A Danny DeVito character once stated in a 1991 comedy that the only thing he loved more than money, was other people’s money.
There’s something undeniably alluring about what other people have got, and it holds true for toys as well.
You can have a whole room full of toys, and still, when you get the chance to root through some other kid’s stuff for the first time, you’ll be struck by all the great things they have.
There’s something peculiarly different about other people’s toys.
Your own collection is so familiar – you recognise all the products, all the scratches and scuffs on your toy cars, all the missing pieces.
Then you look at someone else’s toys and you’re not just captivated by the different items, you are also surprised at how different the things you have got look in someone else’s room.
It’s like stepping into a parallel dimension, a dimension where your UFO Interceptor hasn’t lost its torpedo (your own Interceptor lost its torpedo so long ago you’d actually forgotten what it looked like).
Your friend might have the same British Eighth Army soldiers as you, but his have been painted. Properly.
Strangely, this doesn’t make you want these superior toys. You love your Interceptor more because it’s lost its torpedo and has a great big scrape in its shiny green paint. It is familiar and comforting.
But those other toys, the ones you haven’t got, they really do call out.
My clearest recollection of this is seeing a Man From U.N.C.L.E. Briefcase at a friend’s house. It had a gun and holster, walkie-talkies and a mini camera, as well as an U.N.C.L.E. badge.
There was something so enticingly grown-up about this set that I wanted it immediately.
It seems that I’m often talking wistfully about toys I didn’t get, but I don’t think I’m an unusual case in this instance, because my two boys display exactly the same sort of symptoms when they come back from a play at a friend’s house.
While it is increasingly a case of them enjoying a go on a new video game or console, there is still room for a bit of traditional toy envy every now and then – and while I try to discourage endless requests for new stuff, in these cases I tend to just smile to myself.
Because I know exactly how they feel.