Hello everyone and welcome to the seventh issue of our full-length collector interviews. This is a HUGE interview, both in length and its quality. Not only do we cover a load of questions but the collector under the VSWC spotlight is one of the superstars of our hobby; that’s right, Javier Ruilopez is coming at us straight out of Spain. Javi is an overflowing fountain of knowledge and wisdom in regards to Spanish vintage collecting, particularly PBP/Poch; that regularly misunderstood Spanish line of SW collectibles. He is actually very close to releasing a book on the subject and from what I hear this is going to be an absolute corker of a collecting resource.
Here’s the cool dude himself…
When it comes to variant collecting, PBP/Poch figures are incredibly hard to identify and even harder to find. I’m always in awe at the knowledge and willpower of collectors who focus on these figures. The amount of mis/disinformation out there about this line borders on the ridiculous, but lucky for us Javi is here to clear up some of these misunderstandings.
Javi may not be as well known to people who focus on collecting Kenner and who are mainly U.S focussed but I can tell you now that he is an absolute giant of the hobby. Not only is Javi a legend of Spanish collecting but he is also a legend of a bloke (as we say in Australia) and is a gentleman to boot. I love watching him debate with other PBP/Poch collectors and it’s obvious to all how passionate he is about our hobby. I know Javi’s book has been draining on him so we appreciate his effort to appear in this segment.
In a VSWC blog first, I’m actually welcoming a co-interviewer this time around; my friend and variant collecting aficionado Kenneth Baekmark. Kenneth is straight out of Copenhagen and has been active on the collecting scene for years. He actually sold me my first ever PBP figure (a pale faced Luke Hoth) and we have been friends ever since, even meeting up a couple of times. I once hung out with Kenneth and our collecting friend Marco Jay and watched and listened to them going through Marco’s huge PBP/Poch collection of figures. I’m no variant dummy but I felt pretty stupid that day…..I actually kept the identity of my guest co-host a secret from Javi until after he answered all of the questions. Was a bit of fun for all of us. Well welcome to Kenneth and thanks for your help with this interview.
Kenneth looking pumped and ready to drill for PBP knowledge.
Well enough superlatives from me, let’s kick this interview off!
1. Welcome Javi! Thanks for joining us today on the blog. Now I know you might be surprised that I said “us,” as it’s usually just yours truly doing these interviews but today I thought I’d enlist a very special guest to help me take you through the questions. All the way from Denmark, it’s none other than Kenneth Baekmark himself! I’m going to ask the first few questions but then I’ll let Kenneth take over so you dudes can get into the real nitty gritty details of variant collecting, particularly from the perspective of an experienced Spanish collector like yourself.
First off, I always like to get the most important question sorted. I’ve been to Spain several times – Barcelona, Madrid, Ibiza, and Tenerife. I absolutely love it there. I’ve travelled the world quite a bit, so I feel that my assessment on the following issue is informed and evidence based. Do you agree with me that Spanish women are the sexiest in the world?
Javi: LOL! Indeed! The girls around here are pretty, however I would have no problem spending some time with any other foreign woman! LOL!
VSWC: Well that’s good to hear Javi. There may be some single foreign women out there reading this interview who can’t help but find themselves attracted to variant collectors. It’s a very sexy area of the hobby!
2. Okay, now that the important part of the interview is over and I’ve thoroughly embarrassed myself with my sexism, I’m sure everyone would like to know a bit about Mr Ruilopez. First off, in what part of Spain are you based ?
Javi: I live in Talavera de la Reina (Toledo), 100km from from Madrid. I live in the centre of Spain.
VSWC: Is this where you grew up?
Javi: Yep, I was born and raised here in Talavera.
VSWC: So being from the Madrid area, does that make you a fan of the film director Pedro Almodovar?
Javi: To be honest i do not consider myself a fan of Almodovar but I have seen and enjoyed most of his films, (mainly the early filmography), he is very good at filming the underground/misfit part of Spanish society. Also he is well respected as a director here in Spain.
VSWC: Are all the people from your region as wacky as Almodovar’s characters?
