"Collecting 101" Panel Transcript


Nov 15, 2003
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\"Collecting 101\" Panel Transcript

Here is a faithful and complete transcript of the Collecting 101 presentation held at C3. I have tried to include everything that was said verbatim, with the exception of most of the grammatical speaking errors. I have also gone through and added words to make it read better. The changes are all marked with "[ ]". I have added the actions taking place in the room as well, when needed. They are marked with parentheses. Except for that, everything is as it was spoken at the event. Needless to say, this took me a LONG time. This project also taught me I need to work on my typing skills.

Without further ado, here's the presentation. It is really, really long:

Collecting 101 C3 Collecting Panel transcript

(Presenters introduce themselves. They are Ron Salvatore, Chris Georgoulias and Martin Thurn)

Ron : [This panel] “…is going to be more diffuse and we’re going to kinda jump all over the map. The idea is kind of to tackle multiple issues related to collecting; starting collecting. Martin, Chris and myself have been collecting things for over ten years, all of us, easily. And we’ve sorta seen these topics come up again and again. So, here we go….(starts slides).

Bascially, starting out is kinda a weird time. I guess these guys would probably agree. Here’s the first one, “Devote some time to determining what you enjoy.” I know when I first started collecting, I ended up with a lot of stuff that just had “Star Wars” on it, but after a year or so, I was like “What do I even have this for?”. I mostly collect toys, so after a while I learned that toys was what I wanted to collect, and that’s what I ended up getting.

“Don’t worry about keeping up with the Jones’” is self-explanatory. You can’t really keep up with everybody who’s a Mega Collector, Super Collector what have you. Everyone sort of finds a niche sooner or later.

“Rarity can’t always sustain a hobby” meaning you know it’s great to get rare stuff but you can’t always pick, “I’m going to collect lightsaber props” because there’s not that many out there, and you’re not going to get one, probably. Um, so… I don’t know if you guys have anything to add to that, but that’s kind of where we started out.”

Chris: (referring to PowerPoint slide) “Ron skipped the “realistic goals” [part of the slide]. That’s probably the biggest one. I’ve seen a lot of people kinda get in over their head sometimes. Um…..kinda know your budgets and figure out what you can spend, comfortably spend. And make sure if you have a significant other that you’re not going to get in too much trouble with things. It’s usually pretty good to discuss things and make sure you can spend “X” dollars for this product because it can get ugly. I’ve seen it many times.”

Martin: “I started collecting when I was 12 years old, so, money was just impossible an impossible situation, so I had to limit myself right off the bat.”

Ron: “I guess the point here is that most people kinda fall into collecting where they like decide they’re going to start collecting things and they start accumulating stuff and it’s kinda rough. But if you’re an adult collector, and you decide “Hey, I’m going to start collecting things”, it’s probably worth it to put some thought into stuff. And how you’re going to head out and do “this”. Here’s another point in starting out, is just advise, it’s also good to try to put together a set of something that's fairly easily obtainable. I know a lot of people who collect toys. Vintage toys, started out putting together a set of loose figures. (Referencing slide) This is Tracey Hamilton’s who’s a friend of ours. Who has a set of loose figures he put together, and he’s got it displayed. Things like this get you involved, meeting people, start[ing] to learn about the hobby, and it’s not hard to do. You start to learn, and it’s a good way to learn.”

Martin: “And of course the key here is to choose a finite set of something. So there’s a clear finish point to your set.”

Ron: “Yeah, yeah. (Referring to slide) This one is “Be unique”. I put this slide in here to demonstrate Rob Johnson’s collecting of variations of figures. The point is, you can collect loose figures but not everyone has gone to the extent Rob has in hunting down these obscure variations. This slide shows sort of major variations, but Rob also has a lot of way more obscure things in his collection. When you see it it’s kinda interesting that he has discovered all these slight differences and molding and paint variations on the figures. Uh, Rob….”

Chris: (Interrupting) “You guys can go visit Rob Johnson at the Lego booth, he’s chief designer of all the packaging since 2000. So, he’s done all the Star Wars packaging. Big Star Wars fan and collector. He worked his way into the system kinda like Steve Sansweet, so we should give Rob a hand, cause he’s a good guy”.

(Everyone claps for Rob)

Ron: “Anyway, the point here is that even common items can be collected in interesting ways as you see there on the bottom. Um, another point is “be unique” (referring to slide) this shows Ed Albano’s collection, Ed’s another friend of ours in the New York area. Ed, when he was young attended the tenth anniversary convention in 1987, which was a big event like this (C3), the first one. And because of that experience, when he was like 11 or 12 probably, he became very interested in collecting tenth anniversary items, more so than anyone I’ve met. (Thinking about Ed’s age) well, maybe he was older. He’s compiled a pretty big collection of this stuff, and this shows us a sample of what he has. But this is a collection that reflects who he is, his own interests, and really, you’re not going to find someone else who has a tenth anniversary collection, or if you do, he’s going to be one of the few.”

Chris: “Little plug for Ed. Ed’s one of the few people I know who’s attended all four major Star Wars conventions. This being the fourth one. Pete Vilmur one our panel[ists], he’s another guy that hit the ’87 convention and then all three Celebrations. Pretty remarkable.”

Ron: “This is the kind of thing where you can tailor your collection to your interests in a way that’s unique, and that when you show it to people it kind of tells a story.

(Referring to new slide)

Here’s a picture of Chris with money in his hands, it’s basically to illustrate the point of what you can afford. Which is a huge consideration obviously, and we’re going to get into it again later. Or we could have it here to just start it out, cause like Chris mentioned, you have to think from the start “How much am I going to spend on this stuff? and “How much of my income am I going to commit to it?”. Chris is always telling people on the forums where we post at the Rebelscum website, that if you can’t easily buy most of this stuff, you know your starting to get in trouble. If you see something you need to have, and in order to get it you have to sell your firstborn or something, you should probably reconsider what your trying to get because, your in trouble.

Chris: (laughing) “Let me tell a quick story about something. I sold an item to a guy overseas in Germany, $900 bucks. I sent it to him registered mail, which takes a little longer. In the time during transit, he had decided that his rent was due, and he couldn’t afford this item. So, before he even received the item, he was trying to resell it. So, you don’t want to spend the rent money on something like that. Keep that in mind.”

