The All New Branded in the 80s Podcast – Refining my Quest to Collect


By Shawn Robare

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In this episode of the show I switch gears from looking backwards to what it’s like to be a collector in the modern age.  How does getting older change the way I look at collecting, and how can I refine and focus my efforts to best accomplish my goal to reconnect with my childhood.

How about you?  How has getting older reshaped the way you collect?  Have you gone though any collection purges lately?  Focused or refined your hunt?  Let me know in the comments.

For this episode’s shout out I want to take a moment to point to my good friend Paxton’s new solo podcast called I Read Movies.  It’s all about movie novelizations, specifically how these book adaptations differ from their cinematic counterparts.  Pax and I both share a love of novelizations and he does a bang up job of highlighting what they bring to the table for fans of film.  You can find the show on iTunes, Stitcher, or at the show’s site.

i-Read-Movies4

  • Great episode Shawn, one that again is very close to something similar to what I am going through as a collector.

    The “stuff” has become too much as was the spending and recently a purge of sorts has begun. Along with just identifying what is actually in my collection that I value I have sold off a lot (95% of Funko was a biggie) and let my son open and play with a lot of the formerly boxed and carded items I no longer wanted to keep, which in itself was extremely satisfying.

    I have now begun to limit shelf space for certain things. Anything that doesnt fit gets the boot. This allows to me to curate a selection that I truly enjoy and at the same time limit my spending/accumulating.

    Kudos to you for going through the process, freeing isn’t it?

    • Thanks sir. It’s amazingly freeing. There was a point where I’d hoped that if I had a kid I’d pass down the carded 25th anniversary Joes, but they’re kinda horrible toys and so I sold them. I have a huge shelf full of Funko Pops that I flip back and forth on (in terms of selling.) On the one hand there are some of them that very easily represent an entire brand’s worth of pop culture in one figure (like Voltron, Mars Attacks or Beetlejuice), so it’s hard to let them go when their footprint is so small in the collection. But on the other I have a bunch of them that are also represented in other parts of the collection (MOTU, Gremlins, Goonies, Karate Kid, Ghostbusters, Monster Cereals, etc.) It doesn’t help that some of those sell for $50-$100 a pop (pun fully intended), so it’s tempting to let them go. Torn.

      • I had the same train of thought before letting most go. I ended up keeping a few random ones I really enjoyed (Andre the Giant, Robocop, Slimer, Ghost from Pacman) but sold everything for a pretty tidy sum. I used the cash from that sale to buy something I have wanted for years, a boxed vintage MOTU Slime Pit.

        That was my reasoning for doing it, sell it off to gain a piece I have wanted for years. Also I feel the Funko POP market is at its peak so resale prices are SKY high for some POPs.

        • Yeah, I might have to take the plunge. There are a couple of vintage toys I’ve had my eye on for years that I could probably get by selling off the pops. I’ve been wanting one of the Starcom vehicles I had as a kid, a small one called the Parasite that has the pilot AND his visor included. I could turn a shelf of pops into that for sure…

          • Plus less shelf space needed!

          • Totally. And does anything take up less shelf space than Starcom?!

  • Cool and Collected

    Great episode Shawn! You talked about how you have refined your collecting focus to items that you remember enjoying as a kid. My focus went a different direction entirely — I love the 80’s Joes and Star Wars toys I played with, but never got into collecting them hardcore. Now, I really enjoy collecting toys that came out before I was even born. Not sure why or how that happened, and I have no idea where my focus will be in 5-10 years, but it’s bound to be a fun ride!

    • That’s an interesting shift, and I think it might get to something deeper than nostalgia. If I may say so, I think you are definitely more of a case of pure collecting. You see the value in the act, get gratification from it, and can define your focus, but it’s not so much based on compulsion as enjoyment. I see a lot of “kids at heart” that fall into the compulsion category for sure, but it’s refreshing to see outright pure collectors too. :)

