Collector Snapshot #18 – Dwayne Smith: The Collector inside that Hammerhead Costume!

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

I’m a bit embarrassed that it has been four months since our last collector snapshot. Things have been busy but I’ve resolved to produce these interviews more regularly again. Anyone I’m making up for it with this cracker of an interview. I’m very excited to welcome Dwayne Smith onto the blog! Dwayne is born and raised in Northern California, married with four kids and works as a school maintenance supervisor.



Dwayne is actually responsible for the most popular photo ever posted by us – yes that’s right – he was the man inside that fantastic vintage Hammerhead costume at Celebration Anaheim. I was lucky enough to see Dwayne and his costume in action at the Chive Cast Party.

While the Hammerhead costume is great, you’ll see in this interview that Dwayne is not a one trick pony. He has an awesome Star Wars collection and is heavily involved in the Star Wars and vintage communities. He’s a life long Star Wars fan and is a member of the California Vintage Collectors Club, Stormtrooper Ranch and the 501st.

To the questions!

1. How long have you been collecting?

I’m part of the original generation of fans who got to see Star Wars in theaters in 1977. That following year I can remember being in Kindergarten when Kenner action figures starting showing up on the play ground. I recognized the Han Solo and the Stormtrooper my friends were playing with in the sand box. I was hooked right away and in no time I had my mom take me to K-Mart to get my own figures. So I started pretty young.

2. What do you collect?

Great memories, is the best way I can sum it up, I love all things Star Wars but the items I treasure most coincide with great memories of how they came to be part of my collection. When I look at my vintage figures I’m reminded of how I received them as gifts for birthdays, Christmas and being brave at the doctor’s office. Nostalgically I’m drawn to vintage era collectibles like The Kenner Action figures, Topps cards, Marvel comics, promotional items and 8 track cassette tapes. I enjoy the adventure of discovering items here and there and if I’m able to bring one home once and a while that’s great.

VSWC. We’ve had some outstanding collectors/individuals answer this question but this is hands down the best answer I’ve seen so far. The SW vintage community would be a much better place if we all focussed on collecting “great memories.”

Check out some of Dwayne’s collection. Damn……..

12527937_10209397116988746_1910126649_n (1)12421867_10209397115068698_261427002_n (2)12516554_10209397135509209_438969743_n 12443257_10209397135829217_424207439_n11998085_10209397118348780_1439510468_n12067141_10209397112548635_1209920912_n (1) 12084206_10209397110308579_1634581717_n (1) 12421869_10209397112788641_1852105481_n 12443212_10209397102028372_294101407_n

3. What’s your grail?

It’s so hard to narrow my wish list down to just one grail. I’d love to get myself a DT (Double Telescoping Saber) Vader action figure someday. Realistically and much more within my budget. I’m trying to track down a copy of the 1983 UK Return of the Jedi Weekly No. 28 comic book. The cover features Vader wearing a Santa Claus hat, it’s just so weird I love it

4. What collectors inspire you?

Doesn’t everybody answer with Steve Sansweet? I guess I will too. I’ve been friends with Steve Sansweet for a few years now. He’s been a mentor to many fans and collectors like me. I admire his passion for collecting and his vast knowledge of all things Star Wars. It’s also reassuring to know that I don’t have to collect everything. I can let Steve do all the work and I get to see the items when I visit the Rancho Obi-Wan Museum.

VSWC: The big fella in the centre of the photo below; book-ended by his friends and fellow 501st troops – Elton Hom, Jon Farmer, Steve Sansweet and Ed DaSilva. This great shot was from last October’s annual “Gallloween” gala event at Rancho Obi-Wan.


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

I’m prone to sarcasm so I’m sure I’ve said something ridiculous at some point that someone in the community took seriously, no doubt embarrassing myself and being oblivious to it.

6. What is your favorite Star Wars film?

That’s tough. It’s definitely one of the original trilogy films. Some days it’s Star Wars because it was the first film to inspire my imagination, Some days its Empire Strikes Back because it’s has the best story (Dark Side wins and all) and some days it’s Return of the Jedi, because 10 year old me went absolutely nuts watching it in 1983.

7. What would you change about the collecting community?

I don’t know what I’d change about the community, I love it the way it is. I would however encourage other collectors to understand this is all supposed to be fun. If collecting stresses you out you’re doing it wrong. The world is full of problems, collecting and Star Wars fandom in general should be an outlet to just enjoy and have fun with.

