collecting

#705: Extra Hands

GETTING MORE TALE #705 Extra Hands

Today we discuss perhaps the most controversial subject ever broached on mikeladano.com.  In the past we have fearlessly tackled bands without original members, whiny fanboys, the far right, and the plight of natives.  Now we go where no one has dared.

Readers here may think that my sister Dr. Kathryn and I have lots in common.  We both love music, schnauzers, and Star Wars.  That’s everything, right?  You’d certainly think so.  We disagree more often than we agree.

Some spans are simply too far to bridge.  This is one of them.

Here is the controversy.  Don’t judge until you’ve heard us out.

My sister and I disagree, strongly, when action figures come packaged with extra hands.

Say what?  I’ll explain.

This issue first arose in 2012 when the Star Wars 6″ Black Series was launched.  This was a series aimed at collectors, packaged to display.  Many increased in value quickly.  Each character was numbered.  The larger size (standard Star Wars figures were 3 1/4″) enabled more detail, better facial sculpting and way more articulation.  Some of these figures look like the actual actors for the first time.  Though quite a few are less than perfect (#03 Luke Skywalker has weirdly bright blue eyes) they were, by and large, exactly what nostalgic fans wanted.  Eventually just about every major character was released (though we are still missing a Padme) with lots of the minor ones too (bounty hunters, Jabba’s minions).  Fans were peeved that it took until now to get an original Lando Calrissian figure, while we already had such dubious characters as “Constable Zuvio”, plus about a dozen Rey variations!  From Star Wars ’77 to Solo, most of your favourites are now available in the Black Series line.

The figure that sparked the controversy is #08, the excellent Han Solo in his 1977 getup:  Black vest, white shirt, cool holster and blaster!  The Black Series also occasionally threw in some bonus accessories.  #08 Han has some of the best.  He comes with his regular gun and holster, plus a Stormtrooper’s gun and belt so you can duplicate the look he had when he was running around the Death Star after escaping the trash compactor.  He also comes with an extra set of gloved hands, so you can have Han as he looked when he was fleeing TIE Fighters aboard the Millenium Falcon.  The hands snap in and out easily with no fear of breakage, still maintaining full wrist articulation.  One of the gloved hands has fingers outstretched, as if Han were hitting buttons on the Falcon’s dashboard.

So what’s the problem?

My sister likes to keep her figures sealed.  She displays them around her desk in her music room at home.  I, on the other hand, put my sealed figures in storage, and sometimes buy a second one to open up and display.  #08 Han is one such figure that I opened.  (My sealed one is in a Cantina two-pack with Greedo!)

I’ve displayed Han in all sorts of ways:  With and without vest, with and without Stormtrooper gear, and sometimes with the gloved hands.  Meanwhile my sister’s boxed figure gets quizzical looks when she has friends over.

“Why does Han have two dismembered hands in the box?”

My sister finds the hands to be an eyesore she’d rather do without.  For me, they are just another display option.  I’ll bag up whatever accessories Han isn’t using right now.  (Currently, my #08 Han is put away, while I have “Old Han” from The Force Awakens on display with Chewie.)

To me, a bigger offender is actually R2-D2.  R2 is loaded with accessories (which is good since he’s half the size of a regular figure but still the same price).  R2 is packed with a sensor scope, an antenna, and a Luke lightsaber that he packs in his dome.  There are also blue dome covers for when you want R2 all closed up looking normal.  But he also comes with jetpacks for his legs.  Many fans consider the “flying R2” scenes to be among the worst in the prequel trilogy.  I’d rather pretend it never happened.

“Those are stupid too,” says my sister of the leg rockets.

Han isn’t the only figure in the series with alternate body parts.  Qui-Gon Jinn has a bonus hand doing a Force movement.  Anakin Skywalker came with two heads so you can do him with two looks:  mopey or angry.  My sister considers all of these to be very poor display pieces.

I guess we will never agree on this issue.  I think the extra hands are a bonus.  If her friends can’t figure out that sometimes action figures come with alternate parts, then maybe she needs new friends.

 

 

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Gallery: TFCon 2018

TFCon in Toronto has become another tradition of Sausagefest-scale epic-ness for me. Coming the weekend just after ‘Fest, it help blunts the withdrawal. Jay and I left Kitchener promptly at 8 am. We planned to buy the “early bird” passes that got us onto the dealer floor two hours before general admission. That’s what we did last year, though it’s not really necessary.

