The world of the internet has brought collectors together in a way that could never have been possible prior to its conception. Since the days of Prodigy, and eventually Internet Explorer, fans have been contributing to the world of collecting by providing some of the most facinating archives to date.
Sadly, while there are a majority of people interested enough to start said websites, there are very few who see it through to the end. People get bored, caught up in more important things, or perhaps even just lose interest. Because of this, there are several sites that while they look fantastic, and even present a great amount of information, they're incomplete.
Fortunately this is not the fate for all of them. There are a select few who have the drive, the dedication, the love, and yes, even the staff to push collection archives to the fullest. One such site is Jedi Temple Archives (JTA). Not only does JTA provide one of the most complete archives you'll find pertaining to the world of Star Wars toy collecting, but they have a strong following of (friendly) members who contribute daily to the success of the site.
Paul Harrison, one of the lead contributors of JTA, was kind enough to take time from his busy schedule to talk to us about the site, and to share with us some of the inside scoop on what makes JTA stand out among the rest.
THE TOY BOX: Thanks for sitting down with us to talk about your impressive archive.
JEDI TEMPLE ARCHIVES: Our pleasure. Thank you for taking the time to talk with us.
THE TOY BOX: Not taking into account the readers, how many people contribute regularly to Jedi Temple Archives?
JEDI TEMPLE ARCHIVES: Our staff has grown very recently, so this is actually the perfect time to answer this. We have three full time staff members: Chuck Paskovics, Paul Harrison (myself) and the very new but very eager and long term Star Wars fanatic Morgan Knapp. He is bringing a new and exciting energy to JTA and we are so thankful we were able to grab him first. (It was easy because he is a fan of JTA first.) We also could always use one or two more staff members. If you’re interested, let us know! Then we have three moderators on staff for our comments module: The_Question, bombadgungan and Sjefke. Then we have Chad Cobain assisting us with our Visual Guides. Last but not least, we have two “contractor” people who help us with various site duties who have asked to remain anonymous. Due to their involvement with their daily jobs, we fully understand their requests, but we are incredibly indebted to them for their invaluable help!
THE TOY BOX: How long has JTA been on the net, and how did it all start?
JEDI TEMPLE ARCHIVES: We have been online since 2004. JTA was founded by three of the main contributors to the Visual Guides on a now defunct site artoosnews.com. Chuck Paskovics is currently the only remaining co-founder who has carried forward and still involved with JTA. He developed the Visual Guide format back in 2000 while playing around with his Vintage figures and his new digital camera. Just for fun he posted them online for all to see in a cool ‘wallpaper’ style. The format was noticed by the webmaster of artoosnews.com and he was asked to come on board to further develop this format into a visual archive format. It has evolved quite a lot over the years into what you see today. Just for fun the original wallpaper site is still available for viewing (http://www.paskovics.com/rogue-collection/showcase.htm).
That site represents the original Visual Guides as they started. When artoosnews.com officially closed its doors Chuck, Pete and Mike didn’t want years of hard work to go away so they launched JTA to host the existing guides in March of 2004. It has been going strong every since! It’s evolved and has grown to its biggest peak yet and we’re looking to reach the next pinnacle. We are very excited of where we’re going.
THE TOY BOX: As far as archives go, yours is one of, if not THE most thorough. Each figure (or vehicle/playset) is depicted in its own link, includes multiple angels, accessories, as well as figure and package variations. Just how long does it take to compile an archive for one figure?
JEDI TEMPLE ARCHIVES: In our modern format at the very least a complete Visual Guide can take a minimum (from taking the photos to posting the guide) of an average of two (plus) man hours. Some of the more complicated guides, such as the Sideshow guides, can take up to eight man hours or more to complete start to finish in order too showcase the detail of the collectible. It just all depends on how much detail we include with the guides. It’s a very arduous and time consuming process. This is the sole reason why we treat our photography process as proprietary information.
THE TOY BOX: Are the toys in your archive privately owned by its contributors, or do you get them from your sponsors, or perhaps even directly from Hasbro?
