Collector Interview #5: Carl, Gary and Ross from ‘Star Wars 12 Backs, 20/21 Backs, and Early Vintage Collectors Group’

I’m stoked to finally present Carl, Gary (Gaz) Edson and Ross Barr from the Facebook Group ‘Star Wars 12 Backs, 20/21 Backs, and Early Vintage Collectors Group’. Those who know this group may be surprised to see that I’m only interviewing three of the admins, when there are actually four. Well we actually set about conducting this interview months ago, when there were only three admins and I decided to restrict this interview to the first three founders as adding a fourth would make this interview even more massive than it already is.
I did though speak to the lads and they mentioned that former admin Jeff Walters did an absolutely fantastic job as an admin until he had to resign due to his increasingly busy work and personal commitments. Jeff is still an active member of the group though and both his attitude to collecting and his collection itself are credits to the hobby.
Steve Dwyer (aka ‘The Dark Artist’ on Rebelscum) is the latest addition to the admin team and what an addition he is! Steve is one of the most knowledgeable collectors around (particularly in regards to first 12 figure vintage prototypes  – his 3D prototype focus has to be seen to be believed). Not only that but Steve is committed to improving the hobby and is also one of the loveliest blokes in the hobby. I hope one day to host both he and Jeff on the blog.
While I still prefer the collecting forums over the Facebook groups, this group is one of my absolute favourites. That’s not just lip service, I really do enjoy it and it seems to be growing into an influential group. And sincerely these guys are some of the friendliest blokes in the collecting world and they epitomise why I love vintage collecting – it’s as much about the people as it is about the toys themselves. Not only is this is a great group but it is also is a perfect example of collectors from all over the globe coming together to create a community for individuals to get together and share their joy of collecting.
Although there are still some teething problems with the use of Facebook to connect us to fellow collectors, it seems this format will play an important role in the future. For example, one of the main groups (created by British collector Jason Smith) actually has more than 14,000 members, which really is outstanding and highlights that vintage collecting is a growing and thriving hobby. That said, there is still a lot of debate going on in the collecting world about the value of these Facebook groups, more recently revolving around the issue that they may be causing fragmentation among Star Wars collectors – check out more about this in our previous article –
Now to the interview! 
1.    Before we discuss the Facebook group, it would be great to learn more about you guys. Ross you and I came up through Rebelscum together so I know you pretty well but Gaz and Carl I only really started to connect with you blokes through Facebook. Ross you are from the States (or ‘AMERICA’ as us non-Americans like to say) and Gaz and Carl you guys are British but where did you guys grow up? Are you all married with kids or are you footloose and fancy free?
Ross:  Christian, I have always liked what you said in your posts on RS, and I am glad we have gotten to know each other even better on FB.  As for my personal life, I have been married since August 2008, have a five year old son named Eli (my collecting partner – seriously, he can point out all flaws in a MOC in under 10 seconds), three year old daughter named Lana, and a one year old daughter named Sadie.
VSWC: Ross and the gang.
ross fami
Carl: I started my early collecting days on a forum called SWCC (Star Wars Collectors Cantina). I was a mod on there in the early days and got to meet some great people, since then I browse RS for the sales but our Facebook page is the main one for me. I’m in a great relationship with Lisa , and have two kids of my own and two step kids.
VSWC: Carl and his family. 
carl famil
Gaz: I live in a small mining village called Shirebrook (near Mansfield) in the UK. I’m still there as of now. I’m 42 so a good age for collecting SW so they say. I live with my partner but I’m not married but I don’t think it will be to long thou. I have three kids as well – 24, 15 and 13 years old and all GIRLS (yes hard work). I’m going to be a granddad soon holy shit!!
VSWC: Gaz and his girls!
VSWC: Gaz and his wife looking sexy and dangerous. 
2. So do you ever get teased about your collecting?
Ross: I do get teased occasionally, but even my friends that tease me do think it’s cool.  I think there is still a misconception that all collectors and lovers of SW are nerds, but I am quick to tell those people that I have met some of the coolest and funniest guys I have ever met through SW collecting.
Carl: Do I ever get teased ? I’ve had the piss taken out of me a few times by my mates, that’s because I’m a massive wind up, and they know I would deffo do the same 🙂
When I first joined the Facebook pages, I didn’t realise pages weren’t private so I was posting my 12 backs etc and of course they were appearing on my Facebook feed. Then on a night out with the lads, about five of them started making chewie noises and taking the piss. I had to take it on the chin, because I would have done the same 🙂
Gaz: Do I get teased mmm well come on I do live with three girls lol! Seriously thou yes I did when I first got back into collecting, but now my close friends and family see the values involved in buying and selling they just leave me in my own little world which I’m more than happy about.
3. How long have you all been collecting, how did you catch the bug and what do you collect exactly?
Ross:  I have been a lifetime owner of the toys and collector since I was a child, but started collecting again in earnest a few years ago when I dug out my loose figures, some carded stuff, and other random stuff.  Having a son that was just as into it as me really gave me the fuel to collect again, and we went from there.  My primary focus is my full run of 96 figures on their first “movie” card, but not necessarily needs debut card back – just the front.  The first 12 must be on 12 backs (again, don’t care about A v. B v. C really), the next 9 on 20/21, all ESB characters on ESB card fronts, ROTJ on ROTJ, etc.  I have a full loose collection in C9 ungraded condition, and have a few MIB vehicles and playsets that I like.  I am also working on an “original” Han Solo (not Han Hoth, Han Bespin, etc. – just “original” Han) focus, with the goal of getting him on every card front and back that he has ever appeared on.  Finally, I am working on a full set of the 12 inch figures MISB, and have “just” one (Boba Fett) until that is done.
VSWC: Ross and his growing Han Solo focus. 
ross coll
VSWC: Three of Ross’ favourite pieces. Vader is a production double telescoping saber (DT), while Ben is a hand painted first shot  with mushroom tip DT saber and Luke is an engineering pilot with a production DT saber. Amazing pieces! 
Carl: I’ve been collecting for about seven years, I have changed focus many times over that period, but now my focus is 12/20/21 backs and all early stuff. I got the bug seven years ago when I brought some loose vintage figures for my son. There were about 10 in total and when they arrived they were that mint that I couldn’t let him ruin them. So they went on my shelf and my collection grew from there.
I’ve also recently started collecting and an ESB/ROTJ run with clear bubbles.
VSWC: Carl standing guard over his stellar collection. 
photo 1
photo 4 (1)
Gaz: I’ve only really been back into collecting for the last four years, yes I did have it all as a kid but like most people got rid of it all in my early teens. I got the bug back really just by looking up Star Wars on eBay and it carried on from there.
I remember my first figure was a loose Chewbacca with a repro weapon lol, then like Carl I’ve changed my focus a million times, just finished my 21 back run (all 12 Backs are A cards) and I have a few of the rare pieces. I also just started on the ESB line. I love the cartoon droids and ewoks so maybe I’ll collect them at a later date.
VSWC: Some of Gaz’s awesome collection. 
10799625_899049063439873_1478331852_n 10814123_899049076773205_228613746_n (1)
4. Do you ever meet face to face with other collectors?
Ross: Since I have joined RS and the Facebook groups, I have met more and more collectors face to face.  I am part of an Ohio collectors group and have done a few events, meet friends on comic con events and toy shows, and have had friends I have met on RS and FB stay at my place or have met them out for beers and brought them back to share my collection.  Having someone over to see the collection is a real treat.
Carl: Had a great time at Memorabilia in Birmingham and met up for the first time with some great lads Steve UKG, Adam Pemberton, Marcus Schroeder, Klause Dorscher (Marcus), Sheldon Wagstaffe, Gaz Edson, Paul Smith, Rich McLean, Marc Walsh, James Martin and Graham Hughes and had a few beers and a curry afterwards. Great night! Dean Keenan and Chris Hyden  both live a few miles away so we also meet up for a beer and a chat . Also me and Gaz Edson meet up regularly. One day I would love to travel the pond to meet my USA bro Ross lol.
VSWC: The lads hanging out in Birmingham.
gaz and carl 2 carl, gaz
Gaz: I’ve only had a trip down to Carl’s to do a couple of SW deals over a beer, more on the horizon 🙂
VSWC: Gaz and Carl (left to right) hanging out recently. 
gaz carl
5. Are there any good conventions coming up? Will you be going?
Ross: I attended an amazing toy show last month in Cincinnati, OH, the home of Kenner, and got to catch up with many old friends and meet many new ones.  I don’t remember having that much fun locked in a room with a bunch of dudes.  Well, I do remember, but I will keep this interview PG-13. Hahahah.  As for conventions coming up, right now I am looking forward to attending Celebration 7 in California next April.
Carl: Just Memorabilia for me in the UK in November, more than likely I’ll go. I’m also thinking of going to Jedi Con in Germany. I had a great time meeting up with my two friends Marcus Schroder and Klaus Dorscher at this years Mem show so would love to do Celeration Anaheim in April and meet all the friends I have made from these groups, but I don’t think I will be able to have the time off.
Gaz: I’ve never been to one but would love to, so it’s something that’s going to happen.
6. What are you all into other than vintage star wars collecting? Is there time for much else?
Ross: When I first got into collecting as an adult a few years back, I was buying childhood collections and other items on eBay – mostly GI Joe and Masters of the Universe (He-Man).  I needed to take a step back and focus on one thing with everything else going on in my life, so I am slowing selling off everything other than Star Wars stuff.
Carl: I have my own building firm that keeps me pretty busy and of course the Mrs and the kids lol. My other passion is football (soccer). I have a season ticket for Wolverhampton Wanderers and have followed them since I can remember. We also have three Bedlington Terriers, and enjoy nothing more than taking them walks on evenings and weekends.
Gaz: Not really, most of my spare time goes into SW, it’s hard for much more with work and family. I do love football and support Sheffield Wednesday I go to see them whenever I can.
7. Gaz I notice that you always seem to have top pieces for sale at decent prices and that you have a steady influx coming into your collection? How do you do it? Where do you find this stuff?
Gaz: I think I’ve just been lucky with spending hours and hours on eBay, sending messages asking if they had more for sale and doing deals away from eBay for better prices, so able to sell I bit cheaper and find some nice bits for my collection, but it’s getting harder and dryer out there.
8. So do you have any advice for newer collectors who are trying to find quality items at decent prices?

