1. Joe I have to ask you straight off the bat – are you really as scary in person as you seem in your photos?
Joe: I’m a fairly soft spoken, and easy to get along with person, if you’ve heard any of the earlier Chivecasts where I had a monthly bootleg segment (still not sure why they stopped having me do that, it was fun), my speaking voice certainly doesn’t match what you’d expect me to sound like. As for me being scary in photos?I can’t help having been born with this ruggedly handsome face(lol), and while I might have some fun messing with trolls online, that buy into me seeming “mean or scary” I’m just another collector, I can be the most helpful person in the hobby in the areas that I’ve knowledge in, or the biggest jerk, all depending on how one approaches me. But overall I’m a pretty mellow person. I can get a bit aggressive when a piece I want comes up for sale, but that’s just the hyper competitiveness of the bootleg segment of the hobby kicking in.
2. Before we get in to the collecting side of this interview, I’m sure our audience would love to know a bit about you. Where did you grow up?
Joe: I was born and raised in Cranston and Providence, Rhode Island. I currently live in Cranston RI.
VSWC: What was it like living there?
Joe: The neighborhood I grew up in was a working class neighborhood, I had my share of friends that were also into playing with Star Wars toys, reading comic books, riding BMX bikes, and a few years later playing video games like Atari 2600, and just the general things kids do. Because none of the kids on my street had “rich” parents, and no one had “everything” we’d usually merge our toys for bigger battles. Overall I’d say I enjoyed my childhood, still am on many levels.
VSWC: Sounds like a cool bunch of neighbourhood kids to hang out with. The kids in my street used to steal my toys lol!
3. When I interview collectors, I usually have to do quite a bit of background research to collate some info on the interviewee. We’re Facebook friends though and to be honest your non-Star Wars passions in life really shine through. Am I correct in saying that you are a huge comic book fan and collector, involved in the tattoo and body piercing industry and play in a band?
Joe: Comic books were part of my life since before Star Wars ever existed. I’ve been reading them since I was four or five years old. There was a news stand in the supermarket that my parents shopped at when I was a child. I have great memories, of my parents giving me .50 or .75 cents and me going thru every comic on the racks to decide what I wanted, and being able to get two or three comics just about every time we went there. As an adult collector, I’ve ebbed and flowed in my comic collecting over the years. Stopping for long times, then building right back up. I sold off my original collection at age 18 to buy a car, then bought a few collections from others after that and started to vend at comic shows while in college, and that’s actually when the adult Star Wars collecting began for me. I bought a loose collection of SW figs and vehicles along with a comic collection, and kept them….the rest is history. I also collect many other toys I either had or wanted but never got as a child. Such as Mego Super Hero figures, Six Million Dollar Man, Shogun Warriors, Evel Kneivel etc. But over the years Star Wars has won out every time. My other hobbies include collecting vintage BMX bikes, rare punk rock records, playing in my band and DJing. As for my involvement in the body piercing industry, I’ve been a professional piercer for over 23 years, owned my own shop(s) for the past 16 years. I pride myself on both the quality of jewelry that I sell and install, and the level of cleanliness used in my facility. I worked with my local department of health to write the regulations that RI uses for the licensing of piercing facilities and piercing technicians,and still operate at a standard higher than what they finally passed into law. My involvement in music stems from being an awkward teenager, and finding Punk Rock (with a little help from my brothers Ramones and Iggy Pop records), long before it could be just looked up on the internet or found in the local mall. Going to my first Punk rock show in 1985 changed my life. I found where I belonged and while I certainly enjoy many other forms of music, and have DJed many genres of music over the years (everything from Rockabilly, to 80s New Wave, to Gothrock, to Neo Folk and everything possible in between), Punk and Oi! music have always been what makes the most sense to me. My band ‘The Usual Suspects’, is just an extension of that. I try to write songs that I’d want to hear as a fan.
VSWC: Joe just before hitting the stage to belt out a tune.
VSWC: Wow you are a busy man but sounds like you are having a lot of fun. Funnily enough I’ve actually heard one of your band’s tracks – ‘Brick thru a window’. Skye and Steve used to play it on their podcast. Very cool song! Hope you don’t me sharing this link to you guys playing it live.
