Of White Whales and Holy Grails…


By Shawn Robare

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve turned in an assignment for the league, but this week’s topic, on collecting and holy grails, hits very close to home.  I’ve always considered myself a collector of stuff, but my interest in any one of the things I’ve obsessed over is transitory at best.  There are a couple of reasons for this, but one of the things I’ve discovered over the years is that the acquisition of one of these holy grail items tends to kill any of the passion I had while seeking it.  It’s a cliché for sure, but the fun is truly in the journey, and it’s really shaped the way I “collect” these days.

The instance that led me to this epiphany was when I recently lucked into an almost complete set of series one Garbage Pail Kids.  After being bitten by the nostalgia bug a decade ago, GPKs were one of the first things that I tried to reclaim from my childhood.  I’ve never been a big spender when it comes to picking up vintage items, so it took quite awhile to put together a collection of the stickers at a reasonable price.  I’d pick up a set here and there, anything that I could find under $10, and after awhile I’d managed to scrape together eight complete sets (series three through eleven.)  What I discovered while getting back into the hobby is that these sets are the most common (when the craze was at its height), and the real challenge was finding reasonably priced auctions for series one and two, as well as the last four series when the production run was much more limited.  The going rate for series two is typically between $40 and $50, while a nice set of series one can easily set you back between $75 and $100.  Eleven through fifteen are generally in the $30 to $40 range (per set), so all in all I could probably complete a run for around $250.  I can’t speak for anyone else, but dropping $250 on twenty five year-old stickers was out of the question.  I know this is the cheapskate, spendthrift, Scrooge McDuck in me, but there’s also an interior battle raging over how easy it is to just buying this stuff on sites like eBay.  Again, it’s brings me back to the hunt, a very integral part of the collecting experience, and one that the internet has been killing slowly for years.

What I’m basically getting at is that these days I prefer to “not try very hard” when seeking the white whales or holy grails of my collections.  The completist in me rears up from time to time and I can’t help but spend an hour or two during a month hoping to find some of the things I’d like to acquire, but for the most part I’ve left it up to chance that I’ll ever find this stuff.  Case in point, the GPK series one set that I have is still missing 10 cards (12b, 13b, 14a, 21b, 22b, 25a, 27b, 30a, 34b, and 35a), but considering that I have at least one of each of the paintings represented in my set, I’m not sweating the fact that it’s not complete.  Honestly, it too 25 years before I found any series one cards in the wild as it is, and I know they’re out there on the internet, but I think I’ll just keep “searching” and see what happens.

As far as what I collect these days, the list is a lot smaller than you might think.  In the past 10 years I’ve narrowed my collecting to DVDs (particularly the movies, cartoons and TV series I grew up with), animation cels (from 80s era cartoons that I love), Garbage Pail Kids, 80s era magazines (particularly kid-centric stuff like issues of Stickers, Muppet, G.I. Joe, Thunder Cats, Roboforce, Dynamite, etc.), trading card sticker sets (like the old Topps, Fleer, and Donruss sets for stuff like C.H.i.P.s, V, or even Menudo), and small scale mini-figures (like the Hasbo Heroes lines for Transformers and Star Wars, as well as older cereal box premiums, and current art toys like OMFG and the S.L.U.G. zombies.)  Sensing a theme?  Most of the stuff I seek out is flat and scan-able as imagery for this website, or cartoon related (again, which tends to be fodder for the site.)

So what are my white whales?

Cartoons that have yet to be released on DVD in North America for sure.  Granted, this is more of a rarity based on profitability for studios, but it’s still stuff that I’d love to have that I can’t so I guess it counts.  I’m talking about series like Turbo Teen, Teen Wolf, The ShirtTales, Tigersharks, Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n Wrestling, Visionaries, Kidd Video, unedited releases of The Ewoks and Droids (with at least the opening credits sequence and original incidental music included), and probably the lest likely to ever see a release, the Muppet Babies.  I’m sure there are more, but off the top of my head these are the titles that I’d love to see made available.  Hell, I’m happy I can at least watch Spiderman and His Amazing Friends on Netflix streaming right now.  I finally got a chance to see the X-Men episode and it was awesome.  Also, while I’m on the subject, I’m still pissed no one at Marvel or Disney thought to include Pryde of the X-Men on any of the X-Men cartoon DVDs as an extra feature.  For the record I think I own pretty much everything else that’s been released on DVD witht he exception of some of the Warner Archive stuff (because it’s freaking expensive.)

There are also some stickers that I’d love to get my hands on, particularly the set of Topps puffy Monstickers from 1980.  These were reworkings of the old Ugly stickers from 1965, that were condensed and sold in three pack strips as puffy stickers int eh early 80s.  For the last six years I’ve seen them pop up on ebay, but usually at about $12 a pack, or $100 for a full set.  $12 for three puffy stickers?  Insanity.

