Thursday, March 9, 2017

Limelight Interview #6A - 21 Proof: Tim Eckholdt

 Pete writes:

 Welcome to our newest Collector Limelight entry -- one of many firsts. Not only is it the first limelight of the New Year, it’s also the first (but not the last) two-part limelight featuring one of the most spectacular Vintage Star Wars collections ever assembled. The last "first" could be the most important of the group, being this is the only entry to date where I was able to visit the collector and see the collection first-hand while conducting the interview. This gave me an exclusive perspective on the layout and overall depth of where our featured collector has gone with his collection. To say the least, it was an incredible experience and ranks as one of my favorites in over a decade of collecting Vintage Star Wars. 

Our collector for this limelight is Tim Eckholdt -- a collector focusing on pre-production items from the Vintage Star Wars line, with a specific yet vast focus on the first 21 characters. As most collectors do, Tim has veered into other segments of the hobby but kept a general focus on pre-production items through his journey. Tim’s collection is something of legend, with a room featuring some of the most sought after, desirable, and overall unique items from the Vintage Star Wars toy line. Tim is a collector of many years as well. He got his start in the hobby at a young age but puts 2005 as the watershed year when he started to focus more on the hobby and his collection. This was a time when a lot of new collectors entered the market and those that had been longtime collectors started to become more serious about the hobby as well. The depth and breadth of the collection are the two main reason we are covering it with two interviews. The extent of completeness is remarkable and the dedication and time that Tim has invested into the hobby is admirable. Our first part will focus in on two-dimensional items, and it’s sad to say we won’t be able to touch on everything in this sprawling collection, but will try to give you tidbits of some of the finer points.

"Collect all 21" -- The Focus Collection

Like many collectors, Tim has a focus. But unlike most, it’s not on one figure; it’s not even on two, three or even twelve figures. Tim’s focus is simply on the first 21 figures in the Vintage Star Wars toy line. This gives him more runway than single character focus collectors. The focus is so expansive that one could spend a lifetime pulling together items and never getting bored, and maybe that’s one of the key things that makes this one of my favorite collections in the hobby. There literally is no end... it’s a focus, it’s finite, but infinite at the same time. It’s a strange paradox, but beautiful. As a collector, Tim has shied away from production items over the years and focuses solely on things not sold in stores. It’s because of this that Tim’s collection is a standout -- literally every piece that you find has the potential to make you gasp, smile and just take a step back...but be careful what’s behind you, as it's more than likely as incredible as what lies in front of you.

The collection as a whole is broken into a few categories that we’ll focus on. The main point of discussion and focus are the proofs and Cromalins for the first 21 characters. We’ll take a look at some great packaging artwork, large scale proofs, and finish it up with a few pieces that land far away from the first 21.

Arriving at Tim's Home

As usual, because of time and other factors I rarely get to make it out to meet up with other collectors. Sure there’s Celebration, there are toy shows, but actually getting into another collector's home and spending time with them and their collection only happens a few times a year. For my visit, Tim pulled together several members of the Arizona Collecting Club, including Don Henderson, Andrew Davis and Paul Kotanske -- all of whom showed the patience of saints as it took me quite a while to pull myself away from the event I was attending in AZ. Arriving at Tim’s house was something in and of itself. As much as Tim is a collector, he’s a nostalgic individual as well. With a kitchen decorated in black and white tile and a 1960s style soda fountain, I might as well have been Marty McFly as I literally stepped back in time into a perfect representation of a 1960s diner. Tim’s collecting room was all that I thought it would be and much, much more. The rows of glass cases containing lines of proofs cards from every banner in the Vintage line were simply one of the most impressive an astounding sights I’ve ever seen in my years of collecting.


FP: I know that you’re a collector at heart. Tell me a little bit about Tim Eckholdt the collector.

