It’s time for another Source Blog Interview, and we like to think that as we approach a year’s worth of contributions from our esteemed group of selected interviewees, we’ve offered a nice spectrum of gathered experience and eye-candy across the field of vintage Transformers and pre-Transformers collecting. This month, although we have already covered collectors who focus solely on pre-Transformers, we spotlight a North American enthusiast who is relatively new to the scene and yet has managed to procure some utterly incredible items in that short time. Hopefully the words of Benjamin Davis will offer some insight into how one can step into the prestigious and expensive field of Pre-Transformers collecting and make such an immediate impact.
1) Who are you and what do you collect?
My name is Benjamin Davis and I collect Diaclones, Micro Change, CHUG, Fansproject, Vintage Macross and some G1. (Wow, didn’t realize how varied my interests were)
2) How has the collecting scene changed in the last 10 years?
Wow, that is a tough question. I have only really been in the collecting scene for the last 5 years, but in that time there have been a lot of changes that have affected many avenues of our collected interest. The biggest change, by far, is probably the field of third party products and its effect on the Transformers line as a whole. If you asked someone 10 years ago (heck even 3-4 years ago) if independent toy designers could make money on original concept toys, I think people would have laughed, saying that it wouldn’t be feasible. However, with the advent of 3-D printers becoming more affordable and companies having easier access to molding fabrication, third party products have really exploded onto the scene. The effect of this is that many collectors are being more selective with their purchases because there are many impressive toy and collectible ideas that are being created outside of the Hasbro/Takara business model mindset, most of which have a much higher price tag.
3) How do you see the scene changing in 5 years’ time?
Hmm, to be honest, two of the major changes I see in the collecting field are third party products and pre-Transformers.
At this time, third party products are doing amazingly well, but I think things are starting to reach a saturation point. Originally, the main third party product company was Fansproject, but that has since grown to over 10 different companies, each of which are creating an ever expanding catalog of items to choose from with each passing year. With ever more third party products being produced, the higher the competition for profitability each of these companies will have to face. In other words, I foresee that third products will still be around in five years, but I also see a massive drop in the amount of companies that will produce them.
In regards to pre-Transformers, I see the pre-Transformers market becoming as popular as the G1 Transformers market, if not more-so. The reason is, obviously, due to the increased knowledge base and awareness this toy-line has received due to pre-Transformer and G1 Transformers collectors. This can be attributed to articles being written on the subject as well as forum sites that promote an un-biased collection and distribution of pre-Transformer information. Because of this, I find that pre-Transformer collecting will become a lot harder to break into, but will have a much higher degree of interest & respect, especially by collectors of more established toy-lines. As a result, I expect that many more pre-Transformer toy finds will surface, bringing more opportunities for more collectors to get these gems into their collections.
4) What has been your single biggest success as a collector, or your greatest ever find?
Contrary to what many people believe, my biggest success as a collector was my acquisition of a Diaclone Marlboor Wheeljack. I know this is shocking, especially since I was lucky enough to acquire the Diaclone campaign prize Gold Jazz, but, like with most things, it was the story of how I got the Marlboor that makes it my greatest success.
The acquisition of this piece was similar to how I had gotten many of my other Diaclone collectibles: a fellow collector that I knew on the TFW2005 boards had come across it in his travels abroad to Japan and he was willing to sell it. Being fortunate enough to catch this opportunity, I made him the best offer that I could afford. Unfortunately, it was not the richest offer he had received, nor was it his best overall offer. I was slightly saddened by this, but I realized that this was the way of the collecting world, and that sometimes deals were not meant to be…
However, in the same sentence, I was astounded to read that this gentleman had decided to go with my offer. His reasoning was that due to my presence on the boards and having my fellow collectors’ respect, he felt more comfortable about selling the Marlboor to me than to an unknown party. This made for a huge success not only for adding a rare specimen to my collection, but to have the knowledge that I was as respected by my fellow collectors for who I was and for what I collected.
5) What is the most surprising or outrageous collecting story you have heard?
The most outrageous collecting story that I have ever heard was surprisingly not about a Transformer collectible, but rather a Godaikin. The premise is basic enough: gentleman buys a mint condition Tetsuijin 28 from ebay and pays for premium shipping. Well, the seller decided to use the toy box as the shipping box. Yep, you read that correctly. In other words, the buyer spent over a thousand dollars for a C10 toy in a C9 box and received a C5 toy in an absolutely destroyed box. I never found out if the buyer got his money back or not, but as a collector, I have nightmares about having to deal with a seller stupid enough to do something like this.
6) If you could pick one item from your collection to keep, what would it be?
*sigh* I can only keep one?? This was an insanely difficult choice for me as all my toys are very special to me, but if I have to choose just one, I would probably have to choose the Marlboor Wheeljack. The reason is because of the story I shared in question 4 as well as being a symbol of my collecting desires AND my reputation amongst my fellow collectors. However, a very, very close second choice would be an MIB Optimus Prime I got as a Christmas present a few years back. It was a special gift directly from my mother and one of my best friends, so it has a special place in my collection.
7) If you could have one item out of someone else’s collection, what would that be?
Hehehehe…. Well there is a certain Finnish Black Tracks and Powered Convoy DX a friend of mine has, but I think I would get it off of him when I pry it from his cold dead hands.
8 ) What advice would you give a new collector starting out today?
One word: Networking. I know it sounds cliched, but I swear, the majority of my choice pieces have not been through eBay or store finds, but by the people I have meet online. You HAVE to meet people if you want to find some of the really rare items. Now, that being said, you not only have to have a presence, but you have to be willing to have a give and take rapport with your fellow collectors. We all know who is out there just for themselves, and we know that those people will pay a heck of a lot more for items than others who have given back to the community as a whole.
Many kind and gracious thanks to Benjamin Davis for words and photographs.
All the best