Tuesday, July 7, 2020

A Collecting Life

Collecting has been a constant in my life since early childhood. There hasn't been a time period where I haven't had at least one physical collection going. My collections have varied drastically in terms of size, longevity, intensity, investment, seriousness, and function. However all have served in providing happiness, and a sense of accomplishment and fulfilment. From the thrill of the hunt to the enjoyment of looking upon a collection displayed, I’ve always found fun and inspiration in collecting.

On a psychological level, I've always had an internal yearning for detailed, organized, completeness. The notion of taking a physical representation of a passion of mine and setting out to obtain a complete collection is somehow embedded in the fiber of my being. From making lists, doing research, going on hunts and acquiring new pieces, to cataloging, organizing, and displaying, I gravitate towards that entire process. The struggle of course lies in the impossibility of the desire itself. Short of having unlimited financial resources, most collections can never be completed. That fragile balance is indicative of my life. On a personal level I’m always striving towards greatness and perfection, but often find myself resigned to mediocrity. As with any of my professional and/or hobby-based pursuits, age and experience has grounded and humbled me. In my twenties my music career did not yield wealth and fame, but in my thirties I stopped viewing that as a failure and began simply enjoying making music for fun. I discovered that the reward and value was almost greater, most of the time... The same can be said for a physical collection. Sure, there will always be pieces I want that I don’t own, but life is short and better spent enjoying the pieces I do have, the process of collecting them, and the people I meet and interact with along the way. In a sense I feel I view life itself as being comprised of multiple intangible collections (i.e. achievements, experiences, friendships, women slept with, good deeds done, etc.). Every day we love, share new ideas, help people, try something new, or even just stop to watch the world around us, we are collecting the moments and memories that make up life. Okay, enough of the philosophical.

Much of my inspiration regarding collecting came from my father. My dad had various collections from childhood up until the day he passed away. As a child he had an extensive collection of baseball cards from the 50’s that sadly my grandmother threw away went my dad went to college in the 60’s (the entire family gets sick thinking about what that collection would have been worth…). Later in life he got back into cards (baseball and basketball), both for fun and as a hobby he could do/share with my brother and I, as we were both card collectors at the time. His music collection spanned his entire life, changing mediums with the times of course. My dad loved to put on a pair of headphone and simply sit and listen to his music. He’d close his eyes and just get lost in whatever he was listening to. It’s from this I feel I gained an appreciation for truly taking enjoyment in your collection. However, the pinnacle of my father’s collecting was his stamp collection. This was a collection he started in childhood and actively continued for decades until ultimately selling it after retiring. His stamp collection was impressive in every facet of collecting categories. It was handled, cared for, displayed/presented, cataloged, priced, organized, and built with utter meticulousness and passion. Obviously the majority of his stamp collecting years were prior to the internet and sites such as eBay, so stamp and coin shows were key hunting grounds. My dad had dealer contacts up and down the east coast. I’d often go with him to stamp and coin shows and just watch how he hunted and interacted with dealers and fellow collectors. Those experiences were invaluable when I started going to sports cards shows in my early teen years. Despite my age, dealers and adult collectors always took me seriously because I knew and understand the language (albeit only with the tiny budget of a kid my age). Overall I took away so much from watching my father collect stamps. It’s truly how I fell in love with the process.

