Box variants… at Sifu’s house.
Sanjeev: With my jollyness still filled with dancing cha siu bao and other delights, we left Chau Chow City. It had already been a great day–Dave and I had just spent the previous night crashing at my place, talking about movies, sports, and He-Man. It was a blast to see Ryan and Ed again…not to mention Mason and getting to meet his squeeze, Lisa. Regan and Josh? Good peoples, of course–always a great time. Ben…well, can’t go wrong with the lil squirt… :P
Josh: After everyone parts ways, Dave and Sanjeev hang out with Regan and I. Not much is going on, until Uncle Warren and I talk on the phone and plan an impromptu get together at the God father of Sofubi’s box filled room.
This is a first for both Sanjeev and Dave. I can see the excitement on their faces as I mention the potential plan. It takes little convincing and we head over to Warren’s for an afternoon of toy induced mayhem. And in true fashion turns out to be a memorable evening.
We arrive and jump head first into the deep end. Dave and Sanjeev look from corner to corner, scanning over boxes and bags and handle various loose toys that are scattered about.
Sanjeev:Now, I’ve had the pleasure of hanging out with the Sifu several times before–and it’s all true: he’s a fantastic guy!–but I’d never actually had a chance to visit his home. So now an opportunity to do so? You kidding me!?
Sanjeev: It’s kinda funny…Warren is such an open and warm person, you almost get the feeling you’ve known him all your life. And with Regan and Josh’s awesome brog posts chronicling their epic visits, it even feels like you’ve been there! Almost. Well, we rolled up to his pad that afternoon and I was beaming.
Warren welcomed us in with his usual sincere open-heartedness and as his wife baked cookies (which we never actually got a chance to try! :P ), he led us upstairs to the toy lair. I was honestly expecting a bit more of a mess, but the place was surprisingly organized. Sure, there were loose treasures laying about, waiting for greedy hands, but the overall feeling I got was that of reverence. Like, these were things to be enjoyed, but also that they told a decades-old story about how a generation played. It was beautiful.
Josh;Needless to say, Warren shows us vintage gold, and we work our way into the side room where he has two boxes sitting next to one another. These are not just any boxes… these are boxes that barely anyone on the planet has one of, let alone two.
Spoken about before and documented a few times, the coveted Bullmark Red Baron missile firing vinyl.
Warren had bought the second box not long ago and had wondered which one to keep. Knowing that I was an obsessive idiot…er.. I mean interested in box condition, he asked me to advise which of the two to hold onto.
It took me 5 seconds to reach my decision.
“You keep both”
Yeah. Here is why.
As it turns out,( and is obviously evident to those who have looked at the photo above), Warren had in my humble opinion inadvertently stumbled on one of the greatest packaging finds of recent memory.
Both boxes were variants, and not simply a matter of a different pantone being used on a logo… these were visibly different from afar.
The box Warren won with the original auction (with toy) was on the windowsill on the left. The main logo on the top of the box was about twice the size, and although somewhat faded compared to its counterpart, it was evident that the second box with the smaller logo was in fact earlier! Not only that, the secondary logo on the left of the Red Baron head was simply a cut out piece of paper placed by the hands of some long forgotten but careful worker.
As with some Gaiking boxes in my collection of GA51’s I have seen variants of all sorts. Printing is expensive, and though we all look at them with awe now, vintage toy boxes started their lives out simply as a way to get the contents from point A to point B. So printing new screens for a new run or redoing a whole box was sometimes out of the question. Often they simply cut out a new logo and pasted over an existing out of date or incorrect image. This was well before digital printing, and looking at the old skool fix, warmly reminded me of my own early years as a graphic artist at my first job in the early 90’s. These boxes were a beautiful reminder of a point in time when mistakes were not so easily fixed by the click of a mouse.
In addition there were less important variants on the secondary logos on the sides of the box, really showing the evolution. In fact, for a moment I even daydreamed that the second box Warren won, might potentially be the early proto or proof copy for this very toy. How could one in their right mind, a man who searches the globe for one character above all others part these two boxes again, when they so effortlessly tell a history together, thirty years after their creation.
After coming down from that high, Warren takes Regan over to the Astro Mu corner and she finally gets her first vintage Capsule Robo vinyl. Warren had an extra apparently! The girl is simply besides herself with happiness and we all are basking in the good natured mood that hums about the room.
Sifu then rushes off to find something none of us have seen, to complete the circle. The Astro Mu playset.
A hush hits the room and a billowing of old vinyl meets our collective nostrils. I have flashbacks of my early childhood Sesame Street place mats in upstate New York in 76′, as Warren with a grin, pulls out the printed vinyl sheet complete with Atromu battle scenes printed ever so innocently on the intense blue of the background.
Shock and awe ensues and so an idea dawns on us all to reenact the scene on the cover of the box as best we are able in the time we have left. Warren is game, and I jump at the opportunity to embarrass myself further on the internet (complete with epic black socks) with him.
As always, an afternoon we won’t forget.
Sanjeev:The Red Baron box discovery and the Astro Mu playmat were, of course, little slices of magic. Heh…and I admittedly had butterflies in my stomach when Warren asked to see Gin Gin! But really, unsurprisingly to me, the best part of the trip was the man, himself. Warren simply exudes joy and passion for these silly things! He really gets what it’s all about. Even surrounded by his own cherished collection, he never once hesitated to let us pick something up and try it out. Hell, he didn’t bat an eyelash when Josh came up with the idea to recreate the scene on the cover of the Astro Mu playset!
I gotta say, it was a most pleasant way to cap off the Dim Summit and I’ll always take a piece of that experience with me.