I hoped to pick up a specific Toronto exclusive: Maketoys’ “Maestro” (a third party version of Generation 2 Jazz complete with deco), and that was first mission accomplished ($140 from The Chosen Prime). Its lovely clamshell packaging is an homage to its 1993 “G2” counterpart. There was no line for this particular exclusive, and they had lots left by the time we departed around noon.

Maketoys Maestro (aka G2 Jazz)

As usual we had a great time, but with a couple gripes. Last year the early admission came with a shaving kit and a bottle of water — this year nothing! (I’m only partially griping, but I heard two other guys having the exact same conversation as us. And just like us, “I still haven’t used that shaving kit.”)

Our other complaint were the people with the fucking backpacks.  Everybody under the age of 30 seemed to be sporting backpacks of varying practicality, but weren’t seeming to be buying things to put in the backpacks.  Just as bad:  the people in stupid outfits that had nothing to do with Transformers.  We saw some witches and some things that were probably anime references, and a few people sporting swords.  There was only one Bumblebee, one Prime, and one Ratchet.  Optimus Prime’s dad was dressed as Sparkplug Witwicky.

Beast Wars Megatron and Sparkplug Witwicky

To us a lot of people seemed to be there to be “seen” rather than be there for the awesome Transformers.  90% of the floor space is dedicated to collectable robots that turn into stuff.  Know what kind of event you’re going to, people!

Bitching aside, we both did well.

Jay bought the cool hologram-looking lights seen in the video above, one each for his two boys. You can hear the creator discuss pricing in the video. Jay also got a great price on a black Encore reissue of G1 Ironhide, just $20.

Jay’s best score:  he picked up Fanshobby “Megatooth” (third party G1 Repugnus), a figure I had been eyeing myself. It has chromed plastic mandibles and claws, which is considered a premium finish for figure collectors.

Fanshobby Megatooth (far right)

A look at my purchases below:

  • Takara Masterpiece MP-15/16-E Cassettebots vs. Cassettetrons.  Compatible with MP Soundwave in cassette modes.
  • KFC Kingzilla (third party MP G1 Snapdragon) with headmaster and triple-changing.
  • Fanstoys Spindrift (third party MP G1 Seaspray)
  • Maketoys Maestro (third party MP G2 Jazz)
  • Hasbro Hun-grrrr, which completes the set I only began last Friday at the beginning of Sausagefest!  Hun-Grrr becomes the torso of the combining Terrorcons, forming the evil Abominus.

Check out some of the cool sights below.  In this gallery:  prototypes of figures yet to come, and some customs as well.

And finally, some of the best of the cool stuff for sale.

Jay knows how to do this stuff.  I saw him negotiate $20 on a red B.A.P.E. Optimus Prime, and it was done with…art, really.  There was an art to it and both guys were happy with the outcome.

With us, we do TFCon right.  We won’t make you dodge our backpacks.  We’re smart about it.  When we buy a couple large items, we take them to the truck and go back in.  It’s a Transformers convention, not a campout.  And I sure as fuck wouldn’t dress up as a Jedi if I’m going to TFCon.

But whatever!  It was fun as these photos show.  Can’t wait for next summer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

#578: TFCon 2017

GETTING MORE TALE #578: TFCon 2017

Hold onto your scraplets, I have literally a shat-ton of photos from Toronto TFCon 2017!

I’ve never been to TFCon before.  Buddy Jason has been trying to get me to go for years.  This is the first time the planets aligned and I went with Jay with two goals:

  1. Pick out a gift for myself from my mother-in-law (who is awesome that way).
  2. Pick out something smaller for myself.

Jay picked me up around 7:00 am and we hit the road.  We discussed strategies and vendors and I quickly realized that this was going to be epic.

I’ll let the massive photo gallery here speak for itself.  For official and third party figures, I have never seen anything like it before.

The goodie bag you get for paying your $35 entrance fee was kind of crap.  It had some flavoured water and a Schick razor.  The TFCon bag itself will get more use than the Schick.

One of the coolest figures was the Con exclusive from OcularMax. Diaclone Paris Dakar Rally Terraegis is a mouthful, but it’s the yellow truck in the gallery below. Look at the detailed deco. Those aren’t stickers!

They also had prototypes of forthcoming third party figures.  One of these was the giant FansToys Omega Supreme (mentioned earlier here).  Another was a really sharp looking pair of jets for a new Masterpiece Aerialbots set.

The items I purchased were:

  1. Takara Titans Return Wheelie from the fine folks at TF Source! – $25 Canadian.  A real winner.
  2. Transformers Collectors Club Impactor – $120 Canadian.  Cheapest I’ve seen.
  3. Third party company FansToys Phoenix – an homage to G1 Skyfire in Masterpiece scale.  From The Chosen Prime.

