Current Issues, Upcoming Changes, New Projects

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Hello Everyone,

As most collectors here know, I rarely comment on these forums. My personal view is that over the years many interesting and insightful topics have been discussed here, but that many eventually devolve into off-topic debates which at times can offend and belittle those with an opposing point of view. This trend doesn’t reflect the majority of the community, but usually involves a select few who in some cases feel very passionate about an issue or in other cases simply want to be heard or stir up debate. One thing which quickly becomes clear is that nobody ever wins a debate here. My mom would often tell me that “sometimes the price of peace is to allow another to have the final word”. This is an accurate way to describe my personal experiences on Rebelscum. I’ll therefore share my thoughts and will try to address a few of the questions and comments posted recently, but I’ll not likely continue to participate in this thread. I’ve always made clear that anyone who wants to get in touch with me or needs my help is welcome to contact me directly via email.

Before I comment on specific issues, I’d like to clarify that my name is Tom. I’m an individual who was first a collector before making a conscious decision to pursue a career in the hobby I most enjoyed. I’m not a company, nor am I AFA. I’ve made this clear in previous posts. Last year I conveyed that I was working to improve AFA through procedural changes and by providing guidance and detailed information in order to improve accuracy. I also made it clear that I work directly for CIB. These two companies are not one and the same. I have many new projects in the works at CIB, but only one more significant project to complete for AFA. Many of my responsibilities over the last few years do not represent those I enjoy most. I’ve always made clear that my options to move on to new things remained open. My current plan is to complete the main project for AFA which I have committed to and then move on to other projects outside of AFA. I don’t think it’s appropriate to refer to me as AFA [Tom Derby]. This is a label based on incorrect assumptions and couldn’t be more factually incorrect. Over the past 6 months, I’ve done work for AFA an average of 5 hours per week. It was only from late 2008 until early this year that I worked almost every day at AFA to help improve internal documentation and procedures in an attempt to transfer a great deal of knowledge from my mind to their computers so that advanced variation and technical data will be easily available to AFA’s graders once I’m gone. That day will come within the next 3-6 months, once I have fulfilled my obligations to oversee the final development of their new website designed to include many features promised in the past and allow for improved and much more interactive areas for tracking submissions, customer service, and a knowledgebase. My primary goal is to implement better on-line customer service and help ticket systems, along with the ability to escalate any issue to higher management. Other than these projects for which I’m still an outside contractor, I will no longer be focused on AFA projects. With that said I’d ask that you please refer to me by my actual name and refer to the company Action Figure Authority as AFA.

This post is quite long and I hope those interested in individual topics will take the time to read what I’ve written with an open mind. My goal is not to change anyone’s opinion, but simply to offer both observations and a potentially different perspective on various issues.

AFA's Origin

Some forum members may have missed previous posts on this topic because I assume that statements like, “AFA, whilst started by a respectable member of this community” refer to me. However, AFA was started in 2000 in Hudsonville, Michigan by a man named Charles (Chip), a local K-9 police officer who was also a toy collector. He spent roughly a year prior to launching AFA working out the best methods for encasing toys securely in custom-designed cases which would resist tampering. He developed a business plan and a list of talking points about why the toy collecting hobby needed a standardized system. When I was first approached about having items graded, I told him that I didn’t think it would work and that the hobby didn’t need such a system. At that time I had a clear advantage over many sellers because my reputation and descriptions were trusted to a point which already allowed high grade items to command a premium. Chip pushed forward with his idea and graded items primarily for the SLU community at first and then for a few large modern retailers. I wasn’t convinced and I had no interest in submitting items. He persisted and offered to grade a large number of items for free to see what I thought. When the first items were returned to me, I was immediately impressed and revisited the idea of getting additional items graded with an open mind. The ‘uncirculated’ designation was available from the very beginning to confirm items had come from factory cases. The same ‘uncirculated’ designation for loose toys was also planned from the very beginning. Chip recognized that many loose collectors open packaged figures for virtually every type of toy and thought this designation was a good way to verify that an item came straight from a package. In the event a loose figure was sold or otherwise passed from one collector to another, this provenance would remain intact. Excluding the unknown effect of continually changing collecting trends, this designation would decrease the number of figures opened over a significant time period. Due to the complexity involved in casing loose items as well as to the quantities required to offer a cost effective solution, a loose grading service was not implemented until almost 5 years later when AFA felt they had the staff levels and ability to properly provide this service.

My Current Responsibilities at CIB

While many acknowledge contributions I have made to this hobby in terms of finding rare items and treating people fairly when buying or selling, this is not something I deserve any special credit for. While it’s true that I often sold items to collectors looking to complete sets or with a specific focus for less than I could have sold them elsewhere, I still profited from these transactions and don’t deserve any ‘free pass’ in regards to the time I spent buying and selling toys. I simply chose to conduct business honorably and with a long term view of the hobby and my relationships with collectors. Over the years I developed many friendships which continue to this day. When I read certain posts from a select few long-term collectors and become genuinely hurt and offended, I try to remind myself that I haven’t really ever publicly discussed what I do on a daily basis, so being credited for any of my current work when it’s not public knowledge isn’t a realistic expectation. On the other hand, I would never expect someone who I like and respect to directly compare me to individuals who set out to defraud both their own friends as well as the entire collecting community. I devote a great deal of my time every week to combating fraud with no expectation of receiving any compensation. I do this out of genuine concern for other collectors, whether I know them or not.

The reality of my current situation is that regardless of what projects occupy a standard 60 hour work week for me, I consistently spend an additional 20+ hours each week helping collectors free of charge. The truth is that I can’t even keep up any more. I receive between 150 and 200 emails in any given week asking for my advice in determining value, asking my opinion on the authenticity of items in pictures I’m sent, or asking for help in the identification of countless toys and video games. Even more importantly, I consistently provide the following services free of charge to the community because I understand the person asking me for help is already dealing with a difficult or unfortunate situation. Most often, the collectors I help are not clients of mine in any way and never have been, but I still offer them the assistance they need at no cost. A select few examples of services I regularly provide to help other collectors are:

  • Customized CIB letters assessing before/after value in shipping damage claims.
  • Customized CIB letters to combat cases of fraud and help victims (most often for PayPal claims).
  • Intervention in deals where it seems one party is taking so long as to indicate that they may not plan to ship the other party items which have been paid for, especially when an international buyer is involved.
  • Evaluation of items sent to me to determine authenticity and identify fakes in order to help a potential victim decide whether a dispute is in order.

If you’ve never had to come to me for any of these things, I’m glad and I’m sure you are too. Being that I offer assistance to a large number of different toy and video game communities, collectors somewhere are constantly victims of various forms of fraud which I always assist with free of charge. All of these things are done out of both genuine concern for collectors and most certainly concern for the sustainability and health of this hobby and others. When certain members of this forum question my concern for this hobby, I’m perplexed. Who would have a greater concern for this hobby than someone who supports his family by working within it? Those who know me have always been well aware that I take the long term view. I’ve watched a far greater number of collectors come and go than the number of collectors currently active in this hobby.

At times, collectors who consistently speak negatively about me on this forum come to me for assistance. They always find that I’m still willing to help when they truly have a problem.

This hobby is often a tightly knit community with open communication and collectors helping other collectors. However, there are times that information which collectors fail to share with one another can lead to problems which could likely be avoided. My regular work focuses on keeping fraud in this hobby to a minimum whether it affects one person or many. To date the Star Wars hobby has been lucky in comparison to hobbies like Transformers, which have been decimated by the production of bootlegs made from original toy molds and packaging often printed in China using original plates. While new counterfeit items constantly emerge from China, unscrupulous individuals in South Carolina attempt to alter and duplicate graded Transformers (with mediocre results) which are sold to inexperienced collectors. Many of the biggest collectors in the Transformers hobby have stopped collecting because of the sheer scale of these attempts to defraud collectors.

Upcoming changes at CIB

While helping victims of fraud is one of the aspects of my job I enjoy most, it quite simply takes an incredible amount of time and doesn’t help me to support my family. My wife and I now have a six month old little girl named Annabel and we hope to have many more children over the next 5-10 years. I’ve therefore come to the conclusion over the past few months that in order to focus on what’s most important in life, I need to transition out of the specific line of work I’ve been primarily doing for the past five years, including the standard authentication services CIB provides. My daughter (and hopefully future children) deserve more time from their father and over the past 1 ½ years, I’ve consistently worked 80 or more hours each week. Over the past 6 months, I can count on one hand the number of days I’ve worked less than 16-18 hours. My recent work has been directly related to several projects which focus on sharing knowledge with the collecting community. As many have said, this is by far the best solution to many of the concerns recently discussed here.

