"Character Focus Collecting" Panel Transcript


Nov 15, 2003
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\"Character Focus Collecting\" Panel Transcript

Here's the next transcript from C3, it's the Character Collecting panel. It is only missing the first ten minutes or so.

Like always, I have tried to type it all out just like it was said at the panel.

Character Focus Collecting

(We join the presentation already in progress. The first 10 minutes of the panel are missing. The panelists are: Bill Cable, Mike Mensinger, and Cj Fawcett. Bill collects C-3PO related items, Cj collects Han Hoth items, and Mike collects Snowtrooper pieces.)

Cj: (Midsentence) “….[You can get a lot of] experience just from looking for strange things like this (his miscarded Han Hoth figure on a Han Bespin cardback). It really is just a factory mistake, but it just goes to a complete other realm of collecting, you know? [The fact that you can] Work somethings like a factory mistake into your focus, is pretty interesting. Here’s some more, on the left is a sign off sample, much like Mike showed earlier. You can see the writing in the upper left-hand corner of the card. In the middle, is an ESB Meccano, which is from France. The Empire Strikes Back Meccanos are pretty tough [to find]. I only know of 2 examples of this particular figure, and mine’s a reseal. It’s the only way I could really get it. Another thing you can do that is kind of fun if you’re creative. Is you can actually do some custom things. On the right I have a custom Power of the Force carded Han, that I just put together from bits and pieces. You know, on my printer, things like that. I also have a custom…..this was before the LEGOs started coming out, I had a custom Han Hoth LEGO guy. So, you can use that as a fun way to, you know, get your artistic skills into practice, and also help your collection.”

(There is a gap here in my record of this presentation that I can not explain. It picks up again a few minutes later)

Mike:….(midsentence) “ [Here are some] unlicensed figures. I got a couple different ones. I knew when I was starting this focus that there was quite a few Hoth Stormtrooper bootlegs. So that was kind of an area that I wanted to touch on a little bit in my collection. Up on the left with the brown card is a Hungarian carded figure. On the right there, is an Uzay. It’s called “Bluestars”. It’s just a Blue version of [the] Hoth Stormtrooper. Comes with a white gun. It’s one of the tougher ones of the Uzay line to locate. They’re all fairly difficult to locate. On the bottom left there, there’s a loose Hungarian, and there’s also a 2 Mexican/South American ones. The arms on those are movable, but the legs aren’t.”

Cj: “For everyone who didn’t know, bootlegs are just unlicensed figures. So, these were not licensed by Lucasfilm. They’re usually made in smaller countries, so they can get pretty strange sometimes.”

Bill: “Here you can see some photos of some of my loose bootlegs. 2 in particular that I really like are the Hungarian, which is on the bottom left. Which is kinda silver colored, it was again……the same one Mike has made in Hungary. The other one is a Brazilian lead figure, which they made these figures obviously out of lead. In Brazil, they sold them to little children. So, you have to think about all these little kids who sucking and chewing on all their lead Star Wars figures in Brazil.”

Cj: “Throwing them at their brothers.”

Bill: (laughing) “Yeah. These things are huge!”

Cj: “Very heavy.”

Bill: “They could do some real damage to somebody. Not a very safe collectable down in Brazil.”

Cj: “This is just an example……this is the Brazilian figure for Han Hoth. You can see it’s kinda…..not real clean looking. On the right, is the box that they came in, which is just a little red box. These…..I believe what they did in Brazil, is that they just took Kenner figures and they just molded them, and they just poured lead into the molds. So, that’s how these were made. So, that’s why they’re kinda goofy, and don’t really look real nice. [They’re] good conversation starter pieces. “

