COLLECTOR INTERVIEW: Ankush Chugh
Profession: Textile Businessman
What do you collect? How long have you been collecting? How did you get into it?
I collect action figures of Batman and related characters, Masters of the Universe action figures, action figures by Neca based on popular movie/game franchises like Rocky, Rambo, Kratos, Predator etc. I have been collecting since I was like 6 years old, back in 1987-88, unfortunately, have lost/traded most of my collections of G.I.Joes and Masters Of The Universe figures. I started noticing the details and articulations on action figures right when I was 6, I use to look for well painted and detailed figures by Hasbro, Kenner, Funskool etc and pick the best ones that I liked. I had stopped collecting when I was in 8th standard because it was considered an embarrassing hobby for a grown up to pursue by the society here at large, and still is. I am waiting for the day when our own family and friends can accept a toy collector as any other collector of books, alcohol, stamps, coins etc. The collecting bug bit me again in 2011 when I was on my first wedding anniversary trip to Goa, I came across these small detailed 3-inch Transformer figures by Hasbro from ‘The Dark of The Moon’ movie line. At that time this particular personality trait of collecting was well hidden from my wife. She just saw me purchase two transformers for 299 each. And she was like, are they key chains? I said no they are these car models which can convert into a robot. She was like wow, cute huh. I was like yeah baby. So I took her to watch the Transformers DOTM movie, she slept off from the first scene to the end credits, literally. Later she abused me left right and center for the action heavy movie. Till date, I have to trick her into watching any superhero movie, saying it’s a love story with super powers. It works sometimes. She loved Iron Man and Thor, for the hot and sexy actors. So that’s how I started collecting again.
I will be honest, I am not at all into reading comics much. Since childhood Batman, G.I.Joes, HeMan and other Hollywood action movie franchises have been my poison. I loved watching animated series, movies and sitcoms of all these characters back to back, still do. And when I wanted some way of showing my passion for these characters, I turned to toys/collectibles. Today I am mainly collecting highly detailed 1/6th figures made by Hot Toys (mainly Batman and related characters) and 7′ figures from DC Collectibles, dontMattel and Neca meant for adult collectors. But what makes me love these collectibles, till date I do not understand. I know I love the paint apps, articulations, and models and sculpts but what is that driving force don’t know. Because for any normal person buying a figure worth Rs 32000 is like committing a crime and disrespecting hard earned money but for me, it is an achievement, an art which motivates me to take on the world everytime I see that figure well displayed in front of me. It’s just a matter of perspective.
What is the holy grail of your collection? Or if you still looking for it then what it is?
There is never one Holy Grail for any collector. If you ask me what is my Holy Grail from my current collection then I would say it has to be my Batman Verse (From Adam West to Ben Afleck excluding Val Kilmer & George Clooney) by Hot Toys (7 figures so far: 8th on pre order). They are:
1) Classic TV Series Batman (Adam West)
2) Batman Returns Batman (Michael Keaton)
3) The Dark Knight Batman (Christian Bale)
4) Arkham City Batman (Kevin Conroy)
5) Batman VS Superman Regular Batman (Ben Afleck)
6) Batman VS Superman Armored Batman (Ben Afleck)
7) Batman VS Superman Knightmare Batman (Ben Afleck)
8) On Pre Order: Arkham Knight Batman (Kevin Conroy)
If you ask me what is your ultimate grail which you would like to own someday then it has to be the various versions of Batmobile made by Hot Toys.
What is the most surprising or outrageous collecting story you have heard?
I will share my own one story. This happened in November 2014, I anyhow wanted to buy the Hot Toys Batman Armory from The Dark Knight at a fair price. All Indian sellers here were quoting me a minimum price of Rs 38000, which was obviously too high. Then a friend of mine guided me to a Hong Kong online seller Locus HK, who had it in stock for a price of HKD 2100 (approx Rs 18500) add to it shipping worth Rs 4000, so the total would be Rs 22500. So I ordered it and it was my first time buying an expensive figure and importing it myself. The seller was ready to mark it as a gift and under invoice it to a USD price of my choice to avoid customs duty. It was my first time so I made the invoice at USD 75 which was like USD 225 below its market price. Now I didn’t realize this goof up unless I saw its price on amazon, eBay, and other e-sellers. It had shipped by then. The usual TAT to receive the parcel is 7 – 10 working days. It crossed 15 days and still there was no news. All I had was an online status saying ‘Parcel detained at Customs Mumbai’, no reason mentioned. Ultimately I had to visit the customs office. They opened the parcel in front of me. They were shocked what kind of toy is this, basically what the hell is this? The officer asked me ‘aap is khilone ka kya karoge?’ I told him I am a collector. Then he brings to me a print out of web pages from Amazon, Ebay where this item was listed for USD 275 and above. He asked me the reason for under-invoicing by the seller, I obviously said look it is a mistake by the seller and I am sorry kindly pardon it. They handed me a duty plus penalty statement of Rs 15000. I went blank and requested them that this is a present for me from the seller and it is a genuine mistake of under invoicing and that they should just take some nominal penalty and let it go this one time. Finally, I had to pay them Rs 6500 unofficially and get the set released and it cost me Rs 30000 in all, still cheaper than buying from India for Rs 38000. Since then I have imported like 7 Hot Toys myself keeping invoicing in check. I had visited Hong Kong for 3 days in April 2015 just to study the toy market in Mong Kok district and obviously shopped toys to my heart’s content. It is a toy collectors paradise for sure. Visited the Hot Toys Exclusive store – Secret Base & Toy Hunters – one of the best places to buy collectibles in Hong Kong.
