Changing As A Collector

I feel like I should insert a Simpson’s Troy McClure joke here: “Hi, I’m Mike MacDonald (Mike Tarkin, Mac….). You may know me from such podcasts as The Sandcrawler.” Why is that important for you to know? Well, from 2016 to around September 2021 the Sandcrawler podcast and website was a very big part of who I was as a Star Wars collector. It was where I talked with my friend, Dengar Dan, about recent purchases and to bounce ideas off of each other and generally screw around while recording. I would like to thank everyone (on behalf of myself and Dan) that supported The Sandcrawler, either by listening to the podcast or helping to contribute to the website. We never expected much from our show when we started yet we ended up with a pretty good-sized audience and made friends with more than a few of you and for that we will always be grateful.

Throughout the first half of 2021 we both began to feel that something was wrong either in the Star Wars collecting world in general or within ourselves as collectors. We also both had to deal with how busy we became after the first Covid pandemic and worldwide lockdown in 2021. The decision to end The Sandcrawler was pretty much based on the fact that we were both becoming busier in our real lives and that lack of product, distribution issues and higher prices were causing us to feel “less than enthused” about Star Wars collecting. We closed things down and I’ve spent the past six months or so trying to come to terms with my Star Wars fandom and my Star Wars collecting.

We all know about the crazy wait times and higher costs for Star Wars figures these days. Reporting on Hasbro announcements and their multi-months release schedule became depressing for me. Also, I’m Canadian and prices have become nearly impossible to rationalize. A single carded Star Wars The Vintage Collection figure currently costs anywhere from $19.99 to #21.99 (pre-tax). Vehicles and play sets are equally expensive (Tantive IV Corridor=$69.99, General Merrick’s X-wing-$185). I understand that prices for virtually EVERYTHING have been rising over the past two years but buying an action figure has always taken second place to real life expenses and I found myself simply not buying as many figures as I used to. When you’re doing a podcast and can’t comment on a particular Star Wars figure because it was too expensive to buy or too far down the road for it’s release date, the podcast suddenly becomes a, excuse the phrase, bitch-fest. Star Wars collecting has always been fun and through most of 2021 it stopped being fun.

After we ended the podcast the first thing I did was to go through my checklist of multiple pre-orders and began cancelling. I also made a few general collecting decisions. I was determined to get back that feeling of joy I had when buying action figures. The first pre-order I cancelled was for the reissued Rogue One figures from The Black Series. Rogue One is probably my favourite Star Wars movie and I planned on getting the entire crew in one big order. Instead I decided that Black Series had never been a priority for me (I have some, less than 15) and I would whenever possible focus on my scale of choice: 3.75 inch. I then cancelled the “Bad Batch” themed 4-pack of clone troopers since none of the figures were actual members of the Bad Batch team. The 4-pack was basically repaints of existing clone figures and I have a ton of clone troopers already. There were other figures that I would normally have bought multiples of for army building like the Offworld Jawa, Hoth Rebel Soldier and Remnant Stormtrooper but because of the cost I either settled for a few extras or in some cases passed on the figure altogether.

I also decided that whenever possible I would stop collecting carded figures and only buy figures that I could find use for in my collection. I was already primarily an opener and I felt that the expense of keeping a carded figure seemed a luxury and wasteful. At the time I had roughly 100 carded figures so I began opening and/or selling off ones that I felt were no longer worthy of staying on the card. Since The Vintage Collection first hit in 2010 I had wanted to have modern carded versions of the first 21 figures released during the original Kenner run of figures. After twelve years there were still holes in that collection of Original 21 and as I’ve said because of the cost I couldn’t justify continuing to buy carded figures. This was a tough decision as Hasbro released an updated Tusken Raider and two droids; Power Droid and Death Star Droid. All Original 21 figures and all candidates for multiple purchases since I could easily army build the Tusken Raider and as a big fan of droids I would have at least bought one carded and one opener of both. Instead I cancelled my Tusken Raider pre order and opened both droids. I’m glad I did as I really love that new take on the Power Droid. Another focus I had was to have at least one carded version of each line or sub-line. That focus went out the window after buying a few of the Gaming Greats line. I decided they weren’t worth keeping carded and stored in a closet so i donated them to my company’s Christmas toy drive. I’ve probably reduced my carded collection to about 60 now and will reduce it further. It’s not easy to always stick to this new approach and I’ve already broken my new rule when I picked up the Droids TV show versions of R2D2 and C3P0. What can I say? I collect with my heart first. I never owned figures from this line back in the 80’s and I really love how colourful and bright the artwork is. They look great in my Kenner display.

It’s disappointing to have to make these decisions but in the long run it helped me to realize that I’ve never been a completist collector and that it would be more than ok to have holes in the collection.

