About five years ago I stumbled upon an item in an antique shop that took my breath away. It’s a shop that I adore over in the old Havre de Grace main street area just off of the Susquehanna river, and it’s one I try to hit up at least twice a year if only to stare at their amazing vintage lunch box and branded glassware collections. It’s also one that has a very small, but fun vintage Halloween cabinet and on that fateful day back in January of 2016 I scoped a piece of 80s era spooky fun that I didn’t even know existed. Up on a high shelf, right next to some McDonalds Boo Pails, and behind a 60’s era plaster jack-o-lantern was a Collegeville costume and mask set complete with the original packaging that made me do a double take…
At first glance I was a little confused because I scoped the Dungeons and Dragons logo, but what was staring out at me from behind that 30 year-old cellophane window didn’t register as any D&D character that immediately came to mind. I assumed it was a costume based on the animated series from 1983, but as I ran through the characters from memory none of them fit. Hank? Nope. Bobby? Nope. Venger, Dungeon Master, Tiamat, Eric? Nope. I mean, it’s not like they made a Warduke costume right? That would be impossible.
All of this was zipping through my mind at light speed, so I had already started to move on and look at some other stuff. But that box kept nagging at me. So I quickly came back around to it and asked the shop owner if I could take it down and open it. He agreed and as soon as I lifted the lid of the box I actually gasped, because the mask that was staring back out at me was in fact the impossible Warduke!
Holy crap on a crutch, I had no idea that there was ever something so awesome as a Warduke Halloween costume. I carefully put the lid back on and had the store owner put it back up on the shelf. I was so conflicted at the time because I was in a very precarious position financially. The asking price for the costume was $25, and the owner had sold me some really great stuff at below reasonable prices before, so I refused to consider haggling. But at that very moment I only had $20 in my wallet, I was out of work at that moment (and had been so for 9 months after moving up to Maryland from Georgia to live with my now wife), and we had literally just started the process of buying our fist home and I’d cleared out my 401K to get $10k as my portion of a down payment. I literally had no money and frivolous purchases like 30 year-old Halloween costumes were just not the best idea.
I made the decision to pass on the costume and went along on my way. Of course I couldn’t get it out of my mind. Warduke is probably one of my single favorite toys from childhood, and he is in general a great visual representation of the decade for me. He’s just obscure enough that the imagery immediately fills me with nostalgia, yet he doesn’t get overplayed like other characters from the decade so he also never gets old or boring. I also love Halloween, and for years I was searching for a physical representation of the holiday that had some meaning for me that I could display with my collection to reflect that part of my personality. I mean I’ve already written about my love for the toy before…
This Warduke costume seemed like the perfect mix of nostalgia and Halloween.
I managed to let a couple weeks go by, but I kept coming back to the costume. I started to obsess over it. Luckily, though I was out of work, I did mange to get a little bit of freelance design work, and I had a check for $200 burning a hole in my pocket. I called the antique shop and asked the store owner, with baited breath, if he still had the costume. He did (and I’m sure he thought I was insane because it probably sat in the store for years before I noticed it), and he agreed to hold it aside for me. I made the 40 minute drive back to the shop in the freezing cold and bought the costume. I was so stoked that I actually owned it and I couldn’t wait to put it in the glass Ikea case I had back at my wife’s townhouse.
At first I considered framing the costume in a large shadowbox, but laziness took hold and time passed and the costume has sat in my Ikea case for four years. Loved for sure, but not out in it’s full glory.
I’m writing this piece to both finally share this magnificent and rare piece of 80s Halloween fun, but also as a way of saying goodbye. Though I sincerely adore this piece, I was recently made an offer to trade this costume for something a little more tailor made for my specific nostalgic fandom. I don’t do very many trades these days because I usually only pick up stuff that I think I’ll be keeping for the long haul, but I just could not refuse the offer in this specific instance.
So, goodbye Warduke Collegeville costume. I know for a fact that you’ve found a home with a new collector that appreciates you a thousand times more than I did, and I truly loved you.
In a couple of days I’ll showcase the piece that has taken Warduke’s place in my collection, and it’s a doozy.