In January 2013 a TV crew invaded our house to record for a brand new collecting show for the BBC2 called Collectaholics. Around 100 days later we wrapped filming on April 12, but not until our house and my collection were literally turned upside down. This is that story…
My original Star Wars collection from the ’70s and ’80s was destroyed in 1986 when my parents got divorced, leaving me with nothing. My love for all things Star Wars never went away, but during the dark years of the late ’80s and early ’90s there was little for me to buy. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to go back and start collecting the vintage items…yet.
I got married in 1996 and for our first holiday season together, my wife, Sarah, went into a local antique shop and bought me a vintage Star Wars figure — Paploo, the Ewok. That one Ewok was the catalyst that ignited the collecting bug in me (and caused it to spiral out-of-control), gradually taking over our house, leading to two huge extensions, but even then there was not enough room.
The collection had now taken over my two eldest children’s bedrooms and it couldn’t carry on the way it was. Even worse, the collection lay dormant in thousands of boxes and the only things on display were a few Hasbro figures in my office and some of the larger LEGO Star Wars items in our aptly named “Cantina,” where the family eats together daily. It couldn’t carry on this way and this is where the Collectaholics team came in. Hosted by Mel Geidroryc (a UK comedian, actress, and host of the Great British Bake Off) and Mark Hill (an avid collector of various items and also the co-author of the bi-annual antiques bible Millers Antiques), the three-episode series was sold to us as a program celebrating collecting and collectors.
They saw just how much space the collection had taken up in the family home and insisted that it needed to be sorted out. Even though I was insistent I knew what I had, it really did need to be cataloged properly and with this is mind, the two hosts, along with my wife and family, convinced me to have the collection taken to a storage facility where I would be able to sort it properly and catalog everything I owned. On March 2 last year, a specialist removals firm arrived to start packing the collection. What they had estimated as a two-man, four-hour job turned into a 6 man, 10 hour job and I watched nervously as they started to pack my collection with care. I had a bad feeling about this but let it go and I stood nervously outside my house waving it goodbye with my family.
Two days later I was taken to the storage facility about 20 miles away from my house in North London and was reunited with the collection. Every box had been packed into bigger boxes and in a scene reminiscent from the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, I was amazed to see that my collection almost entirely filled the 2,400 sq. ft. warehouse. Sarah and I were truly astonished and I wonder to this day how it all fit into our house.
With the collection out of the house, we met with several builders to decide what should be built in the loft room, now aptly called “The X-Wing” (I figured that people have east wings and west wings, so why not). I needed lots of shelves to display items but also storage, too, as I wanted to rotate items and have different things on display at different times. We also thought long and hard about lighting and settled on LEDs, so that no heat was given off that could possibly harm items over long periods of time. With the layout agreed it was back to the storage facility to start sorting.
It’s important to remember that this was all being filmed at the time. There was no escape from the camera as they followed my every move. Back at the storage facility I started to unpack every box; what the production company thought would be two weeks work soon became four weeks of long hours in a bitterly cold, unheated warehouse. Even with the extra time, there were a handful of boxes that never got sorted fully. Hasbro items were sorted by year and/or collection, Gentle Giant/Master Replicas/Sideshow items by type, LEGO by year of release, and so it went. Finally, I’d managed (with some help from Andrew Fox, Mark Newbold, and my family) to work out what was being kept, what was duplicate, and what I was going to send to auction. All in all, the catalog of items exceeded 35,000 pieces — more than I’d ever thought!
Everything was then packed up and labelled and brought back into the house, this time into the lounge, for me to unpack and put on display or away in the storage cupboards in The X-Wing. Unfortunately, the building work was finished with only 48 hours to go before the big reveal and final filming on April 11-12.
I unpacked what I could and with some last minute help from Jeremy Kelly, the family and production crew, we managed to get a lot of things out on display and away in cupboards before midday on April 11, which is when Mel and Mark came back for the big reveal. They were astonished at the transformation and what we’d achieved, as we all were, and I have to thank my amazing family for standing by me and helping me throughout the process — my wonderful wife Sarah and my children Daniel, Jonathan and Miriam.
So what are things like a year on? Well my collecting habits have changed and I’m no longer just buying things for the sake of it (although I still get every Hasbro and LEGO release). Twenty-nine huge boxes full of duplicates or pieces that I no longer wanted went to auction last June and raised a significant amount of money. There’s still more to do, but we’re almost there; there are around 20 boxes left to deal with but they’re all upstairs and out of the children’s rooms. The biggest issue now is what to do with all the boxes, foam, and polystyrene from all the items we’ve opened…and we’ve come to the conclusion that we’re going to have to build a storage room at the bottom of our garden for them.
There are still more duplicates though, and a few items that I no longer want, and those will be heading to eBay sometime soon with a portion of the profits going to support Rancho Obi-Wan, the Guinness World Record holder for the largest Star Wars collection in the world, run by my good friend and fellow collector Steve Sansweet.
I want to thank everybody for their positive comments since the show aired in the UK on BBC2 last Wednesday (April 2). We are still waiting to hear if it will air on BBC America and if it does we’ll be sure to let people know — for now it’s still available on BBC iPlayer for a few more days.
So what next for the collection? Well, I’m still collecting and I’m sure they’ll be no shortage of items coming from Star Wars Rebels or the sequels over the coming years. My only issue is where I’m going to put them, because one thing’s for sure: I won’t let them take over the whole house again. Sarah won’t let me and I won’t put her (or the family) through this again!