| on July 02, 2010, 09:12:00 PM
Critical Messes #1: Chip Cataldo
conducted by Rod Keith
We talk a lot about what we collect here at the Mess, but we spend a lot less time discussing the hows and the whys. And once we get that thing we just have to have, what do we actually do with it? "Critical Messes" will take the time to examine the collecting philosophies of our fellow Messers through the specifics of what we keep on our shelves. Or floor, closet, table, back seat of a car, whatever!
In our inaugural installment, we'll be talking with Chip Cataldo. Chip has been a well-known veteran of the toy collecting community for nearly two decades, and his current passion is his "Super Powers" room. Primarily devoted to the 1980's Kenner DC toyline, Chip's display is breathtaking in its depth and admirable for its clean, tasteful arrangement.
First off, Chip-- why Super Powers? From where does the interest come?
It was pretty much an organic evolution. Like most of the people I know, I'm a comic guy through-and-through. I started reading them when I was 7 and have been a huge fan ever since. Though I considered myself a Marvel guy, the more I look back the more I read pretty much everything. The earliest story I remember reading from DC comics was "Crisis on Earth-Prime" that ran through Justice League of America and All-Star Squadron.
It introduced me to a lot of characters and I remember thinking, "Wow...DC has just as much coolness as Marvel does!" That of course led to me religiously getting up every Saturday morning to catch the newest Superfriends cartoon, and that cartoon evolved into Super Powers. I really enjoyed that show a lot. The fact that they included Firestorm, Cyborg, the 4th World guys...characters I wasn't that familiar with, really made it great for me. It was like rediscovering the DC Universe.
Did you have any interest in the Super Powers toy line at the time?
I saw them on the shelves and purchased a few. Superman, Batman, Brainiac, Darkseid, and Firestorm are ones I remember the most. I don't think I had any 3rd Wave characters because I was SO focused on Star Wars: Power of the Force.
You kept reading DC during this period?
Though I continued to read comics all through my first years of college, they were mostly Marvel and (though I'm shy to admit it) the Image titles. Then 1992 came along, and a small cartoon called Batman : The Animated Series kicked it into high gear for me with DC.
I became an Animation Gallery Manager for the Warner Brother Studio Store, and that whole experience ramped the collecting up a huge notch. I had begun saving carded Star Wars figures in 1986 when buying them off the shelf, and had actively seeked out fellow collectors on the internet starting in 1991, but didn't really make a huge effort to acquire a "collection" until that time. Between the gallery artwork I'd buy, I was getting close to 50 comics a week as well as lots of action figures.
To shorten the amount of ancillary anecdotes that are a part of this huge story, when the DC Universe Classics line was announced and the first series was shown, I was already collecting Justice League Unlimited due to my (obviously) huge interest in the show.
You've been pretty vocal about that line. Do you still have or collect
those? They're almost non-existent in the SP room, aside from a few.
Due to the extreme lack of attention to detail and sidetracking of where I believe the line SHOULD go, I'm done with it all. I like to enjoy my collecting, and JLU is the most frustrating line of all time to collect. Too many things that rail right against common sense and the flow of the line, IMHO. I have one JLU figure that I've kept: Amanda Waller, just because I championed for the character to be made for so long.
And DC Universe Classics?
I was blown away by DCUC and had to buy them. After easily acquiring Series 1, I had a tough time finding Series 2 and an impossible time with Series 3 until I turned to eBay. I ended up paying over $30 per figure for those, so I took a step back. "If I'm paying this much for new toys, why not go back to collecting vintage and actually feel like I'm getting something worthwhile for my money?" I enjoyed the DC characters so much that I looked back to Super Powers.
Nostalgia is one of two huge components in my drive for Super Powers, and the other is the artwork. I love the whole presentation...the "look" of the Super Powers line. The bright, primary colors. The Garcia-Lopez artwork. To me, it's perfection.
What did you collect before this?
