1- What do you Collect?
Action figures, ornaments, Grover dolls, comics, statues... But mostly action figures.
2- When and How did you start Collecting and what keeps you going?
I suppose I've always been a collector of some sort, going back to my days as a wee lad. It's part and parcel to being a neat freak, i.e. one's never ending battle to put chaos into order. Like so many of my peers, I grew up on Star Wars, and later Transformers and G.I. Joe. I loved my collection of figures, vehicles and playsets. I was never very rough on them, and always kept them nice and tidy on the shelves when an adventure was not afoot, even as a four-year-old. I'm happy to say the care I took means the Star Wars collection survives to this day. (Sadly the Joes were sold off. And we don't talk about the Transformers...) Collecting as an adult is just an extension of that need to keep things organized. My idea of a well-spent afternoon is re-arranging the toy shelves to accommodate new additions. So one could argue it's all an inevitable aspect of my personality, or that I simply never grew up. The latter is a bit cliché, so let's go with the first.
3- Why do you Collect what you Collect?
Well, psychologically speaking, see the above question. As for content and subject matter... My main focus as an adult has always been the DC animated-style figures, a la producer/designer Bruce Timm. Batman was my favorite super hero as a child (with Spidey a close second, thanks to the "Electric Company"), and "Batman: the Animated Series" really rekindled that love. I started with the old Hasbro line, and haven't looked back since. Over time, that interest in animated Batman bled over to all things DC, such as DC Direct, and for awhile even into Marvel, though I have since curtailed that avenue. (I have to draw the line somewhere!) As I mentioned earlier, I still maintain my vintage Star Wars collection. I'm only missing a handful of figures and vehicles, which I'll track down someday. I'm certainly proud of my near complete Muppets collection, being a big Muppets fan. (Not to mention I worked on the set of " Sesame Street" for a time.) There are many "smaller" lines around the house, some of which get rotated out as new things come in. And then there are all the holiday toys...
4- When did you begin to display your Collection?
Once again I refer back to those glory days of yesteryear, when I would maintain a "G.I. Joe" garage shelf as neatly as if it were a real garage. As an adult collector, I started as a "Mint on Card" kind of guy, but I quickly decided that was no fun for me. Part of the joy in these little plastic people is the visceral act of ripping them off the card, testing the joints, and setting up character specific displays. Honestly, though, I can't recall a time when there weren't at least a few toys sitting nearby.
5- How do you get your inspiration to organize and display your Collection?
Most things dictate how they'll be grouped: Nightmare Before Christmas goes together over here, the Muppets hang out near the backstage playset, Invader Zim stands near Hellboy, but never the two shall mix, etc. For the larger collections, I tend to pick an arbitrary rule and follow that. The animated DC stuff is mostly divided by show, the DC Direct stuff is divided by era (Golden, Silver and Modern), the Star Wars stuff is dictated by the physical constraints of the shelf. (Darned Death Star!)
6- Do you "Collect 'em all", or just the ones you like?
Oh, that is a wringer, now isn't it? I tend to set up my own "rules" and list of priorities, as dictated by interest, price and availability. For example, I collected the modern Star Wars line for many years, but eventually stopped, partly due to the endless repaints. (Not to mention some lousy movies.) It's clear to me that some manufacturers offer repaints and variants which are "legitimate," meaning the figure/character in question appeared in the original media, but just as often it's a "made-up" repaint designed to make a quick buck. I try not to give in to the "gotta catch 'em all" mentality, and stick to my own rules. Generally speaking, I'm pretty good about that. I just happen to have a lot of rules!
7- Do you have a favorite character that you Collect?