Mike: “Next we’re move on to some prototype items. Actually the prototypes were some of the reasons I kind of started my character focus. And I’ve tried to get packaging prototypes, figural prototypes, Micro prototypes. You’ll see some of those in a bit. Here’s an…..this is a good example, of the range of stuff that you can get. I’ve got a couple proof cards up there. The one on the top left is a Revenge of the Jedi, obviously that’s an unreleased one. I’ve got a Jedi proof, and also a Power of the Force cromalin. Which they used to do, basically packaging tests. [To] make sure the printing process was correct on those. There’s also a QA/QC (quality assurance/ quality control) signed sample down there. Some of the loose ones (prototypes), I have a hardcopy, and a first shot. The one with the bag and the index card there, is another kind of QA/QC piece. Then there’s also a production figure. It makes a nice series of prototypes, when you can really see the development of all aspect of it. Oh, for those of you who aren’t familiar with this stuff, the hardcopies are basically they’re hand cast, using…it’s called a silicon mold or an RTV mold. They’re hand cast off of the original sculpting for the figure. So, they sculpt the figure, make a mold from it, and then they hand cast these pieces that are called “Hardcopies”. There’s no unpainted one (Hoth Stormtrooper hardcopy) yet that I’ve seen. I’m definitely looking for that if anybody comes across one. This one would have been painted for photography samples, or catalog samples. The first shots are basically used to debug the production molds…the steel production molds. They usually don’t have copyrights on the back, and some early ones might be hand glued or hand painted.”

Cj: “Just in general, I know a lot of collectors…..sort of get….it seems scary sometimes when you start getting into the prototype realm because there’s a perception that it’s all vastly expensive and hard to find. That’s one of the great things about character collecting, is because you can kind of get a focus. You can go, “Okay, well, there’s only a certain realm of prototypes.”. And really, there are prototype items everywhere from $20, I had one for sale last night, that I was trying to sell, it was $15. It was a 3PO piece, but unfortunately Bill already had it. All the way up to…..well there are some very expensive ones. The great thing about a character focus, is that you’re just not out there looking for random kinds of prototypes, and spending crazy money on things. You really have a focus, and a lot of times, they don’t come up for sale that often, so you can usually take some time to save up some money, and when somethings does become available it’s not like you’ve [haven’t] had a chance to prepare for it. You can get some really killer pieces that way."

Bill: “And whenever people know about your character focus, whenever they hear that these prototypes come up, your one of the first ones to get wind of it, so you have a better chance of getting it than if you were just going for random prototypes.”

Mike: “Snowtrooper also had a Power of the Force coin, it was one of the mail away ones. You can see an actual picture of the coin down there on the left. All the coins were actually sculpted at a 6 to 1 ratio, so there a lot larger than the production coin. I’ve put together here is just a series of prototypes. I should have this left to right, but I have it right to left because there’s a chip on the sculpt. If you look on the right hand side, the kinda green and white one, that’s the original sculpting for the coin. It’s hand sculpted in plaster. The green material on it is actually a mold release agent. Next on the left to that is a soft….that’s a stage one hardcopy. So, that’s a negative image, it’s cast off the sculpt. Then they would make a softer one, which is called a softcopy.”

Cj: “It’s like a rubber Frisbee almost, it’s very flexible.”

Mike: “Yeah.”

Bill: “Is that latex?”

Mike: “It’s silicon. It’s similar to the mold. (Continuing describing slide) Then there’s a stage 2 hardcopy. It’s called a tooling master. That’s actually what they are going to use to make the production molds. The production molds are called dies. They’re like a little stamping mechanism, they would stamp [the image] on those blanks. The last piece on the left is just a plaster positive. It was used for a backup in case anything happened to the tooling master.”

Bill: “These are some of my figure prototypes. Most of the ones I have are more modern figures than vintage ones. I have a line of the Galactic Heroes C-3PO’s at various stages of production. In the back the gold and blue colored one, that’s a test paint that they did for the Brazilian POTF figure. It was a presentation piece within the company, they were trying to decide what kind of color scheme they wanted because I guess in Brazil they didn’t have the capacity to chrome plate the figures for the production process. So they had various ideas, and that was one of the ideas, to paint it gold, and that was the idea they went with. In the center is an Epic Forces first shot. I believe it’s also a chrome test. If you look at it there little crosshatching where they had to test the quality of the chrome to make sure it would pass safety standards and stay stuck to the figure. This is another chrome test, it’s a 12” 3PO. I got it…..it’s unconfirmed to be a prototype, but I got it from a guy who bought a lot of……I don’t want to say a lot, but he bought several prototypes from one former Kenner employee. The former employee could confirm a lot of them, that they were used in the production process, but this is one of them, and it had the chrome test markings on it, but they couldn’t say it was absolutely a prototype, because they didn’t have the history to back it up. It’s uh…..pretty conclusive based on the cross hatching pattern that they used to test whether the Chrome was [up to] quality.”