Javi: You would be surprised how close some people here are to Almodovar´s characters! LOL!
3. Now I know you are involved in the art world, but what exactly do you do for a living?
Javi: I have been a professional art restorer/curator since the last 15 years. I am specializing in paintings and materials.
VSWC: Wow no wonder you are so knowledgeable when it comes to variants! I think another well-known variant collector, Wolff, is also an art restorer. Definitely makes sense.
4. So other than the obvious Star Wars and artistic interests, what other passions do you have?
Javi: I love my little boys and girls; my cats (I share my home with seven of them LOL!), besides that I am quite interested in history, mystery radio programs, photography, music and movies.
VSWC: Wow that’s a hell of a lot of cute cats. You definitely like collecting!
5. I have to be honest I don’t know a lot about the history of Star Wars in Spain. Did you guys get the films around the same time as in the United States?
Javi: As far as I know – but I could be wrong of course – Star wars “A new Hope” hit the cinemas on 7th November 1977, so around six months later than the United States…
VSWC: When did you yourself get the chance to see one of the original trilogy at the cinema? Were you an addict straight away?
Javi: When SW (ANH) was played for the first time in Spain I was only one year old, for ESB, I was still too young I think. The first SW film I watched was ROTJ. My aunt brought my brother and I to a cinema in Madrid, I fell in love from the moment I watched that film.
VSWC: As a kid, what was your favourite part of the movie?
Javi: As a kid the Endor Battle, no doubt!! But as an adult, i love Jabba´s Palace scene!
VSWC: Were the films dubbed in Spanish or did you get to hear the original actor’s voices?
Javi: The films were dubbed in Spanish; I only heard the original voices once the DVD editions were available.
6. So do you remember getting your first Star Wars figure?
Javi: I remember perfectly the first figure I had. It was a Saturday, my grandfather brought my brother and I to the toy shop, where I chose the AT-AT driver, my brother the Tie Fighter pilot. It’s a good memory about my grandfather who passed away in 1994, I miss him deeply.
VSWC: I’m sorry to hear that. But it’s cool that he was such an important part of your Star Wars story. So do you still have any of your childhood figures?
Javi: I still have some of my childhood collection; around 20 figures or so.
7. What Star Wars product lines did they have in the stores in Spain back then?
Javi: Here, we had: brain teasers, puzzles, kites, model kits and of course the action figures. BTW we also had trading cards and little plastic ones – Dunkin type- figures.
8. Did you stop collecting at some point or did you continue right through until the present day?
Javi: As a child, I stopped buying figures around 1987-88 or so, I was 11 years old back then. I loved playing basketball and skating, after that, music and girls took over all my interest. During the following years I used to buy modern SW stuff, but nothing major. In 1997 during the first year of my studies in Madrid, I bought my first figure as an adult collector, it was a loose Bib Fortuna. After that I used to spend my very limited spare money to buy vintage stuff here and there. I was 21 year old.
9. Now I know you are a variant collector, a well-known one at that, and that you also collect bootlegs. But what exactly do you focus on?
Javi: I do collect loose figures; mainly figure variants from all over the world: Kenner, Glasslite, Toptoys, Meccano, Popys, Takara, Lili Ledy and of course my beloved PBP figures. Besides the licensed lines I also collect Uzay figures, which are currently the only ones I am looking for, as most of the other lines I completed a long time ago.
VSWC: Javi was kind enough to share with us his basic PBP set.This is the first time he has shown a full set of pictures of his complete set of PBP figures, exclusively for our readers! These photos sincerely blow me away.
Early PBP Production (so called Poch variants)
Late PBP Production (so called PBP variants)
Javi’s old display of variants back in 2006-2007
Javi’s old display of basic Kenner figures
Mexican Lily Ledy complete set with variants
Complete set of Top Toys, Glasslite and Takara
French trilogo/Meccano variants
Complete set of Popy figures
10. Javi I’m still reeling from those photos! Wow just wow. A loose collector’s dream. So is vintage collecting popular in Spain these days?
Javi: It seems so!
