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The organisers of the Sydney Entertainment Collectables Fair, 2007, Michael and Amynta Ormsby of Movie Models, have seen this niche business become a mainstream industry over the past eight years. Movie memorabilia – like figurines of the Hobbits - is now an expensive addiction for many, and suppliers are happy to feed the habit, as Michael and Amynta report.

Where once there were a few Star Wars, perhaps a G.I. Joe or a Barbie doll collector, there are now thousands of people of all ages jumping into the diverse collectables market. Studios release collectable toys, action figures, electronic and computer games, as well as an endless supply of branded merchandise to coincide with the release of new movies. Deals are now struck with lead actors regarding merchandising agreements, which sometimes et greater financial returns than the contract price for their roles in the movie. Tom Cruise and his Mission Impossible franchise is a perfect example, whereby the merchandising and property rights to the movie were worth more than the extremely large wage he earned for his performance.

"rare or hard to get items"

Vast assortments and ‘waves’ of new items spread into the collectables market with rare or hard to get items increasing dramatically in value. Manufacturers and film licencees cash in on the insatiable urges of the new breed of collector, who feels they have to complete the full range of each assortment to maintain a complete collection. This often means a big financial and time commitment to their hobby.

This ‘Collector Lust’ of the modern collector is further fuelled by the speed of release of the collectable figures; miss one, and you may never catch up, or worse, will have to pay top dollar later to fill the gaps in your collection. However, it is not only quantity, but quality as the saying goes. As each new manufacturer competes for a greater share of the market, what were once considered collectable toys are now far from it.

Vintage figures, although initially produced for children, are now highly sought after by adults. The rarity of vintage figures is due in part to the lack of understanding that these first release figures would be worth anything in the future, as they were firmly thought of as child-only play things. By their very nature, items played with by children do not tend to remain intact, in good condition or in their original packaging. Those items which do remain in what has been termed “mint condition” are very valuable. While the value of vintage toys makes them desirable, the quality compared with those produced today doesn’t even come close.

Consider the stiff, upright, unmoveable examples from the first Star Wars movies in the 70s. A straight swivelling arm was the best one could expect of vintage figures, whereas the new plastics, materials and technologies have seen vast improvements in the manufacture of these toys. The full articulation of each joint allows for greater “poseability” of the figure, along with more realistic movement, which are marked improvements. In fact many manufacturers are now releasing figurines that could scarcely be distinguished from the real life characters they portray. Enhanced technology such as computer scanning of the actual actor, leads to incredibly detailed, life-like representations of the real thing. The work of such innovative companies as Weta, who are responsible for the amazing work on Lord of the Rings and who also produce a superior range of models for the collectable industry, are prime examples of the new standards set for this market.

For the most enthusiastic of collectors there are Limited Editions of many items in small quantities, which are generally individually numbered and often come with a special certificate. These small runs are produced and distributed worldwide – but sometimes it’s just 100 pieces. The investment value of such items is difficult to predict, however interest and desire for the item is guaranteed considering the many millions of collectors worldwide.

There is a prestige amongst collectors who maintain their collection and add exceptional pieces to it. Aiming higher in their urge to compile the most envied collection, individuals may begin adding to the toy items, life sized, movie-accurate replicas. Such an example is the life sized Terminator “Endoskeleton” which is about to hit the Australian market at around the same price as a small family car.

Despite the fact that one can now buy life sized replicas, which are precise and accurate copies of your favourite film character, there are of course those collectors who are still not satisfied. So where do you go from there? The real thing of course. For those who can afford it or are willing to forgo the family house and car to satisfy their collectors’ urge, there is also a thriving industry based on the original film props actually used in the movie. Expensive? Yes. Hard to come by? Most certainly.

"no shortage of buyers"

As Paramount Studios recently discovered, when auctioning off many of their Star Wars sets and movie props, there is no shortage of buyers willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars for an original piece of the set or model used in filming. A ‘real’ helmet or even better, the actual Captain’s chair from the Enterprise film set, are priceless items in the minds of collectors. But here one may find the absolute irony of the collectables industry. Some of our most prolific collectors of movie based action figures are people who work in the movie industry.

Be they actors, directors or special effects artists, many of these individuals will spare no expense in acquiring that one ‘special’ toy figure from the movie they worked on, even though they are surrounded by the ‘real thing’ at work. Famously, George Lucas produced an exclusive figure for a Comic/Toy convention in the U.S, of himself in a Stormtroopers outfit. When you removed the figure’s helmet, the true identity of the character was revealed, grey beard and all!

Collectors are often professional, intelligent and interesting people, who for a variety of reasons get a buzz out of the small, plastic, tangible representations of their favourite films, feelings and fondest memories from growing up.

Published May 10, 2007

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The Sydney Entertainment Collectables Fair
May 26, 2007
Sydney Town Hall

The Fair brings together a wide range of collectables from the vast realms of Movies, Music, TV, Pop Culture, Comics, Books, Games, Toys, Action Figures, Anime, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Star Wars, both new and vintage items.

Entry: $5 at the door; FREE for children under 10 accompanied by an adult ticket holder.

Novus Ordo, a costuming club who create and parade movie quality costumes, will be attending in fully detailed outfits.

More information www.collectablesfair.com.au

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