It’s our great pleasure to welcome vintage toy collector, restorer and YouTuber Dave of Toy Polloi to Fantha Tracks.
FT – Hi Dave, thank you for joining us here on Fantha Tracks.
TP – Thanks for inviting me to take part.
FT – What’s your earliest memories of Star Wars?
TP – It would be sitting watching Star Wars on TV at Christmas. I guess I would have been 5 or 6 at the time. I never got to see it in the cinema originally as I was too young. My brother and I had been given a couple of Star Wars figures, which soon became mine as he wasn’t interested in them. But I became hooked on them and the movies.
FT – Have you managed to hold on to your childhood Star Wars collection?
TP – Sadly I sold pretty much all of my childhood toys to fund new interests I had, like RC cars and computers. I only kept a couple of figures – Logray, Chief Chirpa, Yoda, a Jawa and Luke X-wing. Not sure why I decided those were the ones that I wanted to keep hold of.
FT – Did you manage to collect them all, or return to vintage collecting later?
TP – As a child I got nowhere near all of them. I probably only had about 20-30 figures, most of which were second hand, a speeder bike and a couple of mini rigs.
FT – What is your most cherished vintage Star Wars figure?
TP – It’s one I fixed a few years back. The first time I used Lego to re-attach the head on a Biker Scout. It was a breakthrough moment in toy repair for me, and I really love that figure.
FT – Is there a prized vintage Star Wars figure which still eludes you?
TP – I’ve got the full set now, a very kind donation recently got me the last figure I needed, Blue Snaggletooth. Not a figure I even knew existed when I was a kid. But once you start collecting as an adult you find out all of these things, and then you need to get it to complete the set.
TP – I don’t. I was buying new figures until about 5 or 6 years ago. I just found the quality from Hasbro was getting worse and worse, and I just didn’t like them. The last modern Star Wars toy I bought was the The Force Awakens Falcon, and it was dreadful. Cheaply made, and so many issues that needed fixing straight out of the box. It’s sad they don’t put more effort into what they make. Toys are meant to be played with, and should last. If something breaks as soon as you remove it from the package, then it’s not a good toy.
FT – What other collections do you have?
TP – All sorts, Action Man, Micronauts, Cyborgs, Transformers, Penny Racers, Fisher Price Adventure People, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Mego, Buck Rogers, and more. All toys I remember wanting to have as a kid but never got.
FT – What motivated the launch of your YouTube channel ‘Toy Polloi’?
TP – It was James from the YouTube channel Xrobots that got me started. He came to visit one Christmas and saw how I was fixing and repairing toys for my collection and said I should make videos about it as people would be interested. I’d never thought of doing that before, and it seemed like a fun idea. 6 years later I am still making videos and getting more and more subscribers every day. He was right.
FT – While vintage Star Wars figure collectors hunger for pristine examples, many of these 40 plus year old playthings carry their adventure wear and tear with pride and sadly in some cases, are considered candidates for discarding. Thankfully your restoration projects breathe new life into these otherwise lost causes. What inspired you to begin restoring vintage figures?
TP – It’s something I have always done. As a child I got very few brand new toys, most came from car boots or jumble sales so they were often missing pieces. I would just make the bit that was missing out of what I could find around the house. Lots of felt was used for capes, toothpicks for weapons, and so on. Failing that I would make my own version of the toy I wanted from Lego.
I guess that just carried on into my adult collecting. I never like to spend much money on the toys so would always buy the broken ones as they were usually much cheaper than the mint examples. I’d then fix them up so they could be played with or displayed. Toys don’t need to be mint to be appreciated. I class myself as a Wabi Sabi collector, finding charm in a toy even if it’s less than perfect. And by fixing up a toy I get far more enjoyment out of it than if I just bought it and stuck it on a shelf.
FT – You have mastered a lot of restoration techniques covering yellowing, frosting, ink removal and much more which are covered within your videos. What has been your most challenging restoration?
