Collector Interview #5: Carl, Gary and Ross from ‘Star Wars 12 Backs, 20/21 Backs, and Early Vintage Collectors Group’

I’m stoked to finally present Carl, Gary (Gaz) Edson and Ross Barr from the Facebook Group ‘Star Wars 12 Backs, 20/21 Backs, and Early Vintage Collectors Group’. Those who know this group may be surprised to see that I’m only interviewing three of the admins, when there are actually four. Well we actually set about conducting this interview months ago, when there were only three admins and I decided to restrict this interview to the first three founders as adding a fourth would make this interview even more massive than it already is.
I did though speak to the lads and they mentioned that former admin Jeff Walters did an absolutely fantastic job as an admin until he had to resign due to his increasingly busy work and personal commitments. Jeff is still an active member of the group though and both his attitude to collecting and his collection itself are credits to the hobby.
Steve Dwyer (aka ‘The Dark Artist’ on Rebelscum) is the latest addition to the admin team and what an addition he is! Steve is one of the most knowledgeable collectors around (particularly in regards to first 12 figure vintage prototypes  – his 3D prototype focus has to be seen to be believed). Not only that but Steve is committed to improving the hobby and is also one of the loveliest blokes in the hobby. I hope one day to host both he and Jeff on the blog.
While I still prefer the collecting forums over the Facebook groups, this group is one of my absolute favourites. That’s not just lip service, I really do enjoy it and it seems to be growing into an influential group. And sincerely these guys are some of the friendliest blokes in the collecting world and they epitomise why I love vintage collecting – it’s as much about the people as it is about the toys themselves. Not only is this is a great group but it is also is a perfect example of collectors from all over the globe coming together to create a community for individuals to get together and share their joy of collecting.
 
Although there are still some teething problems with the use of Facebook to connect us to fellow collectors, it seems this format will play an important role in the future. For example, one of the main groups (created by British collector Jason Smith) actually has more than 14,000 members, which really is outstanding and highlights that vintage collecting is a growing and thriving hobby. That said, there is still a lot of debate going on in the collecting world about the value of these Facebook groups, more recently revolving around the issue that they may be causing fragmentation among Star Wars collectors – check out more about this in our previous article – http://vintagestarwarscollectors.com/forum-thread-of-the-month-september-2014-fragmentation-of-vintage-collecting-chat-via-rebelscum/
Now to the interview! 
1.    Before we discuss the Facebook group, it would be great to learn more about you guys. Ross you and I came up through Rebelscum together so I know you pretty well but Gaz and Carl I only really started to connect with you blokes through Facebook. Ross you are from the States (or ‘AMERICA’ as us non-Americans like to say) and Gaz and Carl you guys are British but where did you guys grow up? Are you all married with kids or are you footloose and fancy free?
Ross:  Christian, I have always liked what you said in your posts on RS, and I am glad we have gotten to know each other even better on FB.  As for my personal life, I have been married since August 2008, have a five year old son named Eli (my collecting partner – seriously, he can point out all flaws in a MOC in under 10 seconds), three year old daughter named Lana, and a one year old daughter named Sadie.
VSWC: Ross and the gang.
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Carl: I started my early collecting days on a forum called SWCC (Star Wars Collectors Cantina). I was a mod on there in the early days and got to meet some great people, since then I browse RS for the sales but our Facebook page is the main one for me. I’m in a great relationship with Lisa , and have two kids of my own and two step kids.
VSWC: Carl and his family. 
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Gaz: I live in a small mining village called Shirebrook (near Mansfield) in the UK. I’m still there as of now. I’m 42 so a good age for collecting SW so they say. I live with my partner but I’m not married but I don’t think it will be to long thou. I have three kids as well – 24, 15 and 13 years old and all GIRLS (yes hard work). I’m going to be a granddad soon holy shit!!
VSWC: Gaz and his girls!
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VSWC: Gaz and his wife looking sexy and dangerous. 
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2. So do you ever get teased about your collecting?
Ross: I do get teased occasionally, but even my friends that tease me do think it’s cool.  I think there is still a misconception that all collectors and lovers of SW are nerds, but I am quick to tell those people that I have met some of the coolest and funniest guys I have ever met through SW collecting.
Carl: Do I ever get teased ? I’ve had the piss taken out of me a few times by my mates, that’s because I’m a massive wind up, and they know I would deffo do the same 🙂
When I first joined the Facebook pages, I didn’t realise pages weren’t private so I was posting my 12 backs etc and of course they were appearing on my Facebook feed. Then on a night out with the lads, about five of them started making chewie noises and taking the piss. I had to take it on the chin, because I would have done the same 🙂
Gaz: Do I get teased mmm well come on I do live with three girls lol! Seriously thou yes I did when I first got back into collecting, but now my close friends and family see the values involved in buying and selling they just leave me in my own little world which I’m more than happy about.
 
