Tag Archives: Collecting

Finding the “Truth” in Collecting

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how and why I collect.  Whether it’s refining and focusing on specific items, trying to curb the urge to splurge on modern collectibles, or just simply questioning why I want to do it on a fundamental level.  A good portion of this pondering has led me to question what is it exactly that I care about in the things that I collect.  When breaking a piece down there are a number of aspects that add or detract from the collectability of the item.  Is it vintage, what kind of shape is it in, is there any personal attachment of a similar item from my childhood, is it “worth” anything, is it rare or obscure, is there a pedigree to this particular item (e.g. did the piece come from a famous collection or was it owned by someone noteworthy), etc.  Every one of these criteria have different levels of importance for every individual piece, and this is something that makes collecting a rich experience.  Every piece has a story.  But sometimes there are things that we just want.  There’s a pull in the gut to pick something up and that desire can be so overriding that the collector, the curator of your museum of storied pieces, takes a backseat to convenience.

A few years ago, before I made the move from Atlanta to Baltimore, I took a tour of some of my favorite places knowing that I was probably never going to get the chance to visit them again.  One of these was a great vintage toy store out in the middle of nowhere that I was always able to find some decent, cheap vintage toys.  On one of these final trips I ended up picking up a cherished childhood Transformer, Afterburner from the Computron combiner set.  The toy was still mint on card and included inside the package was a short comic and mail-away order form for a set of three figures, a mini-combiner set known as the Decepticon Reflector.  Reflector, a toy made up of three robots that form into a single lens reflex camera, has forever been a piece that I’ve wanted to own.  Of all the Transformers action figures my favorites have typically been ones that change into everyday objects.  So Soundwave the tape deck, Blaster the Boombox, Perceptor the microscope or those rad Kronoform watches.  The cars and jets are cool, but it’s harder to suspend one’s disbelief since none of these are to scare for obvious reasons, but the everyday items are usually pretty damn close (with the exception of Blaster of course.)

It was only ever available as a mail-away in the 80s, so it was kind of rare and I’ve never seen one in all my years of digging through antique and comic book stores.  Though I never had the opportunity to get my hands on a Reflector, I always hoped that at some point the set would be reissued.  Well, the other day I stumbled on an auction on eBay with a very affordable set of figures that were still mint in box.  Something felt very wrong about the auction though.  I knew that since the toy was a mail-away that the likelihood that Hasbro ever produced actual packing was highly unlikely (most mail-away toys come shipped in plain brown or white boxes and are sealed in plastic bags.  On top of the packaging, the toy was shipping from China.  Everything about this just screaming bootleg.  But, offered with the Buy-It-Now option at $25 with free shipping it gave me pause.  It made me rethink what it was exactly about my desire to own this figure that mattered.  What is the “truth” of this toy for me?

It very quickly occurred to me that none of the typical criteria for collecting mattered with this piece.  It isn’t a toy I had as a kid, vintage Reflectors in decent shape with all of the accessories command a fairly hefty price tag, and there are plenty of other pieces I’d rather buy in it’s place if I was going to spend that kind of money.  But I still wanted it, and I was extremely curious about the quality of this bootleg toy.  The seller seemed to be specializing in vintage, mint-in-box Transformer knock-offs that were all pretty affordable considering how much their “real” counterparts cost on the secondary market.  Some of those knock-offs are toys that I used to own and that are pretty high up on my hunt list, and what if the quality was nice enough that I could own these pieces again?  I decided to throw caution to the wind and buy the Reflector to test the waters.  For $25 it’d at least be worth satiating my curiosity and I knew that I could at least get some use out of the experience.

Though it took a while to ship out, I received the bootleg Reflector in the mail this past week and I have to say that I’m pretty shocked at just how good the quality of this knock off really is.  I was expecting a super flimsy box with poor printing and super cheap plastic reproductions of the figures and this couldn’t have been further from the truth.  The box feels and looks like an honest to goodness vintage Hasbro product with heavy cardboard, great diecuts on the corners and crisp saturated package art.  A lot of care was taken with the presentation from recreating the official tech specs, to including accurate correct English on all of the text.  I’ve seen plenty of bootlegs at flea markets before, but they always have a ton of broken English and very poor packaging.  The only detail that I noticed that was a bit off was the 1984 copyright/Trademark notice at the bottom of the package since this figure was released in 1986.