With no podcast and website to maintain I thought what I needed to do was to basically scale back (BIG TIME), my Star Wars fandom. And it was a good thing for a little while as I had more time for just chilling in the Star Wars room with no agenda or schedule. I did a few projects like expanding my rebel base display (pics of my room are available here and I plan on adding more) and creating a custom Kenner Star Wars wall display. At the same time I was posting photos on social media as usual. What also began to happen is I would hear from people that they missed The Sandcrawler and a lot of the content from the accompanying website so I decided to basically make a scaled down version of that. Sort of a “same great taste, half the calories” sort of thing.

I’ve returned to posting Hasbro/Star Wars news and even live tweeted their May the Fourth event. Hasbro’s new PR team, Rogers & Cowan PMK was kind enough to add my new site to their list of Star Wars sites so folks can expect to find glam shots and product information in the News section.

I’ll also continue the tradition we started at TheSandcrawler.net of full-sized photo-based reviews of Star Wars figure collectibles (an epic saga should be viewed WIDESCREEN whenever possible, not in a little Instagram square) and will slowly add posts about the goings on in my Star Wars room.

So thanks for visiting my corner of the galaxy, I’m excited to see what the future brings!

Mike Tarkin

May 4, 2022

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Star Wars Room Update: Adding Lighting

January 2021

That’s a quote from Poe Dameron as he speaks for Star Wars room curators across the galaxy. I placed an order with IKEA for a bunch of small cabinet lights to light up the book cases I bought in 2018. I also bought 5 or 6 sets of colour changing LED strip lights from Dollarama. I used white lighting for the three IKEA Billy bookcases, each shelf getting one small light. The difference of having my displays lit up is just amazing,

I went with coloured lighting for this bookcase because each shelf features a diorama/scene from Star Wars and being able to control the colour of the display was a great way to get some drama into the dioramas.

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A Garage For A Y-wing PART 1: Expanding the Rebel Base Diorama

May 2020

The main focus in my Star Wars room is my rebel base display.  This started out with an X-wing, a beat-up vintage Millennium Falcon and a snow speeder years ago and slowly has grown again and again.  I’m pretty sure I’ve run out of space to add even one more vehicle (What will I do when the Rogue One General Merrick X-wing Fighter is released?.

My Rebel Base Around 2012 or so. Adorable, right?
My Rebel Base February 2022 – Just a little bit of expansion since 2012.

Over the years I’ve begun to add walls and control rooms and a pilot ready room (still need to finish that, now that I think about it).  But I’ve always kept things on the ground level, as it were.  Then a couple years ago I began buying Project Bricks and started building walls.  I even got brave enough to tackle an homage to the control room from the Disney Parks attraction, Star Tours.  Having this control room suspended from the display shelf above set off a light bulb in my head:  Start building UP instead of left to right.  

“Star Tours” inspired control booth

I wanted to add another control room to the display, this time on the top “shelf.”  But instead of trying to wedge one in behind one of the rebel starships I decided to put it ON TOP. So I picked up a box of Project Bricks and set to work.  

I guess the easy answer to my problem is “just add another shelf on top” but that would put things too close to the room’s window that’s just above the top of the display.  And besides, I had some packaging material that I really wanted to try out and this project seemed like a good way to do that.  (Shout out to diorama builders who see packing material as more than just packing material).  So, I decided to build a garage with a control room on top and I chose the right side, above a Y-wing fighter to do it:

CLICK an image for full-size slideshow.

I glued the walls together, began building the control room with the foam bricks, added some lights and……hated it.  

Absolutely hated it.

Check back next week to see how things turned out!

<Cue John Williams “End Credits”> 😉

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Facebook Live Star Wars room Tour – April 2020

Forgive the hyperbole in the YouTube title but ya gotta get those hits! This was fun to do and I hope to do another in the future as the room continues to grow and change.

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Rancor Pit Diorama Experiment

April 2019

The rancor action figure is just…big.  And when you consider that the scene it’s involved in from Return of the Jedi involves only 2-3 characters at the most, it’s not an ideal figure or scene to recreate in a Star Wars room that’s always lacking in free space.  You want to be able to fill a shelf with a lot of figures and with the rancor pit you’re left with the beast itself, Luke Skywalker or Oola and a Gammorean Guard or two.  

However, and I can’t really explain how, I found myself with enough free space in my Star Wars room  to actually do a diorama of Jabba’s favourite pet. And THEN….I even added a second diorama(more on that in my next article).  The material I used for the walls is a paper packaging material that was used to wrap merchandise on a recent trip to Walt Disney World. It’s fairly sturdy and it’s possible to make bumps and ridges with it to simulate rock walls.  The small holes or perforations in the paper give it some texture.  The photos don’t do the colour of the material justice though, it’s a much darker brown than the camera sometimes shot.  

At some point I might add a large door to one of the walls, as seen in Return of the Jedi.

Doorway for Rancor Keeper
LED string lights for some ambient lighting since it’s a very dark space

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