Collector Interview #10: Gus Lopez

Welcome everyone to the tenth edition of VSWC Blog Full-Length Collector Interviews! It’s been a while since we published our last full length one, featuring Bobby Sharp, but we are making up for it with the introduction of one of the hobby’s greatest collectors (if not the greatest) –  that’s right, Gus Lopez is joining us! I’ve chatted to Gus at the last few Celebrations and he graciously promised to appear on the blog. This is our tenth full length interview and I’ve always planned to keep this special number reserved for Gus, because not only did he start theswca.com over twenty years ago but he is also one of the hobby’s true nice guys. I don’t think I need to introduce him further as we all know him, but I will say that you are missing out if you don’t check out theswca.com at least once a week…

Okay here we go. I’m so excited!

1: Hi Gus and thank you so much for agreeing to this interview! It’s an honour to have you on. I have to ask straight off the bat – how many of your friends have taken selfies with your Slave Leia outfit? 

GUSThe list of friends who’ve taken Slave Leia selfies continues to grow. Every time we have a party, people line up for photos next to the costume. When I received the costume, I asked some friends if they could come over to help me put it inside the plexiglass case. I thought maybe 3-4 friends might stop by, but 20 friends showed up! While we were setting it up and before Leia was put into the plexi case, whenever I stepped out of the room, my friends secretly took photos with the costumed mannequin. Of course, I found out later when all these photos appeared on Facebook. Fortunately, that’s the only time the costume has been out of the case since I’ve owned it.

2: Seriously though, I know you’re a pretty socio-politically engaged guy, so I have to ask your view on something I’m really conflicted about it. My Facebook profile picture shows me with a Slave Leia cosplayer so obviously I’m a huge fan, but the outfit is pretty damn revealing and the ‘slave’ connotations are very strong. I know there is a huge debate about the outfit, with some saying it is sexist (I think even Carrie Fisher was against it at some point) but others saying it was an important part of her character arc (she strangles Jabba with the slave chain in the end). Where do you stand?

GUS: I think cosplayers should be able to wear whatever they want. The moment any of us start telling anyone what costumes they should or should not wear, I think everyone loses. The Slave Leia symbolism is powerful in Star Wars. On one level, yes, the costume represents the objectification of Leia by an amoral crime lord. But as we all know, it’s in that outfit that Leia strangles Jabba with the very chains he used to bind her. I’d say that’s pretty badass!

3: You’re not wrong… So before we get to the inevitable Star Wars questions, I’m sure our readers would like to learn a little about you. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your family? Where do you guys live currently and what do you do when you’re not collecting Star Wars vintage? 

GUS: I live in Seattle, Washington with my wife, Pam. My education and career background is in computer science and engineering. I have a bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. in computer science. I work at Amazon where I run the Amazon Restaurants business and have been with Amazon for over 18 years. In my spare time I travel, run, and take photos, all of which I do badly.

Gus’ home in Seattle, which he has aptly named ‘Bobacabana.’

4: I’ve seen your travel snaps and trust me, you don’t take bad photos…So how did you get into Amazon? Through your computer science study? When I think of someone working at Amazon, I have that famous Google office atmosphere in my head – snooker tables, hammocks, mini-golf etc. Is it anything similar to Google then? 

GUS: My background and experience is in computer science, software engineering, and distributed systems. After working at another local startup in the Seattle area, I interviewed with Amazon, which was also based in Seattle. Amazon had just launched Books and Music (the only retail categories they offered at time). It’s been an amazing 18 1/2 years there and continues to be a thrilling place to work.

Amazon does not have the mini golf, hammocks, massage tables, private chefs, etc. that has become cliché at many other tech companies. People do decorate their offices and desks at Amazon, and we encourage and celebrate people’s unique interests and passions.
My personal view (not my employer’s since I don’t speak for them) is that those tech company employer-funded playgrounds are ridiculous. It’s a workplace. If you really want a room filled with plastic balls, build one in your house. In my opinion, a company spending money on that junk may reflect on their responsibility with costs or being prone to manipulative techniques to encourage younger employees to stay in the office until all hours. I think it’s really dumb, and in the future people will make fun of that aspect of some tech company cultures.

5: So did you actually grow up in Seattle? 

GUS: No. I was born in Havana, Cuba. Our family moved to the USA when I was 3 and grew up in Summit, New Jersey, a suburb of New York City. After college, I moved out west to Seattle to go to graduate school, and stayed in the area ever since. I met Pam while we were both in grad school at University of Washington. It’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world, surrounded by two mountain ranges, lakes, and ocean. Once I moved here, it was impossible to leave because every other place would be a letdown.

6: What was it like growing up there? 

GUS: My hometown, Summit, is probably similar to many suburban towns in the US. I went to the local public schools, could walk/bike anywhere around town, and had small mom and pop stores selling Star Wars comics, magazines, cards, and toys. In some ways, Summit was a really amazing town because it was a diverse cross section of incomes, races, and ethnic groups, in an area where that is not the norm since many other New Jersey towns at the time were homogenous.

7: Have you ever been back to Havana? I’ve heard it’s a stunning place to visit. 

GUS: No. I am eager to go back sometime soon. I’ve seen many East Bloc countries before and during their transition to democracies and it was amazing to experience that before those places transformed from communism. I would like to visit Cuba again before that happens. Because of their isolation, there are some really unique things in Cuba like colonial architecture that is still standing and 1950s automobiles everywhere. But Cuba is long overdue to become prosperous and free as they once were.

8: What are your interests other than Star Wars? 

GUS: I love to travel, and I’ve been all over the world and have visited many countries. But my favorite place to travel is the United States, which has some of the most amazing places to see. There’s really no other country like it with ice fields in Alaska, active volcanoes in the Northwest, the grandeur of the Grand Canyon, the deserts of the Southwest, lava flows in Hawaii, and huge populations of wildlife in places like Yellowstone and Denali. I’ve been to all 59 US National Parks, so in some ways, my collecting passion has crossed with my interest in visiting scenic places since I appear to be a completest with National Parks too. While traveling, I also like to take photos of all things wildlife, mountains, waterfalls, Northern Lights, icebergs, lava, reefs, etc.

I also run. I’ve run in over 30 marathons and a countless number of half marathons. In fact, I’m a big fan of the runDisney races at the Disneyland and Walt Disney World theme parks, and have run in all the Star Wars themed races (5Ks, 10Ks, and Half Marathons) that they’ve done since they started three years ago.

Star Wars keeps me busy, so I don’t collect much else. I do have a small shrine to the Beatles, and have some really cool Beatle collectibles such as vintage cereal boxes from the US and UK, Ringo’s personally owned psychedelic posters of his bandmates, and Ringo’s personal platinum record award for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. I also have a small collection of Evel Knievel toys in sealed boxes. As a kid I was really into Evel Knievel and on some level he represents a kitschy aspect of Americana. Only in America could a guy who jumps stuff on a motorcycle could become globally famous as a superstar. It’s one of the things I admire about this country—many Americans are non-conformist, creative, innovative, and independent.

Some of Gus’ favourite travel photos:

America Samoa

Hawaii

Western Australia

Alaska

Alaska

Greenland

9: Wow Gus that is inspiring! All 59 National Parks! I really don’t know where you find the time to also collect Star Wars….So if you had to give up Star Wars or travelling, what would you choose? 

GUS: I’ve gotten very efficient in my time management on collecting, and I do combine collecting with my travel. It’s simple: I would give up Star Wars before I’d give up travel. You only live once, and for me, seeing the world is part of having an interesting and fulfilling life with many memorable experiences. I love Star Wars collecting, but at the end of the day it’s just stuff.

10: I’ve met you briefly at the last few Celebrations and you honestly come across as one of the nicest guys in the hobby. I know you’re also a member of the Seattle SW  Collectors Club (SARLACC) and I’ve actually interviewed a couple of your colleagues (Jake Stevens and Amy Sjoberg), who I’ve also met in person. They also seem incredibly happy, friendly and easygoing. So what the hell is going on at SARLACC? Is it a cult? How is it possible for you guys to all be so nice? Something smells fishy…

GUS: SARLACC is one of my proudest creations. I formed the group in 1994, and it was the first Star Wars collecting club in the United States. Some of the principles I applied to creating SARLACC are common ones I’ve applied to other communities I’ve formed (the Star Wars collecting newsgroups, the Star Wars Collectors Archive website, and the Celebration Collecting Track) based on few rules and no hierarchy—all to maximize people’s passion and creative potential and minimize politics and drama that plague many social groups. SARLACC is a great bunch of friends with many varied interests. We do lots of things together and have had quite a few shared adventures. We do vet people before they can join SARLACC, not in an obnoxious elitist way, but basically we want to see that they are friendly and nice. We’ve had an active membership since I started the group 23 years ago. In the early days, I had to do a lot of work to remind people about meetings, but in the past two decades it has been self sustaining with members taking turns to host meetings in their homes. We have about a one year backlog to host meetings as there are so many members willing to host other collectors in their home. SARLACC has no rules, no leaders, and no dues. That’s the secret to our success—it’s just plain anarchy.

The SARLAAC crew…

11: I’m sure you’ve been asked this question a million times but what is your first Star Wars memory? 

GUS: My first memories of Star Wars were from the television commercials in early May 1977, before the movie’s release. Star Wars only opened in 32 theaters nationwide on May 25, 1977, and I happened to live in one of the few areas of the country with multiple theaters showing the movie. I vividly remember and was struck by Chewbacca and C-3PO in that early commercial (I thought 3PO was a bad guy). I was also blown away by the imagery of Luke and Leia swinging across the chasm. I saw the film later that summer and my life has never been the same since.

12: That’s pretty cool. Most people’s first memories are the movies themselves and not the commercials. Do you actually remember what commercials they were? 

GUS: It was the standard television commercial they had running in the US that mentions heroes, villains, and aliens from a thousand worlds. But I remember there was so much imagery unlike anything else that it was impossible to absorb everything going on or even have a sense of the story. It was really word of mouth that got me to rush to the theater to see it.

13: At what age did you start collecting Star Wars? 

GUS: As a kid, I attempted to buy every Star Wars thing I could find, and I still have every single Star Wars item from 1977 on. But I didn’t really start serious collecting until I was 27. Like many other collectors, I started with the loose action figures. My original goal was to complete my set of figures from childhood. After about a month, I managed to complete the set, and quickly moved onto other things like carded figures and boxed toys.

Gus’ childhood SW collection

14: So what was the trigger to start collecting at that age? 

GUS: Prior to Star Wars, I had collected other things. As a kid I was into baseball cards, coins, and action figures. In fact, even at an early age I was fairly advanced at this, tracking down dealers who had trading cards from prior decades and having my parents drive me to shows to buy items. But then Star Wars came out and I applied all those learnings and experience to this newly discovered interest.

In one of the panels at this past Celebration, I went into a bit more detail about how I started and grew as a collector, in case anyone is interested in hearing more about it:

15: When and why did you establish theswca.com and who else was involved in the beginning? 

GUS: I started the Star Wars Collectors Archive in 1994. It was the first website on the Internet about Star Wars collecting. The original concept was just to have a place to share cool photos of obscure items between friends. As we expanded the content, it became clear that the Archive was generating a lot of interest. I lot of other collectors contributed since the early days like Pete Vilmur, John Wooten, Duncan Jenkins, Chris Georgoulias, Ron Salvatore, Chris Nichols, Isaac Lew, John Alvarez, Tommy Garvey, Stephane Faucourt, Steve Danley, Skye Paine, Mike Mensinger, James Gallo, and Todd Chamberlain. There are also hundreds of collectors who have submitted entries to share their discoveries and amazing items in their collections.

16: Were you connecting with other collectors before the arrival of the internet? 

GUS: No, my only option at the time was connecting with local friends who were also buying Star Wars items. My first access to the Internet was in 1983 at Bell Labs and MIT via ARPANET, NSFNET, and USENET. There was a Star Wars newsgroup on USENET in 1983 that was short-lived and mostly discussed Return of the Jedi. Not a whole lot of chatter about collectibles, and it would take years before the Star Wars newsgroups would emerge in the early 1990s.

17: I know you were at the first Celebration but what was your involvement there? Is that where the Collecting Track started? 

GUS: Yes, I started the Star Wars Celebration Collecting Track at the first Celebration in Denver in 1999, and it has continued to be a big part of Celebration ever since. Just a couple of weeks before the start of Celebration I, I asked Steve Sansweet what Lucasfilm was planning for collectors at Celebration. He said nothing was planned yet and asked me if I wanted to put something together for collectors. It seemed crazy to try to arrange something with only a couple of weeks notice, but I decided to go for it! I scrambled to assemble a lineup of panelists and make all the arrangements. We were set up outside and had a small tent and there were no official announcements or communication that this was going on. I contacted several other collectors who brought items to show in person at the event. We gave our presentations to a small audience that was waiting outside in the rain, many of them waiting in line to get into other panels at Celebration I. It was fun, and I realized we had something we could build on.

The Collecting Track has come a long way since Celebration I. I have continued to lead the Collecting Track at all Star Wars Celebrations including all 8 Celebrations in the US and the Celebration events in the UK, Japan, and Germany. In addition to high quality panels and presentations, we also offer patch/pin/swag trading events, contests/awards, daily newsletters, giveaways, meet and greets, swap meets, collector displays, social media, and many opportunities to meet other collectors. There are a lot of people who make the Collecting Track a success each time!

At Celebration III, I thought it would be cool to have giveaways for every attendee at every panel of the Collecting Track. We made up a trading card set (a different card for each panel) based on different presentations at Celebration III. We also gave out animation cells from the Ewoks cartoon that Lucasfilm had offered to us to give to attendees. These giveaways were well received, and we continued this tradition ever since. This is probably one of the earliest, if not the first, examples of Star Wars collector swag, which has now become a massive thing at Celebration.

18: Great story Gus. I love the Collecting Track and it pretty much makes up about 90 percent of my Celebration experiences. So thank you and everyone else involved for everything you guys do there. Any chance you’d remember what panels were on at the first Celebration? 