TE: I’ve been collecting since 2005 pretty hard, on and off since I was a teenager on a few different fronts. I had runs with GI Joe, comics, and then came back to Star Wars. In comics I focused on Golden Age DC and all of the big books -- Action Comics 1 (1st Superman), 1st Batman, 1st Appearance of Robin, a lot of the inbetween issues of Detective Comics.

FP: What was you earliest memories of Star Wars?

TE: I remember going to Venture when I was a child. First figure was Luke Bespin, my sister got Leia Bespin. Earliest movie memory was going to see The Empire Strikes BackI saw it before Star Wars, and saw Star Wars a few weeks later on cable. I saw the re-released Star Wars between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. The movie made me jump into the toys. I can remember that Christmas and getting a lot of the playsets and vehicles. That first year I was opening the toys, but I didn’t get the Falcon. My uncle asked if I got everything I wanted and I said "no," and they had the Falcon hidden in the corner. It was a good memory. There was a lot of role playing as a kid, and interaction with other kids. Looking back, I think that the movie impacted me a lot more even into my adult years than I really thought it would. My engineering work is focused on aerospace and the grand ideas of Star Wars helped direct me towards a lot of these ideas.

FP: Was Vintage Star Wars your first collecting hobby? 

TE: I went from comics to Star Wars. I was aware of Star Wars always being present in the world of comics, with crossover at the [collectibles] shows. At one point I bought a 200 figure collection during one of the shows in the 1990s. Some of the shows where I was selling comics, I would trade for Star Wars and pick up things like a Cloud City playset.

FP: So your Vintage collection started with a few pieces here and there when collecting comics.  When did you start to really focus in on Star Wars? 

TE: In 2005 I was collecting production pieces. I had a large carded collection as we had settled into our permanent residence and we had room. It evolved because I realized that no matter what amount of space you have, you can fill it up with production figures fairly easily. I decided to get into just Star Wars characters to try and focus in on a segment. Joe Yglesias had a 20 Back Luke Proof Card; I thought it would be fun to offset some of the production items I had. When it arrived it changed the way I looked at the collection. I learned about the 2D process and really got involved in 2D -- this occurred around 2008. I sold off the production collection and used the funds to start the focus on 2D.

FP: How difficult was it to find stuff in 2008?

TE: The goal was to get complete runs for each of the first 21, but I didn't expect to get there. It was fortunate for me personally, because there were a lot of collectors that were letting go of pieces at the time the McWilliams deal happened. The economy had turned and it had a profound effect on the hobby, and because of this there was a lot available. The hobby was in a bit of turmoil, but I was in a good position professionally, and I still had funds from selling the production stuff. So I was able to jump in at that time, and because there was a large amount of items I was able to get more than I would have under a normal situation.

FP: What was your sweet spot in finding stuff?

TE: Rebelscum played a large part in it, and a few collectors that took me under my wing. Broc Walker was one person that really helped me. He helped direct me towards where certain items were and when they might become available. But overall it was Rebelscum. Some of the more common stuff came from eBay -- Revenge proofs for example. A lot of it was people trying to help me out. As I networked and met more people, others became aware of what was going on and I got access to a few things that weren’t available before they went up on the market. Most of the 2D came from a guy named Seth who was an unknown collector. A lot of his collection came from dealers like Tom Derby. Very few people knew of him and I got wind of the collection and the fact that he was selling. Seth got out because he was getting bored. At one point he said he only got 12 things one year. He never really networked and made friends through the hobby.

FP: What would you consider the grail piece in your collection?

TE: The photo art spread for the 1981 Toy Fair catalog -- it’s the 48 figures against a red background. There was a lot of airbrushing to them. It makes me appreciate the craftsmanship and effort that went into the line. It was such an insignificant spread, but there was so much work put into it.  It makes you think about the work that would go into this, and other parts of the process. I acquired it through a close friend of mine. He was getting another piece of photo art and he was taking a different direction with the collection and passed it on me as part of the trade.   

FP: How did your 2D collection evolve?

