Collector: Mr. Smith
Mr. Smith, known as Universal Ruler Supreme on LittleRubberGuys.com, was kind enough to be the first person to open up about his passion for M.U.S.C.L.E. collecting.
His fascination with M.U.S.C.L.E. figures started as Mattel had likely already decided to extinguish the brand. He only remembered Color figures being on the store shelves, which were one of the first things that drew his attention to the 4-, 10-, and 28-packs. He also remembered there being plenty of New Adventures of He-Man and Captain Power figures being on display, which would likely indicate the figures were still on the shelf a year after the brand had been dropped. The figures may have even been on clearance, which made his father more willing to purchase them. The 10-packs were the most enticing of the packages – semi-translucent, but still a mystery.
“I remember getting them home and tearing at the plastic wrap. Then pouring them out. The colors, and the Characters were amazing stimuli to my little imagination. I remember just sitting there in fascination at the details and bright colors. Their sculpts and expressions warranted immediate personality traits and powers. There was nothing not to like.”
Upon completion of his M.U.S.C.L.E. figure examination the tiny toys soon took a sizable role in his playtime. They were used, along with Battle Beasts, as aliens for G.I. Joe to encounter and as accomplices to dig in his father’s garden – often themselves ending up being buried. These alien invaders and dirt covered comrades also ended up in the tub during bath time.
A seemingly common thing for many children to do with M.U.S.C.L.E. figures was to damage the figure (cut it, burn it, mark it, etc.). Mr. Smith remembered marking his initials on the figures’ feet, “Interestingly I do not recall dismembering my figures, however I do believe I wrote my initials on their feet…For some strange reason, it appears many children did this back in the day. An odd phenomenon if you ask me, almost like most kids calling #153 the Claw.”
Those initialed figures remained well loved until they were placed into a Ziploc bag and sold to a buyer at a local flee market. While the decision may have seemed sound at the time, he has regretted it ever since.
In December of 2004 the regret was transformed into purpose. The M.U.S.C.L.E. figures that had been sold and discarded would now be a treasured collection. Starting his M.U.S.C.L.E. collection was not an impulsive emotional decision. Mr. Smith wanted to uncover and absorb as much information about M.U.S.C.L.E. after his initial purchase, which were 43 figures for one dollar. When he returned home his research into the hobby of M.U.S.C.L.E. toys started immediately. The price of figures, the availability, and a realistic and obtainable goal were all important factors in deciding if M.U.S.C.L.E. was the right hobby. Had any of these factors been too repugnant Mr. Smith may have never started collecting, which would have robbed the M.U.S.C.L.E. community of one of its finest contributors.
The examination that had been a large part of his childhood enjoyment of M.U.S.C.L.E. figures continues to be a large part of his adulthood enjoyment. Mr. Smith enjoys pulling out his extra set of figures to examine them, as his main set is displayed.
The appearance and condition of the figure is truly the main focus of his M.U.S.C.L.E. collection. Many of his figures were damaged or faded when he started making purchases and he set out to replace damaged figures with the best examples possible.
“I still have a couple in my main collection that haven’t been replaced, and it makes it harder since I do not actively purchase them as much as I did. I have also wanted to complete a second set of flesh figures, which is almost done, and trying to get a set in colors, but I’m just too lazy or occupied with other hobbies to put the time and money into doing so. So my focus really is kind of obscured at the moment.”
The condition of figures is paramount in Mr. Smith’s collection. His greatest admitted collecting idiosyncrasy is that figures must be cleaned in a hot bath with soap and a solid toothbrush scrubbing before being added to his collection. Figures that cannot be cleaned or that are damaged, written upon, faded, scratched, broken, discolored, melted, stained, torn, or even stinky end up in a bag for customization.
The biggest flaw he sees in a figure is the smell. He is able to overlook many of the aforementioned in certain situations, but he has no forgiveness for smelly figures.
Mr. Smith’s favorite piece of his collection is actually his entire collection, “I don’t think I have one single piece. I find my collection to be a single piece in my mind, constantly refining and improving when able. If I lost one figure or item from my complete set, it wouldn’t be complete anymore, and the piece would actually feel damaged to me.”
The collection is displayed in a case on his wall with 4-, 10-, and 28-packs sitting on top of the case. The remaining Flesh figures are kept in plastic curtain bags inside of a Tupperware container. The Color figures are kept next to the display case in a large tube that originally housed window blinds.
While his entire collection is his favorite piece, cataloging or tracking the collection has not been a necessity. Over the past five years Mr. Smith confirmed he has had over 3,000 figures pass through his collection. His collection tracking had been done using The Muscle Database, but the sheer volume of figures from buying, trading, and upgrading his own collection became too much. It has been a few years since he used that website. Mr. Smith said, “I’ve become extremely picky, and given the abundance of most figures, there is no reason not to be picky. It’s gotten very difficult to trade with individuals, as many have a different idea of what MINT means, and many times I have received a figure in one of the above conditions traded to me. It’s maddening.”
Mr. Smith’s favorite piece that he does not own is the M.U.S.C.L.E. Pre-Pack, but his “holy grail” would be finding a sealed case of either 4- or 10-packs at an incredibly low price. “I can’t imagine a more exciting situation, that surely couldn’t be duplicated.”
