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April 06, 2023 | Shannon Smith

Toys aren’t just for kids anymore 

Aaron Killian has the hook up for all your vintage toy needs, and wants to expand his successful online business into a brick-and-mortar store in Blount County.

Think about the toys you grew up with. Polly Pocket castles. Cabbage Patch Kids. G.I. Joe action figures. 

Do you miss them? Do you want them back? Do you want to sell the ones you still have? Aaron Killian is your guy. 

“I mean, what’s more exciting than reliving your childhood? Some of my favorite memories are playing with action figures and having a favorite plush, right?” he said. 

A long-time collector, Killian started selling off his collection of vintage toys after he was laid off during the pandemic. 

“It started out in necessity,” he said. “I was making close to six figures and then went to nothing. I’ve been a collector for years, but now I’m on the selling side, so it kind of kept me afloat. Now I’m on the cusp of actually wanting it to be a full business.” 

We’re not talking garage sale money here. Last year, Killian made about $18,000 in sales selling vintage toys through Facebook groups on a part-time basis. 

“I’ve got a really good eye for things that I know are going to be worth a lot more than what I spend,” said Killian. “But I’m also really good at taking an item, cleaning it up, and selling it at a premium. You’ve heard of flipping houses. I flip toys.” 

Here’s an example: Killian bought a Thundercats Thundertank for $60 and put in another $60 refurbishing it. That toy sold for $700. 

Some of the vintage toys Killian has for sale.

Why? A new generation of grown-up kids with nostalgia and money to spend. “They’re older now and they have expendable income and can afford the things they never had as a kid,” said Killian. “For a lot of these folks, it’s really about reliving some of the happiest times of their lives.” 

It’s this nostalgia, success, and the lack of a vintage toy store in Blount County that have Killian wanting to take his business to the next level. He’ll continue to sell online but also wants to open a brick-and-mortar store and help people sell their existing collections for the highest offer possible. 

With all this in mind, he registered for a CO.STARTERS program through Maryville’s Sky City Entrepreneur Center and then went on to compete in the first-ever Launchpad Pitch Competition. 

Naturally, he delivered his pitch while dressed as Santa Claus. 

“Launchpad was intense,” Killian said. “The biggest takeaway was to change the name.” He’s been selling toys under his own name but toyed with the business name ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Clutter.’ The judges weren’t fans, but that’s what these types of events are for. 

Killian is excited about the future of his business. He’s hoping his eventual brick-and-mortar store will serve as a “third place” – not work, not home, but the third place they choose to spend time. 

“That’s the kind of vibe that I want to create,” he said. “It’s like people come in and talk toys and ask questions and seek things out.” Killian said when that store opens, it’ll have primarily evening hours to cater to people who work during the day and want to talk toys at night. He also plans to have a cereal bar and play 80’s cartoons on a loop.

“One of the things that I want to do to differentiate myself from all the other vintage toy stores is to create an online registry,” he said. 

Killian said that will help collectors and sellers find and sell the exact models of toys people are looking for. He’s got lots of ideas for the future, but for now, he’ll continue to build his brand online. 

Because while selling toys started as a necessity for Killian, it’s now a passion. 

“There’s a lot of power in nostalgia,” he said. “I think that we could use a little nostalgia these days. You know, a lot of people lost jobs. A lot of people lost family members, friends. It’s just been a very tumultuous three years. And quite frankly, we could use a little magic of our childhood.”

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