Variant Collecting 101 – Guest Collector: Tantive XI mod Steve P (aka cantina_patron)

I’m excited to welcome onto the blog yet another guest collector, this time my good friend and fellow Tantive XI moderator Steve P! Steve is a bit of a legend in the variant collecting world so I thought he would be the perfect candidate to write an article outlining exactly what variant collecting is. Variant collecting is often misunderstood and I can’t count the amount of times I’ve witnessed someone being criticised for “hoarding” figures when they are in fact all variations of a figure.

Massive thanks to Steve and to all of the variant hounds on the Tantive Team for putting this educative and entertaining article together. If you’d like to learn more about Steve, check out his profile on Tantive XI:

Steve’s Tantive XI profile

Take it away Steve!

VARIANT COLLECTING 101 – with Associate Professor cantina_patron (BA, M.A, PHD –  London School of the Identification and Collection of Variant Figures)

What is variant collecting?

Many collectors are happy to build a complete loose collection of the 105 characters & creatures released during the original toy production run from 1978 through to 1985. However, once the collecting bug has set in and a basic set has been built, some collectors maintain their interest by seeking out different versions / variants of each character.

So what is variant collecting? In broad terms it can be divided into:

‘Major’ variants –  involving significant changes in sculpt, materials used & paint application.

Well known examples include:

Han Solo (small & large head)

Jawa (vinyl or cloth cape)

Luke Jedi (head moulded in flesh colour plastic with painted hair or head moulded in hair colour plastic with painted face):

‘Minor’ variants –  e.g. small mould differences, differences in paint application and or colour used. It should be noted that figures produced by a single factory may have minor batch to batch variations in paint colour.

In recent years a lot of collectors have also been collecting COO (country of origin) stamp variants e.g. Hong Kong, Made In Hong Kong, China, Macau, Taiwan, Made In Taiwan, Japan, blank raised bar, no COO and COO scar.

For more information on COOs please follow this link to Tantive XI’s guide:

Tantive XI COO Guides

Any help filling in gaps would be appreciated!

When did variant collecting take off?

Personally, like many collectors I started looking for ‘major’ variants such as Obi-Wan with white and grey hair in the early 90s when I got back into collecting while completing my childhood collection. I am under the impression that serious loose variant collecting has increasingly grown over the last 10 years due to international collectors sharing knowledge and trading via the internet.

How has variant research benefited the vintage Star Wars community?

The research that has gone into variant collecting has helped confirm what factories produced the figures (in part or full), what cardbacks they appeared on & in which countries they were available. e.g. the infamous burgundy coat Bib Fortuna is exclusive to the former Lili Ledy factory in Mexico and was only available at retail in Mexico. The research that has been conducted & published by notable collectors on forums, Facebook & their own websites has been hugely valuable to the collecting community & has driven the current interest in variant collecting. However there are still gaps in our knowledge.

What are some of the rarest variants?

Some of the rarest & most desirable production variants include:

Kenner (US) Luke, Vader & Ben figures with double telescoping (DT) lightsabers;

Meccano  (France) Boba Fett, Luke Farmboy & Death Star Droid;

Lili Ledy (Mexico), Burgundy coat Bib Fortuna, removable rocket Boba Fett & Jawa removable hood;

Poch/PBP (Spain) Jawa, ‘toxic’ green limbed Bossk and 4-LOM;

Toltoys (Australia) unique Vinyl caped Jawa.

Figures produced by Top Toys (Argentina) and Glasslite (Brazil) are also highly desirable to many collectors.

Great care should be taken when purchasing high end variants as there are many fakes on the market, some are obvious but others can only be spotted by the trained eye. It is strongly recommended to do your research, ask questions, request detailed photos and to buy from reputable sources.

Why are some variants overrated?

Some of the most desirable and expensive variants aren’t actually that rare, but due to their desirability they command a premium on the secondary market. Prime examples include: the vinyl caped Jawa, blue Snaggletooth & Yak Face.

The vinyl caped Jawa & blue Snaggletooth are particularly desired by European collectors as the vinyl caped Jawa saw a very limited release here & the blue Snaggletooth was a US exclusive through the Sears Cantina Adventure set. Conversely Yak Face was relatively abundant in Europe, but not released in the U.S, so U.S collectors regard this figure in the same way that European collectors regard the vinyl caped Jawa & blue Snaggletooth.

Prior to the rise of eBay, forums and Facebook, these figures were considered rare outside of their country of origin. Today these three figures can be found available for sale online virtually any day of the week, whereas other variants such as some of the confirmed erarly Poch/PBP (still being researched) and Meccano figures may only be seen very occasionally.

