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Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Mighty Beanz

Every now and then I come across a toy that leads to a minor obsession. So it has been with Mighty Beanz.

Mighty Beanz are small collectible bean-shaped characters. Moulded in plastic, with a printed surface, they contain a ball bearing, so the bean rolls with an irregular flip-flop motion. I had something similar to Mighty Beanz when I was young. The beans I had as a boy were bigger, about the size of a Cadbury's Creme Egg, but worked on the same principle, and as I recall I had maybe four or five of them. I had a wooden race track with three sloped levels that I raced them down, and spent many happy hours doing so.

Here's a handful of Beanz to show you what they're like. The short one in the front is a Mega Bean, a supposedly "Ultra Rare" Bean, though if you buy Beanz in six-packs you always get one of these.

This is a storage case, Series 2. The storage pods are cleverly designed to hold a bean, normal or Mega, with a pop-lock motion, so they are easy to put in and out, and spin round in place to view the name and number on the back.

This is a flip track, with a couple of obstacles installed. Now, for under $20 at Toys R Us you can get the flip track with one obstacle, a storage case, and a dozen Beanz including one Mega Bean. You put a bean on the flip track, run it down to the end, and then flip it back to catch it again (all being well) in the wide part held in the palm of your hand. I like this, it develops hand-eye co-ordination, and makes an interesting klik-klak sound as the bean rolls. You can do other tricks with the flip Track too.

So far, so good. This is where the sane purchaser would call it a day. You've got a dozen different Beanz, enough to play several different games (there's a booklet included with some suggestions), and somewhere to store them. If all you wanted was one bean and a flip track, you could spend less than $10.

Unfortunately these are collectible Beanz, and there are more than a dozen different Beanz to collect. If you counted the sockets in the bean case you'd find it held 50 Beanz, but in fact there are 100 Beanz in Series 2 (currently on the shelves in Toys 'R' Us), another 100 in Series 1 (no longer available in the US through most bricks-and-mortar retailers), another 100 in series 3 (available online but I haven't seen them in the toyshops here yet), and in Australia where they originated, they've reached series 5. In fact I've learnt that these are merely the 2010 Beanz, and there were older series around 2002-2003. These older Beanz are very rare now, especially in mint condition.

There are also specials, supernumeraries to each series, so since the 2010 series 2 starts with Bean 117 (they each have their name and number on the back) I surmise that there are 16 specials in Series 1. The specials don't come in the regular 3, or 6, or 10 packs of Beanz, so you're going to have to find them by other means.
If you wanted to collect every different design of bean and special in every 2010 or later series, that'd be 500 Beanz and about 100 specials, plus the storage cases to hold them in. The beans are about 80c each new in packs if you search around, so if you never bought a double you'd still have to spend  around $480 on Beanz, and another $5-15 on each case (prices vary wildly online), so let's call it $600.

Uh oh, these guys aren't part of a regular series either. They are in Mighty Beanz Machinez packs. You get a vehicle and a Bean, and the Bean rolls over and over as you roll the vehicle along. At least here you know what vehicle and what Bean you will get. In the 3, 6 and 10 packs most of the Beanz are hidden, so you will soon start getting duplicates.

Hmm. Beanz Bodz. These are rubbery sheaths that you can pop a Bean into, and make it look like a viking, wizard, rock guitarist, and so on. The Bodz come with Specials too, so if you want the bean from a Bod, you have to buy the Bodz packs, one bean and Two Bodz (one hidden) to a pack.

You may recognise that the Bean on the right is Darth Vader from Star Wars, and that brings me to the next collection dilemma. In addition to the regular Beanz series, and the specials, and the Machinez (maybe 10-15 types so far at $7 a pop), and the Bodz (39 that I know of), there are also licensed Beanz for Star Wars (60 officially in the set but I have Beanz numbered up to 88 already), Star Wars - The Clone Wars (no idea how many), Marvel Superheroes (60 again, supposedly), D C Superheroes (54), and Disney Pixar Cars (54).