As I mentioned above, my collection as an adult was started by Batman, so I suppose all things Bat-related are my favorite. Despite appearances, I'm not a Bat-junkie; I don't hold a candle to many of the serious Bat-collectors out there. (Many of which are featured on Eternal Collector!) My "rules" limit me to all things animated or comic-based. Very little movie stuff for me. And the further one gets from Batman in the DC universe, the less interested I am. I'll go nuts over a new DC Direct Superman figure, but no Legion of Super-Heroes for me, thank you very much. All that being said, I tend to find the supporting characters in the Batman universe more interesting than Batman himself. Actually, that's true for just about any set of characters for me. Mention the characters Batman, Hellboy and Buffy to me, and I'm likely to be more interested in Nightwing, Abe Sapien and Willow.
8- Which item in your Collection would you say is your absolute favorite and why?
Generally speaking, I'd have to say that it would be one of my customs, as they're truly irreplaceable. If I had to be specific, I'd probably answer my animated style Mxyzptlk, but that would likely change as I create more skilled pieces.
9- How much do you spend a month on your Collection?
That depends on how badly DC Direct has screwed up their schedule! Seriously, it's different month to month. If there's not much coming through Diamond, and I'm caught up at regular retail, I can go a whole month and spend only a few dollars. But if the floodgates open (especially around October, when manufacturers pump out stuff for the holidays), the wallet can take a wallop.
10- Which item was the most difficult to obtain?
In this day and age of eBay, it's not necessarily the difficulty in obtaining something, it's the price one is willing to pay. Eventually, just about everything can be found on eBay, but one may not like the price. Some of the hardest, and thus most frustrating things to find these days are the "chase" figures and convention exclusives. (Two concepts which I'm against.) Fortunately, there are only a few of these that fall within my "rules," but when they do, a great deal of patience is often required while I wait for supply to catch up with demand.
11- What is the oldest item you own and the one with the most value?
I've got a beat-up copy of Detective Comics from the fifties that belonged to my father. It's in awful shape, but I keep it framed anyway. In fact, it inspired the current design of my website. As for value, I really have no idea. I maintain this collection for my own amusement, and resale value has never been a factor. That being said, I have sold off parts from time to time, but I rarely make a monetary profit when all is said and done.
12- What is your "Holy Grail"?
I realize it's taboo to say this, but I really don't have one. True, I'd like to fill the small gap in my vintage Star Wars collection, but I have no doubt that will happen in time. And yes, there are some mighty rare and unique items I could probably think off, but their inherent scarcity means they exist outside my "rules," so I don't lose any sleep over them.
13- What inspires you to purchase an item to add to your Collection?
Aside from habit? Just the love of collecting, I suppose. Subject-wise, I tend to gravitate towards pieces from movies, comics, TV shows or stories that I already have an appreciation for.
14- Customizing figures and statues has become very big, have you ever purchased a custom figure or statue and have you ever tried making one?
Oh heck yeah! As an adult, I've customized hundreds of figures at this point. (And as a kid, too, though it wasn't near as organized back then.) I've only ever purchased a custom once, and that was three Transfomer PVCs of Reflector (and only then because it was a good deal and three figures I'd likely never make myself). But otherwise, I tend to make my own. Customizing is a huge hobby in and of itself, with its own sub-categories and participants. For my part, I can't imagine collecting toys without the customizing aspect. It allows for a much greater level of interaction. I feel far less like a well-educated observer and more of a direct participant. When I'm in a store, I'm often scouring the various toy lines for potential parts, even within those lines I don't collect. Perhaps most import to me, though, is the fact that my collection is absolutely unique. There is no other like it on the planet, due to the addition of my customs. The same can be said for any collection that contains at least one hand-crafted creation. This makes the whole hobby, collecting and customizing, inherently personal and by extension, all the more rewarding.
15- Where do you make most of your purchases from?
I'm a big fan of Target for regular retail, and the local comic shop for just about everything else. Once a week I head down to Zeus Toys and Comics in Dallas to see what little plastic treasures Diamond has wrought. I make a few online purchases, but usually only to fill in gaps.
16- How does your partner (wife/girlfriend/husband/boyfriend) feel about your collection?
Thankfully, my wonderful bride (2 months now!) maintains her own collections: Buffy, LOTR, Dragons, etc. If anything, I'm a bad influence on her. Seeing as how we both collect, it's something we can work at together and share.