If you could pick one item from your collection to keep, what would it be? And why?
All of it. I rarely trade or sell, unless I have lost interest in that brand or toyline. Have traded and sold most of my Transformers, vintage MOTU and G.I.Joes thats all.
If you could have one item out of someone else’s collection, what would that be?
I don’t believe in feeling envy or jealous for not having a particular collectible just because someone else has it. This hobby is purely based on one’s passion and I for one take pride in whatever collectibles I own, in that it is wrong of me to think less of myself just because someone else has a particular collectible which I don’t. I admire, cherish and respect other peoples’ collections and look at them from a motivation point of view. Some are much bigger collectors than me and some have just started collecting and are coming up the curve, but everyone deserves equal respect. This hobby is heavy on invest and how every collector manages his/her family priorities and also collects depends from person to person. I admire collections of my friends and fellow collectors – Pranav Kumar, Bala Subramanian, Ramgopal Krishnan, Soberjit Singh, Harsh Vardhan, Sohan Surag, Shantanu Chakravorty, Mayank Khurana, Rachit Sharma, Nihal Gopinathan, Mayank Tandon…the list is endless…many more names are there.
How has the collecting scene changed in the last 5 years?. Do you like that or not?
There is definitely a change in the attitude of the people here in India. Earlier I use to hardly see any adults as a prospective buyer in toy stores like Hamleys. Lately, I have seen many people walking into toy stores and enquiring about a particular toy for collecting purpose. Many of the local toy stores now maintain a list of regular collectors to contact for a particular collectible and updates for the same. For a long time I use to join collector groups based in the US and other countries to meet up with more collectors but it never satisfied me because the stuff which they use to get the sheer variety, never reaches the Indian market, so discussing toys was like just liking or commenting on someone else’s post. I then decided to start a collectors group for people based in India, I gathered all my collector friends and started the group- Action Figure Fanatics India with about 60 members 3 years ago. Today we are just about to reach 1800 members. About 80% are Indians and many are active collectors. It feels great to meet up and discuss and share collectibles and make friends. A buddy Harsh Vardhan also runs a group – Indian Toy Collectors, it is equally active and doing great. Harsh has also made an awesome documentary based on Indian collectors – Indian Toy Collectors: The Documentary. It is there on YouTube. Great work and a must watch for Indian collectors. Things are definitely moving on a growth path as far as toy collector market is concerned in India. Major contributors are the plethora of Superhero movies and sitcoms which are coming back to back. No one here is unaware of Marvel Cinematic Universe & DC Cinematic Universe. Even adults are loving them. Companies like Bombay Merch (Akshay Butani), SuperHero Toystore (Devesh Chhabaria), Gundam Galaxy (Rishi Walia), The Entertainment Store (Satish Khemchandani) are doing a very good job in trying to bring collectible brands like DC Collectibles, Neca, Hot Toys, Kotobukiya, Iron Studios etc officially to Indian collectors.
How do you see, or hope to see the scene changing in 5 years time?
I surely see a positive change and development in terms of demand for collectibles here in India. I hope to see major collectibles’ brands having a larger presence here in India officially offering us collectibles at internationally competitive prices and same release time window. The trend of pre-ordering collectibles still needs time to come and get popular here in India.
What advice would you give a new collector starting out today?
For anybody who is new as a collector few things should be kept in mind. 90% of people get back into collecting once they start earning themselves, hence don’t get too excited at first. A lot a specific budget on a monthly basis for collectibles and then decide to save that allotted fund to buy a high-end expensive collectible or every month buy some action figures that fits your budget, the choice is yours. Keep a focus while buying, identify your favorite collectible lines and brands first, always keep a broader vision while buying. Picture yourself how your collection should look after a few years, do proper online research and check other collector reviews before buying, think how you want to display them etc. Don’t buy on impulse ever. As soon as you are able to follow this suggestions, advice me how to do it.
A collectible is an investment that ordinary people don’t understand. If you think you bought something in haste or you need to streamline your collection, then selling or trading is the best option out. Don’t just keep it for the sake of it. Some other collector might cherish it more than you do. Always respect and motivate other collectors. Don’t ever buy collectibles to show off or just because it is popular, if you buy collectibles just to show people that see how much great stuff I own, then my friend you ain’t a collector in the true sense, you aren’t buying for your happiness but just to pull off an impression of being a serious collector. Don’t cheat yourself. Be a responsible adult and keep family priorities first. Happy Collecting !!
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