Collectors, can’t live with ‘em….well, that’s just it, you can’t live with them! Or can you? For years some of us have wondered how our better halves, friends and family have viewed our primary passion and the inevitable amount of time we are required to spend in order to collect Transformers seriously. Sometimes conflicts of interest lead to arguments if our partners don’t buy into our hobby or our vision, and in other cases there’s nothing but support and equal passion from the other side. It’s different for everyone.
This week I interviewed three women who are married to very serious and long-time Transformers collectors to gauge their feelings on the hobby and how it has affected their lives. I’ve tried to keep things lightly anonymous, but that’s not really the focus. Keep in mind that I’ve taken these opinions from people who share my little corner of the collecting universe, so it is in no way representative of the whole community and how their collecting impacts on their partners and families, this is but a snapshot.
Q1) What concerns you most about your partner’s collecting?
By far the most common concern of our 3 partners was space and the sheer volume of toys in the family or marital home, not the amount of money being spent on them. “It’s not the money because I know that we have that understanding about separate income/money for toys, it’s more a fear of robot invasion in our future home”. This becomes especially relevant when the collector doubles up as a dealer, “the biggest problem is not the collecting but the dealing, this is what causes the mess and it’s this that stresses me out as I want to be able to have people over to our house but not when there’s stacks of toys everywhere”.
Q2) What has surprised you most about your partner’s collecting?
While not an immediate or primary concern for our partners and interviewees, you can’t escape the fact that successful and serious Transformers collecting is heavily dependent on budget and spending, or the time involved searching for rarities and missing pieces. In order to minimise huge costs, often collectors are forced to spend hours, days and weeks networking or exploring multiple avenues and resources. “The money involved, I find that very surprising. Also the time that it takes up from auction searches to emailing and socialising with fellow collectors”. Another of our partners also added “Well, he’s a black hole, so it surprised me to see that he had so many transformers and there are still so many left to collect”.
It’s not all bad news though, these collectors’ wives also found some aspects of collecting pleasantly surprising: “I’d rather have someone with a hobby like this than a football fan who disappears every weekend to matches etc. I like the fact he is so knowledgeable on the subject, I feel it’s healthy to have a hobby or interest in something and I feel the toys are a really positive interest”, with another partner adding “it surprises me how everybody seems to know what my partner does in the hobby and what he appears to be an authority on”.
Q3) Where do you see Transformers collecting in your lives in 5 years’ time ?
Somewhat refreshingly, none of the partners interviewed used this question as an opportunity to portray a future without collecting or toys, but instead showed a mature understanding of how much the toy collecting was a part of their loved ones’ lives. “I see it continuing to be limited to a certain niche and not reaching outside that one particular area of interest and not interfering with our finances. I don’t realistically think it will take up time that he wants to spend with his children or his family, I don’t think that’s who he is. I hope he still has it in his life as I know how much he enjoys it”.
Of course that doesn’t mean that they don’t want anything to change at all, “I see things being the same in the next 5 years, maybe less dealing. He will still have his display room for his collection, I can see us doing the odd show like AA and maybe Holland – they are handy additional sources of income! I would like the amount of stock we have to be much smaller as our family will be bigger by then but I’m happy for him to carry on as he is. The garage needs to be a lot tidier!”
Q4) What do you think is the most valuable item in your partner’s collection?
This is a collector’s favourite party trick, asking their partner to name toys in their collection or show understanding of value and importance. After all, who doesn’t want their loved ones to take an interest in their passion? The responses were:
“I know he has many rare pieces of artwork and paperwork in his collection but as far as I know his pink Hot Rod is the most valuable item. Hot Rod also being one of his favourite characters too makes it even more special to him”
“I would say it’s some kind of Diaclone Corvette”
“Haha, if I tell you that, it’s definitely not anonymous! (Black Zarak)”. Bless ‘em.
Q5) What is the best thing that has come out of your partner’s toy collecting?
Another especially pleasing set of responses were forthcoming for this question about the positive aspects of collecting Transformers, namely the fact that the partners saw it as a social activity and one that involves a thriving community of people who don’t just communicate online, but often in person. The image of the geeky recluse living with his mother was far from prevalent here. “There are many positive things to have come out of his collecting. I know when he was younger, his collecting helped to keep him out of trouble. It was the positive hobby that he needed. His ability to spot toys that are worth more than they are selling for has consistently provided a second income to us. Toys have paid for several holidays we have been on and I obviously have to mention my beautiful engagement ring was paid for by selling a toy. He’s has made many good friends through his collecting, not only here but all over the world and it has enabled him to do some fascinating things such as the work he did with Sony in the USA”.
“It affords him the opportunity to be creative. Apart from the fact that I know he’s met some good people and made friends through it, including meeting me as a result of a trip to BotCon, I know that as much as he loves his collection, for his children I know that he would use his items as an emergency fund. Being offered an Audi was pretty cool too”. Meeting new people was a very popular response, and since in the cases of our interviewees it has subsequently led to marriage, best man speeches, holidays and memorable International meet-ups, the positives are undeniable and unforgettable.
Q6) How big an effect has toy collecting had on your life?
“I got a tattoo of it, need I say more?”. The other responses were not quite as similar but equally enlightening: “A massive effect I suppose as that’s how we met, as a direct consequence. In terms of day to day collecting, not much” and “We did a lot more shows in the beginning and that was hard work with working full time but I’m happy with the 2 shows that we do now. As I said before I’ve had some great holidays due to toys and met lots of interesting people”. Clearly it depends on the nature of the collector, their degree of involvement in the community. This topic probably had the least similar responses as the subject is quite personal to the couple in question.
The overall feeling I got from these interviews was that even partners of very serious and ‘full time’ community-contributing collectors, who by all accounts should have been driven insane by toy-related activity, showed great support and a profound understanding of all the positive aspects, qualities and benefits this hobby has to offer its followers and their families. While every partner interviewed exhibited evidence of improvements and changes they may appreciate, not a single one gave the impression that their lives together would be a better place for a lack of toy collecting.
All the best