Collector: Chad PerryChad Perry’s experience with M.U.S.C.L.E. toys started as a birthday gift given to Karl Hermann. The 28-pack traveled from Meijer, to his home to be wrapped, arrived at Chuck E. Cheese to be opened, but ultimately remained burned into Chad’s consciousness.
4- and 10-packs were purchased during family grocery trips to Meijer, often the reward for doing chores at home or behaving during the grocery shopping. He didn’t remember ever receiving M.U.S.C.L.E. figures as a gift for any birthdays or holidays.
The allure of the figures was both the mysteriousness and the wrestling. Without the official Hard Knockin’ Ring Chad improvised with the only ring available to him, Tomy’s Bumbling Boxing.
The insides of the ring were removed, which allowed the ring to double as a carrying case. His grandfather, also a wrestling fan, was surprised to see his grandson “playing wrestling” and set out to construct a better wrestling ring. Chad’s grandfather was a woodworking hobbyist and built the ring and posts out of wood. The ropes were red, white, and blue strings of yarn which fed through the wooden posts.
Chad’s grandfather glowed with pride upon delivering the gift. Chad was forced to hide his disappointment. The ring was both too large for M.U.S.C.L.E. figures and too small for his LJN WWF figures.
Chad’s time with M.U.S.C.L.E., like the brand itself, was relatively short lived. He purchased figures through the Flesh waves and some of the Color figures, but like most children his attention quickly shifted to other toys. The figures were put into a bag, boxed up with other small figures, and relegated to his parents’ basement.
There they sat, untouched, for roughly 15 years. Then in the fall of 2002 a wandering mind started thinking about some childhood toys and M.U.S.C.L.E. came to the forefront. A trip to his parents’ basement and a few internet searches rekindled his passion for the little figures.
He first setout to collect an entire Flesh set, but his interest quickly turned to Color figures and the Nestle Quik promotion. These two areas have remained the focus of his collection. His favorite piece is the Nestle Quik tin.
“There was simply no other piece that was as interesting or important to me as the Quik tin. If I hadn’t developed a friendship with Darrin, then I would have never owned it. Frankly, I’m afraid to touch it. I actually get nervous when I look at it.”
Some Color and Super Rare figures still elude Chad, but they don’t command any special attention from him. He said:
“Probably my favorite piece that I don’t own is the M.U.S.C.L.E. Pre-Pack. Even if I bought it, and I’ve had a few chances, I know I’d never have room to fully display it. Plus with a little one running around it would certainly get destroyed. It just seems like the type of thing that shouldn’t be boxed up in a closet.”
Having collected the M.U.S.C.L.E. figures since 2002 Chad has experienced a lot of M.U.S.C.L.E. growing pains. When he started, aside from the M.U.S.C.L.E. poster and MuscleUK, there were very few checklists and collecting resources. The first collection manager was simply his desktop where the figures were stood up. After a few eBay auctions he quickly realized he needed a more stable and user friendly version. The first thing he did was create a checklist, a checklist he still uses today – more for nostalgic reasons, but also as his absolute master list.
Chad’s next collection tool was two foam boards with numbered baggies. This allowed him to both see which figures he needed and easily swap out dirty or damaged figures for more pristine figures.Once his Flesh set was complete his attention shifted to the Color figures. When he started collecting Color figures it was unknown which figures had been made into which colors. This led him to create an Excel spreadsheet to track his collection, which has gone through various edits and changes, but still continues to be used today.
Once the list of Color figures he needed started to get smaller he created a few sheets with pictures of the figures, another process he still uses. He has also used his “Needs Thread” on LRG.com and the MUSCLEDB, but both of those are used simply out of routine more than necessity.
With so many figures the actual storage became an issue. Chad needed an easy way to both store and organize the nearly 1500 figures. He settled on a numbered baggie system. The figures were put into Ziploc bags, which were numbered and grouped into groups of five, clasped to comic book boards, and placed inside a long banker’s box. After a basement fire, the basement box was destroyed and the figures were placed into two cardboard boxes. The storage system is not fancy but has allowed for easy organization which includes checking the condition of figures when there are doubles.
Chad is not a stickler regarding a figure’s condition. He has always taken the approach that it is better to have a damaged figure instead of no figure. Patience has allowed him to replace most of his damaged figures, even figures that can be difficult to find.
As his collection grew his family and friends confusion turned into interest. The “little guys” never earned much attention, other than confusion as to why he would collect them or spend money on them. The interest from family and friends came from Chad talking about the minutia of M.U.S.C.L.E. They were interested in the phone calls, interviews, and the information he was digging up. What had once been a one way discussion had become a topic in which family and friends would ask questions about M.U.S.C.L.E. and any new developments.