Who are the most well-known variant collectors?

Some of the notable variant collectors who are well known and respected authorities in the collecting community include:

Wolff (Aslan Adam on Facebook);
Kenneth (Kenneth_B on the forums);
Marco (Dr Dengar on the forums)
Sergio (slolance4ever on the forums); and
Henrik (HWR on the forums).

These are just a few of the most well-known, there are many more.

As you can see from the above list,  a lot of  notable variant collectors are based in Europe. One explanation for this may be due to the fact that more variants were available here at retail. For example, in the UK we had figures packaged on Palitoy cards, US Kenner cards and Trilogo cards. The figures packaged on these cards were manufactured in the various Asian factories as well as Spain during the latter period of production.

Factory Errors and Discolouration

A variant is often mistaken for a factory error or discolouration, especially by individuals who are new to the hobby, or don’t take the time to do their research. A true variant is a figure whose appearance is that intended by the manufacturer. Therefore there are numerous confirmed examples for the same character, including MOC.

Factory errors come in many forms. Although they should not have made it through quality control they are pretty abundant. Common examples include:

Short shots / pours where the COO may appear to be very faint or completely absent. These can be mistaken for, or passed off by unscrupulous dealers, as pre-production items. The affected leg will usually have less definition of the other details and be shorter :

Odd limbs e.g. two right arms or two left legs :

Paint errors e.g. missing paint application, or overspray. As the figures are painted before assembly, missing paint usually only includes one colour and affects one part of the body :

Non sonic welded figures. Occasionally figures can be found that are non sonic welded (the process used to ‘glue’ the body together and hold the limbs in place). These figures have a torso which can be pulled apart allowing the component parts to be separated;

Please note that genuine non sonic welded figures have no signs of melting / damage to the internal seams or the pin and receiving hole of the torso. Unfortunately, some people try to pass off separated, poorly sonic welded figures as un sonic welded, so again care needs to be taken when purchasing these factory errors.

Example of a ‘forced apart’ sonic welded figure. Note the damage described above.

More detailed info can be read here:

http://www.tantivexi.com/t1513-short-pour-factory-error-figures.

Discolouration / degradation is the result of chemical changes in the plastic or paint e.g. the breakdown of pigments. Discolouration / degradation is most frequently caused by environmental factors such as ultraviolet light, humidity, gases & temperature. Many people mistakingly identify discoloured / degraded figures as a variant & can take some convincing of the truth. A classic example of this is the ‘green’ limbed Chewbacca. While the discolouration can look very uniform there are enough documented examples which are in the process of changing to demonstrate that they are not true variants, as seen here.

White plastics can turn pale yellow through to orange / brown. There is a growing trend among some collectors & dealers to chemically bleach these figures in order to increase their aesthetic appeal / value. However, it is not known what harmful long term effects this practice will have on the stability of the plastics. It has also been documented that this treatment only provides a ‘short term’ fix as some of the bleached figures have started to turn yellow again.

Paints can also degrade e.g. Pink can fade to cream or white due to the break down of the red pigments.

More information on discolouration / degradation can be found here:

Discolouration

Unfortunately there appears to be a divide between MOC collectors & loose variant collectors. If we can actively encourage more MOC collectors to identify what mould families their figures belong to & confirm the cardback & factory code (where applicable), it will be possible to establish with even more clarity when each variant was produced, its distribution and even where it was manufactured.

Collecting variants can be both fun & frustrating, but the basic full collection of 105 loose figures can be increased to several hundred. Let the chase begin!

Photo Credits: The Tantive XI team & Matthieu Barthelemy

ANNEX: Best internet resources

Here are some links to some of the best internet sources for researching variants:

Tantive XI: http://www.tantivexi.com/
Rebel Scum: http://rebelscum.com/
The Imperial Gunnery Forum: http://www.imperialgunneryforum.com/
Star Wars Forum UK: http://www.starwarsforum.co.uk/

There is also a lot of great information on the Facebook groups, but specific discussions can be hard to find. Forums are much easier to search.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top Ten comments not to post on someone’s sales thread!

Hi guys,

This is my first blog article in a looooong time. I like putting together these top ten lists and I’ve been meaning to publish this one for a while.

Don’t be that guy who says something stupid to mess up a sales thread.

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So why am I bothering with this list? Well this issue is actually one of the greatest bugbears in our hobby and some forums, such as Rebelscum, actually ban non-transactional comments on sales thread, which I agree with. Sales posts are sensitive; comments on them, often misinformed ones, can negatively affect the experience of both the seller and the buyer. As always, these articles simply reflect my opinions on certain aspects of our hobby. Calm down, I’m not telling you how to collect 🙂

I think it’s self-evident that comments regarding the authenticity of the item for sale do not count in this review.