My earliest collections (and many of my later ones), were not as involved and dedicated as my father’s stamp collection. Even as a child I would use product packaging and the promo books inside, and toy catalogs to make lists of what was out there, what I had, and what I wanted. Sports cards were the first collection of mine where I invested time in money in things other than just the collection itself. I would pay entry fees to sports card shows, buy hard cases and hard slides to protect the cards, pay for Beckett price guide subscriptions, etc. I would sell and trade in order to obtain cards I really wanted. And I formed relationships with shop owners, show dealers, and other collectors. With my sports memorabilia collection, mainly my Michael Jordan collection, I learned at a very young age that the worst that can happen is someone can say “No” when you ask for something. In the early 90’s McDonald’s and Upper Deck came out with a collection of basketball cards only available at McDonald’s restaurants as part of a big trip giveaway. The McDonald’s by my house had a big cardboard display with Michael Jordan on it. I asked the manager if I could have it, and he told me that if I came back after the promotion was done he’d save it for me. Granted it typically only works with store display type pieces, but I’ve been doing that ever since, and it’s yielded some amazing free pieces. My first experience with a hardcore collection-focus within a larger collection came with my music collection. I’ve always had a large vinyl and CD collection featuring multiple artists in multiple genres. When Tupac was killed he had a plethora of songs that had not been released. Underground albums of these songs started circulating and I went on a frenzied hunt to track them all down. I would comb the shelves of every used record store in every city or suburb I found myself in. Ultimately though, my Star Wars collection became the equivalent of my father’s stamp collection. I’ve written articles before about the history and progression of my Star Wars collection, but long story short, it’s the pinnacle of my life of collecting. My Star Wars collection is the largest collection I’ve ever had, the collection I’ve invested the most time and money into, and the collection that I’ve spent the most time cataloging, organizing, and displaying. It’s also the collection that best represents everything I learned and experienced from both my father’s collecting and all of my previous collections.

Almost all of my prior collections have all been sold or given away at this point. Sadly, most of that happened prior to digital photography. I’ve always thought about how cool it would be to have photos of every piece from every collection. I do have some photos from the last of the items I sold or gave away, but they’re a far cry from a complete representation.

To date I’ve had thirty two different collections.
Here’s a look at the collections I’ve had over the years. I have a spreadsheet with a much more detailed and thorough breakdown, but since this blog doesn’t import spreadsheets well, here it is in list form.

Novelty Erasers
Time Period: early childhood
Current Status: entire collection sold or given away

Coca-Cola and Diet Coke Cans (from around the world)
Time Period: childhood
Current Status: entire collection sold or given away
*I’d collect the ones from the US, and my Dad would bring me back cans from all over the world as he traveled quite extensively for work.

Novelty Decks of Cards
Time Period: childhood
Current Status: entire collection sold or given away

G.I. Joe (Toys, Memorabilia & more)
Masters of the Universe (Toys, Memorabilia & more)
Batman (Toys, Memorabilia & more)
Toy Guns & Weapons
80’s and 90’s Action Figures & Toys
            *Army Ants
            *MUSCLE Men
            *Army Men
            *Cowboys and Indians
            *Go Bots
            *Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
            *Battle Beasts
            *Super Powers Collection
Time Period: childhood
Current Status: entire collection sold or given away

Trading Cards
            *Garbage Pail Kids
            *Michael Jackson       
            *various others
Time Period: childhood
Current Status: entire collection sold or given away

Sports Cards
                        -Michael Jordan
Time Period: childhood and teenage years
Current Status: entire collection sold or given away

The Simpsons (Toys & Memorabilia)
Time Period: childhood and teenage years
Current Status: entire collection sold or given away

Michael Jordan Memorabilia
Chicago Bulls Memorabilia
Georgetown Hoyas Basketball Memorabilia
1990’s Basketball Shoes
1990’s Basketball Jerseys
1990’s New York Yankees Fitted Hats
Sports Memorabilia
            *NCAA Men’s Basketball
            *Ohio State Buckeyes Football
            *New York Mets
            *New York Yankees
            *Minnesota Vikings
            *Allen Iverson
            *Randy Moss
            *Adrian Peterson
Time Period: childhood to early adulthood
Current Status: entire collection sold or given away

Skateboarding Memorabilia
Tech Deck
Time Period: childhood and teenage years (Tech Deck in adulthood)
Current Status: entire collection sold or given away

1990’s Urban Wear Clothing and Accessories
Time Period: teenage years
Current Status: all but a few pieces sold or given away
*I still wear the few pieces I saved to this day!

