Here's the Thing

Collecting Sucks and is Awesome

This column is a reprint from Unwinnable Monthly #167. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.


Here’s the Thing is where Rob dumps his random thoughts and strong opinions on all manner of nerdy subjects – from videogames and movies to board games and toys.


I’ve been back into collecting Transformers toys (both official and not so much) for roughly eight years at this point (after a decade+ long hiatus) and wow does this stuff get out of hand fast. What initially began as a brief appreciation post of one of my only remaining figures I’d held onto over the years grew into a small handful of toys that I could fit on a shelf within a month or two. Now the whole thing takes up four full bookcases, and I’ve bounced between so many different display themes and foci it’s tough to remember them all. Here’s the thing: While my collection (and the process of collecting) does still bring me joy, it also sometimes brings pain.

Right now, the collection has been honed to perfection (based on what I specifically want to get out of it), with entire shelves devoted to multiple renditions of the same character – and organized with figure height and color schemes in mind. It took what felt like ages to get here, and every time I look at my array of Dinobots (including a multitude of Grimlocks, because of course) or both of the Nemesis Prime shelves (we’re up to 23 at this point) I feel a combination of pride and happiness.

Thunderhoof the Decepticon transformed from his tractor form into a robot stag.

Problem is, when I look at the collection as a whole it can also start to feel oppressive and overwhelming. There are literally too many figures for me to appreciate them all on an individual level at any one time. To the point where I’ve thought about selling off the ones for characters I don’t have multiple representations of, but when I go back down to the macro level I remember why I haven’t gotten rid of them yet. This one is wonderful and one of my many favorites. This other one is fantastic and how often do we get Decepticons that turn into farming equipment – let alone are also an anthropomorphic deer mob boss?

Acquiring and saying goodbye to figures also has its ups and downs. Most of the time it’s a thrill to get a new one in the mail or (on very rare occasions because distribution in our area is legit garbage) bring one home from the store. And it’s often satisfying to finally sell off figures I’ve lost interest in or have a pretty hefty aftermarket value. Then there are the bittersweet moments like opening a brand-new figure for the first time and immediately feeling like I wasted my money. Or having something go through so much nonsense with shipping that the frustration of actually getting it in the first place has soured my overall impressions. And, of course, selling this shit can be a huge pain in the ass. So many lowball offers. So many fussy buyers. So many listings that just won’t sell, even with ridiculously low pricing.

It also doesn’t help that I’ve spent so many years refining my collection’s focus, because now it’s significantly more difficult to decide what I’m willing to part with. And, wow, does it get even tougher when I have to make some of those sacrifices because of bills. There have been quite a few re-acquisitions over the years, to be sure. Even the shelves themselves have become a source of stress at times, because while I may have everything where I want it right now, I also know more stuff will inevitably come in – then I’ll have to reshuffle everything again. Sure, there’s a certain satisfaction and even Zen in reorganizing my display, but when space and shelf dimensions are limited, it can also make me feel like giving up. Like it’s all too much and it was a mistake to start doing this again in the first place.

I don’t really have any words of wisdom or tips or anything like that for fellow collectors (of Transformers or otherwise). As the title says I both love and hate doing this. It just depends on the day and my mood, really. All I can say is if you’re dealing with similar feelings, you’re not alone. And maybe we can all try to agree that we should throttle back a little bit to give ourselves (and our bank accounts) time to recover.


Rob Rich is a guy who’s loved nerdy stuff since the 80s, from videogames to anime to Godzilla to Power Rangers toys to Transformers, and has had the good fortune of being able to write about them all. He’s also editor for the Games section of Exploits! You can still find him on Twitter, Instagram and Mastodon.


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