I would normally take issue with interviewing a Transformers collector who won’t reveal his full name, but if you’ve spent any time around G1 Transformers forums in recent years or TFW2005 generally, you’ll know Brad “Th0r4z1n3” B from his legendary seeker-focused collecting or his status as an ex-moderator of that gigantic Transformers forum, so I’ve no doubt you’ll be able to put a face to a name and personality. Brad’s collecting and displays represents a direction that my collection could easily have taken on many occasions during my time in the hobby, so it’s fascinating to see someone actually achieve the dream, and then tell you what comes next. Over to Brad…
1) Who are you and what do you collect?
My name is Brad, but most of you will probably recognize me as Th0r4z1n3 on the various forums… or “that crazy guy with all the Seekers”! While I’m not as active on the forums as I used to be, I can normally be found on TFW2005 or Twitter (@Th0r4z1n3/@PlastiqueFreak) for those of you who want to stalk me. As you can tell I’m pretty light hearted, and I tend to joke around about my collecting habits quite a bit.
As far as what I collect? My collecting habits have taken several drastic turns over the years, but I’ve started to stick to mostly G1 figures over the last year or so. I also have a rather large Seeker collection, but over the last year or so I’ve kind of gotten away from them to focus more on vintage figures. You’ve actually caught me at a rather interesting time because I’m in the process of making a major change in my collecting habits; about a week or so ago I decided to sell off my Seeker collection, and it kind of came as a shock to a lot of the friends I’ve made in the community. I’ve gotten quite a few messages wondering if everything was alright, or if I had fallen on some hard times, but to be honest… I’ve really just hit a point where I feel like I’ve done what I’ve set out to do, and it’s just time to move on.
I can remember having a conversation with Protoman where I jokingly made the comment that I wanted my name to be as synonymous with Seekers, as his was with Rodimus. For the record even he told me I was nuts… and I am. It wasn’t really a matter of not being achievable though, because up until about a year ago there were only about five Seeker figures that I was actively hunting for. I was able to knock two of the hardest to find figures off of my list, and barring some of the more recent releases, there wasn’t anything else I needed. Not to say that I had the largest Seeker collection ever, because I’ve seen a couple of Starscream/Seeker collections that really put mine to shame, but I gave them a good run for their money over the years! At this point it was the Hartman’s that really had an influence over my decision, they had spent so much time and money amassing one of the largest collections ever, but in the end they had reached their goal, and eventually sold it off.
My goals for the foreseeable future will probably stay geared towards G1, that’s where the true nostalgia is for me, and that’s really what got me interested in collecting in the first place; the modern incarnations of the characters that I grew up with really struck a chord with me, and it’s been a roller coaster ride ever since. For now I’m content to lurk in the G1 threads, and work on my crappy blog (PlastiqueFreak.com) as a way to enjoy my hobby.
2) How has the collecting scene changed in the last 15 years?
This is an easy one! The proliferation of the third party scene is something that has really left me a bit awe struck. I never got into third party figures, but as an outsider looking in I can’t believe the level of intricacy that some of these companies have been able to achieve through having direct access to factories that are able to produce them on a mass scale. What’s really enamored me about these companies was to watch how they’ve evolved over the last few years.
I started collecting in 2006, and back then if Hasbro/Takara didn’t produce a figure that you wanted, then your only option was to hope that you would stumble an oddly colored knock off that slightly resembled what you were looking for. I think CHMS was the first company (that I can remember) that showed what a company could do when they tapped into the collector market by releasing decos that were inspired by characters that collectors wanted and not just random repaints of existing molds. Granted they were selling knock offs of existing molds, but they were able to demonstrate that there was a legitimate market that could be catered to by offering a high quality product with collectors in mind. I know it’s probably not a popular opinion, but I think that their business model is something that (at minimum) helped the third party scene get a foothold.
There was already a great pool of talent to tap into given how many people are into customizing. IGear’s MP Conehead figures were a great example of how a well done custom figure could be easily translated into mass produced third party figure. From there it was just a matter of time before some of these highly talented customizers were able to parlay their skills into something more. It has been an interesting evolution to watch to say the least.
3) How do you see, or hope to see the scene changing in 5 years’ time?
