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December 3, 2009



10:27 am

Lot number 855

“Seven hundred fifty”….”do I hear eight”? “Seven fifty going on eight, seven fifty going on eight”…

“Sold”! …”for seven hundred fifty ” ….”to number 60″.

That was the longest 30 seconds of my life. Even the sticatto rapid fire cadence of the auctioneer seemed slow right now.

It was sort a scenario I really did not expect. One I had assumed based on the previous days events… to have gone, differently.

How the hell did this toy end up mine for that relatively low price?

Perhaps I had bought karma with the GA50. Or perhaps the big guns were waiting for the bigger pieces later in the auction. Either way I was unsure how to react. I had waited for this for almost 4000 days, and like any moment like this, you find yourself both happy and sad. The process, and the anticipation invariably make the experience what it is. Once you get there, you place the item in its case and think about how long it took you to arrive.

Saturday 7:00 am

I woke up early in Gradwell’s basement movie lair. Jim and Hillsy both still asleep. The odor of cigars and whisky still hung heavy in my nose, as I prepared myself for the hour drive to the auction house. I knew this was round two, and today would be less of a softball game than a round of bare knuckled heavyweights who cared little for my sentimental quest for this silly elusive zenmai.

Go back 3 months:

It had not been long since I “brogged” the last entry into the Leo saga. It was when we got the call from Morphey’s to do the diecast cataloging, that it occurred to me, that “The Collector’s” collection was all going up for sale…and if memory served me well, there was a zenmai Leo in the midst of his character tin lineup. There were pictures to prove it. I was both excited and nervous. Excited knowing I would have one more opportunity to make this running joke of a toy mine after a few botched up attempts. Nervous because luck had never been on my side in regards to this piece for some reason, and I winced at the notion I would manage to screw it up again.

It was at the auction house that I cautiously saw Leo quietly smirking at me behind the glass case.

The overhead lights hummed, and felt at the moment I saw it that it HAD to go home with me. There was no question in my mind that this had to be put to bed finally. I doubted I would get another chance for some time.

I met and spoke briefly to Marc Solondz about his collecting and though I was there to work on the gokin, I found my conversation mainly focussed on his tins. Understandably after he had begun collecting the diecast, he started to include some serious tin in his menu. As most who collect it are aware, it is like high end sushi…you only get into it heavily if you can get past the price shock. From the looks of it Marc was into Uni and High end Chu Toro.

Carl Lobel, who I had had dealings with in the past Morphey auctions was also there as a consultant and overall mage. He is a well connected and wealth of info on all things character tin.
He had sold me my Zaboga zenmai among others in 2006, and I had also sadly missed out on the Ultraman Leo walker he had for sale then. As I mentioned in my first Leo brog, I had missed out on bidding on it because my computer died at work and I had to relay on bidding by phone through a friend, who had sadly bid on the wrong Leo item.

I had kicked myself ever since then. But well before then as well.


Carl, picked up the Leo in the case and looked at the back of the box. My shoulders tensed as the box corner came painfully close to the glass shelf as he lifted it to his face and pulled his glasses down to read the sticker on the back of the box.

” Ah this is mine”

My ears perked up as I began to realize what he was getting at.

“is this the same toy from the 2006 auction Carl”?

” yeah it has my identification stickers on the back”…”see”?

My sense of serendipity began to intensify again.

This WAS going home with me. One because it came back full circle for another shot at it, and secondly, it proved my theory that there really are only a handful of these floating around in collections. I had been told by the collector that sold me my removable mask Kaman Rider Angel tin, that there were really only 5 he knew of in collections, and I had also heard that despite the Battery op commanding more, the windup was actually much scarcer.

Fast forward to day one of the auction.

“Sold for 4500.00 “

No single phrase has brought more joy and fear at the same time to my robot collecting career.

Granted I was happy to upgrade my Daiku and secondly the experience of doing among my friends and peers was certainly more enjoyable than winning it on Ebay or Yahoo japan in my bedroom half asleep. But at the same time it did go over my self imposed limit. That limit was set in place so that the second day would be far less stressful. So that the Leo if it did in fact hit its past price range of over 2000.00 that I would not be selling body parts for the next couple months to pay it off.

I blew that plan as soon as the virtual hammer fell.


Standing outside looking at the digital marquee display my win, was a double edged sword. I knew for a fact my plan to scoop up the Ultraman Leo and Popy Ace were unlikely based on the prices and attention the higher end product seemed to gather. But who knew. Auctions are emotional and organic and unpredictable for the most part.

I took photos of my beloved zenmai just in case I fucked up and lost it to some random cash safe monster. It has come to my attention, it has never been about how much equity you have, just about how nuts you are.