I just found a new annual pilgrimage.  Thanks Jay — can’t wait for next year!

 

#570: Third Party

By request of J from Resurrection Songs.  If you are familiar with the concept of bootleg CDs, then the idea of third party toys should be easy to assimilate.  For the purpose of this story, I’m going to be speaking only about third party Transformers toys, as they are the only ones in my collection.

GETTING MORE TALE #570: Third Party

What is a third party toy?  Simply put, it is an unauthorized toy designed to look like another toy, without infringing on any copyrights.  Third party toys are big business today.  These independently produced collectibles have limited runs and when they’re out, eBay prices can be prohibitive.  One of the reasons the prices get so high is that third party toys often exceed the quality of the official ones.  They cater to hard core fans looking for specific features and homages.  Stuff that officially produced toys ignore in favour of mass production, safety features and mass appeal.

Third party toys are not to be confused with “KO” or knock-offs.  KO toys originating from China or Korea are complete reproductions of official toys.  Therefore, you can buy a KO of the original Optimus Prime from 1984.  It will come in a KO of the original box with a KO sticker sheet and instructions too.  It’ll be made of die cast and plastic just like the original, and these toys are getting better all the time.  It used to be they would be made with cheap plastic and fall apart immediately.  That happened to me, when I ordered a KO of 1985’s Devastator figure.  First time out of the box, and one of the figures broke.  One part was too tight, the other part was too fragile, and snap.  They are of much higher quality now, and the bonus is that you can get a “brand new” toy of something you always wanted but never had.

To make matters a little more confusing, there are now even KOs of third party figures, and a current popular trend is oversized KOs.  The theory is that bigger is better!  The waters are murky indeed!

There is a certain amount of caution and “buyer beware” to be exercised with third party toys.  Especially with new startup companies, the quality and design can leave a lot to be desired.  One company, Keith’s Fantasy Club (KFC) had early products that were beyond shite.  They initially focused on cassette-bots:  robots that transformed into microcassettes.  I bought one that fell apart out of the box.  Now KFC have worked out the bugs and produce some of the heaviest, highest quality third party toys on the market.  I recently received their “Opticlones”, an original toy based on Transformers Generation 1 Reflector.  This is a set of three robots that combine into a camera.  He has a lot of metal, intricate transformation and dead-on accurate looks to the original cartoon character.  The figure is in “MP” or Masterpiece scale.  He is designed to fit right in with the official Masterpiece Megatron, Optimus Prime, Soundwave and the rest of the line.  Often, third party toys will be designed to interact with the official ones.  Reflector comes with a little miniature version of his camera self that can be held by the official Soundwave.

The early days of third party toys was like the wild wild west, you really had to do your research.  Fortunately, Youtube reviewers like Peaugh made some decisions easy.  A company called Fansproject put out a two-figure add-on kit to go with the official Revenge of the Fallen Bruticus figure, a combiner made of five robots.  Fansproject’s kit flat-out replaced two of the robots with much better ones.  It improved the overall figure greatly by supplying new hands, feet and guns.  Ingeniously, all the numerous accessories had a part in play in all three modes:  robots, vehicles, and combined robot.  Each part was perfectly integrated, and significantly boosted the firepower of the toy.

Bruticus before and after

This was wish fulfillment for fans!  The intricate parts were above and beyond the official Hasbro versions.  There was a new head too, with neck articulation.  Guns could combine into larger guns, parts unfolded into missile launchers…it was great stuff and Fansproject have consistently been on the top of the heap.

One of the reasons companies like Fansproject have lasted so long is that they continually cater to the demands of fans who feel the official products are missing something.  For just about every major Hasbro and Takara release, there is an add-on kit available from a third party company.  New heads are common, because fans are picky enough to want their figure to look like a specific iteration.  Transformers have a 33 year history and characters have undergone many versions.

Often there are multiple third party add-on kits to choose from.  Dr. Wu is one that I have bought from frequently.  Dr. Wu tends to focus on small add-ons, like guns and additional weapons that are missing from the official toy.  If Hasbro and Takara could only release toys that fulfill wishes from the fans from the start, third party companies like Dr. Wu wouldn’t be necessary.  Either due to cost or a desire to have toys less “weaponized”, Hasbro and Takara often omit weapons and accessories that the characters have traditionally wielded.  Enter Dr. Wu and a slew of others.

