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 These have now been superseded by a 2016 edition – ‘La French Touch – The definitive guide to French Star Wars collectibles 1977-1987.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
Hello everyone and welcome to the seventh issue of our full-length collector interviews. This is a HUGE interview, both in length and its quality. Not only do we cover a load of questions but the collector under the VSWC spotlight is one of the superstars of our hobby; that’s right, Javier Ruilopez is coming at us straight out of Spain. Javi is an overflowing fountain of knowledge and wisdom in regards to Spanish vintage collecting, particularly PBP/Poch; that regularly misunderstood Spanish line of SW collectibles. He is actually very close to releasing a book on the subject and from what I hear this is going to be an absolute corker of a collecting resource.
Here’s the cool dude himself…
When it comes to variant collecting, PBP/Poch figures are incredibly hard to identify and even harder to find. I’m always in awe at the knowledge and willpower of collectors who focus on these figures. The amount of mis/disinformation out there about this line borders on the ridiculous, but lucky for us Javi is here to clear up some of these misunderstandings.
Javi may not be as well known to people who focus on collecting Kenner and who are mainly U.S focussed but I can tell you now that he is an absolute giant of the hobby. Not only is Javi a legend of Spanish collecting but he is also a legend of a bloke (as we say in Australia) and is a gentleman to boot. I love watching him debate with other PBP/Poch collectors and it’s obvious to all how passionate he is about our hobby. I know Javi’s book has been draining on him so we appreciate his effort to appear in this segment.
In a VSWC blog first, I’m actually welcoming a co-interviewer this time around; my friend and variant collecting aficionado Kenneth Baekmark. Kenneth is straight out of Copenhagen and has been active on the collecting scene for years. He actually sold me my first ever PBP figure (a pale faced Luke Hoth) and we have been friends ever since, even meeting up a couple of times. I once hung out with Kenneth and our collecting friend Marco Jay and watched and listened to them going through Marco’s huge PBP/Poch collection of figures. I’m no variant dummy but I felt pretty stupid that day…..I actually kept the identity of my guest co-host a secret from Javi until after he answered all of the questions. Was a bit of fun for all of us. Well welcome to Kenneth and thanks for your help with this interview.
Kenneth looking pumped and ready to drill for PBP knowledge.
Well enough superlatives from me, let’s kick this interview off!
1. Welcome Javi! Thanks for joining us today on the blog. Now I know you might be surprised that I said “us,” as it’s usually just yours truly doing these interviews but today I thought I’d enlist a very special guest to help me take you through the questions. All the way from Denmark, it’s none other than Kenneth Baekmark himself! I’m going to ask the first few questions but then I’ll let Kenneth take over so you dudes can get into the real nitty gritty details of variant collecting, particularly from the perspective of an experienced Spanish collector like yourself.
First off, I always like to get the most important question sorted. I’ve been to Spain several times – Barcelona, Madrid, Ibiza, and Tenerife. I absolutely love it there. I’ve travelled the world quite a bit, so I feel that my assessment on the following issue is informed and evidence based. Do you agree with me that Spanish women are the sexiest in the world?
Javi: LOL! Indeed! The girls around here are pretty, however I would have no problem spending some time with any other foreign woman! LOL!
VSWC: Well that’s good to hear Javi. There may be some single foreign women out there reading this interview who can’t help but find themselves attracted to variant collectors. It’s a very sexy area of the hobby!
2. Okay, now that the important part of the interview is over and I’ve thoroughly embarrassed myself with my sexism, I’m sure everyone would like to know a bit about Mr Ruilopez. First off, in what part of Spain are you based ?
Javi: I live in Talavera de la Reina (Toledo), 100km from from Madrid. I live in the centre of Spain.
VSWC: Is this where you grew up?
Javi: Yep, I was born and raised here in Talavera.
VSWC: So being from the Madrid area, does that make you a fan of the film director Pedro Almodovar?
Javi: To be honest i do not consider myself a fan of Almodovar but I have seen and enjoyed most of his films, (mainly the early filmography), he is very good at filming the underground/misfit part of Spanish society. Also he is well respected as a director here in Spain.
VSWC: Are all the people from your region as wacky as Almodovar’s characters?
Javi: You would be surprised how close some people here are to Almodovar´s characters! LOL!
3. Now I know you are involved in the art world, but what exactly do you do for a living?
Javi: I have been a professional art restorer/curator since the last 15 years. I am specializing in paintings and materials.