3. How long have you all been collecting, how did you catch the bug and what do you collect exactly?
Ross:  I have been a lifetime owner of the toys and collector since I was a child, but started collecting again in earnest a few years ago when I dug out my loose figures, some carded stuff, and other random stuff.  Having a son that was just as into it as me really gave me the fuel to collect again, and we went from there.  My primary focus is my full run of 96 figures on their first “movie” card, but not necessarily needs debut card back – just the front.  The first 12 must be on 12 backs (again, don’t care about A v. B v. C really), the next 9 on 20/21, all ESB characters on ESB card fronts, ROTJ on ROTJ, etc.  I have a full loose collection in C9 ungraded condition, and have a few MIB vehicles and playsets that I like.  I am also working on an “original” Han Solo (not Han Hoth, Han Bespin, etc. – just “original” Han) focus, with the goal of getting him on every card front and back that he has ever appeared on.  Finally, I am working on a full set of the 12 inch figures MISB, and have “just” one (Boba Fett) until that is done.
VSWC: Ross and his growing Han Solo focus. 
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VSWC: Three of Ross’ favourite pieces. Vader is a production double telescoping saber (DT), while Ben is a hand painted first shot  with mushroom tip DT saber and Luke is an engineering pilot with a production DT saber. Amazing pieces! 
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Carl: I’ve been collecting for about seven years, I have changed focus many times over that period, but now my focus is 12/20/21 backs and all early stuff. I got the bug seven years ago when I brought some loose vintage figures for my son. There were about 10 in total and when they arrived they were that mint that I couldn’t let him ruin them. So they went on my shelf and my collection grew from there.
I’ve also recently started collecting and an ESB/ROTJ run with clear bubbles.
VSWC: Carl standing guard over his stellar collection. 
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Gaz: I’ve only really been back into collecting for the last four years, yes I did have it all as a kid but like most people got rid of it all in my early teens. I got the bug back really just by looking up Star Wars on eBay and it carried on from there.
I remember my first figure was a loose Chewbacca with a repro weapon lol, then like Carl I’ve changed my focus a million times, just finished my 21 back run (all 12 Backs are A cards) and I have a few of the rare pieces. I also just started on the ESB line. I love the cartoon droids and ewoks so maybe I’ll collect them at a later date.
VSWC: Some of Gaz’s awesome collection. 
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4. Do you ever meet face to face with other collectors?
Ross: Since I have joined RS and the Facebook groups, I have met more and more collectors face to face.  I am part of an Ohio collectors group and have done a few events, meet friends on comic con events and toy shows, and have had friends I have met on RS and FB stay at my place or have met them out for beers and brought them back to share my collection.  Having someone over to see the collection is a real treat.
Carl: Had a great time at Memorabilia in Birmingham and met up for the first time with some great lads Steve UKG, Adam Pemberton, Marcus Schroeder, Klause Dorscher (Marcus), Sheldon Wagstaffe, Gaz Edson, Paul Smith, Rich McLean, Marc Walsh, James Martin and Graham Hughes and had a few beers and a curry afterwards. Great night! Dean Keenan and Chris Hyden  both live a few miles away so we also meet up for a beer and a chat . Also me and Gaz Edson meet up regularly. One day I would love to travel the pond to meet my USA bro Ross lol.
VSWC: The lads hanging out in Birmingham.
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Gaz: I’ve only had a trip down to Carl’s to do a couple of SW deals over a beer, more on the horizon 🙂
VSWC: Gaz and Carl (left to right) hanging out recently. 
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5. Are there any good conventions coming up? Will you be going?
Ross: I attended an amazing toy show last month in Cincinnati, OH, the home of Kenner, and got to catch up with many old friends and meet many new ones.  I don’t remember having that much fun locked in a room with a bunch of dudes.  Well, I do remember, but I will keep this interview PG-13. Hahahah.  As for conventions coming up, right now I am looking forward to attending Celebration 7 in California next April.
Carl: Just Memorabilia for me in the UK in November, more than likely I’ll go. I’m also thinking of going to Jedi Con in Germany. I had a great time meeting up with my two friends Marcus Schroder and Klaus Dorscher at this years Mem show so would love to do Celeration Anaheim in April and meet all the friends I have made from these groups, but I don’t think I will be able to have the time off.
Gaz: I’ve never been to one but would love to, so it’s something that’s going to happen.
 
