Toys Posts

To Infinity and Beyond… Well, to $4K, anyway, for this Buzz Lightyear Prototype

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

One of the great lessons of the “Toy Story” movies was that toys need to be taken out of their packages and played with in order to  become loved through such interaction.

One of the great lessons of “Toy Story” collectibles is that some of those toys are, well, pretty darn valuable and must be treasured.

Take this 9-inch tall Buzz Lightyear figure. If he looks a little colorless, that’s because he is a very limited production model. Sorry, he’s a pre-production prototype of that very limited model. A very nice one to boot. And Rob Romash is selling it right now on hobbyDB..

mattel Buzz Lightyearmattel Buzz Lightyear

This Buzz Lightyear Prototype comes from the collection of Romash, who if you’ve been reading our blog lately, was a designer for Matchbox and other companies in the early 2000s. While with Matchbox, he actually worked for the overall Mattel brand as well, occasionally sculpting action figures and other non-diecast toys. The production Buzz figure was released shortly after “Toy Story 2” hit theaters. “It is a one-of-one for a high value licensed item,” said Romash. “It’s worth the price especially for the collector who wants something not anybody else can get.” He estimated about 250 man hours went into this project.

The model for sale here is not a solid figure, but is actually made up of resin molds of each individual part that eventually went into the final product. As such, not only did it need to look perfect, but it had to function and hold together like the real thing. “The final model had lights and sound,” said Romash. “I wasn’t the electronics guy, but many of the buttons and other features in Buzz had to do with electronics. These would be added later… It was my job just to make sure they could be incorporated in the next step.”

“This model was scanned for 3D and then that scan is put into PRO-ENGINEER software. It would be in the computer that the final additions for electronics would be added,” he said. “Each part would be scanned and then they could do any other final tweaks in the computer.”

“After the 3D is in the computer, the model gets translated to steel molds for mass production. Its a lot like a full size clay model car manufacturers do. They still depend on the human hand for that full size clay model to make sure the car is as the designers want, those clay models (full size) also are then scanned and put into 3D and from there tooling plans are done and production starts, pretty much just like Buzz here.”

What you’re looking at here is the one and only master from which, if not all, final molds were made from, including a few minor adjustments made with putty (you can see the different colored material in a few places.) Also, the facial expression is slightly different, suggesting another last minor change. Mattel’s final model included new features that Buzz “discovered” during the highly-rated, universally-beloved sequel. Here’s a nice video showing what the production model could do.

mattel Buzz Lightyear“I worked on several “Cars” models and was privy to all PIXAR movies years in advance,” he said of his days at Mattel. “I remember seeing very early drawings and storyboards for “Monsters University” years before release, among other PIXAR and Disney stuff.”

“Now I’m out of the cool loop,” he sighed. At least he got to play with this stuff for a few years, right?

mattel Buzz Lightyear

Cheers to the Bus Driver, Especially These 10 Fictional Ones!

ed roth bus driver ron ruelle

Don’t Let The Author Drive The Bus!

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

My car has been in the shop all week getting expensive performance upgrades… *sigh*… I wish. Actually, the shop is waiting on one little but significant part to finish a boring maintenance-type job. But I guess brakes are important on a car, right?

As a result I’ve been taking the bus all week. There’s one from my neighborhood to right in front of hobbyDB headquarters, so it’s not a bad way to go. Of course, it does take a bit longer than driving, but I don’t have to watch the road, plus the bus service in Boulder has Wi-Fi. So in the interest of being efficient while commuting, I started working on a list of fictional bus drivers, mostly with collectible connections.

So, Cheers to the Bus Driver !

fictional bus drivers

Otto, Ms. Crabtree, Ed Crankshaft

Otto MannThe Simpsons
“My name is Ot-to, I like to get Blot-to!” As questionable as his driving (and other) skills may be, Otto has been piloting the Springfield Elementary school bus for almost 30 years, so he must be pretty good at it. Or else the Springfield School District is really desperate. Either way, he starred his own comic book, “The Gnarly Adventures of BusMan.”

Veronica Crabtree, South Park
Speaking of long-tenured cartoon bus drivers, did you know the ill-tempered lady with a bird on her head on South Park had a name? Now you do. Sadly, a couple seasons ago, she and her bird were found dead (“I know she wasn’t in any recent episodes, but dammit, she didn’t deserve this!”) and has been replaced by Jose Venezuela.

