Vintage Star Wars Moderator Roundtable: Forums and the Future

Welcome all to this monster-sized round table discussion with some of the owners/moderators of the four main English speaking vintage Star Wars forums. Why are we bothering to have this discussion? When I first started collecting four years ago, forums were pretty much the main source of social networking with other collectors. There was a Facebook group (yes yes Jason Smith we know you were the first…) but the traffic there was minor compared to the forums. Well Jason’s group now has almost 18.000 members and hundreds of spin-off groups have popped up since. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that Facebook is now the heaviest social networking hitter in the vintage Star Wars world.

What has Facebook got to do with the forums? Considering the immense traffic that the Facebook groups experience, there’s no doubt that the forums are feeling the effects. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve heard someone on Facebook say “The forums are dead.” But has their time really passed? Can the forums and Facebook walk hand-in-hand into the future or will another platform pop up and skittle the current setup? Well these are the questions that I’ll be asking two forum owners and two moderators today.

As always, we’d love to hear our readers’ views as well.

Let’s introduce each participant:

Edd Grant – owner/moderator of Star Wars Forum UK (SWFUK) – SWFUK

JohnPaul Ragusa – owner/moderator of The Imperial Gunnery (TIG) – TIG

Ian Cowley – joint owner/moderator of Tantive XI – Tantive XI

Thomas Garvey – moderator on Rebelscum (RS) – RS

VSWC: Welcome Edd, JohnPaul, Ian and Tommy and thank you all very much for taking the time to join us for this interview. Let’s get straight into the questions! 

1.HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN COLLECTING VINTAGE STAR WARS AND WHAT EXACTLY DO YOU COLLECT?

Edd (SWFUK)I first started collecting again in 1994. My interest in Star Wars was rekindled by the release of the Digitally Remastered Star Wars VHS collection. I really enjoyed seeing the films again for the first time in years, and that of course made me think about my old toys. Now I mainly focus on Tri-logo carded figures and boxed vehicles but also collect video games, loose figures, baggies and other MOCs

JohnPaul (TIG): I’ve been collecting for about 12 years. I fell in love with foreign released figures (to my wallets’ dismay) and look to collect at least one example of each non US style released in each country.

Tommy (RS): I started collecting in ’93 or ’94, when I was about 12.  I collect pre-production material, focusing on Kea Moll, Luke Poncho, Micro Collection and Micro Machines items.  I’ll buy whatever I find cool or interesting though, I never feel hemmed in by a focus.

Ian (TXI): I was there from the start in 1978, and retained my childhood collection.  In 1995, just before POTF2 was announced, I saw a collectible show in a local mall, and discovered some figures I not only didn’t have as a child, but some I didn’t know existed. Some figures, especially POTF figures, I had an easier time locating carded, but couldn’t stand the thought of opening them, so an initial aim to have a loose run turned into loose and carded.  I also collect everything else 3 ¾” related, and have a full run of loose 12”.  I do pick up odds and ends here and there, but mostly, I’m just an average Kenner production collector.

2.CAN YOU GIVE US A BRIEF HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF THE FORUM YOU OWN/MODERATE?

Edd (SWFUK)starwarsforum.co.uk started in December 2005. I had been a member of Rebel Scum for a few years, but at the time it was very ‘American’ so there were few UK sales threads or discussion about Palitoy & Meccano toys etc. I was doing a degree in computing at the time and had just learned how to make websites, so I decided to start a forum that was open to everybody but leaned towards UK collecting.

JohnPaul (TIG): The Imperial Gunnery forum (known as TIG) and the weapons site were founded in 2009. The weapons site was created to give collectors a very refreshed look at the repro market plus breakdown of various mold variations on authentic weapons. The forum was created to offer a discussion platform and meeting place for collectors!

Tommy (RS): I am a moderator of the Rebelscum forums, which is one of the oldest SW collecting forums around.  It’s been around in one form or another since 1996.

Ian (TXI): Tantive XI is a much more recent forum, officially opening its doors in late 2015, but we are far from inexperienced.  A group of collectors banded together to create a forum which embraced advances in social technology, in an attempt to blend the typical forum with the features that have made social media popular today (ex. tagging people in posts, direct photo uploads from mobile devices, etc.).  We also aim to have a comprehensive library of anything related to vintage collecting, including but not exclusive to the toys, with awareness and education of vintage issues being a top priority. Unlike most of the forums, our site doesn’t have one single owner, we are all equal . The moderation team works as a group, with all important site developments being a result of a “majority rule” system.  Having a team that features moderators from multiple countries from around the world, and with the majority having previous moderator experience elsewhere previous to our forum’s existence, the hope is that every move we make appeals to the largest demographic possible.

3.HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN PERSONALLY INVOLVED?

Edd (SWFUK)11 years, since it started.

JohnPaul (TIG): I joined up in 2009 as a member and was asked to be a moderator in 2010. From there I took on various roles (global mod, admin) until purchasing the site in 2012. Since then I’ve been honored to work with various collectors in varied roles. My current team (in alphabetical order) Bryan, James, Matt, Paul and Stefan are the reason for the sites success.

Tommy (RS): I joined the forums in 2003 after lurking for a couple of years, and became a mod in early 2006, if I recall correctly.

Ian (TXI): I joined the site just before it went live publicly, on November 30, 2015. While being promoted to a “developer” position January 13, 2016, I assumed full moderator status July 13, 2016. So, I’ve been involved as part of the core team for about eight of the 15 months the site has been open.

4.WHAT IS YOUR DAY TO DAY ROLE IN FORUM ACTIVITIES?

Edd (SWFUK)I really see myself as a user of the forum above anything else, I’m not a heavy handed moderator. I spend a few minutes a day moving posts in wrong sections, deleting duplicates, removing spammers etc but 90% of my time spent on the forum is spent the same as everyone else, reading and posting. I think it’s extremely important for mods/admins to remain engaged with their forum.

JohnPaul (TIG): I pretty much eat Cracker Jacks while those guy work lol. We all contribute in various ways and help each other out. I don’t do anything unique and candidly while my home life has been very hectic the team has stepped up and made it incredibly easy to not worry about the day to day.

Tommy (RS): Our forums have been around for a while, so most of our members understand the rules.  As such, aside from occasionally moving threads to the correct sub-forum or breaking up an argument before it spirals out of control, our day-to-day activities are pretty simple.  Most of the credit for keeping the nuts and bolts of the community functioning smoothly belongs to my fellow moderator Mike Mensinger, who really goes above and beyond to keep things orderly.

Ian (TXI): Every team member has the same expectations.  In addition to keeping an eye on the forums, it is hoped that everyone contributes to building the library when possible, and to try to continue to come up with new ideas that will maintain interest from the membership.

5.HOW INVOLVED ARE THE OTHER MODERATORS IN EVERYDAY FORUM DISCUSSIONS?

Edd (SWFUK): It varies, all have a history of being very active as that’s how they became mods in the first place, but over time people lose interest in collecting or start their own groups etc so not all are as active as they used to be. That’s fine though – you need mods to be quite impartial so it’s important for them to be level-headed and reserved.

JohnPaul (TIG): I think there is an ebb and flow. We make no bones about how FB’s ease of access is hard to compete with and we’re all victims to its lure from time to time. I think if something grabs our attention we’re engaged and we do make an effort to try and bring things into the forum to keep everyone interested. We have good success with interactive games, raffle/giveaways, etc.

Tommy (RS): Generally, we all try to be around to answer questions or help people find the information they’re looking for.  But like I said, it’s a great community so most of the time by the time I see a question, one of our members has already answered it.

Ian (TXI): We have some moderators that are the most involved people on the site, and some who keep a very low profile.  Everyone’s personal situation is different, but for the most part, we have very active moderators.

6.APPROXIMATELY HOW MANY MEMBERS DO YOU HAVE?

Edd (SWFUK)Right now it’s a shade under 5000, but every year I prune all the inactive accounts and members who haven’t posted. If I had never done that it would be tens of thousands, but I want quality over quantity.

JohnPaul (TIG): The forum currently has 2790 members but admittedly it’s a not a reflection of activity. I see FB pages with 17,000 members but the same 50 people posting. It’s a tough thing to reconcile. The weapons site (Imperialgunnery.com) doesn’t require signup but we have had 671,877 visitors.

Tommy (RS): On all of Rebelscum?  I believe it’s like 32,000 registered users.  Most of those aren’t part of the vintage collecting forum though, obviously.  But we probably have at least a couple hundred regular posters there.  Sometimes more, depending on when you check and what’s going on in the hobby.

