Whether you’ve gone to one Star Wars Celebration or all 10, you probably
have some key memories from the four day
experience. Thus when I attended
Celebration (VII) Anaheim, I made a point of documenting those experiences from my perspective
as a first-time attendee. Needless to
say, there was a lot to write about. I had heard about the events time and time again over the years as a member on
Rebelscum and as a friend of several collectors who attend it religiously. By the end of each of the previous events it
was hard not to kick yourself for not attending. This year over 50,000 fans attended the event -- one
of the largest since its inception. Now
I’ve been to many conventions big and small, but this one had an aura to it
unlike any that I had attended before. There was palpable the amount of energy in the halls, the hotels, and even
in the line queues waiting to get in.
This article is about my experiences, the emotions, and the
event as a whole written chronologically as they happened through my eyes. To be forthright, I attended the event as a
collector. My main goals were to find things for my collection and meet people
face to face that I had known for years. Thus a great deal of this post is about my time on the floor
searching, preparing, and ultimately finding items for my collection. At its core however it’s about people -- many that I met for the first time.
So what is a Star Wars Celebration? I mean really, what is it? When my co-workers asked me when I told them
I was going to a Star Wars event, “like Comic con, but unlike Comic Con
it’s all Star Wars, and its nothing like a freaking Star Trek convention.” After some punches were thrown over whether I would
go as Leia with the buns in her hair or the metal bikini, everyone started to become
intrigued. And why not? Star Wars is a
cultural phenomenon and every one of them had seen the movies multiple
times. I think Dave Chapelle
portraying Rick James said it best: “It’s a celebration, bitches
” -- and that’s
truly what it is. It’s about all things
Star Wars; it’s about collecting, costumes, gaming, adventures, and most of all
having a good time.
1:30 PM Wednesday April 15th, Palm Beach Airport, Florida.
Arrived for the first leg of my flight, checked my bag that
will be used to bring back bounty from Anaheim, PC fully charged to work on the
final draft of my presentation for the Collector’s Lounge.
3:00 PM Wednesday April 15th, ATL Airport, Georgia
Qdoba Nachos – Delicious!
Already ran into several people wearing SW garb, and even one guy
already sporting his pass and lanyard for the event -- that might be a little
premature, but oh well to each their own.
6:50 PM Wednesday April 15th, John Wayne Airport, Anaheim,
Arrived in Anaheim on a plane loaded with other Star Wars
fans eager to get into their hotels and out of this airport. The number of Star Wars fans outnumbered the
non Star Wars fans by a large margin... this is going to be interesting.
I took the Super Shuttle loaded down with 8 other fans headed
for the Hotel area in Anaheim. As we
neared the hotel area you could already feel a buzz in the air. People were walking down the streets of
Anaheim carrying lightsabers in hand. It was a cool site to see.
8:01 PM Wednesday April 15th, Hilton Anaheim.
Arrived and checked in at the Hilton. We passed a Carl’s Jr.
about a mile back, time to start walking.
Room not so great, but atmosphere is already bumping... fans everywhere,
dominating the bar, walking around in full SW garb, there’s an energy in the hotel and area overall in the area, it was palpable.
Mmm Carl’s Jr. is freaking delicious!
After some dinner I headed to the bar for a drink, ran into
a few people said hi, and then walked over to see the line queue for the J.J.
Abrams panel in the morning. Holy Hannah
there’s already 6,000 people in line!
Well, I was thinking about camping out in line, but I don’t think that’s
the best idea. Got a lay of the land,
where are the entrances to the convention center? Where are the restrooms? Logistically, how am I going to move through the show floor?
11:10 PM Wednesday April 15th
End of day 1, time for a short rest before my Thursday starts.
4:30 AM Thursday
April 16th Anaheim Convention Center Line Queue.
Time to get up and get in line! So after giving up on the idea of getting in
to see J.J. Abrams / Kathleen Kennedy at the panel the morning of the 16th
decided I should secure my spot in line for one of the simulcasts that would be
taking place in other parts of the venue. Luckily I felt pretty confident about getting into one of those as there
were only around 12,000 people in line when I arrived. Walking through the basement of the Anaheim
Convention center we were rounded up like cattle into separate aisles with
remnants from all the people that were there overnight left behind. Blankets, pillows, Mountain
empty pizza boxes and so much more. Standing on the concrete floor waiting for another 5 and half hours was
going to be tough. Luckily I had my
iPhone, some ear buds, and some genuinely fun people around me in line that were
even nice enough to hold my spot when I had to use the facilities around 8:00 AM. This literally was like nothing else I had
ever seen. I have been to Comic Cons before and they are nuts, I had been to
CES which dwarfs this event and even SDCC in size of participants, but never
had to be stuck in a line for this long in my life.
