Completion of a Collection Line - Popy Jumbo Machinders
Interview with RJ Forum Member mikedeco
Mike (mikedeco on the RJ forum, MD below) is a long-time board member, and is an inspiration to many on the boards. He is exclusively a Jumbo Machinder collector, and in particular, he has focused on Popy Machinders. He has always been a great source of information on the forum. He recently posted that he had acquired the very last Popy Machinder in the line, and that now his collection was complete with the full line of these toys from this manufacturer. He graciously agreed to an interview to discuss his collection, journey, thoughts on the achievement, and interest in other side projects. Below is the transcript from our discussions in December 2013 (with minor spelling/grammatical edits - please keep in mind that Mike is from Belgium, and English is not his native tongue). I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
-Myles (KingboyD / KBD)
You've recently posted on the Robot-Japan forum that you've reached the end of your journey; that you've managed to acquire the very last Jumbo Machinder that you wanted. First of all, let me offer my congratulations. To reach that point in your collection is truly an achievement. But what does that actually mean? What did you focus your collection on?
Thanks a lot. Well, I've been collecting Jumbo Machinders for a long time now but the Jumbo world can be very wide as there's a lot of variations, sub categories, lots of bootlegs and so on. When I started collecting it was mainly the Shogun Warriors from Mattel; then slowly I've tried to get the ones from Popy. Popy is the company who originally released them in Japan. But even then I did continue to buy a few others like some Mexican Jumbos or Italian bootlegs. But at one point, I decided to focus only on the Popy toys as it seemed like close to impossible to get every single Jumbo that was produced. Even today, there's obscure bootlegs that are surfacing and I wanted to stay away from these and stay focused on my goal. My goal was to have at least one representation of each Jumbo made by Popy. So for example, I have the U5 Mazinger and Great Mazinger instead of the real Popy, but I'm happy like this as they are pretty close to the originals. So on a purist point of view, my collection is far from complete, but I've reached the goal I had in mind a long time ago.
As primarily a diecast collector, we've had discussions in the past about being able to collect every single Popy toy from the GA-01 through GD- and PA-01 through PC- series. Its an extremely difficult task to conceptualize. While there are fewer Jumbo Machinders, it is no less of an admirable feat to have accomplished. Very impressive.
So you mentioned that you started with the Shogun Warriors toys. When exactly did you start collecting, and were you aware that a much more extensive line existed in Japan aside from these Shoguns when you first started? I recall being in a similar position with my collection. I started off with the Shogun Warriors diecast line, and when I learned of all the other releases that never made it to the USA, my mind was blown.
I've been really lucky for that as my best friend was already deep into the Jumbo collection and he gave me the bug, so I discovered a lot of them before even starting collecting myself.
I remember that I was really excited when I was going to his place and I was able to spend hours looking at his collection. Back then I was thinking that he was completely crazy as it was already an expensive toy line and I was sure that I will never go that far. My really first one was not a Shogun Warrior, it was the U5 Garada. I saw it at my friend's place and he was so strange compared to the others that I had an instant crush, and when he told me that it was just released and I can get it for cheap, I jumped on it. Then I bought a Raydeen on ebay a bit after and then a Dragun in a vintage toy shop close to my place. And then I was addicted.
Ahh, so you entered into this knowing full well what was available. So at what point in your collecting did you decide to try to obtain the entire Popy line? And did you think it was actually achievable when you made that decision?
Yes I knew more or less what was available as my friend had a big collection, but far from complete. So I quickly got the very few books and started checking online to have more info. I knew what was considered as rare and not back then.
I think that at one point I decided to go for quality over quantity and that's when I started focusing only on the Popy knowing that it will be impossible to gather them all as even the old timers in this hobby don't have a complete collection and even today I'm really far from them. I actually don't know a complete collection and that's maybe why I've decided to have a certain goal that I can maybe reach one day.