I have had quite a few "major" collections in my lifetime. Comic books, Warner Brothers animation artwork, vintage Star Wars, Atari 2600 games, the DC animated properties lines, Mego Micronauts, etc. All were sold off either to pay bills or to finance other things like cars and moves. I've moved 26 times in my life, and that sucks. :-)
When did you start collecting SP?
Believe it or not, my first piece was purchased in September 2007. Not even three years ago.
How did the collection grow? Did you start with one aspect and it led to another, or was it as all-encompassing from the beginning?
One aspect to start, and it organically spread out from there. I started with the action figures because it's what I remember from my youth. Superman fought Darth Vader many a time in my backyard. Oddly enough, he always lost. LOL.
My first figure was the small-card Wonder Woman. At the time I had only planned on getting a complete set of carded Kenner figures on their first-release card back, and then adding the mail-away Clark Kent and the Super Amigos Riddler. I wasn't even planning on a loose set or any boxed vehicles.
The toy theme expanded as I learned more about the line. When I read that the Brazilian release of Plastic Man from the company Estrela actually came with a mini-comic, I added that to my want list as the "end" of the carded figure set. Then I learned of the previous-released characters on the final wave card back (which was my favorite due to it's clean design look), and being a big fan of the Star Wars "Power of the Force" final series card design...well, I decided I needed to have those, as well.
I honestly can't remember when the final "switch" was thrown as far as collecting *everything* with the Super Powers logo on it. I just looked around the collection room, trying to remember what the first non-figure piece was...and I can't think of it. The closest I can come to fathoming a guess is the Burger King figural cup/holder counter display. It's an awesome piece, and the 3D aspect of it with the character artwork and the cups actually displayed on it...well, I thought it would compliment the figures nicely. Now that I've typed that, I'm pretty certain that was the
first non-figure purchase.
After that I'm sure it was either one of the big floor puzzles or one of the book/record sets that made me say, "Wow...they really look great displayed along-side the figures like that!"
The rest, as they say, is obsessive-compulsive. :-)
What methods did/do you use to find the pieces?
eBay is king here. I wish I could avoid it, but it's where a LOT of my
stuff comes from. The difference with me is my OCD. Being obsessive-compulsive, I haunt eBay every day. I must check well over 50 times a day...you never know when something is going to pop up.
As far as the foreign items, two HUGE collections of them fell into my lap just from people contacting me on the message boards I frequent because they knew I was a collector of Super Powers that wanted EVERYTHING foreign-released.
I also network as much as I possibly can, with lots of contacts both in the retail- and private collector-worlds as well as many others here and especially in other countries. eBay, Google, message boards, vintage e-tailer sites (I have 3 or 4 ones that regularly get in Super Powers), friends and fellow collectors. I cast my net as widely as possible, because you never know what you're gonna catch.
One person I will single out is my good friend Joe Grunenwald. He has helped me find a few very key pieces and has even purchased one for me when he didn't think I'd see it in time. Now THAT is a good friend.
Does Joe collect SP too?
Yup, he sure does, and has a very impressive collection in his own right. Mostly the carded figures, but has has some of the ancillary items as well that really flesh it out and make for a great display. He actually has one thing I don't possess, too! He has a Fan Club Kit, which I have yet to acquire.
How widespread would you estimate the collecting community of SP is? Especially the hardcore collectors?
Small. Very small. As far as hardcore collectors I know of online, I can name them off in a short list : myself, Mike Mensinger, Derek Ho, Daniel Pickett, Joe Grunenwald, and probably 15 others whom I'm only on a first-name or screen name basis. That list is in decreasing degree of collecting, BTW. Only the first 4-5 of us really go crazy for acquiring pre-production and things of that nature.
As far as not online or very private individuals...well I've heard of several "Black Hole" collections of fantastic stuff, but the one person that could tell me who these people are is keeping mum about it all.
