There’s something to be said about the joy of not only owning a collection, but being able to share your treasures with the rest of the world. Be it friends who stare with a gaping jaw, or even just owning a website where you can showcase it, collectors enjoy watching other people relish in their troves. However, sometimes collectors do the ultimate sharing of their collections – They sell them.
Ask any true collector that’s put their items up for sale, and they’ll tell you one thing across the board; They want their collection to go to someone who will not only treasure it as much as they did, but also continue to build on it. Such is the case with Chris Cobbs who has been an avid collector of Star Wars action figures for the past 35+ years. His one of a kind auction currently showcases every basic figure (and more) in the Kenner / Hasbro line up from 1977 to 2015 (respectively). Chris was kind enough to take time out of his schedule to share with us the history of his collection, as well as answer that all impending question – Why sell it?
THE TOY BOX: Thanks for joining us here at The Toy Box, Chris. As I’m sure you’ve heard so many times in the past, your collection is amazing! We hope we can help you spread the word to ensure that it ends up in the right person's hands.
CHRIS: I appreciate the opportunity to talk with you, as well as the kind words. I've put a lot of time and effort into this collection, and it is nice to see so many people enjoy it.
THE TOY BOX: We’re going to go out on a limb here, and guess that you are or were a massive Star Wars fan. When and where did it all start?
CHRIS: I am still a Star Wars fan, and always have been. I was 2 years old when Star Wars was originally released. I actually have a memory of being in the car at the local drive-in with my parents; it was raining, and I remember seeing Princess Leia place the Death Star plans in R2-D2. I don't know if I stayed awake for the whole movie, but obviously it made an impact on me as that is one of my earliest memories. I'm not entirely sure how old I was when I started asking for Star Wars toys for birthdays/Christmas, but certainly by age 3 or 4 I would guess.
THE TOY BOX: Are you a whole Saga kind of guy, or do you favor any one specific episode or the Original Trilogy vs. Prequel Trilogy?
CHRIS: You know, I like it all. I probably prefer the OT movies to the PT, but I do enjoy some aspects of the PT. If I had to pick one movie as my favorite, it would be The Empire Strikes Back. I know that's a lot of people's favorite, but I really enjoy the Hoth scenes. And there's Yoda - how do you not love Yoda?!
But beyond the movies, I was always a big fan of the Expanded Universe (or whatever Disney is calling it these days). The original Timothy Zahn trilogy brought Star Wars back to life for me, and since then I've enjoyed various novels, comics and video games that grew the Star Wars universe. I really think it was a shame that Disney took the "official" axe to all of that, though I do understand their rationale.
THE TOY BOX: We ask all Star Wars fans this, so be honest - Did you like the Prequel Trilogy?
CHRIS: Overall, I do like the PT. I think The Phantom Menace is my favorite of the three. I really liked (and still do) the opening sequence on the Trade Federation Control Ship, and of course I love Darth Maul. I think that there is a very good story in the PT; it's just a shame that the writing (and some of the acting) wasn't better.
THE TOY BOX: When and how did your collection start?
CHRIS: As I touched on earlier, I started getting figures as a kid, usually for my birthday or Christmas presents. I would save up allowance and pick up a figure here or there, and I was fortunate enough to receive several vehicles over the years. The AT-AT was always my favorite, and I believe it's still sitting in my parent's basement somewhere. I stopped being interested in Star Wars right around the time the Power of the Force figures started coming out (just my luck). By then I was on to other properties, like GI Joe, Transformers, Masters of the Universe, and MASK.
The collection as you see it now didn't start until the very late 90's, and didn't gain real steam until the early 2000's. The first modern figures I bought were from the Power of the Force 2 line. Darth Vader with a removable helmet was the first figure I bought because that was something I had always wanted as a kid. That was followed by several of the Expanded Universe figures - particularly Grand Admiral Thrawn and Mara Jade, as I was a big fan of the Zahn books. But I still didn't buy much simply because I didn't have the money. When I finally finished my schooling in the early 2000's, that was the first time that I really had any disposable income that I could spend on Star Wars. I had always been a loose figure collector - I never kept my figures carded - and it was there in the early 2000's that I decided I would try to collect the entire, ongoing Star Wars line.
THE TOY BOX: Is the majority of your collection comprised of pieces that you have purchased / received over the years, and held onto (specifically the vintage stuff)? Or did you, like so many before you, have to rebuild your collection from scratch via secondary markets?
CHRIS: My own vintage figures weren't in terrible condition, and I still have them all, but I've definitely upgraded the majority of them as this collection has evolved. When I decided that I would collect every loose figure, I wanted them to be in perfect condition (of course). So in the early 2000's I spent a few years buying mint, loose vintage figures, or even some on cut cards. Thankfully that was much more affordable to do back then. I had to turn to the secondary market to fill in all the figures from the modern lines that I had missed to that point in time. But 99% of the figures since 2004 were bought directly by me.
THE TOY BOX: Do you have a favorite piece in your collection? You know, one that has special meaning to you, or is just considered by you to be the end all be all most awesome?
CHRIS: I don't know that I have a singular favorite figure. I appreciate different aspects of figures. I've always been an EU fan and a Sith fan, so I've enjoyed all the great Sith figures we've gotten in the last decade: Krayt, Nihl, Talon, Maleval, Malak, Revan, Bane, Nihilus and Asajj Ventress. Those original EU figures from the POTF2 line hold a special place for me. And for whatever reason, I still marvel at the Ephant Mon figure - all the detail and the massive amount of plastic you got for five or six bucks back then.
