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Poltergeist – A Geeky Cost-Analysis

Recently I was showing the 1982 film, Poltergeist, to some friends who marveled over the neat vintage stuff in the kid’s room. Of course, in 1982, this stuff was not vintage. A lot of these were toys I grew up with. At the time the movie was made, the set dressing called for toys, so they probably grabbed whatever was available and popular at that time. There is quite a lot of Star Wars toys in that room but with Speilberg and Lucas being friends, it would not have been hard to put that together.

So here is a look at some of the “vintage” props in Poltergeist. To see what it would cost to buy these items today, I went to the one place where people buy vintage stuff like this – EBAY, The World’s Yard Sale. Let’s suppose you wanted to make a perfect shot by shot remake of this film, how much could you imagine to spend on these exact props?

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259-13First there is this Captain America comic. It took some work, but this is Captain America #259. This issue was published July, 1981 which is when this film was in production. It makes sense that if they needed a quick prop, like a comic, they would have picked up this issue. Unfortunately, it’s not a very valuable issue. Also pictured in this shot are the posters on Carol Anne’s side of the room which I couldn’t find much information on, but they seem pretty generic.

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Here’s one of the better shots of Robbie’s side of the room. He had all the cooler stuff anyway. First we have the original Star Wars poster which costs a pretty penny – a typical listing on E-bay goes for about $70. Then we have those roller skates. Finding steel skates like that was difficult enough. The closest I found to that exact style was one horribly beaten up pair on e-bay going for $12. Then we have the L.A. Rams helmet on the shelf. They were the L.A. Rams at that point, and a Riddell, child-sized Rams helmet from the time would cost you about $90 – $100. Then there is the Darth Vader toy case on the same shelf, goes for about $15, empty. Who knows what it would cost full of vintage Kenner Finally, there is the Star Wars bed set.I found the whole bedset on E-bay for $99.99 – but that includes sheets, pillowcases, curtains and even a C3P0 wall decal. It looks like they only have the comforter from that set in this movie, which goes for far less. There are other things in this shot I was unable to track down, such as that blue robot or the Toys R Us bedset on the shelf. Also, I couldn’t be bothered to look closely at what books are on the shelf. But about that Toys R Us bedset – why is it there? All the other toys in this room are seemingly on display – the shelves are display areas, why put an old bedset there. There is a closet in this room, why not put the old bedset there or in the trash?

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There’s one thing I wanted to look up in this shot and that would be the football Jersey. That is a Jets jersey, #12. My research consisted of asking a friend, Kevin Daley, what Jersey it was. Joe Namath, probably the most famous Jet there ever was. Namath jerseys are relatively common, even today, so that’s not as “vintage’ as I expected.

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I just included this because it’s a pretty neat shot. Though I did make a half-hearted attempt to track down those overalls – no luck. Finding EXACT vintage kids clothes outside of print t-shirts is incredibly difficult.

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In this shot we get a look at some of the Star Wars toys in the window sill. There is the Kenner Hoth turret set (not to be confused with the Kenner Hoth Base set). I found an out-of-the-box set for $59 on E-bay. Then there is the Tie-fighter, a Kenner WHITE Tie-fighter. Only $25 on E-bay.. but he actually has 2 in the windowsill.

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Here’s a good shot of the Alien poster in the kids room. Why they have that poster in the room I don’t know. But if you want that ORIGINAL Alien poster, not a replica, good luck. The cheapest I found on E-bay for one in decent condition – $275. Also there’s that clown.

I’m convinced at this point that this clown was a created prop, not one they purchased from a store. I can’t find anything like it that existed at the time. I have found some replicas of it on e-bay and various places. Some replicas are pretty good, but a lot are just crap.

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Here’s a better look at the shelf behind Robbie’s bed. We have a TonTon from Star Wars. You can get that for $19.99 or even less. However it did not come with Luke riding it, especially THAT Luke figure. That is Framboy Luke (with lightsaber) from Kenner. That’s a pricey toy, even outside of the box. You can get that now from E-bay for the low price of $59.99. Not too sure about the other toys outside of the R2D2 figure ($10).

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Here’s a Darth Vader poster, from 1977 – cost today is variable, though cheaper than the regular Star Wars poster from 1977.

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Reagan the Man, The president. I found this book on E-bay. Only $5.99 – but who the hell would buy it? I was curious though, how much marijuana cost in 1981. According to a White House document, they calculated that 1 joint (ignoring quality differences) would have been $1.25 to $1.50. Since marijuana is sold by the ounce and fractions thereof, I’ve no idea how much a person would have typically paid for a quantity like what they’re hiding in the cigar box here. That cigar box, btw, would cost $3.50 today.

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Oh look, a Speak and Spell! A working one would cost you about $45 today but why bother – the things hardly worked anyway. Every letter just sounded like A. “Spell DOG? A-A-A. Correct!”

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Finally we come to THIS poster. The Superbowl poster. You can’t buy this poster, it was made for this movie. That is for SuperBowl XXII in 1988. Six years after this movie was made, Six years after this movie takes place. That poster is an impossibility. The football player in the poster is wearing Orange – same color as the Denver Broncos who played in SuperBowl XXII – How did whoever made that poster in 1981 know that was going to be the case? Why did they pick THAT superbowl and get it that accurate? Superbowl XXII was played in San Diego on January 31st, 1988. Heather O’Rourke (who plays Carol Ann in Poltergeist) died in San Diego on February 1st, 1988. That is just fucking creepy. I don’t want to investigate this film further for fear of what I might discover.

So the lesson here is that you should never over-analyze something you love; otherwise you might discover something you never wanted to know.  It’s like the FedEx logo – once you learn that the space between the E and X are actually an arrow, that’s ALL you’ll ever see.

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About The Author
Matthew Coats
Matthew Coats
Formerly known under the pseudonym of Alex Jowski. Site owner, movie aficionado, and film school grad. Matthew Coats presents reviews, some written, some as vlogs, and some as weekly shows, for a variety of different movies and television shows. After years of struggling to get his own projects off the ground amidst the normal routine of living, Matthew Coats decided to create a site in order to share and promote movie reviews, video games and much much more from talented and original people all across the internet.

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