GUS: I could probably dig out the program from the first Collecting Track but going off memory, we covered things like customized action figures, prototypes, and creating collecting clubs. Since we were outside and didn’t have any way to project onto a screen, the format was entirely discussion panels and items that people brought to show at the panels. Almost all the panels had multiple panelists since everything was oriented around discussion and questions.

Gus introducing Steve Sansweet in Orlando. 

Celebration Orlando Panel

Celebration 4 panelists 

19: How does someone volunteer to assist at the Collecting Track? 

GUS: Several months prior to each Celebration, we usually make a call for participation and multiple announcements to find out who’s interested in becoming a volunteer. I select the panels, and do a formal call for panels. The process can be very selective, for example at Celebration Orlando 2017, I accepted 28% of the panel proposals that had been submitted. We try to rotate topics and try new things each time.

The volunteers run the operations once we’re on the ground at the event. Tony Damata has led that area on my team and he usually reaches out to collectors and fans to see who is interested in volunteering. That is also very selective since we get many more people interested than volunteer positions.

20: I know you receive a lot of swag at Celebrations but what is your most memorable? 

GUS: Darren Mcaleese’s General Madine beard in Kenner retro vintage packaging has to be one of the craziest swag items ever but also one of my favorites!

21: I love the Star Tots that you guys give out after attending a panel at the Collecting Track. Whose idea were they initially? 

GUS: It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where the idea started since it involved multiple iterations of various ideas. In early 2011 on a trip in Canada with some other collectors I recall discussing future Collecting Track giveaway ideas with Alyssa Loney, Ron Salvatore, Elling Haug, and Chris Georgoulias. We were brainstorming various Collecting Track giveaway ideas, some of which we’ve used. We talked about carded figure ideas such as carded Kenner Micro figures, Yupi figures, vintage style action figures, and Star Tots, all with the idea of continuing the line beyond the concepts that Kenner had. In June 2011, Chris and I discussed various figure-based giveaways in over email. Originally we wanted to do 3D figures just like the Kenner Star Tots, but there are some challenges in producing painted 3D figures. Chris came up with the idea of flat metal figures since those would be easier to make.

Then I pitched that idea and backup idea to Lucasfilm for Celebration VI Collecting Track giveaways. Initially, we decided to go with the backup idea, but at the last minute ran into issues preventing that from happening.  Fortunately, we had also pitched Star Tots and after a lot of hard work and much scrambling by the team, we were able to produce them in time for Celebration.

22: Each Tot is sponsored by a collector but how does someone become a sponsor?

GUS: Yes, it costs tens of thousands of dollars to fund the Collecting Track giveaways. The Celebration III giveaways were completely funded by the Collector Track budget (which is modest). So for Celebration IV, I had an idea that maybe we could do even more impressive giveaways if we could get additional funds via sponsorship. The concept was that if we could get individuals to sponsor individual items, we could raise the funds to do something major. So I ran the idea by Lucasfilm and they were supportive of it and gave us permission to put the sponsors’ names on the pewter medallions we gave out at Celebration IV. So we’ve used that sponsorship model ever since.

A shot of the large sized tots that sponsors receive (thanks to ‘Ke We’ for the photo). 

23: So do you approach potential sponsors or can someone approach you or your team? 

GUS: We usually keep a waiting list of interested sponsors. There are many more people who want to sponsor than slots available, so unfortunately, we need to turn some people away. But we keep in touch with people for next time. Sponsorship is not cheap and has been running about $2000 per sponsor in recent years. But we are super grateful for the sponsors to enable us to do these giveaways.

24: What do you think of people flipping Tots? 

GUS: Once we give them away, people can do whatever they want with their Star Tots. Sponsors get some Star Tot sets, but they aren’t allowed to sell them until after Celebration. Many people do sell them, which I think is fine as it gives others the chance to buy ones they missed.

25: Let’s move on to some questions about vintage collecting and social networking. Where would collectors find you online most of the time? Forums? Facebook? Twitter? 

GUS: I post daily to Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook about Star Wars collecting and interact with many collectors, particularly on Facebook. I started this thing in November 2016 of posting a “Daily Grail” each and every day. I’ve kept it up since then and can continue doing this for quite a while longer. One of the things I find when people visit our house is that they are frequently overwhelmed by the sheer amount of rare and one-of-a-kind items on display. People end up missing lots of interesting stuff. So I thought it would be cool to drip feed cool items each day to start a conversation about individual pieces.

I do participate in Facebook group discussions from time to time but there are so many groups and daily threads and I have a super busy career that I don’t post as often as I used to. I also attend many conventions every year such as Celebration, San Diego Comicon, and Emerald City Comicon. I do tons of local events with collectors in my area as well. I’m fairly easy to reach since I even show my email address on the Star Wars Collectors Archive.

26: What do you think is the best platform for connecting with other collectors online?

GUS: There is no question that Facebook has taken over as the central place for collectors to interact online. There are lots of great Facebook groups devoted to different areas of Star Wars collecting. The Rebelscum forums are also the classic venue for collectors to meet, but as a lot of discussion has shifted to Facebook, it’s more a secondary forum these days, which is unfortunate because I love Rebelscum. There are many other sites with interesting forums like Imperial Gunnery and Star Wars Forum UK but those also appear to be waning as the discussions move to Facebook. Facebook has 2 billion active monthly users. We just can’t repel firepower of that magnitude.

27: We recently hosted a roundtable discussion with the owners/moderators of the four English speaking vintage Star Wars forums (Roundtable) What do you think the future holds for forums? 

GUS: I believe it’s all going to Facebook. Facebook has live streaming, great posting features from simple feedback to long responses, moderator tools, and more. But social media is constantly changing. In the past two decades we saw the Star Wars community on the Internet start with newsgroups, move to web-based forums, and now on to Facebook. And I’m sure it will change again in the near future.

28: Do you get caught up in the endless online debates about u-grades, reproductions etc? 

GUS: Not really. I do have viewpoints on those topics but don’t think there’s a whole lot of depth to those debates so generally don’t join in on them.

Regarding U-grades… I think loose figure collecting is wonderful. That’s how I got started. I still have my first set of loose figures from when I was a kid, and I ramped on Star Wars collecting by collecting loose figures. But U-grades are not loose figure collecting. It’s a process of destroying vintage Kenner (or affiliate) Star Wars toy packaging to put the toy in AFA packaging forever where you can never access the toy. It’s not a loose figure—it’s a packaged figure but instead of Kenner, it’s AFA. You can’t even touch it. Also the “U” for uncirculated is ridiculous in toy collecting. The term “uncirculated” comes from coin collecting where coins enter circulation as they’re exchanged. Toys are bought by kids and have already been touched by hands of a worker in a factory—there’s no notion of “circulation” like currency. Finally, if I’m going to collect something that is sealed in a package, I’d much rather have vintage Kenner packaging than AFA packaging. U-grades are just stupid.

I’m also not a fan of repros. I think they’re completely unnecessary as there’s plenty of vintage items to go around. The big problem with repros is that people are constantly fooled by them. Even if the people who created them in the first place had the best intentions, they tend to get out and passed off as originals. It’s hard to put that genie back in the bottle though, so I think the best thing people can do is educate other collectors by making it clear how profoundly lame it is to collect repros and U-grades. None of the advanced collectors I know really bother with them.

29: Does the Inner Circle exist and are you its overlord? 

GUS: As you can tell, I’m not a big fan of hierarchies in the collecting community. But let’s just say that if an Inner Circle did exist and if that Inner Circle was created by me, it would certainly not have an overlord ruling it. I guess I didn’t really answer your question. Or did I?

30: Well answered Gus. That’s exactly how I would expect the overlord of the Inner Circle to deflect the question…On to a few questions about your collecting habits now. Firstly, what do you collect? 

GUS: If there’s a theme to my collection, I enjoy collecting items that are challenging to find. For me, it doesn’t have to be super valuable, but I love the novelty and thrill of the hunt that comes from finding previously undiscovered items. So I collect in several categories: Star Wars food items (especially cereal boxes), record awards, cast and crew items, original art, vintage toys, toy prototypes, store displays, school yearbooks of the cast, and screen-used movie props and costumes. In each of those categories I have an extensive collection, and in some of them I may have the largest collection in the world in that specialty. Who knows?

Okay brace yourselves for a few photos of Gus’ collection! 

  

31: Gus that is just mindblowing! Do you get many requests from collectors to visit your collection?

GUS: I get requests for tours all the time. I do private tours quite frequently, usually for out of town guests who are in the area. We also throw parties a couple of parties a year. Of course, we’re not equipped to be open to the public, and I wouldn’t risk that, but if I know a collector or they are friends of someone I know, I usually find time to show them around.

32: What was your most recent purchase? 

GUS: I just recently picked up some amazing original artwork by Ralph McQuarrie for various concepts he drew and painted for Star Wars cast and crew t-shirts, belt buckles, and Christmas cards. It really doesn’t get any better than one-of-a-kind Ralph McQuarrie artwork!

33: Is there still something you’re looking for?

GUS: Tons of things. In each of my areas of specialty, I have a list of holy grails I’m after. For instance, in toy prototypes I would like to find mockups of the Blockade Runner, White Witch, and Micro Collection Torture Chamber box. For store displays, I’d like to find the Early Bird pole display. For crew items, there’s an early ILM X-Wing t-shirt I’m after along with the 1999 Lucas Learning, 1999 Lucas Arts, and 2005 JAK Films Star Wars-themed Christmas cards. For cereal boxes, my holy grails are the Canadian General Mills sticker offer boxes from 1978 and the Weeties cereal box from Australia. For movie props, I would like to find an original trilogy screen-used lightsaber and various helmets such as the TIE Pilot, AT-AT Driver, and Rebel pilot. I would pay a lot for any of these items. So it never ends…

34: Do you still sell vintage at all? 

GUS: If I pick up duplicates of something I will sell it. But I don’t sell very much.

35: What’s your favourite vintage piece?

GUS: It’s impossible to pick a favorite. Really, how do you choose between the unproduced 12” action figures, the Death Star model, Luke Skywalker’s belt, the complete set up unproduced Droids and Ewoks, Rocket Firing Boba Fett, the Sandcrawler toy wood pattern, Tusken Raider mask from A New Hope, the Bacta Chamber playset, or the Slave Leia outfit?

A selection of Gus’ favorite pieces. 

36: Have you ever stood in front of your collection and doubted your desire to  continue collecting?

GUS: Not really. I still love it and continue to keep it fresh and novel. I do sometimes say to myself that I will eventually have to stop since I won’t be able to continue finding pieces that match what I’ve found before. But then I find more and more items that set the bar higher. So I continue.

37: Do you think you have to be wealthy to start collecting vintage these days?

GUS: No. I think it’s a myth that you need to have lots of money to collect vintage. I have heard many collectors who spend thousands a year on the latest, newest toys saying they don’t collect vintage because they can’t afford it. That’s so wrong! Obviously these collectors could afford to collect vintage if they didn’t have to buy each of the latest toys on the shelves. Vintage Star Wars is finite and thousands of dollars can buy a lot of cool vintage stuff. Sure, it’s not as easy and convenient as walking into Walmart every week to get the latest toy, but the hunt is part of the fun.

38: Couple more questions and then we’re done. I know you’ve travelled the world visiting Star Wars locations, including those in Tunisia. My wife is Tunisian so I have to ask – what is your favourite location in Tunisia? 

GUS: I’ve been to most of the Star Wars filming locations: Finse in Norway (Hoth), Tikal in Guatemala (Yavin), northern California (Endor), Death Valley (Tatooine), Caserta (Naboo), Lake Como (Naboo), Skellig Michael (Ahch-To), southern California (Tatooine), Sevilla in Spain (Naboo), Puzzlewood Forest (Takadona), Canary Wharf in London (Scarif), RAF Greenham Common (D’Qar), and of course, Tunisia (Tatooine). I’ve also been fortunate enough to visit Skywalker Ranch, Lucasfilm’s offices at the Presidio in San Francisco, Elstree Studios, and Pinewood Studios. In fact, I was on set for the filming of The Force Awakens and was blown away by what I saw. It was so cool to be on set and witness the filming of a Star Wars movie and see all the sets, costumes, props, and actors!

A couple of Gus’ favourite filming locations

Tunisia has so many amazing Star Wars locations: Obi-Wan’s house, the Cantina, and Mos Eisley on Djerba, Lars homestead interior in Matmata, Slave Quarters in Medenine and Ksar Hadada, Mos Espa in Chott el Gharsa, Lars homestead exterior in Chott al Jerid, Dune Sea at La Grand Dune near Nefta, and the canyon shots in the location near Sidi Bouhlel.

Matmata is probably my favorite location. To sit in the dining room of Luke’s house and have dinner is an experience every Star Wars fan should do once in their life. It’s chilling when you realize you’re eating a meal in the exact location where Luke, Lars, and Beru had dinner. You feel like you are in the Star Wars universe. You just have to bring your own blue milk.

Tunisian filming locations

39: Awesome photos! I’ve heard a lot of collectors now claim that the south of Tunisia has been “taken over by ISIS” (based on some very loose news reports) and that it’s too dangerous to visit the SW locations down there now. What’s your take? 

GUS: Since Arab Spring, a lot of formerly stable countries in the region (like Tunisia) have gone through some turmoil. As typical in that region of the world, Tunisia was ruled by a strongman. Tunisia’s former ruler, Ben Ali, was a benevolent dictator and did many great things for Tunisia. He was educated in the US and France and tried to modernize Tunisia with programs like universal education and advancing the rights of women. He was very pro-west and promoted a secular government. Because of Tunisia’s stability, unique landscape, and strong tourism, it had become a favorite location for many motion pictures.