11. Do you get to meet many collectors face to face?
Javi: Yes sure! And it was great! During the making of the book I met Sergio Sierra, Luis F.Antelo, Jota, Agustin Diaz, Angel Martinez, Javier Tamayo, Sergio Garcia, Dario Diaz, Enric Rovira; to name just a few……I also recently met Marco Jay in Madrid, we had a great weekend together!
Some photos of Javi and his collecting friends. From left to right: Javi, Dario Diaz, Luis F.Antelo, Enric Rovira, Jota, Sergio Sierra and Javier Tamayo. Some very big names in the world of Spanish collecting.
Photo from Marco’s recent trip to Madrid. From left to right: Javi, Sergio Sierra and Marco Jay (aka DrDengar). Collecting aside, they are three A-class guys in my books!
12. Will you be at Celebration London?
Javi: I definitely will be there. I am really looking forward to meeting good and old friends next summer.
13. Ok let’s chat about something that a lot of us are excited about – your upcoming book! First up, what is the title and what will it be about?
Javi: The book will be called: Star Wars Made in Spain: The Comprehensive guide to PBP/Poch.
14. Kenneth gave me a few of your flyers to hand out at Celebration Anaheim and I was really impressed with the artwork and photography. Do you do all this yourself?
Javi: Thanks for your kind words about the flyer design, that one was indeed my own design. I am really worried about taking really good pics for the book, I have done 99,99% of the pics which will be included, and I like to work very closely with the person in charge of the design, sometimes though I am way too picky with the design. I am a perfectionist in all of my jobs, not only with the book but also in real life.
15. So why exactly did you decide to write it?
Javi: Well, tough question, I decided to list my findings in a book for many reasons, It’s a long history, but I think it is important to let people know about it.
In 2007 after having spent more than seven years collecting and learning about loose figures all over the world, I focused on the PBP loose stuff and quickly realized that misinformation everywhere. I started buying lots from non collectors whom were selling their childhood collections. At that time there was not mixed stuff (or almost not mixed) in collections and the figures I was buying were worth almost nothing, so I was sure I was buying real examples sold in Spain back in the 80s.
In 2010 I spoke publicly about the melt marks which were associated with certain figures found in Spain which had – what seemed- different paint schemes. You can still find the original post at TIG here:
VSWC: Wow that really was a big breakthrough. I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t realise it was you who had first raised it on the forums…
Javi: At that point only a few early produced PBP (so called Poch now) figures were known to exist: RC black boots, Black neck Lando, Han Hoth with dark chocolate pants…
After that new “discovery”, some long-time loose collectors started to do their own research. I spent the following tow and a half to three years buying lots, but now with more competition jejejej.
Since 2013 many people – mostly non collectors – realized that the so called Poch figures could be sold for good amounts of money on the collecting market. From that point researching PBP/Poch figures became a nightmare and a mess. Loads of scammers popped up in Spain trying to take advantage of the “new” and not so well known figures, they were selling regular beaten-up Kenner figures as Poch, mixing stuff, faking childhood collections so they could sell them in the classifieds sections of local newspapers and on eBay and so on…
By the end of 2012 or early 2013, I stopped researching for the reasons given above. At that time I already had documented 99% of the currently known Early PBP production (so called Poch variants).
I felt a bit guilty about the situation I had started back in 2010, so in an effort to try to stop people scamming other collectors, I decided to put all of my findings into a book so everybody could tell a “Poch” figure from a Kenner one.
As time progressed, the book became a personal challenge for me, I had information and examples of nearly 275 possible Early PBP variants, of course, not all exclusive PBP produced (now I know so 😉 …
I started writing my first thoughts and findings back in 2013, but it was not until last Xmas that I started to work on the book full time…
Now the book will be a tribute to the whole PBP production and its workers.
I only hope this study can be an useful tool for future collectors, that is my my goal.
16. How close are you to finishing?
Javi: I was expecting to have it ready this Xmas, but it is impossible for many reasons…I don’t want to set a deadline for the publication, because I am really tired and very disappointed at not been able to have it ready this December. My next target is to have it ready for CE3 in London, I will do my best for that, but if I can’t, I cant… I hope you all can understand.
