native of Colwood.

The pair are part of the subculture of adults who enjoy keeping one foot firmly rooted in their childhood with corny and vintage toys that keep value through pure kitsch appeal.

Bill lists off obscure 1980s action figures populating their substantive collection – MASK (Mobile Armored Strike Kommand), COPS (Central Organization of Police Specialists), and Smurfs – but it’s He-Man that’s captured his heart.

He-Man, his buddies and enemies were the toys shared among his six siblings, but his mom sold the collection at a garage sale about a decade ago.

“It was a bit of a last-minute decision. She wanted them out of the house. I had to buy it all back,” Bill says. “My collection is actually bigger now than when we were kids.”

Hundreds of He-Man and Masters of the Universe figures from 1983 onward now populate an entire bookshelf. Bill admits that He-Man isn’t a genre highly coveted by collectors now. “I like to root for the underdog, I like things people consider lame. I’m building an army to prove they’re not lame,” he jokes.

The same goes for collecting Aquaman, the great underachiever of the Justice League. “People think he’s lame,” Gillian says. “He doesn’t have a blockbuster movie, but he does talk to fish.”

Gillian, 31, started collecting comics and action figures in her teens as a way to bond and relate to her older brother. She is slowly building a collection of vintage robots – think offspring of Robby the Robot – but its the original A-Team B.A. Baracus van, still in its red packaging, that has the wow factor.

“I saw the A-Team van at the first toy fair we went to. I had to have it and it was totally worth it,” she says. “We spent a lot of money that day.

“I find it interesting to look at the pieces and being surrounded by them,” Gillian adds. “It’s like being little kids with bigger allowances. We’re not being irresponsible, we own our own house. Our disposable income just goes to toys.”

Bill and Gillian are gearing up for the Ultimate Toy and Hobby Show at Pearkes arena, the twice-annual gathering of comic, curio and vintage toy collectors organized by Cherry Bomb Toys.

The duo sells Bill’s creation, the handmade Cube Dudes – superheroes and iconic characters reimagined as cubed “dudes” made of construction paper. He’s made 250 over the past few years and has cultivated a small following.

“I started scrapbooking, (Bill) started creating 3-D people and it went from there,” Gillian says. “He thinks outside the box, no pun intended.”

The Ultimate Toy and Hobby Show is Sunday, Oct. 6, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Pearkes arena. See




Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

To each their own pipe. The new sewer main during staging in James Bay before it was installed in 2018, to convey waste to the McLoughlin Point treatment facility. (Black Press Media file photo)
‘End in sight,’ for Victoria’s annual sewage overflows

Wastewater projects underway should end sewage overflows

Community members Ed Hutchinson, left, Dave Noren, and Pat Graham, president of The Ladies Guild, stand before the new book house outside the Church of the Advent in Colwood. The tiny library was built as a result of the annual Church of the Advent book sale being cancelled due to COVID-19. (Submitted/Joan Hoffman)
Colwood church builds little library

Church of Advent annual book sale cancelled due to health restrictions

(Courtesy Very Good Butchers)
Very Good Butchers brand adds cheese to its platter

The Cultured Nut products to be rebranded under Very Good Cheese banner

Ron Sivorot, business director at Kennametal’s Langford site, the Greater Victoria facility that made a component being used on NASA’s Perseverance rover on Mars. (Jake Romphf, Black Press Media)
NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover using piece made at Kennametal’s Langford site

The Greater Victoria plant’s tooth blank is helping the rover’s drill collect rock cores

A provincially appointed consultant has recommended a change to the funding formula for the VicPD that will save Esquimalt a significant amount of money. (Black Press Media file photo)
Esquimalt to save a bundle on policing costs under new formula

Provincial consultant studied funding model, resource deployment for VicPD

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

Kevin Haughton is the founder/technologist of Courtenay-based Clearflo Solutions. Scott Stanfield photo
Islander aims Clearflo clean drinking water system at Canada’s remote communities

Entrepreneur $300,000 mobile system can produce 50,000 litres of water in a day, via solar energy

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

A crashed helicopter is seen near Mt. Gardner on Bowen Island on Friday March 5, 2021. Two people were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition after the crash. (Irene Paulus/contributed)
2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

The Netflix logo on an iPhone. B.C. delayed imposing sales tax on digital services and sweetened carbonated beverages as part of its response to COVID-19. Those taxes take effect April 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matt Rourke
B.C. applies 7% sales tax on streaming, vaping, sweet drinks April 1

Measures from 2020 budget were delayed due to COVID-19

A lawyer wears a face mask and gloves to curb the spread of COVID-19 while waiting to enter B.C. Supreme Court, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. British Columbia’s highest court has sided with the land owner in a dispute over public access to public land. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. high court finds in favour of large landowner in fight over access to pair of lakes

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club launched legal action after the cattle company blocked road and trail access

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Friday, March 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau holds firm on premiers’ health-care funding demands, COVID-19 aid comes first

Premiers argue that the current amount doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent

Most Read