Thursday, June 14, 2007

And So It Ends....

I'd fully intended to post this tomorrow, in honor of the final episode of The Price is Right to feature Bob Barker as it airs tomorrow morning. But I've just learned of the death of Ruth Graham (Mrs. Billy Graham), and I simply must spend some time reflecting on that tomorrow (I also learned only about an hour ago about the death of prominent Transformers fan Shaun Christopher, which came as a complete shock). I'm not sure how to respond to these tragedies yet, but know that I can't just go on with my original plans, so I'm going to post this piece, which I'd actually written a few days ago in anticipation of tomorrow's regularly scheduled posting time, and deal with Mrs. Graham's passing in due time.

I've already commented a bit on Bob Barker's unprecedented tenure when he first announced his retirement back in November. Very few people, in any genre, can claim to have been on the air continuously for 50 years! Steve Beverly of is fond of pointing out that Barker has set longetivity records that will never, ever, be broken. Given the fact that the current culture of celebrity tends to emphasize youth over experience, he may well be right.

Although The Price is Right is not ending, Barker's retirement has been occasion for many of us to reminisce about the show's history. I, myself, have spent a fair amount of time searching through YouTube, which has lots of The Price is Right clips available. I wasn't able, unfortunately, to find a particular clip that I was looking for: the person who I consider to be the worst player of all time. Now, you'll see a lot of downright stupid contestants if you look through those clips (a particular player of "Ten Chances" seems to be copied many times over on the site, but since she won, I have to grant that she did something right!), but this contestant, who was bidding on a toy guitar (the first of three prizes he would have bid on) while playing "Cliff Hangers," takes the cake for me. Although I couldn't find a clip, I was able to find this transcript, courtesy of (the person who shared it there credits it to Jeremy Soria, but I couldn't find the original): (UPDATE: A YouTube video of this event had finally surfaced by 10/11/08, but it's apparently since been taken down)

Bob: "Tell me the price of that guitar."
Eric: "Two thousand."
Bob: "Now just a moment, audience. I want you to hear this.
What did you say was the price of that guitar?"
Eric: "Two thousand."
Bob: "Now---"
Eric: "I thought that was a violin or something!"
Bob: "No! That's a guitar."
Eric: "Oh, I see it now. Sorry."
Bob: "So? How much?"
Eric: "How much? Ahhh..." (looks out to audience) "Four fifty."
Bob: "Four hundred fifty dollars." (Audience groans)
Eric: "I have no idea..."
Bob: "I'll give you one last chance."
Eric: (after looking out the audience again) "Eight fifty."
Bob: "All right. He says $850."

Hans goes up...and over (all the while, Bob is telling him to hurry it up, we've got games to play, etc.) LOSS

(BTW, guitar's price was $23)
For those who don't know, "Hans" refers to the mountain climber, who isn't ever actually named on Barker's version of The Price is Right, but was given that name on Doug Davidson's short-lived The New Price is Right that aired in nightly syndication. If you put 33 "Cliff Hangers" games alongside each other, the mountain climber would have fallen off of every one of them on that one lousy bid alone!

So, what do you think? Worst contestant ever? Who are your candidates?

Friday, June 1, 2007

Oooh! Buy Me! I'm AFA Graded!

I enjoy going to eBay every now and again to look for things I might add to my Transformers collection. Although I'm a bit of a cheapskate, and I have to admit that going to eBay isn't necessarily the most cost-effective method for finding used toys, given the likelihood of success in finding something interesting when compared to yard sales and flea markets (other venues I enjoy, which tend to be much cheaper!), I'm willing to argue that you usually get what you pay for, and part of "what you pay for" is the convenience of going to a place that has items of interest, rather than just "taking your chances" that a place (such as a yard sale) might have Transformers at all!

But one thing I've never really understood is the attention some collectors give to "graded" items. I'm not just talking here about an item that is still in it's original box, and the box and the toy are in pristine condition. That can be important, and I recognize that. What I'm talking about here is a specific type of grading that, after you've had your toy sent in and assessed, the toy (and, usually, it's original box from which the toy has never been removed) is placed in a clear, tamper-proof, acrylic case. Here's an example. Now the pristine toy in its pristine box can only ever be viewed through the case. You can never, ever touch the toy, let alone take it out and actually play with it. It seems to me that such an item defeats the purpose of what the toy is all about!

Of course, ensuring that one's pristine toy stays pristine can be important if you want to sell the toy and make some money off of it. And, of course, anyone who is putting something on eBay is wanting to sell it, and presumably hopes to make as much money as they can. That's normal enough. And it's certainly true that items graded in this way tend to sell for more than items that were not graded (but are otherwise identical). It's also the case that having something graded is not cheap. The service itself can be quite expensive, depending on what you're looking to have graded and sealed in a case for all eternity. All that said, some people tend to go overboard. For example, here's a current auction that the seller is trying to get nearly $2000 for! As nice a toy as he has, and as popular a character as Cyclonus is, I just can't image that it's worth so much. And that's the minimum bid! (Off-topic in regard to grading, this seller is committing another "sin" by typing out his auction details in such a large font that's hard to read. Seriously folks, let the item sell itself. These kinds of "tricks" are irritating in the extreme. It's one thing to want to take advantage of HTML code to make your description easier to read and understand, or even eye-catching. But this is ridiculous!)

But even if we grant that sellers are simply doing what they can to maximize their profits, why would anyone buy an item like this? You can't ever open it! Buy something similar that's not been graded, and save tons of money! It's a toy, for crying out loud! It's meant to be played with! Take care of it properly, and it will last for quite a long time, but go ahead and play with it! That's what it's for! The only reason I can imagine someone buying something like this is because they, themselves, want to sell it again later. Ironically, I expect that most such people will never make as much money off of it as the original seller. Such "investments" really tend not to pay off all that well.

If you're into collecting expecting to make money off of this stuff, you're not really much of a collector. A "speculator," perhaps, but that really is a different thing. That's not to say that collectors never sell the items they collect: I do it a fair bit myself, but any "profit" tends to be an unusual occurrence. Usually I don't even make back what I paid on an item in the first place, and that's okay. I more likely than not enjoyed the item while I had it. I realize that some people don't always recognize the difference between collectors and speculators as much as they ought to (I still sometimes wonder if the folks behind the Official Transformers Collectors Club recognize the distinction), but the difference really should be pretty clear.
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