Collecting isn’t a requisite when it comes to being a Star Wars fan and making the decision to showcase your fandom in such a way can come at any age. With Star Wars Rebels on the horizon and Star Wars: Episode VII a little over a year away, now might seem the perfect time to start up the collection you’ve always thought about.
But where should you start? Toys aren’t the only things to bear the Star Wars brand, and there’s a plethora of items for your household, decor, kitchen, and everything in between that you could seemingly pick up. Before long, your excitement could turn into intimidation as you struggle to get started, but don’t lose hope! Here are some easy tips to help start your Star Wars collection.
Why Are You Collecting in the First Place?
It may sound a little silly, but when you’re about to kickstart a collection, one of the first things you need to ask yourself is, “Why do I want to collect?” The answer could influence where you should get started and determines your mindset. No matter how you phrase it, hopefully your reasoning boils down to one simple concept: passion.
One of the greatest misconceptions surrounding Star Wars collecting is that doing so is a sure-fire money investment that will make you rich. This is a path that will, more often than not, lead to disappointment. While the Star Wars brand carries a lot of weight, the reality is that seeing a “Star Wars” label is no guarantee it’ll be worth anything in the long run. There are a great many collectibles on the market today worth far less than their original retail price even 15-20 years later.
The truth is, you can never know with certainty which collectible is going to be a hot item and which won’t. While some never take off, others become a rarity the minute they’re released and fetch hundreds of dollars online (granted, those prices are often driven by distribution issues and toy scalpers in online auctions). The bottom line here is that there’s no sure-fire way to tell if something you’re buying will have any value at any point.
When you start collecting, go into it with a mindset for having fun. It’s something you’re passionate about and should stay that way. Going into it for the short-term monetary gain will lead to frustration and will likely cause you to stop collecting very quickly. Don’t worry about what something may, or may not, be worth at some point in the future.
Let’s face it, there is a ton of Star Wars-related merchandise on the market and toys are really just the tip of the iceberg, though it’s normally everyone’s initial go-to choice. There’s a nice collection of houseware merchandise with everything you need to deck out your kitchen, bathroom, and bedrooms. Then you have a plethora of books spanning a wealth of both fiction (the Legends series and upcoming new titles) and non-fiction books. We can’t forget the amount of video games, board games, music, and other media that have been released over the last few decades. In short, there are plenty of avenues in which one can start a collection.
When first starting out, many collectors like to buy up anything and everything with Star Wars on the label. Heck, I still do it occasionally and I’ve been collecting for a couple decades! It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but doing so comes with its own set of problems.
Financially speaking, if you pick up everything you see related to Star Wars, your bank account won’t be long for this world. Instead, let’s figure out exactly what piques your interest most when it comes to Star Wars. This way you can control the amount of money you’re spending and find an easier access point into collecting.
Personally, I’m a “character” collector. I enjoy finding items related to a specific character and gathering as many of them as possible in order to generate a theme. For the most part, I’m a major Darth Maul collector and will purchase anything with him on it. Over the years, however, as we get further and further away from his relevance in the saga, his collectibles have become harder to come by, though his appearance in The Clone Wars gave it a resurgence. As such, it became necessary to branch out. Since I’d been collecting Darth Maul for so long, my overall collection (featuring far more than just that character) had a villainous theme to it. Running with this idea, I expanded my focus outward to some of the series’ other villains.
On the non-toy side of collecting, I have a deep love for the Expanded Universe (or Legends series now) and have been devout in gathering up all the novels for consumption and gorging myself on new stories. This mass amount of books began its own little collection, and from there I moved into the non-fiction books to flesh out the rest of my bookcases. My enjoyment of those stories also led to me searching out for any and all Expanded Universe related toys.
As you can see, it’s easy to fill up your collection with a wide range of items, allowing for a well-rounded approach to your collection without feeling like you’re missing out on something. It was only possible for me because I was able to focus my efforts on one area at a time. By doing so, I figured out what I was most passionate about, which led to other areas of collecting I would have otherwise passed over.
If you’re an avid reader, perhaps starting your collecting off with the various book titles would be best. If you’re a gamer, there are games dating all the way back to the Atari you could start from. Regardless of the path you take, it’s crucial to be more discerning in the initial stages of your collection. A specific focus gives you goals, items to be on “the hunt” for, and a reason to keep searching for new things, while still giving you the freedom to explore other areas of collecting. Not to mention it’s a lot easier on your pocketbook!
Speaking of keeping your bank account from bleeding out, when you’re starting out on your collecting adventures it’s a great idea to have some sort of budget in place before you begin buying up items. For many, especially older fans just getting started, there’s this feeling that you have to catch-up. After all, there are so many fans who’ve been collecting for years and your meager handful of collectibles feels inadequate in comparison.
Don’t think like that! It’s not true and this line of reasoning inevitably leads you to purchase way more items than you should. The end result being your bank, yourself, and your significant other all being angry with you.
