Welcome to another collector interview on Trilogo.info!
In fact not just any collector interview…Duncan Jenkins is in the hot seat this time around so read on and enjoy!
Trilogo.info – Hi Duncan, thanks for taking the time to stop by for an interview – for those reading who may not know who you are yet could you introduce yourself and give us a little bit of information about your involvement in the “archive”, Star Wars conventions and collecting in general?
Duncan – I first saw Star Wars in the summer of 1977 and was completely amazed. I instantly began collecting (my first item was a trading card from Wonder Bread that I still have today). I have collected non-stop since then even through the late Eighties when most people gave up on Star Wars. Today, I have amassed a collection of around 70,000 different items. Did I mention I am a “completist”? There are not too many of us left these days. I collect everything related to Star Wars.
I have been active as an editor for the Star Wars Collector’s Archive (theswca.com) and given presentations at all the Celebrations and many other conventions around the world. I have also written several articles for magazines and done numerous Radio/TV programs.
Trilogo.info – Amazing to know the number of Star Wars items you own, just incredible! You have also released a few books/guides with Gus Lopez (Owner of www.theswca.com) could you explain what you have published and which areas of Star Wars collecting you have covered?
Duncan – Gus and I have co-written two books. Our first was “Gus and Duncan’s Comprehensive Guide to Star Wars Collectibles”. It is the largest, most complete Star Wars price guide ever assembled. At almost 1000 pages and weighing in at 7 pounds, it features over 75,000 items from over a hundred countries covering everything from the beginning to present. It took us five years to put it together.
Our second book debuted at Celebration V and covers vintage Star Wars Prototypes. It’s more of a coffee table book with nice photos and lots of information about all aspects of the design process: from the initial concept to the final sign-off. There are many one-of-a-kind and unreleased items shown throughout the book; a lot are seen for the first time.
Trilogo.info – Although I haven’t picked up your Comprehensive guide yet I have the Proto book on the way, can’t wait! Just to satisfy my curiosity- are there any plans for a Trilogo book?
Duncan – Stephane Faucourt’s book “From Meccano to Trilogo” is the gold standard on that. I would definitely not try to do one to compete with that.
Trilogo.info – I would agree with that but let’s hope for a second edition from him! Ok so, let’s talk about your Trilogo collection, from what I remember from speaking to you your collection was almost complete in 2009/2010 are you any closer to finishing the set and if not which ones are you missing?
Duncan – I am still missing eight: Boba Fett, General Madine, Jawa, Lando (General), Luke (Bespin), Luke (Hoth), Romba, and Royal Guard. I am sure some of your readers are scratching their heads right now since those are not all super-rare. A couple of them I could get any day I want to; a couple are pretty difficult but still doable with a little patience and some money; and only half of them are genuinely rare.
One of the nice things about being a completist is that I can always find something I need (that’s also the down-side of being one, too). So I have never felt the urgency to get some items that many collectors feel when they focus on a more narrow sub-set of items. I was fortunate to be ahead of the curve on collecting Trilogo and carded figures in general. So I have picked mine up at great prices. I don’t normally discuss what I pay for items but in this case I think newer collectors might find it interesting. I decided early on that I would like a set of US carded figures (which I defined as the original 12 on 12-backs, and every figure on every movie logo card that it was released on but not every back or offer variation). In addition to the US set I sought out a full set of Trilogos and as many non-US carded figures from every country I could get. I never paid more than $55 for any one US or Trilogo figure! It was an arbitrary amount but it became an invisible “high water” mark for me. By 2000, I was only missing 3 US figures and 19 Trilogos. Today, I am only missing one US figure (Original Luke ROTJ Gunner package) and the eight Trilogos. As with most things, if you throw enough money at something you can get a complete set very quickly. But I enjoy the challenge of the hunt. I have since paid more for Trilogos but I am going to try to finish my US set without paying more.
Trilogo.info – I definitely agree that the fun is in the hunt and finding those deals, whatever you decide to collect, set your limits, try not to break the bank on each purchase and keep on looking for the next bargain, they are still out there! While we are on the subject of prices do you think the current market price for a Madine Trilogo is warranted and have you had the chance in the past to acquire one?