Gaz: Patience, believe it or not. Good deals do still come up from time to time and do your homework so you know what’s fake and what’s genuine, this way when good deals do become available you can hit ‘buy it now’ in confidence knowing it’s the real deal. Snooze and you lose in this game.

9. Carl what do you think about the current market at the moment? What is driving the current situation, where prices seem to be soaring?
Carl: Without a doubt the current market is on the up, which is a real shame, as this has put a lot of the items out of reach to a lot of collectors 🙁 My opinion is since the news of the new Star Wars movies, the prices of MOCs etc have started to soar , and as the film gets closer there’s a chance they could get even higher. Since I started collecting 7-8 years ago , prices have trebled to what they are now.
VSWC: 12 backs do seem particularly affected. I bought my 12 Back B Luke (AFA 80) for 500 pounds just before Christmas (admittedly a great deal) and now the same piece is selling for more than double. So do you think the Disney films will further effect this trend?
Carl: Definitely. In the last six months prices are creeping up, but the new films next December have definitely had an impact. I  also I think that, because the original cast are back in (ie Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie , C3PO and R2) 12 backs could increase further …….
11. So are you dudes excited about the new movies? Can JJ do it for the fans or will it be the prequels all over again?
Ross: Great question. From what I have seen to date, there is a movement to use more props, less CGI, and overall be truer to the OT (original trilogy), all of which I hope and think will lead to a great product. Disney paid a ton for the SW franchise, and has to get it right.  With that said, Star Wars is like sex to me.  Even when it’s bad, it’s good!
Carl: Can’t wait mainly because the original cast are back in it after 30 years, let’s face it the new films can’t be any worse than the last three and with the addition of the Stormies \, Falcon , x-wings etc from the original trilogy. I can’t wait ….
Gaz: I’m buzzing about the new films even more so knowing we have some of the original actors in there 🙂 It’s going to be a BIG HIT !
12. Ross I noticed that you changed your Rebelscum name from Darth Roscoe to Ross_Barr (is this correct?), pretty much in line with what the old guard did a while back. Are you too good for us now? Did you get enacted into the inner circle without letting your mates know?
Ross: Lol Christian!  If anything, I am worse off for having dropped my cool Darth Roscoe moniker…  Seriously though, consistent with point (4), as I met more people face to face it was frustrating to explain that I was “Darth Roscoe” on RS, so I made things simpler and went with my real name.  And I did join the inner circle – they have beer and cheap women!!!!!!
VSWC: Yep ‘Darth Roscoe’ is a pretty cool dude…
13. In all seriousness, you’ve only been collecting for just about three years yet you’ve amassed an enormous collection and I think you’ve almost finished your MOC run  How the hell did you do it so quickly?
Ross: Thanks for noticing, Christian. I need just a fewmoreMOCs to complete my full 96 carded run. And to answer your questions, yes they are all US Kenner. I have some foreign pieces that are part of my Han Solo focus, but that’s it. I have done it relatively quickly through some hustle, networking and very little off eBay. All in all, I havecomeout of pocket to the tune of around 55% oftheactual current market value of my collection through a lot of buying in bulk (large collection purchases, etc.) and selling off pieces that don’t fit my focus for againin an effort to subsidize my collection, and buying items that are otherwise way belowtheiractual market value. But of course I have also laid out a lotofmy own money, and importantly it was all through extra savings and other money that my family doesn’t necessarily need and likely won’t miss.

VSWC: Yeah I remember the huge haul you scored where you had to cross the border into Canada. How did this deal come about? 
Ross: Great that you rememberthathaul. That was one of four large purchases like the ones I described above that have allowed me to finance my collection. The seller was getting rid of his whole collection of Canadian and US carded figures (41 in all),MIB vehiclesandplaysets (35-40 of those) and lots of other memorabilia. He posted them all for sale at once on the big SW vintage Facebook group.Unlikeall of the vultures that gave him lowball offers and ridiculed him, I was nice to him, gave a reasonable offer, and since he lived an hour or so drive from, offered to come with cash in hand and pick the stuff up so he didn’t have to deal with shipping it all. We corresponded for a few days and agreed on a price. Needless to say from the pic, it was a ton of stuff, and I sold off enough within a few days to get my money back (and then some) and keep, free of charge, among other things, a Canadian 20 backSWBobaFett (ended up grading AFA 80), Canadian 12 Back VinylCapeJawa (I believe only two others are out there, and I have since traded it toaJawa focus collector), ESB 45backBobaFett, several other MOC figures, afewMIB items, and various other odds and ends.  It was the deal of a lifetime for sure.

You should have seen the face of the US border patrol officer when I drove to the US border with a car filled with vintage SW collectibles!!!!!  He thought I was INSANE!!!!
VSWC: The famous ‘thumbs up’ photo of Ross and his plastic contraband. 
14. One last question before we get to your group. Carl you have been pretty vocal about reproductions recently, particularly repro boxes. Do you think this is one of the greatest threat to this awesome hobby of ours? 
Carl: I don’t like reproductions. I despise them !!! Definitely going to affect the hobby in time, not so much the older collectors who can spot the signs, colour etc, but some of the newer and less educated collectors coming in could get stung. Some of these boxes that are being reproduced are superb, with just a small tab with reproduction written on them, that is NOT enough. These could easily be cut off so no one would know they are fake. Give some of these repro boxes 4-5 years of getting a bit of wearand tear and it will be very hard to spot. It wouldn’t be so bad if from the front it looked like the original, for display, but on the back it had ‘REPRODUCTION’ written in big letters or a totally different colour to the original. That way there would be no way of cutting that off or of anyone getting scammed. This is just my view, but I’d rather save up a bit more and get the original in not so perfect condition than these cheap fakes that are flooding the market …. This one does make my blood boil ……
15. So to your group now. Gaz can you briefly summarise what it’s all about?
Gaz: Our groups focus is from the first film Star Wars, which is by far the best film ever released (my view!). We see the group as a place to gather collecting knowledge,  to help others spot fakes etc and as a forum to display all of these amazing collectibles.

It’s also a place to have a good chit chat and laugh between us all while discussing SW (we are all on the same wave length). As soon as I mention SW in my house everyone’s ears shut down and I end put talking to myself!

VSWC: So why did you choose to focus on these particular parameters?

Gaz:  It was all Carl’s idea. I met him through the main vintage SW Facebook page and we got talking though there, then I received a message from him asking if I’d like to start a SW page just dedicated to the 12/20/21 backs and the early stuff (mailers etc) and as I said, Star Wars was by far the best film out of the three, so I thought why not 🙂

So I’d just like to thank Carl for involving me, cheers bro 🙂

17. Gaz do you all have specific roles within the functioning of the group?
Gaz: Not really. If there’s any decisions to be made we just have a three way vote, well four now as Jeff’s on board 🙂

But we all tend to agree and it generally runs fine. Ross is the one who mainly writes the important posts up (clever lad as) he’s very good at wording things. My spelling and wording of things is terrible which is why I’m the last to respond to this interview. Carl and Ross said it was a breeze,  yeah right I wish!

VSWC: Haha no worries Gaz! It generally takes a while for people to get back to me with their answers. I’m just stoked that people are willing to give up their time to the blog.