6. What are you all into other than vintage star wars collecting? Is there time for much else?
Ross: When I first got into collecting as an adult a few years back, I was buying childhood collections and other items on eBay – mostly GI Joe and Masters of the Universe (He-Man).  I needed to take a step back and focus on one thing with everything else going on in my life, so I am slowing selling off everything other than Star Wars stuff.
Carl: I have my own building firm that keeps me pretty busy and of course the Mrs and the kids lol. My other passion is football (soccer). I have a season ticket for Wolverhampton Wanderers and have followed them since I can remember. We also have three Bedlington Terriers, and enjoy nothing more than taking them walks on evenings and weekends.
Gaz: Not really, most of my spare time goes into SW, it’s hard for much more with work and family. I do love football and support Sheffield Wednesday I go to see them whenever I can.
 
7. Gaz I notice that you always seem to have top pieces for sale at decent prices and that you have a steady influx coming into your collection? How do you do it? Where do you find this stuff?
Gaz: I think I’ve just been lucky with spending hours and hours on eBay, sending messages asking if they had more for sale and doing deals away from eBay for better prices, so able to sell I bit cheaper and find some nice bits for my collection, but it’s getting harder and dryer out there.
 
8. So do you have any advice for newer collectors who are trying to find quality items at decent prices?

Gaz: Patience, believe it or not. Good deals do still come up from time to time and do your homework so you know what’s fake and what’s genuine, this way when good deals do become available you can hit ‘buy it now’ in confidence knowing it’s the real deal. Snooze and you lose in this game.

9. Carl what do you think about the current market at the moment? What is driving the current situation, where prices seem to be soaring?
Carl: Without a doubt the current market is on the up, which is a real shame, as this has put a lot of the items out of reach to a lot of collectors 🙁 My opinion is since the news of the new Star Wars movies, the prices of MOCs etc have started to soar , and as the film gets closer there’s a chance they could get even higher. Since I started collecting 7-8 years ago , prices have trebled to what they are now.
VSWC: 12 backs do seem particularly affected. I bought my 12 Back B Luke (AFA 80) for 500 pounds just before Christmas (admittedly a great deal) and now the same piece is selling for more than double. So do you think the Disney films will further effect this trend?
Carl: Definitely. In the last six months prices are creeping up, but the new films next December have definitely had an impact. I  also I think that, because the original cast are back in (ie Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie , C3PO and R2) 12 backs could increase further …….
 
11. So are you dudes excited about the new movies? Can JJ do it for the fans or will it be the prequels all over again?
Ross: Great question. From what I have seen to date, there is a movement to use more props, less CGI, and overall be truer to the OT (original trilogy), all of which I hope and think will lead to a great product. Disney paid a ton for the SW franchise, and has to get it right.  With that said, Star Wars is like sex to me.  Even when it’s bad, it’s good!
Carl: Can’t wait mainly because the original cast are back in it after 30 years, let’s face it the new films can’t be any worse than the last three and with the addition of the Stormies \, Falcon , x-wings etc from the original trilogy. I can’t wait ….
Gaz: I’m buzzing about the new films even more so knowing we have some of the original actors in there 🙂 It’s going to be a BIG HIT !
 
12. Ross I noticed that you changed your Rebelscum name from Darth Roscoe to Ross_Barr (is this correct?), pretty much in line with what the old guard did a while back. Are you too good for us now? Did you get enacted into the inner circle without letting your mates know?
Ross: Lol Christian!  If anything, I am worse off for having dropped my cool Darth Roscoe moniker…  Seriously though, consistent with point (4), as I met more people face to face it was frustrating to explain that I was “Darth Roscoe” on RS, so I made things simpler and went with my real name.  And I did join the inner circle – they have beer and cheap women!!!!!!
VSWC: Yep ‘Darth Roscoe’ is a pretty cool dude…
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13. In all seriousness, you’ve only been collecting for just about three years yet you’ve amassed an enormous collection and I think you’ve almost finished your MOC run  How the hell did you do it so quickly?
Ross: Thanks for noticing, Christian. I need just a fewmoreMOCs to complete my full 96 carded run. And to answer your questions, yes they are all US Kenner. I have some foreign pieces that are part of my Han Solo focus, but that’s it. I have done it relatively quickly through some hustle, networking and very little off eBay. All in all, I havecomeout of pocket to the tune of around 55% oftheactual current market value of my collection through a lot of buying in bulk (large collection purchases, etc.) and selling off pieces that don’t fit my focus for againin an effort to subsidize my collection, and buying items that are otherwise way belowtheiractual market value. But of course I have also laid out a lotofmy own money, and importantly it was all through extra savings and other money that my family doesn’t necessarily need and likely won’t miss.