Chad’s discussions are not limited to his friends and family. He has often been an outspoken voice in the M.U.S.C.L.E. community which has brought him seemingly equal amounts of supporters and detractors. At the core, his interest has always been to protect the M.U.S.C.L.E. community and communicate in an honest and direct way.
“I know people don’t always like the way I say things or what I say. But I’ve always said things with the understanding that people were rationale, honest, and open-minded people. I don’t know why I’d expect that on the internet.”
So interested in the bizarre behaviors he was seeing on the internet, he started to do some research in psychological journals. Repeatedly he was seeing that unacceptable “real world” behavior was finding validation from others on the internet. A simple article from the America Psychological Association highlights the trend with a brief, but disturbing, look at pedophiles using the internet:
“They convince themselves that they are not evil people,” says Lanning of pedophiles. “They are able to interact with groups anonymously and seek support from other people who have the same ideas.”
Chad recently made some changes in his approach to the M.U.S.C.L.E. community, and wants to continue making changes. In his professional life he often instructs other to focus on what they can control instead of what they can’t control. This positive framing has led him to encourage participation in the community and to establish clear and specific M.U.S.C.L.E. data through the University of M.U.S.C.L.E.
He feels that increased participation and a better understanding of M.U.S.C.L.E. is the only way for the hobby to sustain itself and have any hopes of growing. Chad said:
“There will not be a next guard waiting to take up the flag like with Star Wars, Transformers, or even baseball cards. The best we can hope for M.U.S.C.L.E. is that our kids have some emotional connection to M.U.S.C.L.E. and for that to be the catalyst for their collecting of M.U.S.C.L.E. Otherwise that last surviving M.U.S.C.L.E. collector will need to turn out the lights.”
After several years of collecting M.U.S.C.L.E. figures, and dozens of emails about the nature collecting with another collector, Chad offers the following tips based on his M.U.S.C.L.E. collecting experience:
I have never understood the rush, or impatience, that many collectors feel. They want to quickly finish one collection so that they can begin the next one. When I learned that my wife and I were having a baby it finally solidified my marathon-like pace. There was no need to rush, because I was enjoying the journey much more than the ownership. A slow pace is out-of-step with American culture, but I think a slower pace makes M.U.S.C.L.E. collecting much more enjoyable.
Everyone wishes they had more money, but M.U.S.C.L.E. is a hobby that doesn’t necessitate it. There have been several people over the years, and probably still some today, that are incredibly defensive about their spending. They should spend what ever they want – which is true, but it is not necessary. Just because you can buy a $25,000 sundae doesn’t mean that you should.
I have seen collectors loose their mind because they “needed” something. I think there is an important distinction between want and need. That distinction is something that collectors often forget; remembering that distinction will help collectors keep their collecting under control. I also think Desire is sometimes fueled by emptiness in another aspect of a collectors’ life. After having two encounters with house fires and having my family come out unscathed, I have since never struggled with want and need as a collector.
I think this plays an important role for both novice and experienced collectors. It helps collectors spend appropriately, but can also be a catalyst for learning about M.U.S.C.L.E. When more people are able to understand all the facts, then even more people are able to effectively hypothesize. With a comparatively small community M.U.S.C.L.E. needs all the strong minds it can collect.
I think there was more competitiveness during the earlier days of M.U.S.C.L.E. collecting. Many collectors have shifted to a more cooperative mindset, however the competitiveness is still seen in newer collectors – especially on eBay. Most collectors have fallen victim to the perceived competitiveness of eBay at least once. Being able to recognize the silliness of the situation can help avoid any buyer’s remorse.
Chad also has a list of trusted web resources for collecting:
– Nathan’s M.U.S.C.L.E. Page: This is the best possible introduction to M.U.S.C.L.E. an internet user can have.
– LittleRubberGuys.com: There isn’t another message board in the world with as many M.U.S.C.L.E. collectors. It is also one of the best message boards in the world because of the users.
– Soupie’s M.U.S.C.L.E. Color Image Archive: If a collector wants to see if a figure was made in a certain color or which part and tree they came from, then there is not a better place to check.
– The M.U.S.C.L.E. Database: This site is only useful for tracking your personal collection. It has been misused and manipulated so the current data on many figures is misleading. It is currently 100% ineffective at gauging the rarity of a figure.
Chad had this final comment:
I hope I can evolve to the point where my collections are simply things. I should spend all my time making memories instead of allowing things to trigger memories.
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..
(Editor’s Note: This may read a bit awkwardly as I wrote an entry about myself. There are no delusions of grandeur or extreme narcissism. I wanted the entry to have the same approach and feel as other write-ups.)