Hello everybody! Welcome to our eighth full-length collector interview, this time with my good friend French super collector Stephane Faucourt! I must admit that I’m cheating a little this time, as I actually first ran this interview on our new forum Tantive XI a couple of months ago. However our moderator team there were happy for me to re-post here for those who have not yet joined our new forum.
Here’s the original interview on Tantive:
I’m really excited to have Stephane on. I won’t give too much of his collecting profile away before the interview starts but it should be no surprise that he is one of the globe’s leading collectors of French Star Wars collectibles. He released his book ‘La French Touch: History of French Star Wars Merchandising 1977-1986’ in June 2013, which was a follow-up to his previous book – ‘Meccano to Trilogo’ in 2006. These have now been superseded by a 2016 edition – ‘La French Touch – The definitive guide to French Star Wars collectibles 1977-1987.
I have a copy of ‘La French Touch’ 2013 edition (photo below) and Stephane was even kind enough to sign it for me!
If you are interested in buying any of Stephane’s recent books, please follow these links:
French Touch 2016: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1517405017
Official GDE book: http://www.amazon.fr/Guerre-Etoiles-Sw-Vu-France/dp/2364803721/
I’ve gotten to know Stephane quite well in the past year or so and was stoked to meet him and his beautiful family in person at Celebration Anaheim. You’ll be pleased to know that Stephane is as nice in person as he seems online. Not only that, but he loves chatting about vintage Star Wars!
Well sit back, relax and I hope you enjoy our premier interview!
1. CC: Hi Stephane and welcome to the forum! As I said in the intro, the mod team and I are over the moon that you agreed to be interviewed. We’re only a brand new forum so we are blessed that such a well-known collector like yourself has agreed to come on and support us so early on. I hope the experience is not too harrowing! So let’s get the most important question out of the way first. Are you a supporter of Europe’s worst football (soccer for you Americans!) team Paris St. Germain (PSG)?
STEPHANE: Hi everyone, fellow collectors, and thank you as well Christian for proposing me to be your first victim; you set the expectations very high in your intro and I sincerely hope that I was kind enough with everyone I met at those events I guess there’s a few topics which could be sensitive, and football teams might be one of them… but sorry, no I’m not supporter of any football team.
2. CC: Well as long as you don’t support PSG I’m fine with that So before we explore your vintage collecting experiences and views, I’m sure our forum members would love to know a bit about Stephane Faucourt – the man behind the collector. So can you tell us, where did you grow up and where are you currently based?
STEPHANE: Well, I’m from the early 1970s, I was born and grew up in the Parisian suburbs, and I am still based in Paris where I now work as well.
3. CC: So what do you do for work these days?
STEPHANE: I’m an IT project manager for a major French company.
4. CC: Do you enjoy your work? Would you prefer to be working on something related to Star Wars full time or do you enjoy treating it mainly as a hobby?
STEPHANE: I guess we all have ups & downs, but yes I find my job interesting and challenging – working in a big company actually gives me great opportunities to work on various projects, find new positions, even in other areas. I would also be very excited to work on Star Wars or Sci-Fi related businesses but this is really far from my working experience and I think there are only few people who could actually make a worthy living out of it. So in the end, it’s very fun to do it as a hobby.
5. CC: Do you collect anything other than Star Wars?
STEPHANE: Not that I can think of. When I was a child, my main toys were Playmobile, Lego, and Big Jim until Star Wars toys came out; you know those Meccanos… From that point on, Star Wars was the main toy line I played with, but I admit I was a spoiled child and I also had some great times playing with the diecast Shogun Warriors, Ulysses 31, Captain Herlock and Captain Future just to name a few. Yes, I had possibly hundreds of toys. I used some of these toys as trade bait when I started to collect Star Wars vintage stuff.
6. CC: I was lucky enough to meet your beautiful wife and son at Celebration Anaheim. So are they Star Wars fans as well or did you force them into going to Anaheim?