This top ten list chimes in well with one of our earliest blog articles:

Ten tips for dealing with other collectors on social networking sites

Also check out Mete Akin’s guest article:

Guest Collector – Mete Akin: Responsible and sound buying techniques

Top ten, not ranked in any particular order:

 1. “I would buy this if I had the money” aka “If only it was payday.” Okay this is probably the comment that bugs me most and they pop up more than most people would think. I mean, what really is the point? I know it might sound cruel to someone who can’t afford the listed item, but why bother with posting responses like these? You want to discuss it, then fine, but do it somewhere other than someone’s sales thread. I accept that you are complimenting the seller on their item (and even unintentionally bumping their thread) but it must also be annoying for the seller. We get hopeful when we receive a notification on our sales threads, so it is a bit disappointing to find out that the comment had nothing to do with the actual sale of the item.

2. “This is overpriced.”  Okay sometimes the collectors posting these comments are spot on and they can warn others off an overpriced item. That said, people really should do some research before buying anything anyway. If I have the time to do it on every single occasion, then everyone should. There’s no rush, this is only a hobby 🙂

Even though the “overpriced” intervention can often be well intended, there are so many reasons a comment like this can be a disservice to everyone involved. What happens when the item isn’t actually overpriced but this comment is actually mis/disinformation?

3. “Great price.” Pretty much the same deal as point number two, could be well-intended but don’t risk spreading incorrect notions of pricing.

4. “You can get this cheaper on eBay.” Yep, true story. I”ve seen this comment more than just a few times. Leave the seller alone and let them go about their business in peace.

5. “How much is that in -insert currency-?”  I seem to get this question a hell of a lot as I often sell in euros or GBP. It’s not a huge issue but really can be solved by simply going to xe.com for a currency conversion estimate. 

6. “How much for the -insert name of item-?”  I can’t count the amount of times I’ve seen someone ask how much an item is even though the seller has clearly stated the prices in their thread. Read the seller’s intro before asking any questions. It can be difficult managing a sales thread so unnecessary questions just make it harder.

7. “I’m not interested now. I thought you were based in -insert name of country-” I’ve had this a million times, especially because I live in The Netherlands and postage is more expensive to what the majority of collectors are used to in the U.S and the U.K. In my sales thread, I always state where I’m located  and if you really don’t know, ask the seller where they are based or check their profile before you spend hours negotiating (yes this happens…)

8. “I can sell you one cheaper.”  Trust me this happens. I’ve seen other sellers hijack someone else’s thread, offering the same item at a lower price. It’s just not cricket guys.

9. “What’s the price of fish in China?”  You guys with me? Don’t post off-topic comments. It can threaten to derail the sales thread and takes attention away from the sales item(s).

10. “I bought the same one for xxxx dollars back in 2003”  Yes we all know vintage SW was cheaper a few years ago, christ even one year ago. But someone’s sales thread is not the place to have that discussion!

So what do you guys think? Anything to add? Am I being too harsh? Feel free to let me know.

Who said the vintage forums were dying? Welcome to Tantive XI!

Hello everyone!

I’m proud to announce that last week we finally launched our brand new vintage Star Wars forum – Tantive XI! Your initial thoughts may be – aren’t the forums dying? Hasn’t Facebook taken over? Aren’t there already enough forums and FB groups? Well the simple answer is no, no and no!

If you’d like to join up without reading on, then click this link:

http://www.tantivexi.com/

The forums are struggling but they are not dying. We are adamant that there is still plenty of space in the vintage social networking landscape for new forums or similar ventures. New collectors are joining our hobby every day; our hobby is expanding massively. Not everyone is a fan of Facebook and if you are anything like me then you’ll be on all the forums, a million Facebook groups, Gemr, Twitter and even Instagram! I wish I was joking!

FB banner with sticker_zpskh9rpw59

So how did this all come about?

A while back a bunch of us had a vision for a brand new forum, which not only took full advantage of some of the technologies and usability options employed by Facebook but also a place where experienced collectors would find sufficient intellectual stimulation yet newer collectors would not be embarrassed or berated for asking ‘stupid’ questions.

After many months of hard work, we transformed that vision into a reality and on December 16th we finally went live! So far the feedback from members and special ‘previewers’ has been extremely positive. We have to emphasize though that the site is a work In progress, and that we are now in a stage heavily dependent on the input of new crew members to progress further. So if you miss a certain aspect of the hobby and would like to see it here, simply tell us and we can make it happen, together with you.

What’s our mission?