THE TOY BOX: Pertaining to the vintage stuff, is it all legit? To phrase that another way – Are there any reproduction items used to put it together - Such as weapons, capes, etc?
CHRIS: 100% authentic. I never use repro items.
THE TOY BOX: Is every piece 100% complete (all weapons and accessories)?
CHRIS: Absolutely. Each figure is individually bagged, and inside that bag is a smaller baggie that contains all the accessories for that figure. This includes not only weapons and the like, but also any type of stand that the figure may have come with. I'm very particular and meticulous when it comes to this aspect of the collection. I didn't photograph all the accessories for a few reasons: 1) they really took up too much room on the acrylic risers, 2) some figures (particularly some of the Clone Wars figures) just came with gobs of accessories and 3) posing each figure with their accessories would have added a ton of time to my photography process.
THE TOY BOX: We all love the vintage stuff, but are there any “newer” series from Hasbro’s era that stand out as your favorite?
CHRIS: You know, despite all their flaws (and they are many), I think that starting with the 30th Anniversary Collection, Hasbro has done some really nice work. There are great figures in that 30th Anniversary line - all the McQuarrie figures, Revan and Malak, and The Force Unleashed figures. And it was in the 30th Anniversary line that Hasbro started the Comic Packs, which allowed them to produce so many unique figures that I don't think we ever would have gotten otherwise. Then the Legacy series had so many great figures, and it had the best pack-in ever - Build A Droid! Why they ever dropped that pack-in, I'll never understand. And then you have to mention the recent Vintage Collection. How great was it to see modern figures on those vintage-style cardbacks!
THE TOY BOX: Any interesting stories that you can share with regards to any specific piece or pieces that were an adventure to hunt down, or simply just a pain?
CHRIS: I don't know that any of the stories are necessarily interesting, but there were certainly figures more challenging than others to track down. I remember spending quite some time trying to find the Episode I Darth Maul figure that came with the Sith Speeder game. Back then it was hard to find even a good picture of that figure. But beyond that, the difficulties have come with the figures that were only released outside the U.S. This has been most prominent in the past few years - the last wave of the 2012 Movie Heroes as well as the 2013 Movie Heroes, the 2013 Clone Wars basic figures, and then most recently the corrected deco for the 41st Elite Corps Clone Trooper from the Black Series. I was fortunate to have a friend in the U.K. that helped me with most of those figures that were only available around Europe.
THE TOY BOX: We don’t see any vehicles or playsets in your collection. Did you not collect those? Or are those not for sale?
CHRIS: I never did collect vehicles or playsets. I had the Big AT-AT a few years ago, as that has always been my favorite vehicle, but I eventually sold it. I just don't have the room for the figures, let alone vehicles. The only exception was the deluxe or "Class 1" figures that came with various speeder bikes, etc. I felt that those vehicles belonged to keep the collection complete.
THE TOY BOX: You knew we’d have to ask…You’ve been building this collection for 35+ years. Why is it time to sell it?
CHRIS:This is something that I've been thinking about doing for some time - heck, it took me a year just to take the photos for my auction. My Star Wars collecting has moved in different directions in recent years, and away from the action figure genre. I don't have any room to display all these figures properly - right now they sit very nicely in some space in my basement. They're not out being enjoyed, where they should be. And I thought that, with the new movie coming out in December, this could be a time for a newer fan to take the baton, so to speak, and continue this collection.
THE TOY BOX: Who would be your ideal buyer?
CHRIS: Ideally, I would love to see this go to another collector. It's a great, very thorough collection. I'm hoping to find that one person that appreciates the collection, would like to call it their own, and maybe would like to continue it as Star Wars moves into this era of Disney ownership.
THE TOY BOX: We have to admit that an asking price of $30K is rather high – Yet at the same time we also have to admit that this doesn’t sound unreasonable. How did you decide on this asking price?
CHRIS: For purposes of the auction, I wanted a round number that was ultimately fair to myself and the buyer. I looked at what these figures sell for, particularly the more sought after figures from each line, And then I considered the sheer volume of figures in this collection. One could argue that there should be a bulk discount for buying this many figures all at once, but I counter that argument with the sheer amount of work that would go in to amassing this particular collection of figures. I believe that if you had to piece together this collection of figures, in this condition, in 2015, you would spend well over $30k - particularly when you consider how much money you're going to be out in shipping costs from everywhere.
THE TOY BOX: Has your collection ever been appraised for its value?
CHRIS:Not officially. The value of the collection was not something I ever really considered until I had to come up with a number for this auction.
THE TOY BOX: Will you be joining the millions of people around the world in seeing Episode VII, or is this sale your way of saying goodbye to Star Wars?
CHRIS: Oh, I'm never saying goodbye to Star Wars. I'm not going to be packed in like a sardine at a midnight showing, like I was for Episodes I, II and III, but I'm sure I'll be seeing Episode VII several times. Beyond that, I rather enjoy the Rebels cartoon - and for that matter, I enjoyed the Clone Wars. It really was a shame that they didn't get to fully produce that last season of episodes.
THE TOY BOX: Chris, thank you so much for your time. We wish you the best of luck with your sale, and hope your collection lands in the hands of the person that will invest the same love and care that you have.
CHRIS: Thank you for your time and effort, and for the opportunity to talk with you about my collection. It's always enjoyable to discuss such things with folks of similar passions.
You can check out Chris’s listing on ebay “HERE”. If you’re like us, then you too want to help ensure that this collection ends up in the hands of the right collector. Please help us spread the word of this once in a lifetime sale. The more who know about it, the more likely it will go to the right home.
DISCLAIMER: All photos copyright of Chris Cobbs. Used with permission.