8. Forums or Facebook groups?

They’re both great and have their pros and cons. Lately I prefer the Facebook groups. I guess scrolling is just too easy.

9. What Star Wars character do you most resemble?

Well, I’m 6’3″ and I have a pretty good Darth Vader costume. I troop as Darth Vader as a member the 501st, Golden Gate Garrison, so I guess I most resemble the dark lord. But I’ve also been known to resemble a certain cantina patron, who just happens to be my favorite obscure Star Wars character, Hammerhead.


VSWC: No caption needed to explain these….

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

I’ve been a volunteer with Rancho Obi-Wan for a few years now. I’ve helped with various projects and events. And I have just recently become a volunteer docent / tour guide. It has been awesome to share Steve’s amazing collection with other fans.

VSWC. Great answers Dwayne! Very inspiring. Thank you so much for taking the time out to join us and please continue to do what you’re doing because you’re doing a fantastic job! 

Darth Vader collector Bill McBride features on ABC TV

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!

Bill McBride on ABC TV


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….

Bill McBride VSWC Interview

Jokes aside, huge congratulations from us to Bill!


Jordan Hembrough sells three Luke DT MOCs on the 12 Back Facebook Group!

Hi guys,

Just a really quick post to update my non-Facebook audience to an amazing sale yesterday on one of my favourite Facebook groups – the Star Wars 12 Backs and Early Vintage Collectors Group. The guys who run it are some of  my best mates in the hobby and I’ve previously interviewed the three founding members. Check the interview here:

Okay, back to the main story. Yesterday, Jordan Hembrough aka ‘The Toy Hunter,’ posted three AFA 80 mint on card double telescoping saber original Lukes for U.S. $17,000 each in the Facebook 12 back group. These pieces were snapped up in just a couple of hours.

Here are the three beauties!

luke DTsThis photo is published on with the permission of Jordan Hembrough. 

I generally don’t flag sales on the blog but these sales were noteworthy for several reasons:

– The sale of three mint on card double telescoping saber original Lukes at the same time was a great sight to behold. I myself am a Luke focus collector so it was fantastic to see that there must still be a few more of these pieces hidden out there in people’s closets;

– Now if this sale wasn’t mind-blowing enough, it was even more significant that it took place in a Facebook group! I’ve pretty much been active on the Star War vintage FB groups since close to when the action first started to heat up and I’ve never witnessed a sale even close to this huge. Not only that, but it wasn’t even a secondary sales thread (i.e an eBay or forum thread being shared in the FB groups). What does this say for the future of big ticket item sales?; and

– Jordan chose to sell such a huge score on a Facebook group! I’ve watched a few seasons of his show and I don’t remember him ever mentioning the Facebook groups as one of his selling markets….The fact that such a huge player in the vintage buying/selling game chose to sell on FB is not only a huge nod to the potential that Facebook offers as a trading place but it also pays a massive compliment to the admins of the 12 back group. I very much doubt that Jordan would have chosen this group if it was run by a pack of clowns.

I’d love to hear more about the story behind what Jordan referred to in one of his comments as the ‘General Mills find’. He did mention in a subsequent sales thread in the same FB group that this find actually resulted in four MOC DT Lukes but that one was going into his personal collection. He elaborated that the figures from the ‘General Mills find’ (there were others on top of the DT Lukes) originated from a GM employee who had worked on the Early Bird kits.I might reproduce Jordan’s own words about the figures’ provenance (well the GM employee’s claims at least – to which Jordan claims no responsibility for their veracity) on his sales thread as they are pretty succinct, rather than try to break them down:

“The figure came from a former employee at GM in St. Paul MN, who worked on the Early Bird kits and assembled them for shipping. It was his job, along with others to send the follow up figures to consumers.

When the promotion was over, the factory not only had excessive amounts of Early Bird figure mailers as a whole… but also bagged figures as well.

The story goes: there were a number of figures assembled at the factory to be used for promotional purposes, as well as salesman samples. They were all on 12-Back C cards.

This figure, exhibits unique characteristics found in samples in the past. The figure is backwards in the bubble, and the footer appears to be thinner than a standard footer. The nesting cradle, which was used to adhere the bubble, is larger than one found on a figure of this size.

The figure, is also dark blue in nature, one found in the Early Bird kits.”