17. Of course we understand Javi! It’s a massive job you have taken on so it must be exhausting. Has writing the book been more difficult than you imagined?
Javi: It’s indeed more difficult than I ever expected, just because you have to work with many people whom do not see the project as you do, and its really difficult to find the correct people to get involved…
18. Have you learnt much yourself during your research?
Javi: Indeed, I have learnt a lot about the loose production itself but also about MOCs, ships, mailers, adverts, production process, etc
19. Have you had much help from other collectors?
Javi: Absolutely!! I have had the help of the greatest Spanish and non-Spanish collectors over the past years!! You know who you are and I want to say thanks to each one of you. THANKS lads!
20. Any idea how much the book will cost?
Javi: I would love to keep the cost of the regular edition under the range of the 100 USD…
21. I’m sure you will address this in your book, but the whole PBP/POCH angle of collecting can be very murky at times and a lot of misinformation is out there. Can you please tell us, just for the record,is there a difference between the PBP line and the POCH line?
Javi: In fact there is no difference, there weren’t two companies Poch and PBP. Since the first minute in Spanish production, Poch was part of the PBP brand. If you look at the back of the so called Poch 31 cardback, you will see that the PBP logo was included. I also was able to confirm it in words of a PBP ex-employee. Novedades Poch never did any SW figures on their own, It was always under the PBP production.
22. I collect some loose variants as well but I only have three POCH figures (one from you!). I can tell you that to a non-expert these are incredibly difficult to identify. Can you give us a few brief handy tips about how to identify a loose POCH figure?
Javi: Answering that question would take a whole book LOL! Joke aside; Sometimes it is really difficult just because some of them are really close to their Kenner counterparts.
As with variant collecting of other SW lines – such as Lili ledy, Glasslite ,TopToys etc- you ALWAYS have to look for paint differences to tell them from the regular Kenner production.
PBP production has its own paint scheme – sometimes associated with RANDOM factory flaws such as melt marks, bubbles in paint, poor sonic wielding etc – BUT really pale-cream faces/hands and the use of black paint instead of the regular brown paint, are always a good sign in PBP collecting 😉
If I were a new collector of Early PBP production (so called Poch), I would go for the well known Poch figures with very different paint schemes: black neck Lando, white pants RS Hoth, chocolate pants Han Hoth, green limbs Bossk etc…
VSWC: Great tips Javi! Okay well thanks for answering all of my questions. I’m going to take a break now and let your good friend and fellow variant collecting extraordinaire Kenneth ask you some questions. I think I’ll learn something!
Javi: Thanks to you Christian for giving me the opportunity to be part of your great blog, its was an honour for me. I really enjoy every collector interview you do and I hope other collectors enjoy this interview as much as I have enjoyed it 😉 Thanks!
23. Hi Javi, It’s a great honour for me to be able to ask you a few questions here (thanks very much Christian). The two of us have known each other for many years, and we both share a passion for the hobby and variant collecting in particular. First off, can you tell me what the letters PBP mean? Are they short for something?
Javi: Yes, PBP is an acronym of Poch-Borrás-Palouzié, the surnames of the three owners of the three companies which formed PBP.
24. Is it correct, that Spain was the only country in Europe which actually produced their own line(s) of SW figures; unlike Palitoy, Meccano etc, who had their factories located in Asia?
Javi: According to collectors’ knowledge that’s true. I also received confirmation from an PBP ex-employee…
25.Where was the PBP factory in Spain physically located?
Javi: It was located in Hostalric, Girona.
26. When did the first vintage SW figures (and vintage SW toys in general) hit the Spanish toy stores?
Javi: According to Spanish collectors’ memories, the first action figures and vehicles hit the market in early 1981. I was able to confirm it, thanks to the confidential order sheets known to exist. There are SW references in the individual catalogues of Juguetes Borrás and Novedades Poch, since 1978.
27. Which type of PBP cardback was the first to carry the PBP logo, and did this type of cardback contain Spanish produced or Kenner imported figures?
Javi: Since the very beginning, the first Spanish cardback type was the 31Back- you could already see the PBP logo side by side with the Poch quality seal.