VSWC: Wow no wonder you are so knowledgeable when it comes to variants! I think another well-known variant collector, Wolff, is also an art restorer. Definitely makes sense.
4. So other than the obvious Star Wars and artistic interests, what other passions do you have?
Javi: I love my little boys and girls; my cats (I share my home with seven of them LOL!), besides that I am quite interested in history, mystery radio programs, photography, music and movies.
VSWC: Wow that’s a hell of a lot of cute cats. You definitely like collecting!
5. I have to be honest I don’t know a lot about the history of Star Wars in Spain. Did you guys get the films around the same time as in the United States?
Javi: As far as I know – but I could be wrong of course – Star wars “A new Hope” hit the cinemas on 7th November 1977, so around six months later than the United States…
VSWC: When did you yourself get the chance to see one of the original trilogy at the cinema? Were you an addict straight away?
Javi: When SW (ANH) was played for the first time in Spain I was only one year old, for ESB, I was still too young I think. The first SW film I watched was ROTJ. My aunt brought my brother and I to a cinema in Madrid, I fell in love from the moment I watched that film.
VSWC: As a kid, what was your favourite part of the movie?
Javi: As a kid the Endor Battle, no doubt!! But as an adult, i love Jabba´s Palace scene!
VSWC: Were the films dubbed in Spanish or did you get to hear the original actor’s voices?
Javi: The films were dubbed in Spanish; I only heard the original voices once the DVD editions were available.
6. So do you remember getting your first Star Wars figure?
Javi: I remember perfectly the first figure I had. It was a Saturday, my grandfather brought my brother and I to the toy shop, where I chose the AT-AT driver, my brother the Tie Fighter pilot. It’s a good memory about my grandfather who passed away in 1994, I miss him deeply.
VSWC: I’m sorry to hear that. But it’s cool that he was such an important part of your Star Wars story. So do you still have any of your childhood figures?
Javi: I still have some of my childhood collection; around 20 figures or so.
7. What Star Wars product lines did they have in the stores in Spain back then?
Javi: Here, we had: brain teasers, puzzles, kites, model kits and of course the action figures. BTW we also had trading cards and little plastic ones – Dunkin type- figures.
8. Did you stop collecting at some point or did you continue right through until the present day?
Javi: As a child, I stopped buying figures around 1987-88 or so, I was 11 years old back then. I loved playing basketball and skating, after that, music and girls took over all my interest. During the following years I used to buy modern SW stuff, but nothing major. In 1997 during the first year of my studies in Madrid, I bought my first figure as an adult collector, it was a loose Bib Fortuna. After that I used to spend my very limited spare money to buy vintage stuff here and there. I was 21 year old.
9. Now I know you are a variant collector, a well-known one at that, and that you also collect bootlegs. But what exactly do you focus on?
Javi: I do collect loose figures; mainly figure variants from all over the world: Kenner, Glasslite, Toptoys, Meccano, Popys, Takara, Lili Ledy and of course my beloved PBP figures. Besides the licensed lines I also collect Uzay figures, which are currently the only ones I am looking for, as most of the other lines I completed a long time ago.
VSWC: Javi was kind enough to share with us his basic PBP set.This is the first time he has shown a full set of pictures of his complete set of PBP figures, exclusively for our readers! These photos sincerely blow me away.
Early PBP Production (so called Poch variants)
Late PBP Production (so called PBP variants)
Javi’s old display of variants back in 2006-2007
Javi’s old display of basic Kenner figures
Mexican Lily Ledy complete set with variants
Complete set of Top Toys, Glasslite and Takara
French trilogo/Meccano variants
Complete set of Popy figures
10. Javi I’m still reeling from those photos! Wow just wow. A loose collector’s dream. So is vintage collecting popular in Spain these days?
Javi: It seems so!
11. Do you get to meet many collectors face to face?
Javi: Yes sure! And it was great! During the making of the book I met Sergio Sierra, Luis F.Antelo, Jota, Agustin Diaz, Angel Martinez, Javier Tamayo, Sergio Garcia, Dario Diaz, Enric Rovira; to name just a few……I also recently met Marco Jay in Madrid, we had a great weekend together!
Some photos of Javi and his collecting friends. From left to right: Javi, Dario Diaz, Luis F.Antelo, Enric Rovira, Jota, Sergio Sierra and Javier Tamayo. Some very big names in the world of Spanish collecting.