Arab Spring changed all of that. While there are some great pro democracy elements of those uprisings, unfortunately the instability was also seized by jihadists. Many news stories have reported that Tunisia is one of the top recruiting grounds for ISIS. There have been cases of tourists kidnapped in Tunisia. In the last couple of years, 57 tourists have been killed in two separate terrorist incidents in Tunis and Sousse committed by ISIS-aligned fanatics. Tourism is suffering in that country as a result, which makes things worse as Tunisians lose tourist dollars and see fewer westerners. ISIS itself is very small group, with estimates around 20,000-30,000 members worldwide, so they aren’t prevalent everywhere. The problem is that ISIS offers huge bounties for kidnapping westerners, which tempts many non-jihadists to kidnap people to transfer them them across borders for these bounties. While the overall risk is low in Tunisia, it’s not a risk I want to take right now. I know some Star Wars fans who have gone in recent years, but I’m holding off until the country stabilizes further. 
I love Tunisia. It’s one of my favorite countries in the world: the scenery, Roman and Islamic architecture, friendly people, delicious food, wonderful climate, and of course the Star Wars filming locations, make it an absolutely amazing place to see. I will go back some day.

40: Okay our final question – will you sell me your Death Star model? 

GUS: Not on your life! That little Death Star and I have been through a lot together.

I take back everything I said about you being a nice guy then! Well thanks so much for joining us Gus! It truly was a pleasure and above all an honour to have you on. 

 

 

Vintage Star Wars Moderator Roundtable: Forums and the Future

Welcome all to this monster-sized round table discussion with some of the owners/moderators of the four main English speaking vintage Star Wars forums. Why are we bothering to have this discussion? When I first started collecting four years ago, forums were pretty much the main source of social networking with other collectors. There was a Facebook group (yes yes Jason Smith we know you were the first…) but the traffic there was minor compared to the forums. Well Jason’s group now has almost 18.000 members and hundreds of spin-off groups have popped up since. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that Facebook is now the heaviest social networking hitter in the vintage Star Wars world.

What has Facebook got to do with the forums? Considering the immense traffic that the Facebook groups experience, there’s no doubt that the forums are feeling the effects. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve heard someone on Facebook say “The forums are dead.” But has their time really passed? Can the forums and Facebook walk hand-in-hand into the future or will another platform pop up and skittle the current setup? Well these are the questions that I’ll be asking two forum owners and two moderators today.

As always, we’d love to hear our readers’ views as well.

Let’s introduce each participant:

Edd Grant – owner/moderator of Star Wars Forum UK (SWFUK) – SWFUK

JohnPaul Ragusa – owner/moderator of The Imperial Gunnery (TIG) – TIG

Ian Cowley – joint owner/moderator of Tantive XI – Tantive XI

Thomas Garvey – moderator on Rebelscum (RS) – RS

VSWC: Welcome Edd, JohnPaul, Ian and Tommy and thank you all very much for taking the time to join us for this interview. Let’s get straight into the questions! 

1.HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN COLLECTING VINTAGE STAR WARS AND WHAT EXACTLY DO YOU COLLECT?

Edd (SWFUK)I first started collecting again in 1994. My interest in Star Wars was rekindled by the release of the Digitally Remastered Star Wars VHS collection. I really enjoyed seeing the films again for the first time in years, and that of course made me think about my old toys. Now I mainly focus on Tri-logo carded figures and boxed vehicles but also collect video games, loose figures, baggies and other MOCs

JohnPaul (TIG): I’ve been collecting for about 12 years. I fell in love with foreign released figures (to my wallets’ dismay) and look to collect at least one example of each non US style released in each country.

Tommy (RS): I started collecting in ’93 or ’94, when I was about 12.  I collect pre-production material, focusing on Kea Moll, Luke Poncho, Micro Collection and Micro Machines items.  I’ll buy whatever I find cool or interesting though, I never feel hemmed in by a focus.

Ian (TXI): I was there from the start in 1978, and retained my childhood collection.  In 1995, just before POTF2 was announced, I saw a collectible show in a local mall, and discovered some figures I not only didn’t have as a child, but some I didn’t know existed. Some figures, especially POTF figures, I had an easier time locating carded, but couldn’t stand the thought of opening them, so an initial aim to have a loose run turned into loose and carded.  I also collect everything else 3 ¾” related, and have a full run of loose 12”.  I do pick up odds and ends here and there, but mostly, I’m just an average Kenner production collector.

2.CAN YOU GIVE US A BRIEF HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF THE FORUM YOU OWN/MODERATE?

Edd (SWFUK)starwarsforum.co.uk started in December 2005. I had been a member of Rebel Scum for a few years, but at the time it was very ‘American’ so there were few UK sales threads or discussion about Palitoy & Meccano toys etc. I was doing a degree in computing at the time and had just learned how to make websites, so I decided to start a forum that was open to everybody but leaned towards UK collecting.

JohnPaul (TIG): The Imperial Gunnery forum (known as TIG) and the weapons site were founded in 2009. The weapons site was created to give collectors a very refreshed look at the repro market plus breakdown of various mold variations on authentic weapons. The forum was created to offer a discussion platform and meeting place for collectors!

Tommy (RS): I am a moderator of the Rebelscum forums, which is one of the oldest SW collecting forums around.  It’s been around in one form or another since 1996.

Ian (TXI): Tantive XI is a much more recent forum, officially opening its doors in late 2015, but we are far from inexperienced.  A group of collectors banded together to create a forum which embraced advances in social technology, in an attempt to blend the typical forum with the features that have made social media popular today (ex. tagging people in posts, direct photo uploads from mobile devices, etc.).  We also aim to have a comprehensive library of anything related to vintage collecting, including but not exclusive to the toys, with awareness and education of vintage issues being a top priority. Unlike most of the forums, our site doesn’t have one single owner, we are all equal . The moderation team works as a group, with all important site developments being a result of a “majority rule” system.  Having a team that features moderators from multiple countries from around the world, and with the majority having previous moderator experience elsewhere previous to our forum’s existence, the hope is that every move we make appeals to the largest demographic possible.

3.HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN PERSONALLY INVOLVED?

Edd (SWFUK)11 years, since it started.

JohnPaul (TIG): I joined up in 2009 as a member and was asked to be a moderator in 2010. From there I took on various roles (global mod, admin) until purchasing the site in 2012. Since then I’ve been honored to work with various collectors in varied roles. My current team (in alphabetical order) Bryan, James, Matt, Paul and Stefan are the reason for the sites success.

Tommy (RS): I joined the forums in 2003 after lurking for a couple of years, and became a mod in early 2006, if I recall correctly.

Ian (TXI): I joined the site just before it went live publicly, on November 30, 2015. While being promoted to a “developer” position January 13, 2016, I assumed full moderator status July 13, 2016. So, I’ve been involved as part of the core team for about eight of the 15 months the site has been open.

4.WHAT IS YOUR DAY TO DAY ROLE IN FORUM ACTIVITIES?

Edd (SWFUK)I really see myself as a user of the forum above anything else, I’m not a heavy handed moderator. I spend a few minutes a day moving posts in wrong sections, deleting duplicates, removing spammers etc but 90% of my time spent on the forum is spent the same as everyone else, reading and posting. I think it’s extremely important for mods/admins to remain engaged with their forum.

JohnPaul (TIG): I pretty much eat Cracker Jacks while those guy work lol. We all contribute in various ways and help each other out. I don’t do anything unique and candidly while my home life has been very hectic the team has stepped up and made it incredibly easy to not worry about the day to day.

Tommy (RS): Our forums have been around for a while, so most of our members understand the rules.  As such, aside from occasionally moving threads to the correct sub-forum or breaking up an argument before it spirals out of control, our day-to-day activities are pretty simple.  Most of the credit for keeping the nuts and bolts of the community functioning smoothly belongs to my fellow moderator Mike Mensinger, who really goes above and beyond to keep things orderly.

Ian (TXI): Every team member has the same expectations.  In addition to keeping an eye on the forums, it is hoped that everyone contributes to building the library when possible, and to try to continue to come up with new ideas that will maintain interest from the membership.

5.HOW INVOLVED ARE THE OTHER MODERATORS IN EVERYDAY FORUM DISCUSSIONS?

Edd (SWFUK): It varies, all have a history of being very active as that’s how they became mods in the first place, but over time people lose interest in collecting or start their own groups etc so not all are as active as they used to be. That’s fine though – you need mods to be quite impartial so it’s important for them to be level-headed and reserved.

JohnPaul (TIG): I think there is an ebb and flow. We make no bones about how FB’s ease of access is hard to compete with and we’re all victims to its lure from time to time. I think if something grabs our attention we’re engaged and we do make an effort to try and bring things into the forum to keep everyone interested. We have good success with interactive games, raffle/giveaways, etc.

Tommy (RS): Generally, we all try to be around to answer questions or help people find the information they’re looking for.  But like I said, it’s a great community so most of the time by the time I see a question, one of our members has already answered it.

Ian (TXI): We have some moderators that are the most involved people on the site, and some who keep a very low profile.  Everyone’s personal situation is different, but for the most part, we have very active moderators.

6.APPROXIMATELY HOW MANY MEMBERS DO YOU HAVE?

Edd (SWFUK)Right now it’s a shade under 5000, but every year I prune all the inactive accounts and members who haven’t posted. If I had never done that it would be tens of thousands, but I want quality over quantity.

JohnPaul (TIG): The forum currently has 2790 members but admittedly it’s a not a reflection of activity. I see FB pages with 17,000 members but the same 50 people posting. It’s a tough thing to reconcile. The weapons site (Imperialgunnery.com) doesn’t require signup but we have had 671,877 visitors.

Tommy (RS): On all of Rebelscum?  I believe it’s like 32,000 registered users.  Most of those aren’t part of the vintage collecting forum though, obviously.  But we probably have at least a couple hundred regular posters there.  Sometimes more, depending on when you check and what’s going on in the hobby.

Ian (TXI): We are just about to hit 300 members, which isn’t bad for a band new forum barely over a year old in this era of declining forum activity in our hobby.

7.HOW HAS MEMBERSHIP BEEN GOING THIS PAST YEAR?

Edd (SWFUK)Contrary to popular belief that forums are dying, mine is still growing steadily. It has grown year on year since it started 11 years ago.

JohnPaul (TIG): Just jumping from the last question, it’s not a true reflection of the sites use. We had 373 signups from March 2016-Feb 2017 but without data mining I’m not sure if that translated into active members. It does show me that the interest is there though.

Tommy (RS): I have no idea, I’m just a mod not an admin.  🙂  I think it’s doing pretty well though.  Or it seems to be, anyway.

Ian (TXI): Membership has been steadily growing since we opened the doors.  We are fortunate to have ChristianC (aka Bobby Bobs), who puts a lot of his time into recruiting new members, and his hard work has been paying off.

8.AND WHAT ABOUT GENERAL DAY TO DAY TRAFFIC OVER THE LAST YEAR?

Edd (SWFUK)Again it has been steady, I’m happy to say Facebook and other forums have not really detracted from SWFUK’s popularity.

JohnPaul (TIG): We get about 350-450 visitors per day and approx. 3600 “sessions”. The majority of the traffic is generated by users doing a quick scan. I think we have an average stay time around four minutes. I think it shows people do value the forums and look for ways to be engaged if there is a reason.

Tommy (RS): I think it’s gotten better over the last six months or so.  We’ve had some very interesting conversations and quite a few new members or members who are returning to collecting after a long absence.  We’ve definitely seen an uptick, which is understandable given the new movies and the fact Celebration is right around the corner.

Ian (TXI): We have a steady group of regulars who browse the forum daily.  Page views are not a problem.  The trick is to keep the members involved and actively participating on a regular basis.

9.HOW HEAVILY ARE YOU INVOLVED IN THE VINTAGE STAR WARS FACEBOOK GROUPS?

Edd (SWFUK)I spend a lot of time on Facebook and am a member of about ten groups. I do not sign up to all of them as I simply don’t have time to follow them all, so I have just chosen a few favourites. I tend to prefer smaller groups focused on specific aspects of collecting to the larger general groups.

JohnPaul (TIG): I’m a member of several groups but take no active role in any beyond being a member. I think someone added me as a mod to one but I don’t actively do anything. Obviously we maintain a FB page but a decision was made to put content there that would mostly funnel to the forum.

Tommy (RS): I’m a member of most of them and am an admin of a couple (the Return of the Jedi action figures group and the Dark Times group).

Ian (TXI): Personally, I resisted social media groups for a long time.  While I belong to over 50 groups, it was rare I posted in them.  I grew up in the hobby with forums, and have been critical of some aspects of Facebook.  The past couple of years, though, my participation in Facebook groups has begun to grow.  That generally applies to general discussion, educational, and similar types of posts though, as I’m not a very active buyer/seller, and tend to stay away from the various limelight discussions.

10.HOW HAVE THESE FACEBOOK GROUPS AFFECTED YOUR FORUM?

Edd (SWFUK)They have certainly generated a lot of discussion, both positive and negative. Due to the format of Facebook it is very difficult for people to give feedback, so they often turn to the forum for this.

Being honest the sales section of the forum has slowed down a bit since Facebook, but there’s still plenty for sale and other forums have suffered more.

JohnPaul (TIG): I think Facebook has affected most, if not all, forums. It goes well beyond vintage Star Wars too. It’s affected the cadence of conversations to the actual collecting landscape. Instant “likes” and replies to instant collections. It makes the forums seem like it’s in slow motion. I sell a fair amount and FB selling is insanely quick. If I post there first, then TIG, I might everything sold before I can even finish the posting. I rarely even put a FS on other forums anymore.

Tommy (RS): I think Facebook has had a big impact on all forum conversations, no doubt.  We saw a big dip in activity over the last couple years.  It seems to be leveling out again now, but for awhile there, it seemed like all forums were empty, not just ours.  But thankfully, things are better now.

Ian (TXI): Considering how new we are, that’s a question that is difficult to answer.  While I am sure we’d have more membership and/or participation if Facebook didn’t dominate, at the same time, Facebook has been a key to gaining exposure to our forum.  As with everything Facebook related, there are pros and cons.

11.WHAT CAN THESE GROUPS LEARN FROM THE FORUMS?

Edd (SWFUK)I think the important thing to remember is that Facebook and forums complement each other. They cannot compete against each other because they are completely different formats. I encourage Facebook groups to point their members to forums for research and information as they are so much better than Facebook for this. Whenever somebody creates a “should I join Facebook?” thread on the forum, I am always quick to suggest they do.

