I often find myself wondering who to feature next on these collector interviews, and I have been asked to try and move away from museum-style G1 collections to add more variety. Where possible I have done this, but requests are met at different times and often the choice of who to go with any given month is made for me by circumstance. This month however, and especially after reading his most heartfelt, genuine, wise and engaging interview, it baffles me how Matt “Matty” Dennett has not yet been featured. Writer for G1 Journey and a member of the TFW staff, Matt as a person is every bit as heartfelt, genuine, wise and engaging as his interview. He also has a stunning collection for a so-called newcomer!
1) Who are you and what do you collect?
First off, thank you so much Maz for this opportunity. Your articles are genuinely some of the best to read and it’s deeply humbling to write my story in your series of articles. My name is Matt, also known as StayingInTheBox or Matty depending if you find me on Twitter or TFW2005. I primarily collect Transformers, both official Hasbro/Takara releases and third party figures as well. I’ve been all over the place with my Transformers collecting focus, which has been both fun and honestly frustrating at times, but I’ve managed to redefine my collection a bit to where I’ll typically collect Masterpiece releases, select figures from the ongoing Generations or Classics series, and characters who appear on screen in the latest show or movie. Those are my “rules” that I try to live by to keep my collection focused and money in my wallet.
In recent years I’ve ventured outside the world of transforming robots to start collecting a select few 1/6th scale figures (Hot Toys in particular) and also rekindling my interests in Power Rangers/Super Sentai and Star Wars media. There’s a ton of stuff out there, it’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole!
I also collect display cases and bookshelves, because let’s be honest, that’s part of our collections too (which is currently in the process of being somewhat re-imagined).
2) How has the collecting scene changed in the last 15 years?
In the last 15 years? Geez, I feel like it changes every year. I’m in somewhat of a unique position in that I’m younger than the majority of longtime Transformers collectors (I’m 25), so I wasn’t around for “the good ‘ol days”. I guess I’m in that next generation of fans that was a part of the second coming of Transformers (Beast Wars) and am now coming to a point in my life where things are being established financially. I enjoy listening to my local Transformers buddies who do talk about seeing walls upon walls of G1 toys lining store shelves in the 80’s. I’ve never had that, so it’s very unique for me to say the scene has changed as much as it has in the past 15 years, especially since I never participated in the first generation.
EBay and online specialty retailers are what I see as the biggest change to collecting. EBay has made it so easy, almost boring, to buy nearly anything. 15 years ago the “web” was just a baby, now if you have the money and the willingness to spend it you can buy pretty much any Transformer on eBay. I’ve stopped using eBay all together because I lost the thrill when buying G1 toys from all of those listings. As a kid it was much different, I can recall going to Toys ‘R’ Us and KB Toys to buy Generation 2 and Beast Wars figures. I would watch the show on TV and then try to find the characters in store. In today’s collecting scene I rarely even bother buying from the toy aisles. We all know what case assortments are like, we typically know when they’ll be available, and they can be delivered right to your door. Online retailers just make it remarkably easier to collect and they take care of you too with rewards programs, shipping options, etc.
Outside of that, a big change I’ve seen overall, is how the live action movie era has brought in this sort of third generation of Transformers fans. The Michael Bay movies have single handedly changed the collecting scene by just the sheer amount of new fans that are now involved and the increase in media that has been produced. I know how popular Transformers were in the 80’s and the lasting effect it had on so many, but since 2007 Transformers has thoroughly become mainstream. Time will tell if nostalgia is as powerful for this new era of fans as it was 30 or even 15 years ago.
3) How do you see, or hope to see the scene changing in 5 years’ time?
My hope has always been that the online community improves and grows in a positive manner. Seriously, there are too many folks out there that use Twitter and forums as a bashing tool, and it’s obvious too many people enjoy trying to win an argument more than being someone cool to chat with. It’s already becoming increasingly rare that online forums exist, so it’s my belief that if we are active members of this online community we all need to do our part to keep them growing and make people want to join the Fandom (which in large part has become online). No one wants to deal with difficult, confrontational people face to face, it should be the same when you’re sitting behind your Internet screen name. I’ve met some pretty awesome people through Twitter and TFW2005, and I’d like to believe that’s because I was a genuine person and not a jerk. Yeah, you’re going to find people that you can’t get along with, but those are rare. The Transformers Fandom, especially this online community that has exploded since 2007, has over 30 years to celebrate together, let’s stop being overly negative and confrontational about it.
4) What has been your single biggest success as a collector, or your greatest ever find?
Starting a Generation 1 collection has definitely been a high point of my collection and I do consider it an ongoing success for sure. Not being around when Generation 1 was in full swing, I feel like I missed out on a lot of fantastic Transformers history. Collecting G1 figures gives me that sense of “exploring history,” understanding where this brand started and how it got to this point we’re at today. I started a side project years ago and sporadically keep it updated, called the G1 Journey, which is just my way of writing down my thoughts and experiences as I collect these 30 year old toys. Each year I try to find some new way to learn more about Transformers and it largely started by collecting G1 toys. I’ve been introduced to some insanely knowledgeable people through my G1 collecting (Maz being one of them) and the stuff I learn daily is just insane. Knowledge is an important and beneficial tool, especially if it revolves around my hobby and passion. There has been no better place to start learning than with G1 toy collecting.