Cj: “And you can see Bill there in the reflection with his camera if you look real close…”

Bill: “Oh, geez.”

Cj: “The Micro line also has……um, if you don’t know what the Micro line is, it a line of about one inch high lead…..well, not lead but casted metal figures. That were painted with some little playsets in the 80’s. There’s a lot of prototypes for that. In that line, there are three Han Hoth figures that I collect; the one on top is the Han on TaunTaun, there’s the bottom left is the standing pose, the bottom right is the crouching pose. These are just some prototypes of that, the gold ones were test a test they were doing. They were thinking about releasing [a set of] gold ones but they never did. Some of the other ones are paint tests. IN the upper left there, is a concept piece before the Micro line started. (Next slide) These are called 4ups, the Micro line was actually sculpted in 4 to 1 scale. So that the sculptors could get more detail, they were shrunk down for the process. You see on the middle on the left, top left there, that’s the standard one inch size figure. So, these things (4ups) are 5 to 6 inches tall. They were be used for photography because the production pieces weren’t ready when they needed to get the box photography going. That’s why they painted these. So, I’ve got one of each of the painted ones, in a run. There are some more for the Micro, these pieces are also the size of the 4ups, even though I don’t have anything there for scale. These are about 4 inches high. On the top right, is the original sculpting for the piece, that the sculptor….”

Bill: “Made out of wax?”

Cj: “Which is made out of wax. And then that sculpt would go into this mold you see on the bottom, and what they would do is, they would….this red material is like liquidy, they would pour it in and put the wax figure inside and let it harden, and then cut it open. They used that to make the hardcopy which is on the upper left. So, this is a nice run I have going for a character….my Hoth focus. That’s one thing I like about character collecting, you can get some nice runs, and show all kinds of different stages of the process.”

Guy in Audience: “I have a question.”

Cj: “Yes?”

Guy in Audience: (Question is mostly inaudible, I’ll do the best I can in trying to decipher it.) [Is the green material on the mold, the same material as the 4up?]

Cj: “It could be. I might also be mold release material. What they do is that they want the mold to come off the resin easily, so they spray this stuff on the inside. That allows it to peel off. You know, kinda like putting Teflon on your pans before you cook with them.”

Bill: “You could also get into packaging prototypes. One of the more common [types of] prototype packaging is proof cards. These were used inside the Kenner company to either sign off, or see what the packaging would look like before they went into full production. To test print quality and other things. (Refering to slide) This is as far as I know, a complete run of all the C-3PO proofs available. The upper left hand corner is that’s a display arena C-3PO. To date, there haven’t been any confirmed examples of a production display arena C-3PO that have turned up. The only one I’ve ever seen photos of is a Bassa, what’s that Chile? No, a Peruvian figure. Which looked like the production figure, but it had a little sticker on it. There have been no figures to have turned up in the US that I know of.”

Cj: “Proofs cards are a great way for character collecting to start into prototypes, because a lot of them are fairly inexpensive.”

Bill: “And another stage of packaging prototypes, is as Mike mentioned earlier, is Cromalins. That was a process developed by Du Pont, so that they could make a single example for proofing, rather than starting up the printing press and do a bunch of them like that. The 3 I have here, the 2 on the ends are one of a kind examples, the center one they did a series of three of them. Of particular note, on the 21 back, that is the only known example of any kind of the Boba Fett offer on the Star Wars C-3PO card. They haven’t showed up in proof cards, no production examples. We assume there were mock up’s because they have shown up in Kenner photography. This was the only way I was able to get a cardback with the Fett offer on it for my run.”