As far as I could confirm, these first cards contained imported Kenner loose figures.
31 back – these photos are the final versions that will also be used in Javi’s book.
28. Do you agree with me, that the Poch (early PBP) line of figures from the elusive Poch 37/41 backs (like the famous toxic green limbs Bossk) and later cards are maybe the most complicated Kenner foreign licensed line of figures to collect; for a variety of reasons such as these figures sharing coos with their Kenner counterparts, Kenner parts being used in the production etc?
Javi: Yes I agree.The problem with some characters is that the paint used by PBP was really close to the paint scheme used by Kenner and sometimes only by having side by side both figures (PBP and Kenner counterpart) can you tell the differences.
29. What cardbacks were produced for the early PBP (Poch) and later PBP figures, and did they all contain unique Spanish produced figures with paint and/or COO differences when compared to Kenner figures?
Javi: I don’t like making too many divisions within the PBP production process because we do not have enough MOC examples – and we will probably never have enough – so any classification could be inaccurate to say the very least. Anyway I can see that in this case it is necessary to be understood by people. I personally call Early PBP production the PBP cards which carry the Poch quality seal, because in general terms those cards also include a type of production figure (plastic and paint wise) which will be changed at a later point in the so called – by me – late PBP production.There are exceptions to the general rule of course, such as PBP production being really heterogeneous.
In relation to early PBP production (so called Poch), we had the 31 backs, 37 backs A and 37 backs B.
The late PBP production process started with 37 Backs C, in which the Poch seal was eliminated. Then came 45 backs and 65 backs.
About the figures on those cards, as said before, the PBP production was very heterogeneous, the production was not a straight line from the beginning to the end.They used a lot of kind figures (1º Imported finished figures, 2º imported parts painted or unpainted to be assembled in Spain and 3º figures 100% produced in Spain). They used any kind of the above type of figures on almost any card. I mean; we can find imported figures on 31 Backs, assembled imported parts on 37 backs but also 100% produced figures on 37 backs and finally we can even find so called Poch figures on the very late Trilogo cardbacks!
37 Back B, with the so called PBP Yoda. Javi tells us this figure was packed on Lili Ledy blisters at a later point. This piece is from the collection of Agustin Diaz
30. I’m sure, that for many, for instance U.S. based collectors, European (including PBP) Star Wars is pretty much down to figures like light blue no coo scarred PBP Boba Fetts and dark brown no COO PBP Rebel Soldiers. Do you agree with me, that Spain (PBP) produced a lot of other highly interesting figures, which are both very distinct from their Kenner counterparts paint wise as well as being widely unknown to many collectors?
Javi: Indeed, there are a lot of interesting PBP figures besides the well known ones. For example you have the Green limbs Bossk, Black neck Lando, Black Pouch Chewie etc etc
One of the most wanted PBP variants; Bossk with Pistaccio arms and feets. Piece from the collection of Agustin Diaz. I’m impressed that Javi managed to use the colour ‘pistaccio’ to describe the colour of a figure. He really is an artist…
31. What is your favourite PBP figure and why?
Javi: To me it is the PBP Luke Hoth, I always loved this figure! The different paint scheme and the detailed limbs and body look so cool to me.The original sculpt is one of the best from the whole SW production.
And here he is. Wow wow wow!
32. To me it seems that many of the particularly early PBP (Poch figures) are very poorly welded and in addition often have melt marks (especially on the back). Can you reveal, how these figures were assembled at the PBP factory and what quality control was used before the figures were put on the cards and sent to the distributors and then out to the stores?
Javi: As far as the PBP ex-employee told me, the figures were assembled like any other figure, with the torso split in two parts with a sonic wielding machine. According to him quality control was really tough; however, in some examples we can see some imperfections, which at that time would have been perfectly acceptable in production terms, I guess…
33. Did PBP run any mail offers or other campaigns similar to Kenner during the early 80s?
Javi: Yeah sure! It’s well known that PBP offered the “1 FIGURA GRATIS” (“ONE FREE FIGURE”) promotion on its cards. Nien Numb among others characters was promoted by PBP on their cards.