So, what about the toys themselves?  Again, I was expecting super cheap, light weight plastic with absolutely no metal accents.  And again, I was wrong on all counts.  Not only did the figures have metal core pieces, but the plastic feels very much in line with similar toys I had as a kid.  The paint is on par for 80s era Hasbro as well and not sloppy at all.  The included stickers look accurate, are printed on nice foil paper and the figure even came with one of those old school heat sensitive stickers that you rub to uncover their Decepticon logo.  In the world of bootlegs I’m pretty sure that is going way above and beyond!

It wasn’t until I transformed the figures and combined them to form the camera alt mode that I noticed some issues with the quality.  There was a little bit of plastic flashing on the figures, a couple little extra bits of excess plastic that needed to be shaved off with a knife in order to make the pieces fit properly in place.  But this is also an issue I’ve had with actual legitimate Transformers toys from Hasbro, so it was hardly that big of a deal overall.

All in all I am pretty stoked with this purchase.  For only a little more than the original toy cost back in 1986 I was able to nab this piece for my collection.  But this raises some interesting questions for me.  Since this toy is a bootleg, shouldn’t I feel, well, bad?  Granted, it’s not like I’m putting anyone out of work buy buying this since no one is officially manufacturing and selling legitimate re-issue Transformers like this, but isn’t there something inherently wrong about adding a bootleg like this to a collection?  Sure, there are a lot of folks that almost exclusively collect knock-off toys, but it’s very rarely toys that are so accurate that it takes a master toy detective to tell the bootlegs from the originals.  Most folks who collect knock-offs do so because they are so cheaply and horribly produced.  The attraction is the sadness of the doppleganger, the deformity, the horribly flashing issues, the terrible paint and plastic color choices.  With a replica bootleg like this though, the only draw is in acquiring seemingly legitimate pieces at bargain basement prices.

To be 100% honest, I’m pretty conflicted.  Though I’m not trying to pass this off as a credible G1 Transformer toy, it’s certainly something I’d have to mention if I ever had a fellow collector over to the house.  At the end of the day, I know that I want this toy on my toy shelf.  Looking at it and playing with it makes me happy, so it has found a home in my collection.  The question now becomes, how far down this rabbit hole do I allow myself to go.  The eBay seller also has a really nice gift set of the complete Computron combiner toys.  That’s an item that I would very much like to reclaim for the collection, but now I have to figure out what is essential about the piece.  What is the “truth” of the piece.  Do I stick to hunting down a vintage set, waiting until I find something I’m happy with at the best quality/price ratio?  Or do I tic this one off the list and order an affordable bootleg from China?

What would you do?

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

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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.

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The All New Branded in the 80s podcast, Episode 7!

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On this episode of the All New Branded in the 80s podcast I spend some time talking about what it’s like to be a nostalgia addicted guy in the world of pop culture collecting.  Though I adore most all 80s nostalgic kid’s stuff, these days it takes more than a tub full of Masters of the Universe figures or a wall of Nintendo NES cartridges to get me excited about collecting.  No, to really make my head spin the stuff that I love to find has to be the kind of things that simply just should exist anymore.  So join me as I talk about a few items I’ve stumbled upon in the wild that really made my eyes bug and gave me that metaphorical punch of nostalgia to the gut.

Here are some pictures of the stuff I talk about in this episode…

Battle-Cat-Hopper

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You can find the episode on iTunes, Stitcher, the Branded Facebook page, or you can also stream it directly from the handy player below, or download it directly by right-clicking and saving here.

You can subscribe to the podcast here!

If you want to chat about the show or other fun 80s junk, you can send me an e-mail to smurfwreck@gmail.com

Cereal Killers sticker cards series 2!

This is a great week for those in the mood to buy some cool stuff! Not only did the second series OMFG! minifigure Kickstarter begin, but on Tuesday Wax Eye officially started selling the second series of their awesome Cereal Killers sticker cards!  I absolutely adore the first series and I was super curious to see what Joe Simko and crew had in store for their second helping of sugary, gory insanity…

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These are available in two formats, either in a hobby box of 24 packs (as pictured above), or in the super cool mini cereal box edition (pictured below.)  Either way you’re guaranteed to secure a base set of the sticker cards this time out, though I do have to admit that I had a lot of fun trading my extras last time…

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Here are a few examples of what’s in store this time out…

To sweeten the bowl, so to speak, this time Simko is also offering even more special chase cards too!  There are three new blacklight/glow in the dark stickers…

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…as well as silver spoon foil cards, sketch cards, and the ones I’m super keen on getting my hands on, Sugar Gitter cards!