VSWC: Yeah I remember the huge haul you scored where you had to cross the border into Canada. How did this deal come about? 
Ross: Great that you rememberthathaul. That was one of four large purchases like the ones I described above that have allowed me to finance my collection. The seller was getting rid of his whole collection of Canadian and US carded figures (41 in all),MIB vehiclesandplaysets (35-40 of those) and lots of other memorabilia. He posted them all for sale at once on the big SW vintage Facebook group.Unlikeall of the vultures that gave him lowball offers and ridiculed him, I was nice to him, gave a reasonable offer, and since he lived an hour or so drive from, offered to come with cash in hand and pick the stuff up so he didn’t have to deal with shipping it all. We corresponded for a few days and agreed on a price. Needless to say from the pic, it was a ton of stuff, and I sold off enough within a few days to get my money back (and then some) and keep, free of charge, among other things, a Canadian 20 backSWBobaFett (ended up grading AFA 80), Canadian 12 Back VinylCapeJawa (I believe only two others are out there, and I have since traded it toaJawa focus collector), ESB 45backBobaFett, several other MOC figures, afewMIB items, and various other odds and ends.  It was the deal of a lifetime for sure.

You should have seen the face of the US border patrol officer when I drove to the US border with a car filled with vintage SW collectibles!!!!!  He thought I was INSANE!!!!
VSWC: The famous ‘thumbs up’ photo of Ross and his plastic contraband. 
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14. One last question before we get to your group. Carl you have been pretty vocal about reproductions recently, particularly repro boxes. Do you think this is one of the greatest threat to this awesome hobby of ours? 
Carl: I don’t like reproductions. I despise them !!! Definitely going to affect the hobby in time, not so much the older collectors who can spot the signs, colour etc, but some of the newer and less educated collectors coming in could get stung. Some of these boxes that are being reproduced are superb, with just a small tab with reproduction written on them, that is NOT enough. These could easily be cut off so no one would know they are fake. Give some of these repro boxes 4-5 years of getting a bit of wearand tear and it will be very hard to spot. It wouldn’t be so bad if from the front it looked like the original, for display, but on the back it had ‘REPRODUCTION’ written in big letters or a totally different colour to the original. That way there would be no way of cutting that off or of anyone getting scammed. This is just my view, but I’d rather save up a bit more and get the original in not so perfect condition than these cheap fakes that are flooding the market …. This one does make my blood boil ……
 
15. So to your group now. Gaz can you briefly summarise what it’s all about?
Gaz: Our groups focus is from the first film Star Wars, which is by far the best film ever released (my view!). We see the group as a place to gather collecting knowledge,  to help others spot fakes etc and as a forum to display all of these amazing collectibles.

It’s also a place to have a good chit chat and laugh between us all while discussing SW (we are all on the same wave length). As soon as I mention SW in my house everyone’s ears shut down and I end put talking to myself!

VSWC: So why did you choose to focus on these particular parameters?

Gaz:  It was all Carl’s idea. I met him through the main vintage SW Facebook page and we got talking though there, then I received a message from him asking if I’d like to start a SW page just dedicated to the 12/20/21 backs and the early stuff (mailers etc) and as I said, Star Wars was by far the best film out of the three, so I thought why not 🙂

So I’d just like to thank Carl for involving me, cheers bro 🙂

17. Gaz do you all have specific roles within the functioning of the group?
Gaz: Not really. If there’s any decisions to be made we just have a three way vote, well four now as Jeff’s on board 🙂

But we all tend to agree and it generally runs fine. Ross is the one who mainly writes the important posts up (clever lad as) he’s very good at wording things. My spelling and wording of things is terrible which is why I’m the last to respond to this interview. Carl and Ross said it was a breeze,  yeah right I wish!

VSWC: Haha no worries Gaz! It generally takes a while for people to get back to me with their answers. I’m just stoked that people are willing to give up their time to the blog.

18. Ross, I might be a bit biased but to me the group seems to run much smoother than a lot of similar groups on Facebook. It really is a tight ship. Why do you think that is?
Ross:  Facebook is kind of the wild west of SW collecting.  It is certainly instantly gratifying when compared with some of the chat forums like RS and SWFUK, but there is so much less respect paid from one collector to another on Facebook, and zero moderation on most of the groups. Once Carl proposed the group to Garry and I, we discussed a few light rules that we had seen on RS that worked there and could provide a little organization to our group and encourage people to respect one another. The three of us (now four, with the addition of Steve Dwyer as an admin).
 