Even the sticker company Reprolabels/Toyhax have entered the weapons black market.  Reprolabels/Toyhax used to focus strictly on stickers, either to restore or enhance your Transformers.  Now they are including plastic weapons that, once again, Hasbro and Takara have omitted from classic characters.  Toyhax were the only major third party sticker company on the market, and now they’ve gone even further by adding solid add-ons too.  Any serious Transformers fan should visit and make at least one purchase from Toyhax.

Maketoys’ Battle Tanker is a kit to provide weapons and a trailer for Hasbro’s G2 Prime figure, as well as new waist and head.

Similar to add-on kits are upgrade kits.  These require partial disassembly of  your figure to outright replace major components.  This is often done to add articulation, especially in the hands.  Beelzeboss is a third party that sells a very complex kit for the official Combiner Wars Optimus Prime figure.  It’s a hairy process, involving tiny screws, pulling out small metal pins, and replacing entire waist and leg pieces in exchange for new ones.  The upgrade adds height and completely changes the appearance of Prime.  If you’re up to the task, it looks incredible.  Other upgrades are simpler.  A lot of modern Transformers have ball joints and it’s easy to pop off a head and replace it with a third party one that has light-up eyes.

At this point, there are now so many quality third party companies out there fighting for our dollars, that choosing one version to go with can be daunting.  KFC doesn’t have the only version of an MP-scale Reflector out there.  Another fine company called Fans Toys also have one.  Ultimately I preferred KFC’s version of the camera mode, which tipped the scales.  For other characters, especially combiners made of multiple robots, there are many versions, most great.  Choosing one might depend on which one is biggest, or fits in better with your collection.  Youtube reviews are essential.  Benscollectibles is one of the best.  Emgo316 “The freakin’ geek himself”, Peaugh, Balmatrix, Optibotimus, and many more can be counted on for their prompt and thorough reviews.  Another benefit to these reviews is to master the transformation process.  These companies are based out of Asia, and the instructions have no English.  You have to rely on sometimes vague pictures.  Some third party toys are so complex that, like a Rubik’s cube, it’s easy to just give up in frustration.  Maketoys’ Wardog (aka G1 Warpath) is the most difficult toy I own.  These guys will guide you through transforming it.

You might ask yourself, “What if there is a quality issue?  What do I do?”  Most of these companies are very good about providing replacement pieces.  X-Transbots Apollyon is their version of a Masterpiece Megatron.  The heavy battery-powered fusion cannon on his right arm is quite heavy, and the right arm droops.  It won’t hold up.  So X-Transbots provided a tighter replacement piece for the shoulder ball joint.  It’s easy to install, and they began including these replacement shoulders right in the box.  This is one example.

Apollyon on dispaly with official, third party and knock-offs.  Can you tell?

Where can you get third party toys?  Online of course, but I am lucky enough to have a store in town that sells them.  B&K Collectibles in Cambridge is my go-to guy dealer.  If Big Dan doesn’t have it, Big Bad Toy Store and TF Source will.  Now, there are even crowdfunded third party toys!  My buddy Jason just received his Ocular Max Kojin project, one such crowdfunded toy.  There were incentives offered including discounts and free bonus figures, and I regret not jumping on board myself.  (I didn’t because I was waiting for the official Takara version, and now…well, that might have been a mistake.)

Ocular Max Kojin

My biggest third party purchase is happening this summer.  A favourite company, Fans Toys, is releasing their massive version of as Masterpiece scale G1 Omega Supreme.  It is called Aegis Sentinel and is so huge that it is being sold in two separate parts.  Sentinel A is the tank and track component, and it will be available in June.  Sentinel B is out in August, and will have the rocket and base components.  Together, Aegis Sentinel will combine into a 21 1/2″ robot behemoth.   This is a beast that will look amazing in proper scale with Optimus Prime and cohorts.  The official Prime is already a large figure at 9″.  It’s going to be quite cool to have the giant Autobot in proper scale with Optimus!

Then all I have to do is slap some Autobot logo stickers on him, courtesy of Toyhax.  Hasbro/Takara will never release a full sized Masterpiece Omega Supreme figure.  Fortunately the fearless Fans Toys will.  Based on their Iron Dibots line, I know that my Omega will be heavy, strong and very impressive looking.

If you’d like to know more, check out the Youtube reviews of some of the fine folks above, and browse the third party section of Big Bad Toy Store or TF Source.  Even if you never buy a third party transforming robot, you have to admit they’re pretty damn nifty.