Cj: “These are just some more proofs, it’s nice to get kind of a run. You can see I have an Empire, in the middle on the top, the right top is actually a Revenge of the Jedi card. Most people know it was originally titled Revenge, Kenner made up a whole bunch of packaging for the Revenge [title], and they had to change it at the last minute. So, that’s a Revenge proof, that’s a nice topic starter to have in your collection. Then the bottom two, that’s a Return of the Jedi and Power of the Force.”

Mike: “Okay, Cj showed some of his Micro prototypes. The Hoth Stormtrooper, there was eight different poses for the Micro line. The first five were included with the Hoth Generator Attack Playset, it’s a pretty neat playset. What you see here is a complete set of unpainted and painted 4ups. Cj mentioned what those were. All the painted ones came from a single find, but I didn’t buy any of them from the original find. I had to go back down the road and track down where they had went to. [I was] actually able to reassemble them [into a full set]. Here’s just close up view of the painted ones, the paint masters with a few little 1-1’s just for a good comparison shot. They were also included in the Micro Build Your Armies, it was a mail away set, you could send out for it. It came with three Hoth Stormtroopers and three Rebel Soldiers. What this here it’s actually the original artwork, it’s an oil based rendering, with probably a little chalk in part too. With the original art seen here [though], it’s all laid out straight, where as it three figures in a row, and then three figures on the bottom when they actually released the offer on the packaging. So, it’s neat that the art was laid out a little different. Here is a series of the three painted 4ups for the Build Your Armies, and with 1-1 examples to show the size difference. As I said, you can put together series of Micro pieces, and similar to Cj’s series of Han Hoth, I’ve put together a number of pieces for some of the Hoth Stormtroopers. This is a fairly comprehensive run, it starts with the wax sculpting, its got the silicon mold, an unpainted 4up, a painted 4up and then on the bottom are a couple of 1-1 pieces. The two on the left hand side are what are called squeezings. The way they get their name squeezings, is they basically get the production dies, and they basically squeeze them together with resin in there. That’s how you get a squeezing.”

Bill: (Inaudible)

Mike: “Yeah, on all the Snowtroopers, they actually cast some of the pieces on them, the armor pieces and the gun, so that they didn’t have to resculpt them over and over again. So, they’re kind of a Hardcopy in that regard.”

Bill: “Okay, another one of the lines that I’ve kind of fallen into a focus on C-3PO, is the Screamin’ model kits. There was this collector guy, who went to the old Screamin’ factory, (to Cj) I guess it was in Canada…..”

Cj: “I don’t know, I never went there. I’ll tell it later.”

Bill: “Yeah, you tell the story later. Anyway, I ended up getting a proof sheet for the box of C-3PO Screamin’ model kit. That C-3PO sitting next to it is about 18” tall. It was assembled and painted by the workers at the Screamin’ factory. They sent a bunch of their samples out with the Testers company, the little paint company. They had a traveling show that went all around Canada to various modeling conventions. So, it’s a phenomenal piece because it was actually painted and constructed by the people who built the original mold from it. I also got some of the instruction sheets, and some of the proofing materials that were used for that. The two larger drawings are actually hand drawn artwork that was photocopied and used in the instruction sheets. The one is in ink and the other is in penciled. They’re really pretty nice to have the original artwork.

Another thing you can get into is food promotions. This is my C-3PO’s Standee, if you look on his head, there is a mail away Canadian Kellogg’s C-3PO’s Power of the Force hat. So, I would never in my wildest dreams have hoped to look for a Kellogg’s Canadian mail away C-3PO’s hat, had I not started in the character collecting.”

Mike: “This piece here is a 3 ¾” figure hardcopy. As you can see, as I mentioned earlier their cast from molds made off the sculpt. They actually come apart because they’re held together with pins. The middle picture you can actually see the legs removed. This is a pretty special piece for me, this was really one of the first prototypes I ever purchased. I got this at an Atlantic City toy show, back in the mid 90’s. I remember walking up to this thing, and I wasn’t really that familiar with prototypes at this time, and it had a decent price tag on it. I’m looking at this thing, and I’m thinking, “Why is this so expensive, its leg is falling off.” So, then I talked to the dealer and learned more about it, and it’s definitely a special piece in my collection.”

