Ben Davidson is the enthusiastic mastermind behind Benscollectables, a very popular and well-loved Transformers and 3rd Party YouTube review channel. Ben is also a contributor to TFNation and a beacon of positivity in the community. His appreciation of the toys he reviews and owns shines through in his work and as a result, he has a fascinating mix of original and 3rd Party figures in his collection. You’ll recognise Ben’s signature review background in the impressive setup he has, and it’s interesting to see what he has to say about the scene that he’s been an integral part of for some time now.
1) Who are you and what do you collect?
My name is Ben AKA Benscollectables. I have been a collector for the last 10 years since having treatment for my PTSD. Toys are my happy place and in the last 10 years, I have had many different collections. The love of collecting and the recovery from PTSD were actually what drove me to start making YouTube videos. I found it calming and at points even preferred the filming and editing to the collecting itself. As my audience grew, so did my collection and I became, what I call a “Toy Fosterer”. I buy toys, review them and add them to my collection. When the time is right I send them on to a new home and buy a new figure to review with the money made from the “fostered” toy. I currently collect all shapes and sizes of Transformers- Masterpiece, Third Party, Movie-verse and Generations to name but a few, as well as non Transformer franchises such as Marvel Legends, Evangelion and M.U.S.C.L.E. It’s quite a varied collection, much to my wife’s dismay.
2) How has the collecting scene changed in the last 15 years?
I think, with the introduction of web forums and social media, it has become more socially acceptable to collect and nerd-out over things. Whereas before people would have to wait until conventions to share their purchases with friends and other fans of that particular franchise, they can now speak to people with similar interests all around the world, on a daily basis. EBay has also been a big contributing factor in the collecting scene, allowing people to buy their “Holy Grails” at the touch of a button or staying up late, early hours of the following day engaged in a bidding war with fellow collectors. Third Party companies have grown in strength and number in the last few years. They have gone from making the odd upgrade kit to making a must-have collection for die-hard fans. Some people say that these companies are still infringing on the HASTAK IP which they may well be, but I honestly believe that a combination of the official and Third Party has really helped the scene flourish. As some of you may know, I run second channel specialising in knock off figures and bootlegs. Now although these are frowned upon in most circles, some may go so far as to say that the KO companies also help the scene, improving on the figures and making them more like what the adult collector was expecting. Now I can’t say for definite if these knock off companies are helping the growth of collecting, but like the Third Parties, they continue to grow from strength to strength.
I would love for the collecting scene to stay as strong as it is in the next five years, but I fear that with more and more people buying up huge lots of harder to find figures and then over-inflating the after-sales prices (scalping), then people will turn to solely buying from internet retailers and more and more brick and mortar stores will close for business. Personally, I’ve always loved visiting toy stores and hunting for figures, the chase has always been part and parcel of my collecting and it would be such a shame that this could be just limited to yearly conventions.
4) What has been your single biggest success as a collector, or your greatest ever find?
Back in the early days of my collecting, my wife (girlfriend at the time) and I were walking around Needham Market Car boot sale and it was a bright and glorious day. For those of you who don’t know, a car boot sale is where people park their cars on a field or other large venue and sell things they no longer want, pretty much like a large flea market or yard sale. Now, Needham Market is set up in rows and we had a set routine of walking up and down checking both sides at the same time. On this particular day I had been pretty unsuccessful, nothing had really jumped out at me until I saw a large stall being run by a young woman. The stall had various toys along with bundles of clothing and my wife pointed out a large castle at the rear of the stool claiming “that looks like something you would like”.
Now at the time He-Man had made a comeback and I assumed that it was part of that line and asked the owner how much they wanted for the castle. She informed us that her husband would be happy to sell it for £10 and that he believed it was complete, it had just been pulled out of the loft from his childhood and he wanted rid of it. After an approving nod from my wife and an exchange of money, this mystery piece was now mine and along with the black rubbish bag filled with parts, we took the castle home. Several days passed and I was still unsure what I had purchased but was having a great time trying to piece it all together. I was sure I had seen it somewhere before and it was bugging me. We decided to use any and every search engine we could find and searched for every different combination of toy castle and eventually the wife cracked it. The wife found out that we had actually purchased He-Man’s Castle Eternia and from what we could see it was actually 99% complete and fully working!
This was an amazing find and for several years was the centre piece of my ever growing collection. It was eventually put up for sale on Ebay, when my collecting took a different path and was sold for £468.10. As of today, this still stands as my greatest ever find, was the pride of my collection and one of the most fun toys I have ever owned. Incidentally it was also one of the very first videos that I uploaded to Youtube.
5) What is the most surprising or outrageous collecting story you have heard?
I can’t really pinpoint any one story about collecting but it always amazes me when I read about people buying up cheap collections on house clearance and then finding mint in box or hard to find items in pristine conditions. I am not amazed that these items have been hidden away, but I’m more jealous that no one local to me has lofts or attics filled with these hidden gems!
Wow what a tough question, it’s like asking me to pick a favourite child. If I could pick one item to keep I think it would have to be DX9 Gabriel, their version of Omega Supreme. He was always one of my favourite characters as a child and the DX9 version, especially captures the heft, size and look that I associate with the Transformers from my childhood. I never actually had a figure that size but they always seemed to be a lot bigger when you were a kid.
Firstly, I would have to pay the Mapes twins a visit or maybe Mr Beckett and raid their Brave Yuusha Collections. I have always regretted selling my Brave figures, especially Great Goldran, a large combiner kitted out in golden chrome and looks like a Robin Hood – Predaking hybrid.
8 ) What advice would you give a new collector starting out today?
Don’t do it, it’s a really slippery slope. Only kidding, collecting is a really fun hobby and you can make some truly amazing friends through networking. Personally, I would stay away from some of the forums, they seem to be getting over-populated with trolls and keyboard warriors implying that you can only get certain figures and can’t mix with others, or that certain generations of toys are better than others. Collect what you want to collect, don’t let people tell you you’re doing it wrong and most of all, have fun doing it.
Many kind and gracious thanks to Ben Davidson for words and photographs.
All the best