Aegis Sentinel and the Iron Dibots by Fans Toys

 

 

#569: Webb Surfing

GETTING MORE TALE #569:  Webb Surfing

Some readers are young enough to never have known a time without the internet.  Half my lifetime ago, in 1997, the World Wide Web was was a luxury that few had regular access to.  Tom, T-Rev and myself were eager to check out what the web had to offer to a bunch of music geeks.  We visited an internet cafe in downtown Kitchener, paid a couple bucks, and searched.  Remember Webcrawler?

T-Rev was trying to find rare releases by Steve Earle, and another country rocker named Webb Wilder.  Trevor owned his album Doo Dad and wanted to see what Wilder had been up to since.  He found a plethora of releases listed on some now-defunct website.  He also confirmed the existence of Steve Earle’s very rare debut EP, Pink and Black.  Thus the Pink and Black EP became one of T-Rev’s first “Holy Grail” must-haves.  Meanwhile, I was exploring previously unseen Deep Purple live albums and compilations.

Together we decided we should join forces and order some impossible-to-find CDs that we knew were out there, but lacked access to.  Tom had a friend who had the internet at home:  British Phil.  What luck!  One winter evening we ventured to British Phil’s house and gathered around a small computer monitor in the basement.  CDNow was the best online retailer for music.  We took turns browsing and deciding.  The only one who didn’t order anything was British Phil.  Trevor bought Webb Wilder’s Town and Country.  I can’t remember what Tom would have chosen, but I remember mine well:  Deep Purple’s Stormbringer.  It was $30.  I had it on cassette, but I was dying to get a CD copy.

British Phil and LeBrain

We pooled our goodies into one order and used my credit card.  A week or two later, we each had some new music to enjoy.  Our test run went smooth without a hitch.  Having proven that ordering music online was safe and easy, the door had opened to hundreds upon hundreds of purchases over the years.  Now, it’s simply second nature.

I need some new tunes and have a $25 Amazon gift card to burn.  I think I’m going to place an online order right now!

Gallery: “Holy sh*t, jackpot” #3: C-3P0 Gold Arm edition

Action figures are like CDs. You can go and buy the “standard edition” at Walmart, or what have you. But if you want all the extra goodies, sometimes you have to hunt a little more and buy a few extra versions.

Toys such as my beloved Star Wars Black Series 6″ series have plenty of exclusives, some that I have and some that I want. The most elusive are the San Diego Comic-Con toys. Some exclusives: Jabba the Hut came with a cardboard throne and accessories. Their Boba Fett came with Han Solo in carbonite. But they are mucho pricey. Elsewhere down the money scale are toys that are exclusive to certain stores and online outlets.

Walgreens is a store that doesn’t exist in Canada and often gets exclusive Star Wars figures. Their most well known is the “prototype” all-white Boba Fett based on an original 1978 Ralph McQuarrie concept sketch. Their current Star Wars treasure is a C-3P0 variation with two gold arms and one silver leg.

The “standard” version of Threepio has the red arm seen in The Force Awakens. This “Resistance Base” Threepio is the common one. Since C-3P0 doesn’t come with any accessories (not even a restraining bolt or com-link), fans hoped he would come with alternate limbs, so you could recreate his look in Episode IV. Hasbro had a different plan. Instead they made the different limbed robots exclusives to Walgreens. I have been looking for one.  (There is also a version with a darker red arm, but it doesn’t look as good as these.)

Our neighbors went to Toronto Comic-Con yesterday and found the Walgreens silver leg Threepio for me. It was only $40 — a lot cheaper than ordering one online. Thanks guys!!

#504: Waiting

Note:  This tale is from 1996 and does not reflect current tech.

GETTING MORE TALE #504: Waiting

The store that I managed for the longest period of time was opened in April of 1996.  The format was 95% used stock, about 5% new.  It was fun being a part of the cutting edge in retail.

When we opened that store, we were inundated by customers who had never heard of us before.  Every day for months, somebody would wander in who had never been in one of our stores before.  It was cool.  We were different, and we wanted people to know it.  We were eager to promote our special features and strengths, such as our listening stations and reservation lists.

The reservation list caused a lot of confusion among new customers.

Here’s how it worked.  Let’s say you’re looking for a CD that is hard to find used – Pink Floyd’s The Wall.  That one was expensive brand new.  Usually it ran for about $33.99.  Customers would much rather pay less, so they put themselves on our waiting list.  At the time we opened, the waiting lists were for that store only.  We didn’t have the ability to share our waiting lists with other branches yet.  This was still a massive improvement over the old system:  a notebook with phone numbers and titles written in it.  (There were lots of names and numbers with the title “any Beatles”.)