Ron: (referring to graphic on the slide) “So, here’s this animated thing to just get us into talking about focuses….or Foci. I find from my experience, that everyone, whether it’s sort of a hard focus, or a soft focus, ends up concentrating on one thing more than the other. Even if you’re someone who collects everything, there’s going to be a few things you want more than others. It’s good to determine what those [things] are, and to go after them in a systemized way, right from the beginning.
I’ve broken them up into different points:

“The Good”: allows you to master a specific area of collecting in a concentrated group. When you get certain things that are similar, they start to have more impact when you show them off. I mean, an action figure by itself doesn’t mean that much, but when you have the full set, it’s kind of interesting. A concentrated group can also go and tell a story about something.”

Martin: “And a small group of items, typically you may have a story that goes with each item, and how you got it. “

Ron: “Right. And just to show how a group of things can tell a story, I have different stages in the process of developing a Micro Collection Princess Leia Hoth figure. And there’s a Hardcopy, a painted Hardcopy, a wax sculpt, a silicon mold in the back and some 1-1 pieces in the front, and something like this shows someone when they come and visit you, they look at this and can say “Oh gee, this is how this figure was made. This really tells me more than about just how the figure looks, or how it looks on your self.”

And uh, there’s “The Bad”: This isn’t really a bad thing about focus collecting more so…well it could be. I guess it’s to demonstrate that you know, don’t feel that you have to limit yourself unnecessarily. I mean this is my stuff, I mean, I collect mostly Kenner toys, but these are some things I have just because I like them. There’s no reason you have to be a fascist about what you can buy and about what you can’t buy. Although it’s good to focus, you don’t need to go crazy about it. (Referring to picture on slide) It’s just a remedial reading kit, and some Clarks shoes.

(Looking to other panelists)

Do you guys have anything that you just have because you like?

Chris: “No.”

(Everyone laughs)

“I know how to focus.”

Ron: “You see? Chris is better than me, he should be giving the thing (panel) because he knows more about focusing than I do.”

(Back to slides)

“And then “The Ugly”, after “The Good” and “The Bad”, is John Alvarez’s collection which is pretty ugly. “

(Everyone laughs again)

“I’m picking on him, but I mean, he collects these bootleg figures that are really funny looking. Something like this, I mean you can collect something quirky like that, that has a story. This is a collection of figures from obscure parts of the world, that you don’t see toys from much at this time period. It kind of tells a story about what was available in different parts of the world. I mean, it’s funny looking. You come in and you see all these weird looking figures, and it’s really interesting.”

(Next slide)

“Just as I was talking about before, about Hard Focuses and Soft Focuses, this is a picture of Gus Lopez’s Cereal collection. He actually did a whole talk on his cereal collection earlier. Gus collects pretty much everything, but cereal is one of his most famous……favorite things, and he’s pretty famous for it now. You know, he’s managed to make himself like the “King Cereal Collector”.

Chris: “Actually, what Gus said earlier, I didn’t know. He said [that] there’s around about 1000 different cereal boxes and different sizes and types of cereal from around the world that are known, that span 25 years and he’s only short about 30 [of them in his collection]. So, that’s pretty amazing.”

Ron: “This is a guy that’s got stuff everywhere, tons of stuff, no matter what it is, and yet he’s focused like that on cereal collecting. Just to demonstrate Hard Focus, people who stick pretty much to one thing, I’ve got Ron Amantea’s collection. He’s a collector in Connecticut, who basically just collects Micro Collection, the vintage Kenner line. He’s got prototypes, production items, all sorts of stuff, and these are parts of his collection shown here. By doing this, Rob has managed to make himself….people call him “Microrob”, so when something interesting that’s Micro related comes up, a lot of people know who to call immediately. That’s one of the benefits of being like this, and sort of developing your own focus.”

Chris: “And because it’s MicroRob, before he started expanding into the larger prototypes, his collection literally fit into a shoebox. Because of the size.”

(Everyone laughs)

Ron: “Another very popular type of focus collecting, is character collecting. I think they’re doing…maybe even more than one panel here, over this convention.”

Chris: “One panel.”

Ron: “Just one? Alright. This is Mike Mensinger’s Snowtrooper collection. He’s got mostly Kenner toys, different prototypes and things.”

Martin: “There were not many item made with the Snowtrooper, other than the Kenner toys.”

Ron: “That’s true.”

Chris: “Yeah, it helps. It depends on how wide you want to get. Our friend Chris Nichols collects Jawas, and there’s Jawa everything. If you want to get really wide, collect Darth Vader, [or] Obi Wan. If you want to get really focused, collect some obscure character then you have like four items, and then your done.”

Ron: “And this has the same benefit as Rob has with the Micro stuff, if everyone knows you collect……Ishi Tibb, whenever an Ishi Tibb item comes up, you’ll get it. (referring to slide) This is Bill Cable’s character collection of C-3PO, this is to demonstrate a broader focus than Mike has with the Snowtrooper. He (Bill) has C-3PO stuff from all areas, and all sorts of things.”

(New slide section)

“Alright, now where going to move from “starting out” and “finding your focus”, to “reference and research”. Which I feel pretty strongly about, I think a lot of people don’t get too much into finding things out, or saving old reference sources. It’s good to save anything with a good article on the subject you collect, so you can go back to it for further reference in the future. This is just to get us into it, talking about the old days before the internet, I mean, there were few things, Martin published something called the Star Wars Collector.”

Martin: “All through the 1990’s I published a black and white newsletter called the Star Wars Collector, and…”

Ron: “Do you have back issues?”

Martin: “I still have back issues available. Self plug there. It was well liked, and…”

Ron: It was kinda a precursor to some of the other….

Martin: (interrupting) “Somebody else talk about it, I don’t want to talk about it.”

Chris: (talking over them) “It was a precursor to some of the magazines, Topps Galaxy Collector came out, Martin was doing a lot of things, he got a lot of collectors involved, writing articles on different subjects. It was black and white, just a ‘zine, photocopy basically.”

Ron: “It was kind of a grass roots thing that helped a lot of people, learn about other collectors, and about other ways of collecting. (Referring back to the slide) These [items] along the bottom here are TKRP collecting publications from the ‘80’s which was one of the early, really early [since it’s the] ‘80’s, [collecting related publications]. [They contain] lists of things, classified ads, looking for things, looking to meet other collectors, as well as merchandise catalog. These are kinda fun to have around now. That’s uh….”