JohnPaul (TIG): I think the FB pages have bred new collectors. I don’t think a lot of them would have been happy as forums members. To loosely use SW allegory, the forums were what I imagine a Jedi Temple was (I never read the Extended Universe stuff so forgive me if there is info on what it is). The forums had knowledge, discussion, discovery and a respect for members who’d brought the hobby to where it was. I think the FB community brought forth a myriad of pages, mods, admins, and egos. People can jump in, say whatever they want, and then jump to another page. I think the forums brought a sense of order to things. I’m not sure FB can provide that. If I had to hope for something, it would be that people learn the rich history of the hobby, not just open their wallet.

Tommy (RS): I think forums have a much better sense of community than the groups do.  With a forum, you instantly know who you can probably trust and who knows what they’re talking about, just by looking at post numbers or post history or just the way other members treat a certain person.  Its semi-permanence means that the record is all there and you can see who’s done shady stuff in the past.  It’s a more stable community, filled with known individuals.  As such, there’s also less disinformation being disseminated.  It’s a much more “circle of friends” kind of feel, so if you say something that’s wrong, someone is going to correct you.  And then perhaps a debate will erupt, all in the same thread for everyone to see.  With a group, on the other hand, many of the people replying to a particular post have no idea what they’re talking about.  They haven’t even read the previous replies, because in most cases, it’s not a real conversation, it’s just them staying random things to the original poster.  You might not even ever see that poster reply to anything else in the future.  So, there’s all kinds of nonsense being regurgitated and most of the time, no one corrects it.  I think groups that can create a better feeling of community and common ownership will succeed.  That’s definitely something I always strive for in groups I help admin.  I want them to be a real source of information, not just casual entertainment.  Ultimately, I want to embrace the “circle of friends” kind of atmosphere, since I think most people respond well to that.

Ian (TXI): The single biggest thing forums have in the way of an advantage is the ability to be a better organized resource for those looking to learn about the hobby.  Facebook moves at a very fast pace, and discussions get buried very quickly, while in forums accessing information is far more convenient and permanent.  

12.WHAT CAN THE FORUMS LEARN FROM THE FACEBOOK GROUPS?

Edd (SWFUK)One lesson I took recently was that photography has become a much bigger part of collecting, so I improved the photo upload capability to make it easier for people to post photos. I think one area some other forums fall down on badly is mobile compatibility as most people use the internet on their phone these days, but SWFUK has been mobile friendly for quite a few years now.

JohnPaul (TIG): I think the forums (and really the software that makes the forums) need to see that mobile access is key. I don’t think people want to abandon forums but we need to adapt. Notifications on a device, ease of photo uploads, PMs, all need to be made faster and better on a mobile.

Tommy (RS): I think the groups are growing in popularity simply because they’re easy to use.  You can post pics and get instant feedback.  People like that.  You don’t have to remember to check back to the website to see if anyone posted anything cool or to see if anyone replied to your thread.  FB does all of that for you, and there’s always someone active.  It’s instant gratification.  People want those “likes.”  With a lot of groups, they’d rather have 100 likes than a real conversation about a piece.  They don’t want to be informed what their piece is or why it’s not what they thought it was, they just want a “Awesome piece, dude!” comment and to feel special for a brief moment of time.  That’s the nature of social media.  It’s quick and easy.  So forums need to be easier to use in order to compete.  Posting pictures needs to be easier and there needs to be better social media connectivity.  Making it easier for people to post on the forum means that people will post on the forum more.

Ian (TXI): Many forums learned the hard way that maintaining a status quo just doesn’t work in today’s fast paced environment.  Facebook took advantage of a superior method of sharing images, and even in sharing items of interest to specific fellow members quickly and directly.  Simply put, today’s average collector wants convenience and simplicity, and Facebook has been better at providing that.

13.HOW CAN FORUMS AND THE FACEBOOK GROUPS WORK TOGETHER TO IMPROVE OUR ONLINE COLLECTING EXPERIENCE?

Edd (SWFUK)Respecting each other and being aware of their strengths and weaknesses. Facebook can do things that forums can’t, and vice versa. Forums didn’t tell people to stop reading books, Facebook groups shouldn’t tell people to stop reading forums.

JohnPaul (TIG): That’s a complex thing to answer. I think the forums are a more solid foundation for history, cataloging and preservation of the hobby. The FB pages are extremely interactive but all diluted with there being so many. While it would be great to just split the duties (make forums the repository, FB the interaction) the fact is that FB groups are free to run, maintain, and also mimic. The time and money invested in the forum is far more of a chore and it would be hard to justify pouring money and time into them if the role is relegated to being a repository.

Tommy (RS): Personally, I think limelights and quick questions about a piece are best suited for groups, and in-depth discussion is much better suited for a forum environment.

I’ll always prefer a forum based system, since it’s much easier to search and archive than a FB group.  You can literally find online conversation about Star Wars going all the way back to 1981. Think about that.  Fans having discussions about Star Wars before ROTJ was even released.  And all of that is still around, available for you to read today, free of charge.  But with FB groups (and to some extent, forums), all of the information is now one button press from being deleted forever.  And even if it is still somehow available, it’s troublesome to search and the content you’re after is rarely easy to find.  To me, that’s worrisome, because I believe in the longevity of this hobby.  I think in the future, people will want to know what we were talking about now.  And I seriously doubt the FB groups will still exist in their current form.  I think they’ll long since have been purged by FB, erasing all of that information.  People 30 years from now aren’t going to be able to look back on our conversations the way we can look back on the collectors 30 years before us.  And that’s a problem, in my opinion.

As such, I think the solution is for people to be part of both communities.  If you discover something interesting, mirror your posts in both communities.  If someone is scamming in a group, let the forums know and vise versa.  Use the groups for the stuff they’re best at and use the forums for the rest.

I don’t think it has to be an either-or type of situation, I think there’s more than enough room for both types of community.  It’s up to the admins and moderators of both to be responsible leaders for the hobby and create the kinds of communities that meet the needs of their members.

Ian (TXI): This is a goal we have.  Trying to take the best aspects from both, and integrate them.  You can directly register for our forum right from the Facebook page.  We took the convenient ways Facebook deals with photos and tagging people, and found a way to incorporate them onto our board.  The only way for either platform to survive long term is to embrace the strengths each has to offer and create a hybrid.

14.DO YOU HAVE A STRATEGY IN PLACE FOR MAINTAINING YOUR FORUM’S MEMBERSHIP LEVELS?

Edd (SWFUK): I work in digital media so have known for a very long time that content is king. I see other forums and Facebook groups try all kinds of different gimmicks to try and grow their membership like t-shirts, giveaways, competitions etc, but without good content they are wasting their time. That’s why as above I spend more time contributing to the forum than I do moderating it, growth then comes naturally.

JohnPaul (TIG): We do have desire to keep them active. Our strategy is to try and engage people on various topics and get involved in various projects/games/etc. We understand that we face a challenge in the “instant gratification” movement. There is no way the forums can compete with that, so we need to show the value of the forums in the tighter community it breeds, the ease of getting information and the fact that forums have value in their slower pace.

Tommy (RS): I just try to post interesting topics, the logistics of maintaining membership is the responsibility of the site’s owners and administrators.  But members always stick around if there’s something interesting to talk about.

Ian (TXI): Yes, by continuing to integrate technological advances into our forum, the hope is we can remain relevant in the face of continuing change.  Also, by trying to put a focus on member participation, even in helping to develop the site, we’re hoping people feel more personally connected and stick around.

15.WHAT DOES YOUR FORUM OFFER THAT CANNOT BE FOUND ON THE OTHER FORUMS OR IN THE FACEBOOK GROUPS?

Edd (SWFUK)The forum has been running longer than Facebook and most other forums, so its legacy is one thing that cannot be taken away. I also think SWFUK has the best collection of members anywhere so I am very grateful for that. There is a good balance of knowledge, tolerance and humour – the latter two often lacking from other forums/groups.

JohnPaul (TIG): For weapon authentication and identification we are second to none. I’m very proud of the fact we are considered the global resource for that. It’s been a long journey, spanning from Jay and Wolff to the current caretakers of information. I also feel that the finite amount of larger forums makes information far more accessible. Every FB page admin feels they are the “best on FB” but the average collector probably belongs to 20, 30 or more pages. So finding something can be troublesome. Add in that a few posts or angry people can shut a page down if they chose I think the forums offer a certain stability.

Tommy (RS): Our forum has been around a long time.  And many of its members go back even further than that, back to the days of newsgroups.  There is a TON of knowledge there and access to the combined experiences of hundreds of collectors, many of whom haven’t made the switch over to FB groups.  If you want to have an honest, in-depth discussion about something or research something obscure, there’s no place better than the forums.  And all of that history is catalogued and easily searchable by anyone.  Since posting takes a few seconds longer than it does on FB, there also isn’t generally as much nonsense.  If people are talking, it’s usually about something, rather than just a quest to get the most likes or to waste a few moments while they wait for their train.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some very good FB groups (I admin a couple of them), but there are also some *really* bad ones.  Not recognizing the difference can be very dangerous to collectors.

Forums are very egalitarian.  They require no real approval to join and they’re visible to everyone.  Many of the best FB groups are invite only and aren’t as open to newer collectors.  Which is strange, since I don’t know anyone who knows everyone in a FB group.  They’re generally strangers (even though members use their real names), sharing a common interest.  I think most members of a forum are at least familiar enough with their community to remember something about most of the people who regularly post there.  They’re usually friends/adversaries, or at the very least “work friends.”  But I don’t think that’s the case with most of the groups.  I would post stuff to RS that I’d never post to a FB group, or at least not to a FB group I didn’t really trust.

As for why Rebelscum over the other forums, I think most collectors would agree that RS has been the dominant community for vintage conversation for the last 15 years or so.  Don’t get me wrong, there are other forums that are also *very* good and which I’m a member of, but RS has been #1 for a long, long time.  I like to think there’s a reason for that.

Ian (TXI): The simple answer here is what I have already mentioned several times.  A user experience that blends traditional forum style with the conveniences of social media.

16.ARE THERE ANY NEW TECHNOLOGIES THAT YOUR FORUM PLANS TO EXPLOIT?

Edd (SWFUK)The forum software platform (phpBB) recently had a major upgrade, so in the next year I will look to install that. The problem is upgrading the software to a new major version requires creating a new theme and people hate change, so I’m in no rush to change it again!

JohnPaul (TIG): We are always at the mercy of the software platform. We have seen attachments become easier, notification bars offer a summary view of what’s happened and other things move us slowly into the mobile arena. I think I’d like to see more of a tie-in with mobile devices.

Tommy (RS): I have no idea, that’s not my department, thankfully.  🙂

Ian (TXI): I think we have done a good job so far in trying to stay on top of technological advances.  As they continue to appear in the hobby, we will continue to try and find a way to embrace them.

17.WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE NEXT PHASE IN THE EVOLUTION OF SOCIAL NETWORKING FOR VINTAGE STAR WARS COLLECTORS?

Edd (SWFUK): I think some Facebook groups are now getting too big, the single page system simply does not work when you have 10,000+ members. So I think Facebook is going to have to adapt to avoid becoming too diluted. Perhaps they will implement a category system like forums have, or the ability to pin more than one post.

JohnPaul (TIG): That’s an interesting question. I think we’ll eventually get into VR. Maybe not now, but 5yrs from now. You’ll see people being able to walk through Rancho Obi-Wan or even my modest collection using some VR technology. I can see us uploading 3D scans of our favorite MOCs and figures and a user being able to pick up and rotate the figures virtually to see every side and feel like it’s in hand. I also see video events becoming more prevalent. A virtual event where a host interacts with the user base, like I’ve done on some FB pages.

Tommy (RS): I think the community itself is going to become central to collecting, if that makes any sense.  We’re seeing it already, with the rise of fan-made collectibles and swag trading.  If you plot out the course of the hobby, you’ll see it in action.  Star Wars collectors split off from the larger Star Wars fan base.  Then vintage collectors split off from modern collectors, etc.  Each step gets more and more specialized, but it also becomes more and more serious about what it’s doing.  Collecting is its own thing now.  The hobby has become a club, in a way, with its own values and customs.  A huge part of that is the social aspect, which gets more popular every year.  There are many collectors who don’t actually collect, they’re just here to hang out with the people.  To me, that’s where the hobby is headed.  Collecting will no longer be a solitary experience, but one which is shared to ever greater degrees.

I think in years to come, we’re going to see social media become an even bigger part of collecting.  I think the FB groups are kinda ‘Survival of the Fittest’ at the moment, but sooner or later, the strongest ones will take over and they’ll be able to drive the community to new places.  The way FB works, new people will be exposed to the hobby, who might ordinarily have never even thought about collecting, but because they see collecting related posts in their feed, they might pick it up.  There’s a normalization there.  And it’s bringing in more diversity, which is very healthy for the long-term health of the community.  Those new collectors then discover forums, posting material that reinvigorates those established communities, starting the entire process over again.

In a way, I think collecting is outgrowing fandom.  It’s creating its own identity.  A Star Wars collector is his/her own animal now, more than a collector in any other pop culture field I can think of.  And social media is really helping that along.

Ian (TXI): The last few years has seen a dramatic shift from forums to social media.  Not all forums are affected, but in general, it’s been a steady decline.  However, it is becoming apparent that there is a growing sentiment expressing a desire to return to some of the strengths of forums that Facebook has struggled with.  I think that with the honeymoon phase of social media coming to an end, the next stage will see the biggest success go to platforms that are best able to appeal to today’s fast paced world, while maintaining a backbone of easily retrievable informational and photographic references that have been key to forums in the past.

18.CAN THE FORUMS REMAIN RELEVANT IN THE VINTAGE COLLECTING LANDSCAPE OF TOMORROW?

Edd (SWFUK)Absolutely! Facebook is a long way off from competing with the content capabilities of forums so until that changes forums will remain very much essential to any collector.

JohnPaul (TIG): Can FB?