Hip Hop / Rap Music (Vinyl, CD & Digital)
Music (Vinyl, CD & Digital)
            *Michael Jackson
                        -10 Years
            *Blues, Pop, DC Go-Go, various
Time Period: childhood to current
Current Status: have entire collection minus cassette tapes which were sold or given away

Manifesters / Versifier Memorabilia
Time Period: 1996 to current
Current Status: have entire collection

Timberland 6” Premium Boots
Time Period: teenage years to current
Current Status: only have a few pairs remaining

Toothless (from How to Train Your Dragon) Toys
Time Period: adulthood
Current Status: entire collection sold or given away

Winter Beanie Hats
Time Period: adulthood to current
Current Status: have entire collection

Penny (from Big Bang Theory) Toys & Memorabilia
Time Period: adulthood
Current Status: have entire collection

Star Wars
Ahsoka Tano
Time Period: childhood to current (adulthood for Ahsoka as she did not debut until 2008)
Current Status: have entire collection

Collections I still own currently:

Ahsoka Tano
Early this year I made the decision to focus solely on my Ahsoka collection. I am adding new pieces to the collection weekly.

Star Wars
Due to my decision to focus on my Ahsoka collection, I no longer add non-Ahsoka Star Wars pieces in bulk. The only new non-Ahsoka pieces I will add going forward come from a small list of items I need to complete various sub-collections.

Penny from Big Bang Theory
This collection is very small and just for fun. I don’t actively collect, but will grab a new piece every so often if/when I see something cool.

Winter Beanie Hats
I no longer add new hats to the collection, which currently stands at forty one pieces. But living in a state with six to eight months of winter, I definitely get a ton of use out of them.

Timberland Boots
I no longer actively collect Timbs. But as Timbs and casual dress shoes are my primary footwear, I like to keep three to four pairs of Timbs on hand at all times.

Manifesters/Versifier Memorabilia
This collection is an archive of the history of my music. 

I no longer buy CDs or vinyl, but occasionally add new digital music to the collection.

So essentially, the Ahsoka Tano collection is the only collection I currently obtain new pieces for with any consistency.

Over the past three or four years my wife and I have been on a huge kick of ridding ourselves of physical possessions. As a collector, that’s somewhat contradictory in nature. Aside from my collections we’ve adopted a “realistic-minimalist” lifestyle. Being a true minimalist doesn’t seem logical. I don’t use a hammer every day, but I also don’t want to go out and buy a new hammer every time I do need one. At the same time, I don’t need more than one hammer. So we shed things we no longer use or duplicates of items we don’t need more than one of. Collection wise, I have a room in our new house solely to display the Star Wars and Ahsoka collections. And since the Penny collection is so small, that is just displayed on my desk. The winter beanie hats all fit inside one box in my closet. Technically I could get by with just one pair of Timbs, but I like a little flavor, and they don’t take up too much space. The vinyl, CDs, and Manifesters/Versifier memorabilia are all in plastic bins in storage. One day I’d like to finish transferring all the music to digital so that I can sell the vinyl and CDs, thus shedding more possession.

My goal with the Star Wars and Ahsoka collections is to have every piece photographed. When the time in life comes to sell the collection I can then have a book of photos made. That way, for the rest of my life I can still look at the collection, but only have to own one physical item to do so. I’ll probably do the same with the Manifesters/Versifier memorabilia as I highly doubt the Smithsonian will come calling for it. Haha! However, we do have a handful of pieces in the University of Minnesota’s “Minnesota Underground Music Archive”, so at least some of it will forever outlive me.

I know this article was a little all over the place. Bottom line, collecting has been a great part of my life for about thirty seven years. Collecting has helped expand my knowledge on things I’m passionate about. For every type of collection there is a history, a culture, techniques and advancements in manufacturing, technology, marketing and sales, and countless stories. To me, learning about all of the history and inner workings are just as exciting and interesting as the collecting itself. Through collecting I’ve met incredible people, been new places, traveled, and had experiences that I may not have had otherwise. I could draw a parallel to playing competitive sports in the sense that in addition to having fun playing a game one is passionate about, one is simultaneously learning valuable life-lessons and gaining additional experiences and worldly knowledge along the way. Maybe collecting doesn’t quite offer that to the same degree as competitive sports do, but there are some similarities. Having played competitive sports from early childhood through college, I can definitely say there is a value-add in both.

Lastly, all of my personal collections have given me a deep appreciation for other people’s collections. I absolutely love looking at others’ collections, be it in person or via photos/videos. Even if what is being collected is not something I’m into, I still enjoy looking at what was collected, how it was organized, and how it was displayed. I’ve always loved museums for that fact, even as a child. Often the subject matter did not entice me, but the display and presentation always fascinated me.