Duncan – As you can probably deduce from my previous answer, I am nowhere near willing to pay what some people are willing to pay for a Madine. However, I do think it is a very rare piece and sometimes you have to splurge on one figure to get your set. I doubt I will ever own a Madine (but you never know). To me it is not a very interesting figure for the price. Rare but not interesting. I find the Jawa, Boba, and the Lukes I am missing to be interesting as well as rare. So I will buy them long before I ever think about Madine.
As for whether I have had the chance to get one in the past, from the early 90’s I began tracking prices for US and Trilogo carded figures. I kept pretty good records to see what dealers were asking for them at shows, by word of mouth, or in the Toy Shop magazine. I would average them and list high and low prices asked. Even after a few years of data, there was one figure that I had no records for: Trilogo Madine. In those days, as you probably are aware, Trilogos were not very sought after and tended to sell for well below their US equivalents. So I thought it was either never produced for some reason (after all, not all figures were done on Trilogos) or else it was a very rare figure. Knowing this, I thought that if I ever saw one for sale I should buy it no matter what. Given the lack of value attributed to a US Madine, I was betting it would be priced even less by a dealer who did not know its true rarity. Sadly, despite my early awareness of its scarcity, I never had the opportunity to get one until long after the rest of the collecting community wanted him too.
Trilogo.info – It’s a shame you never found your Madine way back then, definitely shows just how hard he can be to find! Now that you have mentioned the early 90’s let’s go back to when you decided to collect Trilogos, do you remember when you started collecting them and what was the reason?
Duncan – Again, my answer will probably be very different than most of the collectors today. I got my first Trilogos back in 1984 and 1985. They were sold right along side of US figures at a toy store chain in America. They were less than a dollar each. I was instantly struck by the unique look of the multi-lingual logos and occasional different photo art. Since I already had the figures, I kept all my Trilogos unopened. I managed to get a few more through international collector friends back in the days when you could only do long distance phone calls and snail mail to work out trades. In 1989, I studied for a semester in the UK and traveled all over finding old toy stores that still had Palitoy and Trilogos for sale. And again in 1991, I went back with my wife for our honeymoon and found even more. In fact, my wife carried back a Bilogo Rebel Transport as her carryon luggage upon our return. What an amazing lady! That was just the first of countless times she has found strange Star Wars items filling up her suitcases while on holiday.
Trilogo.info – When you have over 70,000 Star Wars items and your Wife is happy to bring you even more home in her own luggage you know she is a keeper! Let’s move from the past to more recent times, have you seen a change in the collector interest for Trilogos over the years and do you still think they are fun to collect in 2011?
Duncan –Absolutely to both questions. As I have alluded to earlier, it has only been within the past decade or so that Trilogos have gotten much more respect and accompanying higher prices. Just like most areas of collecting, as the community begins to research and share info, collectors begin to shape how much desire is attributed to each item. Prices then follow suit.
I still very much enjoy seeking out Trilogos, having them as part of my collection, and seeing them displayed in other people’s collections
Trilogo.info – An area of Trilogos that seems to be quite popular right now are packaging variants and miscards, do you have any interest in Trilogo variants at all or are you just happy with one of each figure regardless of its origin card/bubble or any import sticker etc?
Duncan – I am definitely happy with just one of each figure. I have some miscards but I do not go after any bubble variations, etc. That does not interest me with Trilogos at all. I am interested to hear other collectors discuss the variations and think it’s cool that they get enjoyment out of researching them and collecting them. But it’s not my thing.
Trilogo.info – If you were to start over with your collection what would you change ? Are there any figures you didn’t buy that you regret or perhaps not upgrading a certain figure when you probably should have?
Duncan – If I had to start over today I certainly wouldn’t be a completist! Way too much ground to make up. The problem is I like almost all of it so I don’t know what I would focus on.
As to regrets, I really can’t complain about what got away since I have done so well with so many other items. But if I had the opportunity, obviously I would like to have picked up the Jawa, Fett, Lukes and Royal Guard at better prices and pass on items I bought instead that I could probably still purchase today for just about the same amount. That’s always the gamble you make when collecting. I don’t really care what something is going to be worth in the future. The only way that matters to me is in deciding how I spend my money today. I always ask “What can I get later for about the same price and what should I be sure to get now so I don’t have to pay more in the future?” But even if I think something is going to go up in price in the future, I don’t always have the funds to get it right away. It’s always a triage situation.