  • LordToastButter

    Awesome Episode. I haven’t gone down the rabbit hole of obsessive 80s collecting be it vintage or retro items. I have a few items here or there, I am far from a “completion-ist” in that regard. BUT, I can totally relate to this with my other passion – board games. I got on the current modern board game craze in the early 00s and had to pump the breaks as I began collecting more games then playing. Going all in on new kickstarters, and hunting down vintage games on ebay or at the local goodwill. I’ve cut back, partially due to this realization… my bank account…..and my wife…. I’ve began limiting my games to one or two of a certain game mechanic, not jumping at the next newest thing, sticking to one game ip/brand, avoiding the ever expanding games like X-Wing or the still popular Magic the Gathering, as well as limiting my kickstarter addiction. It’s crazy how this obsession can take hold, its as if the chase is what matters most of all while the items themselves almost become meaning less. We become this weird amalgamation of Smeagol and a Pokemon Training. Is this the end result of the influence of 80s consumerism……that we want all the things… that we need everything and anything….did QVC, late night infomercials, brand commercials between our favorite tv shows, toy brand check lists that came with them, etc turned us all into collecting addicts? On top of this you can’t deny that we are in a weird golden age of 80s/90s pop-culture retro branding where most mass market stores and pop up internet sites prey on our nostalgia for our lost childhoods and rekindle our collecting addictions…. But in reality should we instead be ask ourselves do we really need to “catch them all”… and what is really “precious” to us.

    • This: “…it’s as if the chase is what matters most of all while the items themselves almost become meaningless…” This is exactly how I feel upon completing a collection. Once the hunt is over the passion dies. It’s that same principal that drives kids nuts on the month lead-up to Christmas, but then the next day they don’t care about what they ended up getting. I came to this realization a few years ago when I completely lucked into an almost complete set of series 1 Garbage Pail Kids that a co-worker gave to me. She knew I was into them, and then she gifted me with a shopping bag full of loose 80s era cards. At first I figured they’d all be in horrible shape, and I would have bet money that they were from later series. But as I started cleaning up the mess I was dumbfounded. All in all the set was only missing a handful of cards, and to this day I refuse to get them because then the hunt will die…

      brandedinthe80s.com/6475/peel-here-104-holy-crap

  • Kirk Demarais

    I enjoyed the podcast Shawn! As you can imagine this is something I can relate to very closely. I’ve even been jotting down notes on the topic for months.

    It sounds like we’ve gone through many of the same phases. I’ve been a completionist and a rarity-chaser, two of the biggest pitfalls of collecting that are also some of the most unsatisfying ways to collect. Companies like Criterion and Funko know exactly what they’re doing when they put those innocent looking numbers on their products.

    I tell my son that if you buy something and the next thing you say to yourself is “now all I need is…” then you’re doing it wrong. If you look at your collection and only see the holes then you may as well be a huge black hole yourself.

    I’ve been through the culling and the self exploration as well. There was a time when I just opened a bunch of my precious mint in package collectibles to break through that anal-retentive collecting mentality.

    Also, with a few exceptions, it’s hard for me to buy a new vintage-inspired item when I know that I could buy the real thing. (Sometimes even cheaper!)

    Having an online outlet like you and I do takes it to a different level. My favorite designer, Charles Spencer Anderson, once told me that it’s a dangerous thing when you can justify your obsession. (Much of his work revolves around vintage products, so he’s been there.) My latest little writing endeavor was all those Halloween cassettes on my blog. I bought a few for my own enjoyment at first, but once I turned it into a project I gave myself a license to go crazy. If I wanted to, I could justify it as content that gives me more exposure and could lead to more projects or sales of my existing products. But of course the real motive is that I just like buying and owning and looking at new-old stuff.

    One interesting phase that not everyone experiences is the impact that having a kid has on your collecting. On one hand it slowed my collecting way down because of the lack of resources and shift in my attention. However, there are things that I re-bought just so that my son could have it in his childhood too. SO much of the stuff from our childhoods are presented to the latest generation. It’s neat, but it would also be nice to see whole new set of ideas and stories. (I really appreciate things like Adventure Time, and even LEGO Ninjago and Chima in that sense.) There were so few properties that I grew up with that came out before I was born. DC and Marvel heroes and some cartoons are just about it.

    Another phase I deal with is collectors guilt. I’ve spent more time, money, and energy on this selfish endeavor than I care to admit. Sure everyone has their silly, wasteful obsessions, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay. However, that leads me to the next one, the ‘passing it on’ phase. I’ve had some older collectors unload some amazing items on me because there is a great level of joy there, especially if you’re putting goodies in the hands of another obsessive collector. For instance, Dan Goodsell gave me a bunch of items that he had literally outbid me on years prior. This is a direction I’d like to move in. Not just giving to collectors, but it would be great to sell some of my junk and put it towards some legit worthy causes.

    I don’t mean to dog on collecting. One of the great things about collecting is the way it connects us to each other. You and I are natural gatherers, archivists, and preservationists. By doing the legwork, documenting our findings, and sharing our work with the world from our own perspective we bring up fond memories, and we’re contributing to culture and society in our own little way.

    Anyway, thanks for the food for thought!