When deciding to collect M.U.S.C.L.E. figures price played an important part. Even with his “holy grail” a low price was part of the situation. While acknowledging sculpt and color can impact the cost of figures, he believes that most M.U.S.C.L.E. figures are not worth more than $0.50. He admits there are certain figures that he would pay up to five dollars for, but never more than that for a figure.
His spending habits would not seem to cause alarm with his family and friends. Mr. Smith feels that he is a private collector. He does not try to involve family or friends and feels that they view his collecting as part of him. His father has helped him when he was collecting something that could be purchased at retail. The help was usually a phone call as his father was in the toy isle. His best friend throughout school is more averse to the collecting. Mr. Smith believes his friend thinks he is crazy. He even enjoys sharing his spending habits with his friend, just for the shocked reaction he receives.
The collecting community certainly supports his collecting and has benefited from Mr. Smith’s participation, most notably for his work on the MUSCLE Color Code, but even on more pedestrian topics too. “I’d like to think I can and have contributed to discussions about the hobby in the public forum since my membership (into LRG.com).”
His contributions and participation has certainly shaped his view of the M.U.S.C.L.E community, he views it as:
As a group of individuals who discuss, share, trade, contribute, and theorize upon the best and most interesting parts of the hobby. A simple suggestion or idea about the hobby would pretty much make you part of the community. However just posting “cool” in every M.U.S.C.L.E topic wouldn’t really make you part of the community, as your not really contributing.
While the M.U.S.C.L.E. community offers many positive impacts on the hobby, there are definitely issues that could be improved or lessened. His biggest concern was around dishonesty, and even saw the positive action that could help dissuade this type of behavior – camaraderie. “We really have already been seeing this over the past year or so, but it’s always best to continue improving on these situations.”
Having a healthy, happy community seems to truly be a key to having M.U.S.C.L.E. survive as a hobby, as Mr. Smith’s outlook on the future of M.U.S.C.L.E. is bleaker. He does not see a long list of circumstances that will generate action and excitement. He does hope to see further discoveries of unknown figures, or additional information to answer unknown questions and enigmatic issues – hopefully through a former or current Mattel employee. He also hopes to see the University of M.U.S.C.L.E. become the main source of exhaustive M.U.S.C.L.E. information for the community.
Mr. Smith also offers the following tips based on his M.U.S.C.L.E. collecting experience:
Don’t be in a hurry to get a piece you don’t have. There are thousands of M.U.S.C.L.E. figures out there, and you’re going to complete your first set a lot quicker than you think, there is no need to overpay or buy a complete set right off the bat. I think that ruins the fun of the hobby, and ends up being more of a random purchase than a jolt to your nostalgic senses.
When trading, never assume the other person knows what MINT is! If your picky about your figure condition, be sure to make it known right away! Ask for pictures if you need to, and check feedback of the individual where applicable. Poor communication can lead to problems and possibly make the hobby more stressful than fun. This goes for both parties on all counts.
Beware of Scammers and Liars!
Sadly there are a few persons with ties to the hobby who are not above ripping you off for their own benefit. They will LIE, Cheat, and possibly steal! Just know who your trading or buying from at all times. Feedback and reputation is everything in the M.U.S.C.L.E. community.
Do Your Research!
There are plenty of M.U.S.C.L.E sites that give advice on the values of figures, and rarity. Both are neither the same, nor necessarily dependent on the other. So if you’re not an LRG member, there’s no reason not to use good judgment. I would recommend joining the forums even if you only want to ask one question. I assure you that someone will answer it.
Mr. Smith also has a list of trusted web resources for collecting:
– Toypedia, Soupie’s MUSCLE Colors Image Archive, Soupie’s GPK Cheap Toy Archive, and Soupie & Fitz’ Beast Former Super Deformed Archive : They have been very informational and fun to sift through. Such as his GPK Cheap Toys page, his MCIA page which I’m glad to have had a small part in, and any other site he has regularly kept up.
– Nathans M.U.S.C.L.E. Page: There isn’t another more entertaining M.U.S.C.L.E specific site on the web!
– Naochin’s Keshi Archive: It’s a very nice site which I still regularly use as reference material. He also covers a nice handful of other Non Kinnikuman Keshi as well.
Mr. Smith also had this final comment:
Remember everyone! Hobbies are supposed to be fun, and stress relieving. Don’t let yourself become burdened by the things you thought were hobbies. You can quickly become overwhelmed by the expense, space, and personal time you put into your hobbies. In the long run, the hobbies can become a stress, and always an unnecessary one. Money is limited for most, but there are always new toys coming out every year, so be very picky if you have to be about what and how much you collect. Sell things you no longer have space for or need, and limit yourself to key interests. You can’t have everything without price. So from one collector to another, have fun with it, but don’t over do it!
A huge thank you to Mr. Smith from all M.U.S.C.L.E. collectors for sharing your collection and your collecting habits and insights.
If you would like to be a featured collector, please complete a questionnaire and provide photojournalistic pictures of your collection. Again, the focus of the pictures are not to solely highlight M.U.S.C.L.E. pieces, but rather how those pieces actually exist within the collector’s life. If you: (1) have any questions about the questionnaire or pictures; or (2) would like to submit your questionnaire and pictures, please email the University of M.U.S.C.L.E..