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.

Sign the anti u-grade petition now!

Please sign the anti u-grade petition and help put an end to this destructive and selfish practice. Let the AFA hear our collective voice now!

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/petition-to-afa-to-end-the-practices-of-u-grading

Read our previous posts on the anti u-grade movement:

http://vintagestarwarscollectors.com/the-day-facebook-groups-united-under-the-same-banner/

http://vintagestarwarscollectors.com/uk-graders-agree-to-cease-u-grading/

 

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. 

Josh_Blake_micro_collection3

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.

UK Graders agree to cease u-grading!

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

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

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

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

The day Facebook groups united under the same banner!

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

The day Facebook groups united under the same banner!

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

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

TOLTOYS_banner luke_banner2 10958547_10153113604914783_1624416157_o

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.