I had the pleasure of corresponding with a major toy collector, Michael Crawford (a.k.a. Captain Toy). He has reviewed and discussed toys online since the early 90s. Later, he decided to store his reviews and helpful photos at his website, mwctoys.com.
As a fellow writer, I look for other skilled wordsmiths and analysts of pop culture. Michael gives his honest assessment of various figures using his rating system based on several factors. That’s addressed below. Meanwhile, enjoy this interview with someone with as much appreciation for well-made toys as you do.
Red-Headed Mule: When was the first time you gave a critical opinion of a toy?
Michael Crawford: I started back in the early 90′s, writing reviews as posts on the Usenet group rec.toys.misc. I did one each week, hence the name “Michael’s Review of the Week”. Once the net started to take off, I realized that using a web page would allow me to add photos and keep the review around for historical purposes, so I started the site in 20001. While I now do three reviews every week (Sunday night, Tuesday night and Thursday night), I stuck with the MROTW moniker for purposes of transition.
RHM: What relations do you have with the toy industry?
MC: I have a very good relationship with most of the companies. A few years ago I started an awards process called the Poppies, the pop culture collectibles awards. These awards are like the Oscars for toys – they are voted on by members of the companies, sculptors, retailers nad news outlets rather than by just the collectors. Toy companies have always responsed well to my reviews, because I do my very best to remain fair in my assessments and they appreciate that.
RHM: You’ve been to many Comic-Cons. Did you encounter any surprises at the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con?
MC: I was surprised by the Hot Toys announcement of the 1966 Batmobile in sixth scale. It’s a very impressive item, and hopefully means that we’ll also see sixth scale figures based on the characters from the show.
MC: Wow, I have so many it would be hard to do. Of course, Poison Ivy probably has the most representation, but Willow from Buffy is a character that I have quite a few figures and statues based upon. There’s Batgirl as well, and Scully from the X-Files. Lois from Family Guy, and probably dozens more I’m forgetting. And who could forget Freida from the Peanuts!
RHM: You’ve written a lengthy essay about the World of Springfield set. Are you looking forward to the upcoming season of The Simpsons?
MC: I remain a huge fan of the show, although I do believe that the writing has had it’s ups and downs over the years. I probably have more Simpsons merchandise than any other license, and I still pick up various goofy items like the new Squinkies based on the show.
Like Michael, this YouTube uploader collects the vast World of Springfield.
RHM: I am impressed with the precise system you and your guests use (packaging, sculpting, paint, articulation, value). How did you decide on this rating system? Were there other influences that helped you form it?
MC: I was the first to use this system, although you’ll see it quite often now across the collectibles industry. I developed it for two reasons. First, I noticed that collectors were often divided on what was most important to them in a figure. For example, some people wanted the best sculpt possible, and didn’t care about articulation at all.
In fact, they preferred less to make sure the sculpt was the best it could be. On the other side were collectors that wanted their figures to still be toys, and have enough useful articulation that they could pose them. I realized that a long rambling review with just a final overall score wasn’t going to answer the need that the diverse collector community needed, so I broke up my reviews into consistent categories, and even went so far as to define in detail what each means to me and how I come by my scores. This allows someone that cares more about one area than another to weight it in their own minds, and decide whether a figure is more to their personal liking or not.
The other reason I like the system is because I can write the review in pieces, doing one or two categories at a time. It makes it possible for me to squeeze the writing in between other activities.
RHM: Do you know of any toy companies using your critiques as information to improve their products?
MC: Absolutely – I’ve seen examples of it in the past, and I hear from them on a regular basis that they read my reviews and take the information into consideration.
RHM: You have said your kids love Legos. What other toys and games do they play regularly? Do they play with the exquisite figures?
MC: No, they know that breaking one of Dad’s toys makes him cry. My son was the big one into Legos, although he’s gotten more and more into video games – of course. Because of that, he has quite the Skylanders collection. My daughter is a big fan of stuffed animals of all kinds, and has her own collection of Monster High dolls.
RHM: What toy shows have you been to outside the U.S.? Are there any that you’ve always wanted to go but never have been?
MC: Sadly, I’ve never attended any international shows. There are several in Asia each year that I’d love to attend – anyone want to send me?
RHM: What are your thoughts on fan-made custom figures?
MC: I think they’re terrific, and I’ve reviewed a few customs over the years. I’ve tried my own hand at it too, but sadly I don’t have the talent for it. The simple fact is that many of the B characters on loved shows and movies will never get made by a company, so fans will always end up filling in the gaps with their own creations.
RHM: When is usually the best time to buy high-end figures?
MC: I tend to pre-order right away – high end figures often sell out, and also tend to at least rise a bit upon release. It is possible that if you hold out you’ll end up with a deal, but it’s a pretty high risk gamble.
RHM: What’s in store for the toy industry in the future?
MC: Companies are looking for more and more ways to tie action figures into the online gaming experience, like Skylanders. But because video games serve the same play purpose as boys action figures – role play – they have supplanted them, and that trend is going to continue.
With the rising prices, I expect to see fewer and fewer licenses getting lower end action figures. At the same time, the higher end companies seem to be doing extremely well, and I’m expecting to see the number of licenses getting the expensive treatment to rise.
RHM: Do you have any other thoughts or comments to share?
MC: Just a reminder to all the collectors like me out there – the only thing keeping you off the Hoarders show is a good sense of organization.
Thank you, Michael!