I made an admission recently about how small my actual personal vintage 80s collection is, and I wanted to expand upon that a bit. Though it mostly pertained to my collection of things that I actually had from when I was a kid to now, surviving personal pop culture relics, I think sometimes I might give off the wrong impression as to how large my actual vintage collection of stuff really is. By that I mean it’s kind of small, at least in terms of what I think someone who runs an 80s nostalgia site might, and probably usually owns. Sure, I’ll be the first to admit that I have a ridiculously large collection of animation cels, specifically monsters, spooks and creeps from the Real Ghostbusters cartoon, and I still have a pretty big collection of sticker cards (Topps, Fleer, Donruss, etc), stuff that I’ve featured in the Peel Here column over the years, but outside of that so much of the stuff I’ve amassed over the last couple decades spent pining after my youth has been more modern tchotchkes. Take my collection of G.I. Joe 2th anniversary figures. I have around 50 of those adoring the walls of Branded HQ alongside some vintage style Star Wars figures (emphasis on “style”.) I have a bunch of mini movie posters printed at the local Kinko’s self-serve copier when the attendants weren’t looking, as well as a scary amount of 80s cartoons on DVD. But a lot of this stuff is more representational of my nostalgia and not directly linked to it.
Again, there are other things that I have that are more personal, my framed 1977 Halloween Horrors LP, or my sister’s collection of 80s era LPs, but these things by no means make up the bulk of my collection. So, why am I bringing this up? Well, I’ve been thinking a lot of what collections and collecting means to me over the last year and I’ve come to the conclusion that the desire to be a completist, or to focus on only vintage items is, for me personally, a fruitless compulsion. That’s not to say that I’m giving up on collecting, or that I’m only buying a bunch of modern junk, it’s more of a realization that so much of the joy is not in possessing these coveted items, it’s simply the actual desire to own them. It’s the hunt, not the trophy. The trophy, if not the specific, actual item I possessed as a kid, is merely a representation, no more real than a memory of that same item held as a child, or a picture scavenged off of Google image search (for me at least.) So many of the things that I desire to have back, those specific relics from my childhood, are way beyond my ability to ever secure them. They are gone. In a landfill most likely. That’s why the Atari system my friend re-gifted to me recently is so sacred to me.
Part of what drew me to this conclusion was another amazing acquisition I wrote about awhile back, the near complete set of vintage 1st series Garbage Pail Kids that I lucked into for free. When sorting the cards that were given to me, and realizing that so many of them were 1st series my heart was a lump in my throat. After I was done and I noticed that there were about 20 stickers missing, 2 of which were A&B sister cards (meaning there was one image missing from the set of John Pound paintings) I was sort of heart broken. I’d been searching for an affordable set of 1st series GPKs all of my life and here was one given to me for free and it took me exactly 25 minutes to go from elated beyond belief to deflated and full of grief. To my stupid credit, it only took me another half an hour to come to the realization that I was given two gifts that day. One, the set of coveted sticker cards, and two, because it was an incomplete set, I was also re-gifted the hunt. That desire to keep looking. If that was totally stripped I fear that the urge to “collect” GPKs would diminish, and I’m not sure I’m ready to ever let go of that desire.
The other thing that really knocked home this idea of redefining what collecting means to me was when the absurdly cool Tommy Day of Top Hat Sasquatch decided to launch a new project recently called Boxsome. In a nutshell, Boxsome is a site where you can purchase little packages of nostalgia in the form of 80s and 90s era trading card packs. Each Nostalgia pack contains two wax packs of your choice from their inventory, and it comes shipped with a bunch of extra goodies including pogs, stickers, and little designer goodies that I believe will be rotating in and out. At first blush one might think, what is the point? Why would I want only two packs of Howard the Duck trading cards? I can buy the whole set off of eBay for the same price! But that’s just it, if I’m right, Boxsome isn’t about owning all the Howard the Duck cards (complete with a neatly folded wrapper and a set of the sticker card sub set.) It’s about revisiting what it was like when you went to the store or gas station and you were only allowed to spend a dollar or two and you could only afford to pick up a few packs here and there. How many kids ever completed their sets of Topps cards? Sure, I know some of us did. I mean I managed to complete the entire 700+ card run of the 1987 Topps Baseball card set. But I also know that that experience is a lot rarer than we might think. We might have a full run of a set or two, but most of us only had a handful of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Batman, or Dark Crystal cards. And you know what? Maybe that’s all we really need. Just a handful of vintage cards to remind us how neat these sets were, reminding us how it felt to collect them as a kid, and keeping the “hunt” alive by only buying a pack here and there.
Money buys a lot of things. Hell, it can buy you all of the things. But it doesn’t make one a collector, and the act of buying all there is to buy, that feeling of the purchase, will never feel as good as just the simple desire to own that stuff. That desire, the hunt, that’s what’s worth preserving. If you’ll excuse me I’m going to go stare at my collection of 19 Dark Crystal cards I’ve amassed. And I’m going to dream about one day owning the rest…
For those interested, Tommy was kind enough to offer Branded readers a special offer of 20% off your purchase until April 16th! Just go to Boxsome and use coupon code “BRANDED”. Tell him I sent ya!