Buying sprees can also cause some early collector fatigue, and you’ll end up regretting some of the buying decisions you’ve made (i.e., I have no need for all the Star Wars toothbrushes I currently own…). Combat this feeling by giving yourself a monthly collectible budget you’ll stick to. The budget you set for yourself is dependent on your income and whatever other expenses you have, so I won’t go into specifics. The key thing to remember is the importance of allotting a certain amount of money every month for spending on Star Wars items.
Doing so allows you to add to your collection every month without going long periods of time without purchasing anything (because you spent too much money at one time). A budget also makes you think more about the items you’re adding. With a limited amount of money to spend, you think more about whether or not an item is essential to your collection or a part of a series you wish to collect. This keeps you from being resentful about pieces you’ve bought or feeling frustrated that you have to pass on other items you find. Both of these attitudes can lead to you wanting to give up altogether.
Keep in mind, none of this is to say you can’t buy something for your collection just because it’s neat! We all make those purchases, and as my focus dries up, I find myself buying more things because they’re quirky/unusual. Once you’ve been doing it for a while and have a good feel for your collecting prowess, you can branch out and do whatever you feel like.
You’re focused, you’ve got a budget, and you’re ready to go… Now comes the fun part where you track everything down and live off that warm fuzzy feeling you get when you find the exact collectible you want. Besides finding something cool in stores, one of the greatest things about being a collector is learning more about what you’re picking up.
Star Wars collecting goes all the way back to the late ’70s (coming up on 40 years!), and if you’re just getting started, there’s a lot of history between then and where we are now. It’s interesting to see what collectibles helped pave the way for future iterations and especially fun to see the products that never took off and serve as the ultimate “what were they thinking” examples. There’s a lot of ground to cover when it comes to learning more about our hobby and fortunately there are some great resources available:
Steve Sansweet’s The Ultimate Action Figure Collection – This book focuses on individual Star Wars character figures and how they’ve progressed over the decades.
Plastic Galaxy: The Story of Star Wars Toys – This documentary gives fans and collectors an excellent look into the world of toy collecting and the cultural impact it’s had.
Collector’s Weekly has a nice Star Wars section with several articles that delve into the history of Star Wars memorabilia as well as information on finding new collectibles as well.
Inevitably while you’re searching through these resources, you’ll end up coming across a collectible you want to have, or at least want to know more about. While the information above may not get as specific as you want, this is where toy guides come in handy:
The Super Collector’s Wish Book(s) – These are a great series of unofficial price guide books that are among my favorites. They’re a little older, but they have some great information. Best of all, they present the information in a way that lets me find something new I want to add to my own collection.
Gus and Duncan’s Comprehensive Guide to Star Wars Collectibles – If you’re looking for a straight-up price guide with a crazy long list of collectibles, this book is for you. While it had a limited run and is now a few years old, it’s well worth picking up if you find a copy.
Of course if you’re looking for the latest news about upcoming collectibles to keep an eye on, the Community section on StarWars.com is filled with several good collector news sources for you to enjoy.
I’m a very tangible person and enjoy having something physical to look at, which is why I suggest these resources. However, the Internet is filled with sites that keep updated catalogs and price lists for items. While there are many to choose from, find the one that works best for you and have fun.
Use that Knowledge
While it’s fun to learn about this stuff and glance through price guides to get a rough idea if anything you have is valuable, the real benefit comes in the knowledge you gain. Not everything you want will be found at stores. Sorry to say, but it’s the hard reality of collecting. Oftentimes you’ll either have to go online to find new items or hit up vendor booths at local conventions (one of my favorite places to find things), and you’ll want to go into those buying experiences prepared.
Say there’s a collectible you really want as part of your focus but it’s not in stores anymore and you find it online for $50. Having some knowledge on your side about pricing and current collecting trends can let you know the price is too high! While it’s never fun to pass on something you want, it simply means you’d be better off doing a more thorough online shopping search before buying it.
You’ll essentially do the same thing when it comes to vendors at conventions. If you’ve never been to one (even locally), they’re a great place to find Star Wars items, and it’s fun perusing them. The truth, however, is vendors want to get as much as they can and sometimes a little haggling is involved. If you go into it without any prior knowledge, however, you’re essentially bringing a knife to a gunfight.
Move Along, Move Along
By and large, the most essential aspect of starting your Star Wars collection is getting out there and doing it! These tips are designed to help you get started in a way that will hopefully keep you from hitting early fatigue points and make starting out seem like less of a mountain to climb. Star Wars collecting is a great hobby and populated by a wonderful community of fellow collectors. So no matter how you go about getting started, get out there and enjoy yourself.
Jordan Maison is an artist, writer, father, and avid Star Wars fan who tries to intersect all of those at every possible junction. To hear him talk about more nerdy things and his art, you can follow him on Twitter @JordanMaison or Cinelinx where he serves as editor in chief. Photos taken by Linda S. Becker.