Wednesday, August 20, 2014
The Star Wars Collectors Archive: The First 20 Years
Today (August 20, 2014) is the 20th anniversary of the Star Wars Collectors Archive, the first Star Wars collecting website on the Internet. When I started "The Archive" with friends 20 years ago, we wanted to build a destination where fellow collectors could share information as we were all ramping up and learning a lot about this hobby. At the time, people thought I was nuts to build a website devoted to such an esoteric topic as "Star Wars collecting." It was years before this hobby went mainstream, and the idea of a site dedicated to Star Wars collecting seemed too narrow for anyone to notice. Today, there are many wonderful Star Wars collecting websites covering various aspects of the hobby.
In 1994, most of us were students or recent grads, building our collections on shoestring budgets and learning and documenting everything we discovered. None of us owned prototypes or anything obscure, but we craved and assembled as much information as we could find about previously unknown Star Wars collectibles. We had a lot to learn and explore. Many of us had never met in person, and only knew each other through online connections. Years later, all of us traveled around the world to conventions and get-togethers to share our passion for the hobby and meet thousands of other fellow collectors.
Little did we know that the Internet would play a profound role in shaping Star Wars collecting. The generation that grew up with Star Wars as kids were among the first adopters of Internet technology when it went mainstream in the 1990's, connected like-minded collectors all over the world. This allowed collectors to assemble and validate information from a wide range of experts and sources in a way that had never been possible. It also opened up a global marketplace for Star Wars collectibles.
Along the way The Archive was the place for many firsts we were proud to introduce to the hobby. In addition to being the first Star Wars collecting website, we unearthed previously unknown Kenner toy concepts many times over and likely played a small part in collectors' awareness and interest in toy prototypes. We were the first to publicly showcase images of some of the greatest collections from people like Steve Denny, Tom Neiheisel, Steve Sansweet, John Kellerman, and Bill Plumb, to name a few. We published the first guide to Power of the Force coins and a coin rarity scale that is still widely in use today. We were the first to share information on and photos of bootleg Star Wars toys. We built the first and still the largest searchable/browsable database of all Star Wars items known to exist. We launched the first website for custom action figures--an Archive section that has long since been retired as it is now so well served by many other sites. We published extensive information on available items and rarities in areas like store displays, the Micro Collection, coins, cast & crew items, Tri-Logo figures, posters, and even 8-tracks. At times we stepped beyond collecting and were the first to share information about visiting the Star Wars filming locations. We were even the first website to publish images of the long-awaited POTF2 figures in 1995 (a habit that we quickly got sick of and proudly dropped by wave 2).
The Archive was never designed to be a mainstream/corporate Star Wars collecting website. No one makes money off the Archive. We're grateful to our single sponsor (Brian's Toys) who pays exactly our server costs and no more. We regularly turn down offers from other interested sponsors and advertisers because we believe in building a site that is by collectors for collectors. We aren't interested in keeping everyone updated on the latest items on store shelves (that is well served by many other sites). But we regularly hear from other collectors that The Archive has taught them a lot about the hobby, played a big part in inspiring their interests, and that they enjoy going through our virtual museum of Star Wars collectibles.
No one can predict what the next 20 years of the Archive will bring. But with the 20th anniversary we are taking The Archive in new directions. First, we're doing a major website redesign to make information easier and convenient to find. Next, we are launching a set of blogs by the existing Archive staff and some new friends to help us cover a wider range of topics. We are highlighting the SWCA Podcast and MarketWatch with top level integration into the site. We are going to present more frequent collecting topics on the Archive home page.
Finally, I want to express huge thanks to all of the Archive editors and the hundreds of collectors who have contributed content to the Archive over the past two decades. Star Wars collecting is vast, and no single collector can cover everything in this hobby, but the community can create something really awesome. The Archive has changed a lot over the years but one constant has remained--the Star Wars collecting community made this all possible.