The Christmas season has always been my favorite time of the year. It's joyous, eventful and I tend to find some pretty great up-and-coming companies, artist and hobbyist. We are entering an age in which we have never seen before. It seems as though Millennials are a very artistic bunch and it is showing in today's underground. It has never been so easy to start your own business, all you need is a etsy, facebook or instagram page. You can even create your own website via squarespace, wix and all the other do it yourself programs available to the public. There are so many quick payment and shipping programs available to get you started as well. I personally love this movement I have even gone so far as to give these people a name: Merchanteers. So as we bid farewell to 2017 let's take a look at some Wilbur Wonder's favorite MERCHANTEERS!
Tait Design Co.
This has been one of my favorite companies since the beginning of 2017! It is somewhat simplistic yet visually stunning. Mat Tait, the founder, previously worked as a creative director but decided he wanted to start his own company and I think he made the right decision. You know right away when you are looking at a Tait product and I think that's a good quality to have to ensure a successful business/brand. He puts his signature mark on each one of his designs and he always leaves me wanting more. If you are as passionate about retro toys as I am then you will love Tait Design Co.
Signature Products: Turbo Flyer, Perpetual Calendar, Kaku Dako Kite, Sling-Slang Yo-Yo
I discovered Creepy Co. this Halloween and I was blown away! I was hooked when I saw that they began creating high quality merchandise using the retro-famed Beistle characters. The same designs and characters that you would see hanging from windows in the 80s. I then dug a little deeper and found that they also have some great 90s Goosebump merchandise and Garbage Pail Kids merchandise! It's a fantastic blast from the past and like I said very quality products and website. Creepy Co. Has a large selection of plush toys, enamel pins, candles and apparel Kellie Taylor, the creator, also lives in my hometown of Chicago! Hey Kellie let's collab!
Signature Products: Beistle Line, Goosebump Line, Garbage Pail Kids Line
Sidekick Lab, is kind of a secret underground company but they are quickly becoming discovered, especially through the toy scene. I found them at the beginning of the year because I wanted to create some trading cards using classic wax packs. I looked everywhere and eventually someone mentioned that there was only one company left doing wax packs and the rest is history. I did my research on Tom Lichtman, founder of sidekick because I wanted to know his story. From what I have heard in interviews he bought a ton of old printing equipment and perfected the lost art of wax packing for about a year. He then partnered with artist such as New York artist Sucklord and LA artist Buffmonster to produce their trading cards. From there he has been approached by Topps to create some iconic movies like Mars Attacks. Several more artist have also come forward to get their artwork shown as well. He once said in an interview that the reason he named his company Sidekick Lab was because he saw himself as a sort of sidekick to the artists. He loves retro toys and he wants to be the engine that makes them go.
Signature Products: Melty Misfits, Suckpax, Mars Attacks, Creeping Flesh
Steve "Freakin" Casino is what I call him because whenever I browse through his instagram page It just comes out. I don't know how he thinks and thought of some of the stuff he produces but it is absolutely freakin fantastic. I first thought that he just makes famous people out of tiny peanut shells but then as I continued following him I realized that he is actually a terrific pop artist. He makes amazing "children's" wooden toys usually from famous movies scenes. It's not just that they are scenes, he somehow incorporates a specific motion in his toys which gives it another element of greatness. All of his art is hand drawn and takes a while to make so there is not much of it floating around. Who needs stocks when you can invest in Steve "Freakin" Casino.
Signature Products: Peanut Characters, Film Wooden Toys, Tic Tac Tiny Art
Sucklord is the central figure in the Bootleg Action Figure community. He made toys cool for all those 20+ year olds who still have their collection displayed in their living rooms. He is by far the most watchable founder on this list. I want you to remember to go to youtube and type in "The Suck Hour" immediately after you get done reading this article. He is hypnotizing to watch. His personality is refreshing for an asshole. Can someone give a him a show already? His action figures are his art and whenever I see his art I just get the feeling that when he is gone from this world his stuff is going to be worth something. Most of what he does are one off pieces and they have great color and content behind them. He mashes and mixes parts and pieces together and it constantly comes out as gold. Evvvery Tiiiime!
Signature Products: Gay Empire, Supervillian, The Suck Hour, Suckadelic
I purposely put Sucklord and Craig Gleason back to back because Craig is yet another authentic genius artist with a hypnotizing personality. Oh, and his work will most likely be worth something when he is dead too. He is the creator of "The Ghoul" along with hundreds of other charters from his Bad Guys Club. His Instagram page is overflowing with his art and he is extremely accessible for fan questions and his artistic techniques. He just seems like a cool guy with a corky personality. He is starting to dabble in plastic figures, masks and illustration books. What I and several other people would love to eventually see is a Bad Guys Club comic or a cartoon show. By the way, if he ever does get a cartoon he better be chosen as the voice for one of the characters. I guarantee it would be an instant smash hit, especially on Cartoon Network.
Signature Products: The Ghoul, Bad Guys Club, The Moon Goon
I found Candylabs on Kickstarter and I was very surprised that such a simple concept could look so great! I think that is the secret to producing the perfect retro toy is simplicity. The bright colors and smooth appearance just make me want to buy the whole set and continue buying anything else they put out forever. Also, for a wooden toy it sure does play nice and doesn't look as boxy as you would think it would look. If you and anyone else you know are into classic automobiles well, here you go.
Signature Products:the Woodie, The Stinger, Airstream Trailer
This is a secret that none of the retailers want you to know. Did you know that there is still one company in the entire world that still makes lithographic tin toys? Yeah, they are in India and their catalog is massive. Their prices are cheap considering the labor intensive toys, the down size is that only large retailers can afford the $10,000 minimum order. :(
I decided to put Strange Ways last because it is a one stop shop for everything "Merchanteer". They support local Artist and small companies by selling their pins, patches, apparel and anything else they have to offer. The enamel pin and patch are becoming incredibly popular and it seems like there are new collectors emerging everyday. Very Niche, but very hot right now! Check out their page and you can also stop by their brick and mortar store if you are ever in New Haven, CT.
Featured Artist: Ball & Chain Co, Stay Home Club, Explorer's Press, Mean Folk, These Are Things, MacGuffin Goods
The Futurist Co.
This one is a given!
Signature Products: The Futurist Co. Secret Society Memberships Are Now Available! Become A Member Today!