It’s our great pleasure to welcome vintage toy collector and Analog Toys YouTube creator Tony Roberts to Fantha Tracks.
FT: Tony, thanks for joining us here on Fantha Tracks to talk Star Wars, action figure collecting and Analog Toys. Could you share your earliest Star Wars memories with us?
TR: My earliest memory is watching the first film on British television on Christmas day in 1982. My Granddad also owned a silent movie camera and projector and for some reason he owned a copy of the trailer for Star Wars that we would play over and over on his projector with the image displayed on the wall in the kitchen, but it had no sound so my brother and I would recreate the sound effects ourselves.
FT: What’s your favourite Star Wars film?
TR: The Empire Strikes Back, no contest in my opinion.
FT: Do any future projects, such as Captain Andor, pique your interest?
TR: I am really looking forward The Mandalorian season 2 and hope that the one day we get a Kenobi TV series starring Ewan McGregor. I wasn’t aware of a Captain Andor project until you mentioned it.
TR: I was heavily into Star Wars toys from 1981 to 1982. I think the first Star Wars toy I owned was the white Palitoy X-Wing with Battle Damage stickers.
FT: Did you collect them all?
TR: No, I had hand-me-down toys from the first movie that my older brother owned and I got a lot of ESB figures and toys but I had moved onto other things by the time Return of the Jedi was released.
FT: Have you managed to hold onto your original figures?
TR: Sadly, they were all sold at a garage sale just before my family moved from England to Australia in 1988. Some lucky bugger bought my complete Millennium Falcon for two quid!
FT: What’s your favourite Star Wars figure?
TR: Bespin Luke but I am also very fond of Leia in Boushh disguise.
FT: Is there a holy grail which has eluded your collection so far?
TR: If you’re talking specifically Star Wars, I’d really love to add a vintage Y-Wing to the collection but prices have been going up dramatically for that toy over the last couple of years. Outside of Star Wars it has to be the GI Joe USS Flagg Aircraft Carrier, but I doubt I will ever own one!
FT: You are an avid vintage collector of various franchises; can you share these with us?
TR: Yes, Palitoy’s Action Man is my favourite toy franchise but I also collect Action Force, GI Joe, Mego, Kenner Indiana Jones, Masters of the Universe, Six Million Dollar Man, Coleco’s Rambo, Evel Knievel, Lone Ranger; I could keep going…
FT: When Palitoy were licenced by Kenner to produce the 3¾” 5 point articulation, they reviewed one of your other favourites, Action Man and re-imagined him within the same scale, were you tempted into collecting these figures during your childhood?
TR: Yes, I had several Action Force toys in 1982 and 83 and really enjoyed the toy line. I specifically remember owning Quarrel and the Rapid-Fire Motorcycle and Red Laser with the Laser Exterminator.
TR: I am very lucky to own two prototypes of the Action Force SAS Squad Leader, one made from metal and one made from resin. Both of these were on display at the British Toy Fair in January of 1982. These prototypes were gifted to me by Bob Brechin, the Chief Designer and Manager of the Palitoy Action Force line and I absolutely treasure them.
FT: What’s next on your collecting list?
TR: I’m aiming to complete the entire first series Action Force collection from 1982 in fact, I recently purchased the original Action Force Headquarters, which is made of cardboard and is very similar in design to the Palitoy Death Star. I’m eagerly awaiting its arrival in the mail!
FT: Were you drawn into collecting Action Force later in life spurred on by kind donations from our mutual and generous friend George Aitken?
TR: Action Force has always held a very special place in my heart and I have always been tempted to collect them but yes, George Aitken spurred me into “action” (no pun intended) and set me on a course, which has resulted in me completing the entire Action Force line from 1983 & 84. Now I need to complete 1982…
FT: You collected G.I. Joe figures when you were younger, although these US figures boasted improved articulation over their Action Force counterparts, however they do not exude the same level of details as the UK figures. Do you have a preference between the two?