6:00 AM Thursday April 16th
Volunteers come by to hand out wristbands to segregate who’s going into what room when the event starts. Mine is orange, which I assume is one of the
simulcast rooms -- that or the line that gets lead out to the line outside for
the 11:00 opening of the show floor.
8:30 AM Thursday April 16th
As I sat in line I started thinking about leaving a few times, given
that I realized I was in line to watch a TV. I mustered up the strength to keep going with what seemed to be an act of
futility. Around that time as would
happen from time to time (mainly due to someone knocking over one of the metal
guard rails) the crowd started to roar up. A slender man with grey hair started to walk down the walkways between
the multiple lines.. hey, it’s Anthony Daniels. Always the gentleman, he walked down the aisle to shake hands and take
pictures with the loyal legions of SW fanboys and fangirls -- a nice way to lift
spirits after some people had been there for more than 14 hours.
9:35 AM Thursday April 16th
Finally the line starts to move! As we started to crunch in I saw thousands of
people get corralled through a few doors and up two escalators down a hallway
and into several rooms. My line is one
of the first to leave around 9:45 as we’re pushed from one end of the building
to the other and into the arena. As I
entered the room it was electric -- lightsabers of every color of the spectrum
are waiving in the air, a huge stage is set up with someone keeping the crowd
10:00 AM Thursday April 16th Anaheim Convention Center Arena.
As I sit down and get ready for what I believe I’m about to
watch on a huge screen in front of me, the lights dim and J.J. and Kathleen are
introduced on the stage in front of me. Not only am I shocked that I got in but so were a few thousand other
people in the arena. A deafening roar
comes over the crowd, J.J. walks out and takes a video on his cell phone of the
craziness that’s in front of him. The crowd settles down and opens their ears for what the purveyor of Lucasfilm and director of the first sequel to the Star Wars Trilogy has to say.
After a brief introduction and discussion on Episode VII, they
start to introduce other guests. Two
droid makers that were brought in for Episode VII come out to roll out the new
R2-D2. A few minutes later the newest
droid addition to the trilogy, BB-8, roles out and steals the show. No one (including myself) could believe that
it was a true character and not an act of CG. It rolled around the stage with the head tilting from side to side and was as real as any actor or prop from
the Original Trilogy.
Moments later Oscaar Issaac, John Boyega, and Daisy Ridley
are introduced. The team talks a little
about their characters (very little in fact). In true Star Wars and J.J. Abrams
fashion, most information is being kept secret to ensure that the plot isn’t
Within a few minutes the group is joined by Stormtroopers in
their new costumes, immediately followed by Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher,
Anthony Daniels, and Peter Mayhew entering the arena. It was a great mix of new and old as
stories were told and multiple generations of Star Wars were intertwined into a
Shortly following that J.J. casually asked if we’d like to see
a new teaser. The crowd roared and went silent as the Lucasfilm logo appeared
on the screen. With small spurts of
excitement the crowd watched the new trailer -- one of the best to ever come out
for a Star Wars movie, or film in general. That silence was completely broken when for the first time in 32 years
we saw Han Solo and Chewy on the screen. The roar of the crowd was deafening and rivaled any other that I’d heard
at a concert or sporting event in my life time. It was an emotional experience and one of
the fondest of this universe.
11:05 AM Thursday April 16th
Following the end of the panel I ran to form a line that
would enter the show floor itself. To my
dismay we were held back from entering the building as a separate line queue
had formed for those that didn’t attend the panel or one of the simulcasts that
were set up. It was nearly 11:40 before
they opened the doors for those that attended the panel. This was a major disappointment for me and
all others as it basically meant that all the exclusives for the first day were
sold off before many who were in line for 12 hours were even allowed into the
This was exasperated by the fact that as we entered the
building you could see many exclusives already being re-sold at booths across
the show floor. This brings up a
frustration for the event itself and one that is hard to address as it’s just the
reality of shows in general. Dealer
access to the event allows you to see what’s on the show floor prior to the
doors ever opening -- even for those that paid for
a Jedi Knight ticket. It’s a sad reality that people must deal
with as most dealers are also collectors.
