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The Caffeinated Collector: Episode 4 – Get Off My Lawn!!!

The Caffeinated Collector: Episode 4 – Get Off My Lawn!!!

MarvinDog Media Star Wars logo(plain)

I’m writing this blog the day after Dallas Comic Con ended. The convention took place at the Dallas Convention Center this time, instead of the Irving Convention Center, due to space limitations. As a result, there were an amazing amount of vendors, writers, artists, and craftspeople there hawking their wares. I was there promoting MarvinDog Media with my friend Taylor Lymbeyr (@barnlord on twitter, and at www.taylorlymbery.com you should seriously check out his art).  I had plenty of time to walk the floor and see the various offerings, and I was struck by how few dealers were there selling vintage toys. This is troubling to the collector in me.

You see, when I first started going to these sorts of conventions, back in 1999, you would find table after table of vintage toy dealers and a few swordmakers and lightsaber dealers mixed in. It was a nerdy collector’s dream. And if you found something you wanted at one table, take a lap around the exhibit floor, you’d probably find it at a better price elsewhere. These days, the balance has shifted. Now, there are tons of people selling leather goods, swords, sabers (light and otherwise), and very few collectibles dealers around.  I know the rise of eBay has a lot to do with this, and it has made it easier for people to fill holes in their collections. However, as we old people are fond of saying, “It’s just not the same as it was before.”

There’s something truly magical about walking up to a table, scanning the inventory, and seeing something. Is that what I think it is? Is that really a complete-in-open-box Kenner Micro Collection Millenium Falcon from 1982 that I need to complete my run? It is!! How much for this? Really? SOLD!

The flipside: Let me log in to eBay. What is it I’m looking for? Oh yeah, the Micro Collection Falcon. How would I search for that. Let’s try “Kenner Micro Collection Millenium Falcon” and see what happens. Oh, look, a lot of Micro Machines from 1998. Page after page and you might find what you want. There might be pictures. Those pictures might give you some idea of what you’re bidding on, but you can never be absolutely sure.

I used to anticipate these conventions because it was a chance to visit my favorite toy dealers and maybe meet a few new ones. Nowadays, I’m lucky if the guys from the last show are at the next show, and the ones that are typically have the same stock as last time.

As with most things, as our society becomes more connected electronically, our interpersonal interaction in some areas becomes less common. This isn’t a bad thing. I’ve struck up friendships with all of you over the wires of the internet, and those friendships are as real as any I have in my day-to-day local life, but it DOES lack the warmth and instant connection that you get from face-to-face interaction. The same is true of collecting. Sure, I can build my collection from my laptop, but that’s not the way I prefer it. As you may have guessed, a big part of what I love about collecting are the stories that come along with a specific item I have tracked down. “I got it from this guy who lives in Trenton and has this terrific southern drawl but loves toys” is better than “I placed my bid with 5 seconds left and got it before anyone else could snipe me back.” Or, maybe that’s just me.

Is this experience unique to my area, or do you all have the same experience at your local conventions? Let me know in the comments section, because I’d love to know how it is in other parts of the country.

I’m hoping I make it to Celebration next year. I also hope I remember to pack an extra suitcase for all the goodies I find there. I also hope to bring back as many stories as I do new items for my shelves. Most of all, I hope to make new friends.

Til next month, Marvin says hi.

Jeff

Email Jeff at jeffm@coffeewithkenobi.com

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15 Comments

  1. Melinda
    May 27, 2014 at 09:25 Reply

    Lest I forget, please allow me to start at t he end… Please tell Marvin hello for me. Maybe you even can give him a little pet, and tell him it’s from one of your far-away friends. 🙂 I’m with you, Jeff — the internet is great for striking up friendships with individuals I don’t think I ever would have met otherwise. 🙂

    Now, on to your query, and my general comments…

    Sadly, we don’t get any “geek-related” conventions in the nearest large city to where I live (I am a suburbanite, but live in a major metropolitan area). Believe it or not, Comic-Con originally was held right here in Milwaukee, but got too big for any convention center the city had to offer … so off it went (first to Indianapolis, I believe, before settling in San Diego). 🙁 I always meant to go (this was before the days when we started having Star Wars Celebrations), but something always came up. “Oh, I’ll just catch it next year,” I’d say to my husband. Well, what happened just goes to show that one shouldn’t take ANYTHING for granted, for “next year” happened to see the Con in a different state!

    So much for having a great, annual resource to mingle with like-minded individuals, and find all kinds of goodies. (I do collect, although I wouldn’t count myself among the serious collectors. Running out of space, I now concentrate on Luke Skywalker paraphernalia … since Luke is my favorite character. 🙂 )

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  2. Melinda
    May 27, 2014 at 09:46 Reply

    … I think there is a similar annual convention (maybe biannual?) down in Chicago, but I keep forgetting to look for it. Then, I hear it has come and gone. lol I think I’ll just have to keep my ear to the ground, and see if I can work it into my schedule one of these days. Or who knows? Maybe it, too, has moved its base of operations!