4. What would you be up to on a typical Saturday night?
Joe: Usually I’d be working on a typical Saturday, from noon til 10pm. After which more often than not I’d be tired and just go home, watch some TV, eat dinner and go to bed. But of course if there were a band playing that I wanted to see, I’d go do that after work (which doesn’t just apply to Sat night). On the Saturdays that my band is playing somewhere I typically have my other piercer cover the shop for me, and go have fun for the day. Sorry that this answer wasn’t “alcohol fueled benders” as many would likely presume. Don’t get me wrong….those happen too, once in a rare while, but that’s not a “typical” saturday night for me…lol
VSWC: Joe are you sure these benders don’t happen often?
5. So how old were you when you first saw Star Wars?
Joe: I was seven years old when Star Wars hit the theaters. Thanks to my father being a big SW fan himself, I got to see it quite a few times in the theater. He also spoiled me as much as the family budget would allow when it came to the toys.
6. What’s your first memory of seeing a Star Wars figure?
Joe: I got the EB (Early Bird) envelope, and a “Force Beam” or similar bootleg light saber as part of my Xmas present in 1977. While still waiting for the EB kit to arrive, Child World (a now defunct toy store chain) got figures in. Seeing the wall of them is my first memory of physically seeing SW figures as a child. I believe my father bought me a Ben and Vader that day.
At one point a childhood friend got a wind up R2D2, I believe his family went to Niagra Falls on vacation and crossed into Canada, which knowing now what I know about the piece, makes sense, but anyway, my father saw this toy, and literally drove to every toy store, small and large that he could, trying to find a wind up R2. I’m not sure if he wanted it more for himself or me at some point. But that sticks out as a very vivid memory of my dad’s enjoyment of Star Wars. He kept at it looking everywhere for about a month then gave up once he realized it wasn’t going to be found. As an adult collector, when the chance to buy a carded Canadian wind up R2 came up, I jumped at it. I still have it, despite having sold most of my non US stuff, it would be the last piece that I’d part with if I ever sold up and got rid of everything, as it serves as a reminder of how much he was a part of why I got to enjoy the Star Wars toy line as much as I did as a child.
VSWC: Great story Joe! What a cool dad. So do you still have any of your childhood figures?
Joe: No, sadly, all of my childhood figures went the way of being played with and lost. But had I been more careful with them, I likely wouldn’t have enjoyed them as much,and gotten as heavily back into collecting them as an adult, and we wouldn’t be having this interview.
7. How long ago did you start collecting Star Wars figures in earnest and what did you first collect?
Joe: I started collecting around 25 years ago, it started as most do, with nostalgia for the toys of my youth. I started with some loose figures that I picked up in a collection with some comics, then bought more loose figures to try and complete the loose “set” and then as time, and both my knowledge and income went up, I switched to carded, and boxed items. At the time non US items were selling for a fraction of what their US counterparts were fetching, so I often bought non US carded figures, partially because at the time they were cheaper, but also because the logos were cool looking in contrast to the US Kenner equivalent.
VSWC: Now I know you’ve sold off a lot of your licenced figures but do you still have much of your carded collection left?
Joe: The only bits of my carded collection that I have left is my 12A set, my 20 and 21bks, my Takara 8″ figures, and my as mentioned above, carded Canadian wind up R2.
8. Before we get to your love of bootlegs, do you mind giving our readers a brief rundown of what exactly defines a Star Wars collectible as a ‘bootleg’?
Joe: A bootleg is any mass produced (as in made in a factory) unlicensed item that directly is made to look like the character from whichever licensed toy line that it’s ripping off. Examples being, Uzay figures, Model Trem figures.
VSWC: An example of an Uzay, followed by a Model Trem. A tiny sample from Joe’s enormous bootleg collection of these lines.
VSWC: Oh and the rest of Joe’s Model Trems. Might as well…
A knock off, is also a factory/company made item that’s made to closely resemble an item from a licensed toy line. Enough so that it reminds you of the character, but far enough away so as to avoid direct copyright infringement. Good examples being Arco Spacewar figures, or Tomland Star Raiders.
VSWC: Here’s a couple of Arco Spacewar toys from Joe’s collection to give you a taste of what some of these knock-offs look like.
