I’ve been living in Iceland for just over a year now, and anyone for whom Transformers collecting and community is a big deal knows that big changes in life will affect a hobby such as that. Children, moving, work commitments, marriage and of course less positive developments in life to do with our relationships, health and employment all take priority, and our hobbies – Transformers – have to find a new place (or no place) in our lives. I had very much planned to drag my collecting and community presence kicking and screaming into my new life in the North Atlantic.
I’ve encountered numerous obstacles to collecting, displaying, buying and gaining access to various types of Transformers since moving here, as well as inevitably losing a bit of touch with the wider community and my collecting friends as a result. In this article, I’ll talk about what I’ve learned over the course of the year, how I’ve adapted to it and what remains that still requires improvement, should that even be possible.
Moving all my toys here with the sea and air freight, as well as checked in/hand luggage, was just part of the process last November when we moved. Seeing how many boxes were required for my collection was quite a thing. Not a good thing. I also had to post myself a number of items I could not live without, but did not trust the freight with. I also left behind my entire Joustra Diaclone collection, many mint G1 boxes and my childhood G1 collection. The idea was that on subsequent visits to London, I’d slowly bring the rest of the collection over. I also made a deal with Orbital Comics that they would ship me ‘care packages’ of new toys upon release to make up for the fact that I could not visit every other week and get my fix of Masterpiece, Diaclone V2, Titans Return and TF Legends. I informed all those who were sending me 3rd party review samples that my address had changed and I was still very much interested in receiving and reviewing their products. I agreed with my wife that when in Iceland, I would source Detolf display cabinets (new and/or used) so I could continue to enjoy my collection, even if our first apartment would be a temporary rental. So how did all of that work out?
Um…not great. Things here have been very different – and occasionally worse – than I anticipated. For a start, all of my Joustra Diaclone collection is still in London, so no progress has been made there in terms of moving them over here. Half of the G1 boxes are still in the UK too, and the ones that are here live in storage. In fact, the situation with my blossoming TR/LG collection means that all of my modern Transformers and 3rd party packaging has been recycled. Not so great now that I am moving again. I was also not counting on having so much TR, LG and Diaclone to bring back each trip either, mainly because I did not anticipate my trips home would be so far apart. As a result, most luggage space was dedicated to bringing back new stuff, meaning the old stuff that was left behind originally remained behind.
I did also experience a drop in the number of 3P companies that were willing to continue sending me samples. MMC/Ocular Max, and with some convincing, FansToys continued to supply samples. FansToys no longer sent me early samples, though, production only. Fans Hobby began sending samples and I still got the odd thing off MakeToys, but only post-TFNation. I am now getting a similar volume to my peak in London, so I guess you could say that has been a success. The downside of that is Icelandic customs. They are brutal and simply cannot be reasoned with. I have completely given up trying to make them understand that I do not pay for these samples and that no invoice or receipt exists, instead I have relented to the endless sending of customs forms, emails, phonecalls etc and just pay the money when the stuff arrives. I must have handed over between $500 and $1000 in customs charges in the last year.
This has also resulted in me no longer asking Orbital Comics in London to mail me new figures, as quite often the shipping plus customs makes it a terrible financial alternative to just waiting. Now, I pick up my stuff when I go to London, meaning bigger bills when I do collect them, restricted luggage space and hordes of toys that simply aren’t afforded the time of day or attention they deserve. The latter is a general problem, though. I still have toys I brought back in August that have not even been taken out of the bubble wrap, but I suspect that’s less Iceland and more my own collecting that needs course-correcting.
I never did get those Detolf cabinets. They cost about £35 in the UK brand new. They cost about twice that here second hand! And that’s assuming I can find a way to pick them up from wherever they may be located. Brand new from IKEA here? £80. No thanks. You can see what I have had to use as an alternative, and although I technically have more on display than before, the huge amount of big windows in our current (and new) apartment have limited what I can display. With Titans Return, Diaclone V2 and Transformers Legends putting out so much good stuff, my collection display space soon got overwhelmed, so again, stuff in storage is a thing.
Selling toys has become complex as well. Collectors are obviously not so interested in buying modern product second hand with an international shipping charge attached, so they source them locally off social media. This has resulted in me charging less than I’d like for my own sale items where shipping is involved, or hanging onto things until I am in the UK then sending them out. Not many buyers are ok with paying for a toy today, then getting it 3 months later for the sake of saving a handful of pounds. It’s also not much fun to spend a significant part of a day – out of a short weekend trip – packing boxes and hauling them to a post office.
In terms of keeping in touch with the community, I still make it to London every 2 to 3 months for meetups, I am still highly active on social media and I have managed to stay visible with my reviewing, writing and presence, aided greatly by an amazing UK fan community who have never allowed me to feel isolated from them. Attending TFNation is an absolutely essential part of that package and an enormous annual highlight.
Collecting abroad was always something I wondered about. We get so comfortable with the way we feed our hobby (and our collection), we establish the cheapest and most efficient processes for feeding our habits, and the idea of having to start that all over again with experience may be an exciting one, but on the whole I have found it very frustrating and challenging. So, one year on, and there are a few battles I’ve lost. I’ll be looking to make back some of that ground in year two!
All the best