JEDI TEMPLE ARCHIVES: Site sponsorship is light years different than what it was even a few years ago. The economy has hit every vendor hard so “free stuff” isn’t as common as it used to be. Nearly all of the products you see in our Visual Guides and Research Droids Reviews are stuff we purchased with our own money. A few exceptions like a couple of Sideshow’s 12” figures that are part of their affiliate program are from Sideshow Collectibles, but pretty much everything else is owned by JTA contributors. We are Star Wars collector’s first, and archivists second. So we actively participate in toy hunting just like the average collector. We don’t (and can’t) rely on vendor freebies (which are next to nothing in this day and age) and we don’t sell the few free products we get on eBay either.
THE TOY BOX: There seem to be some holes in the archive. While all the toys are listed, some have not gotten the full blown treatment with photos. Any plans to address these items in the future?
JEDI TEMPLE ARCHIVES: It’s sometimes hard to fill these holes, but it is an intention of ours to have a complete Jedi Temple Archives one day. It’s the bread and butter of the site. People will continue to come and visit us knowing that they can find a complete archive of Star Wars product. As you can imagine owning everything is impossible, so while we would love to have a visual reference for everything, in the mean time we want to at least have a source where you can see a complete and accurately described list to reference.
THE TOY BOX: How do you choose which toys to post on any given day?
JEDI TEMPLE ARCHIVES: Are you talking about the reviews or the Visual Guides?
THE TOY BOX: Let’s cover all our bases. How about both?
JEDI TEMPLE ARCHIVES: For our Research Droids Reviews, we try to do our best to have the latest product photographed and review them on or about the day we find them at retail. Having our readers “in the know” is something they crave intensely from us. Visual Guides get done differently and are more random. Whenever a nice chunk of time can be devoted to process them we do that and then run a marathon. Our readers seem to really enjoy those long running marathons too. We’ve often noticed that multiple licensees release a ton of product at the same time. Next thing I know, the next 60 days in our RDRs planning schedule is booked and then a new wave of figures is around the corner. It' can be stressful sometimes.
THE TOY BOX: What equipment and/or programs do you use to get such high quality photos against clear backgrounds?
JEDI TEMPLE ARCHIVES: Now, now. We can’t give away our trade secrets, can we? If we did there would be no reason for people to come and visit us. I can tell you that we use a very complex mix of light sources, a high quality camera and a set up that looks like a scientist’s lab. That’s about all I can say about that unfortunately. As equipment evolves so do we and we strive to make our photos second to none. Unfortunately some of our older archives are a product of their time and you can see the quality difference now that cameras have evolved. But, everything in the past five years or so will have been top notch! As much as we would love to go back and reshoot all of our older archives time just doesn’t permit.
THE TOY BOX: Would you “donate” the toys for use if someone volunteered the time and efforts to do it for you?
JEDI TEMPLE ARCHIVES: Because of the proprietary way that we build our guides we like to keep all of our Visual Guides work “in house” to be worked on by our staff members. Staff members sign nondisclosure statements and are made aware of the extraordinary responsibility they have to keep our work product confidential. We’ve had our format stolen in the past so we have to be more proactive than ever to ensure this stuff stays in house. We are always looking for help, so if you’re interested please reach out to us, but we do take those precautionary measure to protect the hard work we devote to JTA.
THE TOY BOX: You have a strong following of readers on your site. How big of a role do your readers play in your daily website activity?
JEDI TEMPLE ARCHIVES: Our readers are absolutely the best thing about our site. Out of the blue, our comments module has exploded and we get an influx of activity that we, the site administrators, can barely keep up with and that’s the reason we have a few dedicated helpers take over as moderators. They have been longtime JTA readers and we reached out to them and are so thankful they do this for us. Their comments and insight is incredible and they add a great deal of spirit and entertainment to the site. I would also like to thank readers Scott B., Paul B., Darth Eddie, Matthew R., and savageopress for being such incredible contributors in our comments as well. Without our readers, JTA wouldn’t be half the fun it is now. I hope more people will continue to join in our madness as we continue to grow.