18. Ross, I might be a bit biased but to me the group seems to run much smoother than a lot of similar groups on Facebook. It really is a tight ship. Why do you think that is?
Ross:  Facebook is kind of the wild west of SW collecting.  It is certainly instantly gratifying when compared with some of the chat forums like RS and SWFUK, but there is so much less respect paid from one collector to another on Facebook, and zero moderation on most of the groups. Once Carl proposed the group to Garry and I, we discussed a few light rules that we had seen on RS that worked there and could provide a little organization to our group and encourage people to respect one another. The three of us (now four, with the addition of Steve Dwyer as an admin).
So how many members do you have now? Is the sky the limit in regards to membership?
Ross: As of today, we have just around 3,500 members.  When Carl first proposed doing the group, I thought maybe it would be cool if we could get our friends from the forums and a few other random members together and some day have 500 or so members that enjoyed the early vintage as much as we do.  It blows my mind that just over seven months later we already have 3,500.

As far as whether the sky is the limit, you always want to have more members naturally as it is more people to connect with, more interesting posts that will be made, and just better content.  However, I have no desire to get so big that we have internet “trolling,” off topic posts, and disrespectful members running rampant. This group, in my mind, was always supposed to be a bunch of like minded collectors in a niche group.  I hope we never lose that.
19. Carl there seems to be a recent flood of niche vintage collecting groups on Facebook. Do you think there are too many?
Carl: I really enjoy these niche groups but I am biased, if your focus is ANH, ESB, ROTJ, POTF , pre production, Lili Ledy  etc  there is a group for you out there. Plus the multiple general Star Wars pages, I don’t think there are too many but saying that, I turn notifications off on a lot of them, and just read the three or four I want to 🙂
VSWC: So what are your favourite groups then?
Carl: Of course my favourite page is the 12/21 back page without a doubt 🙂 I also enjoy checking out Echo base UK and Empire/ ROTJ pages. I’m also fascinated by the pre production pages, to see where all the toys we collect started and the different stages. There is so much to learn from that page . Matt (Matthieu Barthelemy) also does a great job on his La Guerre Des Etoiles page. I love seeing the Meccano and other designs for the foreign cardbacks.
21. What other niches are yet to be filled?
Carl: What other niche groups? Ask Ross lol! He will probably be helping with them!
VSWC: Haha you’re right! I should have asked Ross that one. I do like to call him the ‘King of the internet.’
22. So with you guys being so active on Facebook, do you still have much time for the forums?
Ross: I certainly have less time for RS as I used to, but I make an effort to go on there still as much as I can, and still would say I am active. It is still in my view the best place for information, and has the best classified section. It is well run and organized, and is an overall great site. As I said in my first RS post about the 12 back group, I think RS is the steak of the SW forums, and our niche 12 back and early vintage group is the red wine that compliments the steak.
Carl: Unfortunately I don’t really have the time for forums, with the two pages I help run plus everything else. Lisa would definitely not be with me if I spent anymore time on Star Wars  than I already do 🙂 I look on RS and SWFUK and TIG when I can, as there’s so much information stored on these pages, but it’s more limited than I would like.
Gaz: I always like to log onto RS and SWFUK and have a quick look, although I use RS mainly for WTB threads for the bits I’m after which usually works.
VSWC: So what would you guys say is your favourite forum?
Ross: RS, hands down. In fairness to the others, I haven’t spent much time on SWFUK and TIG other than on SWFUK when the Toy Toni stuff came out and TIG to confirm my weapons’ authenticity.
Carl: My favourite forum, I guess, it’s got to be RS nowadays followed closely by SWFUK.
Gaz: RS.
24. On to my final question, which is – to grade or not to grade?
Ross: For me it is a mixed bag. For my MOC figures, while I rarely buy an already graded figure (because, among other things, they are almost always too expensive), I buy near mint to mint pieces and almost always have them graded. I like the look and protection of the figure and card in acrylic, and the costs of the graded piece is really just another $30 or so more than it would be for the acrylic case itself. And the sad fact remains that if that grading turns out to produce an AFA 80 or 85, it results in an increase in the value of that figure in the market place, so it is money well spent in my view. I also like the ability to track my pieces by serial number, and have seen the AFA serial number come into play and be helpful in stopping thieves and scammers.
Carl: In my collection I have both graded and ungraded pieces , I have nothing against the grading , it protects the pieces and I love how they look. Luckily for me I bought most of mine before the prices really shot up and if I was collecting all the 12/20 backs now I would definitely be buying ungraded.

I think, like everything, AFA has its good points and bad points. Bad being: inconsistency with grades and u grading (well don’t get me started on that). It’s a shame prices go so high after grading but I guess for some it’s worth the price just to know what they’re getting and that their piece is authentic. So for me to grade or not to grade –  I’m both ……
Gaz: I’m easy as most of my 12 backs are graded except for a couple, my other nine of the 21 backs are mainly ungraded (three are graded) but they are all displayed in AFA style cases as they display better and protected. I’ll probably be getting them graded when I get around to it.

Well thanks so much for your time guys and keep up the great work with the group. I definitely feel that I know you all better after that and I hope our audience feels the same way.  I’m sure we will catch up sometime, somewhere for a beer.

Collector Snapshot #7 – Clio (aka ‘Jitterbug’) and Noel (aka ‘IG127’)

Welcome to the seventh installment of our regular segment, where a vintage collector is given 10 short questions to answer. The same questions will be given to the next collector appearing on the segment.

This episode is huge! Not only is it a double-header, but the featured collectors are a couple! I know there are a few collector couples doing the rounds but it’s not something you see every day. I’m thrilled they agreed to appear on the blog.

So who are the lucky couple? Clio is a collector who I’ve previously bumped into on Rebelscum and was actually one of the members to respond to my first ever thread on that forum. She’s 28 and works as a ‘Environmental Geoscientist’ in Calgary, Canada and when she’s not collecting vintage Star Wars she’s neck deep in her other hobbies – Kenner SuperPowers, Wonder Woman, hockey and cake decorating. Yep pretty much the perfect woman. 


Clio’s boyfriend Noel is 32 and works as a ‘Geotechnical Engineering Technologist’ (I had to google both of their jobs!) Noel’s into table hockey, classic Mega Man video games (and a lot of other video games), strange pets, Dr Who, NHL and collects hockey jerseys. You can check out more about Noel on his website:


Considering this is a special episode I thought I’d let Clio talk us through how her and Noel met. Take it away Clio!
“We met  three and a half years ago, mostly due to our shared work in the field of
geosciences and our love of hockey. I mostly collected Wonder Woman, fossils and some Royal Doulton figurines, I knew nothing about vintage Star Wars, I didn’t even know it existed. The first time I went to Noel’s apartment, he showed me his collection. He had an entire wall of MOCs, all neatly hung, and then a glass case with some loose figures, ships, and play sets. It was a pretty impressive collection and he had amassed it in less than four years. For the first year of our relationship, I just listened to him and watched him make deals and learned how it all worked. The passion Noel had for his collection and the community was infectious and I wanted to be a part of it so I picked up my first piece about a year after we started dating. Noel’s goal was to have one of every figure MOC, mine was to get as many bad guys, especially Snowtroopers, as possible. We don’t go to any conventions or anything like that, mostly to toy and collectible shows that we find in and around the city. As our collections progressed, we both began shifting to Canadian MOCs. Noel began replacing his American MOCs with Canadian ones and I focused less on Snowtroopers and more on getting the bad guys I liked on Canadian cards (still as many as possible) and developed a love for Hoth Leia.
Six months ago, we packed up our collections, bought a house and moved to Calgary together. We now have one collection room that houses all of our things together. The room is probably 85% vintage Star Wars (the rest is Mega Man, Wonder Woman, and my Super Powers collection). Noel’s MOCs cover the walls and fill up the cabinets and shelves, his loose figures stand in long wall-mounted cases, my case of a Super Powers/Star Wars loose mix hangs below. I have a small corner dedicated to my MOCs, but since the Toy Toni scandal I have put my collection on ice and have been selling off pieces rather than acquiring them, but I always have my eye out for some Canadian baddies and Hoth Leia MOCs. Noel also introduced me to Kenner’s Super Powers line, and I’m focusing on them a bit more these days. I still love vintage Star Wars, but acquiring them isn’t a priority for me right now. Noel’s collection is now nearly completely Canadian, and he’s almost got all the loose figures as well. We would love to get to know some more collectors, so if you’re ever in Calgary, get in touch!”
Thanks for that Clio now to the ten questions!

1. How long have you been collecting?
NOEL: 1989 to 1996, 2007 to present
CLIO: 2012 to present

2. What do you collect?
NOEL: Canadian MOCs
CLIO: Canadian MOCs, “bad guys” (Snowtroopers, Stormtroopers, AT-AT Drivers, TIE Pilots, and Biker Scouts), Hoth Leia
VSWC: Check out a selection of their fantastic collection. 

3. What’s your grail?

NOEL: That I own: MOC wind up R2-D2. That I want: a Canadian multi-pack.
CLIO: That I own = GDE Stormtrooper, That I want: Meccano Snowtrooper MOC

4. What collectors inspire you?
NOEL: Scott MacDonald got my collecting started again.
CLIO: Actually, Noel inspires me. He’s very detailed and meticulous. Everything I know about Star Wars collectibles, I learned from Noel! I also admire those collectors who are humble and collect what they love, no matter the flack they get from anyone.