Bill: “Now, this is what you may call a conversation piece. It’s a ceramic tape dispenser that the Sigma Corporation came out with. Just for show, I put some yellow electrical tape on there. That’s one of the things that people immediately gravitate to whenever they come into my room. It’s like, “What were there thinking?” when ever they came out with this item. It’s again, another special piece in my collection. That’s what everybody wants to take a look at, you have all these prototypes in there some of them worth hundreds of dollars, and they go to the little ceramic tape dispenser. They focus on that thing.”

Cj: “This is an unproduced doll, for Han Hoth that was never made. Actually, the jacket and the doll are original, but some of the other pieces are not, because they’re the only things I could find.”

Bill: “Okay, now that you’ve seen what you can do with character collecting, you might want to know some of the secrets to being a successful character collector. We’re going to share some of our tips with you. Whenever you’re on ebay, you have to have exceptional search skills. You want to be able to turn up the things that the average person is not going to come across just doing the little type in the name thing. I've been developing my search string for C-3PO for a couple years now, adding and subtracting from it. As you can see, it’s pretty extensive there. It turns up just about anything that you might be looking for.”

Cj: “And don’t limit yourself to certain categories, a lot of times you can find some weird things in strange categories. This is where I’ll tell my story about the Screamin’ model items that Bill showed earlier. I was just doing a….actually I was searching one day for a friend of mine [who] had some Star Trek models that he wanted to sell. He wasn’t really into Ebay, so I said, “hey, let me go and see what they’re worth”. So I was just tooling around ebay, looking for those things to see how much they were selling for. So, I was in the model kit section of ebay, and I don’t remember how I found it, but I turned up this search, something about model artwork or something. I looked it up, and this guy had some artwork listed for the Screamin’ model kits, so I emailed him, and I said, “Hey, where’d you get this and do you have any more of it?” and it turns out that this guy had purchased, the Screamin’ model Company had shut down, and this guy had purchased the old warehouse or factory that they were using. He had found all this stuff in a back room somewhere.and threw it up on Ebay. He had a whole lot more than what he had listed on ebay, and I ended up making a deal with him for the whole lot of stuff he had. It was a lot of original artwork, and layout boards, and proof sheets for, I think it was 5 of the different model kits. I got a really good deal on that. Sometimes, just doing weird searches can turn up all kind of crazy stuff. You know, just get into Ebay and look around and find some interesting places, and maybe you’ll find a collectable that a lot of people wouldn’t think of. You’ve got to almost think like someone who doesn’t know collecting. You’ve almost got to think like that, “Well, I’ve got a C-3PO coin, where would I go?” Well, they’re not going to go to toys, they’re going to go “It’s a coin.” Well, I’ll go to somewhere for coins. So, if you try to think like someone who is ignorant to collecting, who doesn’t know about collecting, then a lot of times you may get categories that they might list things in.”

Mike: “Ebay is definitely a good spot, but there’s a lot of different……some of the best pieces and some of the greatest deals are made totally off Ebay. So it’s good, you guys here, so you’re taking part active in the community. There’s a number of different ways you can participate. One of those is online forums, Rebelscum and Galactic Hunter are two great forums that you can go on.”

Bill: “And Jedi Defender.”

Mike: Jedi Defender too. You can also try to advertise in newspapers, that sometimes works. If people have childhood collections that they want to get rid of, you might be able to score a few pieces out of that. You can also join reginal collecting clubs. Bill’s involved with a club.”

Bill: “I’m in the Pennsylvania Star Wars Collecting Society. If you go over to the fan fair room, they have collecting clubs from a couple different areas. From Ohio, from DC, Indianapolis. If you’re from any of those regions, you can join those clubs, get some networking going, let them know what your character collection is. If you’re in a region that doesn’t have one, you can always form one yourself. I was main people who helped form the Pennsylvania club. Chris (Cj) was one of the founding members of the Ohio club.”