THE TOY BOX: Your fans contribute daily finds to you. Are there specific guidelines that would be beneficial to contributors to follow to ensure their entries get posted on your site?
JEDI TEMPLE ARCHIVES: We like to post as much as we can. We figure if a reader takes the time to send us a photo or a new toy find that the rest of our reading audience would like to know too. And we appreciate so much that they have chosen to share the news with us first and not another competitor site (of which many are close friends of ours by the way). Breaking news (or news that hasn’t been mentioned anywhere else) is always our first choice, but sometimes news like the return of a hard to find wave or just a state of the union address of collecting in general are often entertaining reads as well. If it is a store report on a new find a location is also helpful so we can spread the word to anyone in that area.
THE TOY BOX: We see that JTA has sponsors for their site. How does that work? Does it allow you to focus on JTA as your sole source of income?
JEDI TEMPLE ARCHIVES: Star Wars fan sites are not a good source of income in general. If you’re a fan site and don’t do this for the passion of the hobby, then you’re in this for the wrong reasons. Between the diminishing number of collectors and fans, sites just aren’t able to make a ton of money. We utilize any income we receive to pay for site fees and similarly related expenses. Sometimes a good month with sponsor’s means we can help pay for that trip to San Diego and New York City for various toy events to report the latest information to our readers. All of JTA’s contributors work full time jobs and often some of the money we make has been used to pay for things on the site. I donated all of the prizes for our contest we ran in November. Sometimes you have to sacrifice a little bit to reach a greater goal. I was glad I donated what I did because we have new readers who became big fans of the site through that event. That is worth it all. We’d also like to note that we are proud to have forged the relationships we did with our sponsors. JTA never wants to look like Times Square New York with all of the blinking advertising links that frame the site. We want our readers to be directed to the people who support us, not by chance that a moving graphic catches their eye hopefully.
THE TOY BOX: Would you like to give a shout out to your sponsors here?
JEDI TEMPLE ARCHIVES: Sure! Our current two sponsors Brian’s Toys and Big Bad Toy Store have been with us since 2004 and have played a key role in keeping us afloat in the early days.
THE TOY BOX: For contest purposes, would you take donations of Star Wars items? Because we’ve got a lot sitting around here that we’d be happy to offload on someone else.
JEDI TEMPLE ARCHIVES: We would absolutely take donations of Star Wars items for contest purposes. And we would use them for that purpose only. Thank you in advance if you have some for us.
THE TOY BOX: Have you ever considered hosting an annual JTA convention where your readers can all come together under one roof and meet face to face? Kind of like your own personal fan based convention?
JEDI TEMPLE ARCHIVES: We are looking into doing something very much like this, but with other sites at Celebration VI this year. Stay tuned for more information! But yes, we want to meet our fans face to face in person. Without them we wouldn’t be here.
THE TOY BOX: Speaking of conventions, does JTA attend any regular ones, or contribute to any?
JEDI TEMPLE ARCHIVES: JTA does its best to attend and cover all important conventions. We always have coverage for New York Toy Fair and it looks like Celebration VI and SDCC are covered as well this year. I hope to be present at CVI this year. And if I go I hope to bump into a whole bunch of our readers. I also try to attend Philly Wizard World, although scheduling conflicts have forced me to miss the last two years. I do hope to go this year. I have spoken with Chuck about being more actively involved at these shows. We haven’t gotten too far in that conversation. To date we have covered more than 50 events since JTA’s inception. Stop by our Star Wars Experience page (http://www.jeditemplearchives.com/swexperience/) to see how busy we keep ourselves when we are not archiving!
THE TOY BOX: In your experience, on average, how much money would one collector need to be part of the 100% Club?
JEDI TEMPLE ARCHIVES: That is a very loaded question. Are you talking just Hasbro or other licensees as well?
THE TOY BOX: Hasbro’s 3 ¾ line with all the vehicles, accessories, playsets, etc.