Regarding standard authentication services I provide, CIB COAs provided for AFA-graded items currently yield an exceptionally low average hourly compensation when research time spent on special items is factored into the equation. If it were just vinyl-caped Jawas (which AFA can most certainly authenticate directly), it would be one thing. But with some items taking as much as a day of my time to research (and billed at the same rate) as well as by accepting some degree of lifetime responsibility for the assessments I provide, I feel I’m not taking a responsible approach towards parenthood and my family’s future by continuing on my current career path.

Ultimately, the actual authentication process is by far the least rewarding job I’ve ever had, both emotionally and financially. Authenticating an item rarely leads to a ‘thank you’ nor should it, but the opposite often leads to anger, long debates with a client, an extended research process by request, and ultimately treatment as if I ‘m responsible for the fact that something is not likely to be authentic. Over the next 3-6 months, my focus and that of CIB will shift. Though I will certainly help collectors with specific problems and CIB may provide services on a case-by-case basis, the current fixed-price standard authentication services provided by CIB will no longer be available.

Over the coming months I will continue to help AFA prepare to provide direct authentication services for certain types of items once CIB services cease to be offered, likely at the end of this year. By applying their extensive training and by utilizing the wealth of information I’ve provided, senior graders at AFA will be qualified to authenticate rare production items, various forms of proof material, and most first shots. Authentication of most other pre-production material will fall back on the most experienced collectors in the community (or possibly CIB by special request, not as a published or standard service).

My projects over the past 6 months

By the end of this year I will release more information about a project I’ve been working on which attempts to provide pictures and information about virtually every known toy from every major vintage toy line, including as much information about variations as possible. Providing such a wealth of information will only be made possible by the contributions of countless collectors in many hobbies as well as by completing the organization of my own library of over 100,000 images spanning the last 15 years. This information will be free to all collectors. Revenue to support this project will come from links to sites with specific and directly related items available for purchase. There will never be a charge to access or view this site. The site’s primary goal is to promote the growth of the collectible toy hobby in general by illustrating how expansive and interesting collecting can be. Through this type of easily accessible knowledge, collectors can decide what interests them most, become more informed, and make decisions based on this knowledge.

By the end of this month, I’ll have also spent over 2,000 hours helping John Kellerman with the 2nd edition of his book “Star Wars Vintage Action Figures”. I’ve dedicated a significant amount of additional time and expense to this project in order to ensure collectors will have the opportunity to appreciate some truly unique material which few in the world have ever laid eyes on. The book’s image count will have virtually doubled in the 2nd edition and due to contributions from collectors as well as information provided by AFA, the matrix will have expanded significantly (and yes, I have been very careful updating data, as I do understand that labeling mistakes from 20-B to 20-A, etc., have been made by AFA in the past. I have personally researched each variation added.)

I can certainly provide even more background but my objective in all of this is to establish that I do far more ‘behind the scenes’ for this hobby than most people realize. I rarely talk about these things or ask for credit, nor do I feel the need to receive credit. I simply wanted to share some of what I do on a regular basis because I believe that many incorrect assumptions about me stem from the fact that I have been very low key for several years now. This hobby has been an immeasurable part of my life for over 15 years. Its health has always been and will always be of great concern to me. I humbly ask that these things be taken into consideration before quickly dismissing any of my personal views which some will disagree with.

Expert Status

All too often, ‘expert status’ seems to imply that a person has extensive knowledge on almost every facet of an incredibly broad spectrum of information. The truth is that an expert relies on all the resources at his disposal, most notably the knowledge of other individuals who have a specific focus and unparalleled knowledge in regard to that focus. I regularly confer with many members of these forums who are experts in individual areas when I’m researching specific issues. Usually I know who the experts are, but I’m occasionally taken completely by surprise. I spoke for more than 2 hours at C5 with a collector from the UK who knows the vintage 12” line backwards and forwards. He clearly possesses knowledge on variations and worldwide releases that most certainly surpasses my own which I believe to be extensive. I’m always excited to meet people who can teach me something new and can offer a significant contribution towards making more information available to all collectors in this hobby.

While there are many collectors who are more knowledgeable than I am in their specific areas of interest, my job is to retain expert knowledge (or very close) in relation to virtually every popular toy line as well as to sealed video games. Over the past few years, I’ve gone to great lengths to develop new techniques and record new observations about the general nature of multiple types of seals which can be far more complex than standard blister seals. These techniques originally stem from the necessity to detect original video game reseals accurately. I’ve conducted extensive research for several years into reseal detection methods as well as known methods used to recreate cellophane seals around games which have been previously opened. When an original 1985 NES Super Mario Bros., black Nintendo seal, cardboard hang-tab version factory sealed in mint condition can bring $4,000 while an identical game, otherwise new but missing the factory cellophane can bring less than $100, a significant amount of responsibility applies to the verification of an original factory seal. I’ve worked with the most knowledgeable collectors in the sealed video game hobby to gather specific types of expertise from each. I’ve consolidated this information and discovered a great deal of information on my own, all of which has been recorded and used to assist in training VGA’s top graders. It was through research primarily focusing on how age affects the collection of often microscopic dirt and debris in common places across multiple item types, as well as how even the smallest wear and flaws repeat themselves through various layers of outer packaging, that my ability to authenticate a variety of tape sealed toy-related items became far more scientific. I’m not aware of others who have studied the visual differences commonly seen between an item which has been sealed quickly in a ‘production line’ environment versus one which has been sealed slowly and carefully to try and mimic factory characteristics. Even the simple pauses applicable to the latter create small but discernable patterns associated with the seal.

While authentication techniques can be combined with a detailed internal knowledgebase, it is through additional consultation with specific experts who have made that area their specialty and have devoted countless hours to collecting and research, that one can provide the most informed assessment. It is only through accepting and embracing this reality that either CIB or CGA (and its divisions) can offer a high level of expert services.

Many collectors on these forums know that I’m not shy in asking for assistance and additional information I believe they can provide. Ultimately my job often relies on help from others. This is just another reason I’m always willing to happily provide whatever knowledge I can to people who come to me.

Exceptional New Resources & Contributions to Loose Figure/Accessory Identification

I would most certainly say that Jay’s Imperial Gunnery is far and away the best reproduction and authentic Star Wars accessory site ever compiled. I’m highly impressed by the level of detail provided. Wolff’s contributions to accessory variations as well as his extensive work on figure COO variations are also amazingly extensive. Once again, I’m highly impressed. Both offer a great deal of detailed information which I’ve never seen documented.

As I’ve suggested to several other pioneers who’ve spent countless hours ‘mapping’ a specific aspect of this hobby over the past decade, be sure to keep options open in regards to collecting and inquiring additional and new information. In other words, phrases like those used by John Kellerman in his first edition which reference what is known are always better than phrases which state that a specific figure always comes with a specific accessory mold. I’m not stating that this is specifically applicable to the wonderful research projects mentioned above; just that this method has proven to be the most accurate approach. There have been countless ‘facts’ from over the last decade which were later proven incorrect. For example, there are many figures even in low production lines which were issued with multiple versions of an accessory mold. While current information may verify an accessory mold was issued with a particular figure, future information in many instances verifies additional versions were issued as well. I was recently surprised to discover two slightly different authentic molds for the Top Toys Logray staff. I would never have guessed that to be the case due to the low production run. Often, small variations can be attributable to minor differences between one steel mold and another used for the same toy or accessory or between two compartments in the same steel mold.

I understand as well as anyone that if you put an incredible amount of your time and effort into a project, you’re entitled to receive recognition and any associated benefits. For these and any other highly detailed efforts to categorize and identify variations which exist in the vintage Star Wars line, I’m more than happy to make significant contributions of images and information (which need not be credited) if they are ever requested. My intent is not to infringe nor suggest I could make any contribution which is even close to the equivalent of what has already been done. I’m just offering to provide anything deemed useful.

In addition, the uncirculated debate aside, I’d recommend asking AFA for help in data collection. No other individual or company in the world comes close to handling the volume of loose figures and accessories which pass through their facility. While true that much of the internal information there hasn’t been properly organized and made available to the public yet, it’s an absolute fact that in terms of volume, more detailed information about action figures is kept in that one central location than anywhere else in the world. I wouldn’t be quick to assume that they would be unwilling to help on a non-profit project which benefitted the collectible community. If a detailed request was presented to them which specified a type of information or images which could be collected to benefit worthy projects, my guess is that someone there would help. I’ve never been advised that any collector has ever approached AFA to ask them to contribute to any project involving significant research and categorization. I can’t say for sure that they would be willing to devote time to something like this, but logic suggests that AFA occupies the best position by far in terms of gathering information based on a large pool of examples. Contrary to the perception of some, I’m usually completely unaware of potential correspondence between collectors and AFA, so if someone has already asked for something like this, feel free to ignore my suggestion.