So you're creating a new goal now - to upgrade all stand-in pieces (Unifive, Mattel, etc.) to genuine Popy toys? And speaking of those, its kind of interesting to me that you had such self control. You mentioned that you have Unifive Mazingers. Isn't the Mazinger Z one of the most common Machinders made? So you were able to hold off buying an affordable toy to only focus on what characters you had yet to add to your collection?
Yes and No. I don't really want to create a new goal now as I'm really happy with all I have. But it's true that I could see myself trying to get a real Popy Mazinger, Great Mazinger and a Gaiking. But maybe not in the near future and only if I can get a super deal on them. That's the good news for me now - I won't be mad if I loose an auction for those as I consider it a luxury to get them.
And to answer about self control, yes I guess that I've had a lot of self control for the past few years. I've tried to put priority in the Jumbos I was buying and I passed on a few things just because I didn't wanted to lose an opportunity on something I wanted more. That's a bit of the thing when you collect vintage toys and you get them mainly on auctions: one can show up at any given time so you have to be ready for it.
I consider myself really lucky as I've been able to get them slowly one by one and almost in a certain order linked to the price. Starting from the cheap ones and slowly going up to a certain level. I've see some people start a collection and directly go for the big pieces. I have the impression that I've done the opposite and used a lot of patience to get here today.
So how often were you in the situation where two pieces appeared at the same time that you were seeking, and how did you go about making your decision on which to pursue?
That's a funny question as it did happen quite often but even in a more perverse way. A few times there was a nice Jumbo on auction that I was able to get and right after there was one that I wanted even more that showed up a few days after I won the other one. After that, every time something interesting was showing up, I was sure that something better would show up after and I had to stay away from the first one to get what will come next, or be sure that I could get both.
Most of my latest purchases were established regarding some kind of priority list and the money I had for it, so I always have enough money for the high priority items and if I don't have for something more then stay away from it. There's a few ones that are really rare and it's good to be ready when one will show up.
Ha! Isn't that the way it always happens? Something always seems to come up right afterwards. Or if two are up at the same time, what always seems to happen to me is that I decide to skip the first one, and then the second one jumps up way too high in the final seconds, and I end up with neither. Oh well.
So the last one you obtained was Daidenjin. What a beauty! And yours is in such nice shape too. How hard was it to find this one? How long were you searching for one? And being the last, I assume this is not one you necessarily waited for last because you obtained other wants first. I assume that this was just a tough one to find? And finally, how did you finally manage to come across one for sale?
Yes, it never happens like you're planning it. Last year I remember that there was an auction for a villain I was after but I did an offer for a house and was waiting for the answer so I didn't wanted to bid on the villain. My wife pushed me to bid on it as she was saying that if we don't get the house at least I could maybe get the villain. And that's what happened - we lost the house but I ended up with another bad guy on my shelves thanks to her.
Yes Daidenjin is a really hard one to get and I've been searching for one for a few years now. But it was not the only one on the list back then. I have to say that I've been really lucky the past two years as my collection did an amazing jump forward. I've completed all the regular Popy "Heroes" a few years back and then I was in the hunt for the villains and for the Robot Factory line. Last year I was able to get a few villains and this year something a bit unexpected happened: my friend who introduced me into the Jumbo world decided to sell his collection. He had two Robot Factory toys I was looking for: Battle Fever and Godsigma. He also had the little Pimer in great condition and that one was a bit like the little cherry on the cake as he's really a small little guy that its completely weird compared to the entire line. So with those three, there was only Daidenjin left.
I've passed on an auction two years ago as the one for sale was not complete and I wanted to try to find a nice one. Before that one, there's been some years without just any for sale. But since it was the very last on my want list, I was ready to wait even a few years as I was sure that one will show up one day.
I then heard about a few that sold privately in HK for high prices.
Mine did show up but absolutely not how I was expecting it. Here in Belgium, there's a few Jumbo collectors; it's a tiny country but strangely there's at least 5 big Jumbo collectors. I knew that one of them had a Daidenjin so I mailed him without much hope to see if he would agree to sell me his. He first told me that he was not selling it, then a few days after, he asked me to make him an offer just in case. That's what I did and a few days after he accepted my offer.