Tommy (RS): I think so, yes.  If you look at the history of online discussion, you’ll see that as new and easier technologies appear, they generally take over and supplant what came before.  But I think forums are in the unique position of being generally easy to use and much better at facilitating actual discussion than a FB group is, for the most part. 

To put it another way, imagine that I have a question about… I don’t know… Yupi figures.  Now, I can post that on a FB group, but if an expert like Yehuda isn’t online that day, there’s a very good chance that my question will be bumped further and further down.  The way FB’s algorithm works, no one might see it in their feed at all, unless they physically go to the actual group page, which few people do.  Thus, my question will go unanswered.  But if I post the same question on a forum, my question will remain there forever, essentially.  And every single person who logs on will see it in the list of topics, highlighted if it’s new to them.  Thus, my chances of getting an answer to my question is exponentially higher and whatever reply I get is liable to be much longer and more in-depth anyway, given the differences in replies in a forum vs FB group.

I think forums are relevant as long as the community is still a good one.  The hobby is a herd sometimes.  It’s important to attract members but it’s even more important to keep the members you have.  If you can provide a place that is a useful tool for people to use in their collecting lives, as well as somewhere they can meet some really cool people, that’s never going to be irrelevant.

Ian (TXI): Absolutely.  As long as you adapt to the times and do not become stagnant, forums should stay relevant for some time to come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Collector Snapshot #20 – Todd Thornhill aka ‘LongPlayingTodd’

Welcome all to the twentieth episode of our collector snapshot, where a vintage collector answers 10 short questions. The same questions will be given to every collector appearing in this segment.

We’ve hit the big 20 episodes of these snapshots and I thought it was the perfect moment to finally invite Todd Thornhill onto the blog, who is one of my favourite collectors. I first came across Todd a few years ago on Rebelscum but since those days Todd and I have both been regulars in pretty much the same Facebook groups, where I’ve gotten to know him a lot better. There loads of things I love about Todd: he’s an absolute gentleman, his collecting is drama-free, he has a fantastic collection but is super modest and he contributes positively to the collecting community.

Todd is a Canadian collector, born in St. John’s Newfoundland, and for the past 29 years, he has lived in Toronto, Ontario. He has worked as a Software/Web Developer for 20 years, and is currently employed as a Manager of Software Development. His main collecting focus is vintage Star Wars, but he also collects 70s/80s toys and board games, as well as owning a huge collection of vintage / modern video game systems and games, from Atari 2600, up to current systems. (current tally: approx 2000 games and 25 systems).

Todd is 21 years ‘married’ with two beautiful kitties Vader and Naya (the latter of which also collect Star Wars…see pic). His username on forums is ‘LongPlayingTodd’ and he is heavily involved in the online community. He is currently one of the admins of the La Guerre des Etoiles (Star Wars) Collectors group on FB. Check it here:

La Guerre des Etoiles FB group

The GDE group focusses on French vintage Star Wars –  from Meccano, Kenner Canada, Tri-logo and anything else French and vintage Star Wars (and if you are not a member yet, please join!).

So let’s hear from Todd himself!

1. How long have you been collecting?

I’ve been collecting different things since I was a kid. I remember my collecting started with Six Million Dollar Man back then, (fully dependant on my parent’s pocketbook, mind you, but the thought of ‘having them all’ started there). Then when Star Wars came out, it was ALL about that. I was addicted. I was known as the kid with the Star Wars toys, and funny that people I grew up with still call me that to this day. I stopped and ‘grew out of it’ towards the latter end of the Empire line. I didn’t have anything from the Jedi line as a kid. I don’t actually remember how or why I don’t have my childhood collection anymore (they meant the world to me, so maybe I blocked it out?). I got back into Vintage Star Wars when I went to see Revenge of the Sith. A short while after seeing the movie, I was at a flea market and picked up a modern ROTS Vader figure, and that really got me thinking about the toys I had as a kid. One look on eBay, and bidding on and winning a boxed Falcon totally got me hooked again, so it was around late 2005 I really started focussing on vintage Star Wars.

VSWC: Evidence that he really did love Star Wars as a kid! 

2. What do you collect?

It’s changed a little bit since I started, but the common theme throughout has always been based on nostalgia, and wanting back what I had as a kid. I started with collecting a full loose collection, and at least one carded version of each figure released on any cardback, and boxed vehicles/playsets, regardless of COO. Then after about a year or so, I picked up my first Canadian carded figure, and quickly realized that it was Canadian that I really wanted. I knew my mother picked up my figures back in the day right when they were first released to stores, so I concentrated on a Canadian carded debut run. My focus now is strictly Canadian. Now that my debut run is winding down, I’m looking to expand my focus. Now it’s everything and anything Canadian. My ultimate dream would be to have a version of every Canadian MOC released, but obviously that would be an impossible feat, but we all need goals in life.

VSWC: Take a deep breath and check out Todd’s absolutely ripping collection! 

 

3. What’s your grail?

My grail would have to be a carded Canadian Vinyl Cape Jawa. I may go to the grave and still not find one of those, or eventually acquire one with only my fellow senile nursing home residents to share it with, but at least, along with my ‘every Canadian MOC’ goal, there won’t be a shortage of something to aim for, because I’m sure I’ll never achieve either goal.

VSWC: Let Todd know if you have one of these to sell him! Or even just to tease him with 🙂 

4. What collectors inspire you?

For me, collecting is an escape. An escape from real life, and a trip back in time to when I was a kid and didn’t have to deal with these adult trials and tribulations. For quite a few collectors, I believe this is the case, as a few of my collector friends have said the same thing to me. Not to get too personal, but some are dealing with issues that collecting allows them to get away from. Anyone that has, or on the path to, overcome their demons, whatever they may be, inspires me. I’ve met a few, and their success stories inspire me more so than anything. It keeps me going, really, and gives me hope for dealing with my own crap.

VSWC: Todd’s cat is pretty inspiring! 

5. What is your most embarrassing moment as a collector?

I can’t really recall an embarrassing moment as an adult collector, but as an 8-9 year old…. My mom would go grocery shopping every Friday and I would insist on going with her just to hang out in the Star Wars toy aisles in Woolco next door, while she was picking up groceries. Back then I was addicted to the guns and accessories that came with the figures.

I was so addicted that one Friday, in the Woolco aisle, I remember looking at all the figures on the pegs, and just craving to have the little guns in the bubbles. I wanted to take them out. Just the guns, not the figures. I wanted them all. So I began to carefully open as many bubbles as I could; only opening them enough to get at the guns, and proceeded to take out the guns. After a while, a Woolco employee wandered over, and questioned what I was doing. I opened my hand and showed her my handful of guns. I was so embarrassed not realizing what I was doing. I was blinded to the law by my love of Star Wars. In my eight year old mind, I wasn’t stealing because I just wanted the guns, not the figures. Makes sense right? She was very nice, I remember, and took back the guns I had in my hand, explaining it wasn’t the right thing to do, and let me go on my way. But she didn’t take the guns I realized I had in my pocket when I got home. Extra guns for me! Sorry to anyone who grew up in Newfoundland at the time, and got a carded partially resealed gunless figure that year for Christmas. It was my fault. Well…no…blame Star Wars.

6. What is your favourite Star Wars film?

Hmmmm…that’s a tough one. Star Wars started it all, and I remember my constant jaw-dropping when I saw it in the theatre with my Dad in ’77 (not so much Dad, who I specifically remember looking over to during one of my ‘What the hell did I just see’ moments, only to find him dozing off. Something I later realized he does regardless of the movie), but I remember the excitement I had as a kid when I saw Empire and it really blew me away even more. So I’d have to go with Empire, but it wins out by only a very small margin.

7. What would you change about the collecting community?

Drama and repros. It’s a pipe dream I’m sure to think of our collecting community free of drama, but I just wish we could all get along. There’s no real straight answer to it, which makes it more difficult to avoid, but just do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Cliché I know, but it’s true. We are a huge community with many different backgrounds and beliefs. Let’s try to keep Star Wars a happy place. It won’t happen I know, but nice to dream. I purposely have made an effort to stay away from drama, and quite happy our GDE group has very little of it, but I just wish everyone was mindful of others and not so quick to judge, be petty or jealous. I’m not talking about the scammers, douches, and plain ole idiots out there, cause there are a few of those, and they get what they deserve. I just don’t have time for pettiness. I don’t mean to give a world peace, beauty pageant type of answer, but don’t really want to have to come up with an escape plan for my escape plan. Let’s just try to make it a happy place. And for repros? Burn them all, I say. Burn…them…all!

8. Forums or Facebook groups?

They both have their place. I visit the forums less these days, unfortunately. I don’t think I’m alone with that. With forums, they are better organized. It’s just easier to find what you’re looking for. Also a lot easier for referencing historical data. How many times I’ve gone back to forums to gather info on old issues and collectibles are too many to count. Will we eventually get there with Facebook and for it to be the search source in the future? Possibly, unless another platform comes around. I don’t think it’s going to change as people are still to this day searching old newsgroups that were around before forums, so it will probably be just another platform to add to the search mix. FB groups on the other hand is just easier to use in general. It’s not a cumbersome interface at all. One thing I noticed quite quickly, on forums, I never really got to know collectors that well, and was a bit hard for me to break the ice. On FB, however, it was a hell of a lot easier to get in touch with, and get to know fellow collectors. Of course the platform itself is not conducive to hiding behind a pseudonym, and is a social platform, so it’s built that way, but it was only after I started speaking and making friends on FB did I then add them as friends on RS and other forums. And for someone that doesn’t get to go to many shows and conventions, and being mostly online, it was a welcome change. If FB can only nail down the organization side of things, and there not be so many groups, those are the only things that bother me. If there was a better way to organize things, it would make it a hell of a lot easier, instead of relying on FB search. Maybe using hashtags with search in some way, I don’t know the answer, but I do like to see some groups encouraging discussions with daily discussion threads, so it’s not all about FS, WTB, and limelights. That’s a welcome change. And Kudos to you Christian on the Tantive XI Forum. You and your fellow admins have done an amazing job there.

VSWC: Thanks Todd! I can’t take too much credit for Tantive’s success but thanks anyway! 

9. What Star Wars character do you most resemble?

Hmmm….I’m getting a bit chunky, wrinkly and grey in my older age, so I’d have to say a little bit of Jabba, The Emperor and Obi-Wan combined. Is that cheating combing three-in-one?

VSWC: Not cheating mate, I’ll accept your answer, even though it’s a bit harsh 🙂

10. Is there one thing that collectors may not know about you?

I currently work in Software Development, but before that, I was a wannabe artist and performed on stage for a while. I’ve been performing since I was a wee lad in elementary school, and moved here to Toronto from Newfoundland to pursue a singing / stage career. I’ve been in a number of shows here over the past 25 years and also through Second City, tried my hand in improv for a good five years. Life and career took precedence which led me to make the hard decision to focus on my career in Software and Web Development, but I can still belt out a good tune…and I love to make people laugh

VSWC: That is very cool Todd! Never too late to give it another go… Well thanks for coming on and I hope everyone enjoyed this interview as much as I did. 

Rocket Fett Prototype stolen from Rebelscum owner

Guys please be on the lookout for an AFA graded Rocket Fett Prototype which was stolen from Rebelscum owner Phillip Wise’s Star Wars museum.

Rocket Fett Prototype stolen from Rebelscum owner

Terrible that this has happened to Phil after he has generously displayed it for fans and collectors.

Please email me here or Phil at Rebelscum if you come across any information.

Thanks

 

Competition time! Post a vintage beater to win vintage Star Wars comics!

Running this competition for two reasons: firstly to thank people for the 1800 likes on Facebook, and secondly to apologise for the lack of recent action on our webpage. I’ve been crazy busy with some massive personal projects and with the usual work and study dramas. We do have a couple of interviews coming up so check this space again soon!

So who would like a shot at winning this set of vintage Star Wars comics?

First prize is this large set of vintage comics.They aren’t all exactly near mint but they are a great set and include the harder to find final issue in the original Marvel series.

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Second prize is a set of three modern Star Wars comics, which include a Forbidden Planet (a comic store in the UK) vintage style variant cover.

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All you have to do to win is post a photo on the relevant thread on our Facebook page of you with your most beat up Star Wars collectible (it will be clear where to post when you visit our page). It doesn’t have to be a figure, it can be any Star Wars item. Only one photo can be submitted per person so  choose carefully! As usual, my wife will choose the best photo. Here’s the thread:

Facebook Page

For those who don’t have Facebook, please contact me on the blog to receive details on how to submit your photo. I will then share, with your permission, these photos on our FB page.

To be eligible to win, you have to either like our Facebook page or subscribe to the webpage or Twitter account.

Entries close Wednesday12th October 2016 at 9pm Amsterdam time.

May the worst beater win!

Collector Snapshot #19 – Jared Cope: Mr Star Wars Tracker!

Welcome all to the nineteenth episode of our collector snapshot, where a vintage collector answers 10 short questions. The same questions will be given to every collector appearing in this segment.

I’m really excited to welcome vintage collector Jared Cope onto the blog. Although Jared lives in London, he is an Australian and is actually the first Aussie I have ever interviewed! Jared will also be presenting a panel at Celebration London so get your butts there! More details below.

Unfortunately Jared wasn’t able to take any snapshots of his collection right now but I wanted to get this published before CE3. But visit this interview later for photo updates!

me3

Jared is the brains behind the fantastic ‘Star Wars Tracker,’ software, which is often featured on the Vintage Rebellion Podcast. Rather than fumble around to explain the software, I’ll let Jared  explain it:

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Star Wars Tracker
=================

www.starwarstracker.com is a project I started in 2013. The original idea was to build and maintain a database of POTF coin real-world sold prices with number of sales, sale locations and other enrichment to best collect all 62 with minimal financial outlay. I was aware of various price guides but they always had shortcomings of being U.S centric with dollar prices, were not obvious where the sales took place and had no statistics to back up any claims of relative scarcity of items.