Chris: (interrupting) “I just wanted to add, on the book. Nowadays, Star Wars has really grown hobby wise, Much faster than some other hobbies, a lot of the experts now in the hobby aren’t the dealers like in many cases, a lot of collectors have really skyrocketed. A lot of the great books are actually written by collectors. We’re probably plug a couple in a second.”

Ron: “Currently, I think that two books that probably everyone should look into getting, are “Tomarts Guide to Worldwide Star Wars Collectibles”, by Steve Sansweet and Tom Tumbush. Which was published a while ago now, so it’s somewhat out of date, but it’s still worth having. It was the first real comprehensive catalog and price guide of mostly everything that they knew had been released around the world. Recently, over the last few years, Jeffery Carlton, who actually has a table set up here and I think is selling his book [the “Super Collector’s Wishbook”], this is actually the second edition, the third edition is out now. That is probably more extensive……I think [it] is definitely more extensive than the old Tomart book. It’s worth the money to have, because it has an impossible amount of stuff in there.”

Martin: “And an impossible number of photographs in there.”

Ron: “Yeah, I mean, it’s really good. These are books that cover the whole galaxy of collecting. If you’re into action figures, another great book to have…….if you’re seriously into action figures, you pretty much need this book, by John Kellerman. It’s called “Star Wars Vintage Action Figures”. He’s here too, at the Cloud City booth [selling his book] at a special discount. I think it’s only $25. John’s a collector from way back, did more work than just about anybody, in learning about what had been released, different variations, and all sorts of action figure products. It’s indispensable and if your just starting out in collecting this stuff, you might want to take a look at what he has for sale over there.”

Chris: “ I want to add, this is a phenomenal book, it’s full of color photography, John put it together himself, he self published it, and like Ron said he’s out at the Cloud City booth, he’s selling this book for $25, that’s $10 off of retail. At least stop by and have a look. You defiantly want to make sure that you start building up somewhat of a library, so you guys can have reference [materials], because books are invaluable. These collectors really work hard to get the information out of their brains, and put it on paper so that other people can take advantage of that. One more book I want to mention that Ron hadn’t put up here, is Jeremy Beckett of RebelScum just self published a book basically……..well, not self published, [but] it’s the “Official Guide to Star Wars Memorabilia”, and it’s got…..the first third of this has got a lot of verbiage about how to collect, about a lot of the techniques and stuff. It’s basically a recap of kinda what Ron…..what we’re talking about on this panel. It goes through all the different types, major types of items you can collect in Star Wars. How to go about understanding condition and grading, and tips on where to find information and sales. Jeremy did a fantastic job on that, got a lot of input from a lot of collectors that are in this room right now. So, it’s definitely one to pick up.”

Martin: “One more point on the Kellerman book pictured here, it not only covers the action figures themselves, but almost everything related.”

Ron: “Right. “

Martin: “Store displays….”

Ron: “Special offer items.”

Martin: “Yeah.”

Ron: “Anyway, the point of all these book slides is that it’s important to have a collecting library. Save this stuff so you can refer to it in the future. A couple more books I’d like to mention are by Steve Sansweet, the book that I think it probably one of the best books on Star Wars period is “From Concept to Screen to Collectable”. (referring to slide) That’s the one with the gold Vader case on the cover, Steve sort of traces the creativity behind Star Wars, making it into a movie, and then how that carried over into making products and how it became sort of a worldwide merchandising behemoth. Incredibly interesting, published over ten years ago now, but still out there as far as I know. You should try to look into that one. And, Steve’s and Josh Ling’s “Action Figure Archive”, which was based on a Japanese book. Really good action figure… (Inaudible, someone in the audiences’ cell phone rings to the Imperial March and there is laughter) …Takata was the guy who first did it in Japan.”

Chris: “He came in from Japan for this convention too, so another hardcore collector.”

Ron: “Also, Steve and Pete Vilmur have a book coming out sometime soon, I believe it’s September. I think he said it got pushed forward again. Anyway, September or December, “Star Wars Poster Book”, which is going to be indispensable for anyone even interested in Star Wars posters. So, you’re going to want to look for that one. I mean, get these things while they’re out there, because I know the Action Figure Archive is out of print now, [but] you can still get it probably.”

Chris: “These two are great books, and you can find them on ebay pretty cheap. I’ve seen them as low as $5 to $10 a piece. Even though the gold Sansweet book is ten years old, it’s still a great read...”

Ron: (interrupting) “Oh, no doubt.”

Chris: “…and it’s just fantastic. So, save a little bit of your collecting money and buy a few books…”

Ron: (Interrupting) “People sometimes are like, “Ya know, I don’t want to spend the $20 on this because I can buy a Jar Jar puppet…”

(laughter from audience)

“…it’s worth it for these things because they are worth the money. I mean, the Kellerman book for $25 is a steal, and if you’re into action figures you should get it. I paid $50, so….

Chris: “Yeah.”

Ron: “Also, keep your eyes out for magazines. I mean, I buy things even that I’m not that interested in, if I see it has a cool picture. AFD, you know Action Figure Digest, it’ll have a prototype in it or something, and I’ll buy it. I have big comic boxes full of these things. Try to keep track of the good articles. There was one where they showed a big Hardcopy find that the Earth had, and I refer to that all the time, and what Hardcopies came up in that find. What they looked like, what their conditions where, it’s important to be aware of stuff like that. As well as more unusual sources like catalogs from auction houses are really good, old department store catalogs, I have a whole collection of Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogs. Old advertisements, I’ve met several people……Chris himself here has done a lot of work in saving old advertisements from Toy Shop.”

Martin: “And even if you decide you don’t want to keep these old advertisements for your own reference library, there are people who collect them…”

Ron: “Yeah”

Martin: “…so you can sell them”

Chris: “You can sell them. You can actually buy the Montgomery Ward and Sears catalogs, all the Wishbook material from the ‘80’s condensed into one book, and those are great reference just to see how things were sold initially.”

Ron: “To continue on that, like I mentioned, Chris had saved a lot of Toy Shop ads over the years. (referring to slide) this is just showing you what someone with some foresight and some ambition did with something that was easily available that he wanted to save. Toy Shop was a publication, that I think is still around, it used to be before ebay, [it was] the place to find vintage items. At that point there was no…“

Martin: “Star Wars items.”