That was just incredible, I couldn't imagine getting that super rare Jumbo, only made in Japan, here at 5 miles from my place.
And being able to pick it up myself is even more great. As you can see, lots and lots of luck in my collector's life.
Wow, that is very fortunate. I guess its like they always say - it can't hurt to ask!
Speaking of Pimer (the robot from Gatchaman II), he is an unusual figure, and certainly not in line with the typical Popy machinders. I don't think he typically gets much love from collectors. What are your feelings about this figure? And were you hesitant to pursue it? Did you only get it to complete the line, or did you actually desire to own this figure?
Gatchaman was one of my favorite shows when I was a kid. And I always had a soft spot for that little guy. But even with that, he was really not high in my priority list. He's not that hard to find and I wanted to get it one day for sure. I bought mine mainly because the opportunity to get a nice boxed one showed up and it was a fair deal. I think that he gets more love from the people that are deep into the Popy Jumbos and maybe less from the people who collect a wide range of robots.
I suppose so. But I rarely see him in collection photos. Certainly the auctions for him are not necessarily cheap, but when was the last time people talked about that toy? I think that there are a select few that have feelings for it. But in general, I think it is mostly a fringe JM and many people will only get it to complete their collection. Or maybe that is just the sentiment in the USA. Not sure. And I may be wrong, but that is just how it seems to me. Also, isn't this from Gatchaman II, not the original series? I think that perhaps it was not widely viewed, so many people don't have a connection. Do you know many collectors who own this?
OK, time to change gears a little. So now that you have achieved your goal, what are your feelings? Are you elated to have achieved it? Exhausted from the hunt? Sad that its over? Relieved that you can finally move onto other things? Anticlimactic? Is it a combination of all of these? I can imagine a wide variety of feelings washing over you.
It's true that the Gatchaman II was never released here, but the fact that there's the whole crew on the box does the trick for me.
I've seen it in a lot of collections actually and each time I was seeing it I was like: mmh, he's got the Pimer....sweet....
It's hard to answer the last question as I'm under a huge amount of work for the moment and I've barely the time to think about it. I think that I don't even realize that I bought that Daidenjin as it was unexpected and I just had the time to grab it between some meetings.
I think that I'm clearly happy, there's some part of relief too but not because I want to move to other things. Jumbos are clearly my thing and I like staring at them for hours. I'm also a bit proud but I guess that everybody who reaches his goal is.
What other things do you want to move to? You mean outside the hobby or within?
Oh no I was referring to your question that I might be relieved and that I can finally move to other things. I'm relieved but not necessary because I want to move to other things.
But I guess that I will try to continue doing some custom Jumbos using the same technique I've used for my villain replicas. I have a few things in my head that I want to try, more related to toy design now. It's maybe the continuity for me.
I've been tempted to buy other toys from other lines like Godaikin, but I have the impression that it was more because I was on the hunt and at one point when you have only a few items on your list and they don't show up, you need something to fill the buying impulse. But now that I've reached my goal, I don't think that I will start collecting other toy lines. I will certainly not stop watching all the auctions as it's interesting to see what's coming and who gets what. But probably not with the fierce eye of a hunter.
I'd like to get into your customs, but first you touched on something I wanted to visit. You mentioned that you would continue to watch auctions. The prices since you've started in this hobby have continued to climb, and I would assume they will continue to do so in the future. If the prices get crazy (more so than they already are!), would you ever be tempted to sell any of yours? Certainly you can just create a reproduction to replace it.
Well, it's true that prices have gone higher and higher since I've started. And I'm really happy that I started 15 years ago and not 5 years ago. I regret that I didn't start 10 years earlier as I could have found some more stuff like a Q9 or a C3 for a reasonable price, which is almost impossible today, or maybe more MIB specimens.