Ed Crankshaft, Crankshaft
Neither of the previous cartoon drivers can hold a candle to Ed Crankshaft of Tom Batuik’s comic strip, who’s been backing up over mailboxes since 1987. So he must be like, 122 years old by now. A longtime Cleveland Indians and Toledo Mud Hens fan, the character was honored as a giveaway bobblehead by the Hens in 2016.

fictional bus drivers

Ms. Frizzle, The Pigeon, CatBus

Ms. Valerie Frizzle, Magic School Bus
Another cartoon bus driver, but one of the few who’s actually careful and considerate. And since her bus can fly and go under water, she shows dazzling busmanship. All this while imparting important life lessons to the kids onboard.

The Bus DriverDon’t Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus!
The Pigeon, Don’t Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus!
Never mind that it seems awfully irresponsible of The Bus Driver to ask a child to watch his vehicle to prevent a very persuasive bird from taking the wheel. This children’s book by Mo Willems rivals The Monster at the End of this Book for enjoyable yelling and flailing while reading. Spoiler alert: The Pigeon does not, in fact, get to drive, but he did get his own stuffy toy.

ralph kramden

Ralph Kramden, to the moon!

CatBus, My Neighbor Totoro
As an anthropomoprhic anime bus/cat hybrid creature, we’re not really sure if CatBus has a driver, or is the driver. Either way, all hail CatBus!

Ralph Kramden, The Honeymooners
Fun Fact: While you frequently see Jackie Gleason’s character in his bus driver uniform on The Honeymooners, they never once showed him actually driving a bus. Kinda makes you wonder what he was really up to all that time. Maybe he was a detective or something off screen.

fictional bus drivers

Annie Porter, Not Dirty Harry

Annie Porter, Speed
Speaking of detectives on buses, Keanu Reeves’ character also does not, in fact, drive the bus in Speed. Annie Porter, played by Sandra Bullock, spends much of the film behind the wheel, driving fast, causing havoc and winning our hearts. Reeves and the bus do not appear with Bullock in the dreadful sequel Speed 2: Cruise Control. Ms. Bullock’s career managed to survive that wreck, however.

Ben Shockley, The Gauntlet
Long before Speed, Clint Eastwood drove a bus very slowly down the streets of L.A. in this movie to deliver a key witness to an important trial. Since it was made around the same time as some of his other films, many people mistakenly think this was a “Dirty Harry” movie.

harry potter ernest prang

Ernest Prang, Knight Rider

Ernest Prang, Harry Potter franchise
On the topic of movies about someone named Harry, Ernest Prang drove the purple triple decker Knight Bus in the Harry Potter novels and movies. It was yet another way to reach Hogwarts if magic train, flying car, teleporting, dragon riding, or viking ship weren’t cutting it. Despite minimal screen/page time, he got his own Lego Minifig.

Shirley Partridge, The Partridge Family
Finally, as if being a Mom who totally rocks wasn’t enough, Shirley Partridge was also the primary driver of the Partridge Family’s tour bus. She piloted the converted mid-50s GMC school bus from concert to concert and adventure to misadventure and into our hearts for four years on TV.

shirley partridge bus

Shirley you remember Mrs. Partridge driving the bus.

Well, my stop is coming up, time to hop off and head into the office. If you think of any other fictional bus drivers, especially with related collectibles, let us know in the comments!

Collecting Film and TV Memorabilia

A Guest Blog Post by David Limberg
This article was originally written for Rareburg, who in 2016,  joined forces with hobbyDB to provide an excellent source of collectible knowhow for the community. 

I feel like I have been collecting my whole life and when I stop and look at what I have done over the years, I realize I really have been collecting film and tv memorabilia since a very young age.

Back in the 1970’s, there weren’t as many TV shows and movies as there are today that related to Sci-Fi and Fantasy and there definitely wasn’t as much memorabilia then as there is now, although back then, these were just called toys.

I grew up on Star Trek, James Bond, Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, UFO and ‘The Man from Uncle’, and one my favorites, Our Man Flint / In Like Flint (still an awesome couple of movies).

There was a local toy shop to where I lived and if I was a good boy I could have my Enterprise, Aston Martin DB5, UFO Interceptor or Thunderbird 2 Dinky or Corgi toy.

Dinky U.S.S. Enterprise Then came the late 70’s and we had Space 1999, Superman, The Hulk, Spider-Man and then there was Star Wars and the Star Trek movies.  This era was a defining moment in toy history, but only because of Star Wars did, which in my opinion revolutionized toy manufacturing.