That’s a hard one. We’ve seen so many changes in the collector scene over the past few years that I couldn’t have predicted beforehand that I really think the sky is the limit. Given how the third party scene, services like Shapeways, and 3D printers have evolved over the past few years I really don’t think we’re too far off from having something like “print on demand” figures. Rather it evolves to be something where people can upload and share figure designs, or a pay service where you pay the engineer for a download of a file that will let you print an entire figure, I don’t think it will be long before we stuff like this popping up. I’m not sure if five years is a likely timeline for this, but given the proper advancements in things like the MakerBot movement, I’m almost certain we will eventually see something like this.
4) What has been your single biggest success as a collector, or your greatest ever find?
Oh…. so many things that could make that list, but I guess it would have to be finally acquiring a Diaclone Starscream. As I mentioned earlier, I had a pretty small wants list when it came to my Seeker collection, and this guy was at the top of it.
It was probably around 2009 when I started looking for this guy, but wasn’t until last year that I was actually able to add him to my collection. The first convention I was able to attend was BotCon 2010 in Orlando, and I went there with the mission of finding one of these guys in the dealer room, however I severely underestimated how many things would catch my attention at such a large gathering of sellers. I walked away with a ton of figures that I had wanted, but it didn’t take long to decimate my wallet to a point that I couldn’t afford one even if I did find it. I spent the next few years checking eBay on an almost weekly basis, but was pretty unsuccessful in my attempts; either the figure would be severely over priced, or I would not have the money on hand whenever one did turn up.
There was one time that I thought I had found an outrageous deal on one. I just happened to go out to eat with my family. While my wife had stepped away from the table I thought, “Hey, why not check eBay real quick to see if there was one on there?”, and *boom* there it was! At the time the only way I knew to tell if it was a legit Diaclone figure was to look at the stickers on the wings; they would say “Diaclone” whereas the knock off would normally say “Kingdam 6”. To my surprise it did say Diaclone on the wing, and I just happened to have enough in my PayPal account to cover it, so I immediately hit the Buy It Now button… sufficed to say that was a rather pricey mistake. It turned out to be a Kingdam 6 knock off with Diaclone wings, and a mix match of IGA and other parts. I later learned (from you as it turns out) to look at the vertical tail fins, and the color of the canopy on the cockpit, to tell help tell if it’s legit or not. While I was a bit upset at the outcome, I learned a very valuable lesson that day: DO NOT make impulse purchases on eBay at the dinner table while the wife is in the restroom!
While I had slowed down on my Seeker purchase by last summer, the G1 collector in me kept this guy on my wants list, and by pure happenstance I was able to finally add this guy to my collection. I just happened to be browsing the forums, and stumbled across a post by a “newbie” complaining about his experience with a seller from a small website. He had purchased a Raiden figure from the site, but was unhappy with it once it arrived. While I can understand being upset when there’s an “issue” with a figure that costs as much as he does, the seller had offered several reasonable solutions to the problem, and (to me) it seemed like the buyer was just letting his rage get the best of him. At the time I was in the market for Raiden as well, so I figured “why not?”, and decided to check out the site for myself. To my surprise he had another an MIB Diaclone Raiden for sale… and an immaculate MIB Diaclone Starscream!
I couldn’t totally dismiss the buyer’s thread that I read, so I decided to ask around with some of the other G1/Diaclone collectors that I knew to see if any of them had dealt with the seller before. As it turns out, he had been less active lately, but was pretty well known and respected by everyone that I had talked to. I shared some of the pictures that he had posted of the figures to check for legitimacy, and all looked good. I decided to take a chance (a pretty big one at that), and as it turned out I had a VERY good experience; I was able to snag a complete set of Train-Bots, and Starscream for about the same price that Raiden was going for on eBay at the time. There’s no better feeling that scratching a “grail” off of your wants list that has been haunting you for years!
5) What is the most surprising or outrageous collecting story you have heard?
This had to have been late 2006/early 2007, well before the influx of collectors that the movies brought, but there was a guy that claimed to have found an amazing G1 collection while taking out his trash. If I recall correctly he lived in a small town area where they didn’t have trash service, and everybody was responsible for transporting their own trash to the “dump”. While he was unloading his garbage he noticed something that looked like a Transformer, and decided to check it out; that’s not totally unbelievable, right? From there he proceeded to pull out several trash bags full of some of the rarest complete G1 figures imaginable. From his point of view it looked like someone had just packed up someone’s entire collection, and pitched it; maybe an ex-wife, or angry girlfriend, or something.
