Kids love gross stuff. It’s as if they’re spiritually compelled to squeeze worms until their viscera pop out, or shove an entire, grimy hand into the center of a cake to extract its most delicious core of frosting flavor without bothering to wash off the wormguts first. Those kids might not be all wrong; the Surrealists wrote entire creative doctrines about the ‘base’, or the gross and/or lascivious aspects of objects and the human body, so there’s a real, psychological part of us all that embraces things like Garbage Pail Kids… even if we don’t consciously know it, or will ever admit it.
There’s a long, storied, humorous history of toys designed to be weird and gross. You can’t look at Playmates’ old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figures without remembering the canisters of retromutagen ooze that you could buy separately to slime them with, or even Pizzaface… the pizza chef with a pizza cutter leg and a second knob of a head perched atop his basic, equally ugly, head. Gross is awesome. So, this is why The Trash Pack are enjoying a great deal of collectible popularity right now.
Available in both playsets and blind-packaged sets of five, there are hundreds of tiny figures to collect, including different characters and color variations, and limited edition metallic and flocked (“moldy”) figures. They’re also rubberized, so they can endure a lot of stretching and squishing (or use as pencil toppers, which is what grown-up me does). The playsets, like the Atomic Drum at left, are actually designed to encourage these actions, squeezing these things under elevator shafts and through crushing wheels. Of course, I’m a monster maniac, so I’m all about the figures.
Each basic playset comes with two figures, but you can enhance your collection by buying five-packs, with one figure on display and the other four hidden in mini garbage pails… which are actually great action figure accessories unto themselves.
Roughly an inch tall, each one is a study in some potentially unappealing concept: three-eyed rats, sludge creatures, demon babies, dirty birds, angry food, and everyday household refuse gone gross. It’s really everything a five-year-old might dream up in his most fevered gross-out dreams where the whole junkyard comes to life and makes friends… as well as a few things they might have their mouths washed out for.
There are over 500 different figures to collect, but that doesn’t mean these are throwaway figures (no pun intended). Some Trashies sell for hundreds of dollars. Recently, a “Grott Rocket” figure sold for over $300 at auction, as only 1000 were made.
And that high price isn’t an anomaly. Trash Craft and Trash Cat, seemingly normal figures, also sold for around $300 each, so while these are designed for kids to have fun, there’s also a pretty serious collectors market, possibly fueled by nostalgic 30-year-olds like myself. Paying two weeks’ worth of food budget for an inch-tall rubber roadkill cat is a world I don’t think I’ll ever enter, but completely appreciate. If you’re a Squinkies collector, these are kind of like their counterpart from the wrong side of the tracks. These are the exact things that rubbery football players and superheroes would meet in a dark alley.
If you’re buying these directly from the store for your gross kid (and not at auction prices), it’s an inexpensive collection to start, with a huge amount of variety available. Of course, all of the usual collection lessons apply: learning to organize, learning to budget, and the thrill of the hunt. And that booger monsters are very, very real.