So how many members do you have now? Is the sky the limit in regards to membership?
Ross: As of today, we have just around 3,500 members.  When Carl first proposed doing the group, I thought maybe it would be cool if we could get our friends from the forums and a few other random members together and some day have 500 or so members that enjoyed the early vintage as much as we do.  It blows my mind that just over seven months later we already have 3,500.

As far as whether the sky is the limit, you always want to have more members naturally as it is more people to connect with, more interesting posts that will be made, and just better content.  However, I have no desire to get so big that we have internet “trolling,” off topic posts, and disrespectful members running rampant. This group, in my mind, was always supposed to be a bunch of like minded collectors in a niche group.  I hope we never lose that.
 
19. Carl there seems to be a recent flood of niche vintage collecting groups on Facebook. Do you think there are too many?
Carl: I really enjoy these niche groups but I am biased, if your focus is ANH, ESB, ROTJ, POTF , pre production, Lili Ledy  etc  there is a group for you out there. Plus the multiple general Star Wars pages, I don’t think there are too many but saying that, I turn notifications off on a lot of them, and just read the three or four I want to 🙂
 
VSWC: So what are your favourite groups then?
Carl: Of course my favourite page is the 12/21 back page without a doubt 🙂 I also enjoy checking out Echo base UK and Empire/ ROTJ pages. I’m also fascinated by the pre production pages, to see where all the toys we collect started and the different stages. There is so much to learn from that page . Matt (Matthieu Barthelemy) also does a great job on his La Guerre Des Etoiles page. I love seeing the Meccano and other designs for the foreign cardbacks.
 
21. What other niches are yet to be filled?
Carl: What other niche groups? Ask Ross lol! He will probably be helping with them!
VSWC: Haha you’re right! I should have asked Ross that one. I do like to call him the ‘King of the internet.’
 
22. So with you guys being so active on Facebook, do you still have much time for the forums?
Ross: I certainly have less time for RS as I used to, but I make an effort to go on there still as much as I can, and still would say I am active. It is still in my view the best place for information, and has the best classified section. It is well run and organized, and is an overall great site. As I said in my first RS post about the 12 back group, I think RS is the steak of the SW forums, and our niche 12 back and early vintage group is the red wine that compliments the steak.
Carl: Unfortunately I don’t really have the time for forums, with the two pages I help run plus everything else. Lisa would definitely not be with me if I spent anymore time on Star Wars  than I already do 🙂 I look on RS and SWFUK and TIG when I can, as there’s so much information stored on these pages, but it’s more limited than I would like.
Gaz: I always like to log onto RS and SWFUK and have a quick look, although I use RS mainly for WTB threads for the bits I’m after which usually works.
VSWC: So what would you guys say is your favourite forum?
Ross: RS, hands down. In fairness to the others, I haven’t spent much time on SWFUK and TIG other than on SWFUK when the Toy Toni stuff came out and TIG to confirm my weapons’ authenticity.
Carl: My favourite forum, I guess, it’s got to be RS nowadays followed closely by SWFUK.
Gaz: RS.
 
24. On to my final question, which is – to grade or not to grade?
Ross: For me it is a mixed bag. For my MOC figures, while I rarely buy an already graded figure (because, among other things, they are almost always too expensive), I buy near mint to mint pieces and almost always have them graded. I like the look and protection of the figure and card in acrylic, and the costs of the graded piece is really just another $30 or so more than it would be for the acrylic case itself. And the sad fact remains that if that grading turns out to produce an AFA 80 or 85, it results in an increase in the value of that figure in the market place, so it is money well spent in my view. I also like the ability to track my pieces by serial number, and have seen the AFA serial number come into play and be helpful in stopping thieves and scammers.
Carl: In my collection I have both graded and ungraded pieces , I have nothing against the grading , it protects the pieces and I love how they look. Luckily for me I bought most of mine before the prices really shot up and if I was collecting all the 12/20 backs now I would definitely be buying ungraded.

I think, like everything, AFA has its good points and bad points. Bad being: inconsistency with grades and u grading (well don’t get me started on that). It’s a shame prices go so high after grading but I guess for some it’s worth the price just to know what they’re getting and that their piece is authentic. So for me to grade or not to grade –  I’m both ……
Gaz: I’m easy as most of my 12 backs are graded except for a couple, my other nine of the 21 backs are mainly ungraded (three are graded) but they are all displayed in AFA style cases as they display better and protected. I’ll probably be getting them graded when I get around to it.

Well thanks so much for your time guys and keep up the great work with the group. I definitely feel that I know you all better after that and I hope our audience feels the same way.  I’m sure we will catch up sometime, somewhere for a beer.

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