TR: I enjoy them both equally. I love the articulation of the Hasbro designed figures but also appreciate the sculpting afforded to Palitoy’s figures. I also particularly like the fact that many of the 5POA Action Force figures have been sculpted with a face that resembles Action Man’s face.
FT: During Analog Toys episodes, you have highlighted that Palitoy, who produced both Star Wars and Action Force for the UK, blended some Star Wars molds into their Action Force range. Akin to Easter Eggs, some recognisable Star Wars patterns were hidden within Action Force vehicles. I was blissfully unaware of this fact until you covered these. Could you share some of these franchise cross-overs with us?
TR: Yes, I love finding out about these little Easter Eggs myself. Probably my favourite example of this is when Palitoy used the tooling for the Millennium Falcon radar dish and applied it to the underbelly of the Satellite Defence mini-vehicle for Space Force. Another example, which I never mentioned in the video, is that the engine hatch for the Q Force Sea Lion is in fact, a scaled down version of the commander’s hatch on the AT-ST!
FT: Beginning life in the UK before moving to Australia while still young, your childhood and collecting experience has embraced both markets. How would you compare the availability of figure ranges?
TR: My family emigrated to Australia when I was 11 years old and although I was still into toys at that age, it was only for another year or so and the main thing I remember getting for that first Christmas in Australia was the Cobra Mamba from the GI Joe toy line. After that I lost interest in toys and tried (and failed) to become a surfer, but a few years later when I got into collecting I quickly realised that Australia had been very fortunate during the 1970s because they received both 12” Action Man toys (sold by TolToys) and 12” Adventure Team GI Joe (sold by Kenbrite). I thought it was the luckiest country on Earth!
TR: I don’t keep up speed with many modern releases so it’s hard for me to say.
FT: What are the challenges of collecting vintage figures in Australia?
TR: I can’t speak for the east coast of Australia because I’ve always lived on the west coast but the population of our capital city, Perth back in the 1970s and early 80s was far smaller than what it is today, which means that there simply isn’t the same amount of vintage toys available on the secondary market. Fewer quantities of cool toys were sold in Perth back in those days so they are harder to find today. I get most of my vintage acquisitions from overseas.
FT: Do you have any vintage collecting tips?
TR: Patience! In addition to that, try to save up and buy big lots instead of paying high prices for individual items, you’ll always get a better deal that way.
FT: Until recently, you firmly focussed collecting on vintage figures, this was until you chanced upon some modern Star Wars 6 inch Black Series at a local store. Unable to resist this opportunity and picked a few up. Are you now going to be adding more modern Star Wars figures to your collection?
TR: Yes, but I’m sticking with characters from my favourite movie, The Empire Strikes Back, and I am committed to staying in that lane because I can tell that collecting Black Series is an addiction that could quickly consume me. I have also recently acquired the 6” Rebel Snowspeeder, which is an amazing toy and I’m waiting on the corresponding Luke Skywalker figure to arrive before making a video about it.
FT: Modern figures cannot compete with the nostalgia of vintage figures borne from childhood memories, however the production detail of modern figures makes me a little envious of today’s kids. I find visiting stores without a cheeky wander down the toy section irresistible, playing the part of a father or uncle figure who is ignorantly perusing for a young family members playtime while masking my enthusiasm and sweaty hands. How do you play cool, especially when there might be other parents with kids in the immediate area?
TR: Hahaha, it is something I used to be conscious of but these days I hardly care. I’ll happily push other parents out of the way if they are reaching for an action figure that I want (joking)!
FT: You’ve mentioned that a combination of military movies and love for Action Man inspired your military career which encompassed the Australian, British armies and Special Forces. By association, it gives us fellow collectors a good name, it is an adult sport J. Does your relationship with action figure collecting provide you with a positive focus?
TR: Action figure collecting has had an incredibly positive impact on my life. I began seriously collecting vintage toys at the age 16, but years later when I transitioned from the private security industry back into civilian life, it gave me something to focus my energy on. I also firmly believe that toys are representative of modern Pop Art. I am not a toy collector, I am an art collector and I treat my collection room like a gallery.