Ian (TXI): We are just about to hit 300 members, which isn’t bad for a band new forum barely over a year old in this era of declining forum activity in our hobby.

7.HOW HAS MEMBERSHIP BEEN GOING THIS PAST YEAR?

Edd (SWFUK)Contrary to popular belief that forums are dying, mine is still growing steadily. It has grown year on year since it started 11 years ago.

JohnPaul (TIG): Just jumping from the last question, it’s not a true reflection of the sites use. We had 373 signups from March 2016-Feb 2017 but without data mining I’m not sure if that translated into active members. It does show me that the interest is there though.

Tommy (RS): I have no idea, I’m just a mod not an admin.  🙂  I think it’s doing pretty well though.  Or it seems to be, anyway.

Ian (TXI): Membership has been steadily growing since we opened the doors.  We are fortunate to have ChristianC (aka Bobby Bobs), who puts a lot of his time into recruiting new members, and his hard work has been paying off.

8.AND WHAT ABOUT GENERAL DAY TO DAY TRAFFIC OVER THE LAST YEAR?

Edd (SWFUK)Again it has been steady, I’m happy to say Facebook and other forums have not really detracted from SWFUK’s popularity.

JohnPaul (TIG): We get about 350-450 visitors per day and approx. 3600 “sessions”. The majority of the traffic is generated by users doing a quick scan. I think we have an average stay time around four minutes. I think it shows people do value the forums and look for ways to be engaged if there is a reason.

Tommy (RS): I think it’s gotten better over the last six months or so.  We’ve had some very interesting conversations and quite a few new members or members who are returning to collecting after a long absence.  We’ve definitely seen an uptick, which is understandable given the new movies and the fact Celebration is right around the corner.

Ian (TXI): We have a steady group of regulars who browse the forum daily.  Page views are not a problem.  The trick is to keep the members involved and actively participating on a regular basis.

9.HOW HEAVILY ARE YOU INVOLVED IN THE VINTAGE STAR WARS FACEBOOK GROUPS?

Edd (SWFUK)I spend a lot of time on Facebook and am a member of about ten groups. I do not sign up to all of them as I simply don’t have time to follow them all, so I have just chosen a few favourites. I tend to prefer smaller groups focused on specific aspects of collecting to the larger general groups.

JohnPaul (TIG): I’m a member of several groups but take no active role in any beyond being a member. I think someone added me as a mod to one but I don’t actively do anything. Obviously we maintain a FB page but a decision was made to put content there that would mostly funnel to the forum.

Tommy (RS): I’m a member of most of them and am an admin of a couple (the Return of the Jedi action figures group and the Dark Times group).

Ian (TXI): Personally, I resisted social media groups for a long time.  While I belong to over 50 groups, it was rare I posted in them.  I grew up in the hobby with forums, and have been critical of some aspects of Facebook.  The past couple of years, though, my participation in Facebook groups has begun to grow.  That generally applies to general discussion, educational, and similar types of posts though, as I’m not a very active buyer/seller, and tend to stay away from the various limelight discussions.

10.HOW HAVE THESE FACEBOOK GROUPS AFFECTED YOUR FORUM?

Edd (SWFUK)They have certainly generated a lot of discussion, both positive and negative. Due to the format of Facebook it is very difficult for people to give feedback, so they often turn to the forum for this.

Being honest the sales section of the forum has slowed down a bit since Facebook, but there’s still plenty for sale and other forums have suffered more.

JohnPaul (TIG): I think Facebook has affected most, if not all, forums. It goes well beyond vintage Star Wars too. It’s affected the cadence of conversations to the actual collecting landscape. Instant “likes” and replies to instant collections. It makes the forums seem like it’s in slow motion. I sell a fair amount and FB selling is insanely quick. If I post there first, then TIG, I might everything sold before I can even finish the posting. I rarely even put a FS on other forums anymore.

Tommy (RS): I think Facebook has had a big impact on all forum conversations, no doubt.  We saw a big dip in activity over the last couple years.  It seems to be leveling out again now, but for awhile there, it seemed like all forums were empty, not just ours.  But thankfully, things are better now.

Ian (TXI): Considering how new we are, that’s a question that is difficult to answer.  While I am sure we’d have more membership and/or participation if Facebook didn’t dominate, at the same time, Facebook has been a key to gaining exposure to our forum.  As with everything Facebook related, there are pros and cons.

11.WHAT CAN THESE GROUPS LEARN FROM THE FORUMS?

Edd (SWFUK)I think the important thing to remember is that Facebook and forums complement each other. They cannot compete against each other because they are completely different formats. I encourage Facebook groups to point their members to forums for research and information as they are so much better than Facebook for this. Whenever somebody creates a “should I join Facebook?” thread on the forum, I am always quick to suggest they do.

JohnPaul (TIG): I think the FB pages have bred new collectors. I don’t think a lot of them would have been happy as forums members. To loosely use SW allegory, the forums were what I imagine a Jedi Temple was (I never read the Extended Universe stuff so forgive me if there is info on what it is). The forums had knowledge, discussion, discovery and a respect for members who’d brought the hobby to where it was. I think the FB community brought forth a myriad of pages, mods, admins, and egos. People can jump in, say whatever they want, and then jump to another page. I think the forums brought a sense of order to things. I’m not sure FB can provide that. If I had to hope for something, it would be that people learn the rich history of the hobby, not just open their wallet.

Tommy (RS): I think forums have a much better sense of community than the groups do.  With a forum, you instantly know who you can probably trust and who knows what they’re talking about, just by looking at post numbers or post history or just the way other members treat a certain person.  Its semi-permanence means that the record is all there and you can see who’s done shady stuff in the past.  It’s a more stable community, filled with known individuals.  As such, there’s also less disinformation being disseminated.  It’s a much more “circle of friends” kind of feel, so if you say something that’s wrong, someone is going to correct you.  And then perhaps a debate will erupt, all in the same thread for everyone to see.  With a group, on the other hand, many of the people replying to a particular post have no idea what they’re talking about.  They haven’t even read the previous replies, because in most cases, it’s not a real conversation, it’s just them staying random things to the original poster.  You might not even ever see that poster reply to anything else in the future.  So, there’s all kinds of nonsense being regurgitated and most of the time, no one corrects it.  I think groups that can create a better feeling of community and common ownership will succeed.  That’s definitely something I always strive for in groups I help admin.  I want them to be a real source of information, not just casual entertainment.  Ultimately, I want to embrace the “circle of friends” kind of atmosphere, since I think most people respond well to that.

Ian (TXI): The single biggest thing forums have in the way of an advantage is the ability to be a better organized resource for those looking to learn about the hobby.  Facebook moves at a very fast pace, and discussions get buried very quickly, while in forums accessing information is far more convenient and permanent.  

12.WHAT CAN THE FORUMS LEARN FROM THE FACEBOOK GROUPS?

Edd (SWFUK)One lesson I took recently was that photography has become a much bigger part of collecting, so I improved the photo upload capability to make it easier for people to post photos. I think one area some other forums fall down on badly is mobile compatibility as most people use the internet on their phone these days, but SWFUK has been mobile friendly for quite a few years now.

JohnPaul (TIG): I think the forums (and really the software that makes the forums) need to see that mobile access is key. I don’t think people want to abandon forums but we need to adapt. Notifications on a device, ease of photo uploads, PMs, all need to be made faster and better on a mobile.

Tommy (RS): I think the groups are growing in popularity simply because they’re easy to use.  You can post pics and get instant feedback.  People like that.  You don’t have to remember to check back to the website to see if anyone posted anything cool or to see if anyone replied to your thread.  FB does all of that for you, and there’s always someone active.  It’s instant gratification.  People want those “likes.”  With a lot of groups, they’d rather have 100 likes than a real conversation about a piece.  They don’t want to be informed what their piece is or why it’s not what they thought it was, they just want a “Awesome piece, dude!” comment and to feel special for a brief moment of time.  That’s the nature of social media.  It’s quick and easy.  So forums need to be easier to use in order to compete.  Posting pictures needs to be easier and there needs to be better social media connectivity.  Making it easier for people to post on the forum means that people will post on the forum more.

Ian (TXI): Many forums learned the hard way that maintaining a status quo just doesn’t work in today’s fast paced environment.  Facebook took advantage of a superior method of sharing images, and even in sharing items of interest to specific fellow members quickly and directly.  Simply put, today’s average collector wants convenience and simplicity, and Facebook has been better at providing that.

13.HOW CAN FORUMS AND THE FACEBOOK GROUPS WORK TOGETHER TO IMPROVE OUR ONLINE COLLECTING EXPERIENCE?