In the case of a Celebration, not only do they have access to the
show floor and other dealers earlier on the first day, but most spend a good chunk
of the day prior to the event visiting other booths and being able to get the
jump on a lot of rare pieces. I bring
this up as a reality for those that haven’t attended before as it’s something
to be prepared for. Even when you know
something is going to be there, it might be long gone before the doors ever
open. In my case one particular dealer
ended up buying 3-4 things that I would have liked to add to my collection the
day before... it sucked.
11:40 AM Thursday April 16th
The doors finally open and we’re off! In the next 60 minutes
I power walked more than a soccer mom would in a full day at the mall. As I rushed to the Gentle Giant booth I was
fairly certain that the one exclusive I was most interested in would be gone,
and I was right. Time to move on and
refocus. I had planned my route through the floor and knew where I wanted to
focus my efforts. However, as plans are
made they tend to go awry. I quickly
found myself distracted by any booth that had something vintage to show. I didn’t want to leave any stone unturned so
as I systematically walked down each aisle I found my head was constantly
looking, scanning, trying to find something that could be added to the
collection. I saw rare Vlix figures, thousands
of MOC figures and every vehicle and playset from the original line. It was daunting and also took me back, as
the last time I saw this much vintage was when it was still on the shelves as a
child. What a feast for the eyes and the mind. During this first pass I tried to plan out my second pass of the
floor. As I finished my first pass I
didn’t find myself empty handed. I had picked up a loose Droids C-3PO and two
carded Jedi figures I needed for my 48 back ROTJ run. That alone was thrilling and if that’s all I
left with I would have felt like the show was a success from a collecting
Rather than head to the Collecting Track which was already
in full swing, I decided to do a second pass on the busy show floor. The floor itself was still in full swing. It
was hard to move through the aisles quickly, and thus you had to be tactical
with how you approached navigating it. On that pass I had some time not to just look quickly but to also to say
a quick hello to some of my comrades from the boards who had booths set up -- James
Gallo, Jeff Jacobs and Todd Chamberlain just to name a few. During this pass of the floor I really got to
see the scale of what was available. One booth had three Vlix figures which
just blew my mind, even more so they had $8K and up price tags. I saw proofs at a few, the 2nd
line of Ewoks figures at another. What
shocked me in general were some of the prices. Some of the less desirable
Revenge proofs were priced at nearly a thousand dollars, where many still
only go for $500 on eBay even in this "up" market that we are seeing. 12” and Star Wars MOCs were definitely the
most common and plentiful of any of the segments of vintage on the floor, and
prices were just as high on most of these items as well. There were AFA 80 20/21 backs going for over
$2,000 in many cases, a sealed 12” IG-88 was listed at nearly $4,000, and so
on. Thus for anyone going to the event
I definitely suggest you prepare yourself for this as you might find that item
you’ve been looking to grab for a long time, but it’s really unlikely you’ll
find a great deal on it.
One thing that caught me off guard at the event was cash
and in short, the prevalent use of it. Back in the
day conventions thrived on cash transactions -- it’s just how you paid for things
outside of going to a retail store. But
in this day and age of smart phones, Paypal and Square, I found it odd that most
of the booths were only taking cash as a form of payment. To me personally toting around $5,000 in your
pocket isn’t a good idea. There’s risk to it, and although I did hit the ATM
hard before the event, I found it difficult to close transactions given this was
the standard form of payment. So be
forewarned if you’re coming to a Celebration in the future: roll heavy with a
fat wad of bills on you and it will make the buying process a lot easier.
12:30 PM Thursday April 16th - Anaheim Convention Center 2nd Floor.
After an exhausting hour and forty minutes of power walking,
talking, and buying, I decided to get the lay of the land on the second floor
and see how the lines were looking for the collector panels. The Collecting Track took place on the 2nd
floor of the building between one large hall with the panel presentations and
one smaller room which was the Collectors Lounge. The lounge was set up with a display of the
decorated Vader cases that were being auctioned off along with a small display
of past Celebration garb and some pictures
highlighting a few collectors that
had submitted their collections for the event (yours truly included). It was a bit surreal seeing pictures of my
collection displayed in the area alongside some heavy hitting collectors, but I
was honored to be picked for the showcase.