There are also other collectors whose focus is not Super Powers, yet they have some nice pre-production pieces...like Tommy Garvey and Shane Turgeon. James Gallo and Mark Huckabone have some amazing items as well, but as far as I know they aren't keeping them for themselves...they're all for sale.
Has the acquisition process been difficult?
For the most part, only in two instances. I was laid off from a good-paying job and only could find work part-time in a grocery store for close to a year, so funds were scarce. A lot of begging, pleading, finagling, and payment plans got me through that. The only other difficult thing is sometimes dealing with people in other countries that don't speak English. I'm actually going through that right now, but BabelFish has been enough of a bridge that a key piece will probably be arriving in another month.
Did you ever pass on anything that you've later regretted?
Joker and Aquaman 33-back proof cards. Kalibak re-release on the 3rd series card back. The white box of Valentine cards. That's it, but they are all HUGE as far as my collection, and of course I haven't seen others pop up yet.
Conversely, anything you did buy that you later wished you'd hadn't?
Nope, never. If it has the Super Powers logo on it and I don't have it, I want it.
What's essential to your collection?
The action figures first and foremost. After that, it's now become "everything" that has that damned logo on it that is essential. I find that the more I get of a particular area or from a particular company, the more it enhances what I have. The fact that I have 7 different versions of the Nasta sunglasses is only enhanced because I have the carded flashlight and (only one known, I believe) carded Superman watch. They all compliment each other VERY well. I love that aspect of my collection.
What took the most effort to obtain?
Well, as far as time goes the All-Terrain Trapper cromalin deal has taken well over a year to complete, with cash and trades of other rare (non-Super Powers) items involved. It's still not here yet, but will arrive the third week in July. The carded Estrela Joker was another piece where I was dealing with someone directly in Brazil that didn't speak English very well. That took quite a few months.
Currently, the Playful Super Amigos MIB Delta Probe One is one I'm working on with someone in Argentina. The language barrier is proving difficult to navigate even with BabelFish, and the payment is also proving difficult. Regardless, it's the last one I need to complete a run of that vehicle boxed from every country it was released in : USA, Canada, Argentina (both companies) and Brazil.
Which piece, or pieces, are your pride and joy?
Oh goodness...THAT is a difficult question. I will try and narrow it down to a relatively small number of examples:
- Brainiac 33-back proof card (Brainiac is my favorite SP character and a sub-focus in my collection. Only two 33-back proofs are known to exist)
- Super Poderes Brainiac MOC (Spainish release by General Mills Juguetes, only one in the world known to exist)
- 33-back Red Tornado (unknown to exist before 2009 and one of only two known to exist)
- Samurai hand-painted hand-carded sample (used at Toy Fair in 1985 to pitch the 3rd series)
- Super Amigos Riddler MOC, Playful release (every Ridder you've seen for sale has been from the company Pacipa...this is the only known Playful one)
- Super Amigos Shazam MOC (the only one known to exist, and it has different character artwork on the front of the card)
- Gulliver complete 9-figure MOC run (includes both versions of El Capitan Rayo...different chest emblem designs)
- Near-complete Burger King point-of-purchase promotional kit (only missing the hanging cup display and the employee button...I even have the original shipping box it came in)
- VHS Collection video store promotional standee (the thing is HUGE, and just due to the size not many have survived...I only know of two, including mine)
That was insanely difficult.
Most oddball item, in your view?
The bootleg items will always be the "oddest balls" with the top one probably being the 10" plastic Batman figure carded with a mini-Batmobile (1989 movie version). It doesn't have the official Super Powers logo on it, but it does say "Super Powers." I have that figure in 4 different kinds of packaging now, and it seems like a new one pops up every month.
Anything you don't display?
Nope. When I run out of room I'll be moving into a bigger place. No, I'm not joking. :-)
Ever seen anything that surprised you?