Now a lot you will be gasping at the price. I mean,17K (U.S) is a hell of a lot of coin to drop on one of life’s non-essentials. But I’m not going to get into that, at the end of the day we are all collectors and we should do our best not to judge our fellow collectors about how much they spend on the collectibles we all love so much. Paying too much for an item is a different argument altogether and this was the topic of our previous blog post (below). I’d be a hypocrite not to address this issue.

So where do these three MOC DTs fit into the scheme of my previous article? Well it’s difficult to say to be honest because my article refers to relatively common collectibles and the items sold by Jordan are not common by any stretch of the imagination. Do I think they were overpriced? Tough one because they don’t exactly pop up on the market often so it’s hard for me to gauge their value and I haven’t done my own research to see what they’ve sold for in the past.

Thanks for reading!

New action figure grader in town?

Well not really.

But I did have a unique COA issued to me recently by one of my collector friends – Alex Magraw. Check his interview out and you might get some insight into the type of mind that would create such a COA:

It was actually this interview that sparked the events leading to this post. In the interview Alex flagged the “Dark Ginger” Bespin Luke as one of the hardest to find variants of this figure. I have almost 20 of these variants and I was pretty sure one of them was the elusive dark rangas (non-Aussies can google that), oops I mean dark gingers. I emailed Alex a photo but he couldn’t quite tell from the pic so he offered to examine it in person. I sent it to him and a few weeks later, much to my pleasant surprise, I received a nice little package from the big man. I was even more surprised when I found this one of a kind COA:


And here is the little fella standing proudly with his brothers, no longer is he conflicted by the existential angst of not knowing what variant he really is.


I’m not necessarily against AFA, except for their u-grading antics, but this really highlights that we don’t always need their assistance to identify hard to find variants and I’m pretty sure this same logic can be applied to the AFA’s identification of repros, reseals and other surreptitious methods of ripping off collectors. Let’s help each other out once in a while and strengthen the bonds that tie our community together. It shouldn’t all be about money or having the best collection. That said, I recognise that all collectors aren’t lucky enough to have friends in the collecting community that can help them out. Then again, Bill McBride, Darth Vader collector extraordinaire (see his interview with us here – issues COAs for double telescoping saber, for which he charges a very small fee. He used to do it pro bono but I guess getting 100 requests a week can take some of your time! If Bill and Alex can do it, then I’m sure other experienced collectors can do it.

Thanks again Alex and thanks all for reading!

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 –
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.
ross fami
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. 
carl famil
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!
VSWC: Gaz and his wife looking sexy and dangerous. 
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. 
ross coll
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! 
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. 
photo 1
photo 4 (1)
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.
gaz and carl 2 carl, gaz
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. 
gaz carl
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…
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. 
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.

Collector Interview #2: Bill McBride – Dark Lord of the Sith

Hi all,

Yet again I’m very excited to present another special guest on the blog – Mr Bill McBride! I know I always say I’m excited but that’s the simple truth – vintage Star Wars pumps me up! I am though a pretty excitable bloke in general I must admit. Anyway… I was thrilled when Bill agreed to appear on the blog, not only is he one of the biggest names in the industry but he is also someone who embodies everything I love about collecting – he is stark raving mad about vintage SW and takes his collecting seriously but he is also able to have a laugh and does everything he can to contribute to the collecting community. Anyone who is a member of the Rebelscum forum or the Facebook groups can attest to that.


If you haven’t seen it yet, check out Bill’s great webpage:

So let’s find out a little bit about Bill!

VSWC: Hi Bill! Thanks so much for joining my readers and I on the blog. When I first decided to interview collectors, you were one of the first names that popped into that pea brain of mine. You have an amazing collection and you are second to none when it comes to sharing your expertise with other collectors, even relatively newer collectors like myself. It’s a great example you set. 

Let’s get to the questions.

1. I always like to get the most important and controversial questions out of the way as soon as possible. I recently watched ‘Plastic Galaxy’ (read our review at, which you were filmed and interviewed for, and I came away thinking – what the hell is going on with Bill’s humongous biceps? So do you work out or did you get  implants? 

BM – Thank you ! I’m glad to be here. I’ve received a fair amount of questions regarding that since the movie premiered; I like to work out (a lot) … and it helps when I have to lift all those cases of Vader goodies 🙂

2. Ha ha I bet they do! Now can you tell us a little about yourself? Where are you from and what do you do with your time when you are not playing with your Darth Vader figures?

BM – I am from the eastern part of the US, born, bred and educated. I am currently working on publishing my own Darth Vader project, based wholly off my personal collection. That has been consuming the majority of my time lately. I very much enjoy traveling, and spending time with my family and my beautiful German Shepherds.