Ron: “…or Star Wars items in general, he (Chris) clipped all the ads he was even semi-interested in, and collected them all in a scrapbook, which is online, (referring to slide) the web address is up there. Hosted on Chris Nichol’s Sandcrawler.com. And this stuff is great, I mean if you need to find the last time, you see here an Empire Strikes Back Luke Bespin box, which was never actually released to stores, if you want to find out who sold that and when, you can go back to these old toy shops and look. That’s just an example of how to look ahead, and how to be mindful of this kind of thing.”

(New slide)

“All right, on to more of this, you see Rebelscum, and we’re going to go into some websites that are worth keeping track of. The web, now that Toy Shop has fallen out and doesn’t have many vintage or even newer ads anymore, [the web is] the place to meet people and it’s gotten increasingly that way, over the last ten years. At this point, I can’t even imagine someone collecting and not being pretty knowledgeable about this stuff. So, I don’t know what I even need to say, other than the most popular one is Rebelscum, and they have news [on] collecting from all over. Star War Collectors Archive, Chris and I are associated with that as editors. Gus Lopez started it, years ago. It’s been around, I guess around ten years now. Well, over that”

Chris: “1994, I believe Gus started it.”

Ron: “More than ten years. It’s probably the best source for vintage items, and prototypes in general. There’s also an extensive database of produced items, Duncan Jenkins did a lot of work on it with Gus.”

Chris: “The initial push on that was to sort of build a museum of really odd things and rare things that you don't normally see. Just because that’s what we were all interested in, and Gus kinda wanted to push the site that way. It’s taken a lot of years to grow to where it is, and it’s got a lot of unique things, and a lot of really tough to find things in there. It’s just kinda fun to see what people have managed to find over the years, that you don’t normally think about as Star Wars.”

Ron: “This is the kind of thing that the Web is great for, because anybody, any place in the world, can just log on, and see other people’s collections, interesting things, [and] read about them.”

Martin: “And anybody anywhere in the world that has a new interesting item, can send these guys email, and they can post pictures for everybody else to see.”

Ron: Um, [they should] send Mike Mensinger an email.”

(everyone laughs)

Chris: “Yeah, we’re a little slow in updating the Archive as you guys probably all know, so, we apologize. We spend most of our time on the Rebelscum forums, just talking.”

Ron: “Just some other sites to mention, Kennertoys.com, Dan Flarida’s site. Has some forums. Does he still have forums? I’m not sure, but he’s got links to other Kenner toys sites. Star Wars bible is Martins. It’s Martin’s baby with lots of different varied information. 12back.com Chris Fawcett’s, it’s a vintage focus site. Yakface.com. And the official site, which is continuing to expand its collectable coverage. Yeah, Starwars.com is the official site.”

Chris: “Ya know, Martin’s got a lot of minutia. So if you ever need minutia, text based minutia on Star Wars items, his Star Wars Bible is just ridiculous.”

Ron: “[You’ll] definitely want to check that out. Um….(referring to slide) “Networking”, I have it listed here as probably the single most important aspect. It’s not just about getting stuff, I mean not hardly, I meet a lot of people who just started out in the hobby, and it’s like, they’re just amazed that people can find these things. It’s like, “How do you guys find this stuff?”, can I tell you, even coming into a place like this, knowing people is hugely important. Just to see people, find out what the stuff to get is, find out who’s brought what to trade. I mean, if you don’t know anybody, it’s like your lost. Obviously, the web is pretty much where it’s at now as far as meeting people. New points here, you can probably read them yourselves,

(“Meet and communicate with others.”, “Collectors are your most vital source of information.”, “Broadcast your wants.”, ”Learn what others are looking for.”, “Helping others will help yourself.”, “The web has become the premier collecting forum.”, “We’ve come a long way from letter writing.”)

The last one, “We’ve come a long way from letter writing”, I knew collectors way back when, who seriously would have boxes of letters they sent back and forth to people all over the country before email. I mean, writing letters, I can’t even imagine, but that’s the way they did it back then, now it’s pretty much all email. It’s important to let people know what you want, what you’re looking for. If you help others, you know, eventually people will come back and help you with stuff. Other collectors are your most vital source of information, which is true. I know if I want to know about a poster, I know I can ask Pete Vilmur, who’s a guy I know. [He] works for Lucasfilm now actually, who’s an expert on that stuff, and who is going to help me out. If I didn’t know him, I might be lost, really.”

Chris: (referring to slide) “I should probably talk about this. I’m on the Forums a lot, well, a lot more than Ron these days. Just to reiterate this networking thing, this is probably the most important thing you can do as a collector. Is to get out there and to talk to people, because you will completely open up your horizons, and have a lot of opportunities to get a lot of things, to meet people, to go places. And um…….I think a lot of people here would agree on that, people from all over the country and all over the world [are attending C3]. Just like all the guys doing the panels. Ya know, we don’t all live together or anything, in the same area. [We’re] people from all over the place and everybody met online and…..(trails off). Because Star Wars collecting really took off in the 90’s, because [of the] Generation X’ers who played with this stuff as kids, got into it, got into collecting, and the films were re-surging, the Net was just starting to be available to most people in their homes, ebay is just starting to get big. So, Star Wars is probably the biggest hobby that’s completely engrossed around Internet stuff, because it allows everybody to be connected, [it] allows you to get information on anything. As Ron mentioned there’s experts on all kids of stuff, and everybody pretty much, is super friendly and willing to help you out. So, it helps to get on a forum site like this (Rebelscum)….”

Ron: “Yeah, this is the best one, really. As far as I know.”

Chris: “It’s the best one. Philip Wise’s site, Rebelscum.com.”

Ron: “You just click “Forums”, and then there’s……I mean we’re the vintage. I put the vintage one here, because that’s what Chris and I are mostly concerned with. Most of the points you talked about can be applied to everything, not just any one type of……collecting……(trails off as sounds of water fills room due to it raining very hard outside)

Chris: “Do we have like water coming in? Is it raining?”

Ron: “I think it must be raining.”

Chris: “Is anybody still in line outside?”

