Here's the Thing
A shelfie of several of Rob's colorful transforming toys.

Growing Pains

This column is a reprint from Unwinnable Monthly #171. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.

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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.

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Buckle up folks, because this is another one about toys.

One of my proudest accomplishments when it comes to my transforming toy collection comes from my unwillingness to set what my collection is or what I want it to be in stone from the very beginning. I get wanting to have an entire Transformers season cast represented in one place with a somewhat cohesive aesthetic and generally accurate scale. I understand why someone may feel the need to collect all of the versions of a specific mold or get ahold of every single toy for a specific character that has ever been released. But my approach has always been more fluid and flexible than that – with foci and interests changing and refining on . . . well not exactly a whim, but things in my head often change quickly and with little notice. Here’s the thing, though: As freeing as it is to not limit myself to one particular angle at any given time, it does sometimes make transitional periods a fucking nightmare.

It was simple when I first got back into this whole thing. Sometimes it was because of the nostalgia from owning the same figure when I was younger or having an attachment to the character, and sometimes I just thought it looked neat. I had a couple of empty shelves on a bookcase behind my desk so plenty of room to experiment. And then I did more digging into the things I’d missed over the years, and new stuff wouldn’t stop coming out (still hasn’t). Suddenly those couple of shelves weren’t enough. Eventually the entire bookcase wasn’t enough, either.

Expansion was possible for a while thanks to some reorganizing, furniture replacement and an extremely patient and understanding spouse, but the collection hasn’t had any physical room to grow for a couple of years at this point. Which isn’t a huge problem as I’ve long since gotten used to the idea of the gigantic mass of plastic being semi-transient (i.e. I regularly sell things I’ve lost enthusiasm for to make more room . . . and money), but the occasional paradigm shift does cause some friction.

A magnificent specimen of a transforming toy, a true mechanical behemoth that towers over its punier brethren (some of which are displayed at its feet!).

My most recent headache comes from finding out about more Korean toy lines that exist or have expanded, with a whole lot more tempting figures floating around out there. This is a problem because these kinds of toys are not small. In fact, the smallest one I currently own is larger than most regular Transformers toys that don’t dip into the collector-oriented “Commander” or “Titan” price points. Everything was fine when I thought I was content with the Korean side of the collection staying as-is but now I have to account for at least a little bit of additional growth on a bookshelf that’s currently being shared with several miscellaneous (and large) non-Transformers toys.

I can’t simply move those miscellaneous figures, either, because my collection is displayed in a particular order: Transformers starting from the left (with a lot of sub-categorizations I won’t get into), leading into Power Rangers and Super Sentai, misc. stuff, and finally Korean bots on the left. Moving any of those other non-Transformers figures elsewhere (except maybe before the Transformers start, like a bookend?) would completely throw off the flow. But I need to move them because I literally don’t have the space for the two – yes, only two – new Korean figures that came in last week.

I recently went so far as to completely pull down every single figure from the display shelves in an attempt to figure out a way to completely restructure everything, only to end up deciding that my current setup is the one that satisfies me the most and put everything back where it was. A good waste of 3+ hours. Okay, maybe it wasn’t a total waste because I was able to clear out one shelf but it’s just not enough to be helpful thanks to the sheer size of the bots I have at the extreme ends of my displays. An 18-inch-tall combiner isn’t going to fit on a roughly 11-inch non-adjustable shelf.

The worst part is I’ve done this dance before and I know that even when I inevitably figure something out, I won’t ever be completely finished. Something will change, whether it’s my financial situation, our living arrangements, or my mind. Then I’ll have to pull back and reassess, probably waste several more hours accomplishing nothing, and eventually start making sacrifices I don’t actually want to make just so the new stuff can fit in a place that makes sense.

Ultimately, I know this is all in my head and I can just “decide” to do things differently whenever I want, but can I really? It took me literal years to hone my collecting habits down to something I’m really satisfied with and my current organization scheme makes my brain very happy. Every time I consider making surgical cuts to the lineup (like maybe “get rid of all the Blurr figures” or “cut down the number of Megatrons so they all fit on one shelf”) I always talk myself out of it because it would mean giving up a particular figure I really like and know I would regret losing. I don’t want to throw away all this work and get rid of things that make me happy, but I’m also not content to let things sit completely stagnant. For now, at least, all I can do is roll with it.

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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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