FT: George Lucas and his creative team visionaries adopted real world military items for use in their Star Wars theatre, such as the APH-6B fighter helmet adapted for Rebel Troopers, the Rebel’s DL-44 blasters developed from the 7.63-caliber Mauser C96 or Joe Johnston fascination for military armour who with Ralph McQuarrie, collaborated to create Boba Fett’s infamous look. Drawing from your military background, did you identify any other military Easter Eggs you spotted in the galaxy, far, far away….?
TR: The Stormtrooper’s E-11 Blaster was modelled after the British Army’s Sterling submachine gun, which I have actually fired in real life and can say that it is a wildly inaccurate weapon. In actual fact, I don’t think that Stormtrooper’s are the notoriously bad shots that people think they are, they have just been issued with weapons that are a bitch to shoot. I also believe that the ammo pouch worn on the Sandtrooper’s shoulder is a repurposed MP40 magazine pouch.
FT: How would you compare Star Wars troopers or battle tactics compare with your real-world experiences?
TR: In real life, no one stands up when engaging the enemy. In real combat everyone hugs the ground and tries to make themselves as small a target as possible.
FT: What inspired you to launch your YouTube channel Analog Toys?
TR: I’ve always had a passion for filmmaking and back in 2011 I made a feature length documentary called “The Story of Action Man” that was sold on DVD for a number of years. In 2016 I was looking for another filmmaking project and was considering producing a documentary about Kenner’s Six Million Dollar Man toy line, then one day I stumbled across the RetroBlasting YouTube channel. I love that channel and thought their format was something that I could replica (to a degree) and put my own spin on things. Fast forward a few years and I have now become good friends with Michael French and the RetroBlasting team. We collaborate often and consider ourselves as companion channels; where RetroBlasting focuses on 80s and 90s toys, we focus on 70s and 80s and we each cover some toy lines that the other doesn’t collect.
FT: Can you tell us the ethos behind Analog Toys?
TR: The channel’s tagline is “A Vintage Obsession” but our real obsession is bringing the audience the true history of vintage toys and action figures. I am not only fascinated by the toys but also by how and why they were developed and where they fit in the marketplace at the time of their release. The name “Analog Toys” also came about when I was discussing potential names with my wife and I mentioned that my son doesn’t play with action figures because, unlike me, he grew up in the digital age.
FT: Do you have any exciting Analog Toys projects in the production pipeline?
TR: We have lots of projects in pipeline including the aforementioned Action Force 1982 video and a review of the 6” Black Series Snowspeeder. I’m also working on a Ghostbusters feature and I am in talks with Bob Brechin about a video that will cover “The Action Figures of Palitoy”. There are also plans to collaborate again with RetroBlasting on another Star Wars Follies video.
TR: Haha, I have lots of advice but I am not sure how useful it is!
Firstly; it’s important to have a focus but just as important to not be too narrow with your focus. For example; instead making Analog Toys an Action Man channel, I think I made a wise decision to focus on vintage toys in general because the wider topic attracts a broader audience.
Secondly; do not be in a rush to grow too quickly when you are just starting out. It takes a long time to figure out your style and format and you will make a lot of mistakes early on (I know I did). Focus on quality videos over a quantity of videos as your audience will appreciate it far more and it will pay dividends later on.
Thirdly; you have to select projects that you are truly passionate about because it’s hard to maintain the energy levels that are required to run a YouTube channel if your subject is something that only mildly interests you.
Lastly; experiment. Try new things and do not be afraid of failure.
FT: Where can people access your work online?
TR: Our main portal is the Analog Toys channel on YouTube but we also have a Facebook page and for people who would like to support us financially, you can subscribe to us on Patreon where we offer a lot of Patreon only, exclusive content.
FT: Tony, it has been a great pleasure meeting you. Many thanks for sharing your experiences with us here on Fantha Tracks. We wish you good hunting for future collecting exploits and look forward to watching many more of your entertaining and informative Analog Toy episodes.