Ron: “That’s like the worst noise to a collector. It’s like, “Water!” (Looks around frantically)”

(Everyone laughs)

“Anyway, this is a great place to go and meet people. No matter what you collect. I even know a guy who collects those Gentle Giant busts, and he posts on there in the “Miscellaneous” forum, and he finds out all about those things. Galactic Hunter, also has a much more toned down forum, and the Toysrgus chatroom, which is our……..Star Wars Collector’s Archive is at toysrgus.com, and that’s also frequented by a lot of people who chat with one another about different things. It’s a great place to meet people, you know? A lot of people who I’ve met [up with] here, I met originally on these forums or in the chatroom.”

Chris: “I see a lot more faces than were at the social yesterday, we had a collector’s social to try to get people early on at the convention, to meet each other. I think it was a good success, we had everybody wear name tags, and they could see these people that they had seen online before either with their real names or their user names, and [they could] put a face to a name. Sort of become better friends, because without the internet, I wouldn’t know Ron, I wouldn’t know Gus, I wouldn’t know……(gesturing to a group of collectors in the audience) all our little fan group over here, we got people all over here that I know…”

Ron: (laughing) “Some of them I don’t even want to know.”

Chris: “Oh, John’s not that bad.”

Ron: “The next point here is the “Clubs and Social Groups”, which is harder to do, I guess, than the internet. Not everyone has the ability to hook up with a club that’s really close to them. There are several there’s still one going strong in Seattle, they got a few set up here in the fan fair exhibit hall. The picture shown here is of the Ohio Club from last Celebration, as well as their website. I think the Pennsylvania club and the DC area Club are also set up over there. Get involved, I mean, I probably don’t need to explain to you the benefits of this are the same as the benefits of getting involved on the forums, only this is a more personal interaction. You can probably go to the Fan Fair Exhibit Hall and talk with some of these people and see if you want to do this. See if you would like to get involved. (looking at Martin) I think, aren’t you part of the… ”

Martin: “I’m a charter member of the DC, Washington DC area Collector’s Club.”

(DC members in audience cheer)

Ron: “I mean, even if you don’t have a formal club, you know…”

Chris: (interrupting) “Start your own club.”

Ron: “…everybody who has people who live around them, can get together and say, “Hey, you know I want to get together this Saturday and you can bring your new stuff, or stuff you want to get rid of, we can trade.” Stuff like that.”

Chris: “Toy…”

Martin: (Interrupting) “That’s how the clubs got started.”

Ron: “That’s right”

Chris: “Toy shows are a good way…”

Ron: “Yeah, definitely.”

Chris: “…Sometimes in our….I mean, I’m from North Carolina, there’s a few of us around there, we don’t have a formal club, (laughing) only because I’d be in charge or starting it. Maintaining it.”

Ron: “You’d have to bake the cakes and the cupcakes.”

Chris: “That’s right. But if you get together, find people online, we started a little impromptu mailing list just to let people know “Hey, there’s a toy show in whatever city, you guys want to get together?” or whatever. Nothing formal. Like Martin said, it can start from there and build. The Ohio Club is probably one of the biggest ones, those guys have socials and events. They constantly have new members coming in so it’s a good thing.”

Ron: “The point of all these networking slides, is just get to know people. I mean, if you collect in a vacuum, you’re really putting yourself at a disadvantage, unless you know, that’s what you want. You know? Have fun. (Laughter makes next words inaudible) …I went to dealers. I mean, obviously if you’re buying things, your always going to have to buy stuff from people. There’s tons on dealers, I can’t mention them all obviously, these are three of the bigger Star Wars dealers that we’ve all dealt with. Pretty much only good things to say about Cloud City, Brian’s Toys and The Earth. You know, all of them are set up out here, and [you can ] visit their websites, which we’ll show in a minute. I think most of the big dealers now, you can get on the web. I mean Cloud City does pretty much all of their stuff through the mail, most of it probably through the web and calling. Same thing as Semling [at Brian’s Toys]. The Earth here is shown, this is their brick and mortar store. One of the few really good collectable stores that focuses primarily on Star Wars and other collectable toys and things. This is in Cincinnati area. I mean, when you go to places, I mean, I have a point there (referring to slide) that “When traveling, look into stores near your destination”, if you’re going somewhere, ask around. “Hey, is there someplace I should visit?” in my experience, it’s kinda almost rare that you’ll definitely find what you want in one of these stores but it’s always good to go and see what’s happening. You know, meet someone in person.”

Chris: “Pick up the phonebook. When I’m [out of town on] business or something, I look in the Yellow Pages and look at all the comic shops. Go to a few comic shops, and you know, ask them “are there a local stores that have anything?” you never know what you’ll find.”

Ron: “Or on the forum…”

Chris: “Or ask on the forum, and say, “Hey, I’m going to travel to this city, does anybody have any pointers.” “

Ron: “Also, collecting’s one of those things where you can never just say, “Oh, you know I’m going to buy everything just from Cloud City.” Cloud City is great, but they’re not going to have every good thing that comes up. Some of your best finds are going to be from the little guys, you know, you could run across at a show, a flea market. It’s good to meet as many good dealers as you can. Keep in touch with them, develop good relations, let them know what you want. Make sure that when something comes up, you’re one of the people they think of. I’ve got two websites here (referring to slide), Toy Heaven, which is James Gallo’s site. He’s set up out here. Todd Chamberlain’s not set up, but he had Toychamber.com. Both of these guys are collector/dealers, and I know Todd definitely, everything he makes goes into his collection. That’s how he funds what he buys. These guys are both good guys. This is definitely a plug for them, as well as advice for you.

(New slide)

“Ebay”: I don’t want to get too much into this, but I felt like it had to be in here. For those that don’t know, Ebay is THE marketplace. There’s two Star Wars areas. Some people actually don’t know that, but there’s one under action figures, and [another] in the Sci Fi section. Both are worth looking at. I mean, it’s also great for research. I mean, people are like sometimes, “Well, how much is this worth?”, and I’m like, “Well, just go on Ebay and do a search for it.” That’ll tell you exactly what it’s going for, as long as you can find it on there.”

Chris: “You can search for completed items too, so keep that in mind. Completed auctions.”

Ron: (referring to slide): Um, these are just some points on Ebay. Use it….I mean, track your auctions. Use the “My Ebay” page. Some people don’t do that too, but that’s a great help, that thing. “Develop precise search strings”, I know I have real long ones with lots of parenthesizes, with lots of things filtered out, that I save, and I bookmark, and I just hit that bookmark in my browser, and it takes me right to that search. [It] does it all for me, and I can run through them all every day.”

