Editorial – Is There Any M.U.S.C.L.E. Left?

I want to apologize for simply disappearing and leaving the website unattended. I had several personal issues arise simultaneously, which left everything M.U.S.C.L.E.-related utterly irrelevant.

As the dust settles and a new reality emerges I have found myself struggling to find a place for M.U.S.C.L.E. in my life – both this website and collecting the figures. Over the last few years I have become more and more disenfranchised with collecting in general. Two separate home fires and the birth of two sons profoundly reshaped, and more appropriately adjusted, my outlook regarding collecting. However, I still really enjoyed researching, documenting, and discussing M.U.S.C.L.E which made the LRG message board and this website a fun and active alternative to simple collecting.

Over the past few months I have lost that activity. I struggle to decipher whether I simply didn’t miss M.U.S.C.L.E. or that I missed it and didn’t have time to think about it. I hope it is the latter.

The truth is I found myself thinking about things for this website – topics, contests, t-shirts, etc. I also found myself wondering about friends I’ve made and how their lives were going. Yet I never wondered about the toys. I never worried that I missed an auction or a sale or whether someone was behaving in a devious manner.

As my life has started to allow moments for my mind to wander (or keep me up at night) I have tried to understand my feelings about M.U.S.C.L.E.. When I was an undergraduate psychology student I remember hearing that most psychology students get into psychology because they want to solve their problems. At the time I laughed at the notion, but more than once recently it has felt very true. While I’m not psychoanalyzing myself I have been asking myself, quite often, “Why?”

All of my wondering and questioning has led me to a few different hypotheses (I haven’t quite decided if these have earned theory or principle designations.).
1. I really miss the friends I’ve made.
This website, and the LRG message board, are the main mechanisms that drive our friendships and allow us to communicate. Admittedly greater efforts could be made to email, call, or even get together – but I struggle to do that with lifelong friends and family. Regardless of the details and methods, I will cherish these friendships. I could go on and on; making special notes to each person but I’ll spare everyone (still reading) from my sincere and slightly melodramatic musings.

2. The website needs to continue, but some changes will need to take place.
Right now it seems impossible to maintain the daily updates I strove to achieve. The optimist in me wants to believe it could continue, but the realist sees it differently. Posts that were written during lunches and stolen moments seem impossible today. That time is needed elsewhere, but I believe there may still be some minutes hidden throughout the week. Two things may help me better use those minutes: (1) changes in style; and (2) help.

I made a very conscious attempt to write in predominantly 3rd person, which would take my personal feelings out of many aspects of the website. This would allow for different sections to be objective M.U.S.C.L.E. resources. However, the tracking stats of the UofM website have shown that many of the most popular posts are when I shy away from 3rd person. It is my belief that by more often sharing my opinions and observations it will not only allow me to more easily post, but will also increase participation through comments and other participatory additions that I hope to introduce.

I also hope that some other collectors will step forward to help complete some of the last “objective” projects that need to be completed – most notably the “Super Rare” and the M.U.S.C.L.E. poster sections. The University of M.U.S.C.L.E. needs more than one author.

3. I (want to/don’t want to) finish my Color M.U.S.C.L.E. collection.
This hypothesis changes daily. Two main reasons drive my need for completion: (1) I want to have comprehensive pictures for the Color figure archive and possibly a Figure Guide; and (2) it has been a goal for so long. The latter seems like a very weak reason. When I have collected all of the figures, what would be achieved?

I like to think that I’d finally display them as I always intended. I would have a beautiful case built and allow myself and visitors to marvel at their uniqueness. That wouldn’t happen.

It is that realization that has spawned intense reflection. If I displayed all 1500+ figures, what story would or could be told about them? The factual information (flanker brand, top selling, two years, etc.) may or may not be interesting to people, but are those the reasons I collected all of them? If I collected them as a nostalgic nod to my childhood, then why did I need all of them – including figures I never owned as a child?

There are a variety of objects that have been “collected” and displayed in our house. They range from commissioned artwork to vintage water tower advertisements. All of these pieces have an interesting hook or story. They spawn interest and conversation because there is succinct and universally interesting story attached to them. Most importantly the “stories” are suitable to be told by any family member without losing passion.