Cj: “Also collecting clubs are great, to help get…. especially the modern toys that you’re trying to find. Because the networking there, you know, you’re not just going to the Target , the Walmart or Toys R Us, in you local area, you have people, like in the Ohio club all over the state, going to stores all over the state. So, if you’re looking for one particular piece that’s on the store shelves a lot of times that can really help you find it, with a lot less legwork. Not having to go to Ebay to get it on the secondary market.”

Bill: “Yeah, I actually ended up with the Revenge of the Sith C-3PO about a month ahead of time because one of the guys in my collecting club went to Target and they had all the new stuff out by mistake. He grabbed one and gave it to me.”

Mike: “Also, I had mentioned getting on the forums and being active. One of the things you can do there is post Wanted to Buy threads in there. Let people know what you’re looking for. Tell them if there’s a specific piece you’re looking for, if you’re just looking for general items. It’s good. People can’t help you if you don’t let them know what you’re looking for.”

Bill: “You also want to be sure that you share the stuff you find. If you find a really cool piece, say “ Hey, I got this Snowtrooper piece, I’m a Snowtrooper collector check it out.” Everybody’s going to go on and see your pictures, and whenever they see something cool with Snowtrooper they might send you a line to let you know about it. Also, you can post it on…….if you have something really cool, you can send it to the Star Wars Collectors Archive, which is Toysrgus.com. They might post it on there, and you can get some excellent publicly that way.”

Cj: “And publicizing what you’re looking for also really helps with Ebay. Because I get email regularly from my friends who are doing their own searches on ebay, that might happen to turn up something that they think that I might like, and I send Bill things all the time when I’m doing searches, [and I say] “Bill, you have this 3PO thing? I found it in some strange category mislabeled.” So, that can even help your ebay seaches by letting your friends know. So, now it’s not just you searching for stuff, you have a whole network that’s on ebay looking for things and sometimes you get some really great pieces that your friends will find for you.”

Man in audience: (Inaudible question)

Cj: “yeah, Rebelscum.com, and Galactichunter. What’s the other one? Jedi Defender.”

Bill: “And if all else fails, throw around a lot of money! If you pay a dealer a few thousand dollars a couple of times, you’re going to be on the top of their list whenever they find new stuff, because they’ll know they can just go right to you, and you’re just going to spill out a lot of money at them. Those are the people that the dealers like the most.”

Cj: “And with character collecting you can do that sometimes, because like I said earlier, you’ll get into a place where you’ll have a dry spell. When your not finding a lot of pieces for your collection. You can use that to save up some cash, so when a really great piece comes along, you can pull the trigger on it. All right, we have a slideshow that we’re just going to be running up on the screen, of different character collections from all over the country and all over the world. While that’s running, we’re going to answer questions. So, wathc this and if you have any questions……”

Man in Audience: (Mostly Inaudible) [How hard is it, (inaudible) develop to levels (inaudible) different series.]

Cj: “It depends a lot on the line. Some of the later Power of the Force figures are really tough to find with good bubbles. Because, I don’t know if they used a different plastic. The Star Wars figures generally seem to yellow a lot less than the Empire and Jedi ones. So, it’s definitely going to get harder and harder over time. The other things you’re dealing with, is with people constantly selling things, and shipping them across the country, things get damaged. The more time goes on, the most damage things incur. Just because they’re traveling, and people are dropping them, or dogs are chewing on them or whatever.”

Bill: “Questions?”

Cj: “All right, we’re just going to let this slide show…”

Bill: (Bill is wearing a C-3PO shirt) “Wait, I purchased this shirt special for this.”

Cj: “Thank you, (inaudible) and we’re going to let this play for a while if you want to sit here and watch. It will repeat.”

(The fact that there are free Ewok cels is announced)

Bill: “Does anybody have a Return of the Jedi C-3PO with an Anakin sticker on it? I’ve been looking for one of those for a while.”

Jul 13, 2000
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Re: \"Character Focus Collecting\" Panel Transcript

Once again you have outdone yourself. Thanks for everything!


Nov 24, 2001
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Re: \"Character Focus Collecting\" Panel Transcript


Awesome job once again. This is the one panel that I wanted to get to and missed so the transcript is appreciated. But you do realize it is summer and the sun is out, right? Go out there and enjoy yourself.
J/K Thanks again.