After posting that article on collecting, I got to thinking about how things used to be. This isn’t necessarily going to be a “good old days” article no matter what the title says, so much as an article on why I do things the way I do them and my formational years as a collector.
See, back in the olden days, before the Internet, the only way to get a lot of collectables, be it toys or comics, was to find a local store, find someone who did mail order or wait for an annual convention. The conventions were the big deal in those days, especially if you had a massive regional convention nearby. In my case, it was always San Diego Comicon, back in the days when it was good. You saved up your money, you made checklists of what you wanted and you waited all year to be able to get into the dealer’s room.
Everyone has their own strategy, I suppose, but this was mine. The first trip through, I almost never bought anything unless it was so rare I thought I’d never find another one or so cheap that I thought I couldn’t beat the price. Otherwise, the first trip was checking every single table, seeing what everyone had and making notes where I wanted to come back to. Once I had given every table a cursory once-over and knew what my targets were, I’d go back and make my initial round of purchases. Usually, the first day loot was the most common, easiest to find and least expensive purchases, just to get them out of the way.
On the second day, I’d start looking harder. I’d go digging through the boxes under the tables, looking for those gems that were otherwise harder to find. For some, I’d buy them immediately, but for others, especially the expensive items, I’d push them to the back of the box and wait for the last day. It was risky, to be sure, but the last day was when most dealers were putting their merchandise on sale, or were willing to make a deal so they didn’t have to transport their unsold merchandise back to their stores. I’d try to have a maximum amount in mind so I knew what I would spend and what I wouldn’t. Sometimes I got lucky and got a good deal, sometimes I just walked away. It all depends on what it was and how much I wanted it.
The problem with conventions today is that, with the advent of the Internet, where anyone from anywhere can buy anything at any time, it’s no longer necessary to save up all your money for a special weekend. The dealers no longer have to take their rarest and most expensive things to conventions, they’ve already sold them in an eBay auction. Therefore, the things that end up at most conventions aren’t the rare or the special, but the very common things that dealers can’t move at a decent profit one at a time so they bring them all to move them in quantity. If that’s what you’re after, you can find good deals, but for most people who are already spending their time on eBay and similar sites, or searching the net for products they want, they’ve already got all the common stuff. That’s why most dealer’s rooms have turned into dog-and-pony shows, where people go to see things, not to buy things.
While that’s good for some people who simply want to have things, it’s awful for people like me whose entire enjoyment of collecting has been formed for the hunt. It’s fun to dig through dealer’s boxes, it’s fun to find things in a maze of collectables. It’s wonderful to come across something you either never thought you’d see or didn’t even know existed, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had that happen and it’s an incredible feeling. While I like the ability to hop on a web site and get a complete checklist of available figures, the fact is, that takes away some of the mystery and discovery that collecting used to have for me. Walking into a store and not knowing what they might have, finding something you never saw before, that’s a real high. Sure, you might not know if you have a complete set or not, but in a lot of ways, it kills the fun. If you know that set X has 6 figures and comes out on a certain date at a certain store, here’s the checklist, go get ‘em… where is the challenge? Like I’ve said before, credit card exercises aren’t really that exciting. Worst of all, at least in my mind, is the ability to pre-order an entire release long before it ever comes out. Just sit and wait for it to be delivered to you. No work, no challenge, no fun.
I guess the younger generation who grew up never knowing a world without the Internet just don’t understand. There are a lot of positives brought about by our interconnected world, but it also takes a lot of the mystery out of life. For those things, those were the good old days.