Collecting, and the ones that got away…

Being a collector means riding a roller coaster of exciting highs and tragic lows. Sometimes you get lucky. Other times you miss out on the things you really want. And you simply can’t win them all. It’s always interesting to see the enthusiasm of other toy collectors on places like YouTube. The sheer speed and breadth of their collecting got me thinking about the different ways people enjoy the hobby of collecting. Plus, some ponderings about items that got away over the years!


Lately I’ve been watching some old TV shows about collecting, plus some new YouTube channels by collectors – primarily toy and pop culture collectors. While I don’t have a YouTube channel myself (because I prefer writing), I sometimes find YouTube collectors enthusiasm interesting. Even if they collect different things.

One of my most recent YouTube channel discoveries is Laura Legends, a Canadian collector of 1980s/1990s sci-fi movie/TV/cartoon toys and memorabilia. She’s a particularly big fan of those 1980s-era, practical F/X driven fantasy movies like The NeverEnding Story (1984), Legend (1985), Willow (1988) and many others. I love 1980s Fantasy and Sword n’ Sorcery movies. So I’m amazed by the relics she finds. Or rather, is sent!

Laura’s approach to collecting can only be described as enthusiastic 😄 She hardly stops for breath in her videos, with an encyclopedic knowledge of favourite toy lines. She apparently almost never sells anything. Her toy room(s) still seem neat and organized. And this is all despite receiving a steady stream of new items every week. Because not only does she buy her own hauls of movie and toy goodies, her subscribers have taken to sending her box loads of collectibles – for free. Essentially to see the items appear in her unboxing videos, where she opens and gratefully chats about each object, before adding it to the collection.

Combine this with appearances from her Golden Retrievers, and a frosty cat called Muffin, and you have a fast-paced, amusing channel that appears self-perpetuating in it’s content – there are always new things arriving, so there are always new things to chat about. Other videos feature thrift shop and toy store raids, with filming sometimes done by secret camera.

You may or may not be interested in what she collects, but just consider that every item she opens in the video below was sent to her for free, to support the wholehearted passion she has for the movies (and that this is just one of dozens of similar videos)…

Laura opening a huge box of collectibles from the movie “Willow” (1988) that were donated to her. I used to love those “Book & Cassette” read-along stories from movies in the 1980s too – and still have a couple.

So, with dozens (hundreds?) of toys arriving in her PO Box each month, what will she do with it all? Where will it go? Well, so long as Laura’s enjoying herself, and has the space, it hardly seems to matter.

Most collectors (myself included) have only one approach to collecting available to them: the slow, hard slog of triumph and tragedy, hunting for things one by one across the decades… until we die!

For me it all started with some specific goals – like collecting my favourite R/C buggies from Tamiya, or my favourite R/C models from Tandy/Radio Shack. I’d write lists of the R/C cars or other toys I remember from the 1980s. And if those collecting boundaries ever started to fray along the way… well… there was always the limitations of my wallet. Or the physical space of my house.

Whether Laura has a master plan or not, I couldn’t say. Does she still have a “wanted” list? Can she even find the time to hunt for specific rare pieces? All I know is that becoming a YouTube star can apparently now turn you into a tractor beam for toys – toward which, hundreds of objects and relics can pour, almost automatically… almost beyond your control… so long as you’re fun for people to watch.

“Thank you just so much for your kindness. That’s one of the reasons I love being a collector… because you discover all these new things that you have never seen before. And you get interested in more and more. And the collecting just never stops.” – Laura Legends on YouTube, August 6, 2020

Being a Fifth Element fan, I wonder if she owns the “Special Collector’s Edition” of The Fifth Element yet? It’s the only place you can find the 244-page “Story of the Fifth Element” book, about the making of the film. So glad I kept it all these years. Supergreen!…

Anyway, I digress. My point is, YouTube’s enthusiasm for pop culture and collecting is infectious. And it’s opened up ways of collecting that I never would have dreamed possible back in the early 2000s, when the Internet was purely an online garage sale. It’s almost frantic at times now – with people collecting every new (and old) item. Many love nothing more than to collect everything they can find…

My boundaries were never as broad as “find every souvenir from all the fantasy movies I like”. Rather, it was about crossing targets off a list. To use a Fantasy analogy – I’m more like Arya Stark in Game of Thrones. With a specific kill list. 😉

Of course, money is a huge factor in all this too. We may ponder the different ways of collecting. But it’s not as though we always have a choice. Ultimately we’re constrained, first and foremost, by what we can afford. (NB: Laura also often states that she is careful with money). But it’s just interesting how differently people collect. And yet, in the end, we probably all end up with quite similar “toy rooms” in our houses – filled with bookshelves or cabinets to display the things we enjoy having. A fun and harmless escape, at least, from the pandemic-ridden world we now live in.

Where Arya Stark and I differ however, is that I wasn’t always able to successfully terminate the targets I set for myself. In fact, in some cases I botched the “kill” so badly… I even wounded myself (emotionally).

Which brings me to a couple of old stories about when my supposedly “systematic” approach to R/C car collecting, failed spectacularly… Enjoy!