9. So what’s the earliest known bootleg and at what point did bootlegs become ‘modern’ bootlegs?
Joe: Earliest known knock off items would be pieces like the Force Beam, and the dozens of other light saber toys that littered the shelves before Kenner product became available, I also believe that these little statues called Star Warts, were on the shelves before Kenner SW toys. Some of the Timmee toys space figures w. a SW like header card were out there and the Arco SpaceWar figures were VERY close in timing to the Kenner toys hitting the shelves. Earliest direct bootlegs would include some of the rarer Mexican pieces. The “Heritage” metal figure sets, and from what has been said, the Dutch/German bootlegs were available before Kenner items in Germany. As far as the cut off for what’s considered a vintage bootleg, that’s such a grey area, as the movies didn’t get “legally” shown in some countries until the mid to late 80s, so while Kenner stopped in 85, other countries bootleg lines ran well into the early 90s, with the vintage Mex/SA (semi-articulated) line was still being sold in Mexico in marketplaces to be used as toys, with different variants even after POTF2 came out, some even packaged w. POTF2 headers/backers. Modern bootlegs started the second that POF2 came out, heck likely even before, I’ve got some non vintage based pieces that may have been made in the years between vintage and POF2 era. Once again, as said before that early to late 90s line of what to classify where is very grey. That said, bootlegs made in the modern era, in many cases mirror their licensed counterparts very closely. The lines that stand out are few and far between. Still fun to collect, but with the current world, licensed items were likely in abundance in most of the places where these items were also available.
VSWC: Wow I feel ten times smarter after reading that rundown. I guess that’s why you are considered the go-to-man for bootlegs. I was always curious why some of the vintage bootlegs lines were producing bootlegs so late in the game but I guess that answers it.
And here are some of Joe’s modern bootlegs.
10. Now I know one of your bugbears relates to some collectors insisting that bootlegs and reproductions are essentially the same thing. What is the actual difference?
Joe: Legally and in general terms, to someone outside of the hobby, or someone without much knowledge of the world during the vintage era, they could be considered the same, as both are unauthorized and both do/did breach copyright laws….. BUT….. intent and hobby accepted definitions make them FAR different. Vintage era bootlegs were made to be played with as toys by children that were in countries where the licensed items were either unable to be legally imported, such as, Hungary, Poland and Russia, which thanks to trade embargos, had no legal imported SW items, and the few items that were illegally imported, were inflated beyond belief. Or third world countries, where even if the licensed item were available they were beyond many peoples means to buy as toys for their children to play with, so bootlegs flourished as the worldwide influence of SW had everyone everywhere, wanting something from that galaxy far, far away… Repros are made for the collector market, made to fool people, and in many cases defraud them into believing that they are original weapons or carded figures, etc, and since collecting is a first world luxury, regardless of where you live, if you have the disposable income to collect vintage SW, you can save that disposable money, and buy the real thing. Even the stuff that’s marked as repro somewhere on it, unless the markings are huge, the marking can be obscured and sold as original to an unknowing buyer. Bluntly stated: In general repros are made for people too cheap to buy the real thing. IF the repro weapon makers started making their weapons in colors that Kenner never made them in, that would be a great solution for those that want to give beater vintage figs to their kids, and still have weapons for them to play with.
Joe: I think that it will hopefully educate people on the potential pitfalls of repro items, and make them think twice about what they want to collect. I will also put a nice dividing line up between people that collect vintage, and people that just want something that looks vintage.
11. I’ve been looking forward to this next question since you first agreed to come onto the blog. How the hell did you get into bootlegs?
Joe: It all started at a toy show in Auburn Mass. in 94/95, I was set up next to a collector named Paul Levesque (not the WWE wrestler) but Paul was an early contributor to the Archive, was active on the Usenet groups, and had his own site, which is long defunct called POF2.com which had comical situations w. figures, an idea stolen by Toy Fare magazine, and expanded on by Robot Chicken…. IMO…… Anyway, Paul had these odd looking figures, that piqued my interest. At that show I ended up buying my first four bootleg figures, a carded Hungarian Leia and Wicket, and two Polish unarticulated figures, Luke and Barada. The dealer across from us had two carded Uzay figures and one Polish first generation carded figure. They also caught my interest, but I didn’t have the $ to spare that show. The same venue the following month, from the same dealer, a known East Coast seller at the time, by the name of Art Liew, I purchased my first Uzay figure, a carded Imperial Gunner that day, and then at the next month’s show, I bought my carded Blue Stars and first generation Fett from him. From that point on, I was buying bootlegs as a part of my collecting, not my main focus as I was all over the place. I finished many goals in my time collecting licensed items. I finished a first 79 set all on premier cardback, a full set of POTF(85), a full set of Ledy 12″ dolls boxed, a full set of Trilogo carded, and a huge variety of non US licensed items, including at one point, a full set of Palitoy and Takara 12bks, and the majority of each 12bk set from around the world including Clipper, Harbert, and GDE/Canadian 12bks.
