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A BLAST FROM THE PAST; one retro toy shop sells it all... From lightsabers to Action Men,.


WALKING into Rob Hadley's Aladdin's Cave of Chopper bikes, space hoppers, Barbies, Star War toys and talking Action Men brings back heady memories of Christmases celebrated in the 1970s.

The only thing missing is a sour-faced adult in the corner muttering the occasional: "If you fire that bloody ray gun again, I'm hiding the batteries."

Rob has turned back the clock to open a shop that deals only in toys from the 70s and 80s. And Retroworld, based at Birmingham's Custard Factory complex, is proving a magnet for punters of a certain age who see it as a wide-eyed walk down memory lane.

It's a labour of love for Rob, too. "This," said the Solihull businessman, pointing to the crammed shelves, "is my playground."

There is, however, one item missing from the vast collection, and that clearly irritates the 46-year-old.

"I could really do with a Slinky," he confides. A Slinky, for those too young to remember the joys of pre-computerised playtime, was a coiled spring that walked down stairs.

That was it... the ultimate one-trick pony. Yet the stunt so impressed our household in 1971 that we were close to bowing on hands and knees before it in an act of awestricken worship.

"People come in and get pleasure from the shop," says the father-of-five. "It's like they're in a little museum. They walk around in a dream. It's my job to try to get a few quid out of them while they're in that trance state."

But it's not just the middle-aged who get a buzz from yesteryear's birthday and Christmas presents. Amstrad and Atari computer games - crude forerunners of today's interactive gizmos - and vinyl records are suddenly very much in vogue.

"Suddenly it's cool to be retro," explains Rob. "Young people aged 16, 17 and 18 especially want the computer games. There's a cool edge to playing vinyl singles and LPs, and old Nintendo video games."

Rob, who also runs Entertainment World - a Sheldon-based games shop - likes nothing better than treating his clientele to a medley of past chart-toppers, belted out from a record player.

Long forgotten Human League hits are echoing through the shop when the Sunday Mercury calls in.

"I like to think I'm forward-thinking," he says, "but we all harp back. I get great pleasure when I put a vinyl record on because the kids look at the decks as if they've never seen anything like it before."

The array of Zippy puppets - a glove puppet that took centre stage with Bungle in children's show Rainbow - Jim'll Fix It bags, Power Rangers and lightsabers, rolled the years back so far I began to worry about acne.

Star Wars paraphernalia sells big time - and Rob's prize possession is a 1977 Millennium Falcon. That rarity will set you back pounds 200.

Raleigh Choppers, the 'must have' bicycles of the 1970s, are also back in fashion.

"If I could get my hands on a thousand Choppers I could retire," tuts Rob. "I'm selling one for pounds 250, but they can fetch anything from pounds 300 to pounds 500.

"The trick is to spot the trends. You have to antici pate the trends.

Collectable "Themes are always collectable, of course. James Bond, Dr Who, Star Wars - they go out of fashion, but they always come back. Stingray (one of Gerry An derson's earliest forays into puppetry) also does well."

Items on the shelves are garnered from specialist collectors and members of the public. They may be retro, but they're not vintage.

"In all honesty," explains Rob, "I'm only interested in the toys that interest me. The 'tin toy' days don't interest me. What we've got is an eclec tic mix."

It's an 'eclectic mix' from the golden era of toy manufacture.

"The toys you get nowadays, you don't have to interact with them because they do everything for you," he adds. "There was more interaction back then. A lot more imagination was required."

He's not wrong. I spent days reciting foul language to my talking Action Man, but could I get him to utter a single swear word?


TOY STORE-Y: Rob outside his Retroworld store at Birmingham's Custard Factory. and, right, some of his classic items for sale include Robby the Robot. TOYING WITH THE PAST: Rob Hadley sells a whole host of retro toys - but not vintage toys
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Jun 24, 2012
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