I’ve looked for the thread sporadically over the years, but have never been able to find it again. Whether or not it was true, it’s one that I’ll always remember… and one that I’ll always covet!
6) If you could pick one item from your collection to keep, what would it be?
Growing up most of my toys came from garage sales, and second hand stores. As a result I never really had complete figures, and absolutely never had a complete combiner… save one. I remember going to small carnival, and entering a “tractor pull” contest that used a peddle car to see who could pull a weighted trailer the longest distance. I ended up winning a gift certificate for a local store, and I used that to purchase a Go-Bots Monsterous gift set. This was the only combiner I ever owned as a kid, and he was awesome!
After getting into collecting as an adult I quickly pieced together another Monsterous figure, but also found out that (like Transformers) most Go-Bots were originally released under another name before being re-branded and sold in the United States. Monsterous was a repaint of a figure called Devil Satan 6 from the Machine Robo line. This became my first foray into purchasing what I considered to be “expensive” figures, as well as the first time I actually had a “grail” that I was trying to acquire; before that I was just buying what I could find at retail, or whatever “deals” I could find online.
I undertook what was, for the time, a huge sell off of the figures to fund this guy. It took me quite some time to actually find one for sale, but eventually my patience paid off, and I was able to find a seller in Italy. For me this represents both a major change in my collecting habits, but also serves as a reminder of my childhood, so if I could only keep one item from my collection this would most definitely be it.
7) If you could have one item out of someone else’s collection, what would that be?
I have a bit of an addiction to vintage KO’s, especially ones with molding or coloring differences. Part of this (I’m sure) stems from not having much as a kid, and a lot of my childhood “Transformers” turned out to be knock offs… and Go-Bots. There’s a real difference in quality between modern and vintage knock offs. When most collectors think of KO’s they tend to think of the ones that pop up in discount stores, made out of cheap plastic and overly simplified, but a lot of vintage knock offs from the 80-90’s tended to be made out of the same quality plastic as their official counterparts.
As a result, I think my all time “holy grail” figure would have to be the Overlord knock off made by Academy Toys. It’s a pretty spot on replica of Overlord, with the exception of having Star Saber’s head… wacky, I know. I’ve only seen this thing pop up for sale twice since I started collecting. Once was when I first became aware of him, he was listed at an absurdly low BIN on eBay. At the time I thought it was a pretty outrageous price for a knock off, but once I spent some time looking him up it was easy to see why. The listing didn’t last long, and by the time I had enough information to appreciate it he was gone. The second time it was listed as a regular auction, but it quickly skyrocketed beyond a price that I could afford at the time.
It’s incredibly rare, and from what I’ve been able to find out about it, there are apparently only a single digit amount known to be floating around the collector community. There’s of course no way to verify this, but given how infrequently they pop up, and the price they go for, it’s not hard to believe. I’ve owned a couple of Overlords in my time, but I continue to keep an eye out for this guy; there’s just something about him that just draws my attention.
8 ) What advice would you give a new collector starting out today?
Pace yourself, and don’t fall into that “gotta have it” mentality. I spent quite a few years just buying everything I could get my grubby little hands on, and it can be a dangerous rabbit hole to go down. It’s easy to get caught up in the hype of a figure, and spend ridiculous amounts of money on things because they’re “rare” or a “limited edition”. Buy what you like, because YOU want it, not because some person on the internet might think that your collection isn’t complete, or impressive, without it. The biggest thing is to enjoy your hobby; it is after all, a hobby, and you should enjoy it.
If you start to feel like you have to buy a figure just to keep up with what everybody else has, it might be time to take a look at your collecting habits. I’ve been down that road, and one of the most liberating feelings I’ve had while collecting was getting out of that mentality. There seems to be a real mentality about collecting (collecting in general, not just Transformers) that more is better, but some of the most impressive collections I’ve seen are some of the smaller ones that are just displayed well, or focused. As collectors, I think we all walk a very fine line between having a hobby, and being hoarders. I’m not ashamed to admit that it took me realizing that I had crossed that line before I made a very conscious decision to change my collecting habits; I decided that I would rather be able to display my figures nicely, rather than have a bunch of totes full of things that no one (including myself) would ever see. While I was able to sell of most of the stuff I had accumulated, and pay for some things that people may consider to be “holy grails”, overall I ended up losing quite a bit of money vs. if I had just saved up and bought them in the first place.
Many kind thanks to Brad B for words and images.
All the best