While I was collecting all of these other licensed items, I was always buying bootlegs here and there, and my interest would ebb and flow, for a few months, I’d concentrate on my Trilogos, then I’d switch over and work on my non US 12bks, or another facet of my SW collection.
VSWC: A past limelight of Joe’s production pieces at the time. Yep, he knows a bit more about vintage than simply bootlegs.
VSWC: Wow what a collection! Most collectors can only dream about obtaining these full sets. So at what point did it become your collecting focus?
Joe: Bootlegs were slowly taking over my collecting time and money from the late 90s on, they became my main focus in the early 2000’s but as said, I also was still collecting licensed non US items and even modern prototypes.
While I was certainly more into my bootlegs than any other part of my collection, and was known as the bootleg guy already, I didn’t shift my focus entirely towards them until after May 22, 2006 when my piercing shop burned to the ground, my insurance screwed me and the restaurant that started the fires insurance money all went to the state (who also sued them), and the owners claimed bankruptcy, so I got nothing to make up for over $100k in jewelry and equipment,and about 30k a month in lost revenue. . I sold off a huge chunk of my comic collection as well as most of my record collection to get the new space ready to work in, and thanks to the fine folks at Industrial Strength body Jewelry, who sent me a care package of basics to get me up and running. It’s a shame that “crowd funding sites” didn’t exist then, I could have likely rebuilt w.o having to sell my stuff, but…anyway, I’ve kept going. Unfortunately my income level has never gotten back to where it previously was, so I had to make decisions on what mattered most and what I could part with as time went on, and when rare bootlegs came up, what I could sell to pay for them. The bootlegs have always won. I’ve since sold off most of my licensed collection,including most of my prototypes, and have only kept 77-79 items with the SW logo(first 21 carded, 12″ doll set, and vehicles/playsets etc), as those were the most important to me when it comes to licensed items, as they had the most nostalgia attached to them. There are less than a dozen licensed items that I currently really want, all, other than 2 store displays, are easily available, but bootlegs are more important to me, so any expendable income gets socked away for the eventuality of a grail bootleg piece coming onto the marketplace.
VSWC: Terrible story and I’m really sorry about what happened to your store. But it’s kind of poetic in a sense though that your SW collection help fund your new enterprise. Must have been heartbreaking to sell them though. Can you give us some examples of the prototypes you had to sell off?
Joe: For prototypes, I’ve sold off a nice vintage Klaatu Skiff hardcopy, unproduced Leia Arctic doll, some vintage signed sample pieces my (formerly my) unproduced Salacious Crumb plush proto (that one hurt the most to part with), and literally, dozens of modern HCs, over 100 first shots, the unproduced Power Sparks hard copy and test shot vehicles, I at one point had an entire room of prototypes….all gone.
13. So any idea how many pieces you currently have in your collection?
Joe: If we’re counting both vintage and modern bootleg toys, as well as unlicensed non toy items, easily over 10,000 pieces of unlicensed SW merchandise
VSWC: Here’s a large selection of photos of Joe’s collection that have not already been shown in the interview. Yes, wow! I have to add that these photos are not updated, his collection is even more awesome these days.
14. What’s your favourite line of bootlegs?
Joe: Overall Uzay, they’re simply the best made line of bootlegs out there. The card art is what got me addicted to bootlegs. While other lines may be harder to finish, the Uzay line is everything that’s fun about collecting bootlegs.
VSWC: Joe’s insane Uzay collection.
VSWC: The cardback art on the Uzays is fantastic! My favourite is the Imperial Gunner manning the calculator!
Here’s Joe’s example.