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

NOEL: Forgot my wallet at the booth at a Toronto Toy show then spotted a loose Imperial Gunner in a $3 bin. Ran back to get my cash, but by the time I got back to the booth selling the Gunner, someone was buying it. I also turned down a case (like 24 MOC) of UZAY figures in the early 90s. Guy was selling them for $20 each (Blue Stars were $40). I bought a 12” IG-88 instead. (I still have the IG-88).
CLIO: My most embarrassing moment was when I had bought Noel a MOC for his birthday that he really wanted. We happened to be in a local vintage toy shop that had the exact same MOC and Noel was determined to buy it. I did everything I could to try and convince him not to buy it and when he wouldn’t back down I had to tell him that I’d already bought it for him. I was bummed! It was disappointing for sure, but more embarrassing that we were having these very serious, geeky discussions as to why Noel shouldn’t buy a MOC in public and I got to feel like that annoying, nagging girlfriend.

6. What is your favourite Star Wars film?

NOEL: Star Wars – A New Hope.
CLIO: The Empire Strikes Back
7. What would you change about the collecting community?
NOEL: Get rid of scammers, fakes and repros.They are all bad for the hobby, and waste my time during online searches.
CLIO: More female collectors so I can geek out with other ladies!
8. Forums or Facebook groups?
NOEL: If you want good answers without a bunch of keyboard ninjas hijacking your threads then forums. Sales are much better on Forums too. Facebook is full of flakes who never come through on deals. If you want to show off your collection for immediate applause (I do sometimes) then Facebook. Facebook has an extremely short memory too. I could showcase my Sears Vaccuform figures every week and have to explain to people what they are each time.
CLIO: Both have their advantages and drawbacks. I definitely prefer the forums and use that as my major source of information and prefer to sell there as I have had more success on the forums than Facebook. If I just want to see awesome pictures of collections and share some, or connect on a more personal level, then I’ll go to Facebook.
 VSWC: I’m in awe every time I see these Sears vaccuform figures. 

9. What Star Wars character do you most resemble?
NOEL: Luke when my hair is long, Imperial Commander when I wear a hat, Madine when I’ve been in the oil fields unshaven for too long.
CLIO: When I’ve been caught in the rain/early morning: Chewbacca. When I’m going out in Canada in the summer: Hoth Leia. When I’m going out in Canada in the winter: Snowtrooper.

10. Is there one thing that collectors may not know about you?
NOEL: I’m a very underrated collector. I’m 32, but have been collecting since I was in grade 2. I’ve seen it all in this hobby, and know a lot. I do get annoyed when noobs don’t do any research and post easy questions, then other noobs post wrong answers.
CLIO: I am not a completest at all, even when I have a focus. I really only collect the pieces I really, really like and don’t care if I have one example of everything. Also, after the ToyToni scandal, I took a very long break from collecting and still have yet to purchase a new piece because I’m so put off by the whole thing. I’ve been focusing on my Super Powers and Wonder Woman collections.
VSWC:Well thanks to both of you for coming onto the blog. It was a real pleasure having such a great couple here and great to get to know a little bit more about you both. Good luck in your collecting and Clio I hope Toy Toni doesn’t permanently dampen your collecting experience. I myself was stung twice by him and it took some time to recover but now I’m as happy collecting as I ever have been!

Forum thread of the month – October 2014: Who was the UK equivalent of Steve Denny? (via SWFUK)

Welcome to the second installment of our new segment – ‘Forum thread of the month’, where we scan the three main English speaking forums, Rebelscum, The Imperial Gunnery (TIG) and Star Wars Forum UK (SWFUK) to pick out the most interesting collector related thread for the month.

Here is last month’s pick if you missed it. It will be a tough thread to top and it’s still ongoing. Admittedly I did bump it a few days ago though…

This week’s thread comes straight out of the UK via SWFUK and its title was “Who was the UK equivalent of Steve Denny?”

The thread was quite short but I found it very interested, particularly given how much I deal and socialise with UK collectors. While we hear a lot about U.S based collectors and the history of U.S collecting, sometimes it’s easy to forget that there were a lot of UK collectors (not to mention European based collectors) also doing the rounds back in the day. I’d love to see similar threads for other countries.

I’ll let you read the thread yourselves but the two names who kept popping up as the UK equivalent of Steve Denny were Jason Joiner and Jim Stevenson. I’ve heard of and interacted with Jason Joiner, who is quite the controversial figure and also the whistle blower on the Toy Tony scam but I had not heard of Jim Stevenson. So it was cool to get a bit of a history lesson.

For those who haven’t heard of him, U.S based Steve Denny is an absolute giant of vintage Star Wars collecting. He was recently interviewed by the Kenner Collector blog and what a scorcher of an interview it was. Check it out!


Collector Snapshot #6 – Krille Söderlund (aka ‘yeahsus007’)

Welcome to the sixth episode of our regular segment, where a vintage collector is given 10 short questions to answer. The same questions will be given to the next collector appearing on the segment.

Next up to bat is Krille Söderlund. He is 38 years old and was born and raised in Sweden where he lives with his girlfriend and their daughter.

VSWC: Here’s Krille relaxing after a tough day playing with his Star Wars toys. 


If you’ve ever come across Krille on Facebook or the forums (he is yeahsus007 on Rebelscum and Yeah-sus on SWFUK), more than likely you’ve noticed what a positive collector he is and that not only does he have a beautiful collection but he it always willing to contribute to vintage discussions. Krille is also very modest so a lot may be surprised to see how comprehensive his collection is.Yes that’s right, Krille is another example of how annoying Scandinavians can be – they all seem to be good looking, self-confident, friendly and intelligent.

Here we go!

1. How long have you been collecting?

I started with my childhood collection back in 2006 after a double date with a couple my girlfriend knows. He showed me his toys and when I pulled out mine from the box in my parent’s garage I was hooked and have never looked back.

2. What do you collect?

I started with collecting loose ships and figures,variants,boxed ships and now I’m mainly collecting carded figures. During the years I’ve been able to pick up oddballs, posters and some paperwork. My ‘goal’ is one MIB of every ship and figure released by Kenner. I also have a soft spot for Playmix/Scanditoys marked toys and everything relating to Star Wars in Sweden.

VSWC: Check out Krille’s collection. Not only is it filled with fantastic pieces but the set-up is as stylish as you’ll get. Even the Persian rug is all class! 

232221   20k1118 19k12k13     k15k17k8   k9k7k6   k5k10k4   k2 k3 25

3. What’s your grail?

I’m one of those lucky bastards with my grail already in my collection. A 12-back Palitoy Darth Vader MOC with a Swedish price sticker.

VSWC: Photo of Krille’s grail below. Yep he’s definitely one lucky bastard!


4. What collectors inspire you?

I’ve been inspired by collectors with great knowledge and who help out in the community. I will take the time to thank my Swedish mentors who always watch my back: Mattias Rendahl, Daniel Bornheim, Johan Sydling, Fredrik Juthberg, Rasmus Hult , POTF Micke and of course the rest of the gang in SSWC (Swedish Star Wars Collectors). 

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

I don’t have any shame in my body so until now nothing.

6. What is your favorite Star Wars film?

As a kid Return of the Jedi but as an adult Empire Strikes Back.

7. What would you change about the collecting community?

In a perfect world we would all be friends, be happy for the collections of others and their scores. I hope someday everybody understands we are collecting toys and it’s meant to be fun.

8. Forums or Facebook groups?

I love forums for the knowledge and all of the info that is easy to reach but Facebook is great for superfast answers and is the easy way to publish photos

9. What Star Wars character do you most resemble?

I see myself as Yoda but I think my friends think of me more as Han Solo; loud but kind.

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

I’m a hoarder and hate to let go of things. My motto is “Buy it so you have it.”

VSWC: Well thank you so much for joining us Krille. I know you’re a busy man so I appreciate your time. Keep collecting and stay cool! 

Forum thread of the month – September 2014: Fragmentation of vintage collecting chat (via Rebelscum)

Hi guys,

This month we’re introducing another new segment – ‘Forum thread of the month. We plan to scan the three main English speaking forums, Rebelscum, The Imperial Gunnery (TIG) and Star Wars Forum UK (SWFUK) to pick out the most interesting collector related thread for the month. It will be tough as some months are busy as hell with a multitude of fascinating threads, while some months are a bit quiet. The reasoning behind this new series is to expose vintage collecting forums to collectors who love their vintage but aren’t on the forums. For example I know there are a huge amount of people on the SW vintage Facebook groups who aren’t forum members; some consider the forums “snobby”, some find them too cumbersome to navigate, while others simply aren’t aware of their existence. While there is some truth to these views, I’m adamant the advantages far outweigh any negatives and I encourage every Star Wars vintage fan to sign up.