The lounge was also home to a small area where other presentations
were taking place. All in all it was
an area for socializing and taking a break from the craziness of the main show
floor. The Collecting Track was packed like years past, with
several presentations taking place each day and a myriad of topics being
covered through the week. Given the
timing of other events and the fact that lines formed early for each of these
panels, it was impossible to make it to every one, and getting to even half
was tough unto itself. On Thursday I
was able to make it to two panels, one on Star Wars Celebration collecting and
the other on comic art. Both were well
put together as were all of the presentations that I saw that weekend. But lining up for them and attending just
these two ate up over half of my time at the show on Friday. It was well worth it, but I would highly
recommend figuring out which ones are most important for you to attend prior to
the event and truly planning your weekend around these panels as they fill up
2:20 PM Thursday April 16th
Rounding our the back half of the day I attended the 2nd
Collectors panel, and spent the rest of my time on the floor, breaking for 20
minutes to grab some food before I literally passed out. There was a great selection of food at the
event provided by 10-15 food trucks that were parked outside. Given the hospitable weather in California. a lot of people
hung out in the plaza outside of the Convention Center. It was a great area to get some fresh air
and get away from the constant fun that was being had inside.
As the mid-afternoon set in, the floor itself started to open
up a bit. It wasn’t people upon people trying to push their way through
aisles. It became more casual which was
a very welcome change. Now you were
able to sit back and really take in the full event itself, experiencing a lot of booths
that were overrun during the first part of the day. It was really the first chance to socialize
with others, whether they were friends or striking up a conversation with
someone who you met in one of the vintage booths. We’re a close-knit community, and being able
to strike up a conversation with a fellow collector at a random booth was
welcome for someone like me who really enjoys the personal interaction with
During this downtime on the floor I really got spend some
time looking at the booths of sellers and exhibitors as well. I started to see major things I missed on
the first few passes of looking for new acquisitions and started to enjoy the
atmosphere. I saw some things first
hand that I never thought I would see. Pre-production samples from the ROTJ line, salesmen samples of the
unreleased POTF series, the Jedi Knight toy kit which was featured in Stephen
Sansweet’s booth, and so many other things I missed earlier in the day as I was
walking around with tunnel vision during those first few passes.
As we neared the close of the show I had to pack up and get
ready for the night, as the close of the show was far from the end of the day
Thursday April 16th,
The first night of Celebration was a big one unto itself as it was also the
night of the Archive Party. Given my
compadre Stephen B. Danley was organizing the event, I had volunteered to help
out with the
set up was assigned to the door for the evening. That’s right, if you didn’t realize it (as
most didn’t) I was the guy checking your tickets at the door that night.
Prior to opening the doors and one of my favorite moments of
the event in general was the fact that I had never met Stephen and Skye in
person. For nearly four years every
month I’ve been putting together a blog for the MarketWatch -- an idea I got from
hearing them cover the market on the first few editions of the 'Chive Cast. Every month since then I’ve talked with at
least one of these guys over email and meeting them in person was truly one of
the high points of the weekend. But
they weren’t the only people I met that night that I had conversed with for
several years. Working the door gave me
the opportunity to read everyone’s tickets (which included their names) so I
could try and catch people that I knew on the way in, I had a little fun with
this at different times, messing with people’s heads and of course introducing
myself eventually to most of the great individuals that I had known through the
The event itself was well planned and had so many great
things to do. The classic Atari game was
up for play, there was a game of "Pin the Tail on Headman," races to see who
could assemble C-3PO the quickest, and a costume contest to top it off, with one
of the best Hammerhead costumes I’ve ever seen complete with turquoise man-kini. Over the course of the night there was a
silent auction held to benefit the No Kill Animal Shelter that was the
philanthropy for the night. At the core
of the event though was a great family vibe as so many that created the Archive
and many who contribute to it today were able to come together, young and old,
new and seasoned.
