Some Transformers collectors can let their sublime displays do the talking, some collectors are known for their knowledge of a particular corner of our hobby. Other collectors are lauded for their contributions to the community, its education and documentation of toys, and others are known for having outspoken opinions and for not mincing their words. This month we interview a unique collector who is a healthy (or unhealthy!) mix of all the above. Starscream lover, regular blogger and former TFSource Reviewer Paul Friemel gives us the pleasure of his company, so take it away Mr June 2013…
1) Who are you and what do you collect?
My name is Paul and I collect a variety of Transformers items, focused primarily on character-based collections. I believe I have the most complete, robust, and generally interesting Starscream character collection out there. Over the years, I have started searching for more rare and obscure figures such as prototypes and lucky draws, as the holes in my collections fill up. I even ventured into Generation 1 cartoon animation cel collecting for a short time, but then realized it was not for me. Here is a list of my independent collections:
Starscream collection: AFA’d and loose duplicates
- Loose character-based collections: Optimus Prime, Black Convoy, Jazz, Rodimus, Bumblebee, Grimlock, Jetfire, Shockwave, Soundwave, Cyclonus, Galvatron, Megatron, Devastator, the seekers.
- MISB Japan & US Masterpiece collection complete
MISB Movie toys (1, 2, 3… maybe movie 4) complete
MISB Alternators complete + BT-17 MISB
2) How has the collecting scene changed in the last 10 years?
The biggest change in the last 10 years is the advent of the 3rd party, or non-licensed figures flooding the market. This has affected different collectors in different ways. For me, it is disheartening and frustrating. I am a purist. I cannot disagree that figures like Colossus and Hercules are very cool, but what do you do with other competing versions of the same character from different companies? I’ll stick with Hasbro and Takara, thank you very much.
3) How do you see the scene changing in 5 years’ time?
I do not think much will change from where it is now, except even more people will be joining the world of Transformers collecting. The children that grew up with live-action Optimus Prime are going to one day want their toys back, in mint condition, just like use that grew up with G1. Everything is cyclical, and those crappy vintage Unicron Trilogy toys you just got rid of will be fetching higher prices than you could’ve ever imagined. I see Masterpiece figures, Alternators, and Movie figures being quite valuable in the near future. The question is what will become of the 3rd party scene? That I cannot foretell.
4) What has been your single biggest success as a collector, or your greatest ever find?
My greatest find was most likely a carded set of Orange G2 Constructicons I found around 2010 at a small memorabilia store in Chicago, called Quake Collectibles. The store has plenty of dusty relics in there and the walls are lined with MOSC retro toys, sometimes including Transformers from RID, Beast Wars, and even Armada. There is a large plastic tub full of GI-Joes and another for Transformers. It’s like $3 for 4 figures. Most are broken. The good stuff is behind the counter or in one of the display cases. I saw the Orange plastic gleaming as I walked in and I asked how much they were. $20 a piece, was the price, and I bought them instantly. Mint on sealed card G2 Orange Devastator, it was amazing. I have meant to AFA the set, but just haven’t gotten around to it. I feel like that was my greatest deal ever. Often, I find I am over-paying for things I need or under-selling items right before they become worth a ton of money. This was, for once, not one of those times!
5) What is the most surprising or outrageous collecting story you have heard?
I think the various rumors surrounding prototypes of G1 Unicron are among the most outrageous. I’ve heard that offers of multiple thousands of dollars have passed between the hands of collectors and shady nameless Hasbro employees to get ahold of such relics. The best is the account that someone hid behind a bust after a Botcon panel around 1996 or 1997 and witnessed the bribery of a Hasbro employee to ‘look the other way’ while the buyer took the Unicron toy. Classic stuff. Anything you’ve seen on “Collection Intervention” or “Toy Hunter” is the worst kind of fabrication.
I’ve also heard another ridiculous legend about how hundreds of Supreme ROTF Devastators were trashed during transit and left to burn in a desert somewhere in Arizona. Seriously, sometimes this stuff is so ridiculous I almost believe it must be true!
6) If you could pick one item from your collection to keep, what would it be?
That’s a tough question but if it was down to one item, it might be MP-11. Even though it’s a simple re-tool, it’s the Masterpiece Starscream that everyone wanted from the get-go. Another potential ‘gotta save it’ might have to be my MISB Mexican G1 Starscream. I love it because the box actually classifies Starscream as “Decepticon Commander.”
7) If you could have one item out of someone else’s collection, what would
That one is easy. I’d head right over to Transformers At the Moon and grab that Lucky Draw Movie Protoform Starscream they bought out from under me years ago from a dealer. Lucky buggers!! If I wasn’t able to do that, I’d love to get ahold of a MISB G2 ATB Megatron set. I know a few people that have one, but I’ve never had the gusto to make an offer. The aptly named “ATBmegatron” from Bottalk is one such target. He’s a great guy though, and I doubt he’ll ever part with his namesake.
8 ) What advice would you give a new collector starting out today?
Don’t try to collect everything. Sure it sounds like a lofty feat, but as your past interviewees have stated, some collections may never ever be finished. Pick something small and go with it. This is why I love character-based collecting. Choosing the correct character is important though. For instance, I always shake my head and someone announcing their new goal of collecting every Optimus Prime. Ok buddy, you and everyone else. Some characters I feel that make a good character-based collection these days would be any of the triple changers, Cyclonus or Scourge, or even a particular combiner team. Some of the newer characters in the fiction seem to be amassing quite a foot hold such as Bulkhead, Lugnut, or Lockdown. Who knows how deep those characters may go in the future, and they already have figures spanning mulitple lines. In short: start small, stay focused, and don’t be afraid to make sure there is at least a little chase built in to your collection for when you get ahold of all the easy stuff.
Many kind and gracious thanks to Paul Friemel for words and photos.
All the best