Variant Collecting 101 – Guest Collector: Tantive XI mod Steve P (aka cantina_patron)

I’m excited to welcome onto the blog yet another guest collector, this time my good friend and fellow Tantive XI moderator Steve P! Steve is a bit of a legend in the variant collecting world so I thought he would be the perfect candidate to write an article outlining exactly what variant collecting is. Variant collecting is often misunderstood and I can’t count the amount of times I’ve witnessed someone being criticised for “hoarding” figures when they are in fact all variations of a figure.

Massive thanks to Steve and to all of the variant hounds on the Tantive Team for putting this educative and entertaining article together. If you’d like to learn more about Steve, check out his profile on Tantive XI:

Steve’s Tantive XI profile

Take it away Steve!

VARIANT COLLECTING 101 – with Associate Professor cantina_patron (BA, M.A, PHD –  London School of the Identification and Collection of Variant Figures)

What is variant collecting?

Many collectors are happy to build a complete loose collection of the 105 characters & creatures released during the original toy production run from 1978 through to 1985. However, once the collecting bug has set in and a basic set has been built, some collectors maintain their interest by seeking out different versions / variants of each character.

So what is variant collecting? In broad terms it can be divided into:

‘Major’ variants –  involving significant changes in sculpt, materials used & paint application.

Well known examples include:

Han Solo (small & large head)

Jawa (vinyl or cloth cape)

Luke Jedi (head moulded in flesh colour plastic with painted hair or head moulded in hair colour plastic with painted face):

‘Minor’ variants –  e.g. small mould differences, differences in paint application and or colour used. It should be noted that figures produced by a single factory may have minor batch to batch variations in paint colour.

In recent years a lot of collectors have also been collecting COO (country of origin) stamp variants e.g. Hong Kong, Made In Hong Kong, China, Macau, Taiwan, Made In Taiwan, Japan, blank raised bar, no COO and COO scar.

For more information on COOs please follow this link to Tantive XI’s guide:

Tantive XI COO Guides

Any help filling in gaps would be appreciated!

When did variant collecting take off?

Personally, like many collectors I started looking for ‘major’ variants such as Obi-Wan with white and grey hair in the early 90s when I got back into collecting while completing my childhood collection. I am under the impression that serious loose variant collecting has increasingly grown over the last 10 years due to international collectors sharing knowledge and trading via the internet.

How has variant research benefited the vintage Star Wars community?

The research that has gone into variant collecting has helped confirm what factories produced the figures (in part or full), what cardbacks they appeared on & in which countries they were available. e.g. the infamous burgundy coat Bib Fortuna is exclusive to the former Lili Ledy factory in Mexico and was only available at retail in Mexico. The research that has been conducted & published by notable collectors on forums, Facebook & their own websites has been hugely valuable to the collecting community & has driven the current interest in variant collecting. However there are still gaps in our knowledge.

What are some of the rarest variants?

Some of the rarest & most desirable production variants include:

Kenner (US) Luke, Vader & Ben figures with double telescoping (DT) lightsabers;

Meccano  (France) Boba Fett, Luke Farmboy & Death Star Droid;

Lili Ledy (Mexico), Burgundy coat Bib Fortuna, removable rocket Boba Fett & Jawa removable hood;

Poch/PBP (Spain) Jawa, ‘toxic’ green limbed Bossk and 4-LOM;

Toltoys (Australia) unique Vinyl caped Jawa.

Figures produced by Top Toys (Argentina) and Glasslite (Brazil) are also highly desirable to many collectors.

Great care should be taken when purchasing high end variants as there are many fakes on the market, some are obvious but others can only be spotted by the trained eye. It is strongly recommended to do your research, ask questions, request detailed photos and to buy from reputable sources.

Why are some variants overrated?

Some of the most desirable and expensive variants aren’t actually that rare, but due to their desirability they command a premium on the secondary market. Prime examples include: the vinyl caped Jawa, blue Snaggletooth & Yak Face.

The vinyl caped Jawa & blue Snaggletooth are particularly desired by European collectors as the vinyl caped Jawa saw a very limited release here & the blue Snaggletooth was a US exclusive through the Sears Cantina Adventure set. Conversely Yak Face was relatively abundant in Europe, but not released in the U.S, so U.S collectors regard this figure in the same way that European collectors regard the vinyl caped Jawa & blue Snaggletooth.

Prior to the rise of eBay, forums and Facebook, these figures were considered rare outside of their country of origin. Today these three figures can be found available for sale online virtually any day of the week, whereas other variants such as some of the confirmed erarly Poch/PBP (still being researched) and Meccano figures may only be seen very occasionally.

Who are the most well-known variant collectors?

Some of the notable variant collectors who are well known and respected authorities in the collecting community include:

Wolff (Aslan Adam on Facebook);
Kenneth (Kenneth_B on the forums);
Marco (Dr Dengar on the forums)
Sergio (slolance4ever on the forums); and
Henrik (HWR on the forums).

