Echo Base UK Facebook Group leading the anti-scammer charge! Your group can join too!

Hi guys, just a report on a great initiative I’ve been following these past few months involving one of my favourite Facebook buying, selling and trading groups for vintage Star Wars – Echo Base UK Trading Vintage Star Wars 1977-1985. The UK based group was created almost two years and has now blown out to approximately 2000 members. Well done fellas! It is administered by Adam Pemberton, with the help of Paul Desykes, Paul Smith, Wayne Totty, Dean Keenan and John McDermott. I’ve seen all of these guys around the groups and they really are a good bunch of blokes. They do their best to ensure their group runs smoothly for  their members. And they have a great group banner too!

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About three months ago the Echo Base UK admin group introduced a fantastic scammer busting rule that sellers have to include a piece of paper with their name and the date in their sales advertisements. Admin John McDermott tells me that the rule came about after a ‘member’ attempted to scam members by using stolen eBay pictures in his sales ad. His scam attempt failed after the admins asked him to add a photo of his name and date written on a piece of paper to prove ownership. After that protection measure succeeded they decided to ask all members to follow this procedure. As John says, it’s very easy to steal pictures from the internet and we all know it only takes a matter of minutes for someone to get scammed.

I for one think this is a great idea and it really adds an extra layer of protection to what can already be a murky world of online vintage dealing. While John tells me that some groups have already followed their initiative, I think this would be a great rule for other Facebook groups to rally around. True it does take a little bit of extra time to post that extra information and yes some well-known collectors may feel their egos slightly deflated having to prove their sales items are actually theirs but isn’t this group effort worth knowing that our community is safer? Not only will it help against scammers but it will protect against those sellers who ‘flip’ before they have the item in hand (a real no no in our hobby – see Ross Barr’s great article for more info – http://vintagestarwarscollectors.com/guest-collector-ross-barr-and-the-ethics-of-flipping/). We all complain about scammers yet here we are being gifted with a practical solution to assist our fight against these scumbags.

We rallied around the anti u-grade and repro causes, why not conjure that same energy to rally around an anti-scammer initiative? Let’s do this! In the next week or so I will implement this rule in the small Luke Skywalker focus collectors group I admin (our first rule!) and will discuss the rule in the groups I co-admin.

Special thanks to John McDermott for his roving reporting 🙂

Guest Collector – Ross Barr: Have Some Flippin’ Etiquette; It’s Good for Your Soul (and the Hobby)

Hi guys,

Excited and proud to present my good friend Ross Barr onto the blog, this time not as an interviewee but as an author of a great article on the ethics of flipping. While the blog was not responsible for the article, I have to say that I 100 percent agree with it and the ‘flipping’ guidelines it proposes. I came up through the forums with Ross and have had the pleasure of seeing him put together a full Kenner run of MOCs and a great Han Solo focus. Not only does he have a great collection but he is also someone who is keen to stand up to practices he believes are harming the hobby (i.e. repros and u-grading). It’s not always easy being so outspoken about these issues in our hobby as you’re sure to cop criticism and abuse. So I for one, appreciate Ross’ drive and engagement. If you’d like to read more about Ross and his collecting habits, check out his previous interview with us:

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

Ross giving the thumbs up to good flipping etiquetteross3

Please note that Ross is merely suggesting guidelines by which the re-sale of collectibles can occur without us gouging our fellow collector and that the article is not actually intended to undermine flipping. Further, no-one is being forced to adhere to the guildelines he suggests. Whether you are a flipper or against the practice, I’m sure we mostly agree that poor flipping practices can really leave a bad taste in our mouths.

Here is Ross’ article below. Take it away Roscoe!

Have Some Flippin’ Etiquette; It’s Good for Your Soul (and the Hobby)

Flipping – buying an item and selling it thereafter (typically soon thereafter) – is as much a part of the vintage Star Wars collectible hobby as are trading items, selling a piece following an upgrade of that item, or any other buying and selling activity. In fact, flipping is a major part of other industries and economic markets, most notably the real estate and stock markets. Nevertheless, for whatever reason, labelling someone a “flipper” in our hobby tends to carry a negative connotation, whether fair or unfair. More likely than not, folks that have habitually flipped collectibles with no etiquette or little concern for their fellow collector have unfairly given a bad name to flipping, which, if done in a responsible and honest manner, may actually bring positive benefits to our hobby.

