Obsessive Compulsion.
March 23, 2011

One of the best things about no longer being a serious collector of anything these days, is that I don’t often get hung up about being a completist. This is a double-edged sword, however, because the money saved on “collecting them all” can now be put towards those white whales of plastic that have haunted me for decades. You know what I speak of. Those pieces you’d missed out on as a youth, or read about as a teen, or have vague memories of seeing somewhere as an adult. They don’t necessarily add to whatever subjects you happen to collect, and some you might even be sheepish about admitting you lust after. And they all seem to be in the realm of ‘pricey’. They’re out there, they exist, and they’re just waiting for you to finally bring them home to fondle. For me, there is one particularly bizarre case in point: the legendary Doctor Who Tardis Tuner.

 


          When I first discovered there was a monthly magazine devoted to Doctor Who called, fittingly enough, ‘Doctor Who Monthly’, I scooped up as many back issues as I could immediately. Being 11, this wasn’t always easy. I found an ad in the back of Starlog magazine for a cool mail order service in the UK, and they became my information and merchandise dealer for a couple of years. The really wild thing was, you’d get a 40% discount if you sent US cash (!!!), which I did, taping coins onto index cards and folding bills into smaller envelopes, to ship away to Blighty and get goodies in the mail around 5-6 weeks later. Not long after I found these folks, I discovered that the magazine used to be called ‘Doctor Who Weekly’, so naturally, I had to snatch up those issues as well. On the inside back cover of issue #1 was a horribly drawn comic strip ad for the Tardis Tuner. It appeared to be an AM radio, but it promised to do all sorts of interstellar things, and I HAD to have it.  I should also make clear that in 1981 in the US, besides the Pinnacle Doctor Who paperbacks, trying to find merchandise for the series was like looking for Hoffa’s Teamster ring. I’d already convinced myself I’d never see toys from the show, but this thing, this thing was close. But how to get it? Turns out, it didn’t matter. After a closer look, it seemed that the ad was from 1979, and it was a mail away item, so they were long gone. Besides, they were 20 UK pounds in 1979, which I still find insane, so I wouldn’t have been able to afford one.  Well, thanks to the internet and the collector friendships that spring forth from it, 30 years later, I am the proud owner of the Doctor Who Tardis Tuner.

 

 

          (That’s not mine, just a shot off the internet). Isn’t it great? Don’t you all want one in your homes? Nevermind, don’t answer that. The point is, I finally have it, that silly bit of merch I saw in the magazine all those years ago is finally mine. And, truthfully, it is completely ridiculous. Yes, it’s an AM radio, but those “Morse Warp” and “Laser Bleep” sounds should only be used to bring abuse to neighborhood dogs. It is far and away one of the silliest items ever made in the name of Who. And I absolutely love it.  And that’s all that matters, right? If we’re talking only of obsessing, not about items we know are all kinds of awesome that everybody wants.  So it got me thinking about all those other bits of tat floating around this planet that I need to get my paws on before I die. Some are clearly more beautiful specimens than others. But let’s not judge too harshly, because to me, they’re all Perfect 10’s.

 

 

THE PRISONER MINI MOKE by DINKY

 

 

 

          The Prisoner is kind of THE definition of a cult TV series. Only one season was made (technically two, with the second batch of four episodes), but it has a large devoted following. I’m not even a huge fan myself, but I like it enough to keep dipping into it every few years. I recently picked up the Blu Ray set of DVDs, and am coming to terms again with what a great show it is. Merchandise is very scarce, but I’m kind of fascinated that Dinky chose to make a die cast of the little car that residents tooled around The Village in. Since the series had such a limited run, and wasn’t exactly ‘toy friendly’, I wonder what the thinking was behind this little piece. Popular as Patrick McGoohan’s previous series Danger Man was, it didn’t spawn any merchandise, and as such things need to be planned in advance for show/retail shelf life, someone at Dinky took a chance and put this beauty in motion. I’ve never even see one in person, but I know that a mint, boxed piece could set you back over $300.00, easily.