7494947684_d8e865808a_oYou can find Wax Eye on Facebook!  Tell ’em Branded in the 80s sent ya!

Wax Paper Pop Art #34, A Very Special Episode in which Klinger Doesn’t Cross-dress…

I had a fun conversation with a fellow on twitter this week about the line of M*A*S*H action figures that was released back I the early 80s.  I find it fascinating that series like M*A*S*H and Dallas were merchandised as much as they were considering they’re more or less aimed at an adult audience.  In particular, the idea of dedicating a line of trading cards to a dramedy like M*A*S*H just seems insane.  “Got it, got it, got it, ooohh, a Hot Lips Houlihan!  I’ll trade you two Klinger’s for your Father Francis…”

1982 Donruss M*A*S*H trading cards

I guess when Doc and Lifeline weren’t enough medics to collectively care for your battle-damaged G.I. Joes, you could always call in the M*A*S*H unit.  And it lightens my heart to know that kids had a Father Francis figure to see those poor souls, the ones with the broken O-rings, got the last rites they deserved…

Wax Paper Pop Art #33, The Arcade and Video Game edition…

It’s been a long time since I was super excited to catch an upcoming Disney animated film that wasn’t a Pixar creation.  That’s why I was so happy after catching the Wreck-It Ralph trailer that was released this week.  Though I’m not usually all that happy with non-voice actor casting, John C. Riley sounds great as the titular character, and the film has the potential to do for video game characters what Roger Rabbit and Toy Story did for cartoons and toys respectively.  In honor of the trailer, here’s my collection of arcade-centric Wax Wrappers from the 80s…

1st up is the 1980 Fleer Pac-Man wrapper…

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Next, from1982, the Topps Donkey Kong stickers

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Moving right along, we find ourselves in 1983 with the Topps Video City set

Finally, here are four wrappers from the 1989 Topps Nintendo Game Packs featuring Mario, Link, The Princess, and the spin-off set of Temporary Tattoos released later that year.  By the by, I talked about these Nintendo stickers in the Peel Here column before

 

 

Wax Paper Pop Art #32, Drawn to women who are drawn bad…

It seems odd that in just over six years of running Branded in the 80s I haven’t really talked about a film like Roger Rabbit.  Hmm, I’ll have to remedy that in the future.  In the meantime, here’s the wax wrapper for the 1987 Topps card and sticker set…

Wax Paper Pop Art #31:Duh Da Duh Duuunnnn, Dun Dun Dun!

Since I’ve been starring at my tiny Hot Wheels A-Team van all week, and since I have a contest going where you can win one of these toys, I decided that this would be a good time to share my 1983 Topps A-Team wax wrappers…

I talked about the stickers from this card set a while back too.

Wax Paper Pop Art #30, the Big Hairy Ape edition…

This week’s Wax Paper Pop Art is all about big hairy apemen.  Whether it’s the hilarious misadventures of an unruly adopted sasquatch with the 1987 Topps Harry and the Henderson’s card and sticker set (which I talked about here)…

…the weird romance and ennui of the master of the apes, from the 1976 Topps King Kong card and sticker set…

…or these next two wrappers from 1967 and 1969 (respectively) featuring the Topps Planet of the Apes card sets.

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Which reminds me, I need to break out my Planet of the Apes cartoon DVD and watch it again…

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Wax Paper Pop Art #29, Assembling some of the Avengers…

Well, it’s Friday and I’m really looking forward to the weekend and catching the Avengers sometime tomorrow morning.  Seems like a good opportunity to share my two main Marvel comics wax wrappers.  First up is the wrapper for the Topps Marvel Comic Book Heroes Stickers from 1974

I didn’t have any wrappers that were more in line with the Avengers, so I figured it’d be fun to pair the above with my favorite wax wrapper of all time from the 1979 Topps Incredible Hulk card set!

Here’s to hoping the Hulk gets to smash a bunch of stuff tomorrow…