My personal opinion on opening packaged figures

It does need to be acknowledged that certain types of figures (mainly ROTJ, POTF, Droids & Ewoks) have been opened in great numbers for as long as anyone has been collecting. In the 1990s there was often very little difference in cost and it was sometimes the easiest way to find loose figures for your collection. With an estimated 250 million figures produced in the vintage years and an estimated 1-2% remaining unopened, certain packaged figures are likely to remain common until every active collector grows old. The most relevant considerations are package rarity with variations taken into account and package condition. If one’s goal is to encourage people not to open packages which don’t fit a certain criteria, then making knowledge about variations more readily available is the best way to communicate which packages already in poor condition should not be opened due to their specific rarity. In terms of what condition is acceptable to open, this is of course a matter of opinion. Few would rather have frosty figures on cut cards than clean, loose figures and even collectors who oppose the issuing of an uncirculated designation will admit to opening certain figures under a variety of different circumstances.

I personally like to see collectors make informed decisions but I’ll always maintain that they have a right to make their own decisions. I own a set of 12-backs on cut cards which I’ve kept for many years and I absolutely plan to open these to have nice loose examples one day. I don’t actually know any collectors (at least none I can recall) who collect loose figures which are sealed in blisters on cut cards. There are also instances where damaged carded figures are easier to find and often cheaper than loose examples. This applies mostly to the Droids & Ewoks series. This set would have been almost impossible for me to complete in the early 1990s without opening several damaged carded examples.

However, I have tried to save rare figures from being opened when I can. One forum member who I think very highly of and find to be a truly nice and sincere guy (but doesn’t like AFA
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) mentioned the possibility of what he termed a ‘vintage cop’. Back when I was regularly working at the AFA facility I attempted to be exactly that when I had reason to believe someone wasn’t fully aware of what they were doing. I would take the time to contact them and explain. Another forum member for whom I have a great deal of respect also mentioned that he had heard that most people who were proactively contacted chose to move forward with having an item graded as loose anyway. While this certainly happened from time to time, the majority of people I contacted changed direction and had items graded in the package. Most of the time, they were simply unaware of what they had and were loose collectors themselves who just wanted the loose figure. Whether AFA offered an uncirculated designation or not their intent was to open the figures. In those rare cases, it was only because they sent them for grading that the figures were spared. Of course the biggest success story is still one collector’s childhood Luke with brown hair which he didn’t own a loose example of, planned to open, but decided it would be cool to try AFA out first on that particular figure. Well, it happened to be a POCH ESB card he had acquired as a child while either traveling or from a relative, etc. and never opened. This figure received a low grade but is still fully intact and carded, residing in the home of one very happy collector in Spain.

While I don’t share the view of some forum members (many of which I greatly respect) in relation to this designation and have openly communicated that, it’s unfair to single me out as being responsible for the collecting habits of others. It’s also incorrect to assume that this designation was conceived of by me (and incorrect to assume that I have the authority to discontinue it). I completely respect the other side of this argument, but barring an open-ended ‘trend’, I will even suggest the possibility that assigning an uncirculated designation may actually save more figures from being opened in the long run.

Uncirculated Designation

I’ll begin by saying to Shawn that I support your effort to do something about a trend many believe has an adverse effect on the hobby. In some ways I completely agree. I agree that the vast majority of items are better left in their original packaging. I fully support educating collectors about this hobby and watching them make more informed decisions. I also believe people should be free to collect action figures in whatever way they choose, but that it’s best to approach collecting in a responsible way. I certainly don’t believe anyone should collect loose figures directly from the package rather than standard loose figures due to any current trend.

I do however feel that the ‘U grade’ project fails to address the larger issue at hand. I assume that it’s not specifically the uncirculated designation with which you take issue, but the opening of some or all packaged figures. Furthermore, you believe that the uncirculated designation encourages this and therefore have decided to lobby against its application. I clearly understand your position, but feel that I may be able to offer a slightly different perspective as well as some additional insight. I acknowledge that this is not going to change your mind and I respect your opinion. I do however feel that I may be able to present a few observations which could affect the way you promote your views and what information you choose to include and endorse in your article.

First, I’ll clarify and correct a few technical details which are necessary to point out, but of little importance in the scheme of things. However, details regarding the bagged Luke Skywalker should be corrected simply to reflect accuracy.

The number 7624 is the total number of Star Wars figures assigned the uncirculated designation over the course of more than five years. Because AFA was slow to update the population report, the difference in the annual total numbers provided reflects closer to two years of activity rather than one year. Even so, 2778 would represent the first three years of loose grading and that would leave approximately 4846 figures over the remaining two years, or about 2423 figures per year. The recent numbers are also skewed by AFA’s change in policy to allow (at their discretion) taped bagged figures to receive the uncirculated designation, when those graded previously did not. That said, it changes nothing about the general argument, but numbers which illustrate a trend should be understood as accurately as possible in order to properly reflect a trend’s future numbers. Additionally, while probably not important to most (but important to me), a type C Star Wars bag has never been opened for an uncirculated telescoping Luke Skywalker. Every uncirculated example came from a type B Star Wars bag which is slightly more common, much thinner, and more easily damaged. While most would take no notice of this, the type C bag is a very attractive package which many strive to add to their collections while the type B bag is plain looking and not as sought after. Again, of little importance in your general argument but worth pointing out if your attempt is to provide the most accurate assessment possible.

I don’t disagree that the hefty prices attained for U90 figures concentrated in 2009 encouraged a much higher than normal number of figures to be opened. This trend caused an inordinate number of people to submit items for uncirculated grading during that time period. As stated on these forums, there has been a downturn in this trend and many people who collected uncirculated figures primary for a designation have changed their focus.

There are many things which have contributed to this downturn, but here are a few:

  • Demand for certain U90 figures ran prices up so high that completion of a set became an almost unattainable goal for most.
  • The market supply of U85s and lower grades became higher than the demand and led to declining prices which discouraged people from having as many items graded as uncirculated.
  • Education about variations and certain packaged items as well as discussion dissuaded many people from being as concerned about the uncirculated designation in specific cases where they didn’t have an inherit desire to seek out figures which were straight from a package in the first place.

It is true that some collect a certain way simply to follow a trend and changes in opinion or the marketplace can easily sway collecting habits. However, the simple fact that some collectors want to ensure a figure came directly from a package has not gone away. There is no question that some collectors follow current trends. There is also no question that some collectors want to know that an item came from a package. It’s an unknown variable as to what percentage of people collect for one reason versus the other. There is no question that the number of people who collect these figures for the uncirculated designation has decreased for numerous reasons, only a few of which were highlighted above. However, the number of people who still want to know that an item came directly from a package hasn’t changed significantly.

Surprisingly, what has changed is the number of figures sent for grading which are covered in frost indicating they were recently opened and in rare cases submissions sent which specifically request an uncirculated designation not be assigned. This is without a doubt a new and uncommon trend, but seems to be clearly attributable to external pressure. While these actions are by no means common, they certainly don’t help what I see as the true objective. These actions hurt the hobby even more.

One undeniable truth about the uncirculated designation is that it allows for the transfer of ownership between two collectors with the assurance of ‘newness’ intact. Barring trends and with no change in collecting habits, the uncirculated designation would theoretically lead to less figures being opened over the long term. Its effect in the short term has been undeniable due to recent trends, but collectors come and go more often than the vast majority realize. When each person stops collecting and decides to sell figures they have opened without the uncirculated designation applied, the buyers they find interested will most certainly not be those who prefer to be sure they have loose figures straight from packaging. These newer collectors will then open another packaged example themselves.

Additionally, the article’s endorsement of the practice of opening figures already graded with the uncirculated designation goes directly against its logical objective. The most likely result associated with opening these figures rather than selling them to other collectors is that an equal number of identical figures would then be opened from new packages by other collectors.

Ultimately the article’s most important element is educating collectors on variations and rarity. I believe it would also be beneficial to define the circumstances under which ‘the majority’ feel it’s acceptable to the community as a whole to open packaged items. An answer of never would be unrealistic. I’ll be the first to admit having opened figures over the years for my loose collection. Many others who completely support your position have done the same. The issue is defining ‘when’ this practice is considered acceptable. I certainly feel the majority of collectors would rather have a nice, clean loose figure than a frosty figure in a blister still attached to a cut card.

