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Nostalgia in Bulk: The Oriental Trading Company Story

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By , dealnews Media Editor

When you were a kid, were you more concerned with quality or quantity? If you were like most American children, then you'd opt for more over better. Every time. It is this very habit that The Oriental Trading Company has been exploiting for years as the company still offers page after page of toys and doodads in gross quantities.

Even if the catalog is technically not intended for toy shopping, how could it not be read as one by a kid? It plays upon a child's wild desire to have lots and lots of things — often 144 of them! And even before we could do long division, we knew that if we got 144 of something, whatever OTC charged was bound to be a bargain, right? Why weren't our parents letting us buy this stuff?!

Join us now as we take a trip down Nostalgia Lane and peruse Oriental Trading Company's catalog once again. Hang up your grownup practical pants and re-install your childlike wonder, because we're about to get excited about cheap toys sold in huge lots!



Shiny Gold Coins

Price: $5
Quantity: 144
Price per-piece: $0.03

Think of how much fun it would have been (or would be) to throw all 144 of these plastic coins up into the air like you're some kind of Scrooge McDuck, unconcerned with where your money landed. (Having to then pick them all up would have been a drag, yes, but it'd have been worth it for that moment of pseudo-rich-duck-ness.) Bonus points if you also would have cackled like a mad person and shouted "I'M RICH! I'M RICH!" until your parents got concerned. The best part is that these faux-coins hurt a lot less raining down on your head than 144 real coins do. Trust us.



Glow in the Dark Nature Assortment

Price: $6
Quantity: 144
Price per-piece: $0.04

Since we were always afraid and grossed out by nature, we were on the fence about including this one in our roundup. However, we understand that there were other types of children (dirty, diseased children) who liked to "play outside" and didn't mind bugs crawling all over them and into their mouths while they were asleep. For those adventurous, no-fear kids this assortment would have been awesome. You could have lived out the dream of being covered in over a hundred creepy-crawlers! Even better? Once your parents insisted that you turn out the light and go to bed, you'd still have been able to enjoy them, as they emit an eerie glow. And as you drifted off to sleep, visions of being chased by giant bugs would have danced through your freaky, bug-loving head.



Deluxe Pencil Assortment

Price: $15
Quantity: 100
Price per-piece: $0.15

Yes, we know that this assortment of writing styli is technically not living up to the hype of being 144 pieces, but it's also not living up to the hype of being fun either! What it does live up to is being the only thing in the entire catalog that you'd have had any chance of convincing your parents to buy for you.

Plus, we had to include one item in this roundup that appealed to those nebbishy kids who really would prefer studying or journaling over having any type of real fun at all. (Though, bookish kids would probably disagree about the "pencils are not fun" part. After all, lookit: They're covered in things like race cars and crazy patterns! One even says, "retro a go-go"! That's crazy!)



Plastic Army Men Assortment

Price: $8
Quantity: 144
Price per-piece: $0.06

With 144 of these, we could have waged some epic battles. In fact, as we write this we're looking at our desk and trying to determine how our other desk-living action figures would stave off an assault by this many army guys. They couldn't. It's impossible. It'd be just like Omaha Beach ... but, you know, with stupid toys and not for, like, the freedom of the world or anything that mattered.

One thing we hesitate to point out: We're hoping that the description is correct when it says, "assortment may vary" because otherwise — and we're no historians here — based on the helmets and hats, it looks like all your army men are going to be Nazis.



Plastic Jumping Frogs

Price: $4
Quantity: 144
Price per-piece: $0.03

What good is having 144 plastic jumping frogs? It's not like you have 144 fingers, so you wouldn't have been able to make them all jump at once anyway, right? And you certainly didn't have 144 friends if you were spending a Saturday afternoon thumbing through an Oriental Trading Company catalog. So what good are all these? Look, this article isn't about practicality. We thought we made that clear. Kids don't think practically, so stop applying your grown-up reservations to our childlike wishes. Just think about jumping 144 frogs off the side of the table, and watching them form a huge, multi-colored, herpetological pile. Then the dog runs in and swallows 12 of them before you can stop her. Best to not tell your folks about that.



