I was in KB Toys last week looking for Rocky III figures (an entire peg of Thunderlips, but still no Clubber Lang). As I rifled, a guy who was in the aisle when I got there sidled up and asked if I collect action figures. I admitted as much and he said, pointing to the pegs near the Rockys...
"What're the hot wrestling figures right now?"
Right then I knew, we were in the hobby for different reasons.
I explained the volume of figures Jakks Pacific pumps out precludes any one figure being "hot" or "rare" for very long. He nodded and asked what I collect.
Now, I should tell you I'm someone who absolutely hates running into someone I know while I'm out, so you can imagine how I felt about a stranger asking me about one of my most personal habits. I told the guy I didn't concentrate on one line especially and just collected what I like, which is essentially true. He said (with no small measure of disdain) that he didn't collect wrestling figures ("I never got into it"), rather he was a Marvel and DC guy. As evidence, he produced the two figures he'd carried since we met, both of them the Spider-Man Origins Iron Spider, which I had never seen in person (or, in figure) until that point.
I thought at once about asking him if I could have one of the Iron Spiders, just to see what he'd say. I didn't think he'd give me one, but then I didn't actually want one, so it would have been a pointless exercise. While I mulled collector sociology, he asked if I had anything I was looking to trade. I don't.
We parted company; I think he may have detected my discomfort. He went to one end of the aisle while I confirmed that, no, there were no Clubber Langs to be had. I then spotted a few pegs of Ben 10 4" Alien Collection figures, which I'd not known KB Toys to stock in the past. I rifled the good rifle and, sure enough, came across the two newest figures in the line*, Wildvine and Upchuck.
Now pleased this was not a wasted trip, I was about to go when my new friend approached me again with a Marvel Legends figure in hand.
"You know who I'm looking for? War Machine?"
Since I didn't know if that was a query about the inventory of KB Toys or of my house, I lamented War Machine's age and unlikelihood to still be on any pegs. I directed the guy to ebay and looked to make my escape.
"You know who I really want?" He turned the Legends figure over. "This guy. The Destroyer."
I must admit, I got a perverse joy from telling him I saw The Destroyer exactly once in a store...and passed on him. That's absolutely true, but I knew by then the guy would be aghast, and he was.
"What? That's like $100 on ebay."
"Eh," I said. "I didn't want it."
"But, for $8.99 you could have..."
"Yeah, I know."
I thanked him for the chat and excused myself to the register with my Ben 10s.
There was a bit more to my talk with the guy, he wanted to know if I'd been to NYCC and seen the upcoming Pitt figure for example, but the point of telling you this story was to illustrate how two people can derive such opposite kinds of pleasure from the same hobby. I won't go so far as to call the guy a scalper because I don't actually know him, but he did use certain buzz words and had certain reactions with which I think we're all familiar.
More than anything though, I felt almost like I'd entered a wormhole in that KB aisle with me on the 2007 end and the guy on the 1997 end. It's been a long time since I've seen abject prospecting in the aisles and, while I'm sure it still goes on, it was weird to still see a guy my age doing what I thought was a waste when it was in its heyday ten years ago.
I don't mean to belittle the guy, he seemed nice, but I believe with every fiber in my nerd's soul I will enjoy Wildvine and Upchuck far more, and for far longer, than he will his two Iron Spiders, at least one of which is almost certainly no longer in his possession as I type this.
Collecting is an interesting social underbelly, dunya think?
*I know Benwolf, Kevin 11, and SixSix have been released, but this story takes place last week. Suspend disbelief, you jaded fanboy! -JJJ