There were a couple specific times that I wish I had gotten a figure. Several years ago, I passed up a Jawa that had a huge sticker tear and crushed bubble. The price was ok for the time but the condition was just too low for me to want it. Today it would be a nice place holder until I decided to bite the bullet and upgrade. Another time, I was at a show and a dealer had several Trilogos at really good prices. I was second guessing myself that I still needed the Royal Guard and so I decided to go check and come back. By the time I got back it was sold. Outside of Trilogos, I once had a dealer agree to sell me a carded Vlix (Droids cartoon character only released in Brazil) for $500 but he “lost” it. I then found out he had sold it to a collector friend of mine who happened to call up the dealer just after we concluded our deal and agree d to buy it for $800. My friend didn’t know anything about our deal so I don’t fault him at all. Pretty sleazy dealer though. Today the figure is the equivalent of a Trilogo Madine in value.
Trilogo.info – Ah dealers! Some never fail to disappoint! That Jawa would have been a good pick up as you mentioned, sorry to hear you passed due to the condition of it at the time. On the topic of condition, do you mind if a Trilogo has damage or are you happy with a few dents or knocks, we all know they look great when they are mint but less than mint examples are something we have to put up with from time to time!
Duncan – My only criteria is that it displays well and I enjoy looking at it. I am not a perfectionist on condition and am perfectly happy with minor damage. You could display a C-8 collection and an AFA 90 collection and they would look pretty much the same until you look at the grade on the case. Especially with Trilogo bubbles, it is sometimes necessary to be willing to accept a little less on condition. I have a couple Trilogos with sticker tears, my original Leia has a crease across the top of the card and a couple have a little more bubble damage than I would like but none are cracked and I don’t own any reseals.
Trilogo.info – There is a great article on SW.com from 2009 about your “Private Museum” of Star Wars items/toys that you had built to showcase and enjoy your collection in, just how important is a display area in your opinion as a collector?
Duncan – As you can imagine, with a collection this size, deciding how to display it can be quite a challenge. At our old house, the collection had overtaken several rooms and the entire basement. But our plan had always been to have a separate museum for the collection. We call it the Sithsonian. It has been a lot of fun to finally be able to properly display my collection and share it with friends and fellow collectors. I don’t have enough space to showcase every single item but it’s all well organized and even the less desirable pieces are easily accessible.
A shot of Duncans private museum “The Sithsonian”
Trilogo.info – As they are obviously the most important part of your collection ( 😉 ) do your Trilogos have their own wall?
Duncan – I have an entire vintage section with carded figures around three walls chronologically and alphabetically by country starting with Australia SW 12-back and ending with US Ewoks Cartoon figures. The Trilogos take up about a third of a wall. It is really interesting to see them all together and in the context of the rest of the worldwide vintage line.
Some shots of the impressive walls of carded figures in Duncan’s collection room.
Trilogo.info – Going back to your involvement in the hobby just for a moment, you also write for the official Star Wars site at times don’t you? Could you explain what kind of articles you have written for StarWars.com?
Duncan – I have had the privilege to write several articles for StarWars.com. Most have been about various food promotions and collectibles. That is an area of Star Wars collecting that I find super enjoyable due to the uniqueness of each countries promotions and the challenge in hunting down many of the items. Collecting food packaging and premiums is an area that is really gaining in popularity and hopefully will benefit from the type of research and information sharing that other categories of collecting have enjoyed.
Trilogo.info – It’s been a pleasure to speak to you Duncan about not only your great Trilogo collection but also your involvement in Star wars in general, any parting words of wisdom for newer collectors out there that might get interested in Vintage / Trilogo collecting?
Duncan – Most important is “Collect what you enjoy!” This isn’t a job, it’s a hobby and should be fun. Make up your own mind about what to collect and how much to spend. There are still tons of Trilogos that can be purchased at very affordable prices. Don’t pay a premium just because something is “graded.” Do all the research you can and talk, talk, talk to as many experienced collectors as possible. It will add to your enjoyment of the hobby and help you to avoid the pitfalls that many inexperienced collectors fall into.
Collect what you enjoy seems like good advice to me! Thanks for your time Duncan! Oh and before I forget, not long after this interview was ready Duncan emailed me to tell me he had bought himself a Trilogo Romba in honor of this interview on Trilogo.info, so come on guys if you want a good excuse to add some more Trilogos to your collection get in contact for an interview and you can treat yourself as well!