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TAG the System!

Author Robert Covarrubias

TAG the System!

Regarded as one of the best Toy stores in New York City, Toy Tokyo, presents “Tag the System”. At “The Showroom NYC”. (117 second avenue NY, NY) Over 150 of the World's Leading Artists and Designers have come together to celebrate the New York City Subway Centennial with this outstanding exhibit. Each artist was given a 2 foot long plastic Subway car, manufactured by Drastic Plastic, and asked to lend his own creative vision and style to it.

The artists participating, in this event, ranged from Graffiti Artists, to Comic Book illustrators, to Sculptors. There were also cars designed by Art Asylum, Bonus Toys, Palisades, Nike, Hot Wheels, and Mezco. It truly is an amazing, must see, exhibit. I recommend that if you are in NYC, you see this before it’s gone. This FREE event runs through November 21 st and is open from 2pm to 7pm. Tuesdays through Saturdays.


Interview with Israel "Lev" Levarek

EC: How long have you been in the toy business?
LEV: From 1987.

EC: Where does the name Toy Tokyo come from?
LEV: Toy Tokyo came about because I was in Japan doing a show and they needed a name for me to register my booth. So since I was in Tokyo, one of the first guys there, I decided to name my booth, "Tokyo Toys". But, a Japanese guy told me that doesn’t go down very well and it should be named "Toy Tokyo" and that’s what we called it, we called it Toy Tokyo from then on.


EC: Are you a toy fan or toy collector yourself?
LEV: Somewhat, I mean everything in my store is picked out by me so I figure that’s a collection, whatever you see in there in Toy Tokyo I’m very fond of. All the toys that are in Toy Tokyo is my collection.

EC: How did you get involved in this type of business?
LEV: Well actually someone gave me a present one time, it was a robot. It was a very interesting robot it was actually Planet Robot and I liked the way it functioned I like the way it looked and I started collecting from then on, robots. Then I got started in Batman because once I started in robots people asked me if I can collect or gather other collectibles for them so I started gathering collectibles like Batman collectibles for a guy who asked me to search the world for different unique items. So I started collecting for him and that got me hooked in collecting for myself so that’s how I got into collecting Batman items.


EC: So you currently have a display at home?
LEV: No, no, one time before I opened the store when the store size was about 1,000sq.ft. I filled up the whole store with my Batman collection and, in order to open up the store, I had to sell the Batman collection which I did back in 1999, and I sold the whole collection to one guy. He came in town, took movies of the collection, and then went back home. Digested what he saw, and came back and wanted to pick out certain pieces and I said, “no, you either buy the whole collection or nothing” and he bought the whole collection and then I opened the store.

EC: So what is the age range and ethnicity of collectors who walk through your door?
LEV: Anywhere between 4 years old to 75years old, there are fans of Toy Tokyo that are 75years old who love 12” dolls.

EC: What are collectors looking for?
LEV: Actually they don’t know what they’re looking for, when they come to Toy Tokyo they find something that they’ve never seen before so they start collecting it.


EC: So besides running the Toy Tokyo store I see that you created an event called "Tag The System"?
LEV: Actually I didn’t start "Tag The System". The name came about by some other people. Basically I saw a subway car which reminded me of a canvas and I took that blank subway car to all the artists who I believed would work together in a show which is called "Tag The System". "Tag The System" came about by a guy in Missouri and also Klim, two people who named this event because we needed a place to go after the show so this idea of putting the artists on the subway trains was my idea. They were the ones, Drastic Plastic, who manufactured the train or the subway car and I put this subway car to use.

EC: Has the public embraced this idea?
LEV: Oh yeah, we opened up October 28th, but before that we were in the preparations of waiting for the artists to finish their trains. Some of them basically came only a day before we opened the show but they spent a lot of energy on it. We have a total of 174 artists in the show.

EC: And by artists you mean graffiti artists?
LEV: Graffiti artists, illustrators, yeah everybody. Everybody wanted to join in even my staff. My staff put together some incredible trains and they spent a lot of energy putting it down.

EC: Besides showcasing the art work, are you also selling them?
LEV: Oh yeah. We sell them here and 10% of proceeds will be given to charity, the Manhattan Occupational Training Center .  This school works with disabled children in a hands on manner assisting them with job training and workstudy programs in addition to the general, required curriculum.

EC: And so far the sales are good, people are buying?
LEV: Yeah, they can't complain and the show closes November 21 st but the show still goes on line on so people can see this on line and if they want to buy it they can hit some button on the site which will take them to Toy Tokyo and purchase the trains, the trains will be on show until December the 30th.


EC: What are the exhibit hours?
LEV: The hours are 2-7pm every day except Sunday and Monday

EC: Any plans to do any more of these?
LEV: Not these train shows, because what were going to be doing is selling the blank trains so that everybody can buy the trains from us and they could do their own "shows". We’re pre-selling the trains at $24.99.

EC: Thanks for your time.
LEV: Ok, thank you.

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