By Anne Neumann
When I first read Steve Sansweet’s Tomart’s Guide to Star Wars Collectibles around 1999 I knew that I wanted to own every Star Wars thing ever made. Of course that was impossible. I really enjoyed writing a database to track all the things that I had collected, so I decided what I really wanted was to catalog every Star Wars thing ever made. And Steve had it all, right?
After eight years at Rancho Obi-Wan I know that it’s impossible to own every piece of Star Wars merchandise. Even though Steve calls himself a completist, to him that means that he’s interested in every aspect of Star Wars collecting. These days he’s happy to have one example of a type of item, not every variation. There’s just too much stuff!
Working with the largest Star Wars memorabilia collection in the world every day and interacting with so many fans and collectors over the years has now changed my own collecting interest to “how to collect small.” Not everyone can have a Rancho Obi-Wan—and I honestly wouldn’t recommend it. So how can you have a Star Wars collection, keep its size manageable, within budget, still challenge yourself and have a sense of satisfaction?
I’d like to begin sharing stories about small collections and suggestions for focusing your own collection. I’ll start with my own. Besides about ten tubs of trading cards in my Mother’s barn back in Texas, my collection now consists of just three Star Wars items. They all have special meaning to me and I hope to add more in the future. But they basically look like the same item.
They are three Yoda figures-to-paint from 1980. They were made by Craft Master for The Empire Strikes Back. Each figurine was painted by a special friend when they were kids and given to me as a token of friendship and to share a love for Star Wars.
My first Yoda came from Tracy Kelly. She was my number one volunteer and backup at Official Pix for many years and eventually took my place there as volunteer coordinator. My second Yoda came from Brian Wachhaus, a friend for 15 years who I met at the Austin Fan Force—the first local club I joined. The third came from Fon Davis who donated his enormous action figure collection to Rancho Obi-Wan to auction as a show of support during our first year.
The Yoda figurines embody the passion and love of each painter, produced with the spark that ignited a lifetime of devotion to Star Wars and fandom. For me, these three small items are equal to rooms of merchandise. Check them out the next time you tour Rancho Obi-Wan.
Anne Neumann is vice president and general manager of Rancho Obi-Wan. She arrived with a plan to catalog the entire collection in six months and then return to her native Texas. That was eight years ago. Anne has a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Geography from the University of Texas at Austin. She received specialized training in database design and database-driven web site implementation. Anne managed volunteers for Star Wars licensee Official Pix for seven years, was the main photographer on Steve Sansweet’s book Star Wars: 1000 Collectibles; she wrote the database and managed the technology that allowed Steve to write Star Wars: The Ultimate Action Figure Collection. A relentless organizer and event planner, after nearly a decade at Rancho Anne can claim to be at least minimally proficient in construction management, design, photography—and box lifting.