Even though Star Trek The Motion Picture blitzed the market with toys, it was nothing in comparison to Star Wars which was everywhere all over the world with that famous opening line…

It was here that I feel true toy mania and collecting started, I know it was for me as I simply just had to have, well, everything and in some cases twice, unless it was a Stormtrooper then it had to be (ok, I think I will stop now).

From then on, more movies and TV shows were churned out and then the toy market exploded; the choice was endless and kids would compete with each other comparing what they had.

So from then till now, we have become a world of collectors. For some, it is an obsession, for others a hobby and for the rest, well they don’t get it; and it’s not just for kids, it’s also for the big kids with credit cards and jobs and families who we call adults.

For us adults, we still love all this ‘tuff’, the thrill and for many, it’s not just about the new items, it’s about getting the toys we had when we were young that we for some reason no longer have, these items are now called memorabilia and the fun is in the chase. So the hunt is on to find that rare Star Wars carded X-Wing fighter we had in 1978, boxed Dalek, Spider-Man action figure by EMGO or in my case a FAB 1 due to the fact that I had painted mine in black.

When I started my hunt for toys that I had when I was younger, there was no dedicated websites, no blogs, no groups, in fact, there was no internet, all we had was the occasional toy fair and if you went on holiday, be it in the UK or overseas, you might find a gem of a toy shop that stocked old, rare, unusual and unique memorabilia.

Today, it is so much easier to find what you want, go to a show, look around, check out websites, save searches, join a group, do a blog, in fact, it’s too easy and because of this, you need to be careful.  What I mean is, do your research, don’t just buy the first rare carded V.I.N.Cent The Black Hole Action figure you see just because you are looking at it, for starters, it might be overpriced, it might not be the exact one you received as a generic image is being used and if it is too cheap, again, don’t just buy it, read the description to see why, 9 times out 10 it will be an old toy with a modern reprint card.  In addition, check out the seller; see if you can find out if they have a good reputation.  

You can also go to Conventions, Film Fairs, Toy Fairs and again, be careful not to spend your money straight away.  I recall going to Westminster Central Hall back in the 1990’s and after paying my 50p entrance fee, table one had an Enterprise 1701 and Klingon Battle Cruiser set of DINKY toys in gorgeous condition to which I promptly got out my $120 and bought them both, I didn’t even ask for a discount I was THAT HAPPY, well I was for about 5 minutes until at another stall I saw the twin pack for $100 and then another pair for $80, AHHHHHH and I could not get my money back.

At some events, you might even get a chance to meet some celebrities.

Naturally, if you have done your research, you will have an idea of what something should cost and what you are prepared to pay, but again, there will always be the exception to the rule. Amongst my collection, I have a fondness for a TV show called ‘Automan’.  Like the movie Blade Runner, this show did not have much merchandise made on it and what there was, was in limited quantity, so when the hardly ever seen Scalextric style set came up for grabs of which there are only 7 that are known of in the world, I knew I would do anything to get it.  At the time, it was worth about $100, but I wanted it at any cost and was prepared to go 4 figures.  As it turned out I was lucky, $145 AND, the owner lived 6 miles from me so I went and picked it up.

Indiana JonesThere is one very important rule that you should remember and that is, buy the item for you, ok, you might purchase it as an investment as it is a sure thing, but, sometimes, prices go down as well as up and don’t forget, items today are manufactured in their thousand’, sometimes millions, so unless it’s a limited edition of 5,000 worldwide, that gorgeous looking action figure you want, may never be worth more than the price you paid and if you take it out of its packaging, well the value drops.

Very rare Blade Runner diecast model from ERTL worth far more if still boxed.

The next point to consider is, what do you want of the item or your collection? Must all items be mint in box (MIB)? They will be cheaper without packaging. Does it matter which country it was made (some items can be the same but made in different countries, not necessarily today, but older products).  Naturally the better the condition of the item, the more it will be worth, if that is a factor.  I mostly collect MIB but will happily buy a loose item, even if I have it i its packaging just so I can touch it, especially if it is very rare.

Eventually there may come a day where your collection takes over your home, even your life, try to see this before it is too late as some items might get damaged due to how you have stored them, such as in sun light or a heavy box on top of a light box but also because you great big beautiful collection is just a series of items in card board boxes which means you never get to see or enjoy your memorabilia and you place looks like the end scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark and putting your items into a storage place might not be such a good idea as this is very expensive.

