THE year is 1977 in a galaxy far, far, away. Luke Skywalker, Princess Lea, Artoo Detoo (R2-D2), Chewbacca, See Threepio (C-3PO), Darth Vader, Stormtrooper, Ben (Obi-wan) Kenobi, Han Solo, Jawa, Sand People and a Death Squad Commander are all here.
Little does young farmhand Skywalker know that his isolated life would soon be disrupted as he embarks on a mission to save the galaxy.
Fast forward to 1985. An army of Cybertrons, led by Optimus Prime, is at the ready to defeat the evil Megatron and his Decepticons. They’re the Transformers, giant robots that can transform into vehicles and other objects. There’s certainly more to them than meets the eye.
Suddenly, a blue spaceship zooms past me and I suddenly find myself in the year 1986. It’s Maraj, the vehicle of SilverHawks, the American animated television series of mighty warriors with the power to protect space from all evil.
“Tallyhawk! Wings of silver, nerves of steel SilverHawks! Partly metal, partly real SilverHawks!” trills the catchy intro.
Oh look, and now comes the brave Ace McCloud of the Centurions: Power Xtreme!
The daring Air Operations expert is in his blue hi-tech exo-frame suit equipped with an orbital interceptor, his incredible assault weapon system. He flashes a thumbs-up before flying off to defeat the machinations created by mad inventor Doc Terror and his evil minion, Hacker.
“Fascinating isn’t it? It’s like you’re in a time machine,” the sound of a male voice brings me back to reality.
Unfortunately, I’m not up in some galaxy far, far, away and neither have I physically jumped back through time and universe to a world where all the characters from the TV series I watched as a child have come to life.
But where I am is just as fascinating. I’m here in a man cave of Wan Muhammad Aznan Wan Azmi, or fondly known as Wan Kedah, located in the confines of his apartment in Wangsa Maju, Kuala Lumpur.
An avid vintage toys collector, Wan is also the founder of Collectors Toy Fair Kuala Lumpur (CTFKL), a club for collector’s items enthusiasts which recently organised its fourth major gathering at the TM Convention Centre in Kuala Lumpur.
Laid back and friendly, it’s easy to warm to Wan and his lovely wife, Siti Mazleena Mohd Rodhi, as they welcome me in.
Interestingly, this is the first time in 11 years that Wan has allowed anyone, aside from his wife, to enter into his “Fortress of Solitude”.
The “fortress” or toy room is filled to the brim with boxes of vintage toys, all collector’s items. The Star Wars gang is there except that they’re in the form of 3 ¾-inch action figures. The first 12 characters of Star Wars were immortalised by Kenner (an American toy company founded in 1946) as the first Star Wars action figures ever. The Transformers, as well as the SilverHawks and the Centurions: Power Extreme toys neatly line the shelves, still in their boxes.
JOY OF TOYS
Since ancient times, toys and games have been created to give children much joy. What constitutes as vintage nowadays encompasses toys that move, such as pull toys or wheeled toys. These kinds of toys have been popular since the time of the ancient Egyptians.
By the 1950s, space toys and miniature robots became trendy. In more recent years, character toys from cartoon strips, television shows and animated films, such as Star Wars, Transformers, SilverHawks and Centurions: Power Xtreme became popular.
“I bought the Star Wars First 12 when I was living in Montreal, Canada. My dad was doing his PhD at that time. I remember watching Episode IV in the US at the drive-in movie in 1977 and asking my dad to buy the figures when they came out. They were my first toys,” recalls the 45-year-old when asked when his passion for toys started.
During the 1980s, Wan shares that he grew up in Alor Setar, Kedah and there was not much choice in terms of toys. “We had to go to Penang if we wanted to buy toys. We were not rich. If I did well in my exam, my mother would ask me, ‘Nak makanan ke nak mainan? (Do you want food or toys?).’ Food would entail fast food, which was quite a luxury for us at the time. But of course, I always chose toys!” recalls Wan with a chuckle.
So how does one value these toys, I muse aloud, duly impressed by his almost 5,000 collection of toys, which he had amassed over a period of 30 years.
“Actually, you’ll never know what’s going to be the next hot thing people would want to collect. If anyone had the ability to predict that, they’d be a millionaire! The toys from the 1970s to 1980s are really expensive now, that’s for sure,” he replies.
A quick check on e-Bay (the world’s largest online marketplace) reveals that the Star Wars figures can fetch up to RM5,000 at current market price! But of course, there’s no way that Wan would be parting with any of them. Asked which toy is his most prized one, Wan smiles before pointing to his collection of Star Wars figures as well as the 1984 original Optimus Prime, which is still in mint condition.
NOT JUST A HOBBY
Moving out of his “den”, we make our way to the living room to continue our chat over a cup of tea and cake served by Mazleena before she excuses herself to run some errands.
“Being a toy collector is fun but it can also be boring if you do it alone,” confides Wan. This is primarily the reason why he established CTFKL, where other enthusiasts can share their passion and knowledge too. Since its inception, more than 60 clubs have joined. Star Wars alone has several local clubs.
Around the globe, there are many other clubs and collectors who have stockpiled an impressive collection of toys. Steve Sansweet from California, is the chairman and president of Rancho Obi-Wan, a non-profit museum that houses the world’s largest collection of Star Wars memorabilia. His collections were recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as being the largest of its kind in the world!
Another World Record holder is Brad Ladner from Roswell, Georgia, who has the largest collection of Batman memorabilia, comprising 8,226 different items as of 2015.
Meanwhile, for Wan, he’s looking to do more than just collect toys and gather new enthusiasts through his toys fair. He also wants to give something back to society. As such, 100 per cent of the entrance fee, which was RM1 per adult for the first fair in 2015 and RM5 per adult for the recent one, is channelled to orphanages and those in need.
The recent instalment of the fair saw a group of orphans from the Pondok Penyayang Raudah in Kampung Batu Sebelas, Selangor given the VIP treatment and presented with toys. The sheer joy etched on the children’s faces when they received their toys is something that he’ll never forget, confides Wan.
“I remember on that day there was a minor panic because we thought that a few of the children had gone missing. As it turned out, they had actually gone into hiding as they didn’t want to go home! They were so happy to be there and receiving the toys,” recalls Wan, chuckling. He adds that he will endeavour to continue with the charity drive in every fair that he plans to organise in the future.
Moving forward, Wan expresses hope that the collectors’ community in the country will expand not just locally, but also internationally. “There are a lot of collectors in Malaysia than we realise. But many of them prefer to collect quietly. I would like these collectors to ‘come out’ and join exhibitions such as CTFKL, where they can share their passion as well as do a bit of charity,” says Wan, his expression earnest.
What he would also love to see in the future, confides Wan, is for more local toy brands and toy characters to be created. “We have such a rich history. Surely we can do more than just import toys and brands. We can also express ourselves by creating and designing our own toys.”
And Wan is certainly walking the talk by creating a super robot M.A.T N.O.Q (Mechanical Atomic Tarakucha Numeric Online Quantum), a robot from kampung, which is now the official mascot and logo for CTFKL. The limited edition robot sold like hot cakes during the recent fair.
Even though there are major sponsors who would want to cooperate with Wan, he has to politely decline as he wants to stay true to what he wants to do without any red tape and bureaucracy. He’s quite contented to just be organising gatherings using his own money and through crowdfunding, as well as giving back to society.
“If I did it just for the money or fame, I’d be living in a big house now. But I’m doing this for my love and passion for toys, and at the same time, kumpul pahala (collect reward),” he concludes emphatically. email@example.com