Secondly, I wanted the system to manage my inventory, to allow me to keep track of what I have and to generate a valuation with the click of a button! I pretty soon realized the idea was perfectly suited to loose figures and MOC items too. I finished development of all this in early 2015 and made Star Wars Tracker available to the public around July of 2015. It now contains over 80,000 real world prices (harvested weekly) across loose figures, MOC items, POTF coins, vehicles, playsets and much more!

Having this price database has also allowed me a great honour of being selected to present a panel for Star Wars Celebration 2016 here in London. The title of my panel is “Navigating a bull market for the vintage Star Wars collector”. I’ll be exploring the pricing trends over the last several years and highlighting some interesting aspects about the market.

And a few screenshots to whet your tracker appetite:

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mobileswtDesktop

VSWC: Thanks Jared! Here are some links you guys will find interesting:

Star Wars Tracker website/
Star Wars Tracker Facebook Page
Star Wars Tracker Twitter
Celebration London Panel Details

VSWC: Now to the questions!

1. How long have you been collecting

Ever since 1985 when I made the transition from He-man figures. Unfortunately I started with Star Wars at the tail end, but remember getting about 10 figures off the pegs in stores like Big-W and Grace Brothers in Australia. I would describe my collecting as having three seasons. Season one as a kid buying from stores and trading in the playground from ’85 – ’89. Season two was in the mid 1990s when I realized how awesome these toys were and would go around toy fairs every few months attempting to finish the loose figure run. At this point I also starting collecting MOCs with a view of completing a full 96 figure run. Then after quite a long break I came back into it for season three in 2012. I finished off my MOC run and generally got involved again. Season three is still running …

2. What do you collect?

I mostly collect anything to do with the 3 3/4 inch figure line that would have been aimed at me as a kid back in the day. However, I’m not really interested in the pre-production stuff. So a nice collection of complete loose and MOC figures is my passion. One of the last goals I committed to was finishing a full set of the 62 POTF coins. I completed this a couple of years ago, and so I don’t do a lot of buying these days. However, I’m always on the lookout for a bargain or something that adds some nice variety into my collection (an MOC front/back combo I don’t have, or a loose figure variant that’s visually different like a ledy red cap bib). Come to think of it, now I actually spend most of my time hunting down and collecting vintage item images (especially MOC front/back images) for the Star Wars Tracker image reference database. It’s actually quite a fun challenge to identify images I am missing as they come up, make sure they are nicely shot and suitable for use, and then making contact with the owner to seek permission to have a copy. At last count I have over 1200 unique images now. This keeps me busy and engaged with the community — and is easy on the wallet in today’s market!

3. What’s your grail?

I think it would be the trilogy of double telescoping figures. If I got one (most probably Luke), then I’d be compelled to get the other two but that’s a scary financial committment these days for Ben and Darth. I’ve never seen any of these in the flesh which is probably why they are a grail to me. To have an MOC set of these three … that would be something else. But a part of me thinks that grails are supposed to stay just that — something unfulfilled. Maybe in 20 years or so I can pick them up for a fraction of their cost in todays market.

4. What collectors inspire you?

Collectors that choose a niche of the hobby to become experts in is really inspiring. Whether that be writing a guide focused on all the Bespin Leia variants (VSWC – that was our friend Jay by the wayhttp://vintagestarwarscollectors.com/collector-snapshot-12-jay-williams/), or the various vintage weapons as described on the Imperial gunnery website. Our hobby is actually so well documented now due to people doing their own research and writing up guides about it. It has added such richness to the hobby, provided depth and opened up so many collecting paths for people to continue with.

5. What is your most embarrassing moment as a collector?

I thought about this one for a while and couldn’t really identify a single embarrassing moment. But then I guess I realized that up until recent years, being a collector itself is something I was secretly embarrassed about. I would never offer this up as something for other people to know about me, playing it safe and only reveal I am a vintage collector with the right audience. My wife is a great support for me in this hobby, and encourages me to enjoy it. I think that has helped me to see it differently and with Star Wars so mainstream again now, and everyone having grown older, there is no longer the stigma attached to being a Star Wars Collector.

6. What is your favourite Star Wars film?

I think I would choose Return of the Jedi for the closing scenes with Luke, Vader and the Emperor. That scene as Vader looks from Luke to the Emperor, wrestling with the conflict and then choosing to save Luke … given the scale of the story up to that point, it’s probably the most dramatic thing I’ve ever seen in film and it will stick with me always. That said, I thought The Force Awakens was absolutely epic!

7. What would you change about the collecting community?

If I had God powers, I would erase all aspects of reproduction items and scamming that is now an everyday danger. I really lament having to cross check each item I might be interested in for signs that it’s not a genuine vintage item. I won an auction for a couple of loose Luke/Darth telescoping figures back in 2012 with weapons. When they arrived I could immediately tell the sabers were repro (they were the versions where the paint could be scratched off). The listing description was very economical with the truth saying “original figures with weapons”. Having them in my collection made me feel sick. Since then I unfortunately have to approach everything as “Guilty until proven innocent.” It is a tiring way to proceed in this hobby. But it’s better than taking a chance, ending up with something I don’t want and having the drama of trying to unwind it with the seller. I really support the movement in the hobby: “Repro: don’t buy, don’t sell”.

8. Forums or Facebook groups?

I have time for both. For interesting topics, I much prefer the forums where people take a bit more time with their responses. It’s the kind of thing where you go make a nice coffee and have a purposeful browse for an hour or so. Most of the time you come away having learned something new. But over the last year I have joined a handful of Facebook groups and do participate every now and then. Some are much better than others. I use Facebook groups for a bit of a vintage “snack” if I have a spare five minutes or so.

9. What Star Wars character do you most resemble?

Hmmmm … I’m not sure about who I most resemble. I have dressed up as “Luke Skywalker in Jedi outfit (Green Saber)” at fancy dress parties in the past. My mum made a great fleece brown jedi cloak for it, and I even had a single black glove to give the impression there was a mechanical hand under there from my duel with Vader.

10. Is there one thing that collectors may not know about you?

When I can arrange a time and place for it, I’m actually quite a keen sand-castler! I find it really relaxing to spend a few hours in the sand preparing a “blank slate” and then sculpting something out of it. I like to attempt the fairy-tale kind of towers with spiral staircases and the like. I’d love to have a go at the really huge ones you see in competitions but if I can get something to stay standing a few feet of the ground I’m happy.

VSWC: Well thanks Jared for coming on! I’m sure our readers enjoyed your intelligent and insightful answers as much as we did. I’m pretty sure you are also the only sand-castler we’ve ever had on! You’ve got some skills!!!!!

sandCastles3 sandCastles2 sandCastles

Collector Interview #9: Bobby Sharp

Welcome everyone to the ninth edition of VSWC Blog Full-Length Collector Interviews! It has been a while since we published our last one, featuring friend of the blog Stephane Faucourt, but we have finally gotten our butts into gear to get these rolling along again. They really are the life-blood of the blog and are definitely the most enjoyable and fulfilling for me to put-together.
I’m pumped to welcome long-time collector and ‘Plastic Galaxy’ star Bobby Sharp onto the blog. I met Bobby at Celebration Anaheim, we exchanged swag and he was kind enough to take me up on my interview offer. Bet he didn’t think it would take over a year…But it’s finally happening and it is well-worth the wait. Not only is Bobby one of the most experienced and knowledgeable collectors in our hobby but he is also intelligent, articulate, helpful to other collectors and bloody funny.
Enjoy!
Bobby

1: Hi Bobby and thanks for agreeing to this interview! 

BOBBY: You got it! I’m happy to contribute to your blog.

2: It was great to meet you in Anaheim and I’m really excited to have you on  the blog. You know that I go by the name ‘Bobby Bobs’ on some forums and in the Facebook groups, well I’ve actually been mistaken for you a couple of times funnily enough. So how does it feel to be the second best looking ‘Bobby’ in our hobby? 

BOBBY: Well, I suppose everyone has their own burdens to bear. Just think about the poor sap who has to be the third best looking ‘Bobby’ in the hobby.

3: Haha! Well, now that we’ve dealt with the most pressing issue, I’m sure our readers would love to get to know a bit about you. So first off where are you based?

BOBBY: I live in Olmsted Falls which is a suburb of Cleveland in northeastern Ohio.

VSWC: Is that where you grew up? 

BOBBY: Close. I grew up in a nearby suburb called North Olmsted. I’ve lived in a few other places over the years, but when it came time to put down real roots, I ended up pretty close to home.

VSWC: What was it like growing up there?  

BOBBY: It was great. North Olmsted was a pretty typical American suburb. It’s basically a sprawling shopping mall with a bunch of 60s and 70s housing developments sprinkled around it. It was pretty safe, and for a kid there were plenty of things to do. Being located close to Cleveland, I was also in proximity to a larger city which certainly has its benefits.

4: I’ve seen a few photos of your beautiful family on Facebook. Can you tell us a little bit about them? 

BOBBY: Thank you! My family consists of my 4-year-old son named Elliott, my girlfriend, Nika, and her son, Logan, who’s 10.

Family

5: Are they Star Wars fans? 

BOBBY: It depends. Elliott really isn’t into Star Wars all that much. He loves R2-D2 (he calls him Bee-Boop) and BB-8, but right now he’s way more into Hot Wheels, trains, and construction trucks. Nika likes Star Wars, but I’m not sure I’d call her a fan. At least, not in the sense that we mean it. Logan, however, is absolutely a Star Wars fan. He’s not so much into the action figure toys, but he likes Star Wars LEGO and a lot of the Star Wars reference books and materials. He’s also a big fan of the Clone Wars animated series, and we’ve had a great time watching Rebels.

6: Am I right that you’re a school teacher? What do you teach? 

BOBBY: I teach 9th and 12th grade English in a town just outside of Cleveland called Garfield Heights. I’ve been doing this for 12 years, and I greatly enjoy it. It’s sort of difficult to imagine doing anything else.

7: You once posted a Facebook photo of yourself at  work, dressed up in an awesome Star Wars outfit. Can you describe exactly what you were wearing that day? 

BOBBY: Heh heh. I was wearing a full Star Wars suit. My mother made the tie, vest, and suit jacket. She made the tie and vest from vintage Star Wars curtains and she made the suit jacket from some modern Star Wars fabric. She’s still working on the pants so for school that day I wore some modern Star Wars pajama bottoms. The socks, underwear, and t-shirt were also Star Wars, but I’m not sure how many people outside of my immediate family knew that.

My mother is really good at sewing and making clothes, and she made me a lot of things growing up. I started asking her to make me a full Star Wars suit a few years ago. She sort of put it off for a while because she knew I’d actually wear it out in public. I don’t get embarrassed easily so she sort of gets embarrassed for me. Proxy embarrassment. When she finished the suit, she made me promise not to wear it to work or out with my girlfriend. I lied through my teeth and told her I wouldn’t. I did both.

I wore the suit on December 18th. It was the last day of school before winter break and, of course, The Force Awakens premiered that day. I’ll wear it next year before Rogue One premieres.

VSWC: What an awesome mum! No, have to say I definitely didn’t know you were wearing SW underwear that day….

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VSWC: How did the students react? 

BOBBY: I tell ya, kids are strange. Some kids thought it was awesome, some were genuinely puzzled, and some glanced at it without a second thought. I’m actually fairly conservative at work so I don’t think I’m pegged as being particularly eccentric by the student body or anything. I guess their minds were on things other than what I was wearing. It did help, however, to identify who the Star Wars fans were. Several kids came up to me excited to talk about the new movie. I had some good Star Wars talks when we returned from break.

VSWC: So other than the outfit, do you ever manage to squeeze Star Wars references into your lessons? 

BOBBY: Yeah. It happens. My students are well aware that I’m a big fan and it does come up from time to time. I don’t actually have tons of Star Wars stuff in my room other than a couple posters and a few other small doo-dads. That being said, I just showed Star Wars for the first time as a teacher. I have a senior seminar class and I’m in the middle of a unit on Joseph Campbell. So, we watched A New Hope as an example of the hero’s journey.

8: Before we get to vintage Star Wars, I have to ask about your love of comics. Am I right that you used to collect? 

BOBBY: I did. Like a lot of other folks, my collecting interests used to be a bit broader than they are now.

VSWC: What did you collect? 

BOBBY: Mostly Marvel and Vertigo stuff. My favorite titles were The Punisher, Daredevil, The Fantastic Four, and the Silver Surfer. I enjoy all aspects of the Marvel Universe, but I’ve always been particularly drawn to the sort of gritty, street-level, NYC-centered stories of Punisher and Daredevil as well as the cosmic stuff that Fantastic Four and Silver Surfer explored. At one point I had a pretty respectable collection with some complete runs and a bunch of key issues, but most of that I sold off years ago. The only regret I have is selling my set of Fantastic Four 48, 49, and 50. I absolutely love those issues and they were in fantastic shape. I love Silver Surfer, they’re such key issues in the Marvel chronology, and the story is amazing.

VSWC: So you weren’t a DC fan then?

BOBBY: No, not really. Not the DC superhero universe, anyway. I love their Vertigo stuff.  I mean, I’ve always liked Superman and Batman, but that might be because they’re such superhero icons. I have a lot of friends that read comic books and we’ve had many a late-night Marvel vs. DC beer session. Make mine Marvel!

VSWC: And what are your favourite comics now? 

BOBBY: I still love comics, but these days I’m definitely a reader rather than a collector. I still love all the titles that I mentioned above and reread them on occasion. But my favorite titles are Transmetropolitan, Sandman, Astro City, Preacher (or anything Garth Ennis writes, really), and other Vertigo stuff like that. I’m currently reading Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga and gradually, slowly working through Claremont’s original X-Men run.

VSWC: Love all of those titles! Are you excited about the upcoming Preacher TV series? 