Oh yes. Even mild surprises seem to be a weekly thing. For example, just yesterday I noticed someone selling a "Stain-a-Sticker" set from Craftmaster that I have never seen before. I thought there were only two, which I both have. Nope, there IS another! :-)
As far as major surprises, the 33-back Red Tornado takes the cake. Only 10 characters were re-released on the 33-back card back (no comic book included, no offer in the lower right corner) and, as documented by collectors in the game much longer than myself...half were very difficult to find. Reddy popped up on ebay Spain in 2009 and everyone was shocked. A production piece that no one had known existed first appearing in 2009??? It was
huge, and the final amount showed it. It sold for $1,100. Now, that's not all...the after-shock, for me, was even larger than that, for 3 months later I was browsing one of my regular Super Powers e-tailer sites...and there was another. For $100. I called up and immediately purchased it.
Lucky, lucky, lucky...or was it my OCD because it was the 5th time I had checked that site that week? :-)
What's more important to you, just getting the item or a specific condition? How often do you 'upgrade'?
Rarity dictates this. With my Gulliver 9-figure MOC run, I was thrilled just to have the only known set. Most of them are in fantastic shape.
One stands out as a HUGE turd...Batman. Bubble is dark from yellowing/browning, it's cracked to a point where you can either take the figure out the top of the bubble or slip him out the lower left of the bubble. However, he's important because he completes the set AND because he's Batman AND because he's one of the rarest figures released by Gulliver, if not the rarest. I'd never seen another for sale...until this week. A near-pristine example, and it's on the way to me now. So that's an example of how I was very happy to have it even though the condition was bad, yet I'm happy to upgrade. I will upgrade whenever the opportunity presents itself as far as the action figures are concerned.
I'm not as OCD about the ephemera because usually there isn't a big upgrade in condition and it's not wrth tying up the money. You never know what's around the corner.
What piece do you really want to add? Do you have a Holy Grail?
Again...how much time do we have here? I'll try and keep the list
- Any 4th series unproduced character hardcopy, of which only Man-Bat, Quadrex, Silicon, El Dorado, Shockwave, and Rocketman are known.
- Any pre-production Brainiac or unreleasd 33-back item.
- Any Kenner store display.
- Super Amigos Joker (the last character I need to complete that set)
- Estrela Brainiac (the only country's release I'm missing to complete the Brainiac-Around-The-World run)
- Estrela Shazam and Cyborg (because they came with the mini-comics)
- Any other carded samples (I only know where one other is that would possibly be for sale...a painted hardcopy of Superman that was hand-carded)
- The aforementioned Burger King hanging cup display and employee promo button... the only pieces I need to complete the POP kit that was sent to each store
- The Darkseid Fortress (unproduced playset) prototype and/or box label proof
The SP 4th Series figures are always a 'hot button' issue when discussing DCUC character selection on the Mess. What hard copies of those characters actually exist?
Man-Bat, Quadrex, Silicon, El Dorado, Rocketman and Shockwave. Each one would be a Holy Grail of mine, and of all those Man-Bat and Quadrex exist in the most "quantity." Which, ironically, is probably a less-than-ten count on each.
Is there one piece that you wished Kenner had made that they didn't?
Darkseid's Fortress of Darkness. That thing is bad-ass!
Why more MOC figures than loose?
Well, more potential MOC examples exist than loose ones. You can only have one loose Kenner Brainiac figure, but for MOC you can have 12-backs with different offers, 23-backs with different offers, Kenner Canada, Estrela, Pacipa Super-Amigos, Kenner Parker Trilingual, baggied figure carded, Spanish Super Poderes, etc. You get my meaning, I'm sure. :-)
Do you ever buy multiples?
No, and the only time I would is if it was something really rare that I could hold on to in order to trade for something I needed down the road.
Is the collection finite in your eyes? Will you ever be 'done'?
Nope. From what I've experienced about the ephemera is that something new ALWAYS pops up. Also, from a toy perspective some things are so rare that the hunt will ALWAYS be active to obtain them. I'm not even talking about pre-production, which is a whole 'nother ball game!
