As a toy collector with treasured, vivid childhood memories of receiving a large amount of Transformers on special days, re-living that experience as an adult can be thrilling. Alternatively, not having had that opportunity as a child can sometimes lead to us fulfilling those feelings as adult collectors. Haul photos after toy shows, mail days after bumper purchases, there’s always an element of having something to look forward to in the Transformers collecting culture. Occasionally some of us can overdo it, creating a situation where freshly arrived toys for the collection are not appreciated as much as they could have been had the purchases been more spread out.
I’ll admit, knowing that multiple deliveries are due and that every other day could represent a wonderful new toy feeling is exciting, but recent ‘back catalog’ purchases and kind gifts combined with TFNation and Titans Return releases have left me with a glut of toys I have not given due attention to. I normally express my appreciation with a new toy by doing extensive photography, and either reviewing them, featuring them prominently in an article or taking them to work with me. In addition to that, the sudden explosion of Classics-scale figures in my collection this summer has diluted my general drive towards focused collecting – even though you’ll spot a distinct Headmasters theme among the photographs in this article – which has further affected how I intended to show due appreciation for my purchases.
Once upon a time, new arrivals would go straight onto a shelf with other figures. After trimming down my collection enormously at various stages over the last decade, I found it much easier and pleasurable to appreciate a smaller group of figures. Collecting TF Animated at full speed reminded me how quickly new toys could be forgotten and how much of a tick box exercise it could become if not moderated properly. Lean months where my budget has been modest also aided greater appreciation of new product. Sometimes that’s evident in my reviews of 3rd party samples. I’d love to say I’ve perfected the art of toy collecting after all these years, but I’m just as susceptible to these pitfalls as anyone else.
Justin Masaru shares his experience of this phenomenon with us: “I’ve found that after receiving a new item or a haul of new items, I’m almost immediately putting them into the glass cabinet or storage with only a brief inspection. It’s almost as if the peak excitement comes with the anticipation of arrival, but the arrival itself is an anti-climax. I definitely see this as a symptom of overloading on the purchases and the result is not really being able allocate enough time to really process and appreciate the items to the extent they deserve. Being able to let them sink in and deriving enjoyment from them does happen, but over the longer term. There is so much product out there, both new, as well as vintage and so many avenues to purchase conveniently without needing to leave the couch. We are so spoilt right now. It’s easy to bite off more than we can chew“.
Of course everyone’s tolerance is different. What one person cauls a modest haul might be seen as excessive to another. I came back from TFN with five new figures which represents a bumper show haul for me (last year I came home with artwork and 1 toy), albeit one of them was Fortress Maximus. This had little to do with budget and more to do generally with how much I am comfortable bringing into the house at one time. That’s why the recent avalanche – relatively speaking – of new toys into my collection has left me floundering a little.
Wayne Wong gives us his take on this type of collecting experience, “There are so many things that enrich your life as a collector. Sometimes just anticipating getting your hands on something vintage that you’re missing in your collection or something newly released into the market is enough to make you giddy. As a collector I tend to save up over a period of time where life takes control and tend to ignore figures, before I remember my love for collecting and splurge my sudden budget over a self indulgent plastic fest (usually deciding to go for entire waves or sets). During those frenzied moments, because of the lack of personal time life allows me, I tend to have a large influx of boxes of plastic delight that I open, fiddle with once and then fit on my shelf before I step back, sigh proudly at myself and close the glass cabinet door on.
“Those are the toys I truly regret not being able to just pick up and continuously play with until a certain someone writes a nostalgia piece that reminds me how fun it is. Over the last few months, both due to necessity and a really great group of friends who get together and whoop and holler and each other’s recent hauls, I’ve come to really appreciate picking and choosing my buys with new figures, where I am able to remember why it is I love this hobby as much as I do. To experience a character from the brand I truly love, brought to life in the form of a well thought out action figure I can very quickly shift from one form to another. Like everything amazing in life, sometimes too often or too much does come into play, and then it becomes an obligation“.