Our mission is to bring quality contributions to all of the different aspects of our hobby (MOC, MIB, oddballs, loose variants, bootlegs, and many more vintage collectibles) and to stimulate open discussions around the collectibles that we all love so much. Moreover, we hope that our forum will provide a ‘A New Hope’ in these dark times, within which the fora have lost their impact and previous high traffic due to the increased popularity of Facebook. However we do acknowledge the strength of Facebook and do not oppose it. It has its place in the collecting world and we hope that our platforms can complement each other. Tantive will combine the best of both worlds and serve as a bridge between FB and traditional forum activity. Our Facebook Page will serve as a Bridgehead:

Facebook Page

We do not perceive ourselves in opposition to the existing forums or FB groups, we want to work together to bring all collectors the best possible collecting experience. We welcome other forum moderators and FB group admins to join us and you are  of course welcome to advertise your pages and groups on Tantive XI!

Our mission can be read in more detail right here:

Tantive XI – This what we stand for.

How will we bridge the gap between Facebook and the forums?

Tantive XI is supported by a heavily modified platform allowing for modern functionality, which – we hope – will provide a unique and pleasant “look and feel” experience for our crew. Just to give you an idea – right now members  can ‘tag’ each other in posts, get instant notifications, and attach photos directly from smartphones or PCs via TXI’s Tractor Beam. I must say we are blessed to have some mechanics onboard who are absolutely top of the IT game. We are only going to get stronger as they continue to un-weave the hidden technological magic that forums offer.

We have a large team of 12 passionate moderators who will be working ceaselessly to update the forum and to keep things running smoothly. We will also be working closely with our members to improve the forum.

What else do we offer other than a traditional forum place to hang out?

Well this brings us to one of our real strengths. We’re in the process of creating an extensive reference database for the community. At the launch of Tantive XI this database already included a basic and advanced COO guide and also a comprehensive figure guide. Check it out yourselves:

The Library

We would love to expand the Library with the help of members who will actually be working with us to present their own research and projects on the site; with the aim of developing the community’s knowledge and appreciation of vintage Star Wars collecting.

We will also be interviewing members and I’ll be reposting all of my interviews from here onto Tantive XI. So stay tuned!

Who is behind Tantive XI?

Our team contains some of the globe’s most well-known  and experienced vintage collectors; coming from the UK, the U.S, Canada, Spain, Mexico, Denmark,The Netherlands and Australia.

Other than myself, the team is: Alexander, Chris, Clint, James, Jay, Javier, Kenneth, Marco, Ozio, Patrick and Steve. Click the link below to learn more about us:

The TXI Team

I hope you can all join us in our little adventure. And if you can’t, well no worries – I’ll see you all around on Facebook and the other forums!

Watch this space for details on a competition we are running for our members. First prize is a Burgundy Cape Lili Ledy Squid Head!

Forum thread of the month – November 2014: Tiggy the TIG (Travelling Imperial Gunner)

Welcome to the third installment of our segment – ‘Forum thread of the month’, where we scan the three main English speaking forums, Rebelscum, The Imperial Gunnery (TIG) and Star Wars Forum UK (SWFUK) to pick out the most interesting collector related thread for the month.

Yep I do realise that I’m months behind with this segment but I’ll fast track the next few months and get back on schedule.

This month I’m cheating a bit because I really want to give an awesome thread some well deserved exposure. This thread is from The Imperial Gunnery Forum (TIG) and is named ‘Tiggy the TIG (Travelling Imperial Gunner)’.

http://www.imperialgunneryforum.com/t4218-tiggy-the-tig-travelling-imperial-gunner

In May 2012, my mate Dennis Vleugels (aka ‘Stargeezer’ (see our interview with him here – http://vintagestarwarscollectors.com/collector-snapshot-3-dennis-vleugels-aka-stargeezer/) had the great idea for TIG members to take a photo of a beater Imperial Gunner (Tiggy) in their part of the world and then to send it on to the next willing participant. What ensues is 48 pages of absolutely golden entertainment and some of the photos are the funniest I’ve seen on the forums. Not only is it hilarious but it highlights the global community that forums have helped to establish and foster. I for one am proud to be part of this community, warts and all.

Here’s one pic just to give you guys a bit of a taste of what goes on in the thread. Marco hope you don’t mind me sharing this pic again!

tiggy

Collector Snapshot #7 – Clio (aka ‘Jitterbug’) and Noel (aka ‘IG127’)

Welcome to the seventh installment of our regular segment, where a vintage collector is given 10 short questions to answer. The same questions will be given to the next collector appearing on the segment.