STEPHANE: Well, thanks, your wife is very nice too, and she even speaks French, which was also cool for my wife.
My wife is not really into the toys, but she’s interested in some particular pieces like our Illusive Concepts life-size Yoda which she likes to disguise on multiple occasions, she can also be interested in funny stuff like displays, posters and food premiums. Sometimes I even have to restrain her or we would get into modern collecting. My son loves all the Star Wars movies like any kid I know, he has some toys but I always let him make his own decisions about the toys he wants and I try not to influence his choices because of my own collection.
Here’s a couple of photos of us hanging out with the Faucourt clan. Kevin Lentz is in there too.
And I love these photos of Stephane’s Yodas!
As we love going to the States and we had not been to California for quite a while, I said to my wife this was a good opportunity for a vacation as well, so I didn’t have to force them We took a nice trip after C7 going to places we like, and we added a little Star Wars with ROW, Lucas Film, and Seattle… They were very pleased with the things we saw. We ended the trip with a SARLAAC collectors club gathering in Seattle, which was an awesome experience.
Stephane hanging with the SARLAAC crew
7. CC: So can you tell us, what was your first ‘Star Wars’ memory of any kind?
STEPHANE: It was before even having the toys, Star Wars had been released in theaters, and I don’t think I saw it from the start, but some friends and family had seen it already, they were talking about the things which made the movie incredible at that time and they also explained to me about the characters and their role in the story; it was the best stuff I had ever heard.
8. CC: Was there something about the story that particularly affected a young Stephane?
STEPHANE: Not particularly – but something funny, when you consider that I am an early fan of the movies, is that I first heard about the Star Wars plot from some family members. I don’t recall if it was me as a child, or them, but the plot which I had been told about was a bit different than the actual one 😉
9. CC: When did you first start collecting vintage Star Wars?
STEPHANE: I started with all the toys from my childhood, I was very careful with my stuff and all my figures were still mint, most of the vehicles were still in their boxes and I had kept some of the cardbacks. I had pretty much everything that was released in France from 1978 to 1983. It was already sort of a collection because everything had been stored very cautiously.
I almost started collecting in the very early 1990s because of the stuff you could find in garage sales and even clearance stuff in supermarkets, but I passed, had “better things to do” at that time if you see what I mean. But that’s how I learned about all the stuff that was released after I quit.
I spent two years working in NYC around 1995 and I noticed the vintage/comics frenzy that was going on. That was the trigger somehow, I assumed there was a secondary market for those toys and that this was the opportunity to catch the cool stuff I had missed. Some will probably laugh at this, but the very first stores I ran into were Forbidden Planet, and Loves Saves the Day, both in Manhattan. The first figure I bought as a collector was a nice loose Hoth Stormtrooper for $26!
CC: Great story! My first purchase as an adult collector was also a Hoth Stormtrooper (carded). Unfortunately it turned out to be a Toy Toni!!!!
10. CC: You’ve told me some really cool stories about your early days of collecting. Do you have any examples of your best ‘finds’ back in the day?
STEPHANE: Well, I began refocusing my collection on Trilogos in the late 1990s/early 2000s. At that time, they were easy to find in Paris collectible stores and of course on eBay. Very few people would buy stuff from foreign sellers, so each time I found Trilogos, they were French Trilogos of course I would generally meet the sellers in person at cafes near subway stations and I would always ask if there was more, which of course there was frequently
I’ve done so many deals in various areas of Paris, that even nowadays, when we’re out for a walk, there’s always a place we come across where a deal was made 😉 I was also the first French collector to run my own website in France, so that gave me a few nice buying opportunities.
Now, let me tell you about two very nice finds I made back in the day.
The first one was in 2002. I was contacted by a collector who had square Meccano cards for trade. He was trying to finish his loose collection and I just had to trade several loose figures, a Rebo Band set and a few loose vehicles for… 12 Meccano ESB carded figures in opened but great condition!