Wayne’s reference to regular meet ups is an excellent example of how enriching the collecting experience with something social, something shared and something regularly separate from just amassing plastic is essential to its longevity. But even then, with regular meet ups where collectors bring a toy or two to show to the gathered peers, when one cannot fit all of the new arrivals into manageable amounts of luggage. one knows they have overdone it. It has been noted that pub meetups containing copious amounts of toys on the table are not always a recipe for memorable nights out with fellow enthusiasts. The best meetups in memory have had more to do with spending time together than sharing toys, much like the conventions we treasure.
Not everyone who experiences the feeling of too much too soon gets burnout, some collectors fashion elegant ways to still enjoy and appreciate the figures regardless of a large volume of arrivals in a short time. Iain Werry says “As adult collectors, not only do we often have the means to purchase an entire wave as soon as we see it on a shelf, to hit that preorder button a few times to find that it all arrives at the same time, to grab the last few (or six) figures to complete that line that is now on discount, or even to just throw that extra Deluxe into the cart to take it up to the free shipping minimum, but it even makes sense for us to do so. I found that this lead to a certain amount of burn out in opening figures, and more than this that I was rushing the experience, doing the figure a disservice and not getting the satisfaction that I should from each purchase.
“So I created what I call my ‘rainy day stash’. When a box comes in from an online store or I manage to pick up several figures at the same time, I will usually reserve one to open now, and the rest will go into this store. As a rule, I will open a maximum of one figure every two days. As an added advantage, it has stopped me impulse buying stuff that I really don’t want, just because I wanted a new toy. A fruitless weekend search now will at the very least result in me going home and plucking a toy from the rainy day stash and so the imperative to buy something…. anything…. is gone. The one major disadvantage of this system is watching that toy that you bought the day it released slowly drop in retail price while your MiSB version that you paid full price for sits waiting to be appreciated. That, and the fact that the unopened pile of stuff seems to be growing every month…… As I still buy faster than I open“.
On the subject of solutions, Graham (@inkybauds on Twitter) offers the following from his experience of getting too many toys at once during the Beast era: “I had my Augustus Gloop collecting moment during the time of the Beast Wars. At the time, I was at university and British shops, post-Generation 2, had no new Transformers product on the shelves. So I traded what left-over “Euro” exclusives I could find in Jolly Giant stores with a pen-pal in Canada who sent over wave after wave of Beast Wars figures to my parents’ house. It was only during holidays that I got to open that which walked, crawled and otherwise filled my old bedroom like a stock room. While it felt like fun at the time it was also a very intense and fleeting experience. I had been used to getting Transformers about once a week during the Generation 2 run. But this was another level. It was like driving in the fast lane without being able to stop to take in the scenery. Some poor figures had no more than a couple of minutes of my time before being cast aside so the next one could be opened.
“Apart from the main cast of characters from the television series, I could barely remember the names of any of the Maximals or Predacons. This trend continued until Beast Machines. Figures were opened, transformed, put to one side, opened, transformed, and so on. Like speed-dating but nowhere near as awkward. By the time Car Robots came along, things settled down. I had discovered Hobby Link Japan and, thanks to Takara’s staged release of the range, I could enjoy collecting again at a far more manageable pace. I will never go back to such an intense method of acquiring Transformers. It wasn’t fun. I didn’t get the chance to appreciate each figure/character, certainly not to the level it deserved; Beast Wars was a revolutionary toy line with an enduring legacy. Recently I’ve been grateful for the drip-release of Takara’s Masterpiece line. It allowed me to fully appreciate each figure and it’s been a richer experience as a result. As Prowl once said, it’s sometimes better to live life in the slow lane”.
Adding to one’s collection at such a rate inevitably causes a decline in appreciation for individual figures, even if it can be balanced out with solutions that breed healthier long term collecting and buying habits. Burnout, storage, financial difficulty and the crawling sense of obligation are all potential mires. Having experienced this (again) myself just recently, I will undoubtedly sell a few bits to mentally balance the books as well as financially (not to mention the fact that anything I buy now comes to Iceland). However, any feeling of buying too much too soon and subsequent action taken to redress the balance, will not be allowed to affect my enjoyment of the specimen in the last photograph of this article. Oh no, that will be savoured at just the right time, in just the right way.
Many kind and gracious thanks to Justin Masaru, Wayne Wong, Iain Werry (CyberShadow) and Graham (@inkybauds) for excellent and rapid contributions.
All the best