Collecting truly can be an art form.

To see some of my Star Wars and Ahsoka Tano collections, follow The Prides of Nexu Museum.
Twitter @PridesOfNexu
Instagram @pridesofnexu

Friday, June 5, 2020

Comprehensive Guide to Expanded Universe Novels (Condensed)

In the early 2000’s I created a list to chronologically track the adult Star Wars Expanded Universe novels. The list was designed to be more detailed than the list offered in the opening pages of each novel. In the years following the end of new Expanded Universe material I converted the list into a more complete guide called the Comprehensive Guide to Expanded Universe Novels. The guide itself is an Excel workbook with multiple tabs, and was initially something I just used for myself. As time went on I began emailing it to friends and other hardcore EU readers. Outside of emailing someone the file, it’s not in an easy format to share publicly. However, below I have created a condensed version which offers the highlights as well as one complete list.

What the Guide Contains

Notes – Highlights

Collecting Notes

Chronological List of 157 Adult EU Novels 

Please feel free to contact me if you are interested in having a full version of the guide emailed to you. I'd be happy to share.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Collection Cataloging

Cataloging a collection can be a daunting task for many a collector. Unless you're like me and truly enjoy spreadsheets and meticulous organization, it's not exactly an appealing way to spend your free time. This is especially true if you're starting from scratch and/or have a large collection. However, in my opinion, it's a critical part of collecting.

Be it posts from collectors on social media, or collectors featured on shows and documentaries about collecting, I'm often surprised by how many collectors don't catalog their collections. To each his/her own, I'm not here to judge or preach. I simply find it interesting. A complete catalog of your collection is a valuable asset when it comes to having the collection appraised and insured. It's a great backup in the event of theft, loss (i.e. during a move), or damage/destruction (fire, flood, tornado, etc.). And it serves as an archive to preserve the legacy of your collection, both during and after you own it.

The choice as to whether or not you catalog your collection is entirely up to you. And if you do, the method by which you catalog it should be a system or format that works comfortably for you. Below is a detailed breakdown on how I catalog my Star Wars collection. It's a system I developed years ago when 95% of my collection was still in storage. Last year, after the entire collection was moved into the Prides of Nexu Museum, I made some upgrades to the catalog system and completely re-cataloged from scratch (a process which took seventy nine days). Now however my catalog is one hundred percent complete, accurate, and consistent. Thus, going forward I only need to enter each new acquisition as its acquired, a task requiring very little time. So while it’s a lengthy process initially, the benefits definitely justify the time spent. Not only do I have a detailed record of my entire collection, but the data can be sorted and filtered to reference specific information.

Everything I’m about to share is specific to my collection. I use an Excel document to catalog my collection, one workbook with a lot of tabs. First and foremost, I divided my collection up into categories and sub-categories. Each category has a three-letter code associated with it.

Category                                            Category Code
Action Figures                                    FIG
Apparel                                               GEA
Artwork, Posters & Standees             ART
Audio & Visual Media                       MED
Displays, Signs & Packaging              DIS
Home & Office Items                         HOM
Lightsabers & Blasters                        WEA
Misc. Items                                         MIS
Novels, Books & Magazines               NBM
Statues, Figures & Busts                     SFB
Toys, Games & Models                      TOY
Anakin’s Collection (my dog)            K9A

The sub-categories are more specific and are for tracking;
*character focus collections (i.e. my Ahsoka Tano collection has a sub-category code of ATC)
*genre specific collections (i.e. anything Expanded Universe related is sub-category EUC)
*a particular favorite brand (i.e. all Grant Gould art pieces has a sub-category code of GGC)
I have seventeen different sub-categories.

The two main tabs are the Count tab and the Catalog tab. There are then tabs for each of the twelve categories, labeled by category name. And there are tabs for each of the seventeen sub-categories, labeled by sub-category name.