 

 

DIE CAST KING KONG by ARK

 

 

 

          This metal monkey and his cohorts have haunted me since the late 70’s, when I received the Baltan figure from this set for my birthday. That toy got more love than almost any of my childhood, and as I got older, I began to scour ads in the Toy Shop monthly (anybody out there remember it?) looking for them but never had any luck. Then one day I found Kong, but it was in different, English language packaging. I snagged it, and had it for a few years before I sold it along with loads of other stuff when I moved out to LA. And I’ve been kicking myself since, because none of them seem to pop up often, and when they do, none are under $150.00. They’re all a little insane with their design and accessories (and sheer amount of metal!), but Kong is especially crazy, as he comes with a glider plane that shoots out of his chest! Need. That. Ape.

 

 

THE AVENGERS JOHN STEED BOWLER HAT by LONE STAR

 

          Another series that was shortchanged in the collectible department was The Avengers. There was little made during its life time, and even less has been made since it’s first airing. I’m lucky enough to have what is considered to be one of the prize pieces, the John Steed Sword Stick, made by Lone Star in 1966. You don’t see many these days, and when you do, they go for exorbitant sums of money. Released around the same time, was the John Steed Bowler Hat, you know, for the debonair child in the house. Now this, I’ve never even seen a picture of. I have photocopies of some old Lone Star catalogs circa 1966-69, and there is a drawing of it next to the Sword Stick, but that’s about as close to a visual as I’ve ever found. I’d imagine that those little hats must have been pretty fragile when they were released, even more so when put on children’s heads, so finding a healthy example may be the proverbial needle in the haystack. But I won’t stop looking!

 

 

 

 

BUCK ROGERS /TWIKI and CAPTAIN KREMMEN FIGURES by BENDY

 

          While I have a fondness for Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and have the odd, rare piece in my collection, I am not particularly a fan of the series, and find it really hard to get through. But when I was 10, I loved it! And on my first trip to the UK, while visiting Hamley’s Toy Store, I came across these giant bendy figures of Buck and Twiki. They seemed to be made of a foam rather than hard rubber, with Buck’s head a hard plastic. I don’t for the life of me know WHY I didn’t beg my mom for the set while we were there, but I didn’t, and outside of seeing a tiny picture of them in the back of that epic ‘It’s a Small World’ catalog back in 1990, have never come across them since that trip. Even more intriguing, I would swear on my life that right next to Buck on that shelf at Hamley’s was a similar bendy in the form of Captain Kremmen, the animated character from Kenny Everett’s Video Show. I was semi-obsessed with that show, so it’s even more frustrating that I didn’t pick that one up way back when. And it gets worse: I can’t seem to find photographic or printed evidence that a toy Kremmen even existed. Could it be I saw something else and the ravages of time have led my brain on this goose chase for a phantom toy? I must know! Anyone?

 

 

JAMES BOND LOTUS ESPRIT DIE CAST by EIDAI GRIP

 

          The Holy Grail, the Maltese Falcon, the Mona Lisa of James Bond collectibles. Corgi had been doing Bond die casts for over a decade at this point, but leave it to the Japanese to pull out all the stops. I first found out about this beauty back in 1990 or so, in an issue of ‘James Bond Collector’ magazine. According to the article, this was about the time most of the world found out about it too. Back in those pre internet and Google days, publications like ‘JBC’ were major resources for the collector, when a hunter in Japan could unearth such an item and make cover story news. Obviously, these days collecting is a much more thorough activity, a few finger strokes confirming the existence of such treasures in a matter of seconds, and hypothetically delivering said items to your doorstep in a matter of days. What makes the Grip Lotus so amazing? Well, it’s frustrating in a way, because it has all kinds of stickers on it which take away from its authenticity. But in the other departments, it puts Corgi’s efforts to shame: the doors open, missiles shoot out from a pop up panel on the hood, the periscope slides up and down, the back hatch opens, and best of all, the wheels fold inward for submersible mode. Oh, and did I mention it has cool pics from The Spy Who Loved Me all over the box too? It’s incredibly rare, even in the Japanese market, and there’s one that’s been living on ebay for months now, with an asking price of around a grand. Something tells me this one may never find it’s way into my home…

 

          There is more than that, to be sure, like the full set of Denys Fisher Doctor Who toys, those completely mental Indiana Jones action figures and accessories by Star Toys of Spain, and another item I may have imagined since I can find no proof of life for it whatsoever, a Magnum P.I. Detective Set, complete with gun, holster and Magnum’s ring. ( I mean, why? I don’t even own a single episode of the series!). But the above list has kept my detective skills busy for over twenty years, and I’m pacing myself. With so much out there and most of it so easy to obtain, it’s good to have some goodies that remain out of reach. There’s no denying the large dose of pleasure you get from finally getting a long sought after toy under your roof, but sometimes the hunt is more satisfying than the capture. Oh, and it’s also much easier on the bank account. What about the rest of you, any long time obsessions that need to be acquired?