Did I say positive benefits from flipping? You’re damn right I did. The collectors that dumpster dove near Kenner’s facilities in the 1980s and/or have bought items directly from former Kenner employees and contractors from that period to the present have sourced collectibles that otherwise likely never would have made it into collector hands. These pioneers of our hobby provided some of these items to their fellow collectors by flipping them in the truest sense of the word. Had these early collectors not pounded the pavement, many rare prototypes and other items that we enjoy today may never have been known to our community. Similarly, folks that spend hours and hours of their time scouring flea markets, garage sales, antique malls, and similarly obscure locations to source vintage Star Wars action figure goodness are benefiting the hobby by getting those items into collector hands. And they’re flipping toys more often than McDonald’s flips burgers.

The profits made from flipping allow many collectors to subsidize their personal collections and obtain items that might have otherwise been out of their reach given their own personal financial limitations. If done in the right manner, most people view flipping as an acceptable way to help build a collection.

Flipping on eBay and other impersonal, fee-based marketplaces carries with it less expectation that the seller will flip in a manner that is respectful to others and responsible from the standpoint of the overall hobby. However, flipping within online vintage Star Wars collector forums and Facebook groups – each of which operates to many degrees like a community of friends that look out for one another – should be viewed more like a privilege that is provided to the flipper in exchange for a tacit agreement to act respectfully towards other collectors in the process.

In that regard, this article provides a non-exhaustive list of certain actions one should avoid if he or she wants to flip in a courteous and conscientious manner within our community. That is, below is a list of flipping “no nos.” Please keep in mind that this article is written from the perspective of collector flipping; those collectors that are in these markets as a hobby. The calculus is understandably different when a dealer – someone who buys and sells to make a living – is flipping. Dealers often times have overhead and other expenses that collectors don’t have, and the need to maximize their financial return on an item is greater for those reasons and also because that money provides for their livelihood and that of their family. With that said, many of the principles below apply equally to dealers and hobby participants alike. I will let you decide which ones do.

Without further ado, if you want to flip, then go ahead and flip, but in doing so you would be wise to heed the following advice:

Be honest about your intentions in sourcing an item you intend to flip.

If you are purchasing an item intending to flip it for a profit, don’t tell your seller that it’s for your “personal collection” or something similar. Many collectors will give a reasonable discount to their asking price if they believe that the item they are selling will be loved by the purchaser, fits that person’s collection, and will be retained in that person’s collection. Stating that you intend to keep a piece (when you really intend to flip it) in order to get a good deal on it and obtain as much room as possible for profit on the flip is dishonest and unfair.

If you can’t get the item you intend to flip at below market value, even if just slightly below market, then it’s probably not flip-worthy.

Whether due to increased transparency in the vintage Star Wars collectible markets on eBay and elsewhere, increased competition from newer collectors, or otherwise, it is more difficult than in the past for collectors to obtain below market deals on items. As a result, too many collectors are charging obscenely above market prices on items they are flipping because they are forced to pay market, or even worse above market, prices to source the items and need to overcharge on the back end in order to make a profit. Sometimes the best deal is the deal that isn’t done. Artificial market value increases brought about by serial flipping do no one any good.

Be mindful of reasonable market values in determining your asking price while also leaving room for some profit for yourself.

Consistent with the ideal of flipping only items that are sourced at below market prices, if you are going to flip consistently, you should strive to price items as reasonably as possible as often as possible. It is entirely feasible to harmonize the interest of making money on a flip with the ideal of not gouging your fellow collector. Our community is a small one, and one of its greatest attributes is the volume of folks that go above and beyond to help other collectors out. Those people rightfully are respected in the community and well liked. On the other hand, collectors that sell regularly for obscene prices aren’t view favorably; the logical implication of these selling practices is that those people don’t care if they gouge their fellow collectors solely to line their own pockets.