Mini Marbleized Poppers

Price: $7
Quantity: 144
Price per-piece: $0.05

For those that have never experienced the fun of this toy, let us explain it: It's a rubber dome that you invert and then place down on a table or surface. The rubber naturally wants to return to its original shape (right-side in; rather than inside out) and when it does, it does so quickly, causing it to jump into the air. And this isn't just a "several inches" deal; the good ones — the strong ones — will launch themselves across the room. It's only been minutes since we found out about this bulk item and we've already come up with a game I call "How Many Can I Set Up To Pop Before The First One Goes Off?" Alternately titled, "Mom, The Principal Wants To See You ... Again."



Halloween Pencil Top Erasers

Price: $5.50
Quantity: 144
Price per-piece: $0.04

Another one for the pencil kids, except these things are cool. They turn an ordinary pencil into an impromptu puppet. Heck, even without pencils they make ersatz action figures, and since they're Halloween-themed you can come up with some great scenarios. Like ... Dracula goes to school riding on a pencil or a witch goes to school ... riding on a pencil. Look, our imagination ran dry in grade school, so give us a break. We're sure as a kid we would have had a million uses for 144 of these erasers (and not one of them would have been "correcting a mistake" because, after all you don't want to destroy the Frankenstein's monster's head just because you misspelled mispeled)!



Colorful Goldfish

Price: $8
Quantity: 144
Price per-piece: $0.06

Had you convinced your old man to buy these for you back when you were in school, you could have been the cool kid that for some reason had a real fish tank full to the brim with plastic goldfish. Sounds like a prop a set designer in an '80s movie would have included in the cool kid's room, right?In later years, you could have used it to hide things that you didn't want your parents to see. You'd have slowly slid from being the cool kid to being the bad kid. Juvie Hall. Arrests. It's a tragic story, really, but, oh! Those few years where you were the one with the fish tank full of plastic goldfish! So avant-garde. So subversive! You wonder now if that kid would have gone to prom with you? Probably not; you were buying 100-packs of pencils.



Stretchy Mini Flying Frogs & Lizards

Price: $8
Quantity: 144
Price per-piece: $0.06

These are described by Oriental Trading Company as "a favorite among young biologists." We had no idea that biologists threw creatures across the room. Man, modern biology sounds a lot cooler than it was back when we were in school. Back then, it was all "mitochondria" and "stamen" ... *snore*. Though we're not sure if these have real educational value, they likely will teach kids the limits of their parents' patience as they fire lizard after lizard across the room and into mom's highball.



Spider Rings

Price: $5.50
Quantity: 144
Price per-piece: $0.04

A true classic, these have been a staple of Halloween parties since roughly 1603 [citation needed]. Ever since then, kids have always wanted more. One for each finger should be enough, but it won't be. More spiders are always in demand, even by the arachnophobic kids with asthma. Ironic then, that most kids would get so freaked out when they wake up to find a spider-egg has hatched in their bedroom and their ceiling is covered with tiny, crawling nightmares. Ironic.

These itsy bitsy spider rings are also available in Colorful and Glow in the Dark styles for the same price. If your allowance cap is just $4, you can get 144 similar spiders, sans ring, and then glue them to your fingers.



Dino-Mite Dinosaur Assortment

Price: $12
Quantity: 96
Price per-piece: $0.13

Even though there's not 144 of them, our only complaint about this set is that if had we bought it back when we were whippersnappers, it would have no doubt also included a handful of Brontosauruses. But that's scientific progress for you, ruining our childhoods! Now Pluto's not a planet?! Sigh!

At least the dinosaurs that are included in this set have not yet heard the bad news that they didn't stand upright and were covered in feathers. Pre-Bob-Bakker dinos rep-rah-zent!


Shipping for all items starts at $6.99, but that's a pittance to pay! Plus, think of this: if worst comes to worst and you regret the purchase, you can sell almost all of these things to neighborhood kids for a quarter each and still make a profit! But, honestly, you won't regret these purchases ... at least not for the first hour or so.

What about you, readers? Which bulk toys did you always want from OTC, but dad never let you have? Tell us in the comments below.

Photo credits: Oriental Trading Company



Jeff Somogyi is the dealnews Media Editor. He thought this would be a fun piece, but it wound up costing him $84. Learn more about his gross spending on Google+, Twitter, or his blog.

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Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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