Let me preface this by saying that Todd and I have been competing over displays for probably close to 15 years now...
Last year, many of you may have watched (aka suffered through) Todd's and my panel on SW displays.
During the presentation we put up a slide for the Early Bird pole display sign without a picture...as neither of us had a complete one of our own for the presentation.
Well to our surprise a guy in the front row (his name was Eric) announced to us that he had one. I don't remember what I said to him at the time...but it was something to the effect of..."We'll talk after this is over". Once the presentation was finished, in typical fasion, Todd made a B-line straight to him. Walking off stage I had several people approach me with this and that question and finally I shrugged them off and made my way over to the two of them (sorry if I blew anyone here off at the time!) Todd showed me a little photo album he had brought, with a few pictures of Star Wars displays...but not the EB pole sign. It turns out he had seen the blurb online for our collector's panel and had flown all the way from NY City just to see our presentation! (What the hell was he thinking?!? hahaha). He used to work as a stockboy for a department store back in the 1970's. He was into Star Wars as much as any teenager was at the time...and didn't necessarily have a ton of money to buy things. But, he did have the foresight to take home several cardboard displays and shipping cases that would have otherwise been tossed in the trash. He would walk out with boxes of stuff and the security guards would stop him, look inside the empty boxes and send the crazy box collecting kid on his way. He would also go around to other stores to network and ask them to save displays for him (much like I'm sure many of us here did / or do since the special editions came out). That is apparently how he picked up the EB pole display sign...as they never had that one at his store...although he had found it much later (likely later 1980's / early 1990's at a Gee-Bee's department store that was going out of business). He wanted to see our presentation to not only gauge value but also see what we are all about. He didn't have a pic of EB pole display because he wasn't entirely sure where it was and he also said that he had only taken a look at it once...when he took a peek at it (never fully pulling it out of the shipper...yes he said he had the shipper for it too!) He hinted that he might be willing to sell it so of course we exchanged contact info and we parted in good company.
Todd had to get back to his table in the convention hall...so we didn't have much time to talk...but I remember us being both skeptical and excited at the same time.
The night before I left, Todd and I had a heart to heart talk and decided to put all previous differences / competitive aspirations aside and work together on this deal. Eric had a strong sentimental attachment to his collection, and it seemed important to him that he would know where the key pieces ended up. Competition between two friends might only serve to drive the deal elsewhere...and we weren't sure either of us could swing the full collection on our own. We decided that if Eric really had the EB pole display sign as he claimed, we would do the fairest thing possible to decide who gets it...flip a coin.
Now time passes and we all know how collecting enthusiasm often takes a back seat to everyday life responsibilities.
Both Todd and I called and emailed him numerous times. Most of the time, we would get to his full voicemail box. On occasion, I would get through to him and we would have nice long chats...but it was tough to nail him down on a specific time when we could meet up...because he lived in NYC but all his stuff was at his mother's house in Pennsylvania and his work would only rarely allow him to take leave. Really, I was not expecting for anything to happen anytime soon (maybe until next Celebration!). Well, about a month prior, Todd finally was able to talk to him and get him to commit to a date when we could all meet up at his mom's house. I'm in California now, so I had to fly in...and Todd drove many hours from Indiana. The plan was that Todd would pick me up from the airport Saturday morning and then we would drive straight there. He did pick me up (on time!) and no sooner than 10 minutes into the drive we realized we had made a wrong turn. That quickly gave me a deja vu flashing back about 12 years ago when Todd made a wrong turn and we ended up in a not so nice part of Jersey on our way to making a deal in Long Island for a mix of displays including a Star Wars Toy Center header and several greasy SE Taco Bell displays. We got back on track and I told Todd that maybe we should call Eric and let him know we would be a little late after our wrong turn...and so we could confirm directions. Todd then told me he hadn't made contact with Eric in about a week! He said that even if Eric was a no-show, that at least we could show up at his mom's doorstep and have her show us the displays. Now I admire Todd's determination, but at that point I was thinking, crap...I flew all this way out here for a leisurely drive with Todd through rural Pennsylvania...and then we're going to show up on some old lady's doorstep that wasn't even expecting us and say "Hey can we see your son's Star Wars displays?" I quickly picked up the phone and dialed Eric's number. THANK THE MAKER! Eric answered and was expecting us.