In 2008, I was at a toy fair selling my books. A guy came up to me, he had a lot of 70 Trilogos figures which he had bought originally at a clearance sale in 1987. He had been trying to sell them for months but didn’t find any buyers interested (can you believe that???). I told him I would buy the lot; he had set the prices at half the market quote. I bought everything; dead mint Trilogos including Luke, Vader, Fett, etc… I kept all the variants I didn’t already have, and I upgraded almost 30 figures in my collection and I sold the rest at cost price (can’t believe I did that). That’s why you can see some major improvements on the conditions between “Meccano to Trilogo” and “La French Touch” on those cards.
I did incredible things to get some of my stuff, like contacting buyers from auctions I missed, rearrange the deal between seller and buyer to finally get the item 😉 I also drove hundreds of kilometers the very same day to be the first in the line ; “always ready” 😉
It takes some time to “do your homework” to find stuff and finds are generally just one or two items. But sometimes it’s not bad at all; this year alone, I found five Meccano ESB MOCSs from four different sources; beyond any of my expectations for a single year.
CC: Thanks for sharing those stories Stephane. Simply incredible! You really make a great point about the payoffs to be gained from doing your own research. I’m not hugely into ‘flipping’ but I think the guys who have enough knowledge to buy big figure lots and then re-sell them individually deserve every cent they get. You need to do your homework as you say to know where to find great stuff and whether or not to roll the dice on a big deal.
11. CC: So what is your collecting focus these days?
STEPHANE: The collection is mainly vintage production stuff like Meccano and Trilogo action figure toys (MIB/MOC) and related material (ads, catalogs, posters…), and some other French items such as posters, food premiums… I also like some very specific modern stuff like Celebration giveaways, some particular food premiums and related material (posters, napkins…). I keep in mind not to extend the size of the collection with modern items, so additions are very occasional. On the vintage side, I’m only seeking a few items and keeping a lookout for Trilogo packaging variants.
Some of Stephane’s awe inspiring collection. Cop that!
12. CC: ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ…. Oops sorry, just fainted there for a few seconds. What a collection! So what gaps are left for you to fill?
STEPHANE: The good thing is that I have pretty much everything I want by now: Meccano, Bilogo and Trilogo vehicles/playsets mint in their boxes, most still unassembled. A nearly complete set of Meccano carded figures from GDE (12/20-backs) to ESB – only a few to go, some ROTJs, and a complete set of Trilogos, including packaging variants of those released in France – some figures I have up to four versions of because of packaging variants for the same character.
13. CC: Wow Stephane that is truly impressive. But are you finding it difficult to collect now that prices on foreign collectibles have increased so much recently or do you find ways around it?
STEPHANE: I’d say it depends if you are referring to public sales or private deals. But I think that collecting needs also patience, networking, and other skills you need in everyday life. With patience it’s still possible to make good purchases even on public/online sales; which allows you to save money for the big piece which you know you can’t find around and that you’ll have to pay a premium for. But like any other collector, I can still manage to make local finds and buy at affordable prices. Those opportunities only show up once in a while, but they still exist.
14. CC: I love your buying philosophy Stephane. So Meccano carded prices seem to have really soared in the past couple of years. Do you think they will stabilise anytime soon?
STEPHANE: Meccano collecting is a tricky market, that’s a niche area of the hobby with only a few players and even if prices have really soared, they can also fluctuate because there’s less competition once the key players all have a same piece and most other collectors are not willing to top prices on Meccanos as they are often damaged.
On the other hand, AFA collecting has created a demand for mint items, which makes it even more difficult with Meccanos. So there’s a new market for high-range stuff and occasional buyers (not Meccano collectors) because it’s rare and cool. As this looks to be the hype these days, it looks like nice Meccano stuff has the potential to keep increasing. Until when, who knows? I might be wrong but collectors of vintage toys, even newcomers, are generally our age; I’m not sure 20 years from now these will have the same appeal to collectors…
15. CC: So what is the hardest to find carded Meccano at the moment?
STEPHANE: Wow, I’m not sure there’s an answer to that question As Meccano items are difficult to find, you never know what’s going to show up next. Until last year we presumed a ROTJ 45-back Leia existed but never found any cardback, and suddenly three dead-mint examples surfaced among 50 other cards… 10 years ago, Meccano 12-backs were a myth, and they’re always surfacing in near complete sets every two or three years… same for square cards… when you think you’ll never see a piece again, luckily another shows up… Even the rarest one, Luke X-Wing, has now a three or four carded count.