Here are a few facts which pertain to collecting figures straight from the package:

  • Collectors have collected ‘uncirculated’ figures long before I entered the hobby. Every year packaged toys are opened by loose collectors whether they are sent to be graded or not.
  • There is no data to examine outside of that provided by AFA. Nobody knows how widespread this practice has been in the past or is today. I believe I can say with certainty that a larger percentage of collectors who collect this way use grading services each year as a way to preserve a figure’s status as ‘new’.
  • With no designation of status, every new collector who enters the hobby and wants the assurance of collecting figures straight from some form of packaging must now open an additional set of figures. The option to buy a figure from a collector leaving the hobby is no longer available.

While it’s true that any potential benefits offered by this designation are unlikely to save quantities equal to the quantities of the opposing trend in the short term, these are valid observations which I have witnessed firsthand for as far back as I’ve been collecting.

I’ll present answers to the following question which do not necessarily reflect my view. They do represent the most common answers I have heard over the years. Some answers may make sense to most, while others may not seem like very good ones to many people. They are however, answers I’ve heard from collectors who felt they could speak freely on the subject.

Why do people collect uncirculated figures (graded or ungraded)?

  • They want to be certain that figures are not touched up and that the weapons are original. It’s true that every year AFA gets better and better at spotting reproduction weapons and accessories as well as paint touch-ups. It’s also true that sites like the Imperial Gunnery provide added reference and confidence to loose collectors. However, there are factory paint touch-ups as well as aftermarket paint touch-ups and in rare cases these can be hard to judge. Some also feel that there may be perfect reproduction weapons which exist or will be made at some point. While these scenarios are unlikely and grow even more so as time goes on, some feel that knowing an item is straight from packaging is the only way to tell. This view becomes less and less common as better and more detailed information becomes easily available to collectors.
  • They want to be certain that the exact same original figure and accessories are together. It may not make sense to most but it’s a more common reason than most people think. The motivation for this aside, not much can be done to address this desire.
  • They want to free the toys from the packaging as they were originally meant to be. Not much can be done about this desire. These are rarely collectors who use AFA’s services as that too is a way to encapsulate a figure.
  • They like the idea of simply knowing the toy is from original packaging. Not much can be done about this desire. This view may be tied directly to a sense of nostalgia and a desire to view the toy as freshly opened like the experience they had in childhood.
  • They like to be the original owner in a sense. Not much can be done about this desire. This view may not make sense to most, but everyone’s preferences and motivations are different.
  • They cannot find an example in the condition they want. This is applicable on certain figures and when someone wants to complete a collection quickly. If prices are not far apart or mint examples are hard to come by, many find it easier to open packaged figures. You can encourage patience, but in the end the level of patience someone is willing to display is entirely dependent on the individual and the circumstances. There are some figures which are extremely difficult to find in truly mint shape, whether they are loose or still in the package. These may take a decent amount of time to locate and many collectors will choose to open a packaged example if they find it first for a comparable price.

In the end, the best approach for concerned collectors to take in attempting to minimize the number of packaged toys opened by inexperienced collectors is sharing knowledge with them about packaging variations as well as detailed information about authentic versus reproduction accessories. However, the fact remains that a large number of figures will continue to be opened each and every year for reasons which are completely unrelated to and unaffected by the assignment of an uncirculated designation.

Collectors move quickly in and out of this hobby, with long-term collectors being the exception. Back when I used to sell toys, I would say that on average any given toy passed through my hands three times. This number would undoubtedly be even higher were I still active. Offering a designation does serve to preserve status and recent trends aside, would potentially keep figures from being opened in the future. Whether it’s justifiable or not, a number of loose collectors will always want to know toys came from a package. You can only hope to decrease the quantity opened in the long run and work towards encouraging collectors to open figures on cut cards or in truly damaged and common forms of packaging. ‘U’ grade or not, graded or ungraded, this reality isn't going to change. Knowledge doesn’t always help, but it certainly does in many cases. In my view, that's certainly the best available option.

I like the fact that Shawn has devoted a good amount of his time towards a cause he believes in. I fully respect and support that effort. I do however believe that this effort would be more effective in accomplishing its true goal if the feature focused on the practice of opening action figures to have loose examples. Certainly a focus on the trend of collecting figures because they have an uncirculated designation from AFA is entirely relevant to this issue. It is clearly appropriate to point out that there is no difference between an AFA 90 and an AFA U90. Collecting for a letter or number makes no sense and hopefully recent evidence to suggest that this trend is already on its last leg proves to be correct. The gap in price between a 90 and a U90 has narrowed significantly. I have personal knowledge that the most serious collectors in the world today who are looking for absolutely pristine examples of figures offer to pay an identical price for a 95 or a U95. The uncirculated designation is of no concern to them. Because this designation has no bearing on the actual condition, those who are simply extremely condition sensitive should embrace that approach.

Final Thoughts

I’ve discussed collectors' concerns about the uncirculated designation and the inadvertent side effect it has had on recent trends with the graders and officers of CGA (parent company of AFA). I was genuinely surprised by the reaction of several in the past week. They were personally offended because they see themselves as preserving collectibles and justifiably feel that a trend driven entirely by collectors should not be blamed on them. Assigning an uncirculated designation was not designed to encourage more people to collect figures straight from packaging, but rather to help preserve a status when the fact that figures would be opened was inevitable. I’ve suggested some ideas to them which may address a few underlying issues which contribute to this trend. Because of my unique position in this hobby and the vast number of completely different types of collectors I interact with, I believe that I’m aware of certain underlying issues which haven’t been mentioned, but have more of an effect than most people think. It’s my understanding that some of these changes will in fact be implemented, but it would be inappropriate for me to discuss them at the present time. If AFA adopts these ideas and changes, I will likely post on these forums to discuss them, but only after they have made an announcement. Contrary to some public perception, my place at AFA has been constantly changing and at present I am rarely consulted about anything other than high level authentication and improvement of the website and the submission process.

As I’ve stated, I personally support discouraging collecting habits which are based on a harmful trend. However, I fully support the rights of any collector to collect in whatever way they choose. If they choose to open figures for any reason of their own, then I support their right to do so. This collecting preference is far from black and white though. Which figures as well as what type and condition of packaging makes a big difference to a large number of collectors. I therefore feel that working to address the trend aspect, but keeping the designation for long term verification and benefit is the best solution. It’s interesting that the uncirculated designation is available for all toy lines of all years, and only vintage Star Wars toys seem to demand a significant premium. A small number of collectors and dealers have tried to sell figures from other lines with this designation, but there doesn’t seem to be a significant interest level to warrant getting anything but figures in very heavily damaged packaging graded this way. There just isn’t a big price difference between a 90 versus a U90. Recent trends suggest that for the most part vintage Star Wars is becoming that way once again and the vast majority of packaged figures sent in to be graded as loose are on truly damaged or cut cards. The number of regular loose figures and bagged action figures sent to be graded in bags has also increased heavily over the past year.

I’ve tried to discuss the issues above in significant detail because with everything I have going on at the moment, I’m unable to budget the necessary time to answer every follow-up statement or question which may arise. I don’t plan to post responses in this thread, but I’ve always demonstrated that I’m happy to discuss concerns, answer questions, or help in any way I can if anyone sends me an email. Friends in the hobby occasionally direct me to go look at a particular thread. Otherwise, I rarely have any free time to read Rebelscum. While I’ve seen many logical responses to posts which suggest that people who have a question involving me or CIB actually email me to ask, I’ve received an average of less than one email per year in relation to these instances. I continue to clearly communicate how to reach me, so please feel free to do so.

I plan to begin occasionally posting again in the near future, once I find more balance in my life. With my current projects consuming an unreasonable 100+ hours each week, I need to take a step back and figure out what changes need to be made to allow me to focus on what’s most important. I couldn’t forgive myself if I missed Annabel’s first steps because I was consumed by work. I’ll certainly post more about my new projects in the months ahead. In the meantime, anyone who needs to reach me knows how to find me.

Thank you,

Tom
 
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I am hesitant to be the first to comment since I am still relatively new to this community but I will eventually anyway, so here it goes... It will take another sitting to get all the way through Tom's post, but I appreciate the post as it does clear up some information for me. Tom has dealt fairly with me in the past and his help has been much appreciated.
 
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CollectInvest said:
I couldn’t forgive myself if I missed Annabel’s first steps because I was consumed by work.

Tom, you've said an incredible mouthfull in your post, but this quote is really the most important thing. It sounds hokey, but many here won't truly understand this until / if they have children of their own. Enjoy your time with your family, you've earned it. And you're "one of the good ones", always have been.
 