I’ve always heard how much the relationships matter in the
hobby and how many people state that friendships and the memories are the most
important part of the hobby for them. To be honest I’ve never felt that way, call me old fashioned but
developing “friends” through email just doesn’t feel real to me. I have to meet someone, shake their hand, see
there facial expressions to truly make a friendship real. During this weekend I was finally able to
make this a reality, and most of this occurred at the Archive Party. I was able
to meet so many -- Gus, Duncan Skye, Steve, Ron, Yehuda, Derek Ho, and Trevor just
to name a few.
It was also my first time being able to meet Stephen
Sansweet, who I truly credit with getting me into the hobby when I was a teenager with the release of his Star Wars
price guides. It was great to get to
thank him for that and spend some time conversing about the hobby and how it
had evolved over the years.
The Archive Party was a great way to end the first day of
the event, but it also made it hard to top with three days left.
11:45 PM Thursday
As the party settled down me and several other collectors
headed downstairs to the bar to close down the night. Another opportunity to socialize, catch up
with old contacts and turn them into friends.
6:07 AM Friday April
With a little bit later of a start time, the 2nd
day of Celebration Anaheim started in the same way as the first, with line
queues. After grabbing some Starbucks I
headed down to wait in line, today just for 4 hours which seemed like it would
be a breeze given I was actually going to be caffeinated today. Regardless it was still a really long time to
be standing in line to get into an event, but I had a goal and early entry to
the floor was a key part of achieving that goal. It was a simple and noble goal, acquire one
of the C-3PO Jumbo Gentle Giant figures!
I’m not a collector of this series at all, but at the same time this one
exclusive spoke to me more so then any other at the event. Thus I made a point of acquiring one and
invested thought and time into how I would go about it. I knew where the booth was, I knew how far
away I was and all I had to do was, run like crazy down the aisle ways at full
speed so I could be one of the 100
people in line to get the piece….
10:00 AM Friday April
As the doors open the line slowly moved into the convention
hall. As I found myself past the
entrance I immediately high tailed it at full speed to the Gentle Giant
booth. Yes, I made it and there’s only
30 or so people in front of me, I should be set. But no, between exhibitors that were waiting
in line before 10:00 and those that were ahead of me in line it was too late. Well there’s two days left, we’ll see what
10:45 AM Friday April 17th - Collectors Lounge.
Friday was a great day in that I was able to do a live podcast
with my cohorts Steve and Skye. Although (Brisbane-Brisbane) Mike wasn’t there, he was in spirit. It was the most complete our little family had ever
been with myself and Trevor Hoppers both present to talk with the
two hosts. Set up in the Collectors Lounge, it was a great little event
to be a part of. We had a small crowd of people present and were able to
touch-base with some focus collectors in the hobby. Personally, I gave a live update on the sales
on the floor. I wasn’t short on words given everything what was available at
2:45 PM Friday April 17th - Collecting Track Panel Room
As we rounded out that part of the day, I had the chance to
get in line for the first panel I would get to attend: Star Wars Coins. The panel overall was great, informative,
had some humor in it and enough content to stretch the whole hour. There was new information for me, like
learning that one of the facilities that made some of the test coins was just
down the road from me in Minneapolis. As I walked out with a new Star Tot in hand I headed back to the floor
itself to spend some more time taking in the main parts of the show.
4:05 PM Friday PM April
As I strolled through the show floor I finally felt
like I could casually take in the event. I was able to get in line to see the Rancho Obi-One exhibit. What a great booth for collectors... as I
walked through the line I saw things I never knew existed and things that
intrigued me as to why they were never put into production. Steve Sansweet was able to bring some of the most
unique items from the Rancho to the event and showcase them in a way that was
entertaining for collectors and casual fans as well.
Coming out of the booth I spent more time walking the show
floor and getting to interact with the dealers at the different booths. I spent some time with Jeff Jacobs -- someone
who isn’t elusive but definitely walks to the beat of his own drum. I had conversed with Jeff via Facebook and
Rebelscum extensively over the years. As much as I credit Steven Sansweet with making me a collector, I credit
Jeff with inspiring me to take my collection to the next level, both in scope
and display; not quite his level, but somewhere in between the newb stage and
ultra collector stage. Jeff is a really
approachable individual, but he’s also a keen business man, manning his booth
with Zach Tann he was making deals left and right and ultimately did a lot of
transactions featuring some great standards of the hobby and a few unique pieces he
brought with him. About the only downer
I discovered during my brief time with Jeff was that he was looking for some of
the same mailer pieces I was. Sometimes
it’s best just to step back from one part of your focus and let someone else do
the dealing. This is probably going to be my approach with catalog mailers in the
Moving along I ran into James Gallo who had time to talk
since his booth wasn’t being overrun with people at the time. The co-author of Coining a Galaxy
is a great
guy. I had met him in person a week earlier at Megacon in Orlando, and it
amazed me how he literally went to three corners of the country in under a week
and had a completely different booth of product at each event.
