Hello. Gnou here. I’m taking over this column for a spell. Hosting, if you will. But this is still the Niche Fetish you know and adore. Featuring: Hateball. About a year ago, I had the chance (the honor?)(the privilege?) to interview octoBloglin’s very own about toys. Didn’t expect that, did you? You think you know everything? Well read on, podnuh, because the exchange took a turn for the cryptic as we meandered through our own untamed brains parts in order to understand what it is that we like so much about toys. The agitation of acquiring, the bang of bootlegging, the conurbation of collecting. The dementia… of… digests? All this and more, below.
Gnou: So you collect toys huh? That’s cool, I used to collect them too. When I was like 8 years old. Do you have any particular feelings towards the word “toy”?
Hateball: I do. I collect toys. When I was a kid—maybe between ages 9 and 13—I collected G.I. Joes. I had a whole room full of them. Big ones. Small ones. Tons of dudes. File cards. Cataloged weaponry. I knew what helmet, backpack, and accessory went with what dude, and I knew every dude’s name and affiliation. I was a buff of that. I was a G.I. Joe buff.
And then when I was in High School my dad got remarried and his wife went into my toy room and boxed everything up. It was tragic timing: I was 15 and didn’t care. I had found boobs. I was pretty concerned with how I was going to start collecting boobs. So I never really sweated the fact that all my prize possessions were sitting in a box getting all broken up on each other whenever someone moved them. The boxes. There were several boxes. Full of everything.
And then when I was 20 and living in another state, she sold the entire collection for $150 and never said sorry. It’s absolutely ridiculous to say so, but I am still carrying the whole episode around with me. Terrordrome. Tomahawk. Desert Fox. Hit & Run. Alley Viper. Xamot. Tomax. Fucking gone.
One thing I noticed about my Joes even back then: I totally got more enjoyment out of ‘setting up’ than I did with actual playing. Do you know what I mean? Do I need to explain that? I organized teams and subteams and battles and cliques and everything…and I loved it. I’m not sure if I ever got too heavily into the whole ‘you’ll never take me alive, Recondo! Pew! Pew! Pew!!’-style of playing.
Incidentally, my feelings toward the word ‘toy’ are as follows: It beats the hell out of ‘piece’. I do not like ‘art object’. I am not a maquette or statue or sculpture person. I do not like ‘obje d’art’ or however you spell that. At least when someone says ‘toy’, I know I can see it, touch it, and probably pose it. Hopefully without breaking it. I want it to look rad AND be something that’s designed for at least SOME degree of tactile engagement.
Gnou: Some people stay old school, even in the newest of new schools. Are you aware that a lot of people (psychiatrists) put hoarders in the OCD category? As if the phrase wasn’t already over-used. I used to have these elaborate battlefields in my room, GI Joes zip-lining from the top of the armoire, straight into Lego compounds. Corpses of Playmobils littering the ground. From the outside looking in though, the toy collecting world doesn’t seem to have much playfulness to it.
Hateball: My personal opinion is such that people are now becoming so old at everything being so constantly new that they just settle down into whatever it is they’re used to…damn the torpedoes. Is it (new) news—to anyone?—that people crave routine? Is it really that much of a head-scratcher when people (1.0) have backwards compatibility issues with The Internet 6.0? Class dismissed.
I am aware of the academic link/association between collectors and the OCD label. I bristle at it. I can’t claim to know all of the ins and outs of OCD, but I can tell you that ‘healthy’ collecting likely has more to do with peer pressure than it does with any type of disorder. Note the ‘healthy’ qualifier, but yeah. I would have to, however, admit that collecting, by it’s very nature, is part of the overall sickness that is modern people. Modern people and their priorities.
Right? I mean, if everything were colors, then food would be red, air would be blue, and maybe sleep is yellow. Primary. Love, support, shelter…there’s your secondary. Now we’ve got a wheel. You need to start spinning that thing pretty fucking fast before you get the kind of duodenary colors that would correlate to collecting. Collecting toys.
In other words, the whole thing is a ‘nice to have’. That should be said more often. My understanding of how the obsessive compulsive brain works is that there is not really a clear presence of something that is ‘nice to have’. I’m probably wrong, however.
