It may seem like the most luxury, first world problem that a toy enthusiast could ever have, but some Transformers fans do find themselves with a backlog of new purchases that they have not yet opened and enjoyed. There are some who find themselves in this position by choice, metering out the enjoyment and experience of collecting, while others have fallen into the situation because of circumstances that are out of their control. This week we take a few contributions from collectors who find themselves in the position of having a backlog of Transformers toys that they’ve bought, waiting to be enjoyed.
It’s too easy to jump to the conclusion that one who finds themselves with unopened toys simply needs to stop buying so many. After all, if one can’t appreciate the Transformers you buy, why buy them? Is it a sort of mental checklist that needs to be satisfied, fueled by the self-inflicted need to keep up with fellow collectors? Is it obsession and unchecked spending, or possibly retail therapy gone wrong? Well, not always. There are some who actually enjoy the feeling. Here’s Sixo to explain how he has ended up with a backlog of Transformers to open.
“I guess I’ve been collecting with a bit of an ongoing backlog for a while now, although the toys in that category do eventually get opened and played with, only to often be replaced by another new arrival that will be kept for a later time. It might sound strange to a lot of people, but for me the practice really started out of the desire to not be overwhelmed by new toys all in one go, whilst still remaining free to make a well-placed and economically savvy purchase when the opportunity arose for a particular figure that I would look to be pick up eventually anyway. Some of the stuff I collect doesn’t pop up all that often in a condition I’d consider as desirable, so if there’s the possibility of buying it today for a great price and keeping it for enjoyment later down the line then that makes sense to me.
“Consider it as savouring the anticipation and eventual enjoyment by letting an unboxing or two wait for a quieter time. What I also eventually realised was that I actually enjoyed that suspense quite a bit – the promise of future delight in experiencing a beautifully packaged and thus far untouched item. In a hobby where we’re quite genuinely inundated with potential new product all the time, being patient with a couple of pieces allows you to not feel overwhelmed, in my experience.
“The downside of course is that such anticipation can start to feel a bit overwhelming. I’ve had one or two pieces that I’ve been so excited to eventually open that I’ve actually become slightly nervous of being disappointed – almost as if the promise of greatness couldn’t possibly be matched by the reality. Fortunately though, that’s rarely been the case once I have finally chosen to release a particular product from it’s plastic prison. Besides, a MISB collector I most certainly am not, so it will all get opened eventually.”
So in the above case, the backlog itself is not a deterrent, and elements of it add to the enjoyment of collecting. This is not as uncommon as you may think, as we will see later. Richard Brown’s case, however, is slightly different.
“I’ve got at least 20 TFs still to open, down from 50 a few years ago. While it’s frustrating, it’s reassuring. And then it’s a headshaker. I’d like to crack open my toys, but then, as a grown man with a lot of responsibilities I’m relieved I haven’t had time. But, then, why did I buy them? Am I now accumulating objects which will not be played with? I hope not. Do I expect to have time to play with them? Again, I almost hope not. If my work and family get in the way of it, my life is well spent. If and when I have had an hour to myself, I get to have a cursory play – inspection of one mode, play around, try the transformation, inspection of another mode – and then it’s on the shelf with the others, indefinitely. Still, they look better there than sat unopened in my loft.”
So a backlog can, obviously, be completely involuntary as well. The fact that it exists in one’s collecting is seemingly acting as a comfort from a number of perspectives; the constant feeling of having something to look forward to, while for others a reminder that they’ve got so much going on that toys have had to remain secondary for a good long while. Like a proper hobby, arguably.
In my case, my backlog began as completely circumstantial, and I have turned it to my advantage. Being so geographically removed from most online stores and locations to which eBay sellers will ship, I’ve grown accustom(s)ed to having things shipped to the UK instead of Iceland, then picking them up when I visit. This has led to me getting a vast number of toys in one go. Not good for luggage, not good for appreciating things individually. I have decided to stop buying toys until I have given every single item from the last haul at least one night of photography or a proper article, thereby spreading out the enjoyment of having new toys over a course of weeks instead of one big hit…which could leave me open to just going ahead and buying more toys before these have been properly appreciated and acknowledged. Things that slow the hobby down and give me something to look forward to, as well as introducing discipline, are absolutely not to be considered negatively at all.
I’m going to leave the last word to Hoang Thai, whose backlog is actively assisting his prioritisation of what he enjoys most in his collecting, reinforcing the viewpoint that having a backlog of unopened toys does not automatically indicate a lack of control or awareness.
“There’s a wonderful feeling knowing in the back of your mind that there’s always something exciting to come home to. Bad day at work? Crappy train ride home? Horrible night out? It’s comforting knowing there’s a plethora of toys you stare at, pick one from, sink into the couch, explore the engineering nuances and quirks of, and then marvel at the sculpt. I will concede I didn’t always feel that way. Boxes have lots of air and can consume a lot of space which can become overwhelming. There was a degree of guilt that accumulated watching boxes amass. Was it because I wasn’t excited enough? Was it that I just enjoyed the idea of owning something rather than not? Was it because I was losing interest in the hobby? Did I just not have the time for this anymore?
“Turns out it was ‘no’. A resounding ‘no’. The process of working through this made me remember that Transformers are only one part of my life. They’re always going to be competing for time. That doesn’t mean I don’t care enough but not every toy needs to be opened the same day it arrived. It’s a question of balance. It may be a couple of weeks, it may be a couple of months, but what’s important is that I’ve done the due diligence before buying a figure. And I do that 99% of the time. I rarely preorder. I wait for reviews. I read forums. Then I buy. So having those toys sit there ready to be picked off the shelf whenever I have time? That’s a privilege I’m bloody grateful to enjoy.
“One other major benefit of having a backlog is that it’s helped me understand my collecting preferences. By prioritising which figures get opened when from the backlog, it clarifies to me the place of different figures and continuities in my collection as well as the ways in which I enjoy these different sorts of figures.”
A huge thank you to Sixo, Richard Brown, Hoang Thai and Jhiaxus_Prime for their contributions this week.
All the best