COLUMBIA — One by one, Tim Sullivan pulls brightly colored mini NASCAR Hot Wheels cars from his green shopping basket.
"They're just cute," he said of the 1-to-64-scale die-cast toy cars. He collects the toys and puts them away, hoping one day they'll be valuable.
This story is part of the Missourian's efforts to introduce readers to people and topics that might otherwise get overlooked. Can you help our community team find the stories we should be telling? Read more about those efforts here, and suggest a story by contacting Jeanne Abbott at email@example.com or 882-5741.
In one particularly productive afternoon, he had uncovered 50 of the cars at a thrift store.
Sullivan, 59, is more of a dealer than a collector. For the past eight years, he has accumulated "Pirates of the Caribbean" memorabilia and G.I. Joe and Star Wars action figures. He sells the toys at Midway Antique Mall in Columbia and Necessary Things Flea Market in Centralia.
He relies on Craigslist to help him price the items for the local market.
"I know I can turn it into more than what I paid for it," he said.
Although he earns his living as a warehouse worker with Hubble Power Systems in Centralia, Sullivan goes treasure hunting every weekend.
He usually takes along his mom, Margaret, and a friend, Ron Wrinkle, who likes to pitch his advice. The trio head to garage sales, dollar stores and thrift shops, looking for stuffed animals, toy cars, DVDs, oil lamps and more.
"I enjoy doing it," Sullivan said. "I'm still a kid."
Many of his findings wind up in the two booths he rents at Midway Antique Mall.
"Maybe it's a hoarder instinct. Maybe it's because I like these things," he said. "I'm like a crow. Anything shiny catches my eye."
Supervising editor is Jeanne Abbott.