Martin: “You can also save up 100 searches [on Ebay], and they’ll send you email if anything matches.”

Ron: “Right.”

Martin: “That’s very convenient.”

Ron: (referring back to slide) You know, “bookmark the items from interesting sellers”, always go look at [the] items they’re selling once in a while. I put, “Try to stay away from peeping others auctions”, because a lot of people only search to see what other people are bidding on. Because [they think] “this guy’s interested in what I’m interested in, so I’m going to try to find….” (trails off) There’s nothing wrong with it, but I always thought it was kind of lame. Um, “Use Paypal”, I know some people don’t use it, [maybe] for good reasons because I heard kinda a bad story about someone getting in a money dispute and losing some money. To me, at this point if you’re not using Paypal, you’re probably cutting yourself out of a lot of action.”

Chris: “Paypal helps with a lot of the international stuff, because nowadays, the US in the ‘90’s, the collectors there were really driving everything, and Europe and the rest of the world were still around, but not as great. While, nowadays, Europe is really exploding. [I’m] meeting people from Asia and Australia, and Paypal is the easy way to transfer funds. Because, doing it by paper is a pain. If you take Paypal, you get more people bidding on your auctions...”

Ron: “Oh yeah.”

Chris: “…and you’re going to get more in the end too. Don’t worry about 3% or 4% Paypal fees.”

Ron: “Just to belabor a point, you know, Ebay is another forum for Networking. Use it to meet people, if you see someone selling something interesting, you know, email them and say “Hey, what else do you have?”, keep checking their auctions. Sometimes I know a lot of people who says [that] they have something, so they bid more on the item that’s currently for auction, because they want to get in good with this person [selling the item] because they want to get the other items later on. So, I mean, something like this, you have to keep in mind when you’re jumping into something like Ebay.”

Chris: “Customize your “About Me” page [on Ebay], and your “My Ebay” page. With the amount of stuff you can save on there with “Favorite Sellers” and “Watched items”, and keep track of everything you got. So….”

Ron: (referring back to slide) “This one’s kind of contentious, people hate sniping, everyone hates to be sniped at the last minute, but man, I’m telling you, the people who win the most auctions, bid the latest, and bid the most, and that’s just the way it is. If you don’t want to do it, that’s fine, but you’re going to lose out on a lot of good stuff.”

Chris: “This also keeps people from monitoring what you’re bidding on.”

Ron: “Yes, exactly. You can do it manually, but they have these sites that bid for you whenever you want actually, which I’m not really advocating…”

Chris: (laughing) “Yes he is! We love eSnipe!”

Ron: “There are issues, you have to give them your password and stuff and a lot of people don’t want to do that, and that’s understandable. I know a lot of people who swear by eSnipe, so you might want to look into that.”

Martin: “Do they charge a fee for that?”

Ron: “Yeah, there is a fee.”

Chris: “Very small. Some of these other sites don’t charge a fee, if you use it a nominal amount of time.”

Ron: “But if you want to bid on a lot of stuff, you can put a whole list of things, and it will bid on them at the last minute for you, and you won’t have to worry about it. I’ve missed out on so many things, [thinking] “Oh, I’ll bid on it later.” And I forget, of I get sniped, and I’ll be like “Oh God! I wish I had been around later to bid.”.

(Very loud noise fills room. The air conditioner, maybe? Ron starts to speak louder to be heard over it. Laughter starts as well.)

Chris: “Um……they uh……” (starts laughing)

(Referring to new slide)

Ron: “ This is on to “living with you collection”, we’ve got to kind of push things through here, but things to think about, “How am I going to live with people that I know, with family, or just my living space?” This is Todd Chamberlain’s place, which we visited a few days ago. He’s got a ton in storage, which is great for him, because he wouldn’t want to give up any of it. I look at it and I’m like “Man, I don’t even want to end up like that….”

(Noise stops, and there is applause)

Chris: (Laughing)

Ron: “…you know, I don’t ever want to have all this stuff stacked up in a room, like this. So, I mean, that’s something to keep in mind.”

Chris: “He’s got a couple of feet of floor space in every room, so…(trails off)”

Ron: “I mean, it’s great to see, it’s like…. at this point in my collecting life I say “I don’t want all this stuff in storage”. So, that’s something to think about. Some people would love to have this much stuff, some people would want to avoid it. “

(new slide that shows Gus’ home and collection)

“Living with your Collection”, again this is unlimited space. Not unlimited really, because no one really has unlimited space. Gus has devoted his house, this is Gus Lopez’s house, near Seattle…”

Chris: (Motioning to top of Gus’ home) “That’s Norman Bate’s mother in the top of it there…”

Ron: “He’s devoted a lot of his house to this, some other people have too. [The collectors that] have really big houses. I mean, it’s great you know? But it’s not for everybody. But this is just an example of what you can do if you have a big house. This is all…..you can see more of this stuff on toysrgus.com. He’s got a whole tour on there.”

(new slide)

“Um, “Limited Space” this is Isaac Lew, this is his room back when he was back living at home. You know, Isaac got into it real young. This is kind of what he did with his room, he put some displays up, he has some little action figure displays on some shelves. So, you know, you have to make do with what you have, you can’t always have a ton of space. Sometimes you just have one room, and in that room you have to have a bed and other stuff too.”

(New slide)

“And this is the middle ground, this is Mike Mensinger’s stuff. He lives in Delaware, he’s like a lot of adult collectors, I think Chris is the same way, they’ve kinda taken a room of their place, if they own a house, and they’ve devoted it to their collection. The rest of the house, maybe, doesn’t have anything else at all Star Wars, but they can walk into this room, and enjoy what they have. I’m sure that Mike’s wife is pretty happy, that it’s just in this one room.”

Chris: “Well, that doesn’t count the other toy rooms that aren’t Star Wars.”