VSWC – Who doesn’t love travelling! Do you get to take many collecting related trips?

BM – Not as many as I would like 🙂 I’m a collector at heart, so any time I’m traveling I *always* keep an eye open for Vader items (so in that context you could say I’m always taking collecting trips 🙂 ). I usually hit a few major shows every year, and more lately the local toy&comic shows. SW Celebration, San Diego and New York Comic Cons are also my usual show destinations. I also take massive satisfaction in the fact that I (think) have nearly all my friends and family trained to be on the hunt for SW/Vader items. I’ll get emails, texts, FB messages all the time from people finding cool pieces in their travels.(which is a large part of my plans for global Vader domination 🙂 )

VSWC – Now be honest with us, you’re not going to try and say you’ve never dressed your dogs up as Darth Vader are you? Not even once? 

BM – LOL – as much as I would like to, they just don’t make the animal sized Vader costumes big enough for my pups (although, if I could find some large enough, I would do it for  Halloween in a heartbeat 🙂 Something about dressing up my German Shepherds in matching Vader costumes appeals to my Inner Dark Lord’s sense of humor).

3. I know you are a regular on Rebelscum but you also use the main Facebook groups a lot. What do you think of the Facebook groups?

BM – I think with the spread of social media, we now have more choices about who/what/where/how to interact with people. It really comes down to personal choice for most of us. Personally, I’ve found outlets such as Facebook to be a superior means of mass communication with people from all walks of life, and every country you care to think of. It also gives you a more direct means of control over the scope of the information that we receive and go through each day. I can say that you really have to pick and choose how you interface with the community as a whole. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to keep up with the forums, ebay, FB, etc. There is no right or wrong, it’s simply what works best for you, your comfort level, with the amount of time you have available.

4. So what are your favourite groups then?

BM – All the groups that cater to my respective interests 😉 (I am a huge fan of the German Shepherd owner groups, which is where I find myself spending more time reading and learning.) However, there are many great FB groups to look into, from the official Star Wars page, to nearly every niche bit of fandom available. On a personal level, it is an absolute gift to have direct access to some of my favorite artists. I am a huge fan and collector, and to have that opportunity to see their work, and feel an active part of that is just amazing.

5. Other than social networking sites, do you get the chance to meet up face to face with other collectors?

BM – I do from time to time, and most recently had a chance to spend time with people at JediCon WV. That’s one of my favorite parts of the hobby really; just the opportunity to spend time with collecting friends, catch up and talk shop. 

VSWC – How about collecting clubs? Are you a member of one in your region?

BM – I live in Washington DC, so I’m a member of the DCSWCC (DC area Star Wars Collecting Club - They are a great group of people, and it’s always a treat to get to get together with them to talk shop from time to time.  I would *strongly* recommend that if you don’t belong to your area SW club, definitely look into it or in the event there isn’t  one, start a club yourself!! I can’t think of too many places in the world that doesn’t have regional club offerings.

6. How long have you been collecting and how did you get into it?

BM – I’ve been actively collecting Darth Vader memorabilia for well over 20 years now. Vader has always been my favorite SW character, and I am a collector by nature. Once I decided to actively pursue SW as an adult, I found myself naturally focused on Darth Vader items. There certainly wasn’t a lack of appreciation for other types of items and characters, but when it came time to obtain items for my collection, I found that I was voting with my wallet – Vader was the only choice

Some of Bill’s amazing Vader pieces:


7. So what pieces exactly do you collect? Just the vintage figures? What about other Darth Vader collectibles or even modern?

BM – The short answer is that I collect the pieces that I like. When I see something that I really like, or think is cool. I’ll get it. My collection has quite a range of items, both vintage up through to brand new items that I’ve already placed on pre-order. However, it always defaults back to my single collecting rule: I only collect the items that I truly like.

Here are some great photos of Bill’s SW room. 


VSWC – I don’t want you to give up your sources but can you at least hint where you source your harder to find items? I mean do you simply search eBay, forums etc etc or do you find them through your personal connections with other collectors? 

BM – Hmmm …………. Yes!  🙂  (All of the above actually.) I tell people that they should use every resource they can think of. Don’t restrict yourself to one potential source, location, group, selling site etc. I think that’s one of the most puzzling things I hear from other collectors; they establish some sort of self-imposed buying restriction for whatever justification they have concocted. As a rule, I never discuss my sources but I can say that quite a few of my significant finds have come from “tip of the iceberg” scenarios. This is where you find yourself looking to  purchase a single item or small group of items, and once you engage the seller you find that this was only a fraction of what they really have available.

