Stories from GG’s Toy Box
By Grahame Grassby
Story 5 — Me and My Big Mouth — Not So Funny
“I sell my Funny shares… you know more shares to buy… Funny shares very good.”
In 2001, at the beginning of the new millennium, all the talk on the phone at work was not about world politics, or the saving of the planet or funding cuts to the ABC, no, all the small talk on my phone was about the Funtastic share price.
You see, I was working at the ABC and I was managing the ABC’s children’s properties, including Bananas in Pyjamas, Play School and The Wiggles, and Funtastic was an Australian toy company that had listed on the Australian stock exchange on 14th September 2000.
So talking on the phone about the Funtastic share price was about the only thing everyone wanted to chat about before getting down to business and discussing what was the actual purpose of the call.
The opening quote on Funtastic shares, or known in Australian shorthand as the Funny shares, was fifty Australian cents (A$0.50) and for the rest of the year 2000 the share price stayed steady, closing the year exactly where it started.
In January 2001, I approved the signing off by the ABC and The Wiggles respectively on renewing Funtastic’s licence to produce and sell Bananas in Pyjamas and The Wiggles branded raincoats, rainboots & umbrellas.
Also in 2001, Funtastic bought the leading Australian gift company, Camsons, started up a book publishing company, Funtastic Publishing and also started an apparel company, Funtastic Clothing.
Funtastic was indeed on the move and so too its share price, which by the end of 2001 closed at A$0.65.
In November 2001, ABC Enterprises moved offices, along with the rest of ABC TV from the original ABC Gore Hill TV site into brand new digital facilities in Ultimo and I was installed in the boss’s office adjacent to the ABC Enterprises Reception on the 10th floor, which was managed by two part-time receptionists, Nova in the mornings and Rowena in the afternoons.
At that time, I adopted an open-door management style, which literally meant I left my office door open and anyone wanting to discuss something with me was supposedly free to pop-in for a chat, but good luck getting past my executive assistant, the imposing Greek goddess, Rena Monemvasitis.
I also didn’t realise how loudly I talked on the phone and how my phone conversations were openly heard by our receptionists on the reception desk.
In 2002, Funtastic bought rival Australian toy & children’s furniture company JNH, so that by July the Funny share price had risen to $A0.75 and by the end of 2002 broke through the dollar ceiling, closing the year at $1.01.
And on it went, the Funny share price going up and up and by July 2003 they were trading at $1.47 and ended the year at A$2.15.
“How high can the Funny go? How long can it last?” everyone was abuzz, everyone having an answer but everyone just as clueless as each other.
I started to espouse with a stock market knowledge of less that zero that if I had Funny shares I’d be bailing out, but the Funny shares ignored my pontifications on the matter and just kept rising.
And then one afternoon, there was a tap on my open door and it was Rowena, the afternoon receptionist, and I thought to myself… oh bugger, we’re going to have to find another receptionist… but boy o’boy I had that wrong.
Rowena in fact said to me, in her Chinese way: “Excuse me Grahame, I sell my Funny shares… you know more shares to buy… Funny shares very good”.
“Ah, er, ah, no Rowena, I have no more shares for you to buy.”
And with that, the ABC Enterprises’ open-door policy was over and my office door was firmly closed.
The Funny shares topped out at A$2.75 on the 15th November 2004.
In January 2005, Funtastic shares were A$1.93
In January 2006, Funtastic shares were A$1.73
In January 2007, Funtastic shares were A$1.60
In January 2008, Funtastic shares were A$0.65
Today, in 2023, one Funtastic share, trading as Toys R Us (TOY) can be bought on the ASX for less than A$0.010, which is not so funny.
Written by Grahame Grassby