Edd (SWFUK)Respecting each other and being aware of their strengths and weaknesses. Facebook can do things that forums can’t, and vice versa. Forums didn’t tell people to stop reading books, Facebook groups shouldn’t tell people to stop reading forums.

JohnPaul (TIG): That’s a complex thing to answer. I think the forums are a more solid foundation for history, cataloging and preservation of the hobby. The FB pages are extremely interactive but all diluted with there being so many. While it would be great to just split the duties (make forums the repository, FB the interaction) the fact is that FB groups are free to run, maintain, and also mimic. The time and money invested in the forum is far more of a chore and it would be hard to justify pouring money and time into them if the role is relegated to being a repository.

Tommy (RS): Personally, I think limelights and quick questions about a piece are best suited for groups, and in-depth discussion is much better suited for a forum environment.

I’ll always prefer a forum based system, since it’s much easier to search and archive than a FB group.  You can literally find online conversation about Star Wars going all the way back to 1981. Think about that.  Fans having discussions about Star Wars before ROTJ was even released.  And all of that is still around, available for you to read today, free of charge.  But with FB groups (and to some extent, forums), all of the information is now one button press from being deleted forever.  And even if it is still somehow available, it’s troublesome to search and the content you’re after is rarely easy to find.  To me, that’s worrisome, because I believe in the longevity of this hobby.  I think in the future, people will want to know what we were talking about now.  And I seriously doubt the FB groups will still exist in their current form.  I think they’ll long since have been purged by FB, erasing all of that information.  People 30 years from now aren’t going to be able to look back on our conversations the way we can look back on the collectors 30 years before us.  And that’s a problem, in my opinion.

As such, I think the solution is for people to be part of both communities.  If you discover something interesting, mirror your posts in both communities.  If someone is scamming in a group, let the forums know and vise versa.  Use the groups for the stuff they’re best at and use the forums for the rest.

I don’t think it has to be an either-or type of situation, I think there’s more than enough room for both types of community.  It’s up to the admins and moderators of both to be responsible leaders for the hobby and create the kinds of communities that meet the needs of their members.

Ian (TXI): This is a goal we have.  Trying to take the best aspects from both, and integrate them.  You can directly register for our forum right from the Facebook page.  We took the convenient ways Facebook deals with photos and tagging people, and found a way to incorporate them onto our board.  The only way for either platform to survive long term is to embrace the strengths each has to offer and create a hybrid.

14.DO YOU HAVE A STRATEGY IN PLACE FOR MAINTAINING YOUR FORUM’S MEMBERSHIP LEVELS?

Edd (SWFUK): I work in digital media so have known for a very long time that content is king. I see other forums and Facebook groups try all kinds of different gimmicks to try and grow their membership like t-shirts, giveaways, competitions etc, but without good content they are wasting their time. That’s why as above I spend more time contributing to the forum than I do moderating it, growth then comes naturally.

JohnPaul (TIG): We do have desire to keep them active. Our strategy is to try and engage people on various topics and get involved in various projects/games/etc. We understand that we face a challenge in the “instant gratification” movement. There is no way the forums can compete with that, so we need to show the value of the forums in the tighter community it breeds, the ease of getting information and the fact that forums have value in their slower pace.

Tommy (RS): I just try to post interesting topics, the logistics of maintaining membership is the responsibility of the site’s owners and administrators.  But members always stick around if there’s something interesting to talk about.

Ian (TXI): Yes, by continuing to integrate technological advances into our forum, the hope is we can remain relevant in the face of continuing change.  Also, by trying to put a focus on member participation, even in helping to develop the site, we’re hoping people feel more personally connected and stick around.

15.WHAT DOES YOUR FORUM OFFER THAT CANNOT BE FOUND ON THE OTHER FORUMS OR IN THE FACEBOOK GROUPS?

Edd (SWFUK)The forum has been running longer than Facebook and most other forums, so its legacy is one thing that cannot be taken away. I also think SWFUK has the best collection of members anywhere so I am very grateful for that. There is a good balance of knowledge, tolerance and humour – the latter two often lacking from other forums/groups.

JohnPaul (TIG): For weapon authentication and identification we are second to none. I’m very proud of the fact we are considered the global resource for that. It’s been a long journey, spanning from Jay and Wolff to the current caretakers of information. I also feel that the finite amount of larger forums makes information far more accessible. Every FB page admin feels they are the “best on FB” but the average collector probably belongs to 20, 30 or more pages. So finding something can be troublesome. Add in that a few posts or angry people can shut a page down if they chose I think the forums offer a certain stability.

Tommy (RS): Our forum has been around a long time.  And many of its members go back even further than that, back to the days of newsgroups.  There is a TON of knowledge there and access to the combined experiences of hundreds of collectors, many of whom haven’t made the switch over to FB groups.  If you want to have an honest, in-depth discussion about something or research something obscure, there’s no place better than the forums.  And all of that history is catalogued and easily searchable by anyone.  Since posting takes a few seconds longer than it does on FB, there also isn’t generally as much nonsense.  If people are talking, it’s usually about something, rather than just a quest to get the most likes or to waste a few moments while they wait for their train.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some very good FB groups (I admin a couple of them), but there are also some *really* bad ones.  Not recognizing the difference can be very dangerous to collectors.

Forums are very egalitarian.  They require no real approval to join and they’re visible to everyone.  Many of the best FB groups are invite only and aren’t as open to newer collectors.  Which is strange, since I don’t know anyone who knows everyone in a FB group.  They’re generally strangers (even though members use their real names), sharing a common interest.  I think most members of a forum are at least familiar enough with their community to remember something about most of the people who regularly post there.  They’re usually friends/adversaries, or at the very least “work friends.”  But I don’t think that’s the case with most of the groups.  I would post stuff to RS that I’d never post to a FB group, or at least not to a FB group I didn’t really trust.

As for why Rebelscum over the other forums, I think most collectors would agree that RS has been the dominant community for vintage conversation for the last 15 years or so.  Don’t get me wrong, there are other forums that are also *very* good and which I’m a member of, but RS has been #1 for a long, long time.  I like to think there’s a reason for that.

Ian (TXI): The simple answer here is what I have already mentioned several times.  A user experience that blends traditional forum style with the conveniences of social media.

16.ARE THERE ANY NEW TECHNOLOGIES THAT YOUR FORUM PLANS TO EXPLOIT?

Edd (SWFUK)The forum software platform (phpBB) recently had a major upgrade, so in the next year I will look to install that. The problem is upgrading the software to a new major version requires creating a new theme and people hate change, so I’m in no rush to change it again!

JohnPaul (TIG): We are always at the mercy of the software platform. We have seen attachments become easier, notification bars offer a summary view of what’s happened and other things move us slowly into the mobile arena. I think I’d like to see more of a tie-in with mobile devices.

Tommy (RS): I have no idea, that’s not my department, thankfully.  🙂

Ian (TXI): I think we have done a good job so far in trying to stay on top of technological advances.  As they continue to appear in the hobby, we will continue to try and find a way to embrace them.

17.WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE NEXT PHASE IN THE EVOLUTION OF SOCIAL NETWORKING FOR VINTAGE STAR WARS COLLECTORS?

Edd (SWFUK): I think some Facebook groups are now getting too big, the single page system simply does not work when you have 10,000+ members. So I think Facebook is going to have to adapt to avoid becoming too diluted. Perhaps they will implement a category system like forums have, or the ability to pin more than one post.

JohnPaul (TIG): That’s an interesting question. I think we’ll eventually get into VR. Maybe not now, but 5yrs from now. You’ll see people being able to walk through Rancho Obi-Wan or even my modest collection using some VR technology. I can see us uploading 3D scans of our favorite MOCs and figures and a user being able to pick up and rotate the figures virtually to see every side and feel like it’s in hand. I also see video events becoming more prevalent. A virtual event where a host interacts with the user base, like I’ve done on some FB pages.

Tommy (RS): I think the community itself is going to become central to collecting, if that makes any sense.  We’re seeing it already, with the rise of fan-made collectibles and swag trading.  If you plot out the course of the hobby, you’ll see it in action.  Star Wars collectors split off from the larger Star Wars fan base.  Then vintage collectors split off from modern collectors, etc.  Each step gets more and more specialized, but it also becomes more and more serious about what it’s doing.  Collecting is its own thing now.  The hobby has become a club, in a way, with its own values and customs.  A huge part of that is the social aspect, which gets more popular every year.  There are many collectors who don’t actually collect, they’re just here to hang out with the people.  To me, that’s where the hobby is headed.  Collecting will no longer be a solitary experience, but one which is shared to ever greater degrees.