This episode is huge! Not only is it a double-header, but the featured collectors are a couple! I know there are a few collector couples doing the rounds but it’s not something you see every day. I’m thrilled they agreed to appear on the blog.

So who are the lucky couple? Clio is a collector who I’ve previously bumped into on Rebelscum and was actually one of the members to respond to my first ever thread on that forum. She’s 28 and works as a ‘Environmental Geoscientist’ in Calgary, Canada and when she’s not collecting vintage Star Wars she’s neck deep in her other hobbies – Kenner SuperPowers, Wonder Woman, hockey and cake decorating. Yep pretty much the perfect woman. 

Clio

Clio’s boyfriend Noel is 32 and works as a ‘Geotechnical Engineering Technologist’ (I had to google both of their jobs!) Noel’s into table hockey, classic Mega Man video games (and a lot of other video games), strange pets, Dr Who, NHL and collects hockey jerseys. You can check out more about Noel on his website:

www.noeldiques.webs.com

Noel

Considering this is a special episode I thought I’d let Clio talk us through how her and Noel met. Take it away Clio!
“We met  three and a half years ago, mostly due to our shared work in the field of
geosciences and our love of hockey. I mostly collected Wonder Woman, fossils and some Royal Doulton figurines, I knew nothing about vintage Star Wars, I didn’t even know it existed. The first time I went to Noel’s apartment, he showed me his collection. He had an entire wall of MOCs, all neatly hung, and then a glass case with some loose figures, ships, and play sets. It was a pretty impressive collection and he had amassed it in less than four years. For the first year of our relationship, I just listened to him and watched him make deals and learned how it all worked. The passion Noel had for his collection and the community was infectious and I wanted to be a part of it so I picked up my first piece about a year after we started dating. Noel’s goal was to have one of every figure MOC, mine was to get as many bad guys, especially Snowtroopers, as possible. We don’t go to any conventions or anything like that, mostly to toy and collectible shows that we find in and around the city. As our collections progressed, we both began shifting to Canadian MOCs. Noel began replacing his American MOCs with Canadian ones and I focused less on Snowtroopers and more on getting the bad guys I liked on Canadian cards (still as many as possible) and developed a love for Hoth Leia.
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Six months ago, we packed up our collections, bought a house and moved to Calgary together. We now have one collection room that houses all of our things together. The room is probably 85% vintage Star Wars (the rest is Mega Man, Wonder Woman, and my Super Powers collection). Noel’s MOCs cover the walls and fill up the cabinets and shelves, his loose figures stand in long wall-mounted cases, my case of a Super Powers/Star Wars loose mix hangs below. I have a small corner dedicated to my MOCs, but since the Toy Toni scandal I have put my collection on ice and have been selling off pieces rather than acquiring them, but I always have my eye out for some Canadian baddies and Hoth Leia MOCs. Noel also introduced me to Kenner’s Super Powers line, and I’m focusing on them a bit more these days. I still love vintage Star Wars, but acquiring them isn’t a priority for me right now. Noel’s collection is now nearly completely Canadian, and he’s almost got all the loose figures as well. We would love to get to know some more collectors, so if you’re ever in Calgary, get in touch!”
Thanks for that Clio now to the ten questions!

1. How long have you been collecting?
NOEL: 1989 to 1996, 2007 to present
CLIO: 2012 to present

2. What do you collect?
NOEL: Canadian MOCs
CLIO: Canadian MOCs, “bad guys” (Snowtroopers, Stormtroopers, AT-AT Drivers, TIE Pilots, and Biker Scouts), Hoth Leia
VSWC: Check out a selection of their fantastic collection. 
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3. What’s your grail?

NOEL: That I own: MOC wind up R2-D2. That I want: a Canadian multi-pack.
CLIO: That I own = GDE Stormtrooper, That I want: Meccano Snowtrooper MOC

4. What collectors inspire you?
NOEL: Scott MacDonald got my collecting started again.
CLIO: Actually, Noel inspires me. He’s very detailed and meticulous. Everything I know about Star Wars collectibles, I learned from Noel! I also admire those collectors who are humble and collect what they love, no matter the flack they get from anyone.

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

NOEL: Forgot my wallet at the booth at a Toronto Toy show then spotted a loose Imperial Gunner in a $3 bin. Ran back to get my cash, but by the time I got back to the booth selling the Gunner, someone was buying it. I also turned down a case (like 24 MOC) of UZAY figures in the early 90s. Guy was selling them for $20 each (Blue Stars were $40). I bought a 12” IG-88 instead. (I still have the IG-88).
CLIO: My most embarrassing moment was when I had bought Noel a MOC for his birthday that he really wanted. We happened to be in a local vintage toy shop that had the exact same MOC and Noel was determined to buy it. I did everything I could to try and convince him not to buy it and when he wouldn’t back down I had to tell him that I’d already bought it for him. I was bummed! It was disappointing for sure, but more embarrassing that we were having these very serious, geeky discussions as to why Noel shouldn’t buy a MOC in public and I got to feel like that annoying, nagging girlfriend.