34. Last question: Will we ever know, with 100% certainty, what exactly happened at the PBP factory during the vintage era? Like what figures were on which cardbacks, why PBP imported Kenner stuff, what the connection to the other Kenner licensed factories was, how the production process of the PBP figures was and so on?
Javi: Many – if not all – of those questions will have their answer in a certain upcoming book, just be sure you don’t miss it !!! Jejejejej
Kenneth: Thanks so much Javi for giving me the chance to ask you a few questions and the best of luck with your book. Like many other collectors I cannot wait to obtain a sample!
Javi: Thanks for your kind words Kenneth. it was my pleasure to answer your well-chosen questions.. THANKS my friend!
VSWC: Another huge thanks from me too Javi. Thank you so much for coming onto the blog and sharing a bit about yourself and your collecting endeavours. Good luck with the upcoming book. Can’t wait to read it!
Javi: Thank you very much to you Christian, it was my pleasure. I hope this helps a bit with the general understanding of the PBP production. All the best to you and your great blog page, really you are doing an amazing service promoting vintage collecting and its collectors community. Thanks for your time and efforts and please keep on doing such a great job my friend! PEACE TO ALL.
VSWC: Thanks Javi. I’m blushing 🙂
Are you guys sick of seeing Darth Vader super collector and DT fountain of wisdom Bill McBride’s face in the media recently? Well here he is again, but this time on video on ABC!
Really happy to see Bill getting so much attention as he really is a collector to look up to; both in the positive manner in which he contributes to the hobby but also for putting together such an amazing figure focus.
Bill has been a regular feature in the media since he was interviewed by yours truly on VSWC Blog in July 2014. You read between the lines….
Jokes aside, huge congratulations from us to Bill!
Another quick post. My wife sent me this article from The Guardian newspaper in the UK. Not sure if this news has been doing the rounds yet?
The auction house will be hosting their first ever Star Wars collectibles auction on 11 December 2015, when they sell off the collection of Japanese fashion designer Tomoaki Nagao (known as “Nigo”).
It’s always sad to see someone selling off a collection but at least it means there will be some rare items for sale. Nigo’s collection include a carded DT Luke.
Jordan Hembrough recently sold three of these at one time on the 12 back Facebook group and the MOC is easily one of the hottest MOCs on the SW vintage market.
It also includes General Madine and Jawa Trilogos, several Boba Fett MOCs, a carded Hungarian Fett and a POTF Anakin, There are honestly too many to mention.
Check here for a full list:
Welcome all to the seventeenth episode of our collector snapshot, where a vintage collector answers 10 short questions. The same questions will be given to every collector appearing in this segment.
This is a very special episode as our guest is one of the most active contributors to our hobby. I’m stoked that someone of Amy’s collecting caliber agreed to come onto the blog and I’m sure you’ll all enjoy reading through her responses as much as I did.
Amy is a 34 year old human resource professional from Seattle, Washington. I met Amy only briefly in the Collectors’ Social Room at Celebration Anaheim, where she was kind enough not to crack up laughing at the terrible pin I gave her advertising my blog (trust me, I’m not being modest).
Here she is on a SARLACC ((the Seattle Area Lucasfilm Artifacts Collector Club) film location trip to Death Valley.
Amy actually presented at C7 and you can check the video of the panel here; where she and Jarrod Clark discussed Ewok collectibles. Thanks to Tommy Garvey from theswca for continuing to post these great videos of the C7 collecting panels.
She also also had an entry in the Vader Case Project at C7; a fantastic event which raised loads for charity. Read more about the project here:
Amy’s entry: ‘Sunset on Endor’.’ Stunning…
Amy is extremely active on the collecting scene. She’s a member of SARLACC, R2 Builders, Ewok Builders and even has time to blog at http://blog.theswca.com and www.SARLACC.org. I’ve actually recently shared one of Amy’s great blog articles on our Facebook page, here it is again if you missed it:
Would you believe she’s involved in even more SW vintage endeavours? Check out the Star Wars Collecting Cosmos Collecting Cosmos – Facebook podcast and Amy’s Etsy shop ‘Nerdventions’ – Nerdventions – Etsy.