Finally we arrived. After a year of trying, we were finally at his doorstep...but we still had no idea what he actually had...and he still had no idea where the EB pole display was! We walked in the living room and he had a few displays out...but nothing really spectacular...an upright notebook display, a couple cereal boxes,... We sat and talked for awhile. He told us that the the Star Wars stuff was mostly upstairs in his old bedroom but there was also stuff in his basement. Well, we went upstairs and it was *packed* with all sorts of stuff. Greeting us at the head of stairs was a beautiful 1970's comics upright display (which he did not want to part with). There were just boxes and boxes of stuff. He walked us back to the bedroom and then we just went at it! Todd took one side of the room and I took the other. Eric was kind enough to let us search through all of his stuff rooting out whatever Star Wars stuff we could find....and that room was packed with stuff! We pulled out header after header, bin after bin. There wasn't much space in the bedroom so I just started taking stuff down into the living room. While Todd was busy, I finally made my way through to his closet. The closet door was a relatively small opening and looked back into a much larger space that had several boxes in the back...all of which were Kenner SW shipping cases. Unfortunately they weren't filled with product (we didn't really expect them to be based on what he had told us). In the midst of pulling out those empty shipping cases, I saw a shipper propped up against the wall behind a bunch of hanging clothes. My heart started beating faster and my palms started getting sweaty (control your sympathetic response Dr. Grief!) It had printed on it: "Kenner, 1 each, Star Wars Certificate, 3-D Pole Display, Please Hold, Kenner Representative Will Set Up". Hidden inside the closet, I took a peek in...and then pulled it out a bit...and there it was...the EB Pole Display sign...complete...unused...with everything inside including the instructions and the cardboard poles. Thankfully the Kenner Representative never came and set it up! haha.
I came out of the closet and said, "I found it...here it is!"...and I shakily pulled it out completely ("came out of the closet" & "pulled it out"....probably shouldn't be using those two phrases in the same sentence...haha). Anyway...all three of us were very happy that I found it....and that was probably less than an hour into searching.
I brought it downstairs and then we just kept plugging away and searching through stuff. We probably spent close to 10 hours searching through stuff. The basement was simply packed with stuff as well...and we spent alot of time searching down there...but unfortunately really didn't find much down there besides a few carded figures and a shipping case. Searching through all his stuff...It was like looking back at someone's old memories...but really it was like looking back through my own memories...when I would find a random wacky pack sticker or a cereal premium or an old baseball card of his that I would recognize....and really that's the source for my drive to collect...nostalgia for a 'better time'...ie trying to hold onto a piece of my childhood....and I would venture a guess is the reason why many collectors collect. (Yes, I'm living in the past! haha)
So...there was *alot* of stuff. Besides the EB pole display, there was some very rare stuff (although nothing as desirable/sought after as the EB display). There was an original SW Wallpaper C-3PO stand-up display that I don't believe has been documented anywhere. Eric actually told us that back in the 80's he had made deals with Walt Steuben...and that Walt was very keen on getting that display from him...but he never let it go. There was also a very rare Kenner SW Playnts posters display...with really kooky colors. A very cool SW Thermos poster. Power passers posters and shelf talkers. Atari posters and counter standees. Burger King displays. A factors necklace display...in the shipper! A unique TI watch advertisment. A crazy cow SW cereal box. Very tough Kenner Six million dollar man and Bionic woman displays. Two incredibly rare Mego Superhero headers. Several other really cool superhero toy displays. We were hoping this would be the 'display mother lode'...and it was to some extent...but it was moreso the shipping case mother lode. Several 12 back shippers. The Chewbacca plush display shipper. Imperial troop transport, dewback, x-wing, laser rifle, tooth brush, puzzle, give-a-show projector....so many shippers...and so many that I have never seen before. Luckily, very few items that we pulled did he want to keep. By this time it was already past midnight. Todd and I asked for some time alone to discuss prices and to come up with an offer. We walked through every piece and came up with an offer that Todd and I both agreed was a strong offer that was fair to us and fair to him...but we were expecting him to ask for a little more because he did know his stuff (he had taped our presentation, which included market values, plus he was a long-time comic collector and former dealer). Happily, he was very pleased with the offer. He wanted enough to cover the cost of replacing his mom's windows...and what we offered was more than enough for that, he said.