Of course, iconic characters will always gather much more interest, they are tough to find, but not always the hardest. I guess square carded Darth Vader and Boba Fett will always be the most sought after, they are the most iconic on French square cards.
16. CC: Is there much of a collecting scene in France?
STEPHANE: France has a strong fan base, but not really a collecting scene in my opinion. There are a lot of collectors though including some longtime collectors with great collections of any kind (vintage or modern toys, GG or sideshow kind of stuff…). Some of them are active on various forums or Facebook, but nothing comparable to the collecting scene in the U.S. or U.K.
17. CC: Is there a Parisian collecting club?
STEPHANE: There’s no Parisian Collecting Club, but there are a few collectors living in or around Paris and we gather from time to time, going to some SW related events, or simply getting some drinks and dinner.
18. CC: It was great seeing you at Celebration Anaheim. Did you get the chance to meet many collectors there?
STEPHANE: Of course! I discovered international events with FACTs in Belgium, then Celebration Europe 2007. I recommend attending such events to anyone who can make it. It’s a way to meet pals, and even some you have known for a very long time by mail, FB or whatever but you actually never met, and make new friends in the hobby!
The best thing is to hang out in the hotel lobbies or local bars, talk about our hobby and the things we like, continue to hang out at various events, without forgetting to mention all the swag we had all made for others to collect and trade.
I had a truly fantastic time at all those events, nothing can beat that! So many good memories (and pictures).
A random selection of some of Stephane’s favourite convention moments. You might recognise some budding vintage collectors in there
19. CC: What did you think of the convention in general?
STEPHANE: The convention was great, so many things to see and so many booths of all kinds; with licensees showcasing their upcoming products, vintage toy dealers, fan clubs from various places…The collectors’ gathering (Archive Party, Room Sales…) and collecting panels were also top notch. I also liked the autograph section and the conference hall starring key people/actors of the saga. On the drawbacks side I thought it was way too crowded at some point, and we had to wait too long in line for the main activities. Even the convention store was a three hour experience!
20. CC: Did you make any vintage purchases?
STEPHANE: I was prepared to, but didn’t find anything special apart from two Meccano 12-backs which I already had, but I was surprised to see such Meccano items at a U.S. convention.
21. CC: I was really disappointed to miss your presentation at the Collecting Track. I heard it was killer. Can you give us a quick summary of what it was about?
STEPHANE: The presentation was featured in the collector’s social room. It was a review of the various product categories marketed in France between 1977 and 1987, following the French Touch book outline. In addition to the toys of course, there was a quick press review, miscellaneous toys, French Ewoks stuff, professional’s material, catalogs & ads, consumer goods, and movie related stuff.
Stephane strutting his stuff on the presenting stage.
As you may recall, I also offered a “French Touch” pin, and a flyer for the upcoming book – I’ve had great feedback on the pin and it’s even worn here in France among collectors and some of my own colleagues.
CC: Well I do recall! The pin is absolutely beautiful and was definitely one of my favourite C7 pins. A lot of work and money must have gone into them.
Here’s a taste of the giveaway goodies
22. CC: Now to your wonderful book ‘‘La French Touch.’ What’s it all about?
STEPHANE: La French Touch is a multi-purpose book if I could say so; a book to look at, but also to read. I tried to make it of interest to any Star Wars fan, whether you’re a collector, interested in general merchandise, or the history of the franchise and its marketing strategies.