However, I am, and will always be infinitely grateful for the help and generosity of my fellow collectors. I can absolutely say that my collection would not be what it is today if I didn’t have help from people over the years. I can’t tell you how many times someone has come to me and said “Hey, I found this ______ for you, I thought you might appreciate it”. It’s massively humbling to have someone give you that kind of consideration simply because they are being kind, and genuinely want to help. Those are the items for me that take on a nearly spiritual level of significance. Not only are they great pieces, but he/she allowed me to add this to my collection. It is hands down the best part of our hobby for me.

8. What Vader pieces are you still chasing?

BM – Believe it or not, quite a few items are still very much on my radar. What those items actually are is a top hobby secret 😉

9. What do your family and friends that you grew up say when they see your Star Wars room?

BM – I think it’s a bit of a shock to some people, but I’ve always had an overwhelmingly positive response to both the hobby, and when they have the opportunity to see my collection first hand. I consider my displayed collection and the curation of my pieces as significant to me as every other aspect of the hobby, if not a primary concern actually. I am always mindful of the items in my collection, and try to give them the respect they deserve while they are displayed.

Some more photos of Bill’s collection:


10. Do you ever stand in your display room, look around at all your Vaders and even for a split second say to yourself “What the hell am I doing?”

BM – No, to me it’s massively satisfying and more of a statement of my passion, and personal enjoyment of the hobby. (more sometimes something along the lines of “wow … did you really need every variation of the Vader watch ? Why yes … yes I did 🙂 ) 

VSWC – Haha I feel the same way, as do most collectors I guess. I do though look at my collection sometimes and think ‘What the hell am I going to do if I someday lose my passion for Luke Skywalker figures??? But I guess we can only work with how we feel right now. You’ve been going for a long time so I think if you were going to lose your interest that it would have happened already. 

11. Have you ever collected other Star Wars figures?

BM –  I haven’t … I only have room in my heart for the Dark Lord 🙂

12. You’re also known pretty much as the go-to-guy for double telescoping sabers (DTs). Did this interest come about as part of your Vader collecting or is it something you’ve always been interested in?

BM – When I started collecting as an adult, I tended to gravitate towards items that were rare, or that I knew were supposed to exist, but never saw at any shows. In the realm of Vader, the obvious first, tough piece was the Double Telescoping figure. It was legendary even back then, and I found that people rarely found a single example, let alone were in a position to authenticate one. I took it upon myself to learn as much as I could about them, and it eventually led me into my main collecting sub-focus, DT sabers and prototypes.

A bunch of Bill’s DT Vaders below. Now pick your jaws off the ground!


13. Have you ever had a DT in hand that you couldn’t determine as repro or not? 

BM – At this point, if I have an example in hand I can absolutely determine the authenticity of any given example. The only examples that I ever had in hand that I couldn’t authenticate were the Circle DT saber Lukes. They were unlike anything I had ever seen, and so obviously different that I wouldn’t authenticate them at first. ** Fortunately, a prototype Vader figure surfaced, and it was remarked to have a “prototype DT saber”. Once I was able to add it to my collection and examine the saber, I realized what it was and established a direct link back to Kenner. Once I documented the Circle sabers as authentic, I was able to help people with similar examples.

VSWC – Definitely a great job with the circles variant. I was reading one of the old threads on TIG just the other day where collectors, including yourself, were first discussing this variant. Really shows that there is still more to find out there. Do you think there are many more Vader pieces out there that may not be documented?

BM – I think as a whole, there are many “new” vintages items that have slipped through the cracks waiting to be discovered. The line is over 35 years old at this point, and the quantity of items that were produced is simply mind boggling. Once you change gears, and make that intellectual, tangential shift to consider non-toy items or things that were produced outside of the USit should nearly be an expectation at this point, rather an exceptionIn a broader sense, we know the main branches of the tree so exploring some of the various smaller branches is where a lot of us are at now. This idea can easily be applied within the context of a single character, especially Darth Vader. From the beginning, he was always one of the main characters in the limelight, so you are going to find a vast range of Vader items that were available over the years, from all over the world. If anything, I think people would be shocked at how little time or effort it takes once you start digging to find a previously undocumented item, or something that we’ve never seen before.  I’ve been working on fleshing out two significant non-US/foreign lines that are massively significant, but also a bit shocking that they haven’t been documented before. I think that’s just remarkable that you can make big finds after 20+ years in the hobby. I would hope that it also gives newer people inspiration in their collecting journeys

14. I know you get a lot of questions from collectors, including from myself, regarding  the authenticity of their DTs. How often do you get questions like this?