15. What key bootlegs are you still chasing down?
Joe: Well, there’s a loose black plastic first generation Polish Leia that I was screwed out of, and another example has yet to surface, that’d be a nice one to get. Of course any and all second and third generation Polish articulated figures on card, so I can eventually complete those sets too. Other than that, the last couple of Mex/SA figures I’d need to have one of each character made, a couple of Uzay variants, both carded and loose. The last five Imai Star Command minis that I need to finish my set, the last two Arii Space Convoy R2s that I need, and a few other Japanese bootlegs that hopefully with time and patience will end up in my collection. Those as well as a few things I’m not going to mention, as it’d only get those that want to shut down the bootleg tractor beam to hunt for them harder.
16. Do you think you’ll ever change your collecting focus?
Joe: Not unless I get out of the Star Wars hobby all together. The hunt for the bootlegs is still fun and exciting most of the time, and all of the other parts of the hobby that I have interest in are sewn up IMO. I could never get to the level I’d want to be at collecting other SW stuff that interests me at this stage in the game, the kingpins of those segments of the hobby are firmly entrenched, and I’d much rather rule in Hell than serve in Heaven.
17. What would you say is the bootleg line most difficult to find?
Joe: Polish articulated on card, any generation. It took me nearly 17 years to put together a full set of carded Polish first generation articulated figures. That’s 20 figures…. I got to 11 of them, and it was like it’d hit a brick wall, I had been offering three and four times any previous known sale for them, none came up. Then all at once, between an auction for three that was at Morphys Auction house in PA, and my friend, James Gallo coming across some in a collection he bought, all of the ones I needed to finish my set were available. I scurried to sell off as much stuff as possible as fast as possible (which meant selling off items I normally would have kept) including my entire R2-D2 prototype collection (to Mike Ritter of course) and my loose Vlix, to Yehuda. Not to mention two of my best friends in the hobby, Mike Vogt, and Daren Wilde, letting me borrow some money, to make sure that there was no way on the face of the earth that I’d be leaving PA without my first generation set being complete. Still can’t thank them enough.
VSWC: Here’s Joe’s completed Polish first generation set, flanked by some second and third generation carded, including an ultra rare black Polish HothTrooper
VSWC: Another cool story. Nice to see collectors helping each other out. Does this happen much in the bootleg world?
Joe: There are lots of times when real friends help one another out in the bootleg community, I’m at the point where I know who my real friends are, they’ve helped me many times, and I’ve tried to help them when I can. I also know who’s out to roadblock me every chance they get. Due to the rarity of many of the items, there’s also a certain level of hyper-competitiveness in the bootleg community as well.
18. Do you have many pre-production bootleg items?
Joe: Yes, I have the steel injection molds that were used to make the Uzay figures. I have all but four of them. At one point I owned them all, but hit some financial hurdles last year, and regrettably sold off some of them to trusted friends, that I know would never use them to make repros. I would eventually like to figure out a way to buy them back from those friends, to make my set complete again, time will tell. Other pre production items that I own include steel injection molds for two Polish figures (Leia and Hoth Stormtrooper), and two mock up cards, one with three HC figures in the packaging, for the Arco Spacewar line, the steel mold for the head of a 12″ Mexican Vader figure, a full set of Polish 2nd gen figures, on sprues, unassembled and unpainted, as well as an Uzay AT-AT Driver un assembled and unpainted. I also have the proofs and color separations for the Space Warriors puzzles from Colorforms, the figures in the puzzles are not SW in any way, but the font for the logo is unmistakably Star Wars.
VSWC: Check out the moulds for the Uzays.
VSWC: Here’s an example of Joe’s Colorforms proofs.
19. Considering how poorly some of these bootlegs are made, what’s to stop someone sourcing an old bootleg mould and then punching out their own? Could you tell the difference? Has it been attempted before?
Joe: There have been people that made fake lines of bootlegs, including a scumbag named Mario, aka FX master. He made these fake “Dutch” bootlegs, they still pop up on Ebay from time to time. They’re recast and repainted Kenner figures. Also another scammer named Pablo Artesi created an all white rubber set of bootlegs, as well as the PPL line which is attributed to him (he also made fake Top Toys protos and carded pieces, which were a licensed line). His worst fraud were a bunch of fake Model Trem figures, which in pictures can typically pass muster, but in person there are several tell tale signs that they are fakes.