We recently ran a competition here on the blog, with the prize being a mint set of Cantina Crew aliens. All you had to do to win was to post a photo on the page of yourself as a child with a vintage Star Wars collectible.
We were hit with so many outstanding entries that we decided to give away several runner up prizes. One of the winning entries was from Jad Bean. Here he is with his Ewok Village on Christmas Day.
What I found out later was fantastic. Jad actually had this special moment captured on video and this footage was included in the Target ‘Share the Force commercial’. You can catch Jad in it, opening the very same Ewok Village. That’s him in the video at 0:09 (labeled Christmas 1977) and again at 0:12 (Christmas 1983). Not only does Jad appear but there is footage of a bunch of other kids with their vintage SW toys. The video is a joy to watch and really captures why so many of us collect vintage Star Wars.
Check out the video here:
Are any of our readers in the video? Let us know!
What is even cooler than Jad appearing in this video is that he also has the honour of having a Star Wars character officially named after him. Yes that’s right, unbelievable. Check out the full story on his blog:
Thanks Jad for sharing and keep up the good work!
Just a super quick update for my non-Facebook readers. I post a lot on our Facebook page but always forget to update on the website as well. Will do my best to remedy this.
Here’s a very cool article from the guys at From4-LOMtoZuckuss.com, one of our favourite Star Wars collecting websites.They discuss the nostalgia element of vintage Star Wars collecting and the article features an interview with Tom Berges – the man behind igrewupstarwars.com.
Also check out our previous interview with Jake Stevens, the founder and main force behind From 4-LOM to Zuckuss.
What the hell is Gemr?
Well for those who haven’t heard, they are the new social networking kids on the block for crazy collectors like ourselves.
If you already know about Gemr, but haven’t signed up, well do it now! It’s completely free to sign up and there is nothing to lose by having a look around.
To quote their website Gemr is a “social community for people who collect, and anyone who is passionate about the stuff they own. It’s free to join, and users can organize, showcase, buy, sell, and trade their items on the platform.”
Check the video out for a visual overview of Gemr.
So why am I reviewing Gemr?
One of their representatives contacted my blog a few weeks ago and asked me to review their site. I’m pretty happy with the forums and Facebook so I must admit I was a little apprehensive about testing another platform. But after signing up and exploring the site for a couple of weeks I was pretty impressed with what I found. We chatted a bit more about Gemr’s plans and in the end I’ve agreed to help drum up some awareness about Gemr among the vintage Star Wars community. When I say “help,” I simply mean to post an honest and in-depth review of their site.
What does Gemr offer the collector?
You can showcase your collectibles to like-minded individuals, you can also buy, sell and discuss collectibles or anything else to do with the hobby. Gemr also hosts a ‘crowdscore’ function which allows members to canvass other members for price estimates on a specific item.
There are a loads of eclectic collecting clubs to join. Although I only joined the vintage Star Wars club and comic club, other clubs range from Transformers, Sneakers, Lego, Marvel Figures, Sports Memorabilia, Cosplay (I’m not going to pretend I didn’t spend way too much time looking at the cosplay girls…), Fine Art and Stamps. I could go on and on….And if there isn’t a club that suits your interest, there is the option to contact Gemr to start one up.
If you are anything like me, you might actually collect a bunch of different things. Not only do I collect vintage Star Wars but I also collect comics and books (first editions, editions signed by authors etc). All of these collectibles are covered by specific collecting clubs on Gemr so for me Gemr is extremely practical. All my collectibles under one easy to navigate roof!
The first thing I noticed after logging into my account was how aesthetically pleasing and stylish the layout was. Not only that, but the interface is super smooth and easy to navigate.
To give you a bit of an idea about what to expect when you log in, here’s a screenshot of the top half my Gemr home screen.
If you scroll down the homepage, you can explore collectibles recently posted by other members:
The setup is pretty easy to use and doesn’t take long to get used to. The options you can see in the screenshot are pretty self-explanatory but rather than explaining everything myself, check out this video that walks new users through the site.