Photo from Marco’s recent trip to Madrid. From left to right: Javi, Sergio Sierra and Marco Jay (aka DrDengar). Collecting aside, they are three A-class guys in my books!
12. Will you be at Celebration London?
Javi: I definitely will be there. I am really looking forward to meeting good and old friends next summer.
13. Ok let’s chat about something that a lot of us are excited about – your upcoming book! First up, what is the title and what will it be about?
Javi: The book will be called: Star Wars Made in Spain: The Comprehensive guide to PBP/Poch.
14. Kenneth gave me a few of your flyers to hand out at Celebration Anaheim and I was really impressed with the artwork and photography. Do you do all this yourself?
Javi: Thanks for your kind words about the flyer design, that one was indeed my own design. I am really worried about taking really good pics for the book, I have done 99,99% of the pics which will be included, and I like to work very closely with the person in charge of the design, sometimes though I am way too picky with the design. I am a perfectionist in all of my jobs, not only with the book but also in real life.
15. So why exactly did you decide to write it?
Javi: Well, tough question, I decided to list my findings in a book for many reasons, It’s a long history, but I think it is important to let people know about it.
In 2007 after having spent more than seven years collecting and learning about loose figures all over the world, I focused on the PBP loose stuff and quickly realized that misinformation everywhere. I started buying lots from non collectors whom were selling their childhood collections. At that time there was not mixed stuff (or almost not mixed) in collections and the figures I was buying were worth almost nothing, so I was sure I was buying real examples sold in Spain back in the 80s.
In 2010 I spoke publicly about the melt marks which were associated with certain figures found in Spain which had – what seemed- different paint schemes. You can still find the original post at TIG here:
VSWC: Wow that really was a big breakthrough. I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t realise it was you who had first raised it on the forums…
Javi: At that point only a few early produced PBP (so called Poch now) figures were known to exist: RC black boots, Black neck Lando, Han Hoth with dark chocolate pants…
After that new “discovery”, some long-time loose collectors started to do their own research. I spent the following tow and a half to three years buying lots, but now with more competition jejejej.
Since 2013 many people – mostly non collectors – realized that the so called Poch figures could be sold for good amounts of money on the collecting market. From that point researching PBP/Poch figures became a nightmare and a mess. Loads of scammers popped up in Spain trying to take advantage of the “new” and not so well known figures, they were selling regular beaten-up Kenner figures as Poch, mixing stuff, faking childhood collections so they could sell them in the classifieds sections of local newspapers and on eBay and so on…
By the end of 2012 or early 2013, I stopped researching for the reasons given above. At that time I already had documented 99% of the currently known Early PBP production (so called Poch variants).
I felt a bit guilty about the situation I had started back in 2010, so in an effort to try to stop people scamming other collectors, I decided to put all of my findings into a book so everybody could tell a “Poch” figure from a Kenner one.
As time progressed, the book became a personal challenge for me, I had information and examples of nearly 275 possible Early PBP variants, of course, not all exclusive PBP produced (now I know so 😉 …
I started writing my first thoughts and findings back in 2013, but it was not until last Xmas that I started to work on the book full time…
Now the book will be a tribute to the whole PBP production and its workers.
I only hope this study can be an useful tool for future collectors, that is my my goal.
16. How close are you to finishing?
Javi: I was expecting to have it ready this Xmas, but it is impossible for many reasons…I don’t want to set a deadline for the publication, because I am really tired and very disappointed at not been able to have it ready this December. My next target is to have it ready for CE3 in London, I will do my best for that, but if I can’t, I cant… I hope you all can understand.
17. Of course we understand Javi! It’s a massive job you have taken on so it must be exhausting. Has writing the book been more difficult than you imagined?
Javi: It’s indeed more difficult than I ever expected, just because you have to work with many people whom do not see the project as you do, and its really difficult to find the correct people to get involved…
18. Have you learnt much yourself during your research?
Javi: Indeed, I have learnt a lot about the loose production itself but also about MOCs, ships, mailers, adverts, production process, etc
19. Have you had much help from other collectors?
Javi: Absolutely!! I have had the help of the greatest Spanish and non-Spanish collectors over the past years!! You know who you are and I want to say thanks to each one of you. THANKS lads!
