The Free Press, Mankato, MN

March 29, 2013

Update: Storage unit burglary “gut wrenching” for toy collector

By Dan Nienaber
Free Press Staff Writer

MANKATO — Wally Boyer suspects the thief or thieves either had one big truck or made several trips to his storage unit with a smaller vehicle.

A single pickup truck couldn’t have hauled away all of the collectible toys he had acquired during the past 25 years. He estimates the hundreds of Marvel Comic, Star Wars, GI Joe and McFarlane action figurines were worth a minimum of $15,000.

Here is a link to pictures of items similar to Boyer's collection.

“You couldn’t have fit it all in one van,” Boyer said. “I would say it was at least four van loads. The other thing is where do you take it? You have to have someplace to take it all and that’s the thing.”

Mankato police have known about the burglary at Highway 22 South Mini-storage in the 1100 block of South Victory Drive since Boyer reported it on March 22. Officers kept the incident quiet because they were hoping to find the items for sale at eBay or on craigslist, or to get other leads from sources on the street. That hasn’t worked. So now they’re asking for the public’s help to find the stolen toys.

The person or people who broke into the storage unit were determined, said Sgt. Adam Gray. There haven’t been any reports of other units at the lot being burglarized recently. Boyer was at his unit about six weeks before the burglary was discovered.

“A lot of these people just have an inadequate lock,” Gray said. “In this one they cut the hinges off to gain access.

“It makes you wonder if this was something targeted — somebody knew it was there. But we can’t say that for sure, whether it was targeted or random.”

That doesn’t really matter to Boyer. He just wants the stolen items returned. They have both a financial and sentimental value for his family.

Boyer started buying Star Wars figurines for his three boys, now all adults, when they weren’t much more than anklebiters. In the early days they were just toys that were torn from their boxes and used for battles in the basement, but the family started collecting as the boys grew older. Since the 1990s, Boyer has been buying the figurines in threes — one for each son.

“It’s gut wrenching,” Boyer said. “It’s something we spent 25 years collecting. I have a son who has a traumatic brain injury. It was almost therapeutic for him.”

That son, Chris, lived in a group home in Rochester for awhile as he recovered from injuries from a car crash. He was within walking distance to a Toys ‘R’ Us store and spent hours checking the shelves there. If he saw something he didn’t think his dad had in his collection, he would call to check. He would use a debit card Wally Boyer provided to buy three of anything they didn’t have.

The hobby has evolved. Now they take family trips to places such as Chicago and New York City to get their toys, as well as a growing collection of comic books, signed by actors who played the screen roles of the figurines or authors of the comic books.

Chris Boyer said he enjoys flying to New York City, where his brother, Jon, lives, to attend the annual New York Comic Con convention.

“It’s a fun thing to go to for all of us,” Wally Boyer said.

Many of the items that were stolen used to be displayed on the walls in the basement of the former Jake’s Stadium Pizza restaurant near Minnesota State University. When that building was sold to make way for the new CVS store, the Boyers quickly realized there wasn’t going to be enough room for the collection at the restaurant’s new location just down Stadium Road.

“So, until we figured something out, we put it all in storage,” Wally Boyer said. “It’s just one of those things. Somebody got in there and, when they saw what it was, they cleaned it out.”

Other items from the old building, such as stools and other furniture, were moved to the same storage unit, Boyer said. Those things were left behind.

Fortunately the thieves didn’t get the Boyers’ entire collection of toys and comic books. Some of the more valuable items are stored in more secure locations.

As of Friday morning, the police had few leads, Gray said.

“That’s why we’re getting the message out there and looking for the public’s help,” he said.

Anyone with information about the collection should call 911 or 507-387-8780.

Here is a link to pictures of items similar to Boyer's collection.