Many of the collectors that end up being harmed by these exorbitant prices are newbies that aren’t familiar with fair market values or don’t know how to research them (and these high, above market values eventually become their skewed reality) or longer term collectors that can’t be bothered to do price research. Of course, the former deserves more sympathy than the latter.

Similarly, many flippers source mint or near mint ungraded items, submit them for third party grading, and then charge very high mark ups as compared to what they paid to source the item. Of course, the market is responsible for dictating whether an AFA 85 piece is worth, for example, double an AFA 80 example of the same piece, and these flippers are simply operating within the confines of those markets. Still, if more folks asked themselves whether they really should be entitled to charge a 50%, 100%, or higher mark up on a graded piece versus that same piece ungraded simply because they paid $40 to get the item graded (when they really did nothing to add value to the item or otherwise increase its displayability), our hobby would be a much better place and collectors would likely be less resistant to third party grading services.

Wait until you get the item in hand before you flip it.

Too many collectors are, for reasons unbeknownst to me, so eager to flip an item that they will list the item for sale before they receive it from their source. In some extreme cases, I have seen flippers list an item the same day that they found it. People have a right to sell anything once it is their property, but it is frankly distasteful to sell a piece promptly after someone else sells it to you. If the flipper advertises his or her sale of the item on the same forum from which it was sourced, that’s obviously even poorer etiquette. Perhaps most importantly, one should wait until they have received an item before flipping it since a lot can happen to that item in transit on its way to the flipper.

Take your own pictures of the item when it is in hand to use to advertise your sale.

As discussed above, a lot can happen in transit. On that basis, if a flipper uses its seller’s pictures to flip the item before the item is in hand and the item ends up being damaged in transit on the way to the flipper – which happens more than it should – the second purchaser has now paid for an item in lesser condition than the flipper advertised it to be. That likely will create an awkward situation among the flipper and his buyer as they will be left to negotiate a discount to the sale price to account for the non-disclosed damage or will be forced to cancel the transaction. Frankly, given that just about everyone has a digital camera on their mobile phone, using the original seller’s pictures to sell the item is about as lazy as it gets. And certainly don’t use those pictures to flip unless you have the seller’s permission to do so!

Pack the items cycling in and out of your hands as well as humanly possible to protect them in transit.

Vintage collectibles, most notably mint on card figures, were not intended to be shipped numerous times over a 35-year period. We all have seen too many vintage items damaged in transit – bubbles torn off the card, figures popping through bubbles, vintage boxed items crushed, etc. With more buying and selling comes more shipments of those items, which correspondingly brings more risk of damage. If you are going to be a flipper, that’s fine. Just please make sure you take extra special care to properly pack all the items cycling in and out of your hands.

Be aware of the forum you use to sell the item.

If you purchase an item on a particular web-based forum, Facebook collecting group, etc., it is generally poor form to list the same item immediately for sale at the same forum at a higher price. At the end of the day, it’s most certainly optics to say that if, for example, you buy something on SWFUK it’s better to then to flip the same item on eBay or elsewhere rather than on SWFUK, but really it does just look better. There is an element of optics to all of this. With that said, the number of forums on which collectors sell items is very limited, so more likely than not your seller is going to see that you are flipping the item he or she sold you regardless whether you sell it on a different forum from which you purchased it or not. But if you weren’t dishonest about your intentions in your original purchase, your seller will have less reason to squawk.

Conclusion

Hopefully I have covered most of it, but if I have inadvertently omitted some additional tips people should heed in order to flip in a well-mannered and responsible fashion, please let me or others know. This article was intended to start a dialogue, and encourage people to think a bit more about how they buy and sell in our hobby, how those practices may affect others, and how ultimately the competing interests of profit making and being respectful to others in the hobby may easily be harmonized.