5) What is the most surprising or outrageous collecting story you have heard?
I feel like I hear something outrageous every single day in this hobby; it’s one story after another, day in and day out. Obviously one of my favorite stories to tell non-collectors is the recent G2 Stunticon set that went for near $27,000. I coach high school basketball on the side and I share these stories with my team; it is PRICELESS to see some of their reactions when I show them pictures of my collection or tell them about the “$27,000 piece of plastic.” These high school kids simply cannot fathom how I “waste money” on these figures!
Although not completely revolving around collecting, to share one of my personal stories that some may find surprising, is how my Mom has been with me to all but one Transformers convention (BotCon and TFcon since 2009). My first BotCon was in 2009; I wasn’t a part of the online community and really had no idea what to expect from a Transformers convention. My Mom and I decided to make it a mini-vacation and see some parts of California we hadn’t been to. Needless to say we had an absolute blast and it really changed my involvement in the Fandom and how I plan summer vacations. From that point my Mom and I have been going to conventions together ever since, our most recent trip was to TFcon Chicago. I guess it’s always a little surprising to my friends when I introduce my Mom at conventions, I’m a grown man with a family of my own, but I love hanging out with my Mom and she has a blast going to see what my hobby is all about.
My entire family goes with me to conventions now, in fact my wife even surprised me with a trip to BotCon 2014 this year. We had pretty much written the show off because our baby boy was born just two weeks prior to the show. I know it sounds downright crazy to take your wife, 5 year old daughter, and two week old son on a road trip to BotCon (come to think of it, yeah that is crazy) but it was totally worth it because I have memories of a lifetime. My family has become a huge part of this hobby too, and I love sharing it with them.
6) If you could pick one item from your collection to keep, what would it be?
This is actually a fun question to ponder, and one I’ve had the great opportunity to write about too if I ever came across the scenario of “if I lost it all” (thanks yet again Maz!). Keeping just one item from my collection is both scary and yet exciting at the same time. A part of me feels it would be somewhat fun to keep one item and start over again under completely new terms. That one item I’d keep would definitely be my Beast Wars Snapper, which is the first figure I can actually remember buying. It hits me close to home because my Dad bought it for me; this month marks one year since he passed. Collecting for me is all about attaching stories to the figures; my personal story attached to Snapper means more than any other.
7) If you could have one item out of someone else’s collection, what would that be?
Oh man … there are probably hundreds of figures I would legitimately want from other collections, some of which are on my ongoing “wish list” that I might actually track down some day when time and money hopefully become more available. However, there is one item that comes to mind that I am insanely jealous of.
Here in Arizona I have a terrific group of local friends that all collect Transformers. We’ve grown pretty close over the years meeting up monthly to hang out and just talk shop. This past year one of our good buddies moved to Minnesota and as a going away present one of our friends, Andrew The Floating Cat, customized a STUNNING Animated Wasp from a Deluxe Animated Bumblebee mold. I will say, this custom Wasp is top of the line, easily one of the best I’ve ever seen; it legitimately looks like an official release. If I had one pick of the lot I would take that Wasp so fast you wouldn’t believe. Makes me more jealous writing about it!
8 ) What advice would you give a new collector starting out today?
I would narrow my advice down to three things, because I could probably talk a lot to a new collector starting out. First, DO NOT collect everything. It may be cool when you’re first starting out to buy everything you come across on the store shelves or online store because you’re new to collecting, but that’s a dangerous path to take for financial reasons alone (among other reasons). Set aside a budget and spend your money on what you truly enjoy that fits within your guidelines or rules of collecting, not just because you “have to complete” something. There will be certain sets you’ll want to complete, but buying everything just because it’s got a numbered box or some other outrageous criteria, it’s just not worth it.
Second, learn to sell toys. I wish I had learned this advice years ago, but seriously, it’s okay to sell toys. Sometimes there is a mindset or mental barrier preventing collectors from selling toys they’ve held on to, even though that figure stays in a bin in the closet or collecting dust in the corner of your shelf. Sell some toys as you collect, it’s gratifying and frees up spending money for newer, more interesting figures.
Lastly, and I want everyone to take this one to heart: make friends. Seriously, put yourself out there to make friends within this collecting hobby. Join Twitter, join an online forum, and go to conventions or local meet ups to hang out with like-minded people. I’ve met lifelong friends through this hobby and I’m thankful everyday for it. Not only do I have a circle of friends to talk with, but we also help each other collect by looking out for hard to find figures or whatever. It’s a great thing that so many of us have this hobby we enjoy, it’s even better when we can all get together and be a part of something as friends. We obviously can’t be friends with everybody, but you know, don’t be a jerk online, be genuine, and you’ll find yourself hanging out with a bunch of cool people throughout the years.
Many kind thanks to Matt Dennett for words and photographs, and to The Floating Cat for images of Animated Wasp.
All the best