BOBBY: Yeah. I’m looking forward to it. I mean, I’m trying to ready myself for the fact that it’s probably not going to follow the comic exactly. The trailer for the show already suggested as much. But if they remain loyal to the characters and the overall story and retain the comic’s marriage of intelligence and irreverence, then I think this could be a winner. In terms of how the show relates to the comics, I’m sort of hoping it takes the Daredevil model. I’m about halfway through the second season of Netflix’s Daredevil. I’m watching the show while rereading Frank Miller’s Daredevil run. A lot of the show views as a remix of Miller’s work. Some stuff is added, some stuff is omitted, and a lot is rearranged. And yet, I find that the show maintains the feels and spirit of Miller’s work. Nika and I were watching Daredevil a few nights ago and at one point I paused the program and told her that if Preacher takes the same approach, it’ll probably work.

VSWC: I notice that a lot of SW collectors also collect comics (myself included). What do you think is the common factor that draws some people to both of these hobbies? 

BOBBY: I’m not sure I can speak for other folks, but I have a deep love and appreciation for stories. So, my interests have always leaned toward avenues that provide this: comics, movies, novels, role playing games, etc. Also, for those that grew up liking Star Wars, a lot of other fantasy stuff seemed also to fall under that umbrella – and that includes comic books. Wrap that up with the fact that some of us are just naturally drawn to collecting, and it starts to make a lot of sense. But yeah, I love a good story. A good story can be told to me in a book, on a screen, or by the guy sitting next to me at the bar. Doesn’t matter. A great story is a great story.

VSWC: The correct response is actually “we are all nerds” but I’ll accept your answer 🙂

BOBBY: Well, yes. There is that. Heh heh.

9: How did you feel when Marvel bought the rights to Star Wars comics? 

BOBBY: I was thrilled to hear that Marvel reacquired the rights. I really never cared for what Dark Horse did with Star Wars. As both a Star Wars and comic book fan, one would think I’d be all over that stuff, but none of the stories really hooked me. I’ve read a few issues of Marvel’s Star Wars and the first couple issues of Darth Vader, but with all the stuff that Marvel has already published, I have some serious catching up to do.

10: Let’s talk a bit now about vintage. What was the first Star Wars movie you saw at the cinema? 

BOBBY: My father took me to see The Empire Strikes Back when it premiered in 1980.

11: Was there a particular scene at the time that really stuck in your mind?

BOBBY: Not that I can remember. Though I remember really, really liking the movie. My father told me that I was riveted to my seat for the entire film: a pretty solid feat for an antsy 5-year-old kid. I do remember leaving the theatre after seeing it. The building is still there. It’s not a cinema anymore. It’s now a discount shoe store or something far less interesting.

12: And what about the toys? What’s your first ever memory of a vintage Star Wars toy? 

BOBBY: Immediately after my father took me to see Empire Strikes Back, we walked down to the other end of the shopping plaza to a Kiddie City toy store where he bought me a Twin-Pod Cloud Car and a Darth Vader action figure. I don’t have the Vader figure anymore, but I still have the Cloud Car. I can still remember staring up at the aisle of Star Wars toys; amazed at the variety. The one thing I wish younger collectors could experience is staring at a full store aisle stuffed with vintage Star Wars toys. That Christmas, I got a Darth Vader action figure case, a few more figures, and a Millennium Falcon. I still have the Vader case. My original Falcon is pretty beat up, but it hangs from the ceiling in my collection room.

Bobby’s childhood falcon. 

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13: So at the moment what do you collect and how long have you been collecting? 

BOBBY: I’ve been collecting for almost 25 years. For most of that time I’ve focused on the toys. The last few years have seen me increasingly interested in cast and crew stuff, movie production items, screen used props, and other “movie” collectibles.

14: Have you ever had a figure focus?

BOBBY: Nope. I’ve seen some really rad figure focuses, but I’ve never had one myself. My favorite vintage figure is Luke Jedi so I’ll live vicariously through Bill Wills’ and Shawn Kemple’s Luke Jedi focuses.

Bobby’s amazing collection room

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15: What inspired you to collect? 

BOBBY: It’s sort of hard for me to pin down when I started collecting Star Wars items. A lot of folks’ stories seem to have some “eureka” moment where they uncover a box of their old childhood toys, see some vintage figures in an antique or collectible shop, or see one of the recent Star Wars movies in the theatres. That didn’t really happen to me. Even after Star Wars sort of drifted out of popular culture, I continued to pick up the odd item at garage sales and flea markets and such: toys, games, puzzles – pretty much whatever I’d stumble across for a few bucks. My childhood Kenner toys never got packed away. I always had stuff on a shelf or something in my room or in a box in my closet, but I never banished them to deep storage. But still, I didn’t consider myself a Star Wars collector.

Like a lot of kids my age, I collected baseball cards and a bit later comic books. I bought Star Wars stuff, sometimes often, but I didn’t collect it. That changed in ‘92 when my folks bought me Steve Sansweet’s Star Wars: From Concept to Screen to Collectible (SW:FCSC). I’d seen Star Wars toys listed in cruddy paperback price guides and such, but this was the first time I’d seen these toys treated with such artistry and respect. I read that book from cover to cover, then reread it. The splash page featuring the 93 Star Wars figures blew my mind. I wasn’t paying much attention to Star Wars toys when Power of the Force was released so I had only a few vague, passing memories of them existing. And I had never seen figures such as Yak Face, Blue Snaggletooth, and the vinyl caped Jawa. I decided to assemble a complete set of loose Star Wars figures with their correct accessories: my first Star Wars collecting goal! Of all my collecting endeavors, this was the most fun and rewarding. The feeling I got when I finally finished the loose set and stepped back to admire my complete set of vintage Star Wars figures has yet to be matched by anything else I’ve acquired. I still revisit SW:FCSC from time to time. It’s still an incredibly great. My first copy started falling apart years ago, but it remains a valued part of my collection.

VSWC: Great story. I’m glad that you mentioned Sansweet’s book SW:FCSC because I think a lot of newer collectors don’t realise the impact it had back then. 

16: So what would you say is your favourite piece in your collection? 

BOBBY: I figured you’d ask this when you first approached me about doing an interview. It’s such a difficult question. My favorite piece would have to be that Twin-Pod Cloud Car that my father purchased for me after seeing Empire. So, I might be the only person out there who’s favorite item is that goofball ship that looks like a couple of yams stuck together. 

VSWC: Beautiful! I wish I still had some of my childhood vintage. 

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17: Do you have a grail? 

BOBBY: There are a few things on my radar right now. I’d love to nab one of the mid-size Death Star gun towers to complement the 1” and 15” examples that I have. I’d also love to get an acrylic cast and crew star. I had one years ago, but I gave it to a buddy when he got married. Others items that I’m looking for would be the Helix Death Star pencil sharpener and a nice example of the bootleg Princess Leia lamp.

18: I first came across you on the Rebelscum forum. Do you still go on there much? 

BOBBY: Every so often, but not nearly as much as I used to. Sometimes I’ll log in once a day for a week. At other times, it’s weeks between visits.

19: Do you think the vintage forums can survive since Facebook groups have become so popular?

BOBBY: Yes, absolutely. But if they haven’t already, folks are going to have to get used to forums playing a much diminished role in the hobby. I like forums because they’re a bit more exclusive. Everyone has a Facebook account and it’s really easy to move in and out of the different groups without any sort of social investment. It’s pretty common for someone to casually join a group, cause some problems, be annoying, and bail. At least with forums, one has to find the website and register. So there’s a bit more of a  buy-in. Not much, but maybe enough to make some folks not even bother.

But I really don’t care for the ability to remain anonymous on forums. It’s my pet peeve. It bugs me. I’m 40 years old. I want to converse with adults with real names, not with SuperStarWarsFettMeister or Endor_Luvr or 12BackAFAKing or some other such nonsense. People will say things and cause problems that they never normally would if their identities were out in the open. If you can’t say it with your name attached, don’t say it at all.

20: Well said. So do you get the chance to meet many collectors face to face? Are you member of any collecting clubs or do you get to many conventions? 

BOBBY: Absolutely. Around 1997 or 1998 I found the Ohio Star Wars Collectors Club website and went to my first meeting shortly thereafter. That’s when I started meeting folks that were pretty deep and dedicated to this stuff. At that time, a lot of the guys that are still around lived in Ohio. Fawcett, Cable, McGinley…all those guys were local. I’m still a member of OSWCC. The roster is considerably different from when I first joined, but it’s still chock full of some great people.

Bobby and Dave Brown hanging out in Bobby’s Command Tower swing set at the 2013 Ohio Star Wars Collectors Club Summer Social. 

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The Command Tower swing set itself

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The Ohio Star Wars Collectors Club 1998 alumni

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BOBBY (continued): I get to conventions when my budget and schedule permit it. I attended Celebration 2 and Celebration Anaheim and I attended ICE in Seattle a couple of years back. Celebrations have historically been a bit difficult for me because they used to fall right at the beginning of the academic year and there was just no way I was able to take time off work during those first few days of school. I was elated when things were shifted to April. I don’t plan on missing many more.

VSWC: Is that Command Tower yours? So rad! How did you get your hands on it and where do you store it? 

BOBBY: Thanks. I love that thing. I actually got it from a fella on Rebelscum a few years back who listed several of the Speeder Bike components for sale. I was interested in one of the swings but when we started talking, he mentioned having a complete, sealed Command Tower. We worked out a price pretty quickly. That was the easy part. It was located across the country so I had to do some work in finding a private shipper who could freight it for a reasonable rate. I was so stoked when it finally arrived.

When the OSWCC Summer Social rolled around a few years ago, I thought it would be cool to assemble the thing and put it on display. Most folks had never actually seen it in person. I saw one years ago on display near the front of a local toy store, but my memories of it were fleeting. It was a big hit!
 
Right now it’s disassembled and stored in the upstairs of my garage. Next summer, I’m going to assemble it and install it in my yard so Elliott can use it. I know these things are few and far between, but I really can’t justify a swing set stored in my garage that I won’t allow my kid to play on. I can’t wait to see him in it!

21: What has been your favourite convention so far?

BOBBY: Celebration Anaheim was fantastic. It was great to see so many old friends and become better friends with folks that were formerly only acquaintances. It was also great to meet other folks that I formerly knew only through the Internet like you and Darren. In general, Star Wars collectors are good people: smart, approachable, and friendly. The vintage collectors also really have the do-it-yourself thing on lockdown. The amount of fan-generated stuff like the Archive Party and the swag trading going on alongside the more official stuff is impressive. The button/swag swapping was so much fun. I don’t buy too many things for my collection anymore. The chance to take home a slew of clever souvenirs made by people that I’m friends with beats another carded figure or boxed vehicle any day.

Bobby with his fellow Celebration Anaheim panelists Shane Turgeon and Chris Fawcett

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Robot Dancing with vintage Leia Bespin in Anaheim. This young girl’s costume even rivalled Dwayne’s vintage Hammerheard effort. 

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VSWC: So how much has the Celebration scene changed since Celebration 2? 

BOBBY: Well. I only really have those two Celebrations to compare with one another, but maybe that will lend itself to some perspective. There definitely seems to be a lot more costumes or cosplayers or whatever you’d call them at Anaheim than at Celebration 2. I’m not really into that scene, but it’s super cool and I love seeing all the people dressed up as troopers and characters and such. Thank god for limitless, digital photography.

But as I mentioned before, the fan-generated souvenirs have really taken off since C2. I sort of thought my buttons were clever, but what I saw at Anaheim simply blew my mind. Blake and Flarida’s Kenner poster, Rob Amantea’s Micro Bacta pins, Amy Sjoberg’s cross-stitched Ewok buttons, Darren’s Helix Death Star medallion, the OSWCC Vader case patch set, the SARLAAC cups…I could go on and on. Incredible. It’s just amazing how much ownership the collecting base has taken in these conventions. That’s the way it should be.

22: Will you be in London this July? 

BOBBY: Sadly, no. I’m taking my family to Disney World in June and I have a few other family trips scattered throughout the summer. A trip to London just isn’t in my budget. But I’ll be in Orlando for the 2017 Celebration and I’m sort of promising myself to attend the next European Celebration. It’s been years since I’ve hopped the pond and I’m sort of itching for a trip back to your neck of the woods.

23: Some of my readers may not know this, but you were actually a big part of the Plastic Galaxy documentary from Brian Stillman. How was it filming that? 

BOBBY: Super fun! I was fairly active on the Rebelscum forums for a few years. At some point, Brian got in contact with me and asked if I had time to chat for a few moments about Star Wars collecting. Not one to pass on the chance to talk shop, we jawed for a while on the phone. He brought up the possibility of me being in Plastic Galaxy and I told him that I would be interested. A few months later we did the interview in my collection room. I’m not normally one of those people who really relishes the chance to be on camera, but I’m not the shyest guy either, so I had a good time being a part of this. The real weirdness came about a year or so later during ICE in Seattle. Brian was nearing the final edits to the documentary when he screened a 45-minute rough cut of the film in a local theatre prior to us watching Return of the Jedi. So yeah, here’s me watching myself in a movie about Star Wars toys at a real movie theatre before watching my favorite movie of all time while eating popcorn out of a vintage Star Wars popcorn bag surrounded by a few dozen other hardcore Star Wars collectors. Super bizarre. 8-year-old me was going absolutely apeshit.

Screenshot of Bobby’s part in Plastic Galaxy

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24: The first time I saw you in person was during your presentation of the fantastic panel ‘Star Wars Pickers’ alongside Chris Fawcett and Shane Turgeon at Celebration Anaheim. Can you tell us what exactly a ‘pick’ is?

BOBBY: I’d define a “pick” as a deliberate acquisition of vintage or collectible items from original owners. Going to Target isn’t pickin’. Rummaging through a dusty attic or a dank basement looking through boxes is pickin’.

25: What has been your best ever ‘pick?’

BOBBY: Get ready for a long answer. I’ve always enjoyed buying and selling old toys stashes. I’ve done this for years and it’s really helped to fund my collection and establish a network of connections with other collectors. I used to work for a business in Cleveland called Big Fun. It’s an odd place: a mixture of an antique store, collectible toy shop, nostalgia and pop culture store, and tourist attraction. The place is a popular fixture in Cleveland and you wouldn’t believe the amount of old product that walks in the doors of that place. If people saw our basement or warehouse, they’d pass out.