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That was certainly a lot to read and i can't stress enough to anyone looking in on this thread the importance of reading Tom's post all the way through.

Thanks for posting this, Tom. Those who don't know you personally, as many of us who are lucky enough to consider you a friend do, will hopefully come away from this thread with an entirely new perspective on you and the work you do for the hobby. While i've never been a big fan of the effect AFA has had on the market (both financially and with the mindset of some rabid AFA collectors in this and other hobbies) and while i may personally disagree with how a handful of items have been handled over the years (at the discretion of the owner, not you personally), there's no doubt in my mind that the work you've done for them and, more importantly, for this and other hobbies as a whole over your many years of involvement, has made nothing but a tremendously positive impact.

I know you never intended to post this in an attempt to look for thank yous but you certainly deserve them. All around. I'm sure i speak for all of us when i say you've earned this "downtime" and that your family and happiness is truly all that matters in life. Enjoy it, my friend.
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I was going to put off posting till tomorrow but after some red bull I have the energy to do so
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Tom , that surely was the longest post I have ever read on these boards, it took me 30 mins to finish it, firstly - thanks for taking the time to detail exactly what "Tom Derby" really does. I think many of us, myself included may have seen you as Tom - the AFA spokesman, despite your past attempts to prove you are not Mr AFA it's probably all too easy to lump you in with AFA as you were for many of us the only person linked to the company actually coming here to discuss things.

It's been great reading about your upcoming projects in particular the upcoming Kellerman Book 2nd Edition and the site you aim to work on for all of our benefit, it's very cool to hear ahead of time that you are offering another free resource for our collecting community, I for one am an information junkie and I think your site will definitely be something I will enjoy.

I am glad you have noted and addressed other helpful resources in this hobby such as Jay's site and Wolffs contributions, I was a mere bystander as a friend of Jay and I told him many times in the beginning that he had a huge task at hand and I personally know I wouldn't have been to work on such a task to completion, to his credit he didn't let anything phase him and he pushed and pushed until it was finally ready for collectors to use and the hours spent on his guide really show, its a great resource.

Briefly touching on the U grade, it was nice to finally hear your personal stance as a collector/real person, there are some things about uncirculated figures that no-one will ever see eye to eye on but I enjoyed the read nonetheless and certainly there are parts of your post that show more to me about your personal view of some of the things that have happened with this area of collecting than have ever done before.

Like others have said already, stepping back from all the stress and strain of work and other commitments to concentrate on your family and future family is never a bad thing
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I certainly wish you all the very best in whatever you decide to do next.

One more thing, I hope over the years where we may not have seen eye to eye on the forums in discussions about AFA you have never felt hurt by any comments I may have made, I have always tried to talk to you or about you with respect as I had heard your name mentioned even before I knew about AFA or U grades or even RS and will always recognise you as one of the hobbies most knowledgeable members, looking forward to more information on the upcoming site you mentioned and hope there are no delays in getting it out there for us collectors.

Edit - even after a red bull I can't spell completion lol
 
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Tom

Absolutely one of the most comprehensive and well thought out posts I've ever read, bar none. Some great insight into so many things that I honestly can't begin to summarize my thoughts on it. It explains a lot, gives great light to some issues and really speaks volumes to your character which is as solid as anyone in the hobby.

I will say that it makes me appreciate how you assisted me even more and once again I am in your debt.

On a personal note, I'll wish you all the best and enjoy time with family. There is nothing in this world (or galaxys far far away) that compare.
 
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Thank you Tom for the well thought out, written reply to the U issue. I know I will be rereading it a few more times to take everything in. I appreciate the feedback on the statistics and I will be updating those to reflect what you've said. Those are the hard numbers and should be as accurate as possible.

I do have to question your comment on this

CollectInvest said:
Additionally, while probably not important to most (but important to me), a type C Star Wars bag has never been opened for an uncirculated telescoping Luke Skywalker. Every uncirculated example came from a type B Star Wars bag which is slightly more common, much thinner, and more easily damaged. While most would take no notice of this, the type C bag is a very attractive package which many strive to add to their collections while the type B bag is plain looking and not as sought after. Again, of little importance in your general argument but worth pointing out if your attempt is to provide the most accurate assessment possible.

The reason why I specifically put that baggie in my article was this comment from one of the main U collectors. He mentioned specifically about submitting "2 x heat sealed with the blue General Mills logo" If that is incorrect than I will remove it, but I would want clarification on that. Maybe he said that simply for shock value.

I agree with you in the fact that there will be collectors who always open figures. I openly admit to opening a few baggies myself back in the early to mid 90's when I started my loose set. They were, like you said, about the same price as loose back then. That number is under 10, but that doesn't justify it to me. I chalk that up to me being inexperienced at the time. I certainly get the appeal to owning a minty loose figure. I can see the point in rewriting the article to talk about opening vintage toys in general, but the main fact that bothers me and I believe most of the ones against U grading is the fact of the sellers/collectors who submit multiples of the same figure to try and achieve that high 90/95 that is so coveted. That makes the situation quite a bit different than some collector who wants just one fresh figure for their collection.

CollectInvest said:
Additionally, the article’s endorsement of the practice of opening figures already graded with the uncirculated designation goes directly against its logical objective. The most likely result associated with opening these figures rather than selling them to other collectors is that an equal number of identical figures would then be opened from new packages by other collectors.

I never meant for the article to endorse this practice and if comes across that way, then I will remove that link. I mainly linked to that thread to show a collector that had changed his mind about U grading. I certainly agree with you in that the figures should have been moved on to other U collectors to help prevent further damage.


CollectInvest said:
I’ve discussed collectors' concerns about the uncirculated designation and the inadvertent side effect it has had on recent trends with the graders and officers of CGA (parent company of AFA). I was genuinely surprised by the reaction of several in the past week. They were personally offended because they see themselves as preserving collectibles and justifiably feel that a trend driven entirely by collectors should not be blamed on them. Assigning an uncirculated designation was not designed to encourage more people to collect figures straight from packaging, but rather to help preserve a status when the fact that figures would be opened was inevitable. I’ve suggested some ideas to them which may address a few underlying issues which contribute to this trend. Because of my unique position in this hobby and the vast number of completely different types of collectors I interact with, I believe that I’m aware of certain underlying issues which haven’t been mentioned, but have more of an effect than most people think. It’s my understanding that some of these changes will in fact be implemented, but it would be inappropriate for me to discuss them at the present time. If AFA adopts these ideas and changes, I will likely post on these forums to discuss them, but only after they have made an announcement. Contrary to some public perception, my place at AFA has been constantly changing and at present I am rarely consulted about anything other than high level authentication and improvement of the website and the submission process.

Tom, I really appreciate you voicing the concerns of collectors to CGA. Whenever you've posted here, I've always looked at you as a bit of a voice for AFA and it is great to hear that you are also being a voice for collectors. I look forward to seeing what kind of changes will be put in place. It's also good to hear from you that the U trend is cooling.

In closing I just want to say, work less and enjoy your family. In the end, that is what matters most in life.
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This thread (Tom's post) cought me and I bet a lot of others by surprise. Looking forward to reading.


Cheers,
-Scott
 
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Really insightful, and amazing read into the thoughts of a stellar person and collector. I can't say I agree with everything, but you can't ask for a more open, thought provoking and respect inducing post than this. I hope this settles a number of issues and assumptions and allows for a more creative and constructive future. I for one am more excited about the collecting future having read this.

You are too humble Tom, you do deserve big respect and thanks!
 
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I have to say that was a really great and insightful post Tom huge kudos for taking the time to write in what sounds like an incredibly busy schedule!

I also want to say thanks for the positive comments about the imperial gunnery reference site
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Its been incredibly tough going at times and i have to say its only been possible by having so many collectors chipping in with everything from pictures to helping purchases new repros as they hit the market a special mention goes out to Wolff who really helped me get up and running. Even now i have 12 new REPRO's to document and i have to say that unfortunately they are getting better
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There are now 2 repros that can only really be identified by float tests (the original sinks and the repro floats!) as they are near identical to the genuine version any differences are minute thankfully though to date all repros can be identified and ill ensure that the knowledge needed is available to collectors. With help from Lee we have also completed float tests on all the weapons / accessories and this data will be added at the weekend its important because testing has shown its not as simple as genuine weapons float and repros sink.