Ones that got away…

What got away? The Tamiya Lamborghini Cheetah 1/12 R/C car (new-built)
When did it escape my clutches? 1995
Price I could have paid? $100

Official catalogue photo of the Tamiya Lamborghini Cheetah, from the 1980 Tamiya catalogue.

Back in 1995, I used to visit a hobby shop called Yennora Hobbies (which I have previously written about here and here). The mid-90s was the heyday of their large store, where they carried a vast range of hobby items across all categories. They even had several glass cabinets featuring models for sale “on consignment”. And it was on the bottom shelf of one of these, that one day I noticed a large, jeep-like vehicle for sale. And wondered what it was…

Inside the Yennora Hobbies hobby shop back in the 1990s – the red arrow indicates the approximate glass cabinet where I remember I saw, and passed, on the Tamiya Lamborghini Cheetah for a bargain price! Doh!

You have to remember that in the pre-Internet days, there wasn’t anywhere (aside from old magazines) where you could find much written information about old, discontinued Tamiya models. And unfortunately, I was not familiar with a model known as the Tamiya Lamborghini Cheetah, at the time. The example of this car sitting at Yennora was a new-built, perfectly finished one in mint condition (minus radio system). Due to it’s scale looks and beige tones, at first I thought it was just some type of large, 1/12 scale static military model of some sort. And not something intended to be radio controlled.

The price on it was a mere $100. I asked if I could take it out and look at it. So I held it in my hands. But passed on buying it. I was unsure what it really was, or even which brand it was. And the shop staff seemed none the wiser, or at least didn’t really say anything.

It stayed sitting on display (and on sale) at the Yennora store for months (!). But it wasn’t until many months later that I finally realized the Cheetah was a Tamiya. And not just any Tamiya – it was the 7th R/C model Tamiya had ever made, released way back in 1978. It was also just the second R/C car model Tamiya ever produced that was even remotely capable of running off-road.

On top of all that, the real Lamborghini Cheetah is itself, a famously rare vehicle. Produced only in prototype form and never released to the public. Which makes Tamiya’s artisan-quality R/C kit, the definitive representation of this amazing off-roader.

Sigh. Tamiya History. Plus Lamborghini History. And yet I passed on it. For a bargain. Because of a lack of information at the time.

And today? Well I still don’t own the Tamiya Lamborghini Cheetah. While it wasn’t one of my highest priorities among the old Tamiya models I wanted to collect (I always wanted the buggies first), it’s undeniably a stunning Tamiya R/C model I would like to own one day. Of course, prices are a lot higher these days. Making it ever more tricky to find in the right balance of condition vs price. An example in a similar condition today would be worth in the range of $600-$1000.


What got away? The Fujimi Savannah RX-7 Racing 1/12 R/C car kit (new in box)
When did it escape my clutches? Time and time again, between 2012 – 2020
Price I could have paid? $500 – $1000

Fujimi is a well-known plastic model kit maker that has long been a rival to the likes of Tamiya and Hasegawa as one of the most respected and long-running Japanese plastic model companies.

What some people may not know is that in the early 1980s, Fujimi dabbled in the production of some R/C model kits as well. Such was the attraction and popularity of the R/C boom during those years. All of Fujimi’s R/C kits were 1/12 scale I believe, and all were on-road racing cars. This was due to the popularity of this scale of on-road model back in those days.

One of the models Fujimi produced was the Savannah RX-7 Racing (curiously missing the word “Mazda” from the large title on the box), based on the real Mazda race car driven in the late 1970s and early 1980s by the late Yoshimi Katayama. Here’s an example of one of the real cars…

My efforts to obtain the Fujimi Savannah RX-7 Racing R/C model kit (which depicted the car above, or close to it) have been sporadic over the years. But between about 2012 and 2020 I made several attempts – none of which came to fruition for various reasons.

This is a pretty rare R/C model kit, and might only appear for sale, anywhere online, about once every 2 years. On the very rare occasions when one appeared, circumstances conspired against me – either I was outbid, or the starting price was just too high. Or I even forgot to bid on the auction for some silly reason.

At one stage, I discussed buying the kit directly from another well-known collector who owned two of them, new in box. He went by the name ‘Loaded’ (which based on his vast collection, seemed fair enough). But the negotiated price was $1000. Which was quite a lot. And ultimately I decided to mull it over for too long. Until we eventually lost touch with each other.

In 2016, I posted an article called Collecting vintage R/C models in the years ahead. And the main photo for that article (shown below) actually features an extremely rare spare body set for the Fujimi Savannah RX-7 Racing (lower right). All the items in that photo were bits and pieces I owned, and that extremely rare spare body set had cost me at least $300 in an online bidding war – so desperate was I to have at least some part of the Fujimi Mazda. But I later decided to sell that body set, surrendering to the idea that I’d probably never fine the rest of the car anyway.

A random selection of vintage R/C items collected over the years.

And today? Well after trying to find this kit for nearly 10 years, I still hadn’t found it at the time I started writing this article…

Until…

I did! Just last week, I managed to source one from Japan. And to my great relief, the kit (which dates from the early 1980s) only cost me $400. A total bargain, and a total fluke. And certainly a change of luck. So here it is…

What’s really interesting to me about the Fujimi R/C kit is that it’s one of only two large-scale R/C kits (that I know of) from the 1980s, of this iconic sports car of the 1980s.

