Just last week I lamented that it had been seven years since a Sociology 300 profile had been submitted. Now, thanks to Eric, we are treated to two in two weeks.
Like I said last week, used to try and take the answers to the questions and construct a narrative profile. Like Peter, Eric also thoroughly answered each question. It felt odd to change anything.
Below is exactly how Eric answered the questions. I thoroughly enjoyed it; I hope you do too.
(I must say, I would alter the questions significantly if I was going to create Sociology 300 today. These questions certainly feel like I wrote them in 2009.)
Thanks again Eric!
How did you play with your MUSCLE’s as a kid?
Probably every way you can think of except as wrestlers. At times I would pretend that I was a giant, plaguing the tiny creatures world by eating them (not really, just in theory; I never like, chewed on them or anything), or pretending that they were little gremlins or something similar that my GI Joes would have to eradicate. Other times, I would pretend that they were vampires to my Lego mini figs humans; I used to stab them over their hearts with a thumbtack for dramatic effect.
Do you, and how, do you play with them now?
I don’t personally play with them now, though every now and then when a friend brings their kids over, I’ll have little wrestling matches using one of the few working wrestling rings I have accumulated. I honestly don’t get the appeal of the wrestling ring beyond being a piece of M.U.S.C.L.E. history, though most kids I have ever introduced it to have fallen instantly in love with it. It genuinely perplexes me.
Why did you like MUSCLE figures as a child?
I don’t remember if I saw the commercial M.U.S.C.L.E. when I was a kid or not, I just remember being obsessed with them. I can’t recall if someone else had them, or if I saw them in the store first, but I remember being in Johnson’s Market in Rosamond, CA, and seeing the four-packs for the first time, and just being transfixed. I loved them because there seemed to be endless sculpts that you could collect, and they were only a buck a four-pack, so I could usually talk my parents in to picking one up for me while we were out.
When did you start collecting MUSCLE?
I started the moment I purchased that first four-pack. I would get them any way I could, including stealing them from friends every now and then. I’m not proud of this, it’s just a fact of my history with M.U.S.C.L.E. I was kind of a little bastard about it, really. Like this one time we had a secret Santa thing at school, and my mom said “pick out a gift for your Secret Santa things at school, but keep it cheap”. So I of course picked out a four-pack of M.U.S.C.L.E. When it came time for the class to pick out the presents, and it was my turn, I casually walked up and grabbed the four-pack that we had picked up earlier that day. It was wrapped, so nobody but me knew what it was; I expect that had anyone known, it would have been snatched up right that second. As an aside, and an anecdote to the aforementioned theft, while at recess that day, I had just opened up the four-pack and displayed it to whichever friends were around, and I noticed later on that I was missing #34, the guy with he buzzsaws on his arms. Yep, some kid took him at recess. I remember the kid, too. He was holding it in his hand, and I kept an eye on it, but eventually lost track. I didn’t get another #34 for a lot of years after that. Oh well, karma 😉
Why did you start collecting MUSCLE?
I honestly don’t know, except that I’ve always loved miniatures, and there was just something about these that spoke to me. I used to put them everywhere around the house. One year at Christmas, I took the #18 that I had just stolen from Robby down the street, and put it in the Christmas Nativity scene. They’ve always just sort of been important to me. As an adult, after discovering….I think it was Nathan’s M.U.S.C.L.E. blog, back in the early 2K’s, I decided to get as many of them as I could, and eventually fill a bathtub with them. I guess that was the original intent, to just have a ton of them. I used to wander around the trailer park we lived in when I was a kid, and fantasize about opening the door to one of empty trailers, and M.U.S.C.L.E.’s would just pour out. I guess I’ve always had a weird desire to just amass a ton of them, with no real rhyme or reason except to just have as many as possible.
Where did your first figures come from?
As a child, Johnson’s Market – Rosamond CA, 1986.
As a collector, eBay – while living in North ID, back in 2000.
What is the focus of your MUSCLE collection?
Sheer volume. And to some degree, to have as many examples as possible of the toyline itself, IE unopened four-packs, ten-packs, twenty-eight-packs, the ring, the game, etc, etc, etc.
What is your favorite piece you own?