6. What is your favourite Star Wars film?

NOEL: Star Wars – A New Hope.
CLIO: The Empire Strikes Back
7. What would you change about the collecting community?
NOEL: Get rid of scammers, fakes and repros.They are all bad for the hobby, and waste my time during online searches.
CLIO: More female collectors so I can geek out with other ladies!
8. Forums or Facebook groups?
NOEL: If you want good answers without a bunch of keyboard ninjas hijacking your threads then forums. Sales are much better on Forums too. Facebook is full of flakes who never come through on deals. If you want to show off your collection for immediate applause (I do sometimes) then Facebook. Facebook has an extremely short memory too. I could showcase my Sears Vaccuform figures every week and have to explain to people what they are each time.
CLIO: Both have their advantages and drawbacks. I definitely prefer the forums and use that as my major source of information and prefer to sell there as I have had more success on the forums than Facebook. If I just want to see awesome pictures of collections and share some, or connect on a more personal level, then I’ll go to Facebook.
 VSWC: I’m in awe every time I see these Sears vaccuform figures. 
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9. What Star Wars character do you most resemble?
NOEL: Luke when my hair is long, Imperial Commander when I wear a hat, Madine when I’ve been in the oil fields unshaven for too long.
CLIO: When I’ve been caught in the rain/early morning: Chewbacca. When I’m going out in Canada in the summer: Hoth Leia. When I’m going out in Canada in the winter: Snowtrooper.

10. Is there one thing that collectors may not know about you?
NOEL: I’m a very underrated collector. I’m 32, but have been collecting since I was in grade 2. I’ve seen it all in this hobby, and know a lot. I do get annoyed when noobs don’t do any research and post easy questions, then other noobs post wrong answers.
CLIO: I am not a completest at all, even when I have a focus. I really only collect the pieces I really, really like and don’t care if I have one example of everything. Also, after the ToyToni scandal, I took a very long break from collecting and still have yet to purchase a new piece because I’m so put off by the whole thing. I’ve been focusing on my Super Powers and Wonder Woman collections.
VSWC:Well thanks to both of you for coming onto the blog. It was a real pleasure having such a great couple here and great to get to know a little bit more about you both. Good luck in your collecting and Clio I hope Toy Toni doesn’t permanently dampen your collecting experience. I myself was stung twice by him and it took some time to recover but now I’m as happy collecting as I ever have been!

Forum thread of the month – October 2014: Who was the UK equivalent of Steve Denny? (via SWFUK)

Welcome to the second installment of our new segment – ‘Forum thread of the month’, where we scan the three main English speaking forums, Rebelscum, The Imperial Gunnery (TIG) and Star Wars Forum UK (SWFUK) to pick out the most interesting collector related thread for the month.

Here is last month’s pick if you missed it. It will be a tough thread to top and it’s still ongoing. Admittedly I did bump it a few days ago though…

This week’s thread comes straight out of the UK via SWFUK and its title was “Who was the UK equivalent of Steve Denny?”

http://www.starwarsforum.co.uk/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=22900

The thread was quite short but I found it very interested, particularly given how much I deal and socialise with UK collectors. While we hear a lot about U.S based collectors and the history of U.S collecting, sometimes it’s easy to forget that there were a lot of UK collectors (not to mention European based collectors) also doing the rounds back in the day. I’d love to see similar threads for other countries.

I’ll let you read the thread yourselves but the two names who kept popping up as the UK equivalent of Steve Denny were Jason Joiner and Jim Stevenson. I’ve heard of and interacted with Jason Joiner, who is quite the controversial figure and also the whistle blower on the Toy Tony scam but I had not heard of Jim Stevenson. So it was cool to get a bit of a history lesson.