So where does it end? Could an individual child collect all the Mighty Beanz? Probably not, unless they had very indugent parents. If you try to buy every Bean in a series new in the shops (and btw I'm not sure that is actually possible), to get the 100th bean you have a 99/100 chance of getting a duplicate, so statistically you'd have to buy 100 Beanz to get that last one, making it very expensive.

As kids, the playground swap might be the way to go, but that presupposes that you have enough friends to swap with, and that they have the bean you want and are willing to trade. As an adult collector that's not possible, so I have to resort to eBay.

On eBay I was able to obtain the entire 2010 Series 1 (with just one missing Bean) for $80, because a father/son combination had managed to get them all, and then the boy's interest waned. I'm now in the process of trying to fill Series 2 and 3, mostly from one seller, who offers Beanz at around $1.25 or so each, but up to $10 for the rarer Mega Beanz. At present, even on eBay, not every Bean I need is listed, but I have high hopes that I'll do it, and it'll work out a lot cheaoper than trying to find the Beanz in the shops.

For me I think it'll end there, for now. I'll have 300 individual designs, plus a lot of special (non-series) Beanz, plus all the ones I bought that were duplicates before I realized I could never complete my collections this way. I may even sell some of my excess Beanz on eBay if I can organise myself to do it.

So why does a 45 year old man want to collect Mighty Beanz? They're shiny and colorful, fun to play with, and one day my son will be old enough to play with them too - and that latter excuse will allow me to buy a lot of toys.

Philips DVD Player

When we moved into our house two years and two days ago, we needed to get two DVD players that were either multi-regional, or could be decoded to make them multi-regional.

DVDs, and Blu-Rays, are theoretically restricted to play in certain regions around the world. This is to prevent free market trade across international boundaries (at least, I can think of no other good reason). However it is possible to ignore these regions, which we needed to do since the bulk of our DVDs are from the UK in region 2, and US machines are programmed to recognise only region 1 disks.

The Philips DVD player Beth chose for the job was one we could "hack" to remove the region restrictions, and for a while it gave good service. However after about a year one of them stopped working, and we were bought a replacement. Then the replacement started playing up, and by experiment we found it was the HDMI connection that wasn't working. HDMI is the one-cable interface that gives the best quality sound and picture, and thus very desireable.

Beth took that player to her craft room, as it could still work with other cables, and we replaced it with a more expensive pre-deregionalized Pioneer DVD player.

Now the other Philips player has started acting up, blacking out the screen and pausing play intermittently. Sometimes it all comes back after a few seconds, sometimes the screen stays black but the souind comes back.  We think this may be due to dust on the laser, and that a good blast with canned air may fix the problem, so we're going to try that, but I have to say I'm disappointed in these machines, and won't be buying Philips anymore. I expect things to last more than a couple of years before going wrong, and I've never had so much trouble with a DVD player before,despite being used for years in a much older and dustier house.

Until we can try the canned air trick we've moved the Pioneer into the family room, and happily it's working fine.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Normal Service May be Resumed, Eventually

It's been a while since my last post, but I have a very good reason. On 23rd March at 12:27am my wife gave birth to our first child, a son, Edward Alexander. It's not been an easy road, we had a couple of miscarriages on the way, so this boy is very prescious to us. He's also my father's first grandson and only the second grandchild, so he carries the responsibility of passing our family name onto future generations.
As you can imagine my time has been, and will be, greatly occupied with the little lad. I have another blog for Edward news, so anyone who wants to is welcome to follow his Ed Ventures at:

Right now it's mostly daiper change and feeding news, but my wife and I hope to continue relating his progress for many years. The Ed Ventures blog is the prime news source for most of Ed's relatives to find out how he's doing, as his family is spread over the US from coast to coast, and the United Kingdom.

Meanwhile this blog is still live, and I'll be posting things here as they occur to me and I find the time, but I'll be keeping baby news on the Ed Ventures blog as much as I can.