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April 8, 2009

5,475 days

Filed under: Josh Fraser,Toy Love,Toy News — erik sjoen @ 2:07 pm

5,475 days later…

“You should take a look at some of the tins I put up Josh”. “The Kamen Rider might be of interest to you”.

The term “shock and awe” did not ring truer when I did exactly that.


Collecting can be stressful, as we all know…when we get the bug, and need the fix, many times the “hunt” takes us away from our daily grind. Our partners can roll their eyes at our constant searches on YJ and Ebay on our lap-tops before we go to bed. I found that if you think of the process in reverse, and, think that the right toys will find you, then the sense of urgency falls away, and you can quietly save away your pennies and live your life more normally. Your significant other will thank you ;-)

Now as presumptuous and over the top that sounds, It is a lesson I take from another passion of mine, whose intensity keeps me only on the threshold of peon knowledge even after 6 plus years of study: Antique Nihonto, or Japanese swords.
My first collector friend/ teacher in the hobby told me the sword comes to you. You study and pay the dues for the next piece to eventually arrive when your ready. It seemed like an overly intense/overly mythological way to look at it , and I took it with a grain of salt, but found in time that the events of my evolving acquisitions took an almost serendipitous stance, and ultimately I feel that way of thinking was a good one for me to adhere to.

I had for the better part of 5 years been focusing my collecting on a few things. But Popy and Bullmark zenmai was on the very top of that short list. They were the only part of my collection, that the almost fascist-like neurosis of c10 boxes did not wield it’s full power. The toys were just too beautiful and encompassing of all the funk and soul that this absurd hobby had to offer me. I knew it was something of a full circle process. My collection had gone through tabula rasa many times, for me to get laser-like focus on what it was that I wanted out of my acquisitions. This item was the personification of that goal. “Grail” was not a word I used often, as it had been thrown around too often as a placeholder for something that was rare and cool, but attainable if you watched the auction sites for the better part of 6 months to a year. This toy took 15 years to get to me, and for that I am grateful. It felt like it waited until I was actually ready to appreciate it.

The Kamen rider tins hold a special place for me. They are toys I had not known about for many years of my tin collecting years. I had originally started off with non character 50’s and 60’s robots in the early 90’s, when the Robot boom of the 80’s was slowly tapering down. Like the late 90s for us Chogokin collectors, it was a time when astronomical prices were being shelled out by cash safe and nostalgic buisnesmen.

I first encountered my first KR tin in photos of the Teruhisa Kitahara collection. It was the Battery Op made by Bullmark, which I would not see again until years later in a friend’s collection MIB for the infamous 2006 Morphey Auction. I had purchased a couple Zenmai from the collector in person and he showed it to me. It was deadstock, and I had never seen the box before. I tried to figure a way to sell my car in the next 24 hours after seeing it. Needless to say it was well beyond my means, and went for a healthy price.


The windup however was a different story. I had first seen most of the character tins in the pre internet/ebay days of Toy Shop magazine. For those of you who remember, It was a toy collector monthly periodical that sent many a collector into a phone call frenzy to get the latest dealer finds from the land of the rising sun.


On a page of the Fall 94’ catalog, next to a MIB Popy Voltus 5 zenmai, was something I had never seen before or would again for some time. A Kamen Rider tin in a wider than usual minty box, with what appears to be the most beautiful box art I have ever seen. The box art alone inspires my already growing interest in packaging design and eventual “fall” into c10 boxes.

I contact the dealer, a well known dealer by the name of Ray Rohr, whose photocopy catalogs, stapled, and sent to his mailing list buyers, is the closest thing to heaven a young enthusiast like myself could hope for. I used to pour over his pictures and daydream about having the means to play with the big boys. But this was too much, and I contact him from work to see what the damage will be.

Obviously it is long gone. Like those who are teased by the blurry and tiny Magic Box adds of yesteryear, the high end stuff is always long gone.

So I dream, and wait.


The Morphey auction 12 years later had in addition to the god-like batt op, another Kamen walker. This one however did not have a removable mask, and the lithography was completely different. Even so I was again filled with lust for its badass simplicity. Oddly enough it was also my first introduction to the company Angel. Angel had as I later learned been the manufacturer of both the first and second version Kamen windups after Bullmark closed, and proved to be an interesting transitional time between Bullmark and Ark. As far as I know ( and I do hope to be proved wrong) these were the only two character zenmai Angel tins manufactured. The first version being the non removable mask, the second being the removable mask. The first showed up from time to time, and although rare was not impossible to find. The second version, perhaps due to its later manufacture date, seemed to be made in much less numbers. So far this is the only one I know of. But as with all of these toys, there have to be others out there.

At the time though, the first version went well above what I had /would spend on a windup, and I had put my money on a much “cheaper” Zaboga and Moonlight mask. Fast forward a few years and I finally find another Non removable mask version windup, and do my best to secure it. But as luck would have it, I get played by a certain Hong Kong seller and the original agreed price got bumped up to twice of what it was worth.

There is a well known collector out there who’s advice when finding the grails at auction…bid what your maximum is, and then double it.

I should have taken the advice that day, and soon after regret my choice to pass, but still pissed off due to the shady dealings of the dealer.

About a week later , thinking, like the Ultraman Leo, It was just a walker I was not meant to have, I contact a fellow collector/dealer regarding a couple run of the mill, but nice zenmais he has listed on ebay. I ask if he has any others and await a reply. Any tin zenmai showing up gives me a moment of excitement, and I lose myself in thoughts of finding the few coma inducing characters I have spent years looking for.

Now we come full circle.

After a few emails and a couple drinks to calm my nerves, I manage to secure a buy it now price from the seller. We talk on the phone, and he tells me about how he found it on the Toyshop advertisement, and as he speaks over the phone ( I am at work again) I am transferred back 15 years to the beginning of my career, and collecting. I don’t tell him I was after the same toy all those years ago, and somehow it does not seem needed. Somehow it would ruin the synchronicity.

We come to an agreement, and I sit quietly at work for a few moments after getting off the phone, being both in a state of excitement and financial stress.

Now came the hard part. Shipping.

Needless to say, and for those that know me from this site, I am the shipping nazi. I will forgo all acceptable level of reasonable requests to ensure the box stays the way it should. This box was not perfect, but pretty damn close, and certainly worth half of my final offer. The seller seemed to sense my nature and did a great job. It was a stressful 24 hours waiting, but once I got it, I took my time and even documented the whole process. It seemed fitting after waiting all this time

Eventually it sits on my shelf, and I sit back and look at it. If I smoked anymore, this would have been a perfect time as any to do so.


Toy karma can be a hard won ally. But when the pieces all fit and the universe decides to throw you a bone, it feels really, really good.

Now does anybody have a mint Ultraman Leo walker they want to part with? ;-)

-Josh F

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