    • Thanks!
      Yeah, I waffle on being a completionist. There are some things that I’d love to have a physical archive of, specifically ephemera like Topps trading cards or all of the press materials for The Monster Squad. But then I see the futility of trying to complete more bulky things like toy lines or posters, stuff that I just don’t have the room to display. The urge is there for sure, but the practicality of it makes me pause. And then there is always the fear of losing the joy of “the hunt”.
      That’s great advice you gave your son, and that hits home very closely. It’s giving into the coveting aspect of collecting and neglecting the appreciation. That’s an aspect of social media that is very dangerous for me as well. Seeing folks display their collections or chatting with people about their current obsessions is addictive for me. For instance, I was never really into Madballs as a kid, but with all of the new releases I kept getting the urge to jump in and pick up some of the new releases. Logic had no part in it, and I find myself standing in target with inner monologue like “Eh, it’s just $10, what’ll it hurt?” Sigh.
      That’s a great anecdote from Anderson too, the whole justification of this collecting obsession. I used to save up during the summer months so that I could splurge on things to write about during the Halloween season at Branded. I ended up buying hundreds of animation cels just to have content to write about and now I’m in over my head on those. I do enjoy having that tangible piece of the cartoons I loved as a kid, but I have no energy to properly store/display them and it makes me wonder if it was the wisest of investments ;)
      I’m still hoping a family is in the cards for the wife and I, but in the interim I have found it really interesting to watch my nephew and my friend’s kids as they grow up. Some of my friends ended up completely culling their collections to “make room” for their kids, while others have had a lot of fun gifting their children all their stuff. It’s fascinating to see what the kids glom onto when it comes to passing down toys and cartoons, and what stuff that’s out today works for them as well. I’m constantly curious if the resurgence of 80s and 90s properties has robbed this new generation of something that they can call their own.
      It’s funny you mention the passage of collections from collector to collector too. I’m still amazed by the reach this site has had in terms of finding like-minded folks and in the past 11 years I’ve both received some amazing gifts from fellow enthusiasts and made a concerted effort to pass on portions of the things I’ve amassed because I know that there are people out there that will appreciate the stuff more than I ever will.
      I can’t imagine what the internet would be like without folks like you, Jason Liebig, Dan Goodsell, Todd at Neato Coolville, Matt at Dino Drac, or Jason at Scarstuff. That’s like 50-75% of the online nostalgia archive right there!

      • Kirk Demarais

        Thanks for the thoughtful reply.
        I totally agree about the social media aspect. It’s strange that I can get vicarious pleasure just from seeing other people’s stuff. And yes, it is often that my very next move is to hop over to ebay. Before the internet I didn’t know many people who expressed any appreciation for my collections. Often it was a source of ridicule. And like you said, now it’s amazing and so gratifying to discover more of ‘our people.’

  • Retromash

    Great episode, Shawn. I can relate to so much of what you said. I totally feel your pain about collecting a bunch of magazines and ephemera leaflets and just feeling bogged down with the pressure of having to scan them all.

    I have had to change my collection strategy recently too because it gets to the stage where you either run out of space, are spending too much money, frustratingly only have the very rare expensive items in a collection still to get, or are just collecting for the sake of it. It can indeed become very addictive and compulsive. Must…get…more…toys.

    I used to have the problem of thinking I had to have one of everything just so I could document it all accurately for my site. I quickly realised that would become very expensive if I had to collect every G1 Transformer or every single He-Man figure. And once I had the full collections what would I then do with them? Games consoles and computers is another area. I want to have one of each, but they are much larger than action figures, and I’m never going to have the time to play each one regularly. I had to question why I was collecting stuff. There were many reasons, such as getting a buzz from the hunt, or enjoying just seeing a family of related items sitting on a shelf a bit like in a toy catalogue, but some of the reasons, upon closer inspection, included being a completist just to have bragging rights. Or even because as retro bloggers we feel we are almost expected to collect these things. I’ve made a very big conscious decision to not be as much of a completist now. I used to almost wear it as a badge of honour. But too often have I completed a collection and then had the completion blues of “now what?”. I am now fine having a few gaps in my collections of things. Honestly I am. Deep breath.

    So now, like yourself, I consider myself a curator, selecting what items I want in my own personal museum. Mostly it’s items from my past that I owned and I want to relive, or items that I was never able to own back then. I do occasionally complete sets of things, but it’s only ever small collections and things that I do genuinely get joy from having all of the set. I owned a couple of the thick Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe books in my youth and always dreamed about completing the full set of 10. I managed to complete it a couple of years ago and just seeing the full set on my shelf still gives me joy, firstly because it was always a childhood dream and secondly because I do actually regularly dip into them to check up on some character or other. I think collecting with a strategy or reason like that is fine for me. But I carefully choose what to collect.