I particularly adore the racing spec RX-7, with it’s clean lines and riveted wheel arches. And I really love that green & white livery of the real racing car that this kit is based on. But I know I’m not the only one. So it seems kind of strange that such a cool touring car has had so few R/C incarnations, isn’t it? Well, that’s why the Fujimi kit is so special to me. And check out that lovely Tamiya-esque box-art, too.


What got away? The Tamiya Toyota Celica Gr.B Rally Special 1/10 R/C car kit (new in box)
When did it escape my clutches? 2000
Price I could have paid? $200

Back in 2000, eBay was young and innocent, and so was I. With my eBay-era collecting only just beginning in 1999, I was still trying to get a feel for which out-of-production, vintage R/C models I wanted to find, their values, and how rare they were. eBay was an amazing playground though – a lot less “commercial” than it is today. It truly was like an online trash & treasure marketplace.

One day, I found a seller from Singapore who was selling a few vintage R/C kits on eBay. I had already bought several vintage Tamiya kits by this time. And was still buzzing from the sheer amazement that you could still find the long out-of-print masterpieces, unbuilt and still new in the box. It was thrilling. If only you had the money to buy them all!

From this particular Singapore-based seller, I had decided to buy two kits – I think it might have been the Grasshopper and the Boomerang. Both original of course (this was in the days before Tamiya produced any remakes), and both were new in box.

While discussing the shipping cost via email, the seller wrote “Oh by the way, I also have a few other kits… like the Celica rally car – which you can have for AU$200, new in box”.

Based on the low price of “$200” I assumed the Celica he was referring to, had to be the more recently (at that time) released Toyota Celica GT-Four ’92 WRC Driver’s Champion (1993)…

This is a really nice model. And is pretty collectible today. But back in 2000, it wasn’t one of my highest priorities, and wasn’t that rare.

So of course, I wrote back “no thanks”. Before deciding (afterward) to actually clarify which kit he was referring to. Because, you see, that’s the order in which idiots make terrible mistakes.

A few hours later, he listed his NIB Celica kit on eBay. Where I discovered (to my breathless horror) that it was actually the much rarer, much older, more complicated, more coveted, and all-round more valuable… Toyota Celica Gr.B Rally Special (released in 1987)…

By the time I wrote to him again to say “Actually yes, I’ll take it!”, the eBay auction had already been bid upward from $200, to about $800. I will always remember the way he wrote back, somewhat sheepishly “The thing is… after you said you didn’t want it, I put it on eBay. And it already has bids now.”.

You’re damn right it had bids.

And today? I still don’t own the Celica Gr.B Rally. But I do have the even-more-expensive Tamiya Porsche 959 Paris-Dakar Rally Winner, so nobody should feel bad for me. The Porsche is the sister model of the Celica. And because I am a big Paris-Dakar Rally fan, it was always my higher priority anyway. Plus, the Porsche is 4WD like the real car. While the Celica is 4WD, when the real car was only 2WD. Making the Celica a little less realistic as a model. At least, that’s the sort of thing I tell myself, to feel better 😄

And the value of the Celica Gr.B today, new in box? Something in the order of $2000+…


So, what are some of your stories of collectables you wanted, and nearly got… and then missed out on?

It would be fun to hear some of your thoughts about collecting, or your stories of failure (and success), in whatever toys or things you like to collect. Feel free to post in the comments below!

4 comments

  1. That was a fun read.
    My awesome partner got me my most coveted NIB for my 40th birthday, a 5841 Tamiya Frog.
    She did it all by herself, without much RC knowledge at all, ex Japan and was panicking that she’d not got the right one. She totally nailed it.
    Not too many other vintage NIB’s, one I was happy to find was the slightly obscure Kyosho Nitro Brute, lesser known brother of the electric Big Brute. I bought one new as a 14yo kid (worked part time) and had nothing but trouble due to average design and no nitro experience. 30 years later I own 5+ of the darn things and certainly know how to run them.
    I’ve been lucky to come across some great deals on 70s/80s 1/8 nitro stuff, either free or quite cheap. They seem to have shot up in price recently so glad I got in early.

    1. Getting in early was definitely key. I bet like me, you’d probably hate to be starting today to collect the things you have – as it would already be much harder.
      And awesome partner finding an original NIB Frog for you, she’s a keeper!

  2. I can relate to the appeal of the Laura Legends videos.

    For me, in addition to these old RC cars, I have a lot of nostalgia for old 8-bit computers.

    I saw this video a year or so ago: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wVphFkaX1gg

    I now watch all of his videos, and like Laura, he has fans of his channels send him all manner of stuff which he unboxes/examines/repairs each Wednesday.

    A couple of yellow dogs would definitely make his channel better, though.

    1. I like old computers and tech too – have a couple, and often watch the “techmoan” channel as well. Thanks for sharing! Funny to see how these channels are supported and proliferate… but not everyone can engage an audience this way, or have time to edit videos like they do. So I appreciate the ones who can make it work.

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