| D Destiny |
STEPPING into the room, or rather his man cave as he would call it, it was like stepping into the world of Pixar’s Toy Story, which Leng An, an avid toy collector, has built up with his massive collections of toys and collectibles that are all proudly displayed. The Bulletin has had the opportunity to conduct an interview with An to explore into the endless wonders of the toy universe, and understand what it meant to live life as a toy collector.
When toy collectors refer to and discuss their favourite pieces, we suspect that in most cases the conversation revolves around limited editions, out-of-production and rarity; occasionally, the debate may even revert to nostalgic values, highlighting the many childhoods of the past. The community seems so focused on finding the next best thing that they eventually forgot about the first piece which started the hobby passion, An said, before adding, “I want to enjoy the hunt for new figures, but also the ones that have been collecting dust on my shelf. To me, there are no favourite, they are all my love child.”
Why does one collect toys? Every collector have their own reasons, “I could have very easily started collecting stamps, no offence to the stamp collectors out there, but would you feel a strong connection with a stamp, in the same way you would with a toy? Especially for some, with those from their childhood. Probably not,” he commented. “Besides the connection, my reason is simple – toys are 3-D works of art. I have always enjoyed the many visual arts and I grew up reading comics, so when a comic book hero becomes a 3-D rendition that you can actually hold in your hand and scrutinise from every angle, it becomes a must-have for me, and this is exactly how I started, with the character ‘Violator’ as my first piece from the Spawn comic series to my hundreds of toy collection.”
Interestingly, An shared that he has unofficial names for the different types of collectors: Passion, value, trend and blind collectors.
First off, one would have easily guessed An is a passion collector himself, but he clarified that he is not saying the rest are of without passion but that this group is more into the actual toy itself rather than any other factors contributing to it. Simply put, a passion collector will, after buying, removes its packaging, poses the figure, displays it and takes photo. They usually take pride in their collection, and know a lot about each and every toy of theirs, and then from time to time, they will also change the position and poses of their display.
Value collectors, on the other hand, also know a lot about what they are buying. The only difference is that they enjoy more about the rarity and aim for limited editions. They do not sell their purchases but they often do not remove the box or packaging of the toys in fear of deflating the value. Their main joy comes from owning a piece and then constantly check its worth in the market, usually through eBay, once inflated, they will be proud to highlight the current market price to their peers.
Meanwhile, trend collectors as the name suggested, follow the trend of the latest, hottest stuff in the market. These trend collectors will be hunting for the current ‘big thing’ until maybe the next major turn. Sometimes, they have just for the sake of having it. Blind collectors are more towards collecting something just because they think it looks nice or maybe because others have it so he or she wants to have it to. They do not stick to a particular line nor do they have any idea about their collection.
The primary toyline An collects is the McFarlane’s series; Spawns and dragons, designed specifically for collectors. Like he stressed earlier about 3-D quality artwork, this series clearly justifies his obsession with its fine details and sculpting, not to mention the perfect paint job. Another major collection of his is the SD Gundam series. These are the BB (mini) figures of the popular Japanese robots, which require assembly and self painting, which is a favourite pastime of An.
“The fun is in the process,” said An when asked about the main satisfaction from collecting toys. “See, the displaying, while nice, is secondary to the collecting – or to paraphrase, ‘It is not the having, it is the getting.’ I think it is the actual chase of finding ‘that’ piece. Finding a figure you want in a toy shop, or getting that package you ordered from overseas, then ripping it open to get the figure inside, checking out the accessories and getting a whiff of that new toy smell, that is pretty sublime! Once I decide that I like a specific toy, I tend to go a bit obsessive until I find them. If I am not going to open the box the moment I have my hands on it, it probably means it is not worth having,” he said. “Come to think of it, toy collectors wouldn’t do it if it weren’t enjoyable on some level, and it is. Despite, the aggravation, the cost and others, getting a new toy is still a sweet hit of nerdiness and joy.”
Although An insisted on sharing equal love for all his collection, we managed to press on and asked for what he would consider to be the most prized possession if he must pick one. “If I must, then I definitely will pick not just one particular figure, but a section, that is the McFarlane’s Dragon series. I basically have all of the dragons – some on display and some still in packaging, because of the lack of space to put up on the display case. Along with the limited editions, I have all but one to complete my entire series. It has been out of stock for quite some time and also hardly available in the market anymore. Having said that, my nephew actually owns it, and he lives just next door to me, you can imagine how I itch to buy it from him, and I am still trying,” shared An, laughing at his own ‘demise’.
He added that he gets a ‘kick’ out of seeing the expression of envy on the faces of people who pay him a visit.