These are just a few of the most well-known, there are many more.

As you can see from the above list,  a lot of  notable variant collectors are based in Europe. One explanation for this may be due to the fact that more variants were available here at retail. For example, in the UK we had figures packaged on Palitoy cards, US Kenner cards and Trilogo cards. The figures packaged on these cards were manufactured in the various Asian factories as well as Spain during the latter period of production.

Factory Errors and Discolouration

A variant is often mistaken for a factory error or discolouration, especially by individuals who are new to the hobby, or don’t take the time to do their research. A true variant is a figure whose appearance is that intended by the manufacturer. Therefore there are numerous confirmed examples for the same character, including MOC.

Factory errors come in many forms. Although they should not have made it through quality control they are pretty abundant. Common examples include:

Short shots / pours where the COO may appear to be very faint or completely absent. These can be mistaken for, or passed off by unscrupulous dealers, as pre-production items. The affected leg will usually have less definition of the other details and be shorter :

Odd limbs e.g. two right arms or two left legs :

Paint errors e.g. missing paint application, or overspray. As the figures are painted before assembly, missing paint usually only includes one colour and affects one part of the body :

Non sonic welded figures. Occasionally figures can be found that are non sonic welded (the process used to ‘glue’ the body together and hold the limbs in place). These figures have a torso which can be pulled apart allowing the component parts to be separated;

Please note that genuine non sonic welded figures have no signs of melting / damage to the internal seams or the pin and receiving hole of the torso. Unfortunately, some people try to pass off separated, poorly sonic welded figures as un sonic welded, so again care needs to be taken when purchasing these factory errors.

Example of a ‘forced apart’ sonic welded figure. Note the damage described above.

More detailed info can be read here:

http://www.tantivexi.com/t1513-short-pour-factory-error-figures.

Discolouration / degradation is the result of chemical changes in the plastic or paint e.g. the breakdown of pigments. Discolouration / degradation is most frequently caused by environmental factors such as ultraviolet light, humidity, gases & temperature. Many people mistakingly identify discoloured / degraded figures as a variant & can take some convincing of the truth. A classic example of this is the ‘green’ limbed Chewbacca. While the discolouration can look very uniform there are enough documented examples which are in the process of changing to demonstrate that they are not true variants, as seen here.

White plastics can turn pale yellow through to orange / brown. There is a growing trend among some collectors & dealers to chemically bleach these figures in order to increase their aesthetic appeal / value. However, it is not known what harmful long term effects this practice will have on the stability of the plastics. It has also been documented that this treatment only provides a ‘short term’ fix as some of the bleached figures have started to turn yellow again.

Paints can also degrade e.g. Pink can fade to cream or white due to the break down of the red pigments.

More information on discolouration / degradation can be found here:

Discolouration

Unfortunately there appears to be a divide between MOC collectors & loose variant collectors. If we can actively encourage more MOC collectors to identify what mould families their figures belong to & confirm the cardback & factory code (where applicable), it will be possible to establish with even more clarity when each variant was produced, its distribution and even where it was manufactured.

Collecting variants can be both fun & frustrating, but the basic full collection of 105 loose figures can be increased to several hundred. Let the chase begin!

Photo Credits: The Tantive XI team & Matthieu Barthelemy

ANNEX: Best internet resources

Here are some links to some of the best internet sources for researching variants:

Tantive XI: http://www.tantivexi.com/
Rebel Scum: http://rebelscum.com/
The Imperial Gunnery Forum: http://www.imperialgunneryforum.com/
Star Wars Forum UK: http://www.starwarsforum.co.uk/

There is also a lot of great information on the Facebook groups, but specific discussions can be hard to find. Forums are much easier to search.

Vintage Star Wars Moderator Roundtable: Forums and the Future

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

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

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

Let’s introduce each participant:

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

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

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

Thomas Garvey – moderator on Rebelscum (RS) – RS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN PERSONALLY INVOLVED?

Edd (SWFUK)11 years, since it started.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6.APPROXIMATELY HOW MANY MEMBERS DO YOU HAVE?

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

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

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

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

7.HOW HAS MEMBERSHIP BEEN GOING THIS PAST YEAR?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10.HOW HAVE THESE FACEBOOK GROUPS AFFECTED YOUR FORUM?

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

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

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

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

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

11.WHAT CAN THESE GROUPS LEARN FROM THE FORUMS?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JohnPaul (TIG): Can FB?

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dutch Comic Con 2016 Report

I originally posted this on the Tantive XI vintage Star Wars forum but I thought I’d share it here as well. Here’s the original thread:

Tantive XI Dutch Comic Con

I recently was fortunate enough to attend the Dutch Comic Con. I had a cracker of a time! I was so excited to meet some comic book artists that I actually turned up at the event before it opened on the first day. Huge queue to get in but it was well managed. Actually the whole event ran really well and I was impressed with how much there was to do. Some excellent comic book artists and writers were there, a few Sci-Fi TV stars, and I couldn’t believe how many back issue comic vendors had set up shop. Crazy cheap too. Not too much vintage Star Wars but to be honest though I didn’t really focus on vintage as I collect comics and it was a comic con after all…. There were some great costumes and of course some very sexy Harley Quinns!