I set up the Imperial Gunnery for everyone who needs it and hopefully to benefit the hobby, I genuinely hope that if the standard loose graders at AFA needed to check a weapon out that they know they can check it on the Imperial Gunnery no problem at all
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Regarding your offer to help Tom that is awesome! I can only imagine the amount of weapons / accessories that you have come into contact with! If there are any pictures or help that you can provide that would be greatly appreciated! Ill send you an email buddy
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Im gonna make a nice filter coffee and go back through your post again you made so great points about U Grading and i want to take sometime to digest everything whilst we may not see eye to eye directly on certian points i think its great that steps are been taken to ensure rare items submitted for U Grading like the POCH MOC are been highlighted to the submitter and hopfully saved in most cases.

Like Joe stated earlier im also an info junkie i love learning new things about this hobby we all love and i cant wait to see your new site / project develop!

Lastly and to echo previous comments i hope you get to spend the time with your family that you have clearly earned buddy
smile.gif


Jay

- Apologies for my poor spelling / grammer i had to send this message off one of those horrible miniture notebooks GRRRRR
 
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I just finished reading this post. Wow, a lot has been said there and I hope a lot of people will take those things to heart when speaking about the connection Tom has to AFA.

I would also like to thank you for mentioning all the hard work that Jay and Wolff have put into the hobby itself and into the Imperial Gunnery website. I know both Jay and Wolff on a personal level. And I feel while Wolff may be misunderstood at times, I think everyone needs to realize what a value he and his knowledge is to this hobby.

I was also pleasantly surprised to see you touch on the U grade as thoroughly and detailed as you did. It was also refreshing to see you mention Shawn's article and efforts toward the U grade, and not take any offense to them. After reading your post and knowing Shawn the way I do, it seems that you both share similar opinions on the U grade. But most importantly you respect each others position when you don't.

Thanks again for your post. It's nice to "get to know" the man behind the mask. And I don't think there is a person here on this site that can discount you for wanting to take a step back and enjoy the important things in life and that is your family.
 
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Wow!

Tom:

That post alone demonstrates your heart in these matters; both your love for this hobby, and your desire to keep things friendly & respectful. Try as I might, I've come to conclude that I simply cannot express myself in such a way that doesn't offend someone. So I'll just express myself as best I can; which will pale in comparison to the terrific way your express yourself.

As for the work involved simply in producing so many meaningful words... I copied your post into MS Word for easier reading... 9 full pages, with single line spacing 9 point font!

I've always done my best to be open minded, and to not immediately move to one extreme or another, when it comes to some of the heated issues. Even so, simply because I haven't jumped on the 'crusade' bandwagon in the past, I've been labelled the 'AFA apologist'. Interestingly, I've never been an AFA consumer, having only purchased a few AFA items second hand; probably far fewer than most people here. To me it seems that people just become very passionate about something, and reason tends to go out the window.

As for 'U' grading. I suppose my feelings are much like yours. The people involved in the hobby have to take responsibility for the destruction of packaged items. As long as they are blaming everything on 'the devil', the community will never take responsibility, and thus will not take the most appropriate action; the education of collectors who create the demand by spending their money this way. It's just much easier for people to follow the ancient practice of blaming all their woes on 'the witch' they burn at the stake. They don't clue into the fact that as long as there is profit (based on demand created by collectors), there will always be someone willing to provide the service.

I was a loose uncirculated collector from approx 1992-1999, before the AFA was around. I opened tonnes of sealed figures, including many highly sought after POTF figures, and even a MOC Yak Face. The group of collectors I knew back then was both very local and very small (wasn't on the WWW), but it did seem to be a common practice, even back then. I don't do this now. But I can confirm that the practice of opening MOC items to get nice loose figures has been around for many years prior to the AFA. Times have changed though, and it's time for people to do the responsible thing.

I have to be honest... As much as I always try to offer a varying opinion, I've come to think that there's not much point to offering some people another perspective. I've concluded that many people are just happy to see the world one way, their own way. They don't care if someone's hurt or offended at being called 'Mr AFA'. They don't care that they are misrepresenting other people, or spreading untruths about them. Frankly, some people are just [censored], and that's about all that can be said about that.

In any case, there are people here who see your devotion to the hobby, Tom. I hope you will remember that some folks here greatly respect your opinions and the hard work you do for others, paid or unpaid. I hope we'll see you post here, even just once in awhile.

That project you're working on sounds amazing. A testimony to your interest in the hobby, and love of the hobby. I can't wait to see it.

I'm glad to hear you are plannning to spend more time with your family. That's the right choice, and you'll never be rewarded more by anything you do. Best wishes, to you and your family.

Leif
 
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Hey Tom,

I thank you very much for you kudos!

Wow...I mean this post isnt huge...it is bigger! I make some screenshots and read it printed! (my eyes probably will bleed otherwise).

I just had a quick read through! So excuse that I probably didnt got it all!

Im happy you decided to go here and make this post! Clarifying lots of things here will help a lot!

We have sth in common....you and me....we barely post here and when we do: we both maybe get not so nice answers! Not that I claim beeing you...or beeing as long in the hobby like you....(im just hoping this is not getting missunderstood again....)

Well I think you pointed out the great work Jay did on T.I.G.! I was afraid as he aske me to help...honestly...bcause it IS a huge task and its not even 80% finished!....There is still lot of molds missing!

I hope you got my pm and know exactly WHY I CANNOT help you building up a sales code with coos and so on! It seems like a lot of members here do not understand and see me as an Tom hater which Im definatley not. I have just another view of collecting....So yes I dont like the cases you make...but that has nothing to do with you in person! (I also dont like MOCs....though...)
I want my figures loose..thats all!

And yes...I wasnt so happy with the Yak storry! And I think you read....

So this is most impressive that you still mentioning me here as contributer for a good resource! Thank you for that Tom!

(I also have to thank Joe_O, Chris and Jay....wonderfull collectors and friends
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)

Be well Tom!

Kindest regards

Wolff
 
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Tom,

I really don’t have anything new to add. I just felt like posting after that marathon read.

I hope you can get back into brokering more in the future and doing things that are more pleasurable/profitable.

Now go home and spend some quality time with your wife and daughter. All the Best,

-Chad
 
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Hi Tom,

thank you for your insightful post.

You are a very important person for this hobby even if not everything you do for it is made public. I never contacted you in the past (althought i was thinking about it because i had a sealed NES Game which in my eyes is reseal and i needed an expert help) but alone the possibility that there is a very knowledgeable person who could be contacted by everyone is really a great asset and also speaks for you as a person.

I guess its a pain if you are in many cases referred to as "Mr Afa" and held responsible for everything they do. Afa has always been something people where making guesses about. I for myselfe do not care who owns it and who the shareholders (or partners) are.

I guess for some this Video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2D_ybd0aAu8

hardend the guess that you are the owner or CEO of Afa. I recall that this was already discussed here some time ago but i dont have the link to the Thread anymore. If i recall right you did this just for this Video but someone who doesnt know that will think that you are "Mr AfA".

To the COA of the Yak Face Baggie i do think that yours its still the best expertice available for this piece even if it turns out to be fake in the future.

I hope you will go on like you did in the past. There will always be other opinions, opposition and sometimes even hate and envy towards "Big Names".

cheers
Hannes
 
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Marathon post and most informative... thanks for all your help Tom - enjoy time with the family - time with the young ones in the early years is something you cant get back...
All the best
Jason
 
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Hey Tom, great read, and glad you had the time to post it.


People, if you do not know Tom,he is one of the most outstanding guys I have ever met in this hobby, even before AFA.



What he alone has done for this community alone is more than most all of us together can do, or have done.


He has helped me, and many others, free of charge, and I want to say thank you Tom.


Your overall involvement in this community has always been needed, and will always be needed, do to the fact that you help keep huge collectors in this hobby, as well as new ones, and small ones.

This hobby will always need that to stay thriving.

Your friend
Jeff
 
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Tom,
I have 4 questions for you.

1. Why is AFA offering the U grade service?
2. Why is AFA encouraging the destruction of Vintage MOCS by offering the U grade service?
3. What is your own personal opinion on the destruction of Vintage MOCS and the U grade?
4. What are you doing to stop the destruction of Vintage MOCS and to persuade AFA to stop offering the U grade service?

Tommy
 
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Yzerman said:
Tom,
I have 4 questions for you.

1. Why is AFA offering the U grade service?
2. Why is AFA encouraging the destruction of Vintage MOCS by offering the U grade service?
3. What is your own personal opinion on the destruction of Vintage MOCS and the U grade?
4. What are you doing to stop the destruction of Vintage MOCS and to persuade AFA to stop offering the U grade service?

Tommy

All of which can be answered if you read Tom's post.
 
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He said he wouldn't be replying to this thread.