Flesh 165, with top-knot cutoff, and salmon 124, with tiny pinhole in his chest. These are my two favorites that display high above the Super Rare Black Emperor that I found in the wild for $1, or my SHA, or BHS with peg attached, or my purple 153, because they are original M.U.S.C.L.E.’s from my childhood. The 165 was from the first four-pack I ever picked up – and was my least favorite at the time, hence I cut off his top-knot – and the 124 was from the first multicolor four-pack I ever picked up. Of all the toys I had as a kid, I only kept the remaining M.U.S.C.L.E.’s that I had managed to hold on to up to that point. I began collecting again when I was in my early twenties, but kind of lost interest at some point. Still, I kept my childhood figures separate from the ones I had picked up in the bay. When I turned thirty, I foolishly decided to give up all of the old things I had held on to, including my M.U.S.C.L.E.’s. I had no idea at the time that I would miss them so dearly. It’s like when you cut your fingernails, and accidentally cut too deep, and wake up with your fingertips throbbing; it hurt my soul to have given them up. I’m honestly not sure why. I dreamt of them for years after that, dreamt of finding more M.U.S.C.L.E.’s in various places, like in the back of a car, or under a friends bed – super weird, innocuous dreams. One night I dreamt that I had asked the guy that I gave them to if he would kick back tome the only two that I could remember clearly – 165 and 124 – and woke up with this awful feeling of like “damn, I wish I could really do that”. So, I did. I don’t want to get in to the details, but I had loosely asked the guy that I had given them to if he would kick me back just the figures from my childhood, but at the time his kids were playing with them, and so I had written them off. That was back when I had first given them up. Fast forward seven years, I’m still dreaming about them, and decided just go for it. So I sent him an email, described the figures, and a few months later, he emailed back and said that he had dug them out, and sent a picture. I couldn’t believe it. I wanted to be it was really them, so I asked if he had any other of the same sculpts, and by some miracle, he didn’t, not in those colors, anyway. When he eventually came back to town (he had moved away a coulee of years ago, but came back to visit family or whatever), he brought them back, and I was able to see firsthand that these were indeed the two figures I had missed so desperately. The 165 was stained from all of the times I had buried in in the backyard, and missing his topknot, and the 124 had this teeny tiny prick mark in his chest. I held on to them for the rest of the day, and now they sit at the top of my collection. There’s obviously a lot that I’m not telling you about the significance of these two figures, I’ll just say that they represent a time in my life where I was happy, before life got very, very difficult, for a very, very long time. All of that is past, and now I’m a successful business owner, I have thousands of M.U.S.C.L.E.’s, a few SR’s, and I’m a much happier person in general. Every now and then I look at these two figures and think “you were there for all of it”.
What is your favorite piece that you don’t own?
Probably more SR’s! I have a pretty broad collection at this point, with most examples of hobby that I am aware of, so I’m always hoping that more SR’s will find their way to me. And I believe that eventually, as people grow out of the hobby, or need money for something that outweighs their need to own these toys, they’ll find their way to me…
What is your “holy grail” that absolutely must become part of your collection?
At first it was Satan Cross; then I bought a full set of flesh figures, including a SC (I own sixteen SC’s at this point, and take full responsibility for their recent surge in price). So then I wanted to be one of those people that was able to spend hundreds of dollars on a single figure; eventually, I picked up a purple 153 for like $600. Then I wanted to be one of those people that found something rare in the wild, preferably for cheap; I achieved this (for me, at least) when I found a light blue 153 at a flea market. I got a lot of sh*t for thinking that this was special from the fine folks over at LRG, so I kind of wanted to find something bigger. Eventually I found a few of the more popular and desirable Class A’s in the wild. That was great, but then one day, I got this feeling like I need to drive up to the largest city next to mine, to a new vintage toy store that I had just heard about. I called them up, asked if they had any M.U.S.C.L.E., the guy said he had about a hundred or so, so I drove up and bought him out. They were a buck a piece, all flesh, and I was pretty happy with the 4 hour roundtrip that I had made. When I got home, I decided to go through the figures to see if there were any SR’s in the lot, something that I admittedly laughed at myself for even considering. About three quarters of the way through the lot, I came across the Black Emperor. I was like “Huh; kind ugly. I don’t think I remember this one”. So I hit up the guy that I am always hitting up about these kind of things, Eric Nilla, and he clued me in that it was a SR. I literally couldn’t believe it. I checked the list over at LRG, and sure enough, I had my first Super Rare; and I had found it in the wild, for a buck. Aside from that, I have a red 153 in a sealed four-pack, which is important to me because I had the same figure as a kid, and it got chewed up by my neighbors dog. What’s the opposite of a chewed up figure? A figure that’s still in the package! So at this point, I’ve literally acquired every single grail piece that I have set out to find.
Do you keep track of your collection? How?
I don’t really keep track except that I’ve recently weighed the M.U.S.C.L.E.’s I have, and determined that I have roughly 13k loose figures, in a variety of colors. Aside from that, I have a little case for my SR’s, my FLAF’s, and my SC’s. I keep all of the packaged stuff in a cabinet with a glass door.
What are your MUSCLE collecting idiosyncrasies?
I prefer to buy in bulk, and don’t care too much about condition. Mt favorite figures are the dirty ones; someone really LOVED those figures! I never clean them off, either, preferring they retain the dirt from whatever yard they were played with in.
How important is figure condition to you?