Ron: “Yeah, he has some other rooms, but we won’t get into that one. That’s something you might want to try. This is just “maximizing your display techniques” I guess, what you see here, Ryan Scott built this unique action figure display, actually out of a beer can display, I think. He salvaged it and made it into a Star Wars display. These are items easily obtainable, these figures and these coins, for the most part, they’re not that hard to find. He’s kind of made them into something interesting. You can take focus displays like this, and make your items even better to look at than they were, you know, sitting in a box or whatever. [You] can do it pretty easily too. ”

(New slide)

“Just some small points, a lot of these points we’re just touching on points about like “what’s the best way to display something”, like a 101 course in college, if you’re interested in these little points, you can check out the other talks that are going to be just on display, or just on preservation, or whatever. (referring to slide) So, this is just metal utility shelving, it’s one of my points. If you need to display a bunch of toys, you can get this stuff at Home Depot. [These] are my toys, and I just have them on metal racks. [The metal utility shelves are] pretty inexpensive; sturdy. These are bookcases, Billy Book cases with glass doors from Ikea. Display cases, you know, if you can find them cheaply, do so. They’re going to make your collection look a lot better. These things are really only like $180 each, which is really quite reasonable. Ikea also has some cheaper ones if there’s an Ikea near you. Or you can find stuff that stores are getting rid of, things at flea markets. Gus Lopez used to have a lot of fish tanks in his old apartment that looked great. They looked like display cases, because he had stuff in them, and he had shelves on top of them, and they looked just like display areas. That’s an inexpensive way of doing it.”

Chris: “Cases are great for keeping the dust out. I know you guys probably have a lot of dusty crevices in your Star Wars toys.”

Ron: “Yeah, yeah. I mean, the point here is to find a nice way to display this stuff, because even if you have what a lot of people might consider a small collection, or something that’s not outlandishly rare, it’s going to look really nice if you display it the right way.”

(New slide)

“Always be cognizant of things deteriorating over time. Anything you keep them in, make sure it’s archival. Keep space in mind. A lot of people use Star Cases for figures, that’s great on display, but I keep all mine on bags and boards. It takes up less room. This (the slide) is a cap of the bags unlimited.com website. They sell a ton of bags, backboards, sleeves, you know these companies are really invaluable in helping you manage your collection. “Acrylic Cases”, here you see a Droids C-3PO case, and just a regular Ben carded figure or Obi-Wan. These were made by Oscar Didier, who’s a collector, who also has a side business of making custom cases. You might want to try to hit, Oscar’s cases is the name of the website, although that’s the URL down there. Other companies do this as well, AFA might make cases for you if you ask, even if you don’t grade.”

Chris: “Or Toycases.com. Oscar’s good, he’s a collector who went into business for himself over here and he helps out other collectors, and he can pretty much make you an acrylic cases any size that you want.”

Ron: “Well, these things [can] make anything [and everything] look nicer. They protect it, and they’re not flimsy like a vinyl star case or something.

Chris: “[They’re] not shatterproof though, so you can’t drop them…”

Ron: “No.

Chris: “…So that’s something to keep in mind. They do look really nice on display though.”

(New Slide)

Ron: “Just getting into the priorities section, another huge thing. I can’t stress it enough, you have to learn your limits. You know, you can’t sacrifice your job, your family, your girlfriend, to this stuff. Well, you can, but you’d have to really like that Jar Jar carded figure or whatever before you’re going to go breaking up with your girlfriend [to get it]. We’ve all sold things off at one time or another to buy something else. I know this guy has. That’s an important thing, sometimes you have to sacrifice something you like, if you know someone else is looking for it, and you can use the money to buy something else. That last quote there, “lots of hot dogs and no vacations”, I had this guy……I knew this guy who was a big collector way back in the 80’s and someone once asked him, “How do you manage to buy all this stuff?”, because he had just about everything back in 1988. He was like, “lots of hot dogs and no vacations” , that always stuck with me, as sometimes, collecting becomes your lifestyle. Which is good in a way for some people, but if you have a family, it’s not really going to work all the time. (Referring to graphic on presentation) Then there’s Fred Sanford, trying to remind you to never stop expecting the big one. Meaning the big item that you’ve been looking for pops up, try to have some money for it. Always try to remember the financial side of things.”

Martin: “I’m going to say something harsh, but one of my nicknames is the grumpy old man of Star Wars collecting, so I’m allowed.”

Ron: “We call it getting “Thurned” when he yells at someone. Like, “You just got Thurned!”

Martin: “I hear people say this sometimes, but if you see a new action figure at Toys R Us and you don’t have $7 in your pocket, this is probably not the hobby you should be in.”

Ron: “Yeah, like I said before. What I called the Georgoulias rule, if you’re having trouble spending money on this stuff, if you’re looking at it and saying, “I don’t know if I should spend this, because I won’t be able to feed myself.” I mean, you shouldn’t be buying toys, you should be buying Kudos bars or something.”

(Everyone laughs)

Chris: (Laughing) “STAR WARS Kudos bars.”

(New slide)

Ron: “Young people need to be crafty”, sometimes a second job [can help], I have a second job that helps me pay for things. It’s tough, you know, if you like buying stuff, you need money. Again, about keeping a reserve of money, if you can, try to save up money to go toward collecting, for that rare piece [that] comes up [for sale] that you really want, you can pull out money from that, and say, “Hey, this is the money I set aside to buy this, because it’s what I really wanted to buy”.

(New Slide)

“Dealing”: Uh, these are pictures of Todd Chamberlain and Will Grief there on the bottom, from a few years ago. I used to set up at a lot of shows with Todd, back before toy shows went by the wayside because of Ebay. In my opinion, buying Star Wars and selling it is a great way to get into the hobby, is a great way to make extra money on things. Like I said, Todd’s been able to sustain his whole collecting [lifestyle] since he was fairly young, just by buying collections, selling the stuff he didn’t want, keeping it, he sets up at shows, he has a website where he sells stuff. It’s not for everybody, not everybody wants to do it, but…”

Martin: “It’s also a great way to learn about all kinds of stuff. Great way to make friends and network.”

Ron: ‘Yeah, I know I started, I know you did, lots of people did, in the early ‘90’s advertising in the paper buying loose figures. Buying them and selling the ones I didn’t want, keep the ones I did, and that’s how I met a lot of these people because I’d sell to them, or buy something from them, and it’s all a community of buying and selling stuff.”

Chris: “Use your knowledge as a collector to benefit yourself as a collector. I mean, there’s a lot of stuff you pick up over the years, not even Star Wars, you could find something else, if you’re like in a thrift shop, and you’re like, “Hey, I know I could sell this thing for $50 on Ebay” And it costs you $1. Then go make $49 because that’s the key to this.”