JEDI TEMPLE ARCHIVES: If you collect everything, you’ll probably need close to $1000 – $1500 each calendar year just for one of every single item. I sometimes buy 2 or 3 of many figures, so then your budget will have to increase.
THE TOY BOX: How many JTA contributors are striving for the 100% club in this regard?
JEDI TEMPLE ARCHIVES: Probably Morgan and I would be the two staff members striving for that 100% club. We’re both OCD.
THE TOY BOX: As far as Star Wars goes, there are so many different avenues for collectors - Videos, games, toys, clothing, etc. Does JTA strictly focus on the 3 ¾ inch line of toys, or do you branch out to other Star Wars merchandise?
JEDI TEMPLE ARCHIVES: We like to cover as many Star Wars licensees of possible. People who check out the Research Droids Reviews know that we cover over 20 categories of toys (many are Hasbro of course – the various lines), but I also purchase Life Size Busts, Premium Format Figures and 1:6 Scale Figures from Sideshow Collectibles. I also buy many Gentle Giant products too.
THE TOY BOX: Are you strictly devoted to Star Wars, or are there other lines of toys that you collect?
JEDI TEMPLE ARCHIVES: I am personally into Indiana Jones too. But there isn’t much money left in the budget after I am done with Star Wars. I don’t know how some of my friends collect multiple lines including Marvel, GI Joe and Star Wars. I just couldn’t do that. But I know quite a few people who manage this.
THE TOY BOX: We often times see posts on your site that either later get posted on other sites such as Rebel Scum or Yakface, or vice versa. Is there a strong pipeline between these sites that’s imperative to the daily activity of your site?
JEDI TEMPLE ARCHIVES: We have tight relationships with our affiliate sites. Jayson from Yakface.com, Dan Curto (formerly of Rebelscum.com), and BanthaSkull.com have been tremendously helpful to our site. And JTA has developed tight friendships with both of them. They have linked to many of our stories and have sent an amazing amount of traffic our way. And we’d like to also mention SW Action News, Galactic Hunter, Sandtroopers, Jedi News and Echo Base News have because they too will always remain incredibly important to us. We link to them and they link to us. It’s a great working relationship! Linking to other sites only helps bring extra traffic. And that traffic has the potential of staying with you if they see what they like.... and it can last throughout the years. We believe that fostering positive relationships with other Star Wars fan sites is imperative. Sadly, not everyone feels that way. But JTA is committed to keeping this principle alive. If someone broke a news story first, there is no way in the world we are going to post it as our general news without giving proper credit. Obviously a case of Sideshow Collectibles announcing their latest 12” figure is fair game for all sites, but when it comes to a new wave being found at retail or a first time variation being spotted, you better believe that the site that reported it should get the full credit for doing so. (It is just proper site etiquette.) But not everyone plays nice.
THE TOY BOX: Any big plans for the future at the JTA? Upcoming events? Etc.?
JEDI TEMPLE ARCHIVES: There are some major announcements coming down the pike. We have an amazing Hasbro related feature coming shortly down the pike that I know our readers are going to eat up. I can’t wait to make the official announcement. We waited to get the green light from Hasbro themselves on this and its all happening. And it’s something our readers are going to want to read and absorb. You’ll have to trust me on this one. Also, I am involved in a very special project that has already been announced, but I can’t say anything more at the moment. But I can’t wait until I can announce it for the public to hear. Believe me, it will be front page news.
THE TOY BOX: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Thanks for a great site. We’ll continue to check back daily for updates.
JEDI TEMPLE ARCHIVES: Thank you for doing this and thank you for your support. And thank you for the kind words about JTA. We strive to excel and provide quality content. This interview has been especially fun. I hope we can do it again soon! We’d like to remind all new readers that we have a fun Facebook page located HERE (http://www.facebook.com/jeditemplearchives) and if you like what you see we would ask that you like us on Facebook for up to the minute updates and exclusive news. Thank you again everyone!
All photographs and logos used in this article are the property of Jedi Temple Archives and/or their affiliated sponsors. Used with permission. Photo layout and design by The Toy Box.
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