Then came the task of loading everything up into Todd's station wagon. Wow...I didn't think it would all fit...but we made it fit...up to the boxes sitting in between my legs and on my lap. That car could not take another single piece of cardboard into it. We left that house with everyone happy...I'm sure his mom especially...to be rid of a load of stuff that had been plaguing her house for 30 some odd years....haha. Although he was happy with the price, I could tell Eric was a little sad to see it all go. Even though it was always his intention to let it go, he had had that stuff for so long... Well, I had a flight going out early that morning (you know...had to make an effort for my wife...so as to not be gone the whole weekend!) so Todd and I decided to just stay up the night and work out the details of the deal before I took off. We figured that things needed to be set before we decided who got the EB display...because if we didn't, that would inject bias into how much everything else was worth / what the other person would get. We both fully agreed to heavily reward the "loser" as that would be the fairest thing to do...and would be the only consolation to do for such a major display...considering that there was nothing else closely equivalent to it in the remainder of the items in the deal. So we had to go somewhere where we could think...and somewhere we knew we could get fair and balanced advice in case we started butting heads on stuff...and somewhere that was open at 2am...so of course we went to IHOP. There we sat and ate...and drank coffee...and I have no recollection of what I ordered that night....no actually I do...it was IHOP...I ordered pancakes of course! and I told the waitress that we would need her help to decide something before we left. Todd brought his laptop and plugged away at the list...while I finally passed out in the booth after being up for about 30 hours straight. I woke up about 1/2 hour later and Todd was still plugging away on the spreadsheet...but had nearly finished the list without the final prices. We went through and dramatically lowered pricing equivalents on everything so again the loser would be able to go home with the majority of the rest of the stuff....time was ticking away...and I had to make it to the airport early enough to get through the typical airport security rigamarole. We finally re-reviewed the list and agreed that the prices would be fair. We looked for our waitress and she had disappeared!...for about 5 minutes anyway...I finally got her to come over...and handed her a quarter. I told Todd to call it in the air...she flipped it up..."HEADS"....it bounced off a chair...and landed...............Heads it was. After a year of waiting...Todd had won the EB display. He had that expression on his face like he was expecting not to win and then that changed to exhilaration/relief upon realizing that he had won....and he was happy. After all that effort and all that excitement, I had lost the display. But you know what...I was completely fine with everything...on all levels...and for so many reasons. Fairness...friendship...and the whole adventure of living the story! That's what collecting is all about....and a little bit of living in the past.
Now everyone needs to buy some Dixie Cups from Todd so he can make back some money....
Enjoy the pics!
Pics from the day of the deal:
Upstairs bedroom Eric and Todd
Will & Wallpaper
Happy Time Headers
"It was never meant to be"
"Please Hold, Kenner Representative Will Set Up"
The "loser's" share....at home in CA
Group shots in my living room (aka Wife giving me the "WTF are you doing look?")
Six Million Dollar Displays
21 Bins, Headers and Trays
12 Bins, Headers and Trays
Incredibly rare Kenner Playnts Poster display
Die cast bins
Pristine Battlestar Galactica Game Shelf Talker
Braun's Bread (instead of Wonder Bread) display
Jedi Adventure Center paperwork
Cereal boxes in a notebook display including a very tough Crazy Cow box and a sealed C-3po's box (breakfast is served!)
EB kit and mailer + other stuff
Plush Chewie displays + one shipper
Superhero Stuff including 2 very rare Mego Headers
Previously undocumented C-3PO Wallpaper display
Shipping cases including a few previously undocumented