[CLICK THRU TO READ TRE-JOURNAL]
Years ago, I had stumbled and started down the poisoned-path-of-vinyl by my lonesome. If memory serves me right, it begun with the discovery of a Michael Lau Crazy Children figure at a skate-shop (It was "Fatback"). I remembered vaguely wandering around by myself, with no one to bounce off of my indignation about the existence of a glob-of-hardened-"plastic"-toy with a $60-price tag. Literal months later, after randomly researching for toys (ie: Ebay-thrawling) I had then rediscovered Lau and promptly devoured whatever I could afford then. And still, I had gone on into it by myself, as I did not have any peers to share the experience with. I would discount my email-chats with ebayer-sellers are purely research and marketing, rather than sharing a hobby (I'm less trusting that way :p).
During that time, my primary focus was on the 1/6th-scale hobby. And I had no shortage of peers and fellow collectors for that genre! We met on a weekly basis at our fav little hole-in-the-wall shop in Orchard, where over twenty grown-ass-men would cramp into a shop to haggle over stripped loose parts from boxed figures.
We would trade and/or sell each other parts as well, sometimes even hanging around the emergency stairwell of the building (next to the random person peddling pirated DVDs and porn *cough*). Some Fridays we would even meet for dinner or supper. And we had our annual get-togethers (photos exist but am not too sure if all the lads might take to having me post them on this blog tho :p), and even
[Nothing can go wrong with booze and toys... but then again ...heh]
The feeling of "community" was stronger then. Sure, you were buying for yourself, but you had fellow collectors to chat/discuss/share with about 1/6th (others might argue "Boys-Nite-Out" but I beg to differ :p) from customizing-tips, to kitbash breakdowns, to sharing the "luvre" of sales opportunities.
Even when each disagreed with one another, it was still a vibrant and eclectic collection of hobbyists - from all walks of life - who sometimes took over a coffeeshop, just to sit down for a drink, a snack, and to take out our figures to share with each other, and to take pictures. I even had the opportunity to be involved in a group-shoot - where the theme was military-Desert - during the era of Ridley Scotts "Black Hawk Down" (nobody brought a Black Hawk, but we had loads of vehicles! LOL).
[Don't judge me by my micromanshorts, please - fhanks]
A community fuels a hobby, in many respects, IMHO. Be it a shared strength in numbers (which dissolves the fear of ridicule of playing with man-dollies), or even peer-pressure buying - good or bad, I have had my fair share of grabbing stuff I didn't need - but at the heat of the moment, it was a fabulous group activity to be a part of! Sheep? Hell yeah, we have a whole bloody-gaggle/flock/herd, innit? LOL
And of course, the above-mentioned sharing of information is also a key to a community. Which helps enrich and aid the personal effort of toy-hunting, IMHO. Remembering having to research online for Michael Lau and designer-vinyls earlier, and to fumbling thru ignorant purchasing decisions - to having a group of fellow-hobbyists for feedback and info - does reduce the amount of "pain" and perhaps even wonton-expenditure ... as opposed to the herd-mentality of purchasing, of course (which entails even more wontonly-expenses
I recognize tis about self-control - specifically as an individual collector (and I am not lamenting over-buying :p), with individual decisions made within the context of enjoying the time spent with fellow hobbyists without having the pressure to conform with the majority (although group-buys gets better chances of discounts, so tis win-win for "the Herd"). For the retailer, of course it would be good to have a group of regulars (pressure for discounts aside, of coz :p). And the experience of it all, at the end of the hobby-day, is a shared one. Toy-War-stories to be endlessly regaled at gatherings (Gawds but I sound like that "Uncle" at Christmas, innit? *yikes*). And when you open up your loot at the end of the day, alone at home - you have your memories of your time spent in the company of friends, to add to the sweet score you have, IMHO.
[I collected less military and more streetwear, but after being in a predominant Military-collector
group, I eventually relented and veered off somewhat - BUT never gone hardcore LOL]
One thing to note, most of "us" actually convened thru a local hobby-forum (The 1/6th-Singsters forum), and/or even sustained interest via that forum, when some folks had not managed to meet-up that weekend or specific activity. A forum is as important a platform to sustain "community", but personally for me - tis the actual face-to-face which is as, if not more enriching. And in many cases might (or in some cases, might not) resolve whatever had been said on the forum in the first place. We "get" who each other is, and the forum could perhaps thrive without the cyber-ugliness which seems to perpetuate every forum (or my perception of, anyways). Part-and-parcel of a cyber-existence, I know - all for the betterment of a unified existence of fellow like-minded netizens and collectors, for sure.
The local forum, sadly, is no longer active.
Those were the good old days. No, those were glorious and eventful days! Days when the scene and hobby thrived (at least in my humble opinion). But those days are but a memory now, to be recollected when we bump into each other at flea markets, or old toy-haunts. Everybody has gone different directions, some remain in the hobby, while others move on to family, children, or other toy-scales or genres.
Unfortunately I am not entrenched in any current groups (having retreated into my hermit-shell - my choice), for no doubt as much as "we" had our share of fun, there will have (no doubt) "other" groupings, who may yet be thriving now :)
[FYI: Am still out looking for local 3A-Toys-collectors, for some "group-shoot-fun" tho]
These days, it has changed to be about "the individual experience". Besides the odd forum-post (which has increasing become very few and far in-between for me), there is hardly any avenue to meet folks and chat face-to-face about toys. Unless I make my once-weekly weekend pilgrimage to China Square Central (the
In a way, the current experience is not much different that when I collected "designer vinyl" before (the viciousness of a full-circle, no less :p) - during the time of collecting 1/6th-scale. Sure I had folks to I could share with about 1/6, but on the designer vinyl-front? I was by my lonesome. Sure, a select few had partaketh of BE@RBRICKS and such (1/6-scaled Japanese gashapon was fine on all levels tho LOL), but something like a ML vinyl - was more up my alley (and a coupla dudes) than anyone else.