@Shane: I love your red X avatar, can I use it?
grin.gif
 
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Shane Turgeon said:
Yzerman said:
Tom,
I have 4 questions for you.

1. Why is AFA offering the U grade service?
2. Why is AFA encouraging the destruction of Vintage MOCS by offering the U grade service?
3. What is your own personal opinion on the destruction of Vintage MOCS and the U grade?
4. What are you doing to stop the destruction of Vintage MOCS and to persuade AFA to stop offering the U grade service?

Tommy

All of which can be answered if you read Tom's post.

Yes, I believe I can. I got so tired of reading the post the first time that I stopped halfway through it and then just scrolled thru the rest of it. But now I seem to have found some interesting reading and some answers to my questions.
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I have always appreciated your efforts, and the time you spend within the hobby. I also appreciate and respect the time you took to post this, and hopefully this will put some issues to rest. I would also hope that even your detractors can at least acknowledge such a well thought out, fair, detailed and the time involved, with a post like this.

I would like to make a personal point (in general). In the current state of our economy(ies), and outsourcing, it is nearly unprecedented to have someone who is actually on this level of any business take the time to share this kind of information. So I would like to personally thank you, and acknowledge your time, and sincerity posting this.

Echoing what Shawn has mentioned; at the end of the day we need to consider what is the most important thing in our lives, and I can assure there isn't a single SW item on the planet that takes priority over my family and their well being. I really wish you the best of luck with your plans for another child, and congratulations on your first!! The people that support and respect you, always will Tom. I am certainly one of them.

Bill
 
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Undoubtedly AFA made a fair amount of sales with the U grade designation. While it's difficult for me to tell if this was the intention in addition to what Tom said about 'newness' sales between collectors, he said U grading applies to all toys and not just vintage SW. Its only been an issue with the vintage SW and its collectors because of the trend that happened to happen. Unfortunately there's plenty of sellers that don't hesitate if there's money to be made.

I personally decided probably a week ago while surfing ebay not buy any loose U graded figs. Not only are they more costly, they just seem to have negative karma. Just my feeling right now. If it's a deciding factor between two individuals, then great, it works.

My two pennies.
 
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It doesnt clear anything for me really

The collectors are destroying the hobby, and AFA doesnt care enough to stop the rot by stopping U grades.

Stop the U grades, simple, preserves the hobby and provides a solution.

Educate the collectors who are daft enought to think a U is cool, and stop grading them that way.

AFA stinks of profit and thats it, understandable i suppose.
 
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Well I dont really know what to say after reading that post.

Firstly, Thanks for taking the time and effort to write and post huge kudos to you
smile.gif


Secondly, it has cleared a lot of things up (for me anyway) regarding your place within the community and I'm pleased that you are and always will be a huge fan of SW's. Isn't that why we're all here
smile.gif


My views on the AFA 'U' grade are the same as some and different to most but one thing I do know is that the AFA has and does continue to make revenue from the U-grading of items that otherwise would have (probably) stayed in their packaging. You talk of educating collectors to make their own informed decisons but surely, and this is my main gripe, if the AFA continue to offer this service then that education is not happening. It would be very easy for the AFA to cease this service and end the whole U-grade fiasco in one bold statement of intent. But like everything in this material world in which we live it still comes down to the basic economics of supply and demand. Would he AFA continue with the U grade if no-one used it? Probably not!

I have seen many high-end items with the U-grade VC Jawa, DT Luke need I go on? How anyone can feel that these items are better with a U-grade rather than their original packaging, whatever that may have been, is beyond me. In fact I do know why these pieces where sent away for U-grade and that word is 'profit'. Profit to the AFA and profit to the seller for his lack of respect for the hobby.

I hope you read this and appreciate my post as much as I appreciated yours.
 
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I'm in the same boat as Obi on this one, I really don't know what to think of the post, it covers so much.

I did think it was good to clear up things that seem to have been twisted throughout the years, such as Tom is AFA and things of that nature. I am just as guilty of calling that out as anyone else on the board, it just sucks that this knowledge was predicated from fellow scummers who flat out lied to me about his role in that organization.

Ultimately it sounds like CIB is going to no longer be in existence as we know it today, sad that service is going away. I never really used it but I know that a lot of people do and I feel bad for them. (Please make a note, it would be great if AFA haters used the same type of language as I just used, notice I didn't say it sucks, or its BS)

What I did take and is dissapointing to me, is that this forum seems to have a specific distain for AFA that doesn't cross other SW forums on the web. I mean my god, this guy just put together a huge letter that he didn't need to, and guys on the forum still rip into him:

</font><blockquote><font class="small">Quote:</font>
AFA stinks of profit and thats it,

[/QUOTE] Really? So you must work for a Non-Profit and must give all of your pay to Charitable organziations then right? Becuase you basically stated that profit is a bad thing, I'll keep that in mind the next time I go to McDonalds, get a hair cut, or purchase a luxury of any kind. I'll make certain that I make a big stink in the store and make sure they understand that all they are about is profits.


For the love....


Tom if you read this post please know that your work and dedication to the Hobby is greatly appreciated, and that your accomplishments, especially those outlined in your post, will not go un-noticed or un-credited!

Thank You a thousand times!
 
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Bill_McBride said:
I have always appreciated your efforts, and the time you spend within the hobby. I also appreciate and respect the time you took to post this, and hopefully this will put some issues to rest. I would also hope that even your detractors can at least acknowledge such a well thought out, fair, detailed and the time involved, with a post like this.

I would like to make a personal point (in general). In the current state of our economy(ies), and outsourcing, it is nearly unprecedented to have someone who is actually on this level of any business take the time to share this kind of information. So I would like to personally thank you, and acknowledge your time, and sincerity posting this.

Echoing what Shawn has mentioned; at the end of the day we need to consider what is the most important thing in our lives, and I can assure there isn't a single SW item on the planet that takes priority over my family and their well being. I really wish you the best of luck with your plans for another child, and congratulations on your first!! The people that support and respect you, always will Tom. I am certainly one of them.

Bill

Bill you said it perfectly so I'll just say x2 for me.

Todd
 
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Fratboy24 said:
</font><blockquote><font class="small">Quote:</font>
AFA stinks of profit and thats it,
Really? So you must work for a Non-Profit and must give all of your pay to Charitable organziations then right? Becuase you basically stated that profit is a bad thing, I'll keep that in mind the next time I go to McDonalds, get a hair cut, or purchase a luxury of any kind. I'll make certain that I make a big stink in the store and make sure they understand that all they are about is profits.

[/QUOTE]

That is just totally off my point!! AFA are not interested in stoppping the U grade as it rolls in the profit, they must [censored] themselves when a $5 figures sells for $500

They probably even have marketing meetings on how to keep the trend going by chucking out the odd U95 lol (JK)

What im saying is that dont expect the AFA to stop, the suggestion that U grading may save the figure is not true at all, its the people that think a magic U90 is 500x more valuable because afa have removed it from a card and cased it for you that sucks.

IF AFA did really have a concern about opening a bagged Yak face or people sending in minty moc for U grading they would have instantly stoppped it...not gonna happen, business is business.
 
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Tom

Like many here have already said. The hobby would not be the same without you, I myself feel privileged to call you one of my friends, You have helped myself millions of times with this and that and you have always been totally respectable through out every ordeal. I wish you the absolute best of luck with all of your future endeavours.

Thank you.
smile.gif
 
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BEFORE YOU READ MY POST UNDERSTAND I AM NOT IN FAVOR OF U GRADING. I AM JUST TRYING TO MAKE A POINT


plantman said:
not gonna happen, business is business.

Andy

Thats exactly what it is, business. It's not personal. The people against it are taking it personally and the disdain for the practice is really not on par with the action itself. AFA isn't killing Komodo dragons or tearing up the Mona Lisa. Outside of maybe a dozen items they are not chopping away at the numbers as badly as it's made out. I'm not even taking into account the fact that people can do what they want , even if it's the wrong thing (and I hate writing that since I believe in common sense).

Opening a DT figure (Irwin Toys DTs / Luke DT) or a VC Jawa aside, I don't think U grading is killing the MOC market. Here is my thought process for better of worse:

Estimated figures produced MOC 250,000,000

MOC Survival Rate (I'll call it 1/2 percent) 1,250,000

U Graded Figures - 7624

So U grading took approx 58/100ths of a percent of the MOCs out of circulation.
 
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DarthBerizing said:
BEFORE YOU READ MY POST UNDERSTAND I AM NOT IN FAVOR OF U GRADING. I AM JUST TRYING TO MAKE A POINT

Estimated figures produced MOC 250,000,000

MOC Survival Rate (I'll call it 1/2 percent) 1,250,000

U Graded Figures - 7624

So U grading took approx 58/100ths of a percent of the MOCs out of circulation.