Which brings us to another thing I’m probably wrong about. Joy. I’m compelled to agree with your outsider assessment. Which sucks. That sucks to say. Am I saying that you need to start stringing our rooms up with string and playing battle beasts with your toys in order to truly appreciate them? No. Probably not (see: setting up, above). I do think, however, that in the toy-collector setting, things can easily take a turn toward the in-fight. The Argument. The jealousy and envy game. There are—quite often—quite a few hurt butts lingering around. And I don’t really know why this is. After all:
It’s toys, dude.
I was once told that a photo I had taken of one toy wearing the helmet/headpiece of another toy was a major bummer and HUGELY disrespectful toward the respective toymakers. True story.
Gnou: That’s hilariously sad. Woefully laughable. But I guess that should be expected when people get passionate about things. And by things, I don’t just mean item things, I mean everything. Now I may be reading too much into this but: it seems that the toy market is dominated by the US and Japan. I mean, I know there are Lapins Crétins in France and Flying Fortress in Germany – and people making customs a bit everywhere. Anyway, these are two pretty passionate countries (stereotypically speaking) and I know you are quite fond of the Nippon aesthetic – but have you noticed any differences in how people approach their toy collections?
Hateball: I agree with you: #waySad. But maybe that reveals the false (in my opinion) impression that these things are art first and playthings second. You said it yourself: Joes are fun, but they become hilariously moreso at times by plunging them into a LEGO city. There is something about that juxtaposition that broadens the experience. A dimension is added. And that’s funny. And fun.
My personal notions surrounding the regional and/or national differences in attitude and approach to toy collecting. I was not expecting that question. And I have to double-up on the personalness factor: I can only speak from my experience.
I think it’s my belief that the seed—the acorn—of seriousness that presents itself front-and-center in the world of toy collecting might have started with Japanese collectors. I would, however, go so far to say that it—the gravity. The REALness—belongs there. Or rather, I can see where the feeling of legitimacy comes from within the Japanese culture: that is a culture that does not treat toys and games and cartoons and comics the same way that many other cultures and societies treat them.
Strangely enough, though, I think my experience of Japanese collectors—the few that I know or have had limited interaction with—is that—despite this more natural and original air of legitimacy—they are much more private about their collections than others. Maybe that’s beCAUSE it’s so real to them that it’s kept more private. Or maybe that’s just me talking out of my ass. My experience with toy collectors stateside is really not much more expansive…huh. Come to think of it, I don’t know if I’ve really been in many rooms filled with toys here. I’ve visited Skinner’s studio which is a gas. I’ve beheld portions Brian Flynn’s private collection in person. But it’s pretty weird that I’ve never hooked up with one of the dozen or so dudes from the swap boards or Flickr that I’m friendly with and gone over and checked out their gear. Strange.
I’ve had people here…but not tons of them. I wonder why that is. My collection is well documented on Flickr for all to see, but…is that the same?
if you really want me to get deep, I’d say that the Japanese collectors I’ve personally encountered are very secure in their collections and their collecting habits. This (VERY MUCH, now that I think about it) also extends to the shops I’ve visited in Tokyo that happen to traffic in the particular type of toys that I’m interested in. They do not need me to care about what they care about in order to keep caring about it.
Now, I am not saying that the reverse (reciprocal?) of that is true for Western or non-Nippon collectors (that they need me to care about what they care about in order to keep caring about it) but it’s…different somehow.
I have always tried to remain cognizant of the ‘borrowed credibility’ phenomenon, and I think that with US collectors—probably myself included—it’s a mark of honor to be in touch with a very real, very thriving, and very legitimate aspect of another culture. It’s still just toys, sure…but in Japan, being a toy maker or toy designer or toy painter is (seems?) just as acceptable as being a grocer or cobbler or office worker. Here…maybe not so much.
I probably didn’t really answer your question or say anything of any real worth up there, but that’s probably because I’m trying desperately to keep the taste of Mr. Chuck Taylor out of my beautiful mouth.
Well that’s it for today. Part deux coming up next week.- Gnou