To be honest, on a financial point of view, knowing that if I buy a Jumbo I can certainly get my money back one day, is maybe one of the reasons why I haven't stopped earlier. Of course it's not the reason why I continued, but you probably hesitate less because of that. One part of me wants to think that ultimately if anything happens and I will need some money, I can sell some at any time. But the other part of me thinks that they will be always with me.
Glad to hear it, and I hope they do stay with you (or come to me!). So can you discuss your reproductions/customs a bit for those not familiar with them? What figures have you done? How did you create them? Discuss the mini versions and boxes too, please. And finally, please let us know where we can find your blog and follow the steps you took and tracked online. Thanks.
Some people told me about 3D printing a long time ago, and I've always wanted to try the technique but never knew exactly what to print. Then came the idea of trying to do a model of one of my all time favorite villains: Rokuron Q9. The selling price for an original is way beyond what I'm able to pay, so it was a good solution to try to have something that looks close to the real one but don't cost as much.
It was in 2009 and back then even if I had a good background in 3D modeling, I've asked another 3D modeler to do the modeling for me as I was a bit rusty. He did an amazing job and after some touch up, I've decided to test it as a 3D print. The result came out really great, beyond all my expectations.
A few years after, I decided to try to go for the rarest of all: Garada K7. And while I was working on it, I had the idea to make a smaller version as a test print to see how it will come out. But since the model of Garada was not ready and I already had a Q9 in my database, I adjusted it a bit so that it printed correctly in small and there it was. It was also a good opportunity to test another kind of printer as they all have various specs and it's interesting to see the differences.
I was so enthusiastic with the small Q9 that I've done a full 3D modeling of a Doublas M2 to print it in small. It was one of the original villains I had in my collection, so that one was made only for a small size. It was easier to make it as I was able to take the perfect picture to use as reference for the modeling. For that one, I decided it was time to undust my 3D modeling skills and it was a good excercise. I then finalized the modeling of the Garada and went also for a print in small size. It was also a good test to see how it will come out.
After a few retakes on the modeling, I then decided to make my second full size replica. I was really excited as it's probably one of the rarest toys on earth and it's impossible to get a real one. So having it in a high quality repro was really amazing.
One other pretty rare villain is Green Ghost C3. And when you know a bit about those guys, you know that Popy used the same legs and arms for him and for Garada and also the launcher in the torso. So since I had the models of the legs, arms and launcher, it was pretty easy to do the head, body and pelvis of a Green Ghost. And since I was sure that I will never be able to get an original, he did get the full treatment.
There's 10 villains in total, 6 are more or less "easy" to find and 4 are pretty hard to get and super expensive. When I was working on my first three replicas, I was able to get the "easy" 6 and so I was only missing Lenzari, the fourth hard one to get. I've also decided to make that one and since he had some technical challenges because of the texture of his body, it took me a long time to figure out how to make it. I think that between my first modeling session and the final product, there's been something like 11 months. But with him I was able to have something that looks close to a full set of villains.
I've also used the same technique to create a few missing pieces of some other Jumbos and I'm planning on using it to create Jumbos that were never produced, but that's for a near future.
For those interested, everything is visible on my little blog: freetimetoys.com
Hope you will enjoy it.
Yes, its a great blog. I highly recommend it to any of our readers!
So I have a little familiarity with 3D printing because a co-worker of mine bought one - a lower end one. But his uses the spools to feed raw material. For the quality you are getting, I assume you have to use the powder version? Do you own the printer yourself, or do you send it out to one of the commercial companies?
And I can understand the difficulties in rendering a textured figure. My favorite Jumbo villain is Kame Bazooka (I own none), but I know this would be extremely difficult to reproduce. However, I understand that 3D scanners are now becoming prevalent. Have you ever considered using one of these for your work?
Also, how thick are your productions? I imagine that they must have a decent thickness so as not to be fragile.
And you mentioned creating new unique designs in the future. Care to share any ideas, or are you keeping that secret for now?