I have a passion/interest for a great many Sci-Fi Film & TV shows and sometimes, it’s just because I like the item and not what it relates too.  Others dedicate themselves to one subject and sometime just the action figures from that show or movie or they only collect model kits or whatever tickles their fancy.

It can be an expensive hobby, even new products such as Hot Toys figures are several hundred pounds, but oh boy are they amazing.

There are times when you may need to sell some or all of your collection, but for whatever the reason is, once again, do your research on values, don’t let someone take advantage of your situation and if you have no clue, seek advice of a specialists, it might cost you for their time, but it’s worth it and they may even be able to make suggestions to help.

So, old or new, action figures, model kits, models, mugs, pins… whatever it is you like or want. Do your research before you spend your money. But, most of all have fun.

Toy Collecting: Nostalgia Vs. Enterprise

screen-shot-2017-01-03-at-10-26-51-amA Guest Blog Post by Mark Griffiths
This article was originally written for Rareburg, who in December,  joined forces with hobbyDB to provide an excellent source of collectible knowhow for the community. 

It was a typical wet and windy late Sunday afternoon. The removal van was packed to the brim with chairs, tables and various bags of clutter. The loft needs closing; just one more look before the hatch is sealed and the move complete. But what’s that in the far corner? That object behind the beam – we checked that area, I’m sure we did?

Star Trek Klingon Lursa Generation 5

Oh well, one more trip through the tight attic space to rescue what looks like a faded, dusty cardboard box before it is left behind for the new homes new incumbents. As I approach the mystery package, the Velux window begins to shed light, allowing me to peel back the crusty yellowing tape which allows me entry to what appears to be an old stained crisp box.

Suddenly…a flash of vibrant colors – blues, blacks, yellows and reds and a mixture of classic brand names including Kenner, Mattel and Panini. My mind starts to race with wonder, what have we nearly left behind?

Star Wars Return of the Jedi Stormtrooper

Unpacking the box reveals a mixture of playlets, action figures and sticker books, all presented as their manufacturers intended – mint, boxed, sealed all in superb condition. I am transported back to my youth, dragged back through the tunnel of time, evoking an eclectic mix of amazing memories…

“Where was it I bought this MOC 65 back Stormtrooper action figure – Florida or LA?”, “Which London Toy Fair was this Transformers playlet from? Was it ’85 or ’86?” and “How did I manage to not open this Walmart Exclusive GI JOE Cobra Commander, but I’m glad I didn’t!”

Buzz Lightyear Holiday Hero

Then, wedged in between these classic gems I noticed an old polaroid photograph from back in the 1980’s when actual Darth Vader visited the family toy store – wow what a flashback! Suddenly I remember all those Saturday’s serving customers at ‘Nightingales’, the swarm of people queuing that November morning awaiting the doors to open to secure their scarce Teenage Mutant Hero Turtle action figures and all those must have Christmas Best Sellers including Teddy Ruxbin, Care Bears and Buzz Lightyear!

Alone in the loft I am startled, brought back to reality as my phone vibrates – I have just received a Best Offer on my original 1985 carded Transformers Generation 1 Bumblebee, still with its original Woolworth’s sticker attached, just $1.99! It had been listed for just a few days at $200 or best offers. A buyer from the United States has just offered $125…do I accept? Do I take a huge profit on a 2 1/2″ piece of plastic or do I hold tight and wait for more? Being honest, deep down I would probably rather not sell at all. I remember the day I bought this classic figure and realize when it has gone…it’s gone…forever – no more. No more memories of Saturday afternoons walking into town after work with wages in hand to cash in on my hearts desires, no more shiny autobot logo, no more Hasbro branding…no more memories.

Transformers Bumblebee

The highs of acquiring the ultra-rare figure at a modest high street price, that last piece of the action figure collection, the buzz of going through stock at the local toy store and finding the elusive hard to find bad guy at the very back of the peg and of course the hairs up the back of the neck which stand on end when you triple your money once the item sells. However, those feelings of elation are balanced with the massive feeling of loss when that item is sold, the ability to reminisce, the memories, those flashbacks have gone…forever.

The Iron Giant

The box comes with me and the hatch is sealed for the final time. As I climb down the stairs my mind starts racing again. This is the constant battle of any collector – Nostalgia Vs. Enterprise do I list these treasures or take them with me to the next Collector’s Fair? … No I think I will sit on these just a little longer.