I think in years to come, we’re going to see social media become an even bigger part of collecting.  I think the FB groups are kinda ‘Survival of the Fittest’ at the moment, but sooner or later, the strongest ones will take over and they’ll be able to drive the community to new places.  The way FB works, new people will be exposed to the hobby, who might ordinarily have never even thought about collecting, but because they see collecting related posts in their feed, they might pick it up.  There’s a normalization there.  And it’s bringing in more diversity, which is very healthy for the long-term health of the community.  Those new collectors then discover forums, posting material that reinvigorates those established communities, starting the entire process over again.

In a way, I think collecting is outgrowing fandom.  It’s creating its own identity.  A Star Wars collector is his/her own animal now, more than a collector in any other pop culture field I can think of.  And social media is really helping that along.

Ian (TXI): The last few years has seen a dramatic shift from forums to social media.  Not all forums are affected, but in general, it’s been a steady decline.  However, it is becoming apparent that there is a growing sentiment expressing a desire to return to some of the strengths of forums that Facebook has struggled with.  I think that with the honeymoon phase of social media coming to an end, the next stage will see the biggest success go to platforms that are best able to appeal to today’s fast paced world, while maintaining a backbone of easily retrievable informational and photographic references that have been key to forums in the past.

18.CAN THE FORUMS REMAIN RELEVANT IN THE VINTAGE COLLECTING LANDSCAPE OF TOMORROW?

Edd (SWFUK)Absolutely! Facebook is a long way off from competing with the content capabilities of forums so until that changes forums will remain very much essential to any collector.

JohnPaul (TIG): Can FB?

Tommy (RS): I think so, yes.  If you look at the history of online discussion, you’ll see that as new and easier technologies appear, they generally take over and supplant what came before.  But I think forums are in the unique position of being generally easy to use and much better at facilitating actual discussion than a FB group is, for the most part. 

To put it another way, imagine that I have a question about… I don’t know… Yupi figures.  Now, I can post that on a FB group, but if an expert like Yehuda isn’t online that day, there’s a very good chance that my question will be bumped further and further down.  The way FB’s algorithm works, no one might see it in their feed at all, unless they physically go to the actual group page, which few people do.  Thus, my question will go unanswered.  But if I post the same question on a forum, my question will remain there forever, essentially.  And every single person who logs on will see it in the list of topics, highlighted if it’s new to them.  Thus, my chances of getting an answer to my question is exponentially higher and whatever reply I get is liable to be much longer and more in-depth anyway, given the differences in replies in a forum vs FB group.

I think forums are relevant as long as the community is still a good one.  The hobby is a herd sometimes.  It’s important to attract members but it’s even more important to keep the members you have.  If you can provide a place that is a useful tool for people to use in their collecting lives, as well as somewhere they can meet some really cool people, that’s never going to be irrelevant.

Ian (TXI): Absolutely.  As long as you adapt to the times and do not become stagnant, forums should stay relevant for some time to come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Collector Snapshot #20 – Todd Thornhill aka ‘LongPlayingTodd’

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

We’ve hit the big 20 episodes of these snapshots and I thought it was the perfect moment to finally invite Todd Thornhill onto the blog, who is one of my favourite collectors. I first came across Todd a few years ago on Rebelscum but since those days Todd and I have both been regulars in pretty much the same Facebook groups, where I’ve gotten to know him a lot better. There loads of things I love about Todd: he’s an absolute gentleman, his collecting is drama-free, he has a fantastic collection but is super modest and he contributes positively to the collecting community.

Todd is a Canadian collector, born in St. John’s Newfoundland, and for the past 29 years, he has lived in Toronto, Ontario. He has worked as a Software/Web Developer for 20 years, and is currently employed as a Manager of Software Development. His main collecting focus is vintage Star Wars, but he also collects 70s/80s toys and board games, as well as owning a huge collection of vintage / modern video game systems and games, from Atari 2600, up to current systems. (current tally: approx 2000 games and 25 systems).

Todd is 21 years ‘married’ with two beautiful kitties Vader and Naya (the latter of which also collect Star Wars…see pic). His username on forums is ‘LongPlayingTodd’ and he is heavily involved in the online community. He is currently one of the admins of the La Guerre des Etoiles (Star Wars) Collectors group on FB. Check it here:

La Guerre des Etoiles FB group

The GDE group focusses on French vintage Star Wars –  from Meccano, Kenner Canada, Tri-logo and anything else French and vintage Star Wars (and if you are not a member yet, please join!).

So let’s hear from Todd himself!

1. How long have you been collecting?

I’ve been collecting different things since I was a kid. I remember my collecting started with Six Million Dollar Man back then, (fully dependant on my parent’s pocketbook, mind you, but the thought of ‘having them all’ started there). Then when Star Wars came out, it was ALL about that. I was addicted. I was known as the kid with the Star Wars toys, and funny that people I grew up with still call me that to this day. I stopped and ‘grew out of it’ towards the latter end of the Empire line. I didn’t have anything from the Jedi line as a kid. I don’t actually remember how or why I don’t have my childhood collection anymore (they meant the world to me, so maybe I blocked it out?). I got back into Vintage Star Wars when I went to see Revenge of the Sith. A short while after seeing the movie, I was at a flea market and picked up a modern ROTS Vader figure, and that really got me thinking about the toys I had as a kid. One look on eBay, and bidding on and winning a boxed Falcon totally got me hooked again, so it was around late 2005 I really started focussing on vintage Star Wars.

VSWC: Evidence that he really did love Star Wars as a kid! 

2. What do you collect?

It’s changed a little bit since I started, but the common theme throughout has always been based on nostalgia, and wanting back what I had as a kid. I started with collecting a full loose collection, and at least one carded version of each figure released on any cardback, and boxed vehicles/playsets, regardless of COO. Then after about a year or so, I picked up my first Canadian carded figure, and quickly realized that it was Canadian that I really wanted. I knew my mother picked up my figures back in the day right when they were first released to stores, so I concentrated on a Canadian carded debut run. My focus now is strictly Canadian. Now that my debut run is winding down, I’m looking to expand my focus. Now it’s everything and anything Canadian. My ultimate dream would be to have a version of every Canadian MOC released, but obviously that would be an impossible feat, but we all need goals in life.

VSWC: Take a deep breath and check out Todd’s absolutely ripping collection! 

 

3. What’s your grail?

My grail would have to be a carded Canadian Vinyl Cape Jawa. I may go to the grave and still not find one of those, or eventually acquire one with only my fellow senile nursing home residents to share it with, but at least, along with my ‘every Canadian MOC’ goal, there won’t be a shortage of something to aim for, because I’m sure I’ll never achieve either goal.

VSWC: Let Todd know if you have one of these to sell him! Or even just to tease him with 🙂 

4. What collectors inspire you?

For me, collecting is an escape. An escape from real life, and a trip back in time to when I was a kid and didn’t have to deal with these adult trials and tribulations. For quite a few collectors, I believe this is the case, as a few of my collector friends have said the same thing to me. Not to get too personal, but some are dealing with issues that collecting allows them to get away from. Anyone that has, or on the path to, overcome their demons, whatever they may be, inspires me. I’ve met a few, and their success stories inspire me more so than anything. It keeps me going, really, and gives me hope for dealing with my own crap.

VSWC: Todd’s cat is pretty inspiring! 

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

I can’t really recall an embarrassing moment as an adult collector, but as an 8-9 year old…. My mom would go grocery shopping every Friday and I would insist on going with her just to hang out in the Star Wars toy aisles in Woolco next door, while she was picking up groceries. Back then I was addicted to the guns and accessories that came with the figures.

I was so addicted that one Friday, in the Woolco aisle, I remember looking at all the figures on the pegs, and just craving to have the little guns in the bubbles. I wanted to take them out. Just the guns, not the figures. I wanted them all. So I began to carefully open as many bubbles as I could; only opening them enough to get at the guns, and proceeded to take out the guns. After a while, a Woolco employee wandered over, and questioned what I was doing. I opened my hand and showed her my handful of guns. I was so embarrassed not realizing what I was doing. I was blinded to the law by my love of Star Wars. In my eight year old mind, I wasn’t stealing because I just wanted the guns, not the figures. Makes sense right? She was very nice, I remember, and took back the guns I had in my hand, explaining it wasn’t the right thing to do, and let me go on my way. But she didn’t take the guns I realized I had in my pocket when I got home. Extra guns for me! Sorry to anyone who grew up in Newfoundland at the time, and got a carded partially resealed gunless figure that year for Christmas. It was my fault. Well…no…blame Star Wars.