 

 

 

Jason "Plastic Soul" Lenzi
A successful television producer and voice-over artist, pop culture fanatic Jason Lenzi established Bif Bang Pow! in 2005, channeling his boundless enthusiasm as a fan and collector into the creation of the company’s highly-desired toy lines. His enthusiasm has proven contagious, earning BBP! unanimous praise from the toy community and leading to creative partnerships with the likes of comics giant Alex Ross and rock icon Scott Ian. BBP! has so far released action figures and bobble heads for 'Flash Gordon', 'The Big Lebowski', 'The Twilight Zone', 'Dexter', 'LOST', HBO's 'Eastbound and Down' and 'The Venture Brothers'. When he's not chasing down new licenses, producing and narrating various TV series, or reading every music magazine on the shelves, he's obsessively playing Beatles: Rock Band until he gets every song right.
Read other articles by Jason "Plastic Soul" Lenzi.

 

 

 

20 Comments »

  • demoncat says:

    my toy obsessions that i still have never gotten to fullfill is one aquiring not only the original kenner death star playset but also the little 3’4 inch buck roger set of mego figures buck and Twikie mostly Twikie. since given the price for mego they are still out of my reach. death star come close a few times only to fall short.

  • Andrew says:

    I hear you. I did the same thing with the “Robotech” laser pistol that evolves into a full on rifle that was molded after the laser blaster from the 1980′s series “V”. I saw it ONCE as a kid at a store locally here in Massachusetts, but either the price was out of range or my mom didn’t want me to have a firing toy gun. Whatever the case I’m now the proud owner of that and many other lost treasures of the past thanks to eBay and conventions that I’ve setup at. My gun is missing the cool viewing scope, but if I hold onto the set long enough that, too, might end up on eBay.

  • Jeremy SpyMagician says:

    Great blog as always Jason!

    I know that KONG! I had the Gomora and Redking from that series as a kid, and over the years all that survived were some random parts, in particular Gomora’s Head.

    Well, I’m poking around on eBay once day and I find an Ark Gomora in box basically complete except… wait for it, the HEAD!

    Now the thing is I knew I had that head but it was lost somewhere in storage… Anyway I snipe the auction and win it for like $60 or something, much less than a boxed complete one is worth.

    So then I had to find the head! I go into storage and the first box of random bits and crap I go through has that very missing Gomora head!!!

    Definitely some crazy toy Karma there!

    I know what you mean about re-capturing toys you had or always wanted as a kid (one of the reason’s I own a carded and loose Filmation’s Ghostbusters Tracy… lol.)

    Spy

  • Tom2814 says:

    Great blog! I thoroughly enjoyed it. My white whale has been Ideal’s Robot Commando from the early 1960′s. You rarely find one complete –shoulder parts and missiles and such go missing over the decades — and you rarely find one that works, even if it’s in good shape with fresh batteries. Even the dinged up ones go for over $300. I loved that toy when I was a kid (yes, I’m that old) and would dearly love to have one again. You can still see the ad that got me drooling for it when I was eight on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_awi5nS7w8Y

  • Jakethy says:

    Really great post! We love Dr Who and the Prisoner, but had never heard of those first two items for some reason. What’s weird is that just last night, we were watching the Seeds of Doom and in the extras, they discuss the history of Dr Who Weekly and I can appreciate those books, as well as your anecdote, a lot better now. Yeah, being a Who fan in the states in the late 70s and early 80s was rough. Fortunately, my family vacationed in the UK 3 different summers, so I’d come back with arm-fulls of publications.
    You’ve inspired my tiny plastic co-writers and I to find our own white whale now.

    • Thanks Jake! Dig your site, too. And glad you’re familiar with my early 80′s pain from lack of Who merchandise. That’s just part of the inspiration for us getting the license this year, to try and finally give us what we needed way back in the day!

  • Brad Rader says:

    Great Article! This is the kind of thing I love to read. Being a child of the 80′s (I’m almost 35), most of my favorite toys were from my youth are Transformers and the like, but a lot of my friends all had older brothers who had rooms full of great 70′s toys. How I long to own so many of those gems. There are a couple of Big Jim toys I’d punch a grizzly bear for.