The thread that will kick of this series is from the forum that I consider my home – Rebelscum. This thread has actually had quite a bit exposure already on Facebook and was discussed almost exhaustively on Rebelscum so I’m not expecting this post to really generate much discussion on the blog or on our Facebook page. But the fact is that this was by far the most engaging thread of last month so I’ve chosen it to keep the spirit of this series intact.

On 9th September 2014, Chris Georgoulias  (a well known collector and major contributor to posted his opinion that the Facebook vintage Star Wars collector groups are driving collectors away from forum and scattering and diluting vintage discussions. I found Chris’ post extremely thought provoking and while I am a huge user of Facebook, I agreed with a lot of his sentiment. There were some really fantastic responses, both in support of and in opposition to Chris’ thesis. I’m not going to summarise these but will let you guys read them yourself at this thread:

And here’s Chris’ full post. Enjoy!

I hope Chris doesn’t mind me reposting his thread…

So I didn’t want to derail the Wealthy thread, but the FB comments urged me to talk about something I’ve been dealing with for awhile. As much as people love FB groups (and creating them for so many sub-genres of collecting) I grow to despise them day by day. Yes, it’s easier to post images get instant responses, but at what cost?

13k people might be on one group, but the quality of much of the commentary is worthless. Lots of one-liner replies and people giving answers who should be in learn mode, not speak mode. How many people “View Previous Comments” before they write? And often even when you expand it’s pages of commentary that often never needed to be stated. It’s noise. Unlike forums, there’s no threading and every single post piles on top of other posts. Everything is a culmination of every day’s talk and it’s absolutely not searchable. You are doomed to repeat the same topics over and over. It’s Groundhog Day.

FB makes it too easy for people to create a little world to discuss things, but it spreads things out very thinly. And it’s so easily wiped out if the creator chooses to delete it. FB wasn’t intended to be a resource for organized thoughts, it’s a way to share your day to day musings with friends. Joke of the day? Video of the day? Post some photo of your food? Sure, nobody cares a week later. But with a collecting forum you need to be able go to back and see what’s been discussed, to be able to link to discussions and, for the love of Pete, ORGANIZE it.

When the USENET discussions migrated to Web forums like this one we lost the legacy of searching. We gained threading rather than creating separate groups so that was a plus, and certainly hyperlinks are incredibly helpful. Searching this site is difficult and Philip himself wiped out years of old discussions years back that was never archived. The SWCA forums wiped out a lot of good discussion. All of that was good info wasted and wasted info is missing history and experience. The search functions are critical for that to work and without a good way to search, it still makes it a bit difficult to find what you want. But hey, at least you CAN search a forum like this. You can’t do that with a FB group.

I just fear that FB groups will drive people away from organized forums and continue to scatter and dilute the discussions. I thought it was hard enough when SWF UK and TIG started growing, but at least they’re just 2 more searchable and threaded places to keep up with. But with so many FB groups, you can’t keep up with them all and there’s no way to have great discussions that go on for pages. It’s all based around the mobile here and now. Snap a photo, use your thumbs to scribble out a comment and move on. But what is the result?

As this continues we’ll move into an era where the chatter has to be repeated time and again on a near weekly basis. We should be using those groups to drive people to places where they can learn from experienced collectors and see the benefit of creating searchable history. Being so decentralized and “day to day” doesn’t help promote a long term bond with the hobby IMO. You need to have places where the beginner can come to learn, not be thrust into a spot where they can’t figure out how to interact or take the time to learn.

I see a lot of participation in FB groups by people who could be just as active on this forum. It’s hard not to sound like the old man who doesn’t want change, but making things faster and more accessible will come at a price.


Guest Collector: Gary Borbidge and his huge Kenner Prototype find!

Hi guys,

I’m very happy to have Gary Borbidge (aka ‘Greedodidntshoot’ on Rebelscum) appear on the blog to present his massive Kenner find from early 2014. Gary did actually outline this haul previously on Rebelscum but he was generous enough to update it exclusively for the Vintage Star Wars Collectors blog. A lot of our readers are not on Rebelscum so I’m sure they have not yet had the chance to read the details of Gary’s amazing score from a former Kenner employee.

I have to admit I was feeling a little bit emotional after reading Gary’s story. What a great story! This to me is what collecting is all about. Gary was obviously excited about the great pieces he had picked up but you can also feel how honoured he was to have had the chance to hang out with someone so intrinsically linked to the history of Star Wars toys. Lovely touch too that Gary’s father was a part of this epic journey.

Well enough from me, I’ll let Gary take it from here.

2014 Kenner Find by Gary Borbridge

Like most collectors, I’ve spent countless hours scrolling through vintage Star Wars auctions on eBay. From time to time you score a nice piece at a good price, or stumble upon an auction for something special that seems to go unnoticed by others. This is my story of an eBay originated buy that ultimately lead to the highlight of my collecting career. Some of you may have read my thread on RebelScum explaining this story, but if not – enjoy.

I have been collecting vintage Star Wars on and off since the late 90s and mainly supported my collecting (habit) by buying and selling and keeping a few pieces in-between to build my collection. One day in January of 2014 I was checking out some newly listed auctions on eBay and came across a few auctions for some carded figures that were in average shape.  The seller was actively listing the items, so I sent a message to the seller inquiring what other items he/she was going to have for sale. I received a response that they had a few more carded figures, some loose figures and some 12” figures. I asked if the seller could send me some pictures of the items they had not listed yet and received a response containing a few pictures. Among the items was a vinyl Star wars case that contained an assortment of loose figures. Among the figures were four Blue Snaggletooths…. What??? I thought to myself.  Two of the snags looked to be in excellent condition and the other two looked a bit rough. So I expressed interest and ultimately worked out a deal to buy the case of figures.


Fast forward a few days to the day when the package arrived in the mail. As I’m going over the figures, I notice that six of them: two Blue Snags, two Walrusmen, a Greedo and a Hammerhead didn’t have any copyright stamps. I had no idea at the time, as I had never owned any pre-production pieces and my knowledge in that area of collecting was basically zero, but what they turned out to be were painted first shots. This was confirmed by some very knowledgeable and respected collectors on Rebelscum.


Needless to say, I was ecstatic. I couldn’t believe it, this stuff just doesn’t happen! Then it hit me, wait….where did the guy get these? These were basically prototypes. You didn’t go out to the Kiddie City and buy these back in the day, they had to come from Kenner, from in-house Kenner. So I contacted the seller again and discovered that when he was a kid, his uncle had come to the house one Christmas with a box full of Star Wars toys. I then found out to my amazement that his uncle used to work for Kenner. The communication continued with the seller and he ultimately told me his uncle’s name and some limited information about what he was currently doing in life. Chris Georgoulias  (a well known collector and major contributor to confirmed the uncle to be a former Kenner worker. Chris also provided me with some early guidance from his years of experience in tracking down and approaching former Kenner employees, which was a huge help in getting me started on the next phase of this story.

With his uncle’s name and some limited info, I hit the internet and started researching. Without much trouble I located an e-mail address and telephone number for the uncle and emailed him explaining my contact with his nephew and expressing interest in his time days at Kenner. Send………The email was away….

I didn’t really know what to expect. For the most part, I honestly didn’t think I would even get a response. I checked my emails about twenty-five times hoping for a reply. Days went by and nothing. Then one afternoon, there it was – a reply. It was brief, stating that he was sorry that he had not replied sooner. His wife has been hospitalised but he was happy to tell me about Kenner and he promised to write more soon. I thanked him for taking the time to answer me and said I was looking forward to talking with him.

The following day I checked my emails and there was a whole string of emails from him containing several attachments. Pictures. I clicked on the photo attachments and they were all of vintage star wars toys that he explained he had “saved.” MOCs, ESB 3-Packs, figure cases, diecast vehicles, baggies, electronic games, loose figures…. The closer I looked, the more excited I became. I could tell there were numerous other pre-production pieces and some very cool production pieces in the lot. I couldn’t believe it!

We continued to correspond over the next few weeks, chatting about all kinds of things, including his time at “Kenners” (as he called it). During the weeks that we talked back and forth, he was mostly writing me from his wife’s hospital bedside. The recipient of a pair of new lungs, she was fighting through complication after complication. As our communications continued, he told me how much he enjoyed having someone to talk with, someone to take his mind off of the pain that his wife was going through. It felt good to be able to do that for him and I really enjoyed learning about his time working at “Kenners”. He was just out of college in 1978 and took a job with Kenner in their Product Integrity Labs; which was responsible for testing toy safety and reliability. He explained his job to me as “playing with toys to make sure there were no safety issues and to determine how reliable they would be under varying conditions.” He worked at Kenner until mid-1980 when he left to take another job.

I shared all of the toy pictures and play – by – play with my buddy, Steve Dwyer (‘the_dark_artist’ on Rebelscum), and we gushed over them for weeks. Steve’s encouragement and knowledge with identifying several of the pieces in the lot was invaluable to me and having someone to share the experience with as it was happening was really cool. At times he seemed more excited than I was!