6. What is your favourite Star Wars film?

Hmmmm…that’s a tough one. Star Wars started it all, and I remember my constant jaw-dropping when I saw it in the theatre with my Dad in ’77 (not so much Dad, who I specifically remember looking over to during one of my ‘What the hell did I just see’ moments, only to find him dozing off. Something I later realized he does regardless of the movie), but I remember the excitement I had as a kid when I saw Empire and it really blew me away even more. So I’d have to go with Empire, but it wins out by only a very small margin.

7. What would you change about the collecting community?

Drama and repros. It’s a pipe dream I’m sure to think of our collecting community free of drama, but I just wish we could all get along. There’s no real straight answer to it, which makes it more difficult to avoid, but just do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Cliché I know, but it’s true. We are a huge community with many different backgrounds and beliefs. Let’s try to keep Star Wars a happy place. It won’t happen I know, but nice to dream. I purposely have made an effort to stay away from drama, and quite happy our GDE group has very little of it, but I just wish everyone was mindful of others and not so quick to judge, be petty or jealous. I’m not talking about the scammers, douches, and plain ole idiots out there, cause there are a few of those, and they get what they deserve. I just don’t have time for pettiness. I don’t mean to give a world peace, beauty pageant type of answer, but don’t really want to have to come up with an escape plan for my escape plan. Let’s just try to make it a happy place. And for repros? Burn them all, I say. Burn…them…all!

8. Forums or Facebook groups?

They both have their place. I visit the forums less these days, unfortunately. I don’t think I’m alone with that. With forums, they are better organized. It’s just easier to find what you’re looking for. Also a lot easier for referencing historical data. How many times I’ve gone back to forums to gather info on old issues and collectibles are too many to count. Will we eventually get there with Facebook and for it to be the search source in the future? Possibly, unless another platform comes around. I don’t think it’s going to change as people are still to this day searching old newsgroups that were around before forums, so it will probably be just another platform to add to the search mix. FB groups on the other hand is just easier to use in general. It’s not a cumbersome interface at all. One thing I noticed quite quickly, on forums, I never really got to know collectors that well, and was a bit hard for me to break the ice. On FB, however, it was a hell of a lot easier to get in touch with, and get to know fellow collectors. Of course the platform itself is not conducive to hiding behind a pseudonym, and is a social platform, so it’s built that way, but it was only after I started speaking and making friends on FB did I then add them as friends on RS and other forums. And for someone that doesn’t get to go to many shows and conventions, and being mostly online, it was a welcome change. If FB can only nail down the organization side of things, and there not be so many groups, those are the only things that bother me. If there was a better way to organize things, it would make it a hell of a lot easier, instead of relying on FB search. Maybe using hashtags with search in some way, I don’t know the answer, but I do like to see some groups encouraging discussions with daily discussion threads, so it’s not all about FS, WTB, and limelights. That’s a welcome change. And Kudos to you Christian on the Tantive XI Forum. You and your fellow admins have done an amazing job there.

VSWC: Thanks Todd! I can’t take too much credit for Tantive’s success but thanks anyway! 

9. What Star Wars character do you most resemble?

Hmmm….I’m getting a bit chunky, wrinkly and grey in my older age, so I’d have to say a little bit of Jabba, The Emperor and Obi-Wan combined. Is that cheating combing three-in-one?

VSWC: Not cheating mate, I’ll accept your answer, even though it’s a bit harsh 🙂

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

I currently work in Software Development, but before that, I was a wannabe artist and performed on stage for a while. I’ve been performing since I was a wee lad in elementary school, and moved here to Toronto from Newfoundland to pursue a singing / stage career. I’ve been in a number of shows here over the past 25 years and also through Second City, tried my hand in improv for a good five years. Life and career took precedence which led me to make the hard decision to focus on my career in Software and Web Development, but I can still belt out a good tune…and I love to make people laugh

VSWC: That is very cool Todd! Never too late to give it another go… Well thanks for coming on and I hope everyone enjoyed this interview as much as I did. 

Rocket Fett Prototype stolen from Rebelscum owner

Guys please be on the lookout for an AFA graded Rocket Fett Prototype which was stolen from Rebelscum owner Phillip Wise’s Star Wars museum.

Rocket Fett Prototype stolen from Rebelscum owner

Terrible that this has happened to Phil after he has generously displayed it for fans and collectors.

Please email me here or Phil at Rebelscum if you come across any information.

Thanks

 

Guest Collector – Mete Akin: Responsible and sound buying techniques

Hi guys,

I’m very happy to present yet another guest blogger onto VSWC: my friend Mete Akin (aka ‘Turkdlit’ on the forums); well-known in the collecting world for his awesome Uzay collection and for his love of bootlegs and prototypes.
Mete has written a set of excellent guidelines to buying responsibly in today’s market; an article that hopefully will not only encourage collectors to stay honest and respectful but also to get the most out of their vintage SW buying and selling experiences. I’m honoured that Mete chose to publish this article exclusively on VSWC blog.
Mete was actually the very first participant in the blog’s ‘collector snapshot’ segment so it is quite fitting. Rather than re-introduce the author, check out his quick-fire interview below:

Collector snapshot #1: Mete Akin aka ‘Turkdlit’

If you like bootlegs, follow the link to Mete’s great website focussing on Uzays:

www.uzaystarwars.com

One thing that is obvious about Mete is that he highly values ethics, dignity and respect in collecting; particularly when he comes to collector interactions in the marketplace. For those who were on Rebelscum, don’t forget that it was Mete who hounded Erik (aka ‘Bobafett34’) a couple of years ago (Erik was infamous for his incredibly poor buying and selling ethics) until he was FINALLY banned from Rebelscum after a string of offences. This thread (started by Rob) was memorable and was the main impetus towards Erik’s banning:

Erik called out – Rebelscum

Here’s the author with his childhood Bluestars

20151220_164404

Mete is the perfect person to write an article on responsible trading.

We recommend that his article be read in conjunction with the previous VSWC publications on collecting ethics:

Guest Collector – Ross Barr and the ethics of flipping

Guest collector – Ian Cowley: The Hazards of Reproductions on Vintage Collecting

Ethics and business – are they reconcilable?

Just don’t buy it! How you can deflate the vintage Star Wars market

So here it is….. Enjoy!

RESPONSIBLE AND SOUND BUYING TECHNIQUES or HOW TO GET PASSAGE INTO ALDERAAN
With the recent introduction of thousands of new vintage Star Wars collectors, we’ve seen a huge increase in the number of transactions on both the vintage forums and in the Facebook groups. Not only has the volume of sales increased, but the value of these transactions has increased dramatically. For better or worse, we sometimes see the same item change hands rapidly, and often times at increasing cost with each exchange.
This has also led to an uptake in the number of “faux” collectors (not to be confused with “faux-cus” collectors). These are transient beings in the vintage world. As Phidias Barrios recently said about “faux” collectors – “they’re short timers that leave a destructive wake of inflated price bubbles that the collecting community has to deal with once they exit the hobby.” I couldn’t agree more.
It is no surprise then that many collectors, particularly newer ones, inquire what a fair market value is on something they are interested in. How does one know what fair market value is when the price of something jumps 50% from where it was just a few weeks ago? What if there are no recent sales of a particular item to gauge modern values?
There is no easy answer. Given current prices, today’s vintage SW market is new territory for everyone, and opinions on value are purely a speculative at times. There is one factor though which can help buyers make good decisions when completing a transaction – sound negotiating techniques. A good negotiator will work within budget limits, follow a few simple guidelines, and in the end the true value of an item becomes somewhat a moot point. We all know that euphoric feeling of getting a much needed piece at a good/fair price. The secondary, and perhaps more significant benefit, is that it helps keep the market in check.
Here are some observations I’ve made over the years as a buyer.
Disclaimer, these are just my opinions. I am by no means a dealer, I am a collector. My experience comes from spending countless summers in Turkey’s Bazaars, markets, and other areas where sellers view you as prey.
Step one – THINK
We all know the feeling of seeing something we like pop up for sale. Particularly on Facebook, you feel like you may have only 30 seconds to make a decision and pull the trigger on something that you want. This is where I think the majority of cases of buyer’s regret and overpaying comes from. Rash and poorly calculated decisions by a buyer can often lead to them backing out, leaving an unhappy seller and an over-inflated perception of market value.
Think for a moment how badly you want the piece. Think about what you can afford. Think about what you may think a fair price is….then take a moment to search the forums and eBay for old prices. Not only will you have reassurance that you’re not getting hosed, but you also avoid the disservice of stringing the seller along on a deal you may not second thoughts about later.
Be honest with yourself
This has served me very well when determining how much I want to spend. Ask yourself what your true intentions are if the item was to become your own. Is it going to be the centerpiece of your main focus for all of eternity? Or is it simply a well-priced piece that you will probably sell three months down the line to make a few bucks? If it’s the former, then negotiating should be the last thing on your mind, and you should be jumping on it with little thought. But if it’s just a good deal, or something you feel lukewarm about, then throwing out lower offers to see if the seller bites makes much more sense. Always consider that a piece you don’t care much for could be someone else’s grail – so don’t be a douche and snatch up everything that is just a “good price”. This contributes heavily to market inflation and leaves your collecting brothers disappointed.
Don’t be a smarty pants      
         