    I have to admit that we have been rather lucky here since, for many years, there is a shop that has catered to like-minded folks who enjoy collecting Star Wars, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings and a few other errant franchises — but mostly Star Wars! The last few years, business has dwindled, and Mike’s shop is closed more often than it is open. Luckily, I know how to get in touch with him if I “need” to. 😉 I have to admit that I wouldn’t be surprised if he decided once and for all to just close up shop. 🙁 That would be — truly — a dark day in the Star Wars Galaxy. Running such a specialized retail shop, however, has gotten more and more difficult.

    I will say that it always was fun to pop into Mike’s store — or to stop at a table at a SW Celebration — and hear the stories that surround some of the items. Like you, I find the stories so interesting that that can make a purchase all the more worthwhile! 🙂 And not that I ever make it a habit, but there are times I am willing to shell out a few extra $ for a good background tale. 😉

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  3. Melinda
    May 27, 2014 at 09:59 Reply

    … I don’t know how much it costs vendors to be included in any particular convention, but if they want to get the most bang for their buck, I would imagine they’d rather go to the major conventions (like a SW Celebration or Comic-Con) where they’re likely to have more people passing by — and hopefully stopping at — their tables. Considering all they have to go through — including the expense — to get to the convention, I suppose that makes a lot of sense. I always have been impressed by the number of dealers — large and small — who show up at Star Wars Celebrations (the only conventions my family and I have a tendency to attend).

    The downside to being a vendor at a convention — especially if one’s wares are on the small size side — is theft. I was chatting with one of the vendors at CVI whose setup was such that there was absolutely no way for he and his wife to keep an eye on all their merchandise. He must have thought I was so naïve when I reacted with quite a bit of shock when he told me that, unfortunately, there is a great deal of theft — even among Star Wars fans. I won’t get up on my soapbox about the issue of theft, but I will say that those who choose to take something without paying for it hurt us all — driving up prices AND even keeping vendors away because they just don’t want to deal with this added hassle of attending a convention.

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  4. Melinda
    May 27, 2014 at 10:20 Reply

    …Sorry. I have gone a bit afield of your query. That happens with me. I have a tendency to go off on tangents. 😉 lol

    I will admit, Jeff, that while I most definitely prefer the face-to-face interaction when it comes to anything pertaining to life, I have availed myself of the use of the internet, including ebay. It’s a fairly simple way of acquiring something when one doesn’t have a lot of options in one’s own backyard. Every once in a while, one might find out an intriguing story about a particular item when one goes this route, but it’s rare. I suppose the vendors/sellers don’t always put too much stock in the backstories. Oftentimes, that’s the BEST part of adding a new piece to one’s collection! 🙂

    I hope you do get to go to CVII, Jeff (have you ever been to any of the previous Celebrations?). I think you’d really find yourself in your element in the vendor’s hall. Sure, the room is extremely crowded, but it’s a lot of fun to be among your brethren who have a penchant for the same things you do. It’s doubtful I’ll see you there (it’s still up in the air whether I’ll be able to attend the next Celebration. It has more to do with timing — conflicts — than anything else.), but I’ll definitely be thinking of everyone who is in attendance, and enjoying a weekend full of nothing but Star Wars! 🙂

    Yes, bring an extra suitcase — or 2!!! 🙂 I don’t know if you like to collect any of the artwork (how can one go to a Celebration, and not pick up even one poster to commemorate the occasion?! 🙂 ), but bringing your own poster tube is a good idea, too. Yes, one usually can find one to purchase at the Celebration, but they can be hard to come by. At least that has been my experience. Live and learn. 😉

    To make life even easier on you, FedEx should be onsite, too. (At least that’s the way it’s been at the previous 3 Celebrations.) Yes, shipping is an added expense, but there’s something to be said for not having to pack — and cart around — all that merchandise one is likely to purchase. 😉 🙂

    I hope you find some great items! And are treated to some outstanding, intriguing stories. I look forward to hearing about your adventures!!! 🙂

    MTFBWY 🙂

    1. Jeff M
      May 28, 2014 at 09:02 Reply

      I’m not sure why this posted first as a reply to the blog, but here it is again:

      I think you just wrote next month’s blog for me! I think there is still a WzardWorld Chicago every year, you should try to make it, they do good work, even if it IS a big corporate thing.

      As for the size of the shows, it greatly depends on your merchandise. It’s harder to stand out at a big show, so a good medium-size show is really perfect for toy vendors in this area these days, because people like me will spend the same amount of $$ but spread it among 4 or 5 vendors instead of 10 or 12.

      I have not been to a Celebration yet, this will (hopefully) be my first, and I am actually trying to figure shipping vs packing. Good tip about the poster tube, I have one that I can pack (and hope it’s not mistaken for pipe bomb)

      Thanks for commenting, and get out to Chi-town for a show!

