These days on the IC we’re seeing an influx of new collectors, and when those new collectors come into the hobby, one of the questions they ask most is why some people choose to collect multiples of the same figure. The practice of collecting multiples of the same character is also known as a focus. For example, one might be a Boba Fett focus collector, or a Princess Leia focus collector. In any case, that usually means getting your hands on (at least) one of each of the figures that are made of that particular character, and in some cases building monumental displays dedicated to one specific version of that character. I, for instance, have an abundance of Bespin and Farmboy Luke Skywalker. The question is… Why? In this article I will discuss why I choose to focus on certain characters, and hopefully shed some light on the mindset of those of us who create these little plastic armies.
Why Do You Collect (Insert Character Here)?
Before we get into the army building aspect of focus collecting, let’s first explore the reasoning for focusing on a single character at all. There are obviously hundreds of characters and thousands of action figures to choose from, so what makes that one character so special? Well, for many collectors it comes down to what that character represents for you. Personally, I’m a huge fan of Luke Skywalker. He is one of the main heroes of the franchise, and as a child I often found myself pretending to be Luke, wielding my toy lightsaber around and trying to defeat The Empire. Some other reasons people might focus on a particular character might be how the character looks. For example, many people love the costumes of Boba Fett and Darth Vader, so they choose to focus on them because they simply think they look awesome on a shelf. The bottom line is that people, for whatever reason, seem to gravitate to certain Star Wars characters more than others. Whether it’s aesthetics, personality, or whatever, they just think that character is cool.
Why Do You Have So Many?
The second half of this equation is the troop/army building aspect of it. I’m sure you’ve all seen displays with dozens of Stormtroopers or Emperor’s Royal Guards. Those are easy to make sense of, because we often see them in large numbers in a film. But what about Luke Skywalker, Chewbacca, or even Gonk droids? What would possess someone to build an army of those figures? This is where things get a little more complicated, I think. In some cases, certain figures have a wide range of variants. Take Boba Fett, for example. You have several different color variations on his armor, painted and unpainted darts/knees, and different COOs (country of origin) like Taiwan, Hong Kong, etc. Many collectors feel as though their collections aren’t complete until they have all of these variants, so thus the multiples. But even still, some collectors go way beyond that. I’m one of those collectors myself. I have over 100 Farmboy Luke figures, 50+ Bespin Luke figures, and nearly 100 Boba Fetts. Why? Well, for Luke it’s because I find the variations on face/head sculpts, and different colored clothing/hair to be fascinating. I enjoy collecting all of the different looks of Luke Skywalker in those particular figures. I also think the accessories for both of those figures are some of the best in the original Kenner line, with Bespin Luke having both a blaster and a lightsaber, and Farmboy Luke sporting the iconic telescoping lightsaber. As for Boba Fett, I have most of his major variants as well, but if I’m being honest, a wall of Boba Fett just looks too damn cool not to display.
Finding a Focus
A question I get asked a lot is how I found my focus. Honestly, my focus found me, not the other way around. I was already heavily into Luke Skywalker (he’s my favorite character), but I only got into Boba Fett after I started collecting and saw how so many people had
hoarded troop built their displays. I also think that there are different stages to collecting. When you first start off, you probably start small, like one or two loose/complete figures. Eventually that turns into a full loose/complete set. Once you hit that milestone, you begin looking for new goals to achieve. Sometimes that means you start a MOC (mint on card) run, or maybe you go all-in on prototypes and first shots. But for some people those “higher levels” of collecting simply aren’t possible, so they need another way to feed their passion for Star Wars collecting. That’s when many start down the focus/army building path.
How Does This Affect the Market?
On the IC we encourage sharing your collections, and many people choose to share their displays of their focus army. Inevitably when they do this, however, someone will come in and accuse them of “stealing” those figures from other collectors or “moving the market” by gobbling up all of a certain character. My personal opinion is that one person doesn’t have the ability to move the market in a measurable way simply by collecting a few dozen of a certain figure. If you bought up 1,000 yak faces, maybe, but even then I’m not convinced that the market would dramatically shift. The vintage Star Wars market is always fluctuating. Look at the prices for Farmboy Luke. This time last year, a complete Luke with a saber would run you about $30-$40 tops. Now you’re lucky to get one for under $65-$70. Is that because I (or anybody else) bought up several of them? No. Farmboys are just as prevalent as they were last year, but the popularity of Luke seems to have shifted after his brief appearance in The Force Awakens. On the opposite side of that coin, you look at a figure like Yak Face, which routinely sold for $400-$500 at one time, and now it’s easy to get one for under $300 if you’re willing to hunt. The Star Wars market is its own unique animal, and what drives prices up or down depends on many factors, but I can assure you that focus collecting isn’t a huge contributor to it either way.
Well, I Think It’s Dumb…
That’s ok! Many people think focus collecting is an odd thing to do. The bottom line is that there is no right or wrong way to collect Star Wars toys. That’s what makes this hobby so awesome. Everybody is free to collect how and what they want, and their collection is unique to them, and them alone. Many of the items I’m most proud of in my collection (my childhood landspeeder for example) wouldn’t even be a blip on most collector’s radar. But to me, it’s priceless. At the end of the day you should collect whatever and however you want, and you should do so proudly and unapologetically.