For those who haven’t heard of him, U.S based Steve Denny is an absolute giant of vintage Star Wars collecting. He was recently interviewed by the Kenner Collector blog and what a scorcher of an interview it was. Check it out!

http://www.kennercollector.com/2014/03/kenner-collector-focus-interview-with-star-wars-collector-steve-denny/

 

Forum thread of the month – September 2014: Fragmentation of vintage collecting chat (via Rebelscum)

Hi guys,

This month we’re introducing another new segment – ‘Forum thread of the month. We plan to scan the three main English speaking forums, Rebelscum, The Imperial Gunnery (TIG) and Star Wars Forum UK (SWFUK) to pick out the most interesting collector related thread for the month. It will be tough as some months are busy as hell with a multitude of fascinating threads, while some months are a bit quiet. The reasoning behind this new series is to expose vintage collecting forums to collectors who love their vintage but aren’t on the forums. For example I know there are a huge amount of people on the SW vintage Facebook groups who aren’t forum members; some consider the forums “snobby”, some find them too cumbersome to navigate, while others simply aren’t aware of their existence. While there is some truth to these views, I’m adamant the advantages far outweigh any negatives and I encourage every Star Wars vintage fan to sign up.

The thread that will kick of this series is from the forum that I consider my home – Rebelscum. This thread has actually had quite a bit exposure already on Facebook and was discussed almost exhaustively on Rebelscum so I’m not expecting this post to really generate much discussion on the blog or on our Facebook page. But the fact is that this was by far the most engaging thread of last month so I’ve chosen it to keep the spirit of this series intact.

On 9th September 2014, Chris Georgoulias  (a well known collector and major contributor to theswca.com) posted his opinion that the Facebook vintage Star Wars collector groups are driving collectors away from forum and scattering and diluting vintage discussions. I found Chris’ post extremely thought provoking and while I am a huge user of Facebook, I agreed with a lot of his sentiment. There were some really fantastic responses, both in support of and in opposition to Chris’ thesis. I’m not going to summarise these but will let you guys read them yourself at this thread:

http://forum.rebelscum.com/t1113598/

And here’s Chris’ full post. Enjoy!

I hope Chris doesn’t mind me reposting his thread…

So I didn’t want to derail the Wealthy thread, but the FB comments urged me to talk about something I’ve been dealing with for awhile. As much as people love FB groups (and creating them for so many sub-genres of collecting) I grow to despise them day by day. Yes, it’s easier to post images get instant responses, but at what cost?

13k people might be on one group, but the quality of much of the commentary is worthless. Lots of one-liner replies and people giving answers who should be in learn mode, not speak mode. How many people “View Previous Comments” before they write? And often even when you expand it’s pages of commentary that often never needed to be stated. It’s noise. Unlike forums, there’s no threading and every single post piles on top of other posts. Everything is a culmination of every day’s talk and it’s absolutely not searchable. You are doomed to repeat the same topics over and over. It’s Groundhog Day.

FB makes it too easy for people to create a little world to discuss things, but it spreads things out very thinly. And it’s so easily wiped out if the creator chooses to delete it. FB wasn’t intended to be a resource for organized thoughts, it’s a way to share your day to day musings with friends. Joke of the day? Video of the day? Post some photo of your food? Sure, nobody cares a week later. But with a collecting forum you need to be able go to back and see what’s been discussed, to be able to link to discussions and, for the love of Pete, ORGANIZE it.

When the USENET discussions migrated to Web forums like this one we lost the legacy of searching. We gained threading rather than creating separate groups so that was a plus, and certainly hyperlinks are incredibly helpful. Searching this site is difficult and Philip himself wiped out years of old discussions years back that was never archived. The SWCA forums wiped out a lot of good discussion. All of that was good info wasted and wasted info is missing history and experience. The search functions are critical for that to work and without a good way to search, it still makes it a bit difficult to find what you want. But hey, at least you CAN search a forum like this. You can’t do that with a FB group.

I just fear that FB groups will drive people away from organized forums and continue to scatter and dilute the discussions. I thought it was hard enough when SWF UK and TIG started growing, but at least they’re just 2 more searchable and threaded places to keep up with. But with so many FB groups, you can’t keep up with them all and there’s no way to have great discussions that go on for pages. It’s all based around the mobile here and now. Snap a photo, use your thumbs to scribble out a comment and move on. But what is the result?

As this continues we’ll move into an era where the chatter has to be repeated time and again on a near weekly basis. We should be using those groups to drive people to places where they can learn from experienced collectors and see the benefit of creating searchable history. Being so decentralized and “day to day” doesn’t help promote a long term bond with the hobby IMO. You need to have places where the beginner can come to learn, not be thrust into a spot where they can’t figure out how to interact or take the time to learn.

I see a lot of participation in FB groups by people who could be just as active on this forum. It’s hard not to sound like the old man who doesn’t want change, but making things faster and more accessible will come at a price.

-chris

How much is this figure worth?

Okay just a quick post to discuss my views on the dreaded “How much is this worth?” posts on Facebook and the forums. I’m not going to focus on the issue of whether or not these posts are annoying, as I think, in moderation at least, that they have their place. What I’m more interested in analysing is the nature of the responses to these valuation questions.