Collector Snapshot #9 – Josh Blake

Welcome to our ninth segment of ‘Collector Snapshot’ where a vintage collector is given 10 short questions to answer. The same questions will be given to the next collector appearing on the blog. Next up is Josh Blake, a 35 year old from Cincinnati, Ohio. He owns a freelance graphic design studio where he creates marketing products for commercial businesses and individual personalised designs. It is these skills that Josh used to great effect during the recent SW vintage Facebook group anti-repro and u-grade combined initiative (check out our article here – http://vintagestarwarscollectors.com/the-day-facebook-groups-united-under-the-same-banner/). Not only did Josh, with some inspiration from Ross Barr, design the fantastic anti u-grade logo but he also worked hard to cobble together the banners of a number of groups, including two of the groups I admin. Here’s an example of one of the banners:

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Fantastic stuff huh! Josh is a pretty modest guy and I was surprised when Ross told me that Josh actually runs the main Star Wars Micro Collection group on Facebook and that he is one of the hobby’s go to guys when it comes to this line of collectibles. Check out his Facebook group here:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/KennerStarWarsMicroCollection/
He also appeared in the Micro Collection section in Brian Stillman’s Plastic Galaxy! Very impressive. I love Plastic Galaxy and I urge anyone even vaguely interested in Star Wars vintage to rush out now and buy the DVD (or at least just click a few times and buy it online…). We actually reviewed the DVD in the earliest days of this blog:
http://vintagestarwarscollectors.com/documentary-review-plastic-galaxy-the-story-of-star-wars-toys/
Well I’d like to thank Josh one last time for his dedication to the wellbeing of our hobby and I’m happy to finally welcome him onto the blog!
To the questions!
 
1. How long have you been collecting?

I began rebuilding my childhood vintage Star Wars collection in December of 1993.

2. What do you collect?

I am known for collecting preproduction items relating to the Micro Collection 1982 line. My goal is to simply acquire items I find interesting – both vintage Star Wars and non-SW. My interest in prototypes occurred some time around 2002 when I began researching product plans for toys that never went into production. This was the milestone moment that ignited my collecting passion. I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio and was one of the lucky collectors that got to see incredible items and spend weekends at those famous local flea markets.

VSWC: Josh and a taste of his micro collection. 

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3. What’s your grail?

My grails include three of the unproduced Micro Collection Playsets: Hoth Bacta Chamber, Bespin Torture Chamber and Jabbas Palace.

4. What collectors inspire you?

Alex Sleder was the first preproduction collector I met that helped guide me in the right direction, Bill Wills helped maintain a good balance between passion and priorities, Tracey Hamilton was the friend who always kept me encouraged when I considered throwing in the towel, Rob Amantea has helped facilitate the majority of my large purchases and Bill Byers consistently has my back and has more than once rejuvenated my passion for collecting.

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

I generally don’t get embarrassed easily, although I do find myself having to ask some of the newer collectors what all of these online collecting acronyms stand for. Other moments may involve alcohol and past Celebration events.

6. What is your favourite Star Wars film?

The Empire Strikes Back.

7. What would you change about the collecting community?

It is my hope that we never lose perspective and always value friendships over the items we collect.

8. Forums or Facebook groups? 

I have never been a huge fan of anything beyond a toy show and a phone call. When I started collecting there was no online community to speak of. I see the arguments for both camps and respect their positions. It shouldn’t be any surprise that the hobby has evolved into the Facebook format, so instead of fighting it I have adapted to that trend. This is why I felt so strongly about starting a Facebook group devoted to my specific collecting niche. I wanted all of the best guys under one roof! As for the debate of whether it’s good or bad for the community as a whole, my personal feelings fall somewhere in the middle.

9. What Star Wars character do you most resemble? 

I would like to think that I resemble Chewbacca – a faithful companion and friend.

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

I have been a percussionist for over 20 years and have performed in both professional and garage band settings. I have served as an ensemble instructor, taught private lessons and have composed dozens of scores.

The day Facebook groups united under the same banner!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading.

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 – http://vintagestarwarscollectors.com/forum-thread-of-the-month-september-2014-fragmentation-of-vintage-collecting-chat-via-rebelscum/
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.
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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!
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VSWC: Gaz and his wife looking sexy and dangerous. 
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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. 
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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! 
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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. 
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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. 
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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…
ross2
 
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. 
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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.