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Some of the vintage SW for  sale. The prices for these empty boxes were disgraceful. Then again at least they aren’t reproduction replicators or whatever the hell that dude calls his abominations….

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A different vintage shop.

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I chatted with Paul Blake (played Greedo in ANH) for a while and you really could have not have met a better bloke. Super easy-going and was happy to chat about Star Wars. I got a photo signed by him and also got him to pose with the Tantive Traveller (Tantive XI’s mascot), It actually cost 10 euros to get a posed photo with him but he did it for free. I was pretty embarrassed when I pulled out the Tantive Traveller but he was a great sport. Seems that Paul actually met the little fella at the Scarborough Sci-Fi con last year but not sure he remembered him…

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I met Billy Dee Williams as well but to be honest I was a little disappointed. I was super pumped to meet him and get something signed but he really looked like he wanted to be anywhere but there. I was carrying on, thanking him for his role in SW blah blah, but he barely acknowledged me. When I went to shake his hand he looked at my hand with disgust and fist pumped me instead. He did do a panel later and that was kinda cool. He’s 78 years old so maybe I’m being too harsh…

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Not the best photo. Billy Dee Williams appearing for a Q&A with the fans. Was a great turn out and most of the fans were pretty young which is good news for the franchise.

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They had a special photo shoot set up for the upcoming Captain America Civil War movie. It’s hard to see but I’m holding the Tantive XI mascot. Yep I look pretty thrilled to be there.

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Although it was cool meeting the SW guys and seeing some of the vintage, I was there pretty much mainly to see the comic book creators. I had comic books to get signed and one commission to request.

I pretty much ran through the entry doors straight to Tony Moore, co-creator of The Walking Dead and artist on the first six issues. I’m a massive fan of the WD comic so this was a big moment for me as a comic collector. Tony has also drawn a load for Deadpool, which I’m also a big fan of. I’m suprised he wasn’t mobbed but that’s the good thing about going to cons in places like Holland, Belgium and France; American or British creators aren’t as popular with the locals as European ones.

I had Tony sign about 15 comics and commissioned him to do a small sketch on one of my Deadpool comics. He ended up drawing a Zombie Deadpool. I loved it!

Hmmh how is it going to turn out?

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Fantastic!

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I won’t share all the comics that Tony signed but I do love these covers in particular. Amazing work.

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The sketch and the autographs were cool but it was even better just being able to chat with someone who has been so instrumental in creating the comics that bring me so much enjoyment. I talked with him for ages about the comics industry, The Walking Dead, Deadpool and his career in general. Even though he wasn’t really involved in The Walking Dead TV adaptation he loves the show and is really proud that he played a role in its creation. The comic is still going strong too.

He and his wife live in Cincinnati so of course I carried on about my passion for Kenner and vintage SW. They both love SW and said they knew people who used to go through dumpsters for prototypes and his wife used to be a regular at the famous ‘The Earth’ bricks and mortars shop there. They even talked about the Dewey Shumate auction (former Kenner employee) that was held last year.

I chatted also to well-known comic book artists Stephen Scott (Batman, X-Men Forever) and Mike Grell (mainly known for his work on the Green Arrow – his creations were the inspiration for some of the characters in the current TV show). Both great guys. I’d actually met them a few weeks earlier at a book signing at Henks comic shop in Amsterdam (my favourite comic store in The Netherlands). Steve kept calling me “Obi Wan,” which was pretty funny. I had a couple of pieces commissioned by them. Fantastic stuff. Steve actually made prints of the Batman sketch he did for me and told me they have been crazy popular. It was the first time he’d ever produced that sketch too so I was pretty chuffed to own such an original piece.

Here’s the Batman that Steve did.

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And a classic Green Arrow from Mike.

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A couple of weeks before this signing I actually went to another comic book artist signing at Henk’s. Steve was there again but this time Phil Jimenez was also in attendance. Both super chilled and friendly guys. Not to mention amazing artists. Steve did a free Batman sketch for me and I bought a special print of their European tour.

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I was lucky enough to also meet Joe Hill and Chris Ryall at the Dutch Comic Con, the creator and editor respectively of another great comic – Locke and Key. We chatted about their work but they also gave me some great tips about writing novels and creating comics. Really blessed to get the chance to receive advice from such accomplished writers. It actually came out during one of the panels that Joe started using the pen name Joe Hill instead of his real name – Joe King – so that his work would get judged on his merits rather than on his father’s. Yep, his dad is Stephen King.

The guys were kind enough to sign a couple of versions of their most famous comic.

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Okay well enough about writers, artists and SW, Here are a few of the cosplay photos and other random snaps I took.

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