For those of us who have seen THIS, this interview has been something to look forward to enormously. Neale Rochman, AKA “heraldofunicron”, has spent virtually all of his collecting life away from the online community. Recently he ventured online and connected with the fandom via the forums, and posted that collection video tour that got a lot of us desperate to find out more about his journey. Neal’s Transformers museum is comprised of G1, G2, Japanese exclusives, prototypes and artwork, the main draw being that most of his G1 collection is displayed packaged and loose with one toy in each mode. It’s like a living catalogue of Transformers G1 history. I always think I’ve seen the last great TF collection already and that very little will make me stand back and gasp. I was wrong, so please, the tour starts here…
1) Who are you and what do you collect?
My name is Neal and I collect because I’m a collector at heart. I was told once that being a collector is a person’s need to bring order to their own chaotic world. I don’t know if that’s true, but I know it is for me. Everyone has their own form of OCD and mine is collecting. Over the years, I’ve had a lot and little of just about everything from the 80s. Had almost all the Voltron toys, a complete set of Gobots, Rock Lords and many other odds and ends of 80s toys. Transformers have always been my #1 passion though. I’ve been hooked on robots since I can remember and Transformers are the one brand that stuck with me over the years. I had ADD when I was younger (guess I still do, but it helps me multitask like no other now!) and I loved puzzles. One day my mom brought me home a Transformer and it was game on. A toy that could constantly change from one thing to another was the greatest thing for a kid! A puzzle I could take with me everywhere. So I kept getting more for birthdays and eventually I started making my own money. Then I had to go back and start getting all the ones I missed. As you can all see from my video / pictures, that quest turned into my own museum.
2) How has the collecting scene changed in the last 10 years?
Wow, a lot. I’ve been actually “collecting” for over 20 years, so let’s start there. Let me tell you kids, “Back in my day…” the internet was dial up and eBay wasn’t a thing; there was a store called “I collect”. It was an awesome little store in San Diego full of toys, comics, trading cards and more toys. I loved going there, I was his “transformer kid” (I was still in elementary school then, so I must have been 10ish). I got quite a few cool things from that store, used all my allowance (yea, buying G1 for allowance money, imagine that!). I went there for a good few years. Then I was introduced to the San Diego Comic Con. I was introduced to that by my Doctor at the time (yea, she’s awesome) and I went for about 15 years. I stopped in 2009, when it started selling out at 100,000+ people and there was no room to walk. But back when I first started going, you could come home each day with bags and bags of free posters/trading cards/toys/pins etc etc etc. Now, you’re lucky to get a free poster! So when I wanted toys, I had those places to look. Even then, Transformers weren’t always in abundance but I bought what I could find.
Over the next 10 years, lots of changes. “I collect” closed as he took his business to “eBay”. So, in order to continue to buy things, I went to check out this mystical place. I still remember the first thing I got off eBay, a red bumblebee. I paid $20 including shipping and paid with a MONEY ORDER!!! Yea, no PayPal yet. My MO even got sent to the wrong address, so it got mailed back to me and I had to send it out again. Talk about a bad start! But, now I’ve been using eBay since 1998 and it’s an old habit. EBay is the reason I’ve been able to build up my collection so much. It opened up the way for Japanese TF’s to be available here, along with actually being able to find “that one” Transformer you needed. Then the BotCons started, the first one I was able to actually attend was in Chicago in 2003 and it BLEW MY MIND!!! I didn’t realize there were so many other people interested in Transformers, and the turnout then was NOTHING like it is now. Back then they were still working under the name OTFCC since BotCon was something else. Hasbro eventually bought the “BotCon” name and got rid of the short lived OTFCC. I spent 1300 at that con and came home with 2 suitcases full of toys. It was frickin awesome. So, let’s re-cap. 20 years ago…one small store and comic cons. 10 years later, eBay and BotCons. Now, eBay, BotCon, other trans-cons, collector clubs, forums, fan communities, KO transformers, 3rd party transformers, live action movies and (most important) EVERYONE KNOWS WHAT A TRANSFORMER IS!!!!
Back when I started this, collecting and nerds were uncool. We were portrayed much like an 80’s movie. Now, pop-culture is everything. We have comic book movies coming out every year, being a nerd is the “in” thing and hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of people enjoy what we do. No matter what you collect, there are thousands of others who enjoy the same hobby. Collecting has come a long way.
On a side note, sometime in the mid 2000’s, I actually completed my goal and had one of every G1 toy! But that wasn’t enough. I knew what I wanted my collection to be and I still had a way to go. Fast forward to 2012, I finally completed my collection. The last toy I needed was a MOSC Nosecone. I got him and the collection was complete. Every G1 and G2 toy in the package and enough loose to display in each mode. It was a great day for me. Since then, I’ve been working on rare things that tickle my fancy. Finding sealed in the bag mailaway TF’s, Japanese exclusives, prototypes, even some artwork to just add to the collection. I’ll never stop collecting since it’s a part of who I am. There will always be some “super rare piece” that I must have. But, that’s what we’re in it for, right?
3) How do you see, or hope to see the scene changing in 5 years’ time?