What makes a 'collection' to you? What distinguishes it from an 'accumulation'?
The presentation. I watch the show "Hoarders" and I know I'm different. Those people don't even know what they have, nor do they have a passion for what they have. I would think that with the way my Super Powers collection is displayed that people immediately realize the passion I have for this stuff. I enjoy incorporating new items into it, and each piece is important because it contributes to the entirety...it's not "just thrown in
In your view, are the bootleg or non-English language items essential to a decent SP collection?
Not at all. They certainly enhance it as far as my opinion (obviously...LOL), but a lot of my friends have great-looking collections without one whiff of a foreign figure. Hell, I've seen collections with just the loose figures and the Hall of Justice that look fantastic...neat, clean, and well-presented where with one look I'll say, "That's damn cool!" even though I have 20-times the stuff. It's all about the passion, baby!
What about the inclusion of non-SP items-- DCUC, JLU, Slurpee cups, etc?
Again, not at all. The awesome thing about Super Powers (and Star Wars, Masters of the Universe, GI Joe, etc) is that they not only have modern toy counterparts that you can enhance your vintage collection with, but they also have vintage and modern ephemera that you can do that with, as well. However, all of those properties can make for a killer collection/display with just the "core" items... the toys.
How did the 'room' come to be? Did the SP stuff just take over or was it a conscious decision?
I'm in a small one-bedroom condo, so it kinda was the only place I could display the items at the time. Now I have a lot less furniture, but if I'm moving all 9 bookcases it had better be into a larger place! I'm not just going to move it into another room. New furniture is coming, though, so that point is moot. I'm gonna bring my piano here from my folks' house as well...so the collection stays in the only place it can.
As for everyone else, space is always limited. Have you had to make any hard choices yet as to what is out and what isn't?
Not yet. Thankfully, not yet. There are also some display options that I've picked up from viewing other collector's vintage Star Wars setups that will allow be to integrate another 60 carded figures if I so choose...that makes me relaxed about it. Also, as I said before, I'll be moving into a larger place next year where one room will be entirely for the collection, and my purchase decision of that place will center around that.
You've obviously put a lot of thought into how everything is displayed. Is there a specific rhyme or reason to the order of things? The cardbacks, the figures?
Certainly. All the Estrelas are together, all the Gullivers, all the Super Amigos (they have their own bookcase there are so many), all the proof cards & unused cardbacks, all the non-Super Powers DC Comics collectibles, etc.
I've also displayed every loose Super Powers figure with their corresponding DC Universe Classics figure when possible. The rest will be out within a year's time, so I'm looking forward to that 'set' being completed. As far as the non-toy items, I try and mix it up with items spread out on each shelf and not necessarily all the similar products or products from a similar company in the same area. There are a few exceptions to this, but that depends on how good I think it looks.
Ever opened one of the MOC? If so, how'd that feel?
Heh...it was a weird feeling, but I've only done it twice. I opened up a Kalibak on a beater card so I'd have a mint loose one (it was my first loose figure to start that set, actually) and I just recently acquired a small Super Amigos collection that contained a really crappy MOC Superman...so I opened it. The loose figure is in equally crappy condition (LOL) because of Pacipa's horrible production standards.
How often do you move stuff in the display around?
Not often at all. I have to do that to some extent because new things arrive every week, but the major parts of the collection have been in the same spots for well over 1.5 years now.
Do you feel comfortable handling the stuff? Play with it? Ever bring down the Hall of Justice playset, or vehicles?
I'm comfortable handling it because I'm always taking high-quality shots of everything for insurance purposes and just to share online with fellow collectors. I don't really "play" with anything. That's why I chase women. :-)
Do you allow anyone else to touch the pieces?
Depends on how hot & sexy the woman is. Seriously, if a collector friend were to visit I would be comfortable with them inspecting whatever they wished as long as it was put back in the same spot. Anyone I'd have visit that was into that stuff would already be someone I trust, so that's fine.