Outside of Jeff and James, the only other person with a booth that I had ever communicated with electronically was Todd Chamberlain. Todd had a great
set up that week and offered up new items each day to keep the booth
fresh. By the end of the week he was
showcasing a piece I would have liked to pick up but just couldn’t: a sample 48 back
ROTJ Walrusman card with Nikto on the front -- very cool and for someone who has
everything ROTJ related it would have been a nice addition to the collection. I met a lot of other dealers that day, people that I started
to build relationships with, and in general people that have been around in the
hobby for a while.
5:35 PM Friday April
As the show started to slow down I was able to catch one
more panel: Collecting Ewoks, which surprised me with some of the interesting
new information that I gathered, as I really thought there wasn’t much to
collecting the 6 figures that were released for the cartoon. But this was more -- much more -- from the
original ROTJ Ewok figures to items through the 90s there was some great
content covered by Amy Sjoberg and Jarrod Clark.
8:45 PM Friday April
After taking some time to rest up from the long two days it
had been already, I decided to stroll down to Starbucks for some go-juice for
the pending night of room sales and other general shenanigans. It was at this time I met a red headed
fellow smoking cigarettes and asking me who I was. This was my introduction to Steve York [given
the standards of the Archive the next two hours will be stricken from this
posting]. All I have to say is Steve and
I have had a combative relationship through the boards, and his personality in
person didn’t disappoint.
10:40 PM Friday April
Even more so than anything I saw in the formal event the one
thing that I was most excited about (and nervous) was the Room Sales: the illusive event where several vintage
collectors assemble to sell items that they’ve deliberately brought for sale or
high end trades. I had heard about this
part of the event every year that Celebration occurred stateside. It’s
something of legend to those that don’t attend the event itself. Thus I was determined to dedicate a great
deal of time to ensuring that I would be able to take the whole thing in.
Although the event didn’t start until 11:00 PM I walked
around the planned area repeatedly waiting for sellers to show up to unleash
their items for sale. What ensued was
truly a social phenomenon unto itself and something unique to Celebration as a whole.
As sellers set up small stations -- some on the floor some on
tables, some of the reception counter of the 2nd
floor of the Hilton
Anaheim -- the air started to buzz. Droves
of collectors rushed in to see the bounty that laid before them. $1,000+ deals were made in seconds, with some
people jumping table to table throwing out big bucks to pick up big items and
just things they needed. People
literally swarmed the sellers with some being overwhelmed. After the initial rush, people started to
more as a lot of the great deals were swept up in minutes. It was great to see so many unique and one
of a kind items around the floor and an incredible part of the overall weekend.
I saw our friend Jeff Jacob pick up what seemed to be a
dozen or so Vaders in one quick deal, someone down the road grabbed 15 MOC
figures from a stash of over 100, and yours truly picked up 4 ROTJ proofs in
one buy from Uncle Gundy himself, Derek Ho. Even though that was a big win for me I wasn’t able to convince Paul Konatske
to part with his ROTJ Yoda Cromalin, but we live to fight another day….
It was at this event that I also noticed something odd: Skye
was being followed around by cameras. Stephen B. later caught me up on the fact that they were going to be
following him around for the weekend as part of a documentary on Star Wars
fans. Great for him and great for the
hobby, this also made for a little added fun when it came to the rest of the
As we approached the 2AM mark on what was now Saturday the
, people started to pack up and head back up to their rooms in
preparation for the next day. So
concluded the 2nd
day of Celebration VII, the most memorable of the
week for me personally, but not the end by a long shot.
Check back for Part II of this piece in the coming weeks as
we wrap up coverage of Star Wars Celebration Anaheim.