The list operated on a first-come, first-served basis.  If you were the very first customer to put their name in for The Wall back in April ’96, then you would get dibs on the very first used copy that came in.  If you were second, you’d get the next shot at it, and so on and so forth.  What seemed to confuse my early customers the most was “Where do these used CDs actually come from?”

There was no magical land of used CDs.  There was no massive warehouse from which to pick and choose copies of The Wall in various conditions.  There was no place from which to order used CD stock like you could with new.  If there was a Used CD Magic Wonderland, then it was in your basement, because the only way we received our stock in those days was via the customer.  If a customer came in and traded a great condition copy of The Wall, then congratulations – the first person on the waiting list received the first call.

On down the list we went.  If the first person no longer wanted The Wall (a frequent occurrence) then we’d go down the list to the second person.  We would phone each customer and give them a week to pick up their CD.  Unfortunately most customers who no longer wanted the CD never bothered to tell us, so it would sit there for a whole week before we could put it back in the hopper.  We wiped out our entire waiting list for Last of the Mohicans (Soundtrack) with just one copy, because none of the reserved customers wanted it anymore.  There were five names on that list, and then suddenly none!

So: reserve a CD, and we would let you know when one was traded in.  This doesn’t seem like it should be hard to understand, but apparently for some it was.

One upset customer came in about two weeks after reserving a rare CD.  “Is it in yet?”

I checked.  “No, it’s not in stock, but since you have a reserve for it, we’ll call you when it does show up.”

“When’s that going to be?” he asked.

“Hard to say,” I responded, trying to answer his question.  “Whenever someone trades one in, which could be tomorrow or it could be next year.”

Then he bellowed, “What do I have to do to get this thing to come in?!”

Sometimes, I just didn’t know what else to say.

“You don’t have to do anything,” I said, not sure how to explain this further.  “Somebody will get tired of their copy, or just need the money.  If they sell it to me, you’ll get a phone call right away.”  Then, feeling a little snarky, I added, “Unless you know somebody with a copy that you can talk into trading it in to us.”

There was actually one nearly-surefire way to guarantee a used CD would come into stock.  T-Rev discovered this, inadvertently.  Somehow, any time either of us bought a new CD that we’d been hunting for, suddenly a used copy would show up in store.  Sometimes on the same day.  This happened more than once!  I was there when it happened with a Primus CD he was looking for.  (Wish I could remember which one.)  It was eerie.

Everything has changed today, obviously, and now you have access to the world’s inventory from your PC.  It’s hard to imagine there was once a time when you (gasp!) had to actually wait to find a used copy of The Wall!

WALL

#477: “Holy sh*t, jackpot, holy sh*t, jackpot…”

IMG_20160319_132410

GETTING MORE TALE #477:  “Holy shit, jackpot, holy shit, jackpot…”

Collectors know the feeling.  You walk into a store, and saunter over to a favourite section.  Upon spying a gold mine of things you had been looking for, the euphoric feeling hits you just a shot of adrenaline straight in the heart.

“Holy shit! Jackpot…”

Whether you collect music, movies, books, toys, hockey cards or Kiss stuff (they being a whole category of their own), we have all experienced the feelings.  Finding a mother lode of treasures can be such a ride of emotions!  The excitement when you see it all.  The dread when you feel your thin wallet.  The pain of picking out the things you can afford.  The second-guessing and flip-flopping over what to actually get.  The sorrow of having to choose something to leave behind.

This has been happening to me for decades.  Having broad tastes and interests plus a healthy case of OCD will do that to you.  Over 20 years ago, my love for my childhood favourites the Transformers was re-ignited by such a jackpot.  While browsing junk at a church garage sale with my buddy Peter, I ran into a large pile of Marvel Transformers comics.  Most of these were from near the end of the series (issues #50-80), and long after I stopped collecting Transformers.  I couldn’t just leave them there!  Who knows where they would wind up then?  I had to rescue them.

At 50 cents each, this hardly broke the bank, but all the same feelings arose:  The excitement upon spying these comics, the picking out of the ones I needed, the angst of leaving some behind (even though I didn’t really need them).  And it kick-started a stunted adulthood that quickly reverted back to youth, a place I’m still stuck today.

IMG_20160319_105213Today, whenever I spot a stack of Japanese imports at a store (as I did last month as Vertigo Records in Ottawa), the adrenaline hits.

If I spy a pile of 90’s Metallica singles, the same thing happens.

A collection of rare 80’s Canadian metal records?  Same thing again.

But I still collect toys and comics too, and this same experience just happened to me at a local Walmart store.