[Diversifying into BE@RBRICKS and Japanese gashapon attributed to my eventual "downfall" :p]
Ironically, these days I would have the opportunity to share with folks (beyond my humble little weblog) on designer vinyls, instead of 1/6th. Which is cool in itself, but perhaps I'm greedy too - as my toy-heart is still with 1/6th too :)
Not having the ability to afford / procure toys, is also a crippling crutch - at least for me. No thrill-of-the-hunt stories to share (besides the past, and I don't wanna be that old uncle talking about them lost glory days from years on end, innit?). And certainly no victory-scores to show off. How much enthusiasm can I share on a toy-forumboard, without me acknowledging I cannot afford most of the toys?
"How many are you gonna order? Cool! Me too!" ~ versus ~ "Nah, can't afford it, you guys have fun and good luck..."
Don't want to be a party-pooper, and neither do I want to slit my wrists with a 1/6th-scaled knife when I log-off at the end of the day too, innit? Different folks dwell in different circumstance, with life and fortune liable to change at any given moment or time. I may have grudgingly accepted my current lot in life, but that doesn't mean everybody else wants to know, or even need to understand what I am going thru, innit?
And after a fashion, a sob-story is not what folks are interested to read about, innit? Or so I surmise. Hell, I don't want to read a sob story too (writing one, is another thing, natch). And tis too easy to fall prey to "self-sympathy" in any form, tangible or phantom. (Go donate to my PayPal you stingy internet-people! LOL).
But all that also makes for a decidedly different "toy-collecting" climate than before. I started with blogging about "what toys I bought at the flea market today!", to "what I would give to be able to afford this". And in some ways, "helps" me focus on what I collect (or "wish to" LOL), rather than "buying for the sake of buying" = which inevitably would be the beginning of a delusional downward-spiral (but only if you can afford it, then don't peddle your pity to me LOL).
A-DISCLAIMER: Receiving toy-gifts is no doubt the ultimate high for me, as both a collector and toy-blogger - and nigh appreciated - but perhaps a story not many may want to know about - least of all me feeling being "discounted" for being lesser a "collector" of toys, than someone who "blogs-for-freebies", innit?
So would you judge a "collector" by the amount of money he/she has spent on the hobby? Or by the collection he/she has amassed? And so if I no longer spend as much as I had done in the past, am I lesser of a "toy-collector"? [I've blogged about this in the past] As much as folks have a right to their own opinion, I dare (at the very least) proclaim to be a "hobbyist" and/or "Toy-Lover" in these lean, lean days :)
Trips to the Sunday Flea Market (@ China Square Central) had always been marked by a purchase - regardless if I reeeeeaaaally wanted the figure/toy/collectible, or not. It was plainly the "act" of buying, that quantified the experience, rather than the score itself. (So ladies, I totally get "Retail Therapy" and how would I judge anyone for purchasing a $100-pair-of-heels, when I would readily plonk-down the same price for a toy? heh). And when one can't afford to buy, what "experience" (other than sombre sad reality of life) can one get from the episode?
These days? It's not all about what I buy/bought, but whom I get to meet, that makes up most of my personal toy-collecting experience.
I met a vinyl toy-collector today (Sunday), and had good fun sharing about our individual experiences, of how we started and where we are at (*waves to Steven*). And after that, I had a long chat with a shop-owner couple (*waves to Uncle Peter and wife*) - primarily about the "good old days" at Clarke Quay (when it had the flea market circa 2001-02 / before the current advent of the hip lifestyle-club-hub) - where the sense of community was stronger then. Even when we - as a unified-group - had much more buying power and influence, rather than the individual out to make a quick-buck. I know not enough of folks to pre-judge them on their habits and ways of collecting (everyone is entitled to their own way / reason of collecting, of coz). But one thing is for sure - I do miss those 1/6th-collecting days of yore with friends dearly ... Or rather, the feeling of communal-comfort of - yes - belonging to a (hobby-minded) "community".
[Clarke Quay Flea Market / Indoors / circa 2002]
Or maybe I'm just simply longing for the more "innocent" days of toy-collecting - which does not mean more "ignorant" - but for the sheer wonder of "discovery" and yes, even the thrill of the chase. And yes, I had multiple browser-windows opened too - way back when - for that sweet milli-second-snipe (*Old-Uncle-cough*).
I am thankful for my "online-community" I have with TRE tho (a forum it definitely is not, I understand) - at the very least, I know some of you kind folks are reading this, even though you may not feel the need to respond, or that we may not ever meet face-to-face, at least in the near future ;p
Essentially, blogging too, is somewhat a solitary endeavor - for if there is no response, then I may well be blogging to and for myself, innit? But that's another whole pile of cyber-existentialism floating in ether-limbo (as long as it doesn't reek, I'm cool with it).
But in life, as anything - perhaps it's not the triumph of a score that may matter, in years to come - but for the experience of toy-collecting, that at the very least, matters to me as much, if not "more".
Would things be different if I could readily afford toys? No doubt it would be! But would it be as enriching, if not humbling? Perhaps. Perhaps not. I'll know and experience it, if and/or when that ever happens, again :)