TP – Most recently it was restoring a vintage Action Man that had been completely painted red by a child at some point. I think most people would have just thrown it in the bin, but I couldn’t do that. It was a lot of work, but in the end he looked really nice. There were still a few rough areas, and he did have a red tinge to his face, but that just gives him some extra character. Probably my favourite Action Man in my collection now.
FT – With build sets, video games and movies, Lego has become synonymous with Star Wars in recent years. You have developed methods bringing this relationship to a new level. Can you tell us how you employ Lego within your restoration projects?
TP – Lego is the toy fixer’s friend. There are some many different shaped pieces available in a wide variety of colours. I first used it repairing a Biker Scout figure, not sure why it popped into my head as something worth trying, but it did and I have never looked back. Every time I start a new project the first thing I do is look in my box of Lego parts to see if there is something I can use. And more often than note, there is!
FT – The Toy Polloi website shares free templates for vintage Star Wars figures vinyl and cloth capes with supporting video tutorials. There are also sticker templates for vehicles for a nominal fee. Both the templates, stickers and tutorials will prove invaluable to anyone seeking to restore their own figures. Do you have plans for any further templates or vehicle decals?
TP – I’m always adding more. I get requests in everyday from people asking me to work on certain ships or figures. There are just not enough hours in the day to make them all. Toy Polloi is just a hobby for me, so my time is limited.
FT – You have applied your skills in support of fund raising for various charities, could you tell us about this?
TP – It just seemed a nice thing to do. I get sent quite a few old toys as donations. Things people don’t want back, they just want to see them repaired. And I just don’t have space to keep them all. So every once in a while I sell or auction off the repaired toys on my Facebook page and give the money to charity. I started giving it to charities that I support, but have also sold items for charities that my followers request. I will be doing some more this years for Prostate Cancer UK as my Dad sadly passed away from this recently.
FT – Have you employed your skills honed through restoration towards developing custom figures?
TP – I’ve done a couple in my time, but nothing I have shared on Toy Polloi. Although I did make a simple custom pilot for a G.I. Joe Skystriker, he ended up looking a bit like me 😀
FT – Toy Polloi also features toy hunting episodes, can you share any of your bargain hunting tips?
TP – That’s something I get asked a lot. The main thing is patience. I got to a lot of charity shops and never find anything, just don’t get put off. And be strict with your budget. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and spend more than you wanted. Be happy to wait as another will come along in time at a price you are happy to pay.
FT – Your channel also delves into the realms of army building. Could you share some army building on a budget tips?
TP – Patience is a must. I’ve been collecting a long time, and never want to spend much on my collection. With my Imperial army I set a limit of £2-3 a figure, which these days is very low. But even at that price I still manage to find figures a few times a year. Collecting is not a race and I am happy to wait for things to turn up at a price I can get enjoyment from.
FT – Could you tell us about your YouTube series ‘Pocket Money Memories’?
TP – The idea behind Pocket Money Memories is that I get other collectors to film themselves talking about memories they have as a child saving up their pocket money to buy that one special toy. I have great memories of going to the shops and buying a toy that I had been wanting, and thought others may have similar memories. And it seems they do. I’m working on episode nine at the moment and am regularly contacted by people wanting to take part. I love hearing these memories from other collectors, it’s fascinating.
TP – I always seem to have a stack of projects waiting to be worked on. People send me all sorts of broken toys that they think would be fun to fix, and I buy many myself. I never like to leave a broken toy behind, and love the challenge of fixing a toy I’ve never seen before.
Star Wars repairs are probably my most popular videos, I am working on a couple of Boba Fett related ones, and also just got my hands on the Palitoy Death Star which is one I know a lot of people will want to see restored.
FT – Where can we find your website and channel?
FT – Dave, many thanks for joining us here on Fantha Tracks and sharing your experiences. I look forward to watching your future exploits and episodes.
TP – Thanks.