Josh B, Jason, Dave, Sanjeev, Ed and Uncle Warren ( and others) all greet me. They all know I am here to complete the circle. They know this actually means more to me than yesterdays win. They know I am willing to give a lung to walk home with this toy.

They know I am like Yukio Mishima at his last speech at the garrison… full of hope and passion to conquer but quietly awaiting my failure.

leo mishima

I talk to Marc again before the auction begins and get a well wishing and a “good luck”. I am amazed and humbled by his constant good nature and honorable way he views collecting. I am happy to know this toy is from his collection. Out of a sad circumstance , a number of friendships arise, and I sense a hobby paradigm shift. Marc does not know it yet, but he has indirectly and directly changed all of us.

I sit towards the front with Uncle Warren. Warren has through the years managed to secure a state of mind that would make even the most experienced of Zen masters blush. His good natured view of the hunt inspires me, and it felt good to work through this morning with him as a sounding board.

He right off the bat manages to score a D17 Popy zenmai Mint in box for a song. I am hopeful that this will be a trend as most of the Popy tins seem to not interest many people here. They are looking for Sushi and this is still fast food to them.

A selection of wins, including the coveted Daitetsujin 17.

A number of key pieces come up and go for excellent prices. Some of us win some great deals. A few even get their tin feet wet for the first time. I am having a moment of deja vu when I recall many getting into Missile firing vinyls or Jumbos…the flavor of the oldskool ballers seems to be character tin. I imagine prices getting interesting in the months to come for future online auctions. Glad I got into it when I did. Only 35 true vintage walkers in and I still feel like a novice. I think I would be overwhelmed if I started now. This is the problem with my tin habit when it meets a desire for excellent boxes… it goes very S L O W.

One of my issues was that if your grail is not in the first half of the auction you tend to give up what may end up being excellent deals. I was also very interested in the Popy Ultraman Ace Mint in window box. It rarely ever comes up and is on par in rarity with the Barom 1 zenmai which loose goes well over a grand in mint shape. I have seen only a handful, but none in box, and it was certainly a toy that came as a very close second to my Leo pursuit. Popy put out window boxes in their initial releases and like the standard Popy tin packaging, they tend to be in very poor shape at best. As with Jumbos, it makes for a substantial price jump to find a box even in the c8 range. So in my mind this toy was well worth at least an attempt.
But I really could not justify the attempt if I still had already went over my budget and the Leo was about 10 minutes away from either being mine or another footnote in my “ones that got away” files.

So I suggest to Warren that he try winning it. It was a rare toy and he still had come under his D17 budget by quite a bit. If i can’t have it, better that we at least keep it in the family. It is how we all roll.

We win it for less than half of what I consider a standard retail, and I am shocked it did not gain more attention. “They” are waiting for sure.
Holding back until the top lots come up. I am not complaining and commend Warren on his win.

However, knowing me well, and always the gentleman, He mentions he would spot me until after the auction. He offers me the Ace for the winning bid and suggests I pay him at a later date.

I almost tear up. I am overdosing on grace and class. I make a mental note to do the same for someone else.

The boomerang flies hard and fast with Sifu Schwartz and I am in awe again of pure unadulterated kindness.

Popy Ultraman Ace with window box.
ultraman ace catalog

An unexpected and generous win with the help from “Sifu”
ultraman ace case

With a full heart and a renewed sense of purpose I see the Leo show up on the screen. Skipping a beat, my heart thuds now on full throttle and I am watching my hand go up again and again. I am on autopilot. I don’t care where the price goes. It is not about cost anymore. It is about love.

And then, it is over before I know it.

It is won for an absurdly low price, and wonder what I did to deserve the outcome.

A am a deer in headlights.

The mental dust settles and I feel congrats and handshakes and later texts from those around me. They know this is a personal victory. One they all have in their own way had in these past 48 hours.

3 hours later

This is what post auction bliss looks like. You finish, and the burn of passion now subsiding. Your no longer drunk with lust, but begin to have your moments of if it was was all you thought and hoped it would be. Momentary disappointment emerges as you realize your conquered companion lays on the table now domesticated. The unattainable is now your bitch.


This is the tired look of victory and future months of financial stress.


An example of the aftermath of multiple mustard induced Penn. Dutch made hotdogs and what it does to one’s psyche and auction number.


So what to take from this? I contemplate the weekend and the most important thing I found among the victories and defeats, was the constant feeling of good natured kindness from both close confidant and stranger alike. The sense that we all had one another’s back could not be dissected or measured.

It just was.

And that is what made this event, and the subsiquent closing of circles the most satisfying of all.

Thanks everyone.

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