Fast forward several weeks and his wife’s recovery was going well and she had progressed enough to come home. We had discussed me purchasing his toys on and off over the weeks that we had been talking and shortly after arriving home with his wife, we came to a deal. The next thing I knew, I was making arrangements to drive out to Ohio. When I told my dad that I was going to be driving out to buy a bunch of Star Wars toys, he offered to be my co-pilot and make the trip with me (that is after he told me I was nuts).  Having my dad with me was awesome. With my job, wife, kids and the thousand other obligations in life, I rarely get to spend one on one time with him. It was so fitting to have him along with me as he was the person that introduced me to Star Wars a long time ago in a childhood far far away… The long ride from Philadelphia to rural northern Ohio gave us a lot of time to spend together.

So on Sunday March 16, 2014 Dad and I were on our way. When we finally arrived at our destination, we were greeted at the door by a tiny woman with a brand new set of lungs. A very sweet woman who welcomed us in and asked how we liked our steak cooked. We were then directed out to a horse barn where we met the man that I had been corresponding with for weeks. We shook hands, I met the horses and we returned to the house for a delicious home cooked steak dinner, followed by a spread of Kenner goodness covering the dining room table.


Some of the highlights of the purchase include 10 figural first shots, two die cast first shots, several carded and loose marked product integrity test samples, several engineering pilots (EPs), 40 bagged figures, three series one ESB 3-packs and 28 carded figures.

This photo is of the 10 first shots in the lot:

first shots

The items in the second picture are marked test pieces (EPs):

test samples

The final photos are of Boba Fett, a transition piece from the rocket firing mechanism to the standard Fett. I think the Fett is one of the coolest pieces in the whole find. It represents the transition of one of the most iconic pieces in the vintage Star Wars toy.

boba fett fett bCK

We spent the rest of the evening talking about “Kenners” over pints of Guinness and games of pool in his basement. It was like hanging out with an old friend. Truly Amazing!

This is a picture of my new friend and I and the toys that I purchased from him. The entire experience was unreal, a once in a collecting-lifetime thing.

gary 4

Collector Interview #4 : Wolff aka ‘Wbobafett’

I’m pumped to present an interview with a collector who I sincerely look up to – Wolff aka ‘Wbobafett on Rebelscum, The Imperial Gunnery and Star Wars Forum UK. Wolff is one of the hobby’s leading variant collectors and when I decided to create this blog, he was one of the first people that popped into my mind as potential interviewees. The work he has undertaken on the COO guide is phenomenal, so good in fact that I voted him as one of the Scummers of the year of 2013 (the entire Rebelscum thread is here – Not only is this outstanding work but he also seems to me to be very modest about it. I’m a variant collector myself so obviously I appreciate the work he has done and hopefully will continue into the distant future

If you haven’t seen Wolff’s COO guide or his amazing website, don’t wait one second longer!

COO Guide 3.0

Now to the questions!

1. Hi Wolff. Welcome to the blog and thanks for joining us. I know you’re a busy man, especially these days, so I appreciate your time. So you’re German right? Germany is one of my favourite places in the world. Where are you from exactly?

W: Yes I am from Germany. I come from “Baden-Württemberg” and was born near Stuttgart. I still live near  Stuttgart…well at least kind of 😀

 2. Is there much of a collecting community there?

W: Oh… sadly not. I guess you have much better chances of finding collecting buddies in the far north of Germany. In the far south of Germany the collectors seem to be more shy and do collect more “off the radar”. Some are on the forums but never post, most are just out there…staying unknown. I met a handful of those collectors in Stuttgart once. All of them mostly collect MOC stuff, AFA and have their loose set but no-one has what “we” call the “variant bug”…hahahaha….pity though.

 The internet is my (only) way to talk to persons with the very same interest :D. So actually only one of the “variant guys” out there  has seen my collection in person: Kenneth_B.

3. Did you get the chance to go to CE2 (Star Wars Celebration Europe 2)?

W: Yes I was at CE2. Only for one day, but it was worth it. I think because I rarely see collectors in person I was a bit too shy to talk to everyone that was there. I just couldn’t do it: Hey Gus Lopez…I am Wbobafett (Wolff) the variant “idiot” from Germany….nahh…that wasn’t really my thing, but I stood next to a lot of the famous guys and listened to them talking to other scummers….great fun though 😀

4.What do you do for work? 

I am an art restorer, mainly paintings and sculptures. I am a freelancer, so I am often on the road. I still don’t have “internet” when I am away from home…no smartphone etc. I can assure you that makes people go crazy….”How can you bid on ebay stuff, read the forums, etc. ???….well it is simple: I just miss it! All the time! LOL!

5. I’ve seen photos of the star wars dioramas that you made. They really are a sight to behold and I don’t think I’ve seen a better collection set up. Is this is a skill you’ve acquired during your professional career or did you just learn as you went along? 

W: Thanks for the kudos. 😀

I would say it is kind of both reasons. I am of course not bad with my hands, otherwise I wouldn’t have studied restoration of art. On the other hand I was never shy to try things and I love to “solve problems” (manual problems of course). I built lots of stuff as a kid and my father built great stuff for me too…always. So it’s kind of a tradition. We both have very messy hobby rooms with lots of stuff laying around that should be repaired, built or just is exploited.

VSWC: Some of Wolff’s amazing dioramas. Take a deep breath before you open these thumbnails!

tat2DSDS2   DS3DS4Hoth1   Hoth2larslars2   jutl jut2 tat

W (continued): I really hope that one day every diorama is finished like I want them to be. But it is very similar to my collection. You are always close…but never finished. My current project is building the Khetanna (Jabba’s Sailbarge) for 3 3/4″ of course. I really got this going on but then I was missing some spare time and it was laying around for …hmm…nine months or so. I am now back trying to finish this project….sometimes frustrating but mostly lots of fun and a real challenge.

6. You also seem to be a master at identifying paint discolouration, issues with plastic degradation etc on vintage figures. Where did you pick up this skill?

W: Uhmm…wow…okay….I think master is a bit too much. I do my best!

In general it is a mixture of common sense and decades of experience. I grew up in a family of collectors. I’ve been going to flea markets and  toy markets almost every weekend since I was born. I am very familiar with every kind of damage to tin toys, celluloid dolls, wind-ups toys, trains, action figures, comics etc.

I also started collecting “Kinder-Ferrero” figures when I was a kid. There were lots of high priced accessories that were nearly perfectly faked in the 90s. People started to use the UV light for those already in the 90s.

And of course it is again my profession that helps me a lot. You need to know every chemical process on colors, adhesives and other materials before you start restoring a painting. I am very good with colors on paintings therefore, but most of the theoretical and chemical reactions can be transferred on the figures’ paint as well.

8. Do you get much time for other hobbies?

Other hobbies?? I don’t have other hobbies. Well I have my own family now and I like to watch movies and television series. All my spare time I have I spend with my daughter right now….and sometimes sneak out to quickly check what’s going on in the SW-universe 😀

9. You are the one of a handful of people that really are active on the three main forums – RS, TIG and SWFUK. Do you have a favourite? 

W: Aren’t there more people active on all three forums?? If I think this through you might be right. Well there are some “issues” between TIG and SWFUK so most people choose only one of those….just a guess though.

I personally do not have a favorite and when I do have one it can change any time.

TIG is known for its variant guys and experts on loose weapons. Rebelscum just has gathered the largest wisdom on all stuff surrounding the SW vintage collecting. SWFUK is the most “honest” forum out there. You can meet nice people and friends in all three forums so why not be a member on all three….and honestly I am member on quite a few other forums… 😉

VSWC: You’re right. There are many other forums, I should have said ‘English speaking forums.’ From what I know there is a pretty popular German SW forum and also a big Spanish one, not sure about languages. I would have also mentioned Joe’s fantastic forum but this is more of a niche forum. 

I’ve always been curious why there is so much discussion about variants on TIG. Is there a reason why so many variant collectors are so active on that forum? I mean why not on RS for example? 

W: The discussions on RS were pretty much “useless” when it came to variants. It mostly got out of hand and the majority of the variant hunters didn’t post anything anymore. The newly formed and published TIG was a kind of a collecting pond for frustrated variant hunters I think?

10.  I haven’t seen you around the Facebook groups though? Have you given them a try?

 W: I am not on Facebook…not even private. I quit Facebook eight years ago or so for several reasons. I have no interest at all joining it again. It might be fun but from what I am hearing it is even worse with all the hassle and stuff?!?!?

VSWC: I can’t argue about there being a lot of dramas on Facebook. Something definitely has to be done to improve the experience but I guess these groups are all quite nascent so hopefully they will improve over time. Facebook is a great way to meet other collectors though. Maybe we’ll see you back one day 🙂

11. I have a few questions about your variant collecting now. How long have you been doing it and how did you get so utterly deep into it in the first place?

W: That is a good question. I have been asked this a lot of times and the answer can’t be given exactly.