The Star Wars Black Series 6” action figures have been hard to find.  There are always “shelf warmer” characters that nobody wants, and in 2015 that was poor Finn.  Other figures have been impossible to spot at retail.  Whenever a shipment arrives, people snap them all up and often end up re-selling them on eBay for more than double what they’re worth.  It’s not cool but that’s what happens.  I’m sure the store staff know all the eBayers  by heart, because they the know when the shipments arrive and are there when the store opens.

Cases are also “short-packed”, meaning a box of eight figures might have three Finns, but only one Kylo Ren.

A couple weeks ago, I was at a small Walmart store at Stanley Park Mall in Kitchener.  Interestingly enough, this is the same mall at which the very first Record Store in the chain that I worked opened.  My dad worked at that mall (at a bank), and I worked there twice (at a grocery store and finally at the Record Store).  It’s a pretty shitty mall and the shittiest Walmart around, but sometimes you can find real treasures at the out-of-the-way ones.

Even though this is a sucky Walmart, I still found a Star Wars 6” New Order Flametrooper there a few weeks earlier, so I knew that figures could be had there.  What I did not expect this time were FOUR more figures I needed, and some of the hardest to get:  “Old” Han (the most popular), Captain Phasma (very hard to find), Jango Fett with removable helmet and jetpack, and Finn in Stormtrooper gear!  Most of these are going for stupid money online, so to find them in store was quite an exciting surprise.

I frantically sifted through the row of figures, animatedly pulling out all the ones I needed, and singing out loud “Holy shit, jackpot, holy shit, jackpot, holy shit, jackpot…

That’s when I noticed the stock guy staring at me.  I spied several boxes of figures that he was unloading and opening.  Did he figure me to be one of the eBayers?  Maybe, maybe not, but I then saw two more employees stocking the toy shelves, giving me glances.  I’m sure they all heard my “Holy shit, jackpot” song and dance.   I smiled and ran away.

That haul cost me $100, but it was worth it!  And I still love the rush of discovery.

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#462: The Deep Purple Project

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GETTING MORE TALE #462: The Deep Purple Project

If loyal readers know one thing about LeBrain, it is that he owns a lot of CDs.

A LOT.

I haven’t done a count in ages and I’m giving up on keeping track of these things.  I estimate over 3000 CDs are in inventory currently.  Add to that a few hundred tapes, LPs, DVDs and other miscellaneous musical formats.

For Christmas this year, I received a number of Deep Purple releases.  Some of these releases would presumably replace older Deep Purple discs in my collection.  For example, I expected the 5 CD box set Hard Road 1968-1969 to replace the first three Purple albums in my collection, and I could retire those discs permanently.  This was not the case.  I began checking, track by track, and it turns out the individual CD versions have tracks that are not on the Hard Road box set.  “Hush” live from US TV is one such track.  There are also BBC Top Gear sessions on the remastered CDs that are not on Hard Road, but I believe all of these are duplicated on yet another Deep Purple CD, BBC Sessions 1968-1970.  On top of all that, there is another CD called The Early Years that covers the same ground, but it too has one exclusive track on it.  That is an alternate take of “Kentucky Woman” that I don’t have elsewhere.  This is crazy!  How can anyone keep track of it all?

I’ve been ripping all the CDs in my collection to the computer in bits and pieces for a couple years.  It didn’t have much rhyme or reason.  If I wanted to listen to something, I ripped it at that time.  If it was a new arrival, I’d rip it to PC on first listen.  This Deep Purple situation got me to go over my entire Purple collection, looking for duplicates and redundant releases.  (I didn’t find any.)   This in turn prompted me to get the rest of my Purple albums ripped and digitized for good.  This has turned out to be a monumental task.

My Deep Purple folder had 74 sub-folders in it, each one an album or a disc from one.  That’s a lot of Purple.  So how many did I have still to rip?

At first count, it was 64 more discs.  That includes 12 discs from a box set called The Soundboard Series (the second of two 12 disc live Purple box sets I have!).  It includes all the multi-disc sets I got for Christmas.  With the exception of the Hard Road box set, these are all live discs, and all official releases!  Then, I had to adjust my count.  I found two more box sets tucked away (as box sets sometimes are, due to their odd shapes):  On Tour MCMXCIII (4 discs), and Live Encounters (2 CDs, plus 2 DVDs too).  Last week, a double live from Japan arrived at LeBrain HQ, called Live in Verona.  Up that count to 72 more discs.  So far, I’ve ripped 25 of them.