Acting like you’re the end-all be-all expert for a particular item you’re interested in has several detrimental effects:
  • First and most obviously – it makes you look conceited. Unless you’re Bill McBride or Joe Yglesias, there will always be someone out there more knowledgeable than you in a certain area of the hobby. Don’t cite AFA population reports or talk down someone else’s items beyond physical flaws. You should assume the seller has done their homework, and suggesting otherwise by offering up coercive information will be more likely to irritate than convince; and
  • Secondly, humans are much less likely to take advantage of someone who appears to be “inferior” or in doubt. Don’t get into a pissing match with your seller by trying to convince them you know better. People appreciate humility – use it to your advantage.
Ask specifics
Knowing details about condition goes beyond simply assessing the value of an item. Use defects to your advantage. Undisclosed spider veins, small bubble dents etc. may prove to be valuable ammunition for when you actually start negotiating on price. Obviously, you don’t want to talk the piece down too much and insult the seller; but invariably when they start listing the merits of the piece, you will at least have some negatives to counter and make a case for a better price.
Be friendly
How many of you have had a high-end piece for sale and a potential buyer sends you an offer – and nothing but the offer. The message simply consists of a dollar amount with a question mark. I find this is extremely irritating. If you want to buy something that is valuable, special and coveted, don’t dehumanize the process by making it a cold transaction made of numbers. I personally gravitate my sales to those who are genuinely respectful.
The Buyer’s Golden Rule – You can always walk away
The buyer’s golden rule was first introduced to me by my father when I was seven years old. I was feeling brave enough to negotiate for a backgammon set at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. He gave me a small amount of money and it was my goal to get what I wanted with just that amount. Before spending three hours at countless merchants trying to negotiate a reasonable price, he reminded me – you must always be willing to walk away. Buyers have a distinct advantage because they have the power to walk away at any moment. The moment you forget about this, or if you’re dealing with a true grail item that you must have at any cost, is the moment a seller has the upper hand.
Do your research, get the details, set your max willingness to pay, be courteous, and be ready to walk away at any moment. If you appreciate this sequence, you simply cannot lose.
The Seller’s Golden Rule – Never ever back out of a deal
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Seller’s Golden Rule – never back out once the handshake is done. Interestingly this is much more applicable to sellers than buyers. We’ve all been the victim of a buyer backing out of a deal, but there is much less sympathy for sellers who do this. Remember this is a relatively small community….wait, scratch that, a relatively small community which is extremely gossipy. The golden rule of negotiating as a seller is to always honor your deals – the alternative is to miss out on countless dollars in the long run, and be viewed negatively by the community.

‘How Star Wars Figures are Made’ – fantastic article by Tommy Garvey at theswca.com

Just a quick post to bring to your attention the publication of one of the most informative articles on vintage SW collecting that I have ever read. Tommy Garvey from theswca.com explains the entire process behind the production of a vintage Star Wars figure; using Kea Moll as an example. Tommy is also a moderator on Rebelscum and admins the ‘Dark Times’ group on Facebook.
 
Ever wondered what a ‘proto mould’ is? How about a ‘mock up’ or an ‘engineering pilot’? Read below for your lesson is Preproduction 101!
Thanks to Tommy and all the guys at theswca.com for all of their hard work.

Collector Snapshot #16 – Cesar Alejandro V. Jacquez

I’m thrilled as usual to present the sixteenth episode of our collector snapshot, where a vintage collector answers 10 short questions. The same questions will be given to every collector appearing in this segment.
This round’s victim is 37 year old Mexican collector Cesar Alejandro V. Jacquez, known on Rebelscum as “Chewvazquez.” He was born in Juarez City, the famous Mexican border city near El Paso, Texas but now resides within the Texas-Mexican border in a small town called Zapata in Texas and in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. Cesar tells me that he has lived in 17 different places for the past 12 years due to school, work and “just because.” He always finds it difficult to respond when people ask where he is actually from!
Not only is Cesar an accomplished collector but he is also successful in his personal, academic and professional life. He has a PhD in Philosophy, a major in universal literature and is currently working as an interpreter in classified operations offshore.
VSWC: Cesar on Force Friday
dasdas
VSWC: He does love Star Wars but back in the days Cesar was also a huge MOTU fan! 
dasffgew
 To the questions!
1. How long have you been collecting?
I’ve been seriously collecting for the last 16 years. It all started in in a stop I made in a department store during one of my trips through The States in some town up in the mountains of Colorado. I was on my way to the snacks section and suddenly ran into a full shelf covered with POTF2 (leftover figures I believe) and thought it could be cool to have a Vader figure standing next to my T.V. in the living room or sitting somewhere around my bedroom. I did some collecting before then while living in Tampico, Mexico, gathering snack promotional figurines and ships dispensed in chip bags and cookie boxes. I also used to ask for any Star Wars store header about to be thrown away once the publicity was over. I still have a few of these at home looking just as if they had been been freshly removed from the top of the shelves.
2. What do you collect?
I´ve come down a bit with the collecting habit, yet I keep my eyes out for any foreign Fetts or rarities (if the price is right), pre-production items or vintage SW store displays. I am just a few foreign Fetts away from completing a vintage carded and boxed Boba Fett collection as such; including vehicles, diecast and 13s. Until recently, I was kind of obsessed with the idea of getting them all at some point or at least to get one or two more but everything changed a few days ago when I walked into a cafe with my wife and some friends and there was this sign hanging on one of the walls that reads: “Never let the things you want make you forget the things you have.” I took that as a sign LOL.
I also collect key characters and have incomplete runs of 12, 21 backs, a few Tri-Logos, Harberts and Meccanos. The Jawa is another character with that very tiny special touch that I love having.
I like Star Wars LEGOs A LOT! But mostly any set related to the original trilogy. I like Hot Toys and Sideshows figures also, Movie Props. I have several Fett errors, variants, convention exclusives and mock ups all the way from POTF2 to the Black Series line. Besides Star Wars, I also collect autographed items by Sci Fi celebrities starting with figures and any type of memorabilia. Marvel Legends, MOTU, Transformers, Alien, Star Trek, posters, watches, movie related items, etc. I will remain conservative with the interview so I am presenting only some of my favorites vintage Fetts here.
VSWC: Here’s some of Cesar’s mind-blowing collection. Did someone say Boba?
Boba Fett 21 Back- A, B and C (not in precise order)
Boba
Boba Fett Palitoy 41-C, Speeder Bike Collection, Tri-Logo / Palitoy, and Droids unpainted right leg error.
boba1
Canadian Run – Boba Fett ROTJ 77 back, transition (only two known to exist), 41 back B and 21 Back.
boba can
Revenge Boba Fett Proof Card
boba proof
Cesar proudly displaying this absolute beauty. Nice t-shirt!!!!
boba5\
Pre-production photography taken on set. This photo was distributed to toy and book companies as a reference for merchandise production. Cesar tells me that he assumes Fett was not famous enough at the time so the guys at Lucas Films chose to highlight the jet-pack (as shown in the text written on the back of the photo). There is a Lucas Films stamp on the bottom right/back. The two black lines on the front of the photo were commonly used as watermarks today for copyright purposes.
boba3 boba4
3. What’s your grail?
Well, I know some “diehard collectors” will hate me for saying this but I found the new Sphero BB8 to be the coolest Star Wars toy ever made throughout the entire Star Wars toy history (kidding you not I am!) I hope EVII does not make me hate it at the end LOL.
VSWC: Cesar declaring his love for BB8
caesar
VSWC: The whole family can’t get enough of BB8!
cead
4. What collectors inspire you?
My Dad (R.I.P.) He used to collect military antiques, diecast vehicles and vinyl records from time to time. I was constantly curious as a kid wondering what kind of motivation was behind his passion for buying things that he was just going to put away in displays without ever touching them or playing with them but well, happily enough that question has been FULLY answered now. I had the opportunity to meet with Stéphane Faucourt last year in Paris. It was a fun experience. We spent an entire day talking Star Wars, eating, talking Star Wars, drinking, talking Star Wars, eating again, talking Star Wars and so on… Most of the things he owns are jaw dropping items starting with that full set of square card Meccanos. His Tri-logo rarities are also very impressive and last but not least, his French Fetts. I hold a lot of respect for him as a person and I´m grateful to see all his contributions to the collecting community here and there.
Check out our earlier review of Stephane’s awesome book:
VSWC: Cesar and Stephane hanging out in Paris 
Steph and Cesar
I also hold admiration for guys who I have not personally met yet like Ron Salvatore, his contributions to the hobby are priceless too and he seems to be a very humble and down to earth guy. I like Bill McBride´s endless Vader collection (VSWC: check our feature interview with Bill here – http://vintagestarwarscollectors.com/collector-interview-2-bill-mcbride-dark-lord-of-the-sith/), I wish someday my Boba Fett collection looks like his Vader vault (quit dreaming I know). I have met a lot of great collectors and fans along the way in conventions here in Mexico and in the States. Here in Mexico, Luis Villagomez is another guy I haven´t met but for what I´ve seen his attitude towards the collecting community is always cool and reserved, I respect that besides his collection is always a treat to watch. Collector Alonso Vilches is another dude with impressive stuff, his poster collection is one of the coolest Star Wars collection worth seeing in this country (not everything has to be toys) if I am not mistaking, he owes me a tour through his poster valley to see them all someday. Diehard fans like Armando Barrera in Mexico City and Rodolfo Rodriguez from Monterrey who I recently met are two other guys I like a lot within the Star wars community in this country.
5. What is your most embarrassing moment as a collector?
Hmmmm difficult to answer this question. Nothing pops out of my head as an embarrassing moment to this point but sure we all have some. in the end, no-one knows everything and there is so much yet to be discovered in the hobby.
6. What is your favorite Star Wars film?
Probably A New Hope; I love EV and VI of course (I´m not going any further) but even when the scripts for the sequels were already in place, it was the success of ANH which allowed the other two films to be what they are now. There was not much variety in ANH as there is in its sequels but yet again, it was the success of ANH that allowed: cool gangsters, bounty hunters, a city in the clouds, giant walking dogs and flying motorcycles to make the films even more fun for an audience already attracted to the films thanks to ANH. Besides all the sweet and cutting edge special effects, the magic of the music in the film is something worth mentioning and to at least give half of the credit for its success.
7. What would you change about the collecting community?
Well, although the interactions in the groups (VSWC: Facebook groups) seem to go along just fine, there are a few things I believe that need to be changed and I would like to start with intolerance. Some people find collecting as a competition instead of a fun habit we all love sharing. There is no collection better than any other; everyone loves to death what they own because of their passion for the saga. I also think we need to grow stronger as a community, especially now that the easy access to new technologies has increased the order things are being faked. The number of people with no scruples attempting to rip off the not so experienced collectors has dramatically increased in the past few years. This is something we need to shield against as a group.
8. Forums or Facebook groups?
I like both but I must admit I go onto FB more frequently now.
9. What Star Wars character do you most resemble?
Well… I must say Dengar If I may step off from the films and after reading “Tales of the Bounty Hunters” by Bantam Books. His story was really cool and mirroring to me in the books.
10. Is there one thing that collectors may not know about you?
I like poetry, painting, independent films, art, traveling, Jazz and playing the sax. I am against animal cruelty of any kind. It is funny to see how some people who do not share our love for Star Wars tag us as geeks or nerds thinking we have no other passions or habits in life besides this.
VSWC: Thank you so much for sharing your passions with us Cesar! I can’t agree more with so many of your thoughts on the hobby. Although remind to never introduce you to my wife. You’re handsome, friendly, you have a doctorate in Philosophy and you play the saxophone. Not to mention your great Fett focus! How the bloody hell can I compete with that!!!!!! 