Wow, I honestly have no clue. With how popular transformers are, I hope they just keep their momentum. It’s something I want my children to be able to enjoy. That way when they see my toys, it’ll have even more of an impact. “You see son, (or daughter) these are what Transformers were when I was your age” would be a much better intro then “this is daddy’s collection”. I hope Hasbro keeps them going strong and enough new children are introduced to them. That just means there will be more collectors when they grow up. Which also means all our stuff will keep its value!
4) What has been your single biggest success as a collector, or your greatest ever find?
My single greatest success would have to be completing my G1/G2 collection. It took me over 15 years to get everything and finally feel “done”. Then I had to actually find enough glass cases to display them in the way that I wanted. When I first saw my house I immediately knew I had to have it. The upstairs is a huge showcase room that was going to be perfect to house my toys. Meanwhile, I was free to live downstairs and when people came over, I didn’t have to worry about my collection.
My best find… I’ve had a few. My personal favorite find was actually having the money to buy my G2 ATB Megatron / Starscream. I wish I had the money back in the early 2000’s when all the other G2 prototypes were hitting eBay, I would love to own the G2 Stunticons. One day I’ll add them to my collection (I hope). But I’ve had some other amazing finds. Got a duplicate Piranancon gift set at SDCC for $400 and sold it for $1100, so all the other things I bought at the convention that year were free. I found someone selling a MOSC Bumblebee and Cliffjumper for $125. I needed the Bumblebee so I bought them. But since I already had Cliffjumper, I put him on. He sold for $500 something! So my Bumblebee I essentially got for free. I think the coolest find though, was a Deathsaraus I found at thrift shop last year. Yes, last year 2013. I was like WTF? How did this wind up in a thrift shop?!?!?? I picked him up for $2!!!! Granted he had no weapons or anything, but still…………$2! I had never even held one at that point.
5) What is the most surprising or outrageous collecting story you have heard?
It has nothing to do with Transformers, but I listen to a radio station and they do an “awkward Tuesday phonecall” segment. Someone has something horribly awkward to tell someone else, so they call the radio station and do it live on the air. Like Jerry Springer, but it’s real. On one of them, a girl wanted to call her boyfriend out on cheating on her. He had a credit card with purchases on it she didn’t know about. So, they call and do their bit. Turns out the guy’s not cheating, he’s been buying back some of his WrestleMania stuff that she made him sell! This actually made her more pissed off than if he had been cheating! So he agreed to sell everything he’s been re-buying to make her happy. I was more pissed off at the guy than I was at the girl. If she actually loved the guy, she would take him as is. I know there are plenty of women out there that don’t approve of our hobby. But in the past 20 years, I’ve seen no women at conventions grow to at least a third or half of the patrons being women now. While there are plenty of women who don’t see collecting as a viable option, in this day and age there are plenty out there that DO see it as a positive trait. I couldn’t believe this guy was willing to give up his collection for a 2ND TIME!!! That’s either true love or true stupidity. My fiancée might not have the same passion about my Transformers, but she understands what they mean to me and encourages my collecting. Like I understand her passions and support them as well.
6) If you could pick one item from your collection to keep, what would it be?
It would have to be either my G2 Megatron/Starscream ATB or my original Dinobots cover art page for the G2 comic series. The comic cover is one of a kind, so I might actually have to go with that. But I do love that Megatron toy.
7) If you could have one item out of someone else’s collection, what would that be?
My dream finds are the MOSC G2 Stunticons. I know they’re out there and the owners don’t want to sell them. I know because If I had them, I wouldn’t want to sell them either. Eventually, someone is going to sell theirs (at least I hope). When that time comes, I really hope I’m fortunate enough to add them to my collection. I wish I had the money for them 12 years ago when they first hit eBay. A grand each back then was a lot, but I’ll never get that chance again. I’ve got the BotCon breakdown…but to put him on a shelf with Wildrider, Dead End Dragstrip…would be a dream come true.
8 ) What advice would you give a new collector starting out today?
Don’t go broke. Seriously, most of the stuff I’ve bought was years ago for much less than they go for now. Either that or I was able to buy in lots and sell the stuff I didn’t need. I haven’t paid anywhere NEAR market value now for most of my collection (all the Japanese ones, I’ve paid a lot for though). It boggles my mind how much some of these guys are worth now. So if you’re going to start collecting, know what you want and try to find a good deal. Buying in lots is a great way since you can sell what you don’t want and re-coup some of your money.
That being said, don’t try to low-ball other people selling stuff. I’ve sold my share of things on eBay and other places. I’ve noticed in the past year or two, people are just getting so cheap! I was selling something for $40 a couple weeks ago and someone offered me $30. I came back with $35 and expected to have a deal. No, the person came back with $31. I’m all for saving money, but really? Are we becoming so cheap that we’re haggling over dollars? This kind of thing has been happening more and more. Collectors need to be respectful of other collectors. We’re all in this to have fun and (for some of us) make a little extra money to help support our collection. We need to be mindful of each other and respectful. Keep in mind this does not refer to someone who goes to Toys R Us and buys out all the “one per cases” to sell at a markup. Same thing, be respectful and let other collectors and the children have their shot at the toys. But mainly, make sure you’re having fun. Collecting should be an enjoyable hobby.
Many kind thanks to Neal Rochman for images and words. You can follow his brand new collection page on Facebook HERE
All the best