One of the first times I hung out with Greg Rivera, owner of Mishka, the New York-based clothing company that takes his childhood nickname, we drove around Orlando checking out yard sales. This was the early 2000s, and he was already making steady money on eBay by selling rare toys, records, books, and all sorts of collectibles.
Back then, eBay wasn't yet the primary place to buy and sell collectibles, as plenty of people were still doing fine out of brick and mortar storefronts. For a cognizant few, though, it was a resource that could produce coveted results if you had the patience and the endurance. Greg was one of the savvy people who was able to capitalize on a new marketplace that could deliver obscure artifacts to the collectors who sought them at top dollar. And because the source of these artifacts was the secondhand "junk" marketplaces of thrift stores, yard sales, and flea markets, Greg's eBay page was stocked with goods sourced from a world that was mostly ignorant of their value.
For as long as I've known him, Greg has been incredibly knowledgable about all kinds of music, movies, art, and design—he came up in the secretly hyper-influential early 2000s Orlando hip-hop scene—and he's always had a very unique take on it all. But his seemingly endless knowledge of every obscurity under the sun doesn't feel like a buffer between him and other people, rather, it's more of a humble invitation to learn from a master. He's one of those rare individuals all about connecting the dots, not shattering the veil.
Once Mishka NYC got started Greg's toy collection became the basis for a company that continues to capture what it means to have a certain set of sensibilities. I recently stopped by his new LA office to talk about his collection, and check out the obscurities that constitute his everyday surroundings.
VICE: What toy has been in your collection the longest, and how did you come to acquire it?
Greg Mishka: At this point it's a rare Frankenstein toy from Spain in the 70s. It's called El Monstro De Sanchezstein. It's from a very obscure 1970s Spanish TV show. It comes in the box and is extremely rare. I bought it at a toy show in Florida in the mid-90s.
Which toy took you the longest to find, and how did you finally get your hands on it?
Probably the Mr.T toy guitar. It's almost impossible to find. It finally popped up one day on eBay.
What is your most coveted toy?
It's not a toy, per se, but a toy prototype that was made for trade shows. I have the prototype for the 6" Mr. T A-Team Galoob figure. I bought it from a guy over the phone in the late 90s while I was working at a vintage toy shop in Central Florida. Before PayPal, we were able to accept credit cards over the phone through our processor so people would call up to pay for eBay auctions and I would talk to them. Long story short the guy had just bought a collection of prototypes from a man that worked at Galoob. I got really, really lucky.
How did you get into Kaiju (Japanese monster toys), and how would you compare the Kaiju market in the US when you first started collecting them to now?
I got into Kaiju mostly through Super7. I had some old Japanese magazines and books before that, but I had no clue what they were from or what they were. Super7 was the first magazine that talked about and described Japanese Kaiju in English. The market now has blown up. Especially with US toy makers, it's not only easier to find it here to buy, it's really easy to make your own if you have some extra money.
What's the oldest toy in your collection?
Again it's not a toy, but I have an actual mummified hand. It's from Ancient Egypt so it's a couple thousand years old.
What is the creepiest toy you've ever owned?
I once had a haunted doll that I sold on eBay. His name is Haunted Harold. I sort of made the story up but the new owner has a twitter account and says it's ACTUALLY haunted.
How do you think your passion for toys has contributed to Mishka, and what do you think the results are?
I think my collecting nature has brought me to see and appreciate toys as sculpture and art. Sometimes it's the actual object and other times it's the packaging. I think both have helped develop a lot of the thoughts and visions behind the brand.
See more photos of Greg's toy collection below.
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