Thursday, 13 July 2017

Five Tales: Connections Created Through Expenditure.

- Leigh Gregurke

There is importance I find in the experience and process of purchasing toys as an adult. I am aware and have always I think been aware of a certain feeling of wonder. The potential and the prize associated with a search.

When I journey to the brightly lit, advertisement abundant and controlled tour experience of a department store I feel no whimsy for what I might find and have little hope of an unexpected discovery. Living in Australia for all its benefits of isolation also results in a separation from consistent distribution. Mainlines deliver in sputtering dribbles, often entire release waves are missed and many stores burnt by poor selling stock make cautious orders.  Living in a time of instant information enables communities however to share information on releases which seems a service to cherish but it oft results in collectors being able to pinpoint stock and plunder shelves leaving naught behind. The only surprise left for the intrepid hunter is a binary one, is it still on the shelf or not?

There exists still a shore of great potential where the wonders of surprise, excitement and passion can equally be met with confusion, indecision and regret. The community toy fair, the market stall, the boot fair, the garage sale and the charity shop are all at odd parallels to the controlled and illuminated palace of the department store but they are dig-sites of unlimited potential.

It is that range of emotions that searching through a bucket of assorted plastic and metal toys creates that makes the process so important to me. The feeling of being a wily bearded prospector hastily shaking a pan, a keen eye trained for that speck of reflective gold. An archaeologist who considers not only the object but its past. Why does it have this sticker applied? What could have caused this damage?  The cultural anthropologist drawing on knowledges of other cultures to identify a variation in printing and an origin of creation.

Like a prospector's investment run dry though, an excavation already scavenged and forgery identified however these wells can be sour. Each purchase has its own story. Through five different purchases I will now tell you five very different tales that cross the full hemisphere of reactions.

The "lost city of gold hidden in the deepest jungle" moment

Perhaps the best find is the one that immediately distills you to actionAt a recent toy-fair, I lined up early and I knew to try and move to the back of the room early and avoid the crowds. I perused over table after table of star wars, matchbox cars, die cast trains then I saw it perched among loosely bagged Lego.......the silhouette of Mega-Pretender Thunderwing as though conjured by Senior's ink itself on an altar of plastic coloured bricks. I knew immediately it wasn't the table of a Transformers aficionado, I inquired if it was complete.....I could see it looked rough but it did not waver my intent. "I think so" he says cautiously as he hands it to me. 

I sigh as it is just the outer shell but I am not swayed, he gives me a price and I accept immediately before the numbers fully leave his mouth. He can tell I am pleased....."I know they sell for a lot sometimes" he says with cautious words....."planning to sell it on?" he adds and I can sense disappointment in his voice. "Never, this is for me, a piece like this should be enjoyed" I rebut sounding to me like a liberator of art, a collector of fine pieces ready to add another artifact to the museum.

The " .... seduced by riches " moment

I like to set a budget, it helps keep me centered in the moment, helps me spread my purchases around so I don't go all in one opportunity.....except for the times I go all in in on one opportunity. I cannot help but feel that pull of the exclusive release even against my better judgement. There was a point where I never owned any Botcon releases and it never seemed likely to be, being so far removed from their source. 

Then a dealer who I struck a conversation with asked me if I wanted to see something a little special.....he flipped open his jacket to reveal a bagged item, mostly obscured. I picked up hints of green and grey. His eyes dart side to side, mine echo the motion.....Botcon 09 Banzai-Tron he tells me in a tone that makes it seem dangerous. I like Banzai-Tron. I like the Energon Mirage mold. Suddenly something inside me wants.....nay craves a Botcon release. The price is delivered in a manner that tells me it's not negotiable and almost as though he had an eye on my wallet, it was my entire budget. Money changed hands, a plastic satchel slides from his hand to mine and I move on. I sigh something that is a mix of excitement, regret and pure adrenaline.

The "there might be something better around the corner..." moment

Somewhat informed by the regrets of the previous experience there are times I am reluctant to pull the trigger.  Perhaps that lure of the feeling there must be something better turned my head. I saw it there, something I had always wanted, Transmetal 2 Megatron, boxed no less with a very acceptable price tag, the type the makes you nod to yourself in agreeance, not a bargain, not an extortion.

I picked it up and then I put it down. It was one of the first things I had looked at. At the second hand market "you never grab the first thing" I tell myself like some ancient mantra convinced there is a better bargain. I console myself saying that if its still there after I have done a lap of the market I will get it. I do the lap, the market is rubbish and of course someone else grabbed it. In a fit of disappointment I spend some money on some regret plastic. I feel dirty and guilty.


The " I don't precisely know what we have here " moment

I think it might be my favourite mix of emotions when you find something fascinating and engaging but you are not entirely sure what it is. Maybe its a variant, a knock-off, a lesser known line or sometimes just a gap in our knowledge. I didn't know a thing about Car Robots when I found an X-Brawn, it was in van mode and I purchased it. Got it home, turns out it was missing a whole arm, I actually spent a good twenty minutes not realizing it was missing and thinking I was doing it wrong.  Sometimes a lack of knowledge creates an instance of regret, luckily I didn't spend much but you hear stories of people spending big money on KO's and reissues unaware. That risk and reward element is just a little exciting.

I have picked many wonderful Machine Robo/Gobots/Select Convertors figures without knowing exceptionally much about them but found them all excellent and worthy of the follow up research and in turn a passion. Sometimes you get offered what you think is a KO and it turns out its an exclusive Euro/Australian release of Brainmaster Blacker as 'Gripper'.  I almost turned it down. 

The " human connection " moment

Perhaps my favourite finds are the ones that begin a new relationship between people. I don't mean the tense haggling or eye rolling at prices but those nice moments of connection where you share a memory. It was freezing cold (by Australian standards) as I walked down the isle of the trash and treasure market. Blankets spread out across tarmac in an old drive in, happy meal toys in buckets and bits of Bionicles in plastic bins line my path. Two middle aged men, scruffy looking, both smoking the last remnants of cigarettes to keep the cold at bay. A tarp littered with holes spreads out before them held down on its corners by four different alloy wheels that I really want to believe weren't hot goods.

I spy a maroon truck under an old patio chair partly obscured by a box of toothless angle grinder discs.

Without wanting to step through the field of old tools I try and catch a look at the truck and one of the men lifts the blanket covering his legs "you want that tape deck mate? five bucks". I know its silly but I feel a bit awkward as I sheepishly ask "Can I take a look at that truck?". He passes it over to me, the chrome has a little wear, two masked figures intact sit akimbo in the cab, the rubber wheels feel supple and stickers still cling mostly to its dusty surface. M.A.S.K. Rhino has always been a little grail for me. He tells me its been sitting in his shed for years, can't remember where he got it from but he stored an ash tray on the back like a trailer. He offers it to me for $2 and I look through my wallet, I offer him a tenner and tell him to keep the change. I share with him what it is, a little about the show and the line and while he doesn't recall it his face tells me that appreciates my knowledge and my passion regardless of how nerdy it seems in contrast to his sprawl of tools. I muse for a second privately on the nature of the stories of objects, the tape deck, the wheels, the toothless grinding wheels. We smile at each other as I walk off with Rhino under my arm, a shared understanding between us.

Go out and explore. Be Curious.

Until next time, keep it #Refined

Follow Leigh Gregurke @ambushthem

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