BM – I get a few every week. Most are from people that are digging up old childhood collections due to the Eps.7 popularity and resurgence of SW, or looking for a 2nd opinion on an example they are considering for purchase.

15. Does it get annoying at any point? 

BM – Not at all. If I can help someone to obtain or ID an authentic example, then I certainly don’t mind. The market prices on DT Vader and Bens is well north of $4,000usd, and that’s a considerable investment. It’s even more considerable if someone purchases a fake. If by some extension of my work, the hobby is a better and safer place, then it’s all worth it.

16. Do you think repro DTs are an increasing danger to our hobby or are they on the wane?

BM – I think they are absolutely a danger to the hobby. Hands down, they always rank in collector’s “Top 10” most wanted items, and with the massive influx of new collectors, we are seeing a massive rise in the demand for these types of items. No collectible based hobby is immune from people seeking to exploit this type of situation, or high end pieces, and we are no different.

VSWC – How about other repro items? Are there any specific reproduction items that you think are a particularly concern to newer collectors? 

BM – I have always preached to newer collectors the importance of doing your “hobby homework” and educating yourself. This couldn’t be more of an issue today with the flood of new people coming into the hobby. I know some people are devotees of the various 3rd party grading companies, but the fatal flaw with this practice is that it’s not time sensitive. There is a considerable window for turn-around or just information, and 99% of the time in this market you aren’t going to have the luxury of such an expansive window for an acquisition. Quality items are being snapped up before they hit the open market, and we are the text-book definition of a “seller’s market” right now.  As I mentioned before, with any collectible based hobby you are going to have fakes and reproductions. This changes exponentially with the levels of collector population and relative values. (A fair quantity of higher value items available, combined with a higher amount of new collectors is just a dream scenario for scam artists.)

The biggest changes/issues I’ve seen recently regarding fakes/repros:
~ The original line of 12-backs, and high end POTF figures;
~ Double Telescoping Sabers; and
~ Prototypes.

These used to be infrequent, or bi-monthly issues, now I’m seeing fake carded figures every day. DT sabers are usually the most high profile, and potentially accessible rare items out there, and it’s simply a function of supply and demand. Just because I have 10 new people a day demanding a DT Obi Wan doesn’t mean you can turn around and find one right away. I know people that have spent 10+ years tracking down a single item. Unfortunately, in a near frenzy level of demand, scam artists are more than willing to fill that void. If you don’t know what you are looking at, you are going to get burned. Prototypes are another area that’s just exploding. I think most collectors are eventually drawn to pre-production items simply due to the rarity/cool factor. The problem here is that vintage pre-production material isn’t readily available. The vast majority of vintage prototype items are locked up in private collections. This is why any time a piece comes up for open sale, the prices just go crazy. The reality of the situation is that most of these pieces aren’t going anywhere, any time soon, so the demand and prices are just going to continue to grow. The biggest issue I’m seeing lately isn’t necessarily fakes or repros, it’s from the collectors themselves. There is such a high demand for these types of items, that any paint error, mold flaw, or general weirdness is now being called a “prototype” or some kind of significant production item. This is where the hobby education really comes into play. Once the realization sets in that nearly 3/4 of a BILLION toys where made, it’s far easier to be objective and pragmatic about these types of items.

17. So where do you see your collecting activities in the future? Will you ever change your focus or are you a Darth Vader man until the end of time?

BM – Perhaps the End Rule of my collecting is simple – I will collect as long as it makes me happy. If I ever lose my passion for collecting, it will be the final days of my career.

So you see yourself still collecting SW vintage 20 years down the track?

BM – Absolutely! If anything has changed over the years, I’m more passionate than when I started. The more I learn and discover, the more I want to collect.

Well thank you so much for joining us Bill! I know you are a busy man so I appreciate you giving up your time to share your collecting thoughts and insights. Not to mention the brilliant photos of some of your collection. Hopefully you’ll join us back on the blog in some other shape or form in the future.  Here is one last photo to remind you all how fricking awesome Bill’s collection is!


Readers stay tuned for our next monthly collector interview!