This isn’t even all the Deep Purple I have left un-ripped.  I have some things that I don’t particularly need to listen to.  The 3 CD Live in Japan was a great package for its time.  It contained a remixed and expanded version of Made in Japan.  While I always want a unique official remix in my collection, just to have it, I don’t need to listen to it since it has been usurped by the remixed (again) 4 CD deluxe Made in Japan.  Who cares about a remix they did in ’93?  Obviously I only care enough to keep it (for “completion”), not to play it.  There are more like that, such as an earlier mix of California Jam that has since been replaced by a better, more complete version.

Now that you have a glimpse at what Obsessive Compulsive Disorder looks like up close, I’m sure you have one specific question.

“How many versions of ‘Smoke on the Water’ are there?”  Well, it appears that I have 63 versions on CD.  63. Different. Versions. Of.  “Smoke on the Water”.  By Deep Purple.  None of these are covers by other bands.

This, folks, is a shat-ton of Deep Purple!  Won’t you join me each day this week for some live Purple action?

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Part 284: The Impact of Movies

Welcome back to the Week of Rockin’ Movies.  Today I wanted to talk about my own movie collection, because pretty much the whole thing rocks.  If you missed a previous installment, click below!

MONDAY:  House of 1000 Corpses (2003)
TUESDAY: The Devil’s Rejects (2005)
WEDNESDAY: 2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984)

RECORD STORE TALES Part 284:  The Impact of Movies

Way back, I discussed how the CD store began stocking used DVDs.  It was a slam dunk success, once the word got out.  When we had built up decent inventory,which took time, DVD sales really took off.  At first, our DVD purchases were slow.  Not enough people were selling them for us to have a large selection of movies.  In order to help maintain our stock, staff members were initially only allowed to buy one DVD per pay period.  That was to prevent us from taking all the good stuff (although some figured out ways around this if two must-haves arrived at the same time*).  Once inventory exploded, we had boxes and boxes of overstock.  We had to add a new center island to the store for the growing movie section.   Some days, we’d buy a hundred movies, but only a couple CDs.  How things had reversed!   We ended up with DVDs in our Bin O’ Bargains.  (It was in Joe‘s Bargain Bin that I acquired Incident At Loch Ness.)

This ushered in a whole new set of customers.  Now I had customers that weren’t interested in music at all.  Many people exclusively bought and sold DVDs.  I had some that were only interested in buying TV show seasons, which were expensive back then.  Now you can get a whole series for the price of what a season used to cost back then.

 

My friend and collaborator Aaron hasn’t had cable TV in a dog’s age.  Much like myself, he considers most of what’s on TV to be mindless, useless, and brain-rotting.  So he ditched his cable.

Meanwhile, I still had my cable, but my growing DVD collection was rendering it obsolete.  Once the restrictions were lifted on staff DVD purchases, my collection grew prodigiously.  I endeavored to collect complete filmographies from the directors that I liked.  I sought all the Kubricks, then everything by Sam Raimi, and Terry Gilliam.

Then one day in 2003, I decided to follow Aaron’s example.  If he could do it I could do it too, so I decided that I didn’t need the brain-rotting tube anymore.  I was hardly watching it anyway.  Rogers don’t like losing customers, the customer service rep asked me, “But what will you watch?” He didn’t get it.  I guess not too many people decide they’re not going to watch TV anymore, and this was long before Netflix.  Once I declined all his offers for deals and discounts, my cable was disconnected.

I lived happily without cable for five whole years.  Only my massive movie and music collection kept me company.  I enjoyed saving the money, and I continued to immerse myself in new movies all the time.  In fact, in the latter days of the record store, when I was miserable, I was more into movies than music.  Music didn’t bring me the joy it once had, it was a dark time for me.  That was when movies had their greatest impact on me.

Then I got a new job. Then I got married.  To a Maple Leafs fan.

One of the pre-conditions of marriage was that we were getting cable again.  Another pre-condition was that Mrs. LeBrain was to get the TV any time there was a hockey game on.  During hockey season, that’s three nights a week.  I didn’t realize that when the Leafs were (inevitably) knocked out of a playoff position, that Mrs. LeBrain was still going to watch hockey games right to the Stanley Cup.  I didn’t get that.  My movie watching time went down, and down, and down.  Eventually, I just gave up custody of the remote control.  I sat by as hockey and then reality TV sadly took over my screen.

I still have my movie collection, pared down a bit, to the 4 or 5 hundred that I love most.  I just wish I had more time to watch them!  Unfortunately, the Leafs are playing the Florida Panthers tonight.  Maybe I can schedule some movie time during the playoffs, since Toronto was eliminated last night.


* to be discussed in a future Record Store Tale…the story of Ivan.