    I’ve also decided to cull my collection slightly. I’m a bit of a hoarder and often keep stuff just for that ‘what if’ moment. What if one day someone asks if I have this? What if one day this item is worth money? But I tend to now live by the rule that the Japanese art of tidying teaches, which is to ask yourself if the object gives you joy. If it does then keep it. To be honest the majority of my stuff really does give me joy! whether via nostalgia or cool art, but I did have a lot of stuff that I just felt I *should* own and I didn’t really get any joy from owning. So I culled that stuff.

    I’ve never gotten into collecting the ‘modern retro’ toys like the ReAction figures. I just felt they were kind of ‘false nostalgia’ like you said, and modern marketers trying to get hold of our nostalgia buck. I much prefer to have original vintage items in my hand, that evoke genuine memories. One modern toy range that does stand out, however, is the MOTU Classics line. But I feel that is more designed for the dedicated long standing MOTU fan and made with real love. Plus I only picked the six figures I wanted the most. I didn’t try to collect them all.

    I hope you don’t regret building up your collections of the past, because I’m sure you enjoyed the hunt. The thrill of the chase. A part of me is still looking for things on eBay almost with a mind to bring a small collection together and then sell it on for a profit or just give it to a fellow collector who I know will appreciate it, rather than keeping it for myself. The sheer act of hunting for things on eBay or in flea markets etc and bringing collections back together is a hugely enjoyable process.

    But when someone says “collecting” to me nowadays, I don’t think about someone picking up a full collection of something like SNES video game, or collecting new releases like Funko Pop figures. I think of your Monster Squad Dead Media collection. That’s such a good collection in my eyes. It’s not a collection that’s been set by a marketer or anything like that. You’ve created your own collecting concept and put your own parameters on it. That’s the perfect kind of collection for me. Fun, unique and personal. Or also James Eatock’s growing collection of Trap Jaw figures. I think he’s got about 5 so far and there’s a couple more to get I think. I like cool little mini collections like that.

    At the end of the day it’s all about collecting for the right reasons. Rather than collecting full toy lines, the main list I’m trying to complete is my ‘most wanted list’ of toys from my youth. I’m probably around 75% there and I’m no rush to complete it. I’m enjoying the lazy river through the winding turns of memory lane and enjoy picking up cool things along the way. The journey is just as exciting as the destination.

    Keep up the great, thought provoking podcasts mate.

    Michael

    • Thank you kindly sir!

      Yeah, it’s so weirdly frustrating when I see vintage toys that I find cool, but never had them as a kid (nor did my friends), and I still have this urge to own them. It’s like when I gave into my nostalgia in my 20s I went over to the darkside and now I have nostalgia for things just because they’re 30-ish years old. I watched this with my sister too. Though she never seemed to suffer from the nostalgia bug, she was drawn to things that had a decent amount of age to them. She used to buy any books she could find that were at least 100 years old and had a little curio cabinet filled with stuff from the late 1800s. Nothing expensive, just some spoons, slips of paper, baubles and stuff. When she bought her first house, it was one that was built in the 1880s. It didn’t matter what the item was, if it was over 100 years old, she was into it. So when I see 25-30 year old stickers, toys, magazines, what have you, I get this compulsive itch to buy it. Like Kirk mentioned above, having a justification for that compulsion (in my case my website) is a dangerous thing.

      There’s a real beauty to being able to have holes in the collection and still be okay with it. It’s like graduating to the next level. It’s also one of the reasons why I am so drawn to ephemera. If it’s paper, flat and scan-able then it can be digitized. This solves the issue of space. Granted, it doesn’t solve the issue of acquisition, but when you can find a beautiful network of folks who are totally willing to share their digital collections, well then that is also a beautiful thing. It’s one of the reasons why I never watermark my scans. I want to add to the universal digital collection, not just show off what I’ve amassed.

      As for regrets, I have none. When I was so possessed with collecting 25th Anniversary Joes I lived for the hunt. I’d never want to change those memories. Actually, the only thing I regret was putting together a huge collection of vintage stickers and then deciding to liquidate them in order to buy more for the site. Weirdly, that culling haunts me to this day. So many of those stickers were a lot rarer than I realized and I wasn’t scanning things at 300dpi when I first had them. So even though I have a digital collection it’s not as cool as I’d like it to be for posterity and reuse. My standards for images on my site has changed a lot in 12 years…

      Yeah, my Monster Squad collection is probably my most satisfying. That was a major turning point that’s revived a lot of my love of collecting for sure.

      Thanks so much for the conversation sir. This is exactly the kind of interaction (based on the show) that I hope for when recording :)