So how do people respond to these questions? I often see the response, along the lines of “They are priceless because they are your childhood toys” etc etc. While I absolutely agree with this sentiment, I’m not sure this is the response the OP is looking for.

I’ve also noticed the response “They are worth what someone is willing to pay for them.” Of course, in a black and white world, this seems to be correct. Or is it? I’m not going to explore the philosophical nature of ‘value’ (which really is a social construct) as this would probably bore most of you. Plus I’d probably start dribbling and make a fool of myself as I usually do with my philosophising. Is something really worth what someone is willing to pay for it? Worth to whom? To the person buying it or selling? How about the person watching the sale who thinks it’s worth more or even less? To me this response is not useful and relates only to the one specific buyer’s concept of value.

What’s more important though, is that the two responses above do not really help the OP in assessing the value of the item on the current market, which is what they are really inquiring about. I’m pretty sure most people know that as well….While I do think these type of respondents are intentionally taking the piss, I understand that the constant flow of “How much is this worth?” posts can be annoying. But like I said, this article isn’t about that.

So how do I think we should respond? Well I respond to others in exactly the same way that I would like someone to respond to my valuation questions. By guestimating how much I think is an appropriate financial value for their item on the current market. Of course this isn’t easy as prices can vary significantly between sources such as eBay and the forums or even within eBay itself. But when I sell items, I somehow manage to come up with what I believe to be an appropriate price point so for me it is possible to come up with at least an informed guestimate for a fellow collector.

So what do you guys think? Am I missing the point?

Thanks for reading.

Five things Facebook Star Wars groups can learn from the forums

As an avid user of vintage Star Wars forums and a regular on Facebook groups, I have noticed several key differences between these two social networking formats. I like Facebook and I have a lot of fun in the groups; meeting other collectors, buying and selling vintage figs and having a laugh at some the hilariously creative memes. However, I feel the groups still have a long way to come before they challenge the collecting experience gained on the forums.

I may not be right and I know the forums are far from being perfect, but these are the top five things that I think the groups can learn from the forums:

1. Ban members for aggressive behaviour. I’m shocked daily by how group members treat each other on Facebook. While aggression doesn’t always immediately equal a banning on the forums, I know that the mods on forums like Rebelscum have little patience for this type of behaviour and are quick to issue warnings when things get a little bit too heated.

2. Don’t allow non-transactional comments on sale threads (To be fair this practice seems to be limited to Rebel Scum).

I get it, some comments are fine – such as ‘oh wow great piece, ‘I’d buy this if I had the money’. But some clearly aren’t, like – ‘I got mine for half the price’. I mean really, respect someone’s right to sell in peace without disparaging their sales.

I actually heard recently that other members will often hijack sales threads with a sales pitch for their own items. I mean really???

3. Encourage experienced collectors to get involved in discussions. These guys are quite active on the forums but don’t seem to be so much on Facebook, particularly in the larger groups. I can’t speak for them but it seems that the lack of respect for experience in the groups may be a telling factor. I’ve seen many an old school collector try to kindly contribute their knowledge to a thread, only to be abused, often by newer collectors. Why would they bother again if they are going to be treated like that?

I guess another factor may be that discussions on Facebook seem to be less technical than on the forums and experienced collectors are probably tired of reading posts like “How much is this worth?” or “What does COO mean?” etc etc. That said, these questions do have a place but I can understand why they wouldn’t be so attractive for a collector with 20 years of experience behind them.

4. Only buy vintage from trusted sources! Facebook is absolutely rife with scammers, yet people continue to deal with individuals they don’t know without undertaking any level of background checks. While scamming does occur on the forums, it is extremely difficult for a brand new member to pop up and suddenly start selling the blue Snaggies or VCJs they found in their parent’s loft. Forum members are quick to shoot down any obvious scammers and they don’t survive long. That said, of course there have been cases where known and trusted sellers have failed to resist the powers of the dark side.

5. Don’t post modern toys on vintage groups! This is absolutely frowned upon on the forums and rarely happens. Facebook on the other hand is a non-stop circus of modern posts on vintages; some are innocent but often it is intentionally done to antagonise  so called ‘vintage snobs’. The thing is, a lot of vintage collectors don’t mind modern toys but they are members of vintage groups to see vintage! I once saw four posts in a row about modern toys. There are so many modern groups out there or great groups like ‘Batteries Not Included’ that allow both vintage and modern, why not go there! This whole issue is probable worthy of an entire post so I won’t elaborate too much here.

Well that’s my top five. Happy to hear if you think I’ve got any of them wrong or if I’ve missed out on something significant.

Thanks for reading.