The Count tab tracks the piece count of the collection. I actually track two different totals; an “As Packaged” total, and an “Individual Pieces” total. The “As Packaged” total counts each piece as it was packaged/purchased. The “Individual Pieces” total counts how many individual items in a package. So a Hasbro Battle Pack with five figures and a vehicle would count as one “As Packaged” piece, but would count as six “Individual Pieces”. I feel the “As Packaged” total is a more accurate number when stating how many pieces are in my collection. However, I also like knowing how many total “Individual Pieces” are in my collection as well. So I track both.
The Count tab also tracks both the “As Packaged” and “Individual Pieces” counts by category and sub-category. This way I have two totals for the collection as a whole, but also two totals for each individual category and sub-category. In terms of the categories, many also have a counter for what I call Item Breakdown counts. This count totals specific types of pieces within a certain category. I’ll use Action Figures as an example:

Category                                As Packaged              Item Breakdown       Individual Pieces
Action Figures                                    xxx                                                                  xxx
            3.75” Figures                                                   xxx
            3.75” Creatures                                               xxx
            3.75” Vehicles                                                 xxx
            3.75” Playsets                                                 xxx
            3.75” Accessories                                            xxx
            6” Figures                                                        xxx
            6” Creatures                                                    xxx
            6” Vehicles                                                      xxx
            6” Accessories                                                 xxx
 So the total of the Item Breakdown column would equal the Individual Pieces total

The Catalog tab is the main, master catalog list of every piece in the entire collection. The information on the Catalog tab is fed to the Counts tab, and to every category and sub-category tab. This is the tab I manually input data into.

Data Points and Collection Numbers
On the Catalog tab, for each piece, there are fourteen data point cells filled out. Of the fourteen data points, two are assigned numbers and twelve contain data I manually input.
Collection Number
Item Number
Additional Pieces
Additional Piece Collection Number
Item Condition

Each piece is assigned a unique 9-digit Collection Number. The starting number was #000000001. The Collection Number identifies the piece within the collection. Each piece is also assigned a unique 7-digit Item Number. The Item Number identifies the piece within its category. Thus, each Item Number begins with the three-letter category code. For example, the first Item Number in the Action Figure category is Item Number #FIG0000001. So for a piece that is one “As Packaged” piece and one “Individual Piece”, it will have one Collection Number and one Item Number. For a piece that is one “As Packaged” piece and multiple “Individual Pieces”, the piece will have one Collection Number and multiple Item Numbers.

Category and Sub-Category – input is three-letter code
Collection Number – assigned Collection Number
Item Number – assigned Item Number
Additional Pieces – YES or NO field
*If YES then Collection Number populates in the Additional Piece Collection Number field
Type – input is specific type of piece (i.e. T-Shirt, Mini-Bust, Poster, etc.)
Manufacturer – input is manufacturer/brand name (i.e. Hasbro, Gentle Giant, etc.)
Series – input if piece is part of a manufacturer’s series (i.e. The Legacy Collection)
Number – input if the piece itself has a number (i.e. #CW44 or #297 of 750)
Year – input is the year the piece was released
Item Condition – input is the physical condition of the piece (i.e. Sealed in Package)
Notes – input is information on one-of-a-kind pieces, signatures, certificates of authenticity, important facts about the piece, etc.

The goal is to have as much information about every piece as possible, while also having each piece entered in exactly the same format and manner so that all the data is consistent across the entire catalog.

Each Category and Sub-Category tab look identical to the master Catalog tab, except they only contain pieces belonging to their category or sub-category.

As I mentioned before, having this amount of information on each piece in the collection allows me to sort and filter the data in order to look at it in virtually any context I choose, be it for reference or cross-checking against want/hunt lists. But most importantly, my entire collection is captured and recorded in explicit detail.

My next project is to photograph every individual piece in the collection, and name each photo JPG file with said piece’s Collection Number, thus tying it back to the collection catalog. Then years from now, after I’ve sold the collection, I can take the catalog and the photos, and have a book made of my collection. That way, when I’m old, my collection will only be one piece (the book), instead of thousands.  
So that’s how I catalog my Star Wars collection. I’m not sure if it makes any sense reading it in text form, but the spreadsheet is far too large to show in screenshots.

The Prides of Nexu Museum
Twitter: @PridesOfNexu
Instagram: @pridesofnexu