Collector Snapshot #15 – Gary Haygood

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

Up this episode is 45 year old collector Gary Haygood (aka “mrUTman” on Rebelscum), who works in the information technology field in Surprise, Arizona. Anyone who has crossed paths with Gary on the forums or on Facebook knows him to be one of the warmest and friendliest collectors out there. He is also extremely community conscious and is very knowledgeable about the vintage collectibles we all love so much. I hung out quite a bit with Gary and his lovely wife Tara at Celebration Anaheim and know them to be as friendly in real life as they are in the cyber-world.

Gary and Tara are also involved in charity work for breast cancer research and they run online events which they call “Buns 4 Boobs.” For 20 dollars (which they donate to charity) they will restore the hair (into beautiful buns) of vintage 12 inch Princess Leias. Great idea for a noble cause! I was lucky enough to snag one of their “Buns 4 Boob” pins at C7.

VSWC: The artwork for these great pins. 

leia

VSWC: Some examples of their restored Leia buns.

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If you are on Facebook, why not check out the great group that Gary helps admin – Batteries Not Included – Star Wars Collectors Group Inc. It’s an easygoing group set up to discuss both vintage and modern Star Wars collectibles and the community they have built there is a credit to the admins and their members.

Gary also runs a great Facebook page – Vintage Star Wars Collectors Recommended Groups. This page provides a list of SW collecting groups that “support collecting with passion and respect.” Great job Gary!

Now to the questions!

1. How long have you been collecting?

As long as I can remember I’ve been collecting various Star Wars Items. However I have been “seriously” collecting for about 11 years or so, when I found the community on rebelscum.com

2. What do you collect?

My first love is Star Wars toys and art, I focus on Princess Leia items, I also collect other toys from pop culture I grew up on (i.e. Megos, Monsters, and Evel…)

VSWC: Gary and some of his great collection. Great t-shirt! I hope Gary didn’t blow his knee out crouching down like that. We’re not so young anymore us vintage SW collectors…

gary

VSWC: And the pride of Gary’s collection – a Gentle Giant life size Leia monument.

g2

3. Whats your Grail?

The necklace worn by Princess Leia in the ceremony scene of “A New Hope.”

4. What collectors inspire you?

Folks that share knowledge and help others out for me this is the way we sustain the hobby. Mike Scards22 is someone I look to as a mentor and really helped me with learning the ropes and meeting everyone back in the forum days. I also credit my education to reading post by folks like John Alvarez, Joseph Yglesias and Bill McBride as well as many others over the years.

VSWC: See our full-length interviews with Joe and Bill here:

http://vintagestarwarscollectors.com/collector-interview-6-joe-yglesias-bootleg-overlord/

http://vintagestarwarscollectors.com/collector-interview-2-bill-mcbride-dark-lord-of-the-sith/

5. What’s your most embarrassing moment as a collector?

Realizing how much I enjoy being friends with ‘Tiefighterboy’ (Todd Osborn) 🙂

6. What’s your favourite Star Wars film?

Return of The Jedi, I love the redemption of Vader and it always has been my favourite part of the films.

7. What would you change about the collecting community?

I think we all could be a little easier on the newbies to the community, and the newbies should be more receptive to the knowledge they can receive from listening to the old timers. 

8. Forums or Facebook groups?

Forums will always be great but I think Facebook has opened a whole new world to collectors and mixed together several great forum communities.

9. What Star Wars character do you most resemble?

Who else Princess Leia 😉

VSWC: The resemblance is uncanny!

leia 2

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

I was in personal security in my younger years and was a bouncer and bodyguard before I settled down as an IT Guy 🙂

VSWC: Thanks so much for joining us Gary! It has been great getting to know a bit more about you and your collecting habits. See you on the forums and Facebook! 











Collector Interview #6: Joe Yglesias – Bootleg Overlord

I’m absolutely delighted to welcome Mr Bootleg himself onto the blog. Yes that’s right, the one and only Joe Yglesias is joining us to share his thoughts on SW vintage collecting and also to give us a peek into his world. Massive thanks to him for sharing his time with us.
Joe is an absolutely legend of the Star Wars vintage collecting world and is arguably the most knowledgeable bootleg collector in the world. So you can understand how happy I am to have him on. Not only that, but he is a great guy. Everyone knows about my no ars*hole policy with the blog (yours truly being the one exception of course!). When I first joined Rebelscum, I kept hearing about this scary guy ‘Joseph Y’ who would smack down arrogant and ignorant collectors or wannabe scammers. Although I joke about Joe being a tough guy, he is actually very approachable and is always on hand to lend advice to other collectors or to help educate others to some of the dangers to our hobby (i.e. repros, scammers and u-grades). He is as vocal as they come and this interview is a testament to that.
Joe also tells me that he’s currently drafting a book about bootlegs, and that while it’s had some set backs it will be ready to hit the press by Celebration 8. A kickstarter will also be launched soon to help pay for the graphic design/photo editing and publication. Good luck and can’t wait to see the book!
  me
Now to the interview! 
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. 
 