This is such a great point. U-grading is virtually a non-issue in terms of the number of figures removed from circulation. And the other question that merits some thought is even if U-grading didn't exist, how many of those 7624 figures would've been opened anyway? I'm betting a LOT. Collectors always have and always will open damaged cards and the U-grade is just a reflection of that desire.

But the bigger issue to me is there is no moral component (or ethical for that matter) to people opening figures. I don't collect graded figures of any sort and there are cases where I would definitely be opposed to opening a figure, but in general, I couldn't care less that there are people who do and who want U-graded figures in their collection. It's none of my business how someone chooses to collect. If I wanted to find a cause to get behind, I could surely find something more worthy of my time and energy than this...
 
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John.

That is only 12500 people owning 100 moc each OR 25,000 people who could own 50 MOC each
OR 125,000 people owning ten each.
Doesn't sound like a lot anymore does it? Now considering I have over a hundred myself and my collection is a drop in the ocean compared to others, it is isn't leaving many for anyone else. Small amounts may not seem like much now
wink.gif


Even if it was trebled, that still isn't that many moc's to go around, especially when new people are getting into the hobby everyday.


Edit*
blush.gif
Good luck with the family, Tom. And I look forward to the website.
 
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@Josh - That's a fair point Josh but you need to take it all the way. If 12,500 only have 100 MOCs each then , without U Grading, they would have 101 (and reall only 7624 of the 12,000 would have 101).

I think the point I was trying to make, and didnt really explain it well, is that this is a blip on the radar in terms of long term collecting and the hobby. People in the 90's opened cards without regard and the hobby endured. People got into U grading, the hobby endured. People customized production figures , the hobby endured. I was just trying to say that the impact isnt that great and I would say, with very minimal exception, the needle didn't move to much. This doesnt mean U grading would have flamed out without the viligence of guys like Shawn_K and Tom who educate either. It's a job well done.

@Bill - I kind of wonder why opening a figure to loose display doesnt get the same ire that a U grade opening gets. I assume it's the profit component but if someone is against the opening of a figure it needs to be consistant. Most U arguements stem from the point of destroying a finite resource (MOCs and Bagged Figs). You can't pic and choose to approve certain circumstances because they might not be greed based. Just my opinion though.

My personal stance is keep it as you bought it. If it's a beater MOC, let it stay a beater MOC. If it's a loose fig, don't recard it just leave it loose. As far as grading and encasing it, it's your money and item though so do what makes you happy. I have a few AFA items and like how they look. I think a loose figure looks nice sealed up. I just sent my only loose figure to AFA to get graded and cased. I dont care what it scores, I just like how it looks. It's clean and neat and looks good on my desk or shelf. I wont loose the weapon, my kids wont play with it and I like that. I am also getting both Itlians 4 Packs graded so A)No worries later on about them coming loose or people doubting them and B)Having a case made for them is only about $20 cheaper. So for $40 ($20x2) I know that when/if I need to sell I don't need to worry.

BTW - I've opened 1 figure and it was soley because the bubble cracked open (It was a White Bespin Guard).
 
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Joshua_A said:
That is only 12500 people owning 100 moc each OR 25,000 people who could own 50 MOC each
OR 125,000 people owning ten each.
Doesn't sound like a lot anymore does it? Now considering I have over a hundred myself and my collection is a drop in the ocean compared to others, it is isn't leaving many for anyone else. Small amounts may not seem like much now
wink.gif


Even if it was trebled, that still isn't that many moc's to go around, especially when new people are getting into the hobby everyday.

And there are people who leave the hobby everyday. But I'm skeptical that there are 25K people actively collecting vintage MOC, but even if it's true, 50 per is still a lot.

It also assumes the half of one percent survival rate is accurate, and the truth is it's probably higher. What if it's off by just 1%? That's another 2.5 mill added to the supply. Now you're up to 150 per collector.

Even if you could successfully petition AFA to discontinue the service, people are still going to open figures if they want. In the end, it just doesn't matter.
 
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plantman said:
IF AFA did really have a concern about opening a bagged Yak face or people sending in minty moc for U grading they would have instantly stoppped it...not gonna happen, business is business.

You are absolutely correct, however I don't recall the last time the AFA hit-squad stopped by my house, and forced me at gun-point to submit anything
wink.gif
(Maybe I wasn't home that day)

The bottom line is that if there was no demand, there would be no product. AFA offers a service, and obviously that service has a high enough demand to keep it operating.

Bill
 
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Bill_Wills said:
Joshua_A said:
That is only 12500 people owning 100 moc each OR 25,000 people who could own 50 MOC each
OR 125,000 people owning ten each.
Doesn't sound like a lot anymore does it? Now considering I have over a hundred myself and my collection is a drop in the ocean compared to others, it is isn't leaving many for anyone else. Small amounts may not seem like much now
wink.gif


Even if it was trebled, that still isn't that many moc's to go around, especially when new people are getting into the hobby everyday.

And there are people who leave the hobby everyday. But I'm skeptical that there are 25K people actively collecting vintage MOC, but even if it's true, 50 per is still a lot.

It also assumes the half of one percent survival rate is accurate, and the truth is it's probably higher. What if it's off by just 1%? That's another 2.5 mill added to the supply. Now you're up to 150 per collector.

Even if you could successfully petition AFA to discontinue the service, people are still going to open figures if they want. In the end, it just doesn't matter.

I never really believed the petition would accomplish anything other than make those opposed feel like they were actually doing something, and having these opinions highlighted on a designated page. It's very hard to get people to sign petitions unless its one of the big moral/ethical issues which, as you've stated, does not exist here in any capacity. Even then, its not like the petitions carry much influence over and above an interest poll.

As much as I dislike U grading, more for the sake of its lack of common critical sense, its here to stay, and people have the right to offer and use the service. It's been said in these discussions over and over, education is the key and I think that will go a long way in preventing atrocities like the DT figures, VC Jawa etc.. I think, as AFA claims to be interested in the best interests of the hobby, and thanks to many actions on Tom's behalf there will be less of these instances.

In the end, it will be the consumer who decides and I would never expect AFA to refuse business. We've all seen and heard of people spending good money on items or services we may consider to be stupid, no matter how much education or warning those people recieved before hand. But, in that same end, we still have the right to call them stupid. It may not be nice, it's even counter productive in some instances, but the right to do so remains.

I really see the pivotal issue as being the mass slaughter in the hunt for U90 and U95. It fueled the process of opening up MOCs for loose figures which was occuring already, and fueled the ire of those opposed, those who collect beaters and those who cant make a real distinction between 90 and U90.

Just because the issue may be futile, does not mean discussions about it should, or will stop. We are afterall talking about a hobby, which involves both disposable income and disposable time.
smile.gif
 
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Bill_Wills said:
And there are people who leave the hobby everyday. But I'm skeptical that there are 25K people actively collecting vintage MOC, but even if it's true, 50 per is still a lot.

It also assumes the half of one percent survival rate is accurate, and the truth is it's probably higher. What if it's off by just 1%? That's another 2.5 mill added to the supply. Now you're up to 150 per collector.

Even if you could successfully petition AFA to discontinue the service, people are still going to open figures if they want. In the end, it just doesn't matter.


I am so confused by these statistics. Do people really think one out of every 100 carded figures survived and also survived carded? that seems nuts!
I would be surprised if one out of every one hundred figures survived open. they were opened broken unloved and thrown out.
2 and 1/2 million left??
maybe I am just misunderstanding. there are only a few hundred or maybe 1000 of them on ebay. Where are the other 2 and 1/2 million. Certainly not in private collections. As Tom said figures circulate as people change there interests and buy and sell . where are the millions of carded figures??
 
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Yehuda_K said:
I am so confused by these statistics. Do people really think one out of every 100 carded figures survived and also survived carded? that seems nuts!

Normally with collectibles, the valuable items are the ones that no one thinks to preserve. The items everyone keeps because they think they'll be worth something... end up being more common down the road. But the situation with Star Wars action figures was a different experience.

You may not have been around during the SW craze (1977-79). The 'action figure' was a brand new toy, with a huge 'cool factor'. They were hard to get at first. It became a fairly common thing for people to stow away carded action figures once they began hitting the shelves in 78. Not because they were interested in collecting, but just cashing in on the popularity of Star Wars. I had several neighbors who were buying multiples of each figure to stash some away, banking on the SW craze. Since the popularity of SW only grew, values still floated upward, despite high production numbers and relatively high preservation.

Leif
 
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