  5. Lisa
    May 27, 2014 at 10:24 Reply

    I don’t make it to many conventions – even though I’m in the Chicago area, and we have tons. I’ve made it to G-Fest a few times with my BFF (she’s a HUGE Godzilla fan), but my last visit was about 4 or 5 years ago. As far as collectibles go, I’d say they had about an equal amount of vintage and new (not only Godzilla stuff, either – the sellers bring all kinds of items from other franchises). The last time I went to Wizard World Chicago, I’d say the vintage to new ratio was tilted a bit more in the vintage direction – especially in the area of comic books, but that’s probably the norm. I recall the prices on vintage figs and toys being pretty high, too. They were probably fair – but too rich for my blood. As you say, you can usually find what you’re looking for on eBay (hundreds of what you’re looking for!), and you can shop around for the best price – but you can’t always tell from a photo just how good a certain item is. I’ve been lucky a number of times – and I’ve been burned. Given the choice, I’d much rather see an item in person – hold it in my hand, turn it over, look at the packaging, etc. It’s a better experience overall, IMO.

    The internet is great for many things – but some things will always be better up close and personal.

    1. Jeff M
      May 28, 2014 at 09:05 Reply

      Honestly, I’ve really only gotten burned on eBay once, and THAT was from a dealer that I had met and purchased from at a convention! He noted that something was “Mint In Box” and when I got it, it was missing some pieces and his defense was “I didn’t say it was complete”….needless to say I didn’t do business with him any more, and didn’t see him at any conventions after that.

      I’m certainly not opposed to using eBay, in fact I make extensive use of it these days, the lack of toy vendors kind of forces me to do so. But I think we both agree that it’s just not the same.

      Good grief, I’m getting old 🙂 Thanks for the comments Lisa 🙂

  6. Jeff McGee
    May 27, 2014 at 12:31 Reply

    I think you just wrote next month’s blog for me! I think there is still a WzardWorld Chicago every year, you should try to make it, they do good work, even if it IS a big corporate thing.

    As for the size of the shows, it greatly depends on your merchandise. It’s harder to stand out at a big show, so a good medium-size show is really perfect for toy vendors in this area these days, because people like me will spend the same amount of $$ but spread it among 4 or 5 vendors instead of 10 or 12.

    I have not been to a Celebration yet, this will (hopefully) be my first, and I am actually trying to figure shipping vs packing. Good tip about the poster tube, I have one that I can pack (and hope it’s not mistaken for pipe bomb)

    Thanks for commenting, and get out to Chi-town for a show!

  7. Lisa
    May 27, 2014 at 13:07 Reply

    Would that I could! I just can’t afford to. ‘Someday’ has become my motto. 😛

    Happy to be of help with your next entry! My bill is in the mail. 😉

    1. Jeff M
      May 28, 2014 at 09:06 Reply

      it’s funny how many items get lost in transit on their way to my place….just warning you… 🙂

      1. Lisa
        May 29, 2014 at 11:04 Reply

        Uh-huh! Sure…. 😉

  8. Becca Benjamin
    May 28, 2014 at 22:32 Reply

    Hi Marvin! 🙂
    BTW, if he comes along to SW celebration, I call dibs! lol! He really is a cutie.

    Now getting to your awesome blog….where to start? Oh heck, I’ll just jump right in 😉

    As you already know, I’m not a huge collector. Not like you, whole sets etc. For me, it’s very random, if I like it, I get it. It doesn’t have to be part of a set, just has to call my name 😉

    I am sad to hear that it seems that the vending of collectibles is fading in size. It’s true, the internet seems to be the way it works nowadays. It saves people time and money when completing their collections via e-bay versus the conventions. Of course, as you say, they consumer than lacks the story behind their new treasured item. Nothing beats a good story 😉 Personally, I’d rather travel the distance, spend the money (that I really don’t have lol) and get the extraordinary tale behind my newest addition to adorn my wall/case/shelf. It’s worth every second and cent….ok, more like dollars, but you get my drift 😉

    Thanks for all the collecting tips and thoughts 🙂
    …..oh, tell Marvin that Rusty says hi.

    1. Jeff M
      May 29, 2014 at 09:15 Reply

      Thanks for the kind words, Becca 🙂 Marvin said “Rusty owes me money!!!” so that’s something they’ll need to work out between themselves.

      Unfortunately, Marvin does not travel well, so will probably get to spend the week with his cousins while I’m in Anaheim. Wasn’t Anaheim one of the places in “Thor: The Dark World”???

      “The Vending of Collectibles” sounds like a sword-and-sorcery epic about a humble merchant who must go on a quest to find the one ring Mint In a Sealed Box so that it may be graded. Get to work on that, Ms. Storyteller 🙂

      I agree about the interaction, that’s why I’m so glad we have 2 vintage toy stores in this area, sometimes the item you buy has an actual history behind it that makes it even more interesting.

      Also, if any of your items are actually calling your name, you may have a possessed toy on your hands. That commands a premium on the secondary market, so make sure you list it as such if you ever decide to sell. 🙂

  9. Aaron Harris
    June 4, 2014 at 06:38 Reply

    I went to my first convention this year, Megacon in Orlando. Incredible experience!!!! The diversity in fandoms were incredible! And the items I wanted to buy were numerous and heart breaking, considering I wasn’t quite prepared to spend what I wanted. I’m hooked now! Looking forward to Tampa Bay ComiCon in August.

    1. Jeff M
      June 4, 2014 at 18:33 Reply

      Sounds like Florida is the place to be!!!

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