March 2nd, 2004

col-lect-i-ble, also col-lect-a-ble

Is this what the English language has come to? We can spell words however we want to, now? I know some people who will be very pleased by this news and others who will stay up late at night gnashing their teeth about it.

Count me in the latter group.

I didn’t come here to rant about spelling, strangely enough. I actually want to gripe about collectibles. Everywhere I go I see signs that say “Collect all 12!” or “Collect the whole set!” Mind you, these signs aren’t on Faberge eggs, they’re on things like “I be illin’!” stickers and Jimmy Neutron Happy Meal figures. Much has already been made about people who buy toys and never open them, hopin that they (the toys) will be worth something someday. Toy Story 2 was actually a documentary about this exact phenomenon. The lesson we can all learn from that movie is that toys are meant to be played with, not locked up and put on display.

Except history teaches us differently. If you still had some of the original Star Wars toys in their original packaging, they would be worth a lot of money. So, of course, when the next round of Star Wars movies started coming out, people were buying the new toys by the truckload. “Some day,” they thought, “I can retire on how much money these will be worth. I won’t even have to sell them because I’ll be able to open a museum and people will pay money to come and see my collection! I’ll be rich and famous!”

Side note: When I was younger (so much younger than today), my friend Dan had a lot of Star Wars toys. He had the land speeder, the X-wing, all sorts of stuff. And he had a Boba Fett figure. One day, we took a few characters apiece and went out in the yard/fields/woods to play with them. I was a bossy kid ( I know, I know, you’re surprised by that), and I had “convinced” Dan to let me have the Boba Fett. Well, somewhere along the way, Boba got lost. I very rarely lost anything as a kid, so it was surprising. Dan was ticked, as I recall. Years later (like, 10 or more), I bought him one of the new release versions of Boba Fett. It wasn’t as cool as having the original, but he had long since forgiven me, and he thought it was cool. So what did he do? He tore open the package and started playing with it! I was shocked! Appalled! Grieved! But then he let me play with it (keeping a watchful eye on me the whole time, of course) and I realized that was the best thing to do. End Side Note.

It’s not even just the super-weirdos doing this. There are normal people who don’t even like Star Wars that collect the stuff with an eye towards untold wealth down the road. And, of course, it’s not just Star Wars. It seems that there’s a niche for just about anything. Remember those jelly jars that used to have Muppets and Disney characters on them? There’s a market for those, even. With the advent of eBay, all of these people have a much easier time finding each other, too.

I have two main objections. First, I’m being commanded to collect these worthless things. All of them. “You! In the sweater! Get over here and collect all of these porcelain warthogs! Right now!” Can it really be called “collecting” if you get the whole set at one time? Doesn’t “collecting” imply “getting a set of similar things over time”? Second, the things I’m supposed to be collecting are – what’s the word? – stupid. Stickers. Plastic people. Keychains. Spoons. Caricatures of famous people. Magnets. I’ve got a better idea – I’m going to collect these little green pieces of paper with pictures of Presidents on them. I’ve got just the place to keep them, too: I like to call it “a bank.”

I should probably admit at this point that I’ve got a little box waaaaaay up in the back of my closet with some The Tick figures still in their original packaging. I was younger then and I feel really bad about it. I plan to get rid of them. Just as soon as the price goes up a little more…

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