This is not true of the vintage Star Wars figures that are displayed. When visitors see these figures there is usually polite approval and an attempt at relatability, “Yeah, I liked Lego as a kid.”

Star Wars is arguably the most popular collectible action figure. If those figures are unable to elicit the same interest and conversation as a framed drawing, then there is absolutely no chance that 1500+ M.U.S.C.L.E. figures will be able to do it.

These musings often got me thinking about collecting in general and even the argument of rarity, value, and prices. I originally started collecting M.U.S.C.L.E. figures because of nostalgic curiosity, the comically inexpensive figures, and the seemingly unique community. It didn’t seem to have the drama and dishonesty that plagues almost any other collectible – from art to Zoids.

I was naïve to believe that M.U.S.C.L.E. could sustain itself as a unique collecting culture, or that it ever was a unique culture. I was even more naïve to believe I could positively influence the collecting community. At the end of the day, M.U.S.C.L.E. collecting is part of the larger culture of Collecting. Within the larger culture of Collecting there is a wide spectrum of behaviors that are considered acceptable. I have often found myself disagreeing with the behaviors that many people consider “part of the game.”

I thought M.U.S.C.L.E. collecting, with its relative small size, would be able to remain separate from many of the shenanigans and conniving that seem to plague Collecting. It has become clear to me that my approach and ideal of ethical collecting is the outlier for both the M.U.S.C.L.E. community and the larger Collecting culture.

So what does all of this mean?

I hope to continue the website, but there need to be changes and hopefully help from others. I think I want to collect the last 20+ M.U.S.C.L.E. figures. Again, I will need the help of others. While I don’t know what will happen once I actually own all of them, I do know that a positive resource will become available to all collectors – which seems worth the effort.

Finally, thank you to all of the friends I’ve made. You have all helped me more than you know and are appreciated far more than you’ll ever know.

Let’s try and have some fun!

  1. #1 by Johnny on October 11, 2010 - 12:46 pm

    Great article and spot on! While I can say that since day 1, the best part of the online group has been the friendships. You, Jason, Nate, etc. etc., the toys have always been pretty central to our bond. But as we’ve all gotten older, at least on my part, the toys really seem to just be an excuse for us to get together and hang out. I wish we all lived closer and had the ability to get together more often, because really, at the end of the day, the only thing that will last is the people. Our families and our friendships! I’m not trying for a Bud Light, but I do have to say I love you guys!

  2. #2 by stoneyface on October 11, 2010 - 2:15 pm

    i am glad you are back man! i missed UoM. perhaps you should consider starting a non-profit museum to display your 1500+ muscle set. you could set up a display, perhaps even a portable (read lug gable for something that large. think early “portable” computers) display that could be taken to places and a small speech given. i am thinking kids, schools. to explain past toys and kids to art to collecting mentality. your options are only limited by your immense imagination. i have enjoyed UoM because it was not just a collecting blog/site, but because it put some science into it. i was thinking while reading this that perhaps you could have some guess authors so you could continue to bring content while reducing your workload for t he site. i was pleased when i read in the article that you had already thought about it. i think that with the continuous influx of “fresh blood” into the muscle collecting community, that UoM will have a place forever in that community. i just hope that we continue to see “general veers” involved in some form or another for a long time to come. you have done an awesome job on the site and for the community and i, for one, salute you sir!

  3. #3 by Brandon on October 11, 2010 - 3:02 pm

    Wow. It is great to hear what is on your mind. And in this case you touched on some things that I have also been pondering over the past few weeks. Why am I collecting? – I think it is something that a lot of collectors ask themselves at one point or another. Especially as we get older and responsibilities change – like having children. I agree that at some point the actual toys themselves become secondary and the experience of collecting (which involves making friends, learning new things etc.) becomes the main enjoyment – at least for me.
    I disagree though about M.U.S.C.L.E figures not having interest since a bigger line like Star Wars doesn’t garner much conversation with your visitors. In my experience with my toys and my visitors, I find that the more obscure toys (like M.U.S.C.L.E. and Cowboys of Moo Mesa etc.) get the most attention. People are especially drawn to the neon colors and the fact that they have no idea what they are. So, for me, having the toys on display does spark conversations. Plus I just like seeing them around the house, like artwork.
    Which is why I am getting rid of all the toys I don’t have on display. I have grown tired of them taking up space and if they are just sitting in a box, what good are they But before I get rid of them, I will be sure to take photos of the colored 4 pack combinations I have that you don’t have. 🙂
    Thanks for sharing your musings.