TE: The early part of the collection was focused on the 21 backs and on ESB proofs. I was fortunate that a large amount of Star Wars items became available. From there it was piecing things together to make a set. John Wooten was letting go of a Leia Cromalin (Fett Offer) and that was the first one I was able to pick up. Proofs are the focus, but Cromalins are so aesthetically appealing and detailed that it really took it to another level. Then photo art was its own segment. I did everything I could when pieces became available. When it came to mock-ups, it was more about continuing to expand the collection once I had the majority of the 2D pieces. I was very religious as I purchased items and stuck with just those 21 characters. I would sell off items when I bought a collection, and really just stick to the 21 characters no matter how much I liked some of the other items.

FP: What is your favorite character?

TE: Greedo has always been my favorite character. Partly because when I was getting into 2D, Gus had the photo art for Greedo and I locked into that -- this was a grail piece and something I aspired to find. Personally he's my favorite character, he’s the best alien out there. One thing that’s unique is there are no Star Wars proofs for him. His debut proof is the 41 back Empire proof card. All of the mock-ups are QC examples; the ESB 21 is really neat as the purpose is to show the Bossk extension sticker on the back of the card. Another great piece is a multi-figure sheet that has 2-3 color proofs vs. the finished product, which originated from the Earth. I’ve been fortunate enough to add the 47 back proof to the collection as well last year. My favorite piece in the Greedo set is the POTF Cromalin. The colors just pop, there’s no offer; it’s a Cromalin so it’s unique unto itself. Second on the list would be the Fett Offer Cromalin.

FP: What piece do you think took the most effort to acquire?

TE: Star Wars Walrus Man Proof card. The collector changed his mind four times during a two month period; we shipped it to [Tom] Derby and left it with him. He would change his mind every other week on wanting to sell/keep it. It was the most back and forth of any of the pieces I ever bought. I had all the Walrus Man pieces at that time and I was really trying to close it up as it was the only one I needed to have the complete run of Walrus Man proofs and Cromalins. Plus, he’s another Cantina character and I have a bit of an affinity for these characters.

FP: Some of the most interesting pieces for someone who has dealt with the Revenge of the Jedi line over the years are the Luke Skywalker X-Wing Pilot Revenge logo variations. Tell me about those pieces.

TE: They were mock-ups of for the Revenge cardback logos, the shape and size specifically.  They were mocked up on an offerless 31 back. Even though they were already doing 48 backs, they wanted to mock these up on offerless cardbacks. Some of these were pretty crazy -- lightning bolts and things like that -- just didn’t make sense given where the line had been. They also did this on Vader and Rebel Soldier cardbacks.

FP: Tell me about the Star Wars and ESB sheets.

TE: The 4-card Cromalin came out of Gus’s collection. I got it around the same time he let go of the Greedo artwork. I was really surprised that I ended up getting it as he actually had it hanging above a bed in his home. It’s a really critical piece. There are a lot of mark ups that were done on the sheet, so it was early enough in the process that it wasn’t close to final. It still surprises me that this survived given there were so many key characters on this sheet. You’d think that it would be cut up along the way. It shows that Gus probably grabbed that as soon as it came out into the market. No other Cromalins, but there are some proof sheets. The ESB sheet was one of the few items that came out of the Earth that was a full color piece. Someone was trying to trade stuff back to Tom Derby for some really key ROTJ pieces: Bib Fortuna with a white cape and Squidhead with a black cape. Tom really helped me with a lot of my collection and offered that up to me. To my knowledge there’s only one other sheet that’s out there. At the time that it came up I was sitting on two 4-character Jedi sheets. I really didn’t want to let them go, but when this came up I thought it would satisfy the craving for a multi-figure sheet. Back in the day, a lot of people cut up the sheets just because they could cut it up, sell it to focus collectors , keep a few for yourself and still make some money off it vs. what the full sheet would command. Today it’s a different story, it’s flipped around completely.

We'll pick up with Tim in a few weeks covering his 3D collection and the "lighting round."

1 comment:

  1. Great interview Pete and absolutely amazing collection. I love these.