17- Do you ever get hassled about being a toy collector?
Not really, but then it's not something I advertise in public either. If anything, I've been a hero to several confused moms and grandparents wandering down store aisles, wondering what a "Evolutions Clone Trooper" is. Those who know me tend to find my love of the hobby interesting, even if they themselves don't grasp it. Everyone else... tend not to know.
18- What will happen to your collection after you've passed away?
Assuming future offspring are part of this equation, I should hope they want to maintain the collection, if they share the "bug." If they have no interest in dad's wacky hobbies, I hope they can sell it and get as much as they can for it, and put the money and space to good use otherwise.
19- Is your collection insured?
Probably should be. Can I get insurance against asteroid collisions?
20- What is missing from your collection that you hope to one day acquire?
The aforementioned gaps in the vintage Star Wars line (about 5 figures and 3 vehicles), and whatever's out next month. Honestly, there are some excellent customs by other talented customizers I'd love to own, but like me they make customs for themselves and aren't likely to sell any time soon.
21- What toy did you have as a kid that you most wish you had kept or, at least, kept in good condition for your collection?
Part of me wishes I'd kept the G.I Joes and Transformers, as I think they'd look spiffy organized nicely on the shelf. But then the other part me asks where would I put them?
22- If you needed to raise cash quick, would you consider selling (some of) your collection? If so, what would you NEVER sell?
Seeing as how I have sold off parts of my collection for that very reason, I have to say I might again. As to what gets sold and what doesn't, I'd go to my "priorities" list. My animated DC and vintage Star Wars stuff is high on the list, so they'd be the last to go. (Especially the customs!) Everything else merits some degree of negotiation, depending on how far down the list a particular item might reside.
23- What is the usual reaction when people see your collection?
I find there are two kinds of people outside of fellow enthusiasts: those who visit my home and act as if there's nothing to see, and those open-minded folks who visit and get excited about my world, even if they have no existing knowledge of it. There's rarely a middle ground.
24- Do you attend conventions for some of your purchases? could you tell us about that?
Occasionally, yes, I will attend a show, but not often. In recent years, shows have become more about celebrity watching and paying through the nose for autographs. I have no interest in such. The toy dealers tend to be fewer in number each year, and more often than not only carry whatever the obtained off the pallets at Wal-Mart. Sometimes I'll get lucky and attend a show where I can by lots of older, loose figures (usually for custom fodder), but that's the exception.
25- Most collectors today go on what they call a toy run, do you participate in that as well? And what are your favorite spots? Tell us about your routine.
The internet is a wonderful thing. If I read reports of a certain new item hitting Targets, I know to start checking my local stores. Area reports help me track distribution, and that in turn can save me time and gas. (For the record, Target is very good about equalizing distribution, with Toys R Us second, and Wal-Mart a very distant third.) So I'll visit area stores depending on what I'm hoping to find and my current schedule. I rarely check stores if I'm not already expecting something. I suppose in that regard, the magic of the internet has taken away the element of su rprise.
26- How do you decide what to take out of the package and what stays sealed?
Oh, it all gets opened! Well, 99% does anyway. That's half the fun for me.
27- At what stage do you think your collection will be at 10 years from now, do you think you would have grown tired of it?
I suspect a major change in my hobby/habits would have to be influenced by en external force. Fate willing, the biggest possible change I can imagine would be the addition of kids in my life. Even then, I should hope I could maintain all this to some degree.
28- What advice would you give someone who just started a collection?
Patience! An impressive collection does not happen overnight. In fact, I strongly recommend starting out small, meaning just a few figures or lines, else you suffer burn-out too soon. Also, try not to give in to the "gotta catch 'em all" school of thought. A few chase figures is a sure fire way to walk away mad from the hobby. Collect what you enjoy, and by all means don't think of it as an investment. If a monetary return is what you're after, go be a loan officer at a bank.