I got a phone call from a woman one day who told me about tons of toys she had in her attic, basement, and garage. I’m ashamed to say that I blew her off at first. I had just gone through a spate of traveling to people’s houses only to find really beat-up garbage, Playmates Star Trek figures, or POTF2 and other modernish junk. Something about the way she spoke about this stuff sort of suggested to me that this was another one of those instances. Thankfully she called me back a couple weeks later and in our conversation she mentioned having a boxed 12” IG-88. The bait was in the water at that point so I stopped by her place. When she took me into her basement, I had to pinch myself. The entire basement was full of old toys. The whole basement. To the ceiling.

This lady and her husband went to see Star Wars when a local theatre brought the movie back for a one-year anniversary showing. They were hooked, and for the next several years they bought an incredible amount of stuff. They didn’t really purchase the stuff as an investment or even really as collectors. They bought it because they loved Star Wars (and science-fiction in general) and this was how they chose to express their fandom. It gave them something to do. It was insane. There was shelving built along the walls with stuff basically warehoused onto it. There were boxes stacked up everywhere. There were several dozen Kiddie City bags laying around full of stuff with the receipts dated from ‘79-’83 floating around in them. They just brought home bags of stuff and chucked them on top of the pile. And it went way beyond toys. There was a pallet stacked with boxes of comic books and 70’s and 80’s sports card wax boxes, a full run of both Playboy and Life magazines, slews of old Coca Cola displays, vintage 60’s model kits, etc. Just tons of stuff.

I did an inventory after all the product was relocated, but I can’t find it right now. There were over 500 carded figures, a couple hundred MISB vehicles, playsets, and accessories, and a few hundred other ancillary items like model kits, art sets, and anything else with the Star Wars logo on it. There were slews of other toys from the late 70’s and early 80’s like GI-Joe, Transformers, Knight Rider, Clash of the Titans, Flash Gordon, Space 1999, Voltron, Black Hole, Indiana Jones, Buck Rogers, and Star Trek. Everything.

I really scaled back my toy buying after my son was born. It was really fun and I did quite well with it. I found a lot of stuff! But it’s also a time sink and I just found myself short of hours. Incidentally, I still work for Big Fun. I don’t really hold hours there anymore, but I’m still involved with collection acquisitions, pricing, and such. I love that place.

VSWC: Amazing story! That really is every collector’s dream! So did you get to keep anything yourself or did it all go to your employer?

BOBBY: Nah. We split it all up. I got a few things, but not as much as you’d think. By the time I found this stuff, I had pretty much completed my collection of production Kenner toys. I already had a complete run of unused vehicles and playsets and I think I finished my MOC set a week or two before going into this basement. So it goes. Imagine that. I spend 15 years slowly assembling a carded set then stumble across 500 of the damn things in a basement. But there were a lot of oddball things that I kept.

The coolest piece in the basement was one of the very rare Empire Strikes Back Special Offer display stands. According to this lady, it was given to her by a Kenner employee who was resetting the Star Wars aisle when she and her husband showed up and started loading up their cart with toys. She saw that they were interested in Star Wars got it out of her car and gave it to them. I kept it for about a month before I put it up for sale. It was neat, but I had some expenses coming up that took precedence.

Some of the booty from Bobby’s best picks. Yep…

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26: Can you give a bit of advice to other collectors hoping to land a big vintage score? 

BOBBY: Sure. You have to be willing to spend money on advertising. If you’re running ads on Craigslist, you might be disappointed with the results. At least, I was. My better scores have always come with running print ads in local and community newspapers. The right demographic reads those types of publications. Running paid ads can get expensive, but I’ve found it ultimately worthwhile. It might get tedious when you’re spending money every month to run them, but all it takes is once great score to make it all worth it. Another key component is targeting the right neighborhoods. The Cleveland area is home to a lot of older neighborhoods with families that are in the same houses they’ve been in for the last 40 years. That’s where the good stuff is.

You have to be honest. People are pretty savvy about things and are often a bit suspicious about folks trying to buy their old crap. With eBay and the Internet, it’s also super easy to do a quick value check. Be frank, fair, and be willing to spend a bit of money to get the stuff you want. If people feel like you’re being straight with them, chances are you’ll walk out with some stuff. If people get the sense that you’re trying to pull a fast one, you’ll often get nothing. And really, this is all supposed to be for fun.

27: The term ‘in the wild’ seems to be misused quite a lot in our hobby. What’s your definition? 

BOBBY: To me, it means finding and purchasing stashes of old toys and collectible items from the original owners outside of any established marketplace. Finding a case of Star Wars figures for sale at a flea market, collectible store, or on eBay doesn’t count.

28: Great, sounds about right. So being from Ohio, did you ever get the chance to visit Kenner or any of the famous brick and mortar vintage stores in Cincinnati?

BOBBY: No. Cleveland is about a four-hour drive north of Cincinnati so it’s not exactly next door. A lot of my collector buddies made some pretty regular treks down there to meet with former Kenner employees and Steve Denny and such, but they were a bit older than me, had graduated university, and were in decent paying jobs with some disposable income. I was a broke college kid so I wasn’t able to get in on a lot of that. Still, it was a thrill getting to see what a lot of them brought back! I learned a ton and got to examine a lot of amazing pieces firsthand. But by this time I should have at least gotten down there to check out the old Kenner buildings. I’ve been to over 20 countries and have collected Star Wars toys for over 20 years, but I’ve never seen the Kenner locations in my home state. Total Star Wars fail.

29: I’ve got a few more general question to ask you about the state of the hobby before we finish up. If you could change one thing about the hobby as it stands today, what would it be? 

BOBBY: I’m not really sure I’d change anything. I mean, I don’t like reproduction stuff or anything like that, but most of the time you can avoid being burned if you learn about the hobby and network with other knowledgeable collectors. That’s the fun part. I guess times there seems to be a certain amount of drama in the hobby or people get all wrapped up in whatever cause is the current hot topic, but I largely ignore most of that.

30: I think everyone agrees that prices are crazy right now. Why do you think this is the case and when do you think the bubble will burst?

BOBBY: The one thing that always comes up when I’m talking shop with my collector buddies is how much prices have risen over the last couple of years. It’s staggering, really. But it does, in a lot of ways, make sense. I think with the Disney acquisition of Lucasfilm people have realized that Star Wars may be a forever property. Much like Disney characters and some of the more well-known superheroes, it would be fair to say that Star Wars is now an indelible part of entertainment culture. Interest in Star Wars might wax and wane, but I just don’t think it’ll go away completely – not in my lifetime, at least. I think prices will relax a bit after the next couple Star Wars movies premiere and the heady days of all this new hype dies down a bit, but probably not by much.

31: And finally, what is it about the hobby that has kept you collecting for all of these years? 

BOBBY: I love Star Wars. I’m a huge fan of the brand. I watch the movies, read the novels, read a few of the comics here and there, fool around with the tabletop games, and collect the toys. The only thing I really don’t mess with are the video games because I’m just not that much of a video gamer in general.  If that makes me a fanboy, so be it. I know some folks that collect the stuff but aren’t really all that big a fan of the franchise. That’s fine, but that’s not me. If I’m going to have a room of my house set aside for this crap, it’s gotta be attached to a property that I really like.

But none of this would be sustainable in a social vacuum. Like a lot of other folks have mentioned before, there are some great people in this hobby that I’m proud to call my friends. I wish I got to see a lot of them more often than I do, but I probably would have greatly scaled back my involvement in the hobby if it weren’t for my buddies.

VSWC: Well thank you so much for joining me today Bobby. It has been an immense pleasure and I’m sure my readers will enjoy reading your answers as much as I have! 

BOBBY: Thanks! This was fun!

Check out my interview on The Vintage Rebellion Podcast!

Quick update to thank all of the fellas at the Vintage Rebellion Podcast for having me on for an interview as part of episode 23. I was pretty excited to come on but I was also very nervous about the whole endeavour. Stu and Jez really did make me feel at home though and it was a great experience in the end, even though I do tend to drone on and on….Check the interview here:

STAR WARS The Vintage Rebellion Podcast

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We chatted mostly about the new forum Tantive XI, my blog and the Vintage Star Wars Luke Skywalker Focus Collectors Facebook group but we also discussed my Luke Skywalker focus and some of my childhood experiences with Star Wars. Have a listen if you get the chance and also do yourselves a favour and check out their other episodes.

I’m a huge fan of the podcast and have managed to listen to every issue, even back to when they were called the SWFUK Podcast. Thanks again to all the team and thank you for all the hard work you all out in every month to bring us this great show.

Here’s a review I posted of their very first episode, almost a couple of years ago now. A bit outdated now. They get better better every episode.

Review: SWFUK Podcast

And we have previously interviewed Rich, one of the co-hosts. Enjoy!

Richard Hutchinson Collector Snapshot

Dutch Comic Con 2016 Report

I originally posted this on the Tantive XI vintage Star Wars forum but I thought I’d share it here as well. Here’s the original thread:

Tantive XI Dutch Comic Con

I recently was fortunate enough to attend the Dutch Comic Con. I had a cracker of a time! I was so excited to meet some comic book artists that I actually turned up at the event before it opened on the first day. Huge queue to get in but it was well managed. Actually the whole event ran really well and I was impressed with how much there was to do. Some excellent comic book artists and writers were there, a few Sci-Fi TV stars, and I couldn’t believe how many back issue comic vendors had set up shop. Crazy cheap too. Not too much vintage Star Wars but to be honest though I didn’t really focus on vintage as I collect comics and it was a comic con after all…. There were some great costumes and of course some very sexy Harley Quinns!

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Some of the vintage SW for  sale. The prices for these empty boxes were disgraceful. Then again at least they aren’t reproduction replicators or whatever the hell that dude calls his abominations….

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A different vintage shop.

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I chatted with Paul Blake (played Greedo in ANH) for a while and you really could have not have met a better bloke. Super easy-going and was happy to chat about Star Wars. I got a photo signed by him and also got him to pose with the Tantive Traveller (Tantive XI’s mascot), It actually cost 10 euros to get a posed photo with him but he did it for free. I was pretty embarrassed when I pulled out the Tantive Traveller but he was a great sport. Seems that Paul actually met the little fella at the Scarborough Sci-Fi con last year but not sure he remembered him…

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I met Billy Dee Williams as well but to be honest I was a little disappointed. I was super pumped to meet him and get something signed but he really looked like he wanted to be anywhere but there. I was carrying on, thanking him for his role in SW blah blah, but he barely acknowledged me. When I went to shake his hand he looked at my hand with disgust and fist pumped me instead. He did do a panel later and that was kinda cool. He’s 78 years old so maybe I’m being too harsh…

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Not the best photo. Billy Dee Williams appearing for a Q&A with the fans. Was a great turn out and most of the fans were pretty young which is good news for the franchise.

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They had a special photo shoot set up for the upcoming Captain America Civil War movie. It’s hard to see but I’m holding the Tantive XI mascot. Yep I look pretty thrilled to be there.

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Although it was cool meeting the SW guys and seeing some of the vintage, I was there pretty much mainly to see the comic book creators. I had comic books to get signed and one commission to request.

I pretty much ran through the entry doors straight to Tony Moore, co-creator of The Walking Dead and artist on the first six issues. I’m a massive fan of the WD comic so this was a big moment for me as a comic collector. Tony has also drawn a load for Deadpool, which I’m also a big fan of. I’m suprised he wasn’t mobbed but that’s the good thing about going to cons in places like Holland, Belgium and France; American or British creators aren’t as popular with the locals as European ones.

I had Tony sign about 15 comics and commissioned him to do a small sketch on one of my Deadpool comics. He ended up drawing a Zombie Deadpool. I loved it!

Hmmh how is it going to turn out?

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Fantastic!

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I won’t share all the comics that Tony signed but I do love these covers in particular. Amazing work.

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The sketch and the autographs were cool but it was even better just being able to chat with someone who has been so instrumental in creating the comics that bring me so much enjoyment. I talked with him for ages about the comics industry, The Walking Dead, Deadpool and his career in general. Even though he wasn’t really involved in The Walking Dead TV adaptation he loves the show and is really proud that he played a role in its creation. The comic is still going strong too.

He and his wife live in Cincinnati so of course I carried on about my passion for Kenner and vintage SW. They both love SW and said they knew people who used to go through dumpsters for prototypes and his wife used to be a regular at the famous ‘The Earth’ bricks and mortars shop there. They even talked about the Dewey Shumate auction (former Kenner employee) that was held last year.

I chatted also to well-known comic book artists Stephen Scott (Batman, X-Men Forever) and Mike Grell (mainly known for his work on the Green Arrow – his creations were the inspiration for some of the characters in the current TV show). Both great guys. I’d actually met them a few weeks earlier at a book signing at Henks comic shop in Amsterdam (my favourite comic store in The Netherlands). Steve kept calling me “Obi Wan,” which was pretty funny. I had a couple of pieces commissioned by them. Fantastic stuff. Steve actually made prints of the Batman sketch he did for me and told me they have been crazy popular. It was the first time he’d ever produced that sketch too so I was pretty chuffed to own such an original piece.

Here’s the Batman that Steve did.

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And a classic Green Arrow from Mike.

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A couple of weeks before this signing I actually went to another comic book artist signing at Henk’s. Steve was there again but this time Phil Jimenez was also in attendance. Both super chilled and friendly guys. Not to mention amazing artists. Steve did a free Batman sketch for me and I bought a special print of their European tour.

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I was lucky enough to also meet Joe Hill and Chris Ryall at the Dutch Comic Con, the creator and editor respectively of another great comic – Locke and Key. We chatted about their work but they also gave me some great tips about writing novels and creating comics. Really blessed to get the chance to receive advice from such accomplished writers. It actually came out during one of the panels that Joe started using the pen name Joe Hill instead of his real name – Joe King – so that his work would get judged on his merits rather than on his father’s. Yep, his dad is Stephen King.

The guys were kind enough to sign a couple of versions of their most famous comic.

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Okay well enough about writers, artists and SW, Here are a few of the cosplay photos and other random snaps I took.

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