It covers products marketed in France during the original era, from 1977 to 1987. Firstly, it reviews the entire range of products from the various categories like toys, games, magazines, posters, food premiums, books, records, video etc… with individual photography.
It also reviews the way those products were promoted and advertised through many public and professional material. The first chapter covers the response the original movies received in France with a wide press/magazine review.
It is important to note that this book is the result of a collaboration of many collectors who provided the items from their collection in order to make it the most complete possible.
In the end, that’s 270 color pages, the equivalent of 70+ pages of text to be read (not just short notes) and 1500+ color pictures / document scans.
The book was originally released in 2013 shortly before Celebration Europe 2, and I announced a new 2016 Definitive Edition at Celebration 7.
This Definitive edition is now available on Amazon with an awesome new cover from my friend Yann Leroux which gives a glimpse of the content.
Stephane signing one of his books during the C7 room sales.
Here are some sample scans from various editions of French Touch. What a cracker.
CC: Rather than extoll the virtues of your book here, I’ll paste in a past review I did over at VSWC Blog:
23. CC: I know it has been hugely popular and I’m a big fan myself but are you happy with how it was received by the collecting community?
STEPHANE: You bet I am Meccano to Trilogo was widely acclaimed back in 2006 because it introduced the French and European toys to many collectors. But I had to make something different for the next book. With “La French Touch” I wanted to reach a broader audience, cover the various products categories retailed in France to give a better understanding of the French market and its associated history.
“La French Touch” has been a great success, same as “Meccano to Trilogo.” I think it has opened a new field of collecting for many collectors, on the toys of course because it’s much more detailed than “M2T,” but also on all the other French stuff you can collect. The new social networks have opened new ways of collecting and all sorts of focuses, so knowing what’s out there is the key.
24. CC: Looking back now, is there anything that you would change about the book?
STEPHANE: Well, yes; and it’s already done as we speak.
As with any other publication, such a book sets a common base for collectors to share the stuff they have referenced, and naturally it allows identifying new items.
The 2013 edition was already very complete, covering possibly 95% of the stuff released in France, but with time, we identified some additional interesting pieces in almost every product category. I wanted to make this definitive edition to go as far as we could, and improve a few things, so hopefully we are now covering 98% of the French product base.
We also had to rework the cover. I was very pleased with the original grey cover which perfectly matched the serious aspect of the book. But I realized that many collectors didn’t catch the book also covered the toys, in a much better and complete way than “M2T”. So we designed this new cover showing merchandise to clearly set the tone.
25. CC: Any plans for a follow-up?
STEPHANE: Not really a follow up, but I do have some plans though We’ll keep that for a future discussion, I would prefer avoiding too many expectations and will deliver once the work is done.
But I am also particularly proud to be part of the Official French book “La Guerre des Etoiles – la saga vue de France” (literally “The Star Wars saga seen from France”). It’s an OFFICIAL book for a general audience which will be released late October in France. We achieved two major things doing it – it is the first time a book is released in France without being a translation of a previously available U.S. book, and also the first time in 20 years that Lucasfilm allows usage of the original French Star Wars pyramidal shaped logo on an official product.
CC: Wow well done! What a great achievement!
Here a shot of the book itself
26. CC: Well Stephane, it has been a pleasure as always. You sincerely are one of the brightest lights of this hobby and a true gentleman. Everyone who has dealt with you will confirm that’s not just lip service on my part. So before we tune out, do you have any advice to all of the budding collectors out there?
STEPHANE: Thanks Christian. Well, I’d say “be cool,” keep the fun of collecting while doing it for your own enjoyment, and don’t hesitate to socialize with other collectors. It is also important to show interest in the collectibles and their history, and not just add stuff on the shelves; there are plenty of online resources and great books to help
CC: Well they are definitely words to collect by. Thanks again and see you soon. Hopefully even in Paris one day soon!
STEPHANE: Sure. I’m always more than happy to meet foreign collectors/fans visiting Paris, I’m always up for a drink or even sightseeing if I can make it