This month we continue our series of collector interviews with a well known Transformers collector and blogger whose collection pictures inspire the kind of awe we all felt on our first trip to a Toys ‘R’ Us in the 1980s. We hope you enjoy his insight into the changes experienced by the collecting community in the last decade, his fabulous collection pictures and in place of the controversial opinions expressed thus far in our interviews, a thoroughly balanced and analytical view of collecting and its future. Take it away Eric…
1 ) Who are you and what do you collect?
My name is Eric ‘Arkvander’ Warren, I am 31 years old and I collect G1, G2, Beast Wars, Beast Machines, Machine Wars, RID/Car Robots, Classics, Animated, Prime and AFA figures with heavy emphasis on the G1 lines including all Japanese and European releases. I also collect paperwork, SCF, TF comics and various other Transformers related things.
2 ) How has the collecting scene changed in the last 10 years?
The collecting scene has become a lot more competitive in ten years, especially with the advent of the movies and Transformers returning to the mainstream. Also the ‘next generation’ of collectors (kids who grew up with Beast Wars through Armada) are starting to reach the age where they have a lot more disposable income and are doing what the kids who grew up with G1 did ten or fifteen years ago. That being said it is great that the franchise is thriving in a way it never has before and fans are finally starting to have enough influence to affect Hasbro and what they release. Ten years ago it would have been a pipe dream to get Classics in any form, I remember we all thought we were doomed when Armada came out.
3 ) How do you see the scene changing in 5 years’ time?
I see the G1 market continue to skyrocket since most of the figures (especially 1987-1990) won’t be reproduced or re-issued in any form unlike the earlier stuff. With more and more collectors entering the market it can only mean higher demand with a limited supply. I see the AFA market leveling out due to sellers leaving since there aren’t bucket loads of money to be had there anymore. I know if I worked at AFA I would be worried; there are only so many toys out there to be graded and with such a limited supply their business model can’t sustain itself forever. I see them making drastic changes to stay in business. I also see a higher demand for customization in figures, something that I imagine Third-Party companies will cater to. People will want to make their own characters a reality and the Third Party companies are the perfect avenue to service this need.
4 ) What has been your single biggest success as a collector, or your greatest ever find?
Probably my greatest find was back in the mid 1990′s. Before the Internet, before eBay all I had were friends who had old figures in their basements and flea markets. Our local flea market had a toy dealer who specialized in toys from the ’70′s and ’80′s. I would go every weekend to check out what was new and I would usually come home with something G1 related. Sometime during the summer of 1996 this particular toy dealer must have purchased a G1 collection from someone who cared for them very well because when I arrived one morning I found a huge box full of nothing but Transformers. He had high prices on a lot of the 1984-86 figures (because those were the characters everyone knew) but everything else was a steal. Over the course of two weekends, I was able to obtain (all complete with parts and paperwork) Monstructor, Bludgeon, Stranglehold, Octopunch, Pincher, all 1988 Decepticon Pretenders, Crossblades, Thunderwing, Splashdown, Longtooth, Blurr, Sideswipe, Springer, Weirdwolf, Skullcruncher, Mindwipe, Highbrow, Crosshairs, Sureshot, Quickswitch and a few others for less than $200. I attribute this to a couple of reasons; first this was 1996 and no one was even looking for these guys yet and second, my hometown didn’t have many transformer collectors, especially back then. That flea market was one of the greatest resources for Transformers I had before the advent of the Internet. Interestingly I went back there on a visit home a year or so ago and found a bevy of sealed G2 figures. Again I got all five Aerialbots, Onslaught, all four Laser Rods and a second set of carded Aerialbots for under $200. On another note, there used to be another booth there with a ton of My Little Pony toys and that is where my wife amassed most of her collection!
5 ) What is the most surprising or outrageous collecting story you have heard?
Probably the most outrageous story I have ever heard would be the one with that woman who was selling her (dead?) husband’s G1 collection for one million dollars. I think the entire Transformers community made a collective guffaw when that auction went up on eBay. That may go down in history as the single most infamous Transformers collecting story on the net.
Now the most outrageous story I have witnessed is a different ball of wax. Back in 2001 I was attending my first Botcon in Durham, NC. It was my first real exposure to the Transformera community in person. I remember walking through the dealer room with awe; in fact I remember the dealer room was so large they actually had to separate it into two rooms. Now in the second smaller room (where it seemed all the really good stuff like the Japanese exclusives and things were) was one particular dealer with a G1 Unicron prototype and a price tag of $12,500 I believe. I remember just staring at it for the longest time. During one of my stare sessions I overheard someone approach behind me and remark: “Dad, will you buy that for me?” I remember turning around and seeing a guy in probably his mid-twenties with his father in tow. I remember staring incredulously at them as the father actually considered it! One of my good friends who was with me at the time still tells the story to others outside the Transformers community to demonstrate just how far some fans will go. I never did find out what happened with the guy and the Unicron but I have always wondered.
6 ) If you could pick one item from your collection to keep, what would it be?
I would keep my G1 Starscream for a couple of reasons. First, Starscream is and always has been my favorite character. Second back when I was first buying figures off eBay (around 1998 I think) I bought a MIB Starscream right around the beginning of December. Keep in mind this was before Paypal and shipping confirmation and all that. I waited and waited and it never came. Then on Christmas morning I opened a package from my father to discover it was the Starscream I had ordered! He had somehow intercepted and wrapped it for me and for a few minutes I felt like a little kid again. It was such a neat experience (even though I was the one who bought it, lol!) Anyway, that Starscream means a lot more to me now because my dad passed away a few years ago and it was his attempt to help me enjoy my hobby in the best way he knew how.
7 ) If you could have one item out of someone else’s collection, what would that be?
Probably Ras’s unreleased loose G2 Protectobots. I love some of the crazy G2 color schemes and that thing is just so garish it’s funny. Also he is the only collector who I have seen has the complete set of five with all combiner parts. I can appreciate just how rare those figures are in today’s market.
8 ) What advice would you give a new collector starting out today?
My first bit of advice to new collectors is to take some time and do a lot of research. There is so much product out there these days you really have to pick and choose your battles. I remember when I got back into collecting I decided I was just going to collect everything, but that is a very difficult and expensive goal (which I have since refined). I would say find something you really enjoy, whether that be a character, a line or an aesthetic and start there. Talk to as many other collectors as you can, we have a great community with tons of great people out there. I know I would have been lost without the help of other collectors. I would also echo what others have said and don’t focus on what other people have, that will just drive you mad. You don’t have to have the best or the biggest, just as long as you enjoy doing it and aren’t going broke the sky is the limit.
Many kind and gracious thanks to Eric Warren for words and photographs. Read his blog here
All the best