20. Any idea how much the book will cost?
Javi: I would love to keep the cost of the regular edition under the range of the 100 USD…
21. I’m sure you will address this in your book, but the whole PBP/POCH angle of collecting can be very murky at times and a lot of misinformation is out there. Can you please tell us, just for the record,is there a difference between the PBP line and the POCH line?
Javi: In fact there is no difference, there weren’t two companies Poch and PBP. Since the first minute in Spanish production, Poch was part of the PBP brand. If you look at the back of the so called Poch 31 cardback, you will see that the PBP logo was included. I also was able to confirm it in words of a PBP ex-employee. Novedades Poch never did any SW figures on their own, It was always under the PBP production.
22. I collect some loose variants as well but I only have three POCH figures (one from you!). I can tell you that to a non-expert these are incredibly difficult to identify. Can you give us a few brief handy tips about how to identify a loose POCH figure?
Javi: Answering that question would take a whole book LOL! Joke aside; Sometimes it is really difficult just because some of them are really close to their Kenner counterparts.
As with variant collecting of other SW lines – such as Lili ledy, Glasslite ,TopToys etc- you ALWAYS have to look for paint differences to tell them from the regular Kenner production.
PBP production has its own paint scheme – sometimes associated with RANDOM factory flaws such as melt marks, bubbles in paint, poor sonic wielding etc – BUT really pale-cream faces/hands and the use of black paint instead of the regular brown paint, are always a good sign in PBP collecting 😉
If I were a new collector of Early PBP production (so called Poch), I would go for the well known Poch figures with very different paint schemes: black neck Lando, white pants RS Hoth, chocolate pants Han Hoth, green limbs Bossk etc…
VSWC: Great tips Javi! Okay well thanks for answering all of my questions. I’m going to take a break now and let your good friend and fellow variant collecting extraordinaire Kenneth ask you some questions. I think I’ll learn something!
Javi: Thanks to you Christian for giving me the opportunity to be part of your great blog, its was an honour for me. I really enjoy every collector interview you do and I hope other collectors enjoy this interview as much as I have enjoyed it 😉 Thanks!
23. Hi Javi, It’s a great honour for me to be able to ask you a few questions here (thanks very much Christian). The two of us have known each other for many years, and we both share a passion for the hobby and variant collecting in particular. First off, can you tell me what the letters PBP mean? Are they short for something?
Javi: Yes, PBP is an acronym of Poch-Borrás-Palouzié, the surnames of the three owners of the three companies which formed PBP.
24. Is it correct, that Spain was the only country in Europe which actually produced their own line(s) of SW figures; unlike Palitoy, Meccano etc, who had their factories located in Asia?
Javi: According to collectors’ knowledge that’s true. I also received confirmation from an PBP ex-employee…
25.Where was the PBP factory in Spain physically located?
Javi: It was located in Hostalric, Girona.
26. When did the first vintage SW figures (and vintage SW toys in general) hit the Spanish toy stores?
Javi: According to Spanish collectors’ memories, the first action figures and vehicles hit the market in early 1981. I was able to confirm it, thanks to the confidential order sheets known to exist. There are SW references in the individual catalogues of Juguetes Borrás and Novedades Poch, since 1978.
27. Which type of PBP cardback was the first to carry the PBP logo, and did this type of cardback contain Spanish produced or Kenner imported figures?
Javi: Since the very beginning, the first Spanish cardback type was the 31Back- you could already see the PBP logo side by side with the Poch quality seal.
As far as I could confirm, these first cards contained imported Kenner loose figures.
31 back – these photos are the final versions that will also be used in Javi’s book.
28. Do you agree with me, that the Poch (early PBP) line of figures from the elusive Poch 37/41 backs (like the famous toxic green limbs Bossk) and later cards are maybe the most complicated Kenner foreign licensed line of figures to collect; for a variety of reasons such as these figures sharing coos with their Kenner counterparts, Kenner parts being used in the production etc?
Javi: Yes I agree.The problem with some characters is that the paint used by PBP was really close to the paint scheme used by Kenner and sometimes only by having side by side both figures (PBP and Kenner counterpart) can you tell the differences.
29. What cardbacks were produced for the early PBP (Poch) and later PBP figures, and did they all contain unique Spanish produced figures with paint and/or COO differences when compared to Kenner figures?