What kind of reaction do you get from people you bring in the room?
Most people (including nearly all the women I've had relationships with) have had a respect for it but not much enthusiasm. Most are initially shocked. My mother was the only one who left in a hurry and in fear... not just into the other room, but from the condo entirely. LOL.
I'm sure all who have seen it have thought I was slightly mad, especially since an adult who "collects toys" is still a social outcast no matter what people say to your face. I'm sorry, would you like me to collect crack cocaine or heroin instead? :-)
Yeah, that's my rationale too... there's worse things you could be doing with your time and money. What about the choice of shelving? Specifically for this purpose, or leftover from another use?
Two reasons: cheap & affordable at $30 per unit from Walmart and because there is no IKEA store within 3 hours of me. As the larger Super Powers purchases disappear and once I move I'll be looking into large lockable glass cases...in case I want kids some day. :-)
Does the room always look this good, on a day-to-day basis?
Yup, always. The one window is blocked off, and the door remains closed and locked. I don't even allow the cats in there. :-)
I'm sure they like the fish more. It's somewhat known that you're quite the aquarium builder. Care to talk about that?
I've been into that hobby for 15 years now, and have kept everything from a 2.5-gallon micro reef to a 180-gallon full reef (that I moved 3 times). Currently I have a 90-gallon tank with 5 fish and a few small corals. It's still a "young" tank at 8 months, so I'm not done adding livestock yet. I enjoy it...when there is nothing on TV (which is most nights) I turn off all the lights save for the tank, pour myself a nice glass of merlot and relax watching the fish.
Any other displays in the house?
None. Even the Future Warriors are boxed away in the closet right now as I decide what I want to do with them. Having 7 of the 8 released characters MOC kinda grates at me and I might want them gone. I'd put the money into Super Powers, of course.
Some quick specifics: Are the cartons full of toys?
No, both cases are empty and were purchased that way.
Does the record player work, and if so, do you use it?
As a relatively newer addition, I've never plugged it in nor used it. I purchased it because I like the graphics/artwork on it.
What's the text piece on the left hand side of the bed?
The instructional flyer for the Burger King Promotional Kit. It gives direction on how to set the promotion, the goals for the promotion, and even the names and phone numbers of the corporate executives in charge of the promotion.
Ever use the sleeping bag?
Nope, nor will I. The only thing other than display that I had to do with it is wash it because it obviously came from the home of a smoker.
The messed-up little dudes-- Aquaman, Firestorm-- are an oddity in a pristine collection; what's up with that?
Mexican bootlegs. Aren't they just hideous? I missed out on a collection of 13 bagged ones that I slightly regret pulling the trigger on, but I'll find others down the road.
And just what is in that closet?
Clothes, shoes, and a small rack of science fiction books. This is my bedroom too, ya know. :-)
Would you say you've been more passionate about Super Powers than anything else you've collected over time? And if so, care to speculate why?
Well, let me preface by saying that my true passion is fueled by nostalgia. I love the look, feel, and smell of old comics & toys. They take me back to a more innocent time in my life when I didn't know about stress, heartache and depression. I surround myself with it to deal with life, as most do.
That being said, I'm probably more passionate about Super Powers because I'm in a financial position to "do collecting right."
When it gets to a point of "new" things I don't have are few & far-between I'll start on something else. At this point I'm leaning toward Micronauts because that was a huge part of my childhood.
So, five years from now, where do you see this collection? What do you foresee for its future?
I see it as at least doubled in size and hopefully with a much larger pre-production section. I also see it in it's own room. A sanctuary, if you will, where I can relax and de-stress and watch cartoons. Everyone should have a room like that.
Indeed! Thanks for inviting us into yours, Chip, and taking the time to talk.
How critical is YOUR mess? Got something interesting to show off? A work in progress? A pile of stuff in the corner? Let's see and talk about it! PM Rod if interested.
Next time on Critical Messes: Hyperion!
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