Currently there is a batch of figures coming out of Mexico that are recasts of a very early bootleg line and need to be avoided, as they’re just being made to fool the collector market. There’s an articulated Greedo and Chewie in this line, and they have been seen in colors that almost match the vintage versions, as well as clear plastics. The tell tale signs of them being fake is obvious when next to an example of the real thing, as well as some other factors, which I don’t want to give to the fakers, so that they can make their product look closer. Also from the same sellers are fake static (solid figure, unarticulated) Gam. Guards and Jawas, in a variety of plastics.
VSWC: Gee that’s unfortunate. Actually I remember now that I read about Artesi on Rebelscum. Didn’t he allegedly die and then come back to life or something like that?
Joe: Yep like all “good” scammers, he faked his own death, only to come back a few months later using his wife’s Ebay account and selling more fake items.
20. I’m a big bootleg fan myself and I know a few collectors who are into them but I’ve heard several people comment that they are not as popular as they used to be. Is there any truth to this?
Joe: I think that all parts of the hobby ebb and flow when it comes to popularity. Proof cards will be hot for six mo’s then cool off, then it’ll go to POTF coins for a few months. Currently 12bks and non US licensed items are the hot spot. That’ll change and maybe displays will be next? One factor in the cooling off of the bootleg segment of the hobby is lack of presence on forums. I’ve stopped posting for the most part on the two forums that I’m a member of (not intentionally, just been spending too much time on FB), and the third and largest forum, thanks to their owner and I having a disagreement to put it nicely, I can’t openly post on that forum, which I think definitely hinders the exposure that bootlegs get.
VSWC: I can tell you now that you are definitely missed on that forum! As I touched upon earlier, when I first joined up a couple of years ago I saw members openly lamenting you not being around anymore to keep troublemakers and scammers in line!
21. Who would you say are the other major bootleg collectors?
Joe: I’d say that the closest to me in quantity and quality would be Daren Wilde, after him, Shuichi from Japan has a massive bootleg collection, Michael Vogt, Steven Weimer, Martijn Emmelot, Mete Akin,Trevor Wencl, Jason Edge, Wolff, Dylan Leong, Seth Delpha, Patsy Pedicini, Cristian Guana, Horacio, Jakub, and I’m sure I’m forgetting quite a few others that I haven’t talked to in a while as well as some up and coming collectors that I haven’t seen the spectrum of what they have well enough to tell. As well as some focus collectors that have massive amounts of bootlegs of just one character…..
VSWC: I’ve heard stories about collectors travelling to Eastern Europe back in the early days of bootleg collecting and bringing a massive amount of bootlegs back to North America. Were any of the above guys involved in those expeditions?
Joe: None of the current bootleg collectors were involved in those expeditions. The two main people behind those trips were Lenny Lee (Lee’s AFN magazine) and Lev (owner of Toy Tokyo). Neither of them have anything left from their adventures, I got most of Lenny’s Uzays when he brokered them thru Tom Derby in the late 90s, and he just recently sold his last piece, a carded Polish first generation Fett, that I’d been working on getting for a while, to a friend of mine (Mike Vogt) that I passed the deal on to once my set was finished, as it was one of his grail pieces.
22. Do collectors from a particular continent dominate bootleg collecting or are they spread around the globe?
Joe: Definitely spread around the globe, just in my list above, we have collectors from the US, Canada, Germany, UK, Japan, Mexico, Poland and The Netherlands. There are a few bootleg collectors in Australia, they have just as diverse of an audience location wise, as licensed items IMO.
23. In what ways are you involved in the social networking side of bootleg collectors?
Joe: I run the bootleg and knock off collectors page on Facebook, I answer easily a dozen questions a week sent to me via PM and email about bootlegs, I also run a bootleg SW toy site (still being built but is live) www.theouterrealmsw.com. I need to make myself more visible again on TIG and SWFUK as they’re both great forums.
24. Do you often get the chance to meet other collectors face to face?
Joe: Not as often as I’d like. I have many friends in the hobby worldwide. I’ve traveled a lot to hang out with my collecting friends, bootleg and non bootleg collectors. Just this past weekend, Yehuda K, a great friend, and collector in NY had a get together at his house, I drove part way, and met up with Micro Rob AKA Rob Amantea, and rode with him for the 2nd half of the drive. It was a great time, hanging out with friends from the NY and CT area, seeing how his display room looks, coveting some items that he has, getting display ideas for when I revamp “Mos Yglesias, the most wretched hive of product piracy” in a few months.