Why should a vintage Star Wars collector use Gemr?
We already have forums and Facebook. What’s the point of joining yet another site? Well it really is worth it and I definitely will be using it more in future.
Like I’ve already stated, the interface looks great and is smooth and easy to use. Plus there are clubs for all my collecting passions. I know there are forums and Facebook groups for all of these but it seems so much easier to have them all easily accessible on one site.
Another positive is that I can upload my whole collection and use it as a reference database for when I need to quickly access it. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve needed to know if I have a specific COO variant or cardback in my collection but haven’t had a photo on my phone or computer. It’s pretty cool too because you are able to attach a note with a bunch of details to each item. I know that would be definitely handy to me. Not only can you store your whole collection but you can also share your collection directly from Gemr to other social networking platforms like Facebook or Twitter.
You can then click into your collection and pull up a full shot of each photo. If you scroll further down, you can see the details of what’s in the photo and it’s also easy access to the thumbnails for the rest of the collection. It all looks pretty slick and professional. My terrible computer skills don’t do it justice…
And for you comic book lovers, here’s a partial snapshot of the only comic I’ve uploaded. I’ll upload all of my other X-Men keys soon.
there is also no need to find your thread and bump it like we have to on the forums and on Facebook.Your collection is always easily accessible from your personal dashboard.
When it comes to buying, selling and trading, Gemr is nicely set up so you can manage an inventory of your sales or trade items in one place. You can easily add or remove items from your inventory. The same goes for managing your WTB list.
What is great too, similarly to the forums, is that only serious collectors will sign up to Gemr. So expect to meet like-minded collectors there, rather than a torrent of trolls that we witness daily in the larger and public Facebook groups.
Us vintage collectors are notoriously resistant to change when it comes to trying out new forms of networking. We resisted forums – until they eventually took over and then we resisted Facebook groups – which now host the largest pool of vintage collectors. One group has over 15,000 members. Even some of my anti-Facebook collector friends are now posting regularly there.
I’m not saying we give up on forums (my true home) or Facebook groups and all migrate over to Gemr. If you are completely happy on the forums and have no desire to move, well then each to their own. But if you are anything like me, then you may not want to restrict your collecting activities to one or two social networking platforms. I’m a regular on several forums, loads of Facebook groups (I admin three) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram. Not to mention my blog. I love interacting with a wide range of collectors. We are absolutely kidding ourselves if we believe that forums and Facebook groups capture the entire vintage collecting community.
So what about the vintage Star Wars club on Gemr itself? Well the truth is that it is quite new and not very busy at the moment. I only signed up a few weeks ago myself so it is hard to judge. I’m willing to give it a go though, there are already a few collections posted and I have started to post some of my own collection.
How can Gemr improve?
Well I guess the most obvious con at the moment for us vintage collectors is the low activity in our club. While there are over 100 members in the vintage Star Wars club and some collections being shared, there is pretty much no discussion yet. This of course will change as more people become aware of Gemr and the vintage Star Wars club.
It’s only a small thing, but when I click on a thumbnail in someone’s collection and view a larger photo, I’d like to be able to click for the next large photo to come up automatically, like we do on Facebook. With Gemr, you need to scroll down and then click from the thumbnail gallery.
If you guys who are already using Gemr have any constructive criticisms yourselves, feel free to share your thoughts in the comment sections.
Sign up here if you want to get involved:
UPDATE APRIL 2016
The vintage Star Wars club on Gemr has been powering since we wrote this review and there are now loads more members and some spectacular collections have been posted. Trust me one of them is possibly the best production collection you’ll ever see.
Gemr has also had some useful updates, such as:
- Quick Collect:Upload multiple items at once
- Chat:Private message your friends
- Activity Feeds:See what others are doing on Gemr
You can also dowload the fantastic GEMR mobile phone app, available in the iOS and Android app stores.
These updates have all improved the GEMR experience.
After using the platform for a while now I will say that it is definitely more suited to limelighting your collectibles rather than engaging in hobby related discussions. This should come with time though.