I prefer in-tact figures, but when I trade, I usually don’t scrutinize condition too much. I have lots of figures with miscuing limbs, scrapes, burns, etc. I feel a bit like the king of The Island of Misfit M.U.S.C.L.E.’s.
What do you consider to be the biggest flaw in a figure’s condition?
I can’t think of a single one. I’ve never really thought about it, I guess.
Where are your figures kept?
The bulk of my loose, common sculpt figures are kept in a giant aquarium. The more important/uncommon/rare figures are kept in various cases and jars.
What do you think a MUSCLE figure is worth?
On average, I spend $.50 – $1 a figure, regardless of condition. I don’t seek Class A’s, so I don’t consider them more valuable than other figures, except to the people looking for those specific figures. And by that I mean that I recognize that they are worth more within the community than I personally value them. I absolutely expect to pay a premium for SR’s, and have, and will again. And for those I’m pretty open, and am usually happy to pay whatever the seller is asking; just don’t ask me to make you an offer and then accuse me of insulting you when I don’t meet your reserve 😉
Do you consider yourself an active member of the MUSCLE community?
I’d like to think so. I help people complete their flesh sets when at all possible ( I tend to hold on to my multicolor figs, as I have fewer of them, and like to keep the colors balanced within the aquarium), and trade the stuff that I have that is more uncommon, when at all possible. I never sell anything, with the exception of the three purple class A’s that I auctioned off over at LRG a few years ago. But even then I only did so as to be fair to the multiple folks that had hit me up for them. I started all of those auctions at $.99, and would have been happy if that would have been the end price. If I pick something up for a buck, I’m perfectly ok letting it go for a buck. That doesn’t mean I’m interested in selling my Black Emperor, EVER 😉
How do you define the MUSCLE community?
I don’t know that I have a definition. I’ve been pretty happy over the years within the community. Folks are mostly pretty friendly, knowledge is shared graciously.
What would you like to see more and less of in the MUSCLE community?
I never again want to hear a seller say “make me an offer” and then say “that’s insulting” when they receive said offer. Just. Tell. Me. Your. Price.
What do you expect to happen with MUSCLE in the future?
I think it will ebb and flow the way it always has. I’ll be curious to see how long it will really go on though. I love the idea that this toyline could be around 50 or 60 years after it’s initial release!
What would you like to see happen with the University of MUSCLE?
The fact that you have been in contact with the original people behind bring Kinnikuman to the states in the form of M.U.S.C.L.E. is seriously incredible to me. I would love to see you find the right person that can say “oh hey, I still have some molds from the factory” or something, and kick them down to you. I would like to see UofM turn in to a real life, physical museum. I would absolutely contribute some of my most prized figures to something like that. Like if you could make UofM in to some kind of roadside attraction, not unlike the banana museum in CA, or Salvation Mountain, something like that. For real. I would absolutely put some work in to making that a reality.
What other LRG’s do you collect?
Pretty much anything that was collectible and miniature from the 80’s and early 90’s, from any country. Battle Beasts, MIMP, Kinkeshi, various other types of Keshi, quarter machine toys, etc, etc, etc.
What other LRG websites do you recommend as resources?
Between LRG and UofM, I actually don’t really know of many other sites. Frank’s littleweirdos.net is an excellent place to see so many wonderful types of LRG’s, and I still visit Nathan’s M.U.S.C.L.E. blog from time to time, just for nostalgia. I don’t belong to any other boards though, as I’m not aware that any others exist.
What collecting tips would you offer to collectors?
Dig in those bins! I hear people all the time say that they can’t find anything where they live, and then as it has happened a couple of times, I’ve found something right under their noses! The Black Emperor is an excellent example of this. Maybe I’m just lucky, but I attribute a lot of my luck in finding stuff to revisiting thrift stores and antique stores often. To the point that every now and then I’ll make a toy pilgrimage to the neighboring towns around me, and spend an entire day digging through bins and boxes. Just keep looking!
What other things do you collect?
Mostly other 80’s toys. I’m obsessed with the Definitely Dinosaurs line right now. Most of what I collect I find locally; I rarely buy anything but M.U.S.C.L.E. online.
How does your family/friends/partner/etc react to your collecting?
My friends and their kids are all super in to it. They all love coming over to my place and seeing my eccentric collection. Significant others on the other hand, have been challenging at times. I was dating a woman one time that looked physically uncomfortable upon first witnessing me taking pictures of some new keshi that I had just got in the mail for IG. She didn’t last long 😉
The person I’m with now is super supportive, which is important, as this hobby is important to me, and makes me happy; anyone that’s going to be with me needs to accept this about me 🙂
Love what you’re doing, and I genuinely look forward to meeting you in person when you come to this area for business. Something magical will happen. I don’t know what it is yet, but something. We’ll find something that you’ve been looking for or something. I’m sure of it 😉
I really hope everybody enjoyed Eric’s contribution. I certainly did – thanks again Eric!