While the Monstickers are available, just hideously expensive, there are also some stickers that are just plain rare.  The set I’d love to have were originally released in sticker vending machines in the late 80s.  They’re foil prism stickers that feature horror movie icons and poster artwork.  I’ve managed to get my hands on a few of them, but these have proven to be some of the most elusive stickers from the 80s.  Not only did they not have a wide release (as they were limited to vending machines at movie theaters and pizza places), but I have a sneaking suspicion that they’re also bootlegs as it seems very unlikely that a company could have licensed flicks from all the different studios to compile this set.  Some of the franchises and films featured in this set include Halloween, Friday the 13th, Fright Night, Hellraiser, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Fly, Vamp, Nightbreed, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, They Live, Critters, Beetlejuice, and Return of the Living Dead.  The list literally goes on and on (you can see more of them here, here, and here.)  Back when I was first investing in a comprehensive sticker collection to feature on this site I saw an ebay auction that featured over a hundred of these stickers for $50.  I balked at the price back then, but have since only seen one additional auction pop up.  Now I’d love to pay $50 for a set that large, but honestly I think these are just too rare to reappear on ebay any time soon.

As I mentioned above I also collect animation cels.  I’m a huge cheapskate when it comes to this collection, but even so I’ve managed to pick up stuff from He-Man, Ewoks, The Real Ghostbusters, She-Ra, Bravestarr, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Filmations Ghostbusters series.  Anyway, one direction this has taken me into is in collection cels from the Real Ghostbusters series that highlight the monsters, ghosts, and ghouls featured over the run of the show.  I’ve been sharing these during the Halloween seasons in past years and so far I’ve managed to find cels of a lot of the cooler spooks.  I have yet to lay may hands on a cel of Samhain though, and next to the Boogey Man and the Sandman, he’s probably one of the most famous monsters from the cartoon.  On a side note, I have something very fun planned for Halloween this year animation cel-wise.

If you’ve enjoyed reading about my collecting habits, why not take a second to check out these other League collectors and their holy grail items…

TL, Flashlights are Something to Eat, talks about the Mister Rogers Neighborhood of Make-Believe Playset

Mike, Sexy Geek’s House of Swag, talks about interesting hand puppets and KISS Figures

Tommy, Top Hat Sasquatch, talks about the Muppets toyline

Brian, Cool and Collected, talks about some King Kong Grails

Jason Vorhees talks about the rare NES Championship game cartridge

BubbaShelby, Toyriffic, talks about the Shogun Warriors Rodan

Paxton, Cavalcade of Awesome, talks about Teen Wolf, The Six Million Dollar Man, and an elusive gold Yoda Pepsi Can

  • http://www.brandedinthe80s.com/ Shawn Robare

    Steve – Yeah, there have been a handful of the releases that I’ve picked up without even looking at the price (namely Thundarr, Silverhawks Vol. 2 and the Herculoids), but I never seem to catch them having a sale on the multi-disc sets I want. Sometimes I can squeeze out a deal, but I’m also not staying on top of it like I could. I’m also looking forward to picking up the Pac-Man set, as well as the Dukes and Speed Buggy…

  • http://wonkabar.org/ Steve Dibb

    I wouldn’t be so quick to write off Warner Archive. While their original prices seem a little high, they do have regular sales where you can pick them up at a good price. Also, Amazon sells some of them directly, acting as a go-between. That, and there’s a lot of classic stuff they offer, and they keep coming out with more. I really wanna get my hands on the Pac-Man complete series. :)

  • http://www.brandedinthe80s.com/ Shawn Robare

    Paxton – Yeah, as long as some of this stuff is made available in some way. Thanks for pointing to Karate Kid, now I need to watch that! Tommy – I have pretty much all of my cards and stickers in binders. I bought and framed some Giant GPK stickers, but that’s about it. I have thought about buying one of those poster frames and filling it with cards that I’d rotate out every year or so, but it also sounds like way too much upkeep for me to actually do it. I am looking for some sort of tiny cubby board to display my mini figs though…

  • http://tophatsasquatch.com/ Tommy

    Do you try and display cards or do you just store them? I’m having such a hard time deciding on how to display shit in my office and right now most of it is just lying in boxes!

  • http://www.cavalcadeofawesome.net/ Paxton Holley

    Good picks, Shawn. Turbo Teen is a great one. I don’t think I want to own it, but I’d definitely like it to show up on Netflix Streaming. Other awesome 80s-90s cartoons that have made it are the aforementioned Spidey and his Amazing Friends, Karate Kid and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures. Those have been a blast to re-live. Pax