Javi: I don’t like making too many divisions within the PBP production process because we do not have enough MOC examples – and we will probably never have enough – so any classification could be inaccurate to say the very least. Anyway I can see that in this case it is necessary to be understood by people. I personally call Early PBP production the PBP cards which carry the Poch quality seal, because in general terms those cards also include a type of production figure (plastic and paint wise) which will be changed at a later point in the so called – by me – late PBP production.There are exceptions to the general rule of course, such as PBP production being really heterogeneous.
In relation to early PBP production (so called Poch), we had the 31 backs, 37 backs A and 37 backs B.
The late PBP production process started with 37 Backs C, in which the Poch seal was eliminated. Then came 45 backs and 65 backs.
About the figures on those cards, as said before, the PBP production was very heterogeneous, the production was not a straight line from the beginning to the end.They used a lot of kind figures (1º Imported finished figures, 2º imported parts painted or unpainted to be assembled in Spain and 3º figures 100% produced in Spain). They used any kind of the above type of figures on almost any card. I mean; we can find imported figures on 31 Backs, assembled imported parts on 37 backs but also 100% produced figures on 37 backs and finally we can even find so called Poch figures on the very late Trilogo cardbacks!
37 Back B, with the so called PBP Yoda. Javi tells us this figure was packed on Lili Ledy blisters at a later point. This piece is from the collection of Agustin Diaz
30. I’m sure, that for many, for instance U.S. based collectors, European (including PBP) Star Wars is pretty much down to figures like light blue no coo scarred PBP Boba Fetts and dark brown no COO PBP Rebel Soldiers. Do you agree with me, that Spain (PBP) produced a lot of other highly interesting figures, which are both very distinct from their Kenner counterparts paint wise as well as being widely unknown to many collectors?
Javi: Indeed, there are a lot of interesting PBP figures besides the well known ones. For example you have the Green limbs Bossk, Black neck Lando, Black Pouch Chewie etc etc
One of the most wanted PBP variants; Bossk with Pistaccio arms and feets. Piece from the collection of Agustin Diaz. I’m impressed that Javi managed to use the colour ‘pistaccio’ to describe the colour of a figure. He really is an artist…
31. What is your favourite PBP figure and why?
Javi: To me it is the PBP Luke Hoth, I always loved this figure! The different paint scheme and the detailed limbs and body look so cool to me.The original sculpt is one of the best from the whole SW production.
And here he is. Wow wow wow!
32. To me it seems that many of the particularly early PBP (Poch figures) are very poorly welded and in addition often have melt marks (especially on the back). Can you reveal, how these figures were assembled at the PBP factory and what quality control was used before the figures were put on the cards and sent to the distributors and then out to the stores?
Javi: As far as the PBP ex-employee told me, the figures were assembled like any other figure, with the torso split in two parts with a sonic wielding machine. According to him quality control was really tough; however, in some examples we can see some imperfections, which at that time would have been perfectly acceptable in production terms, I guess…
33. Did PBP run any mail offers or other campaigns similar to Kenner during the early 80s?
Javi: Yeah sure! It’s well known that PBP offered the “1 FIGURA GRATIS” (“ONE FREE FIGURE”) promotion on its cards. Nien Numb among others characters was promoted by PBP on their cards.
34. Last question: Will we ever know, with 100% certainty, what exactly happened at the PBP factory during the vintage era? Like what figures were on which cardbacks, why PBP imported Kenner stuff, what the connection to the other Kenner licensed factories was, how the production process of the PBP figures was and so on?
Javi: Many – if not all – of those questions will have their answer in a certain upcoming book, just be sure you don’t miss it !!! Jejejejej
Kenneth: Thanks so much Javi for giving me the chance to ask you a few questions and the best of luck with your book. Like many other collectors I cannot wait to obtain a sample!
Javi: Thanks for your kind words Kenneth. it was my pleasure to answer your well-chosen questions.. THANKS my friend!
VSWC: Another huge thanks from me too Javi. Thank you so much for coming onto the blog and sharing a bit about yourself and your collecting endeavours. Good luck with the upcoming book. Can’t wait to read it!
Javi: Thank you very much to you Christian, it was my pleasure. I hope this helps a bit with the general understanding of the PBP production. All the best to you and your great blog page, really you are doing an amazing service promoting vintage collecting and its collectors community. Thanks for your time and efforts and please keep on doing such a great job my friend! PEACE TO ALL.
VSWC: Thanks Javi. I’m blushing 🙂