Since “Star Wars: A New Hope” was released in 1977, I have been collecting Star Wars toys. Although, when I was a kid, I didn’t know that I was collecting Star Wars toys, I was actually playing with them. As part of the playing ritual, it would mean taking the Luke Skywalker action figure or TIE Fighter space ship out of the packaging and exposing them to the elements. While I was not as harsh on them as other kids I knew (firecracker Stormtooper anyone?), there would be the occasional Chewbacca or Jawa that was left outside in the dirt during a rainstorm. Most of the time it was easy to clean off whatever elemental damage the figure suffered, sometimes though, there was too much damage and the figure became a “playground casualty.”
It wasn’t until 1995 when Kenner/Hasbro released The Power of the Force 2 (Or Power of the Steroid 2, if you will) line that I really started collecting Star Wars action figures. Fast forward 20 years, three more movies and various cartoon series and the collection of carded figures has grown. While I have taken the time to safely store the figures that I’m not displaying, they were not safe from the Elemental Empire.
Over the summer, a pipe that lead to an outdoor faucet ruptured. While some water did make it out the hose, most of the water was diverted to the basement storage room. Because the pipe was above the storage room, the water cascaded down the wall, onto the storage shelves and then to the storage room floor. The majority of my carded Star Wars action figures were safely snuggled inside plastic totes. But one box that contained assorted figures from various lines was in a cardboard box, and it suffered the most water damage.
It was heart wrenching, just looking at the exterior of the box and being able to see the water line that went up one-third up the side of the box. Opening the box and pulling out each water-soaked carded figure did not make for a good day. It was a slow process to take each one out and lay it out on a flat surface to dry. Some were damage so bad that they had water spots on the inside of the plastic blister packaging. Almost 30 figures and six posters had suffered some sort of water damage. I thought that by keeping carded figures off the floor, it would be enough to protect them. I forgot the first rule of water, water always runs downhill.
For me, I had homeowners insurance that will cover most (but not all) of the items that were damaged. Check your homeowners insurance policy. It may cover damage to your collection, it may not. In some cases you may need to purchase a separate policy. Take pictures of your collection, front and back of individual items, put those images on a flash drive and store the drive in a fireproof safe or off-site or upload the images to a cloud server.
This time, for me it was water. For others it could be fire. And for some it could be a tornado or hurricane. The elements are not a friend of the collector. But keep this in mind, despite of the time and resources that are spent in the pursuit of our collections, they are just things. They can be replaced. It will just take a little more time and resources.