    • Thank you, Brad. I actually had a couple of those Big Jim ‘James Bond 007′ toys a long time ago, from Mexico I think. All of those lines were great, if you head over to the Plaid Stallions site there’s a truckload of classic catalog images of Jim and his pals.

  • George says:

    1. Pigskin 621 AD Arcade game. I have the Sega version, but want the real thing. I saw one a couple months ago become available. But it just wasn’t the right time for me. But at least I know it is out there.

    2. Shockwave. The one Transformer (purple version opposed to gray Radio Shack version) I want. I want a perfect one, no cracks, working electronics. I’ve seen more pop up on eBay, so I’ll get one sooner than later.

  • Chris says:

    You jogged my memory, Started me thinking, It does exist.
    Here ya go-

    http://www.vectis.co.uk/Page/ViewLot.aspx?LotId=277264&Section=0&Start=360

    Sold now unfortunately, but they DO exist.

    I feel your pain mate, there are anumber of things I’ve yet to find.

    • Holy s–t Chris!! You just solved a 30 year old mystery, and what’s more, got evidence when I couldn’t. Well done, sir, and I am forever in your debt. That is LITERALLY the first time I have laid eyes on the Captain since that day at Hamley’s all those years ago. Amazing that I still had an image up there somewhere. You’ve also proven that I didn’t make it up! Thanks so much, I have GOT to get a hold of that. I’m curious though, what are some of the pieces you’re on the look out for?

  • Chris says:

    I have what you could call an Eidetic memory when it comes to toys. I remembered the Kremmen figure well from my childhood, and saw that auction a while ago, it’s near me you see.
    I know what it’s like to have seen things and search for them for years and years!!
    My want’s-Full set, Ideal Star team, boxed. My mum bought the Knight of darkness for me as a kid, thinking it was darth vader!, but I loved it, same as that, AHI Dracula I ‘had’ ugly little poorly made thing but got me through a very boring holiday.
    I have always wanted the Larami Martian chronicles figures. That show creeped me out as a kid.
    Thankfully I have recouped most of what I had as a kid, Except the above. My Holy grail, ‘when I win the lottery’ is the full set of the Denys fisher Cyborg Muton Andriod figures and subforms, ships etc.
    I had all the figures, subforms and weapons, no ships though. But my Mum junked them. I now tease her with how much there worth!
    Good luck on your quest!

  • The “It’s a small world” catalog you mentioned absolutely blew my mind when it first came out. It was like a catalog of things you didn’t knew existed but now could not live without. I spent the last twenty years working on some of that stuff so I can totally relate.

  • gl666 says:

    Good article! A few years ago I decided I had to have some Major Matt Mason stuff since it was my favorite growing up. I spent about $175 on ebay, and it brought back such great memories just holding MMM.

  • Danny Cantina-Dan says:

    GREAT blog, Jason. Love when I’m made aware of obscure toys and pop culture paraphernalia I had no idea about. And, man, you are the king of obscure pop culture, lol! Very true about the hunt being more satisfying than the capture. Not sure what’s so “insane” about a King Kong who has blue, knife-thrusting nipples.
    There are a few things on my “long time obsession” list. Nothing quite so rare, however. I had a couple of the Godzilla Gang (Mattel/Popy) members as a kid and I’d really like to get a complete set someday. Also, one of the first figures I remember my older brother having was the MEGO CAH Hulk (bent legs). I’ve been watching eBay for a couple years and, surprisingly, that sucker never comes up. There’s a carded one for over 500 bucks that just sits there indefinitely, but that’s it.

  • Andrew Boyd says:

    Just read up about Capt Kremmen whilst on holiday in Spain my parents did in fact buy a bendy capt Kremmen second hand no box but in not too bad condition couple of cracks got it at a flea market off an english couple who had moved out there so yes you did see it it cost my dad £5 that was 12 years ago and have never seen 1 again any were.Tried to price it buy no luck any ideas?? Andy Boyd Liverpool uk

  • [...] year Jason wrote a blog talking about how he had be searching for a bendy figure he saw as a child, 20+ years ago, while visiting the England with his family.  Last week an AFi [...]

  • Phill says:

    I have a bendy captain kremmen!

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