“A mastery of the art of toy begging”
Much like the Force Awakening, when I was about five years old, a Star Wars collector awakened inside me. This is a tale of how I became a Star Wars collector, and more importantly why. Why I am driven to fill every spare inch of my world with little plastic space men. I remember with absolute clarity, how it began. I was sitting at the kitchen table and my mother walked into the room and handed me two loose Star Wars figures. In that moment my life was set onto the path I’m still following today. You can see those two figures at the top of this post. Luke has had his head reattached, and both are missing bits and pieces. Nearly forty years later and halfway round the world, they’re still going strong.
I had only seen Star Wars once. This was before Netflix or YouTube. Before The Empire struck back. Even the now obsolete V.C.R was several years away from changing the world. I played with those toys constantly and I was happy, until my world was rocked by the revelation that Luke and Vader were not the only figures in the range. It was clear that I should have more friends and enemies, to bring back the action of the movie that had captivated my young mind. But how to get them?
My mission in life had become a mastery of the art of toy-begging, and I trained my parents well. Each trip out of the house became an opportunity to pass by toy shops ‘just to see what they have’. I knew if I was patient during my mothers endless shoe shop visits, I could probably get a Star Wars toy. Every Christmas and Birthday was a jackpot of ever increasing proportions as my family began to learn what to look for when I was not around. Their training was complete.
You may recall from a previous post that this joyful Willy Wonka Childhood of Star Wars toys came to a grinding halt following the Return Of The Jedi product range cancellation. I remember two specific moments when I felt the tide change, the first of which was the last Return Of The Jedi figure I purchased – The Imperial Dignitary. What is going on with this figure? No accessories, terrible slapped on paint job, no soft goods – only a moulded cloak. Clearly they had lost their enthusiasm. The second moment was a much more personal milestone, and you may have had something similar happen if you are a collector like me.
I had convinced my father it was absolutely essential to my continued existence, that I be allowed one of the last Mini rig vehicles to be released. Having contrived a trip of quite some distance, literally over a mountain range, during the journey I practised my routine. I was using one of my all time best toy-begging tactics, number 3b, otherwise known as the ‘I can’t decide’ gambit, to attempt to get both the AST-5 and the Endor Forest Ranger.
Dad had probably seen through ‘TBT-3b’ years before this trip, and standing in the toy aisle he asked me if I didn’t think I was “getting too old for this playing with toys stuff.” This was a shocking question, not just because it threw serious doubt on my chances of getting both toys, but also because my relationship with my father had without warning been redefined. The reality of who I was as a person had reached another turning point, similar to unexpectedly becoming a toy collector years before. I was compelled to acquire these little plastic space men, and explore the universe they represent although I couldn’t elaborate on that at the age of fourteen. All I could say was “No, I’m not too old, I love Star Wars.” I was committed.
My father, like that toy shop, is gone now. But I still have all the toys and books, and in a way they keep him and his love alive. It was never a conscious decision to spend my life collecting toys, it was an expression of love for this magical world. This was a desire expressed again and again when I saw a cardback full of tiny toy images. Every time I watch The Clone Wars, or when Force Friday rolls around it’s an extra minute added onto my childhood. My life, just like those little plastic space men, has been shaped and influenced by Star Wars, and the love of Star Wars. It has been a great life so far.
If any of this sounds familiar to you, please feel free to leave your memories of becoming a collector below. I’d love to hear your stories.