  4. #4 by vette88 on October 11, 2010 - 3:59 pm

    I’m also glad to see you back. As long as you are having FUN with collecting, then I would say continue with it. A lot of us appreciate the work you do here.

  5. #5 by URS on October 11, 2010 - 4:16 pm

    Ha, I didn’t even know you were missing. Figured you were just lurking cause nothing very interesting grabbed your attention. 😀

    Nothing but the same old shenanigans seems to be going around anyway.

    You mention displayed figures as sort of a conversation starter. Sounds sort of like you think it’s unnecessary otherwise. I never thought of my collections as conversation pieces. In fact I find if someone ends up in my toy room I try to avoid talking about them, unless there is sincere knowledge and interest to share. I have even tried to distract people or change the subject. 🙂 Maybe I’m a little embarrassed about them. But I only collect for myself, and I’m typically very selfish about my things. 😛 Kind of want to start locking the door. HA!

  6. #6 by rafael on October 11, 2010 - 4:52 pm

    im glad you are ok, friend! count me in to help you in anything that im capable to do 😀


  7. #7 by Soupie on October 11, 2010 - 10:19 pm

    The collecting hobby has multiple facets, and each collector approaches and engages with the hobby differently. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about it lately. There’s a good thread about it at LRG: http://www.littlerubberguys.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=24703

    There’s no shame in putting your collection in a Tupperware container, and focusing simply on getting those last 20+ figures, even if that means you check eBay and LRG once a month. It’s still collecting, still the journey if you will. My favorite part.

    There’s nothing quite like the feeling of adding a new piece to a collection, even if the feeling is fleeting.

    I’m also really skeptical if a collector can ever really stop collecting… If we’re not collecting one thing, we’re collecting another.

  8. #8 by Biffard on October 11, 2010 - 10:49 pm

    Glad you are back Chad and decided to continue on! I owe a lot of my muscle interest to U of MUSCLE, Nathan’s site, and LRG so I’m excited that this site is still going to be updated and I can learn more from it! It is a great resource to us muscle collectors. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help out!

  9. #9 by muscle things on October 11, 2010 - 11:14 pm

    It’s great to have you back!

  10. #10 by shade75 on October 13, 2010 - 1:56 am

    I am glad to see back as well. I must say, this is such a great web site it would be a shame if it ended. If there is anything i can do to help i will. Good luck on the last 20+ figs!

  11. #11 by Wolf on October 14, 2010 - 10:16 pm

    Chad its good to hear from you. In any hobby we all have to understand that we have “real lives” that we have to tend to as a first priority. Everything else is second. We all missed you and of course hope you are doing well with things and hope you get through any complications in your life right now. Although, I’ve moved much from collecting myself, if you need help to keep the site going, I’d like to do my part to assist.
    Take as much time as you need my man, we’ll all be here when you get back.

  12. #12 by battlechaser7 on October 15, 2010 - 8:18 pm

    Chad I have not had many instances to deal with you but every time I have for me it has been a rewarding and fun experience. I appreciate the care and attention you have given to both the collections, collectors and other friends that circle around a growing community I first found on LRG and find myself following here. For what its worth I am glad your back. Best of luck in everything you decide to do and if I can help you I would be very, very happy to : )


  13. #13 by stoneyface on November 11, 2010 - 10:33 pm

    what about a large glass top table with a compartment to lay muscles down underneath the glass so that they are visible thru the glass top for anyone using the table?! i would love that! what a conversation starter at dinners!

  14. #14 by Dr Bo on October 25, 2012 - 10:26 am

    Long live the old flesh

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