I am way too young so I actually only had one figure from the stores: Klaatu. The rest of my childhood figures came from my father who bought them at flea markets and gifted me one from time to time, you know…for washing the bicycle or dusting his collection etc.

When I was older I started to recognize variants on those. I had a Trilogo Fett and I was able to buy a vinyl cape Jawa at the flea market myself. So I was always looking for Stormtroopers and variants.

I started to collect online around 2000. I already had a big collection with about 200 figures and several ships from flea markets. First mistake: I bought repro weapons to complete my childhood collection…..just to burn them all five years later….Dooooohhhhh.

From then on I collected on ebay, always looking for variants. I browsed webshots for pictures to learn about variants. In 2008 I joined RS and from then on I really learned a lot and it took me to a much higher level.

So over all you can say:

1986-1999: Trying to build a complete set (only missing Blue Snag and Luke Stromtrooper)

2000-2008:  Buying main variants and foreign variants (GL, TT, LL)

2008-today:  Research research, research. Trying to bring light to several collecting areas: weapons, coos, Lili Ledy, PBP, Poch etc

12. So how many variants do you actually own then? 

W: Hahaha…good I just updated my Excel-file! 😀

But the answer isn’t that simple after all. Coo-research is done for me. I am trying to downsize and I am sorting out many figures, back to the roots if you will. I am trying to build a variant collection again with the bonus of what I have learned by doing the coo research. What is left is making those final Coo-sheets. Some are done…some not. So being in the middle of a change I have exactly 1003 figures plus 55 bootlegs and of course fodder box and spares. Most of them are complete. I am guessing that 250-300 figures will need to go….though. The more interesting question is what is really left??

VSWC: Wow that is amazing! You have a couple more variants than me…So can you make a guestimate about how many are left for you to find?

W:  There will be always figures I urgently need to upgrade, but really missing is only one figure at the moment. 😀 Well maybe five or six more minor ones but mainly one. What is missing mostly here is some of the rare accessories I really would like to add, i.e. my second pair of LL CCP (Cloud Car Pilot) accessories and a lot of PBP weapons. And of course I am still missing a few grail pieces bootleg wise….if I only could find that Polish Leia.

VSWC: Some of Wolff’s breathtaking collection!

shelf_display_09shelf_display_08shelf_display_16   shelf_display_15shelf_display_14shelf_display_13   shelf_display_12 shelf_display_11 shelf_display_10

13. To your mind what is the hardest to find variant?

 W: Depends what you call a variant 😉

Coo-wise and variant wise it should be the scarred out PBP Luke Farmboy. There are lots of figures out there that are extremely rare but to be honest 99 percent are just mass produced. Some are rare but can always be found, most are just common. But as said: some you have one chance in your lifetime to get them….better be there 😉

VSWC: How many scarred out PBP Luke Farmboys are confirmed to actually be out there?  

W: Difficult question because rumours and people claiming to have one are out there from time to time! Uncracked with original PBP saber – there is only one IMO and it is mine. But there must be more in collections still in the dark. I have seen pictures of three loose ones in collections. There are many more MOC figures especially because this variant is a) very unknown and b) seemed to have appeared on several cardbacks (PBP, German and Palitoy) but thanks to TT (Toy Toni) we will never know for sure….

To make it short: I have seen three confirmed loose ones and I have seen about 10 MOCs (only two are PBP MOCs)….the figures are confirmed whereas the seals (some are “ironed”) are not….sadly

14. I know that variant prices have dropped in the last couple of years. In your opinion will this trend continue?

W: This is not completely true in my opinion. It always depends on what you are looking for.

PBP, POCH and Lili Ledy went down. Some more, some less. Common variants also went down, maybe because they are really common?? Glasslite and TopToys took a huge step upwards in the last few years. Similarly for bootlegs – Mexican and Polish went down, Uzay and Polish originals went up. It is and will always be the “taste of the month”. I can see why many people are a bit fed up with the things that went down. Many, many important people turned their back on variant collecting. Very new ones are filling these gaps. In my opinion there is a lot of information that was lost between these two generations. There are a few guides and webshots albums that are not known these days, this information is lost forever if you will. Newer collectors are confused because of that lack of information. I can see that especially with Spanish figures: the overall view and the developments made since 2008 can’t be seen…which is kind of sad.

But on the other hand I cannot see why some of the PBP figures that are clearly different have dropped that much. Seems like most collectors do not appreciate those figures that much anymore. Kind of sad, because I would have killed (nearly.. 😉 ) for some of those a few years back.

15. Thanks for that market analysis Wolff! Very informative. So now to your COO guide. When did you first start working on it?

 W: Must have been in the early part of 2008. I noticed that combining my finds with Rog’s guide was already huge and wondered what more would be out there.

16. Is the COO Guide 3.0 finished yet? 

 W: It isn’t finished yet…sadly. For me personally it is very boring to do those COO sheets. I have examined COOs for nearly a decade and I know them all. The first guide was a journey, and with the help of fellow collectors there were lots of new things that were discovered. The COO guide 3.0 is simply writing down what’s in my collection and head. But never say never…..especially Patrick (pattejan) and Alex (General Kahn) could find a few minor variants I didn’t know about. So especially ANH was great fun to finish.

VSWC: Do you think you’ll continue producing these guides? I hope so, as I’ve pretty much learnt most of what I know about COO variants from your site.

W: I am not sure if I will make further guides. With the COO guide 2.0 I just wanted too much. It should include 1) COO variants 2) side by side comparison 3) mold comparison 4) color comparisons etc. I simply gave up, especially because the templates were horrible to change if something new popped up. I can see now a few guides that are in the making I always wanted to do, and I think they are in good hands.

I always made guides for my own fun, not to manifest an investment. With my family growing and me being finished with my collection (nearly) I think I won’t start new guides in future. the younger ones are faster anyway 😀 😉

17. Do you feel that your work on the guide is appreciated in the collecting world?

W: Depends. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. I get lots of positive feedback, mostly in private via PM. On RS I always missed the support from the “inner circle”. On TIG I was never asked to be in the Dev Team ….etc. I know I have my outs here and there and I won’t complain…..but I would have wished for more support from time to time. I cannot thank enough Shawn_K for the possibility he gave me. Also Joe_O and Chris_B always supported me, even though none of them has the variant bug or collect COOs. A few of the guides wouldn’t have been possible without them!

18. You are arguably one of the variant collecting masters, which I’m sure you’re too modest to admit but who are the other big variant collectors out there? 

W: Hahahaha…oh well. First of all: I am not the only variant collector out there. There are lots of great collections out there and by far better ones as well. I personally love focus collectors, they do know their stuff much better. So General_Kahn (Luke Bespin), psybertech (Leia Bespin), cocofstar (Yoda), M4K3R1 (Vader) and many more have great collections!

Some of the variant guy’s collections are known (mostly), like Kenneth_B, Mike_Skywalker and some stay unknown, but I can assure you “just wow” like Lee_M, Ilseeker (Carlos) or Javiswspain and Sergio.  I am sure there are many people out there with incredible collections…..not sure how many grails DrDengar and Walkie already have hoarded…though.

I personally think HWR (Henrik) is going the best way. He is patient….god is he patient…..he only collects true and significant variants (whatever that means)…is slowly building and never gets tired! I like this way of collecting….he takes his time….whilst all the new guys always seem to be in a rush….and you never know when someone is selling it all again looking for new goals…..Henrik will keep his collection forever I am guessing… will I hopefully!!

19. Before we finish I have to congratulate you on your latest hard to find variant. Do you want to tell us a bit about that?

Oooooohhhh… must mean my little babygirl…not that Palitoy three-legged R2 I just found….. 😀 😀 😀

Kidding aside, she is the love of my life! It is great to be a dad, and especially a girl I am guessing. I never understood other parents reporting every little step their kids do, but I do understand now….”WOHOOO….she turned around the first time!!! “..”Wohooo….finally the diapers are…..” well… guess you do not wanna hear this, but it is correct: You are happy with every little step your miracle does. It never gets boring!

VSWC: Well thanks Wolff for joining us. Has been great to pick your brain a bit and to learn more about you, your collection and your views on the hobby. 

W: It was a pleasure and an honour Christian. I have to thank you for giving me this opportunity. Thank you and thanks for reading everyone.

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

Hi all,

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


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

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

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

Let’s get to the questions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. So what are your favourite groups then?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some of Bill’s amazing Vader pieces:


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

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

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


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

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

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

8. What Vader pieces are you still chasing?

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

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

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

Some more photos of Bill’s collection:


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

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

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

11. Have you ever collected other Star Wars figures?

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

15. Does it get annoying at any point? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Readers stay tuned for our next monthly collector interview!

Veteran Vintage Collectors and Facebook

Just a quick post today to reiterate a point that was recently made on the blog. Recently we blogged in relation to five things that the Facebook groups could learn from the vintage collecting forums. Well there was a discussion yesterday on a similar topic on Rebelscum and one of the most knowledgeable and popular collectors mentioned that he was removing himself from several Facebook groups. Other collectors also raised their distaste for the Facebook groups. This is just one example of the current sentiment that is prevalent among the community of veteran collectors and which was clearly evident in this Rebelscum thread.