Ron: “Some people, you know, just hate the idea that some people make money on the hobby, but different strokes for different folks.”

Chris: “Um, that’s Gary Coleman’s rule.”

Ron: (laughing) “Always listen to Gary.”

(New slide)

“Practicality”: this is getting into the family side of things. Again, self explanatory. (referring to the slide) There are Erik Janniche’s sons. Lucas and Paul. (laughing) Lucas?”

Martin: “Hey, I have a son named “Lucas” too.”

Ron: (Laughing) “It’s a popular name among these people. Collecting should be respected by the people……I mean if it’s important to you, the person you’re marrying should respect it. In the real world, it doesn’t always work out that way, where they’re going to look at you, and they’re going to say, “Our vacation is going to be going to Indianapolis, and you’re going to spend all this money on this item, which I don’t care about?” You have to balance things after a certain amount of time, I know Martin’s married he knows.”

(Women in audience applaud)

Chris: (Laughing) “Notice that those are all the females [in the audience] clapping.”

Ron: “Chris and I aren’t [married]. And um……collecting is one of the reasons we probably aren’t.”

(Everyone laughs)

Martin: “I’m glad I didn’t have to say that.”

Ron: (referring to slide) “This is Martin’s son Jay, playing with all these things and making a mess. This is just also one of Martin’s…

Martin: “Yeah, another one of my harsh warnings. Collecting whether you like it or not, it’s going to be full time. No matter how focused you make yourself or how complete you think your set already is, it’s always going to be on your mind. You’re always going to have your checklist in your head, what you need, what your have. It’s practically a full time thing.”

Ron: “I know at the level I’ve been at, most of my vacations are been taken [up] by Star Wars collecting related [trips]. Go to buy things, go to shows, go visit other collectors. I really couldn’t do that if I was married and had kids.”

Chris: “On the upside, all your coworkers can ask you how to mail a package, because you know every in and out.”

Ron: “I just go “I’m going to visit my Aunt”, my Grandma’s died several times.”

(everyone laughs)

(new slide)

“This is “kids change everything” this is pictures of the boxes when Erik Janniche sold off all of his newer toys. When he had a kid, he said, “I’m only going to collect the old stuff” He took the newer ones he didn’t like as much, [and] got rid of them. It could apply to everything, someone could decide, that they don’t want their Pez collection anymore, because they have a kid now. You know, he lost that, but he gained an R2-D2 toilet.”

Martin: “That’s the only thing his wife let him keep?”

Ron: “Probably one of the few things.”

Chris: “That’s from a book dump, but that has nothing to do with the toilet…”

Ron: “His kids get a lot of fun out of this, all the stuff he’s collected, and he uses it in fun ways.”

(New slide)

“Don’t end up a Statistic”: Seriously, I have known a lot of collectors, a lot of the guys who were really big in the ‘80’s and 90’s. No one’s heard of them who’s gotten into the hobby recently, because they sold their stuff a long time ago, when they got divorced. Or before they got divorced, or to avoid getting divorced.”

Chris: “Most were during the divorce.”

Ron: “Not so many people lately, but you know…(trails off). You have to decide, make a lot of hard choices, whether you’re going to get into this really hardcore or if you’re going to taper it back, or if you’re just going to give it up entirely, there’s nothing wrong with that either.”

(Last Slide)

“And to end it up, “Have Fun!” That’s always the most important thing, I mean, the stuff we’ve said today, is advise. Tips; things that we have found important in the past. No one has to play by any rule, other than, have fun. Don’t kill yourself. (referring to slide) This is us posed outside of Celebration 2, well some of us, Chris isn’t in it I guess.”

(presentation ends)

So there you have it! Wheew, that took a while!



Dec 24, 2000
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Re: \"Collecting 101\" Panel Transcript

Tommy, I think I speak for everyone when I say thank you for your dilligent efforts with this! You're either a whiz with shorthand or you can write uber fast. :^) This transcript accurately reflects the prensentation and its delivery, IMHO. It's great to see this talk archived in this fashion! I'd say reading the transcript is certainly the next best thing for collectors that missed this presentation while attending CIII or couldn't attend the show at all. Hell, I enjoyed reading it and I attended the presentation live, so that's gotta say something! :^)



Staff member
May 21, 2001
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Re: \"Collecting 101\" Panel Transcript

Wow! That's some typing.
Jul 18, 2001
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Re: \"Collecting 101\" Panel Transcript

Thanks for posting this. I am kinda bummed out, though, because I had no idea Martin Thurn was going to be at C3. If I'd known, I definitely would have tried to attend this panel.

He mentioned his SW Collector 'zine, which I am proud to say I contributed to quite heavily (under three or four pen-names). If anyone has his current e-mail address, can you PM me with it?



Nov 15, 2003
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Re: \"Collecting 101\" Panel Transcript

michael_mensinger said:
Tommy, I think I speak for everyone when I say thank you for your dilligent efforts with this!
Thanks! It took me a really long time to finish. Somewhere around 8 to 9 hours, I should think. Minus an hour or 2 chatting with another collector on the phone. I'm sure it would have taken less time if I could type faster though.

michael_mensinger said:
You're either a whiz with shorthand or you can write uber fast. :^)
Or option 3, I can sit around one weekend and watch the speech on tape again, and again, and again, and again.....
Counting the time at C3, it has to be at least 7 times I've seen it now all together, most likely more. Of course, I only saw it in 30 seconds increments the majority of those times. I watched 30 seconds half a dozen times, then moved on to the next 30 seconds.

I could have gotten away with watching it once and writing down what was said. I decided early on however that I wanted an EXACT transcript. This required that the speech to be examined over and over.

I knew some people couldn't attend the panel, so I thought this might help them out a little. Like you said, I thought this might be the next best thing to actually being there.

I just wish I could put as much effort into school.


Edit: I also just added a still shot I had of the presentation to the transcript.


Nov 24, 2001
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Re: \"Collecting 101\" Panel Transcript


Excellent work on the transcript and thanks for sharing with everyone. This was one of the more enjoyable panels to sit in on.

Thanks again

Oct 27, 2000
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Re: \"Collecting 101\" Panel Transcript

You had me at greetings...sniff...you had me at greetings.
Aug 13, 2002
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Re: \"Collecting 101\" Panel Transcript

This was one of the panels I wanted to go to but wasn't able to attend, so thanks for posting the transcript.