25. I wouldn’t be carrying out due diligence if I didn’t ask you about the Action Figure Authority (AFA). I know you’ve had a lot to say about them in the past. What are your general ideas about their place in our hobby?
Joe: My personal opinion of them is that I will never use them until they banish the U grade and add effective bubble protection to their cases. SW collecting is the only hobby that encourages people to remove an item from it’s original packaging, only to be repackaged in acrylic, creating an artificial collectable. Beyond that as mentioned before, I feel that they need to step things up on their bubble protection, for carded figures, as SW items age, the bubbles become more brittle, and we’re seeing more and more shipping damage with these bubbles not being secure or buffered.
26. Do they have much of a role in relation to the grading and authentication of bootlegs?
Joe: Authentication is done by CIB, and when they have had bootleg related questions in the past, they’ve called me and I’ve gladly helped Tom out. As for grading bootlegs, personally I see no use for it.
27. Do you think they should be liable for the Toy Toni’s they incorrectly authenticated? (read here for more info on the Toy Toni scandal – http://vintagestarwarscollectors.com/toy-toni-scandal-featured-on-bbc1-in-the-uk/)
Joe: While I don’t believe that they should be fully responsible, as they were fooled too, IMO they do have some level of culpability, after all they refer to themselves as an “authority”
28. Did you personally get stung by the Toy Toni fiasco?
Joe: I had sold three figures that were TT (Toy Toni) pieces, years before, and when all the news came out, I found the emails of all three buyers on those pieces and offered to buy them back, and only one of the three replied, and said that he was fine with the piece as it was. I got stuck with a TT Fett, which I sold with full disclosure, to someone I trust not to move it off w.o also disclosing. And recently, I was buying a collection to flip, and this guy hadn’t collected since the early 2000s had 2 TTs in his stuff. One I sold with full disclosure, the other I still have.
29. I’ll finish off with a few random questions. Firstly, if you could change one thing about this hobby what would it be?
Joe: Fewer bootleg collectors……..LOL Seriously….. collectors educating themselves on what to look for in real vs not real on items, and not just relying on third party grading to tell them that they have a nice item.
30. What do you think will happen to the hobby once the current crop of collectors, the generation who actually collected the figures as kids, pass on? Will the hobby keep going or will it die out with us?
Joe: I think the hobby will continue, while the nay-sayers compare it to the Vintage GI Joe (12″) market as how there are tons of formerly rare pieces out there and selling for a fraction of what they did at their peak, I see Star Wars collecting maturing more along the lines of the comic book market. There may be lulls as it solidifies but overall I see a strong future for vintage SW items, as long as they don’t all break thru the bubbles in shipping….
31. Will you be at Celebration Anaheim?
Joe: Yes I will be, I’ll be doing a panel with Ron Salvatore, and John Alvarez on Worldwide SW collectable oddities (my segment will be mostly bootlegs).
VSWC: Now that is a presentation I will not be missing! Do you think you’ll set up a sales booth as well?
Joe: No, I won’t be set up at a booth, I will however be bringing stuff to sell during the room sales that happen after convention hours.
32. You’re pretty active on both the forums and Facebook. Do you have a preference?
Joe: Currently Facebook, as when I don’t want to hear the same questions asked a million times, I can just hide in the specialized groups for international collecting and my bootleg group. If I feel like engaging a wider audience, I can go to the main vintage group. But that said, I really need to get back to being on the forums more.
33. Final question! So looking back on all the years you’ve collected and all the collectibles that have come and gone from your hands, do you think you can answer this timeless question – why the hell do you collect Star Wars vintage figures?
Joe: It’s cheaper than drugs and whores. Serious answer: partially nostalgia (the licensed stuff) and partially due to the history and cheese factor of the bootleg toys, seeing just how far SW affected the world and how far the bootleggers would go to both make their money and give the children of these countries something SW to enjoy…. And lastly because the hunt for some of these pieces that I’m still missing keeps me awake at night. It’s truly an addiction on some levels.
VSWC: Well that’s the wrap. Thank you Joe for coming onto the blog and sharing your collecting adventures with us. I doubt there is a more colourful collector than you and I had a great time conducting this interview! Thanks for letting me pick your brain. See you in Anaheim!