A long long time ago (2015) in a galaxy far far away (Canterbury) a man by the name of Matt Fox proposed a unique exhibition to his local museum. A collection of around 400 vintage Star Wars toys with an estimated value in the region of £100k. The museum knew this exhibition would be a rogue one, but they took the risk and it certainly paid off.
“[Canterbury’s museum] encountered record-breaking crowds and sold so much gift shop merchandise that the till overheated – and I don’t mean that metaphorically, the till literally overheated! Since then the exhibition has gone on tour…New Walk Museum will be the biggest and best yet, and more unseen items will be featured than ever before.”
Despite tills not fit for hyperdrive Matt has continued to share his passion across the country, but what unseen force awakened him to do this?
“A wise man once said, collecting is a sickness and sharing it is the only cure”. If that’s true, then I’m certainly not the only person afflicted by this malady. A recent Guardian survey suggested that one in three Britons will admit to collecting something, however modest. We are a nation of collectors.’
Personally, I suffer from an affinity for retro AV equipment; slide projectors etc, and from experience the serendipitous finds are the best. The fully functional Halinamal automated carousel projector at Croft car boot, the Slave -1 Bobba Fett Spaceship (1981) stumbled upon in a charity shop or the detailed blueprints of the Death Star found on the database of an R2 series astromech droid. Here’s Matt telling us about his collector methodologies:
“My modus operandi for building my collection was to target big ‘job lot’ auctions on eBay. I’d look for listings with the worst photographs, or that ended at a bad time of day, and when they had just seconds to go I’d fire in a low bid. Most of the time I didn’t win, but those that I did win I always got for a great price. Any fool with deep pockets can build an impressive collection – for me being a ‘successful’ collector is about scoring things for a great price. Sometimes you’d get more than you hoped for…a rare foreign figure within the lot, or an extra cache of weapons that the eBay seller hadn’t bothered to mention. Happy days!”
Just outright buying your way to success seems like the dark side of collection culture. But where do you begin, how does a budding collector find their new hope? Fortunately for Matt he had a leg up in the form of his parents’ attic.
“The most common thing I hear from visitors looking at the exhibits in May The Toys Be With You is, “I used to own that…” said with a mixture of regret and longing! Luckily my own childhood toys weren’t sold off at a boot fair…They went up in the loft. Years later in ’97 the Star Wars Special Edition saw the film return to the big screen, and this was the catalyst for me to have a rummage in my parents’ attic…When I opened that box, I was hit full-force by the golden glow of nostalgia – it was like the scene from Pulp Fiction when they open the case! I had seen the light, and I really became an ‘adult collector’ from that moment on.”
With the Empire (that is the Star Wars franchise) striking back with new films and new toys again and again recently I wanted to get Matt’s opinion on its continued evolution.
“They say you can’t please all the people all of the time, but for my part, I have thoroughly enjoyed all the new Star Wars movies. The modern action figures have a bit more detail than the vintage ones, but they’re really not so different. One thing that the toy manufacturers don’t seem to make any more are playsets, which is a shame as these provide great environments around which a child can stage the action. My toy figures had countless adventures in their cardboard Death Star back in 1978…”
And now those adventures happen in public for the world to see, which is a valuable gift that can feed the imagination and nostalgic cravings of museum goers and Star Wars fans alike. But like the Sarlacc of Tatooine (sorry if the references/puns are getting more and more niche I’m running out here guys) the collection only emerges from its pit when required, so where does it live the rest of the time?
“Surprisingly I don’t have a Star Wars display in my house. I live in a traditional 1930s British suburban home and filling it with Star Wars toys would be a bit incongruous, and a bit selfish – I have to think of the rest of my family! This makes it even more special to be able to see it on display within a beautiful museum environment…I don’t intend to ever sell up (I’ll pass my collection on to my daughters when I kick the bucket as a fun part of their inheritance).”
With the exhibition hitting New Walk Museum on the 21/07 get ready to punch it, whether you’re hitting this one Solo or with the whole crew this exhibition is bound to be a multi Leia’d experience. So, set phasers to Museum (I KNOW) and spend a day exploring a galaxy far far away.
“Star Wars is a perfect recipe of ingredients. It’s elegantly simplistic like a fairy tale, but within that there is so much more; mythology, spirituality, heroism, friendship, fantasy, science fiction. I hope people feel a bit of that ‘magic’…Leicester also has a local connection to Palitoy. they produced the vintage Star Wars toys in the UK and their factory was in Coalville – and so we are bringing these toys home!”
The Star Wars exhibition opens at the New Walk Museum on the 21st of July and runs all the way to the 28th of October. Admission is free to come visit some priceless film memorabilia.