VSWC: I did hear your segment on the CHIVE Cast (see our past interview with the hosts Skye and Steve here – http://vintagestarwarscollectors.com/collector-interview-3-steve-danley-and-skye-paine-from-the-chive-cast/) a few times and I really enjoyed it. I have crossed paths with you quite a lot in the Star Wars collecting groups and can confirm that you are a very helpful collector and an easy-going guy, unless someone messes with you of course! 
 
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: 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. 
Me just before we play
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? 
me double fisting drinks
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. 
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1488478326_2dda44ea04_z
VSWC: Oh and the rest of Joe’s Model Trems. Might as well…
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5484474396_92c69721b8_b5483997371_c13bb2eed2_b5483881195_353d1645a1_b   5483882431_a9a1a320fe_b5483883691_3ce325bbc1_b5484594606_f535f0211e_b   5484593778_d69fc5b1a0_b5483917935_a4d532b075_b5483916027_8822e94fd4_b
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. 
7485364454_aa8dbf6f70_c 7485361086_72841df984_b
 
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. 
 5484497740_2ea5e9f67e_b 5484496828_a7833a710a_b 5484496828_a7833a710a_b
 
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.
VSWC: Well said Joe. So do you think the recent coordinated action undertaken by various Facebook Star Wars vintage groups (see here – http://vintagestarwarscollectors.com/the-day-facebook-groups-united-under-the-same-banner/) will have any affect on the presence of repros in our hobby?
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. 
1487623983_e262b4fce7_b1487626695_5cf78e96b1_b1487626615_f6cf2d7b9e_b   1487626761_01dac1ea92_b1488482626_1d070c1da7_b1488479394_a98ff58db2_b   1487623879_6c6de3a758_b 1487627003_e990db3e98_b1488479758_29e3c45e89_b
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. 
5483929011_52d6aab202_b5484480568_c528bc99ba_b5484523030_17b8eed7d9_b   5484487062_83678bf7f5_b5484482324_a8e7fa29c8_b5483889525_91217001de_b   5483891233_c91fb0e1e0_b 5483900425_d1dbda0986_b 5484492448_d3085eb21e_b
5483896661_18e44fa79d_b5484489972_c270839382_b5483914259_98ffa4720d_b   5484012499_1c97a2ab82_b 5484011687_f1a56c59b4_b 5484010569_91217e659c_b
5484600586_9fa4323589_b5484004709_36c7e26940_b5484004065_e60f6aea1e_b   5484588232_1d6e3ca277_b5483971775_e971c4a57c_b5484434618_f0ae658645_b
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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. 
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VSWC: The cardback art on the Uzays is fantastic! My favourite is the Imperial Gunner manning the calculator!
Here’s Joe’s example. 
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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
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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.
5483973863_6a9a61373e_b5483975373_973e64c34e_b5484610206_ee420ae4c0_b   5484572890_1afd37b452_b5484564370_568e821090_b5484574234_1f08e83bc3_b   5484563070_452c1812be_b 5483970737_ca48c3be29_b
VSWC: Here’s an example of Joe’s Colorforms proofs. 
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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!
 
 

 

UK Graders agree to cease u-grading!

Just a quick post to help spread this great news. UK Graders (UKG) have officially agreed to cease their destructive practice of u-grading vintage items (other than mailers)!

Check out the Rebelscum thread below to gauge some collector reactions.

http://forum.rebelscum.com/t1118119/

I’d like to personally congratulate UKG in this huge decision, one that comes hot on the heels of the recent vintage Star Wars Facebook group joint initiative to generate as much anti u-grade and repro press as possible. Check our previous post below:

The day Facebook groups united under the same banner!

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Well done to everyone involved! However, as great a victory as this was, the anti u-grade movement has bigger fish to fry….We’re looking at you AFA. Get on board!

The day Facebook groups united under the same banner!

Anyone who is a member of a Star Wars vintage Facebook group would have witnessed a remarkable event recently. At 5pm (Amsterdam time) on Monday 2nd February 2015, a huge number of groups changed their banner photos to a universal one adorned with an anti-repro logo on one side, an anti-ugrade on the other but with their original group banner sitting proudly in the middle of these two guardians of honourable and community minded collecting.

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It was a beautiful moment watching my Facebook feed blow up with these coordinated banner changes and I was proud to have the groups I admin be a part of this. Here are the banners for the three groups I admin. Huge thanks to Swedish super collector Mattias Rendahl for the repro logo and to Josh Blake, admin of the micro Star Wars group, for the u-grade banner and also for weaving his photoshop magic to make the banners for my Luke focus and Australian groups.

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So what was the origin of this Facebook group wide offensive? Well it was actually the brainchild of Jason Smith (aka ‘Mr Palitoy’ and the founder of the largest vintage Star Wars group on Facebook – check out our past article in relation to Jason and Toy Toni – http://vintagestarwarscollectors.com/toy-toni-scandal-featured-on-bbc1-in-the-uk/). Credit though has to also go to Ross Barr (check out his interview with us here – http://vintagestarwarscollectors.com/collector-interview-5-carl-gary-and-ross-from-star-wars-12-backs-2021-backs-and-early-vintage-collectors-group/), who admins about three thousand Facebook groups the last time I counted, who really picked up the ball and ran with it to the in-goal. He used his boundless energy and drive to coordinate the project, source the creation of the logos and to write up a great spiel (below) that many of the groups posted along with the banner changes:

Today, the admins of many vintage SW collecting groups have posted banners in each of their groups incorporating the same logos renouncing reproduction items and the butchering of toys encouraged by the U grade designation given by AFA. While each of the various Facebook groups operates a bit differently than the others, we are all firmly united against reproduction items and U grades.

As a sign of solidarity against repros and U grades, in this group we plan to keep this banner in place for the most part (subject to the posting of certain COTW items here and there as our banner) from now until the end of Celebration 7.

We encourage discussion about the harms repros and U grades cause to our hobby. If you have any questions about that issue, feel free to contact one of the admins. Otherwise, please check out these articles discussing those harms:

Repros: http://vintagestarwarscollectors.com/guest-collector-ian-c…/

U grades: http://powerofthetoys.com/afa/

Many thanks to the creators of the repro logo (Mattias Rendahl) and the U grade logo Josh Blake) for letting us use their images to make this. statement.

This anti-repro and u-grade movement is quite timely considering that the place of Facebook in Star Wars vintage collecting is often questioned, admittedly even by myself. It does get tiresome in these groups to repeatedly debate the danger of repros and the damage that u-grading causes to the current population of carded figures. But this mass convergence in countering these hobby pollutants has reinvigorated my belief that Facebook groups can work alongside the forums and positively impact this great hobby of ours. That said, I’m still a Rebelscum guy at heart!

Although I’m absolutely vibing on the positivity spread by this offensive and am vehemently against repros and the u-grade, I’m a little concerned what the negative fallout may be when it comes to those who do not share the majority opinion about these issues. While I’m all for ostracising those who manufacture repros and the u-grade and sell them, particularly without declaring them as such, there are also collectors who may have one or two repro accessories in their collection or people who may not own repros or u-graded toys but argue that they have a place in our hobby. These collectors should not be vilified for holding an opinion contrary to the majority and I personally would not remove them from the groups I admin. I’d prefer to use logic and informed arguments to sway these critics of our movement, rather than abuse them or remove them from our community. So please don’t bash the guy who has a repro saber on display, there are other more civil and intelligent ways to win an argument. That said, all of the groups I admin, including this blog, do not allow for the sale or even display of repro or u-graded collectibles. And don’t forget our past article:

http://vintagestarwarscollectors.com/ten-tips-for-dealing-with-other-collectors-on-social-networking-sites/

If you admin a Facebook group, or would like to lobby your admins, and are keen to get involved, please contact me and I’ll let you know how to be part of it. I know the SWFUK and TIG forums have gotten onboard and I’m really hoping the Rebelscum forum joins the show, even though the owner Phillip Wise has publicly distanced himself from the movement. There’s nothing to lose but everything to win. I’m definitely going to get a banner made up for this blog!

Thanks for reading.