This attitude towards the Facebook groups is a real shame because these old school collectors have a great deal they could contribute to discussions on Facebook but are being pushed away by poor behaviour and people who are unwilling to listen to educated opinions. I know this doesn’t bother a lot of users, but I know on the other hand that there are a lot of serious up and coming collectors on Facebook who are missing out. While it may be easy to simply label some veteran collectors as snobs and say good riddance, we need to take responsibility for our own behaviour in these groups. Let’s do our best to encourage collectors across the whole spectrum of experience to contribute.

Here is the article that relates to this discussion:

While I’m on my rant (they don’t happen often so stay with me!), I also made a new resolution today. I often engage one post wonders or other individuals who simply use Facebook to suck the blood out of us and give back nada. So rather than be bothered by it, I will simply scroll past posts such as ‘How much is this worth?’ or ‘What is this figure?’ I have no problem with these posts but I do have a problem with people making no effort to greet the group before they ask for help or to thank people who take their time to respond. Getting help either on the groups or the forums is a privilege not a right so a little bit of manners would be fantastic. Please join me in ignoring these posts!

And another past blog article relevant to the above:

Ten tips for dealing with other collectors on social networking sites

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

Hi all,

I recently approached one of my friends on the Rebelscum forum, Ian Cowley – resident head kicker and anti u-grade and repro crusader, and asked him to write an article on a subject that is very important to him – the negative effects of reproduction items on our beloved hobby. Well he told me that back in 2010 he had actually written an article on that exact subject and he has kindly allowed me to reproduce it here (no pun intended!). It’s a great read and the core of its message maintains its relevance today. The unfortunate reality is that repros and those who manufacture them continue to damage vintage collecting.

Ian can be a scary character at times, particularly when confronted with cocky newcomers or uninformed advocates of the u-grade and repros. But you would struggle to find someone who loves the hobby more than Ian and he is easily one of the nicest individuals I’ve met on the forums. He is often the first to answer a newbie question (many of mine in the past!) and is well loved by those who know him.

This article is quite timely for my current situation as I just bought a SW figure lot from the classifieds here in The Netherlands and a couple of the weapons ended up being reproductions.

Well here is Ian’s excellent article. I hope you enjoy it and if you are a supporter of repros, I hope you change your view after reading it!

The Hazards of Reproductions on Vintage Collecting by Ian Cowley

I will do my best to summarize the issues concerning repros. I am well aware that there are people here who can better articulate some of these hazards, or who may consider things I may overlook. If anybody wants to add to this, or even replace it with a better one, I welcome it.

First of all, I am going to include a couple of excellent resources that can help identify reproductions.

Jawa Armory
The Imperial Gunnery

The following is going to be fairly long. If you are not going to read the entire post, this is a quick summary.

  • Reproductions are defined, and how they differentiate from bootlegs;
  • Repros have the potential to cheat collectors out of large amounts of money;
  • Every repro purchased, even small common items, fuels the demand for more and helps the creators perfect the quality;
  • ALL repros will eventually and inevitably return to the marketplace if not destroyed;
  • Concerns about authenticity have led to third party authentication services, which have artificially inflated vintage prices; and
  • Ongoing concerns have caused many long time expert collectors to exit the hobby, which depletes us of invaluable resources.

I guess we should start with a definition of a repro as it applies to vintage Star Wars. Opinions on this will differ, but I would imagine the broadest definition would be any product custom made that replaces or substitutes anything produced and released by Kenner or its international subsidiaries at retail during the years of 1977 to 1989 in its Star Wars brand, and is intended to replicate said product. This definition excludes bootlegs, which differ in a couple of ways. Bootlegs were available at retail in most cases, and in any event, may resemble authentic vintage product but were never made with the intent of being a substitution for any licensed product.

For some collectors, repros are a relatively easy and inexpensive way to complete a loose collection that is missing (or has damaged) accessories, decals, and/or other miscellaneous parts. It also provides a method of storing loose figures in reproduction cardbacks to mimic the way in which they were originally sold at retail.

Surely this must be a good thing to be able to finally give that Tusken Raider a gaffi stick after all these years, and to have that rush of nostalgia seeing Luke Skywalker as he appeared all those years ago on the pegs of the local Toys R Us? They certainly display nicer, so what could possibly be the harm?

As it turns out, these repros which in all likelihood were originally created with the best intentions, have fueled a thriving underground market in which collectors are being ripped off by unscrupulous sellers, which threatens the integrity of the hobby as a whole.

Sure, there is little damage from a repro Bespin blaster that completes your beat up Lobot, but as the methods of replicating these accessories has improved, it has opened up an opportunity to make some big money under the right conditions. That Lobot is nothing in the big picture, aside from the fact that someone who has paid money for an authentic Kenner produced item has instead received something different that only copies what he wanted. But what about the person looking to get an authentic carded DT Ben Kenobi? Now we are talking about an item that sells for tens of thousands of dollars. In this example, authenticity suddenly becomes a major factor, as no one would pay that kind of money for a fake item.

The DT Ben example is an extreme one, but it highlights the issues surrounding the dangers of repros. Far more affordable are vinyl caped Jawas, DT Lukes, Luke Stormtrooper Helmets, etc. These are the items that most collectors can afford, yet are still relatively pricey if you are paying full market value for an item that is a counterfeit. Carded figures command a premium over loose figures, and the exact same dangers apply. As repros are made of higher and higher quality, and resemble authentic items more and more closely, it is becoming a challenge even for the seasoned collector to distinguish the fake from the authentic. Scam artists are making a LOT of money by duping collectors into believing they are purchasing authentic items that are not. The more repros they sell, the more they make, and the more they make, the better they perfect their craft of reproducing near exact replicas.

Many collectors who knowingly buy these repro items do so believing that they are causing no harm, as the items are locked away in their personal collections. The truth is, this is an incorrect assumption. Not even the most diehard collector will own their items forever. Notwithstanding what happens to inherited or the unfortunate stolen collections, the fact is the vast majority of collectors who maintain they are in it forever will eventually move on and sell. This can be either a change in interest, or an unexpected financial downturn could necessitate it. There is also the probability that most people upgrade their collections, and it is always possible a repro item will mistakenly be sold or traded off. Any time a repro item leaves your hands, it is unknown what future owners will do with them, which means there is always the potential for a future scam.

The residual effect of this unethical market is the introduction of authenticating services such as that which AFA provides. While it is debatable that AFA provides a needed standardized system of grading that eliminates a separate issue (incorrectly described conditions), it is the authentication service that is directly fueled by the very existence of repros. If authenticity wasn’t a concern (ie. repros did not exist), this service would not exist. Being a business, they charge a fee to authenticate items, which is an additional cost on top of every single vintage purchase a collector wants to make sure contains no repros. This has made a quick and easy way for a collector to forego educating themselves on identifying repros, as they just pay for authenticity. Many collectors pay a ridiculous premium for pre-authenticated toys. As a further issue, some people have seen the opportunity for profit here as well, and purposely buy non-graded top condition toys, have them graded, then sell at inflated prices for the sole purpose of making profit.

The irony here is that repros have caused a bigger problem out of what they were created to solve – the cost of authentic product.

Throughout all of this, long time collectors who have spent countless hours learning how to authenticate their own items, and who have spent untold dollars on building their collections, now watch as newer collectors increasingly find no need to educate themselves, and fill their collections with items that are not authentic. Furthermore, those still trying to complete collections the old fashioned way are facing an uphill battle as repros flood the market and sellers knowingly (and sometimes unknowingly) try to pass off repros as real. More than a few of these incredibly knowledgeable collectors have withdrawn from the hobby as a result, which does nothing but deplete valuable sources of information from the hobby, not just in the toys themselves, but the history behind them as well.

There are still many long time collectors who try to maintain the integrity of the hobby, who will not settle for anything less than authentic items to consider a collection to be truly ‘vintage’. However, the continued use of repros continues to fuel a market that produces them, leading to unscrupulous sellers, fraud, and inflated prices for authentic items.

So what is the solution? As long as a market exists, there is no way to eliminate repros. The only thing that can be done is for ethical producers of repros to make some sort of identifying characteristic on their items. This can be a unique marking, or a significant difference in the repro item (ex. a noticeable change in an accessory’s color may be an idea). Anything that can easily be seen by even a novice collector would help prevent the scams that occur on a daily basis. Unfortunately, as long as there is money to be made from near perfect replicas, this is not likely to happen any time soon.

I can only hope that this post can enlighten even a few of those that feel that a few repro purchases here and there do not harm the hobby. It’s a cumulative effect for sure, but everyone who purchases a single reproduction item is adding their contribution to this mess that threatens the integrity of the hobby which we all hold so dear to our hearts.