Collecting to Collect

Like any hobby, Star Wars collecting comes with both its highs and lows. My first interaction with other Star Wars collectors didn't actually occur until 2008, when - on a cold August morning - I found myself queued up outside a Toyworld store in Wellington, New Zealand. That day marked the release of the first wave of figures for the upcoming Star Wars: The Clone Wars film, and a small group of die-hard fans had gathered for the 7:30am store opening. For us, it was the end of an era. The Clone Wars was (we thought) the final time we would see a new Star Wars film on the big screen - and the last chance we'd have to attend a corresponding merchandise launch. The promise of new plastic candy would have been enough to drag us out of bed, but the added bonus of a complimentary ticket to a preview screening of the film sealed the deal.

In all honesty, I didn't know what to expect from this crowd. There were a number of figures I was desperate to get my hands on, but that would be in short supply thanks to Hasbro's unusual distribution system. A sudden sense of panic gripped me. Would there be a vicious stampede when the doors finally opened? Would it be every collector for himself?

But it wasn't. When the store opened, everyone calmly made their way inside, approached the racks, and began considerately checking which figures each person was after. Adult collectors patiently stepped aside and let kids have first preference, then worked among themselves to ensure that everyone managed to get most - if not all - of what they wanted. I was shocked. But I came away with a deep sense of pride in the Star Wars collecting community.

Sadly, not all collecting experiences are like this. The worst enemies of a collector aren't other collectors. They're those outside the community - those whose motives don't come from a deep and abiding passion, but rather the pursuit of profit. Anyone who's spent time participating in online auctions will have felt the bitter taste of being outbid by a non-collector, only to see the item relisted a short while later at a grossly inflated price. In recent times, we've also seen a rise in 'switch-out theft'. This practice involves purchasing a figure, taking it home, switching it out for an older figure, then returning it to the store for a refund. I once saw a particularly bad case of this at a Target store in Houston.

A particularly bad case of  'switch-out'theft' I witnessed at a Houston target store.

Collectors aren't really affected by switch-outs, as they'll most likely spot a mismatch between a product and it's packaging. Instead, these switched-out figures will be purchased by unwary family members shopping for kids - and that's what makes this practice so despicable.

What can we do to fight this darkness? The growing trend of switch-outs is a particularly tough challenge. For now, all we can do is remain diligent, and bring any cases to the attention of store owners. Insofar as online auctions and the pursuit of rare items, there is more we can do.'s "Collect to Collect" Code of Honor contains a set of simple guidelines that can help foster the kind of positive collecting community I first witnessed on that awesome August morning:

  1. Buy only what you need and make sure others get one before you get many.
  2. Acquire pieces for your collection because you want them, not because you plan to profit from them.
  3. Help others achieve their collecting goals for the sake of the hobby, not profit.
  4. When you trade or sell available toys, do so at cost.
  5. When you trade or sell unavailable toys, do so keeping the golden rule in mind: you'll always win in the long run if you don't take advantage of people.
  6. Buy from scalpers as a very last resort. They exist because people buy from them and do not make collecting toys easier. Scalping only promotes decay within the hobby.
  7. Understand it is more important for a kid to have the toys than you; help them out whenever possible. You're likely to get another chance at the toy, he/she may not.

Fortunately, in my case, the good collecting experiences have far outweighed the bad. For this, I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to many people: my wife, my parents, my friends, and my fellow collectors on the SWNZ Message Boards (to name just a few). To each and every one of you - thank you.