No, I'm not using the powder version. I don't really like the result of those as it feels a bit porous and since I'm looking for the smoothest finish possible, I'm using SLA printers. For those not familiar with the technique, it's a bath of some kind of epoxy resin that cures under UV lights, and there are UV lasers tracing on the surface. I don't own a printer myself as for the moment, I'm not sure that personal printers can offer the quality I'm looking for. So I'm working with a company called i.materialise. It's one of the leaders on the market; the mother company is building their own printer that they've created themselves and they can print something as big as a human. It's pretty impressive.
The good thing with this company is that they are based here in Belgium and in a 30 minutes ride from my place, so it's really cool to be able to pick up your model yourself. It also avoids the usual stress of the shipping.
As for 3D scanners, I've taken a look at some and with the low cost stuff, the resolution is not high enough. Some are above a printer resolution and some are close to it, but it means that you will end up with a loss of details.
I've also taken a look at the high end stuff, which can do the trick but they're way too expensive for a hobby, and even for my regular job which involves a lot of 3D, it's a heavy investment.
My replicas are not especially thick; the resin is quite strong so you can print something with a 1 mm thickness. I've done a tiny bit more so it's between 1.5 mm and 2 mm for the most parts. This way they're not that heavy and still resistant. Building the thickness is the painfull part of the modeling, well with the technique I use. But you can easily end up spending more time on this technical aspect of the modeling than on the exterior shell which is the most important part. You have to anticipate a lot of things and all the connections between the parts.
For the upcoming stuff, I prefer not to say too much for the moment as they're just ideas and I have no idea when I will be able to make any. There's some Jumbo projects, some that are just toy projects. But for the moment, I just don't have any free time to do anything. I still haven't finished the launcher for my Lenzari and that's for me the first mission.
Before we finish up, maybe I can ask you a few questions about your collection in general, now that you have the whole Popy lineup. What are your favorite pieces? Which ones impress you the most? Did any surprise you with unknown features or aspects?
And do you have any final thoughts you might wish to offer?
That's the question I hate as I like them all for a little something.
Once I had to do a top ten of my favorite Jumbos and it was really hard to do. I'm a big big fan of Garada K7, its design is just hypnotising and all the mystery around him make it very special to me. I'm a huge fan of Doublas M2 and Rokuron Q9. Daiku Maryu is just an insane toy and so huge. As for the Heroes, one of my all time favorites is T28 as I really like that version of the character and his design is so great. Danguard Ace is also really amazing, Voltes V, well I can't really stop.
One of the things I really like is that they all have little details that I really like and yes, I've been surprised with some features. For example I was really suprised that the pelvis on Getta One was in rubber; that's really unusual for a Jumbo. Daimos is also incredible with all his accessories. The little white wings on the ankles of Getta Liger are in a soft rubber, that's also a little detail I really like. The pump missile launcher of Getta Poseidon is also pretty unexpected. They all have something unique and the effort in design and technique of all this line is really impressive.
I can end by thanking you and all the people behind Robot-Japan; it's really an amazing place and I can also thank all the members as there's really great people around here that really help each other and it's really inspirational.
Choosing favorites is always a difficult task. And all of those interesting surprises are new to me!
Yes, this site and its members continue to be inspirational in many ways. You also are a huge inspiration, not just for the amazing feat you just accomplished, but also for your jaw-dropping display. Plus your custom work is opening the doors to an exciting future in this hobby.
As a side note, hopefully as technology advances in this field and costs come down (and as you become more proficient and learn ways to streamline the process), you can use your knowledge and skills to create some reproductions or original creations for others of us who also have a hard time advancing in Jumbo Machinder collecting.
I know I am not alone in eagerly awaiting your next venture. I hope more people will find the time to follow your progress through your blog. And we hope to continue seeing you on the boards providing guidance to other collectors and sharing your new creations. Thanks for your time. I really appreciated this opportunity to discuss collecting with you.
Thanks a lot. It's always a pleasure to discuss and share about those big guys.
Oh and maybe one last thing to add. I actually know why I'm going to keep watching the auctions: Because I want to see if and when another Garada will show up one day. And maybe I will be able to join the fight for that guy.