What price love?

Victor tries his very best to get Fred to laugh, by telling him a joke about the "24 Hour Lover Brother" but Fred remains forever silent.

I’ve never been the kind of person to shop around looking for a bargain.  For me, everything has its own value – “however much I’m willing to pay for it”, regardless of the cost.  If I see something that I really want and it costs £100 from one place with a week long delivery time or £120 from somewhere else that will deliver tomorrow then THAT is where I’ll buy from.  Similarly, if something costs £100 and I’m only willing to pay £60 for it then it doesn’t matter if the person haggles with me down to £70… I still won’t buy it, because it’s beyond what it’s worth to me.

I haven’t collected anything in several years, since around the time that the movie studios started to concentrate on remastering everything to HD DVD and BluRay rather than focusing their efforts on the tradition of overpriced and oversized DVD box sets.  I used to look forward to birthdays when, for the most part, my presents would be all manner of wonderfully designed sets with matt laminating here and spot varnishing there and maybe even the occasional touch of foiling such as the Hammer DVD collection.  Since the HD revolution though, for whatever reason, the number of impressive DVD box sets has fallen dramatically and so I no longer had a collection to feed.

In stepped my love for Fallout 3.  It’s quite a rarity as far as gaming is concerned, in that the merchandising doesn’t really exist in the same way that it does for other games franchises.  There are no figures to collect, no graphic novel spin offs, no posters or artwork to proudly hang on the wall and certainly nothing in the way of trinkets.

What Fallout 3 does have, on the other hand, is an abundance of fantastic promotional marketing material.  At this point in time I am, I think, fully aware of all the promotional merchandising that was released and I am steadily wading my way through the various online sources to pick up as much as I possibly can for my future “Fallout Area” within the gaming room.

My first acquisition was Fred, an 8ft 6in (or thereabouts) Brotherhood of Steel Paladin made from what would appear to be fibreglass resin and painted to look as realistic as possible.  He stands on a very heavy elliptical wooden plinth with a Fallout 3 numberplate-style plaque at the front and proudly holds his Laser Rifle aloft as he takes in his surroundings.  I first saw these promotional beasts during a visit to the Saturn store in Berlin.  There was one standing at the top of the escalator as you enter the games floor and one couldn’t help but be blown away by both the level of detail and the brutishness of such a commanding presence.  I joked with Lorna that I wanted to ask someone in the store if I could have him but not being able to speak German was probably going to prevent that from happening and he wouldn’t fit in the suitcase back home.

What happened though, was that the image of this beast became ingrained in my memory and my quest to have my own Brotherhood of Steel Paladin had begun.  Almost a year later I found one on eBay.  The seller hadn’t used the standard keywords in his listing title, instead having it listed as “Fall Out Promotional Soldier” rather than something obvious such as “Fallout Brotherhood of Steel Statue” or “Fallout Promotional Statue” at the very least.  Thankfully, I found him straight away and contacted the seller asking if they would give me a price to sell it outright rather than going through auction as I really didn’t want to let this slip away from me.  The seller explained how they had worked in a TV studio and had been given “Fred” at the time when Fallout was being heavily marketed and was about to be thrown out into a skip when the seller asked if he could take him home instead.  The seller kept him in his house until he ended up moving to a barge and so there was no room for Fred anymore who lived above deck chained to the top of the barge.  The seller and I agreed to a price of £550 or £600 (can’t remember now, sorry) and one of our clients was good enough to transport him up from Surrey to Glasgow at no cost.

He is, without a doubt, impressive and damned breathtaking to a Fallout 3 fan.  He stands in the corner of the gaming room, watching over me as I tear through the streets of Paradise City or wander through the battered and bruised landscapes of the Capital Wasteland.

A bumper bundle of Fallout 3 marketing goodies, and all for almost HALF of what I'd normally bid on the Vault Dweller's Guide alone. Score!

The next item in my Fallout 3 collection was The Vault Dweller’s Survival Guide which was given out by Bethesda at their launch party to all who attended.  It’s a small fifty page booklet, written in a very tongue in cheek manner with illustrations that epitomise the absurdity and naivety of the people of the Capital.  From the first page to the last, every word has been carefully selected to exemplify the underlying, and somewhat hidden, sense of humour of the Fallout series.  I had been outbid on this item several times on eBay and, thankfully, managed to find someone who was selling this along with a number of other great promotional items with a BuyItNow price rather than an auction listing.  The package contained the Vault Dweller’s Survival Guide, some full A4 Vault Boy decals, smaller Vault Boy decals, a Vault Boy keyring, Vault Boy pin badge and a Nuka Cola bottle opener.

Only last week I saw one of the two most obscure Fallout 3 marketing items on eBay… the Vault Boy “Penny Arcade” hand puppet modelled on the comic strip, which was given away at the PAX 2008 expo.  Now, it IS sexy for two reasons.  Reason one is that it’s clearly a very nice piece of Fallout 3 promotional merchandising… but it’s also part of the whole Penny Arcade history too.  Double score.  The problem is that the seller is asking for $700 USD which, to my mind, is far too much.  As part of their bundle they’re also offering other “great” items such as a piece of cardboard with the FatMan launcher on it, a leaflet telling people where the Fallout 3 stand was in the expo, and a generic map of the expo.  While that may be a bumper bag of goodies for someone, to me it’s just a load of expo bumff pulled together to make the auction look more worthy of the $700 price tag.

The Vault Boy hand puppet... over 2500 made and given away at the PAX 2008 expo... yet a $700 price tag!

I used the “Make Offer” option and sent the seller what I thought was a reasonable offer at $200.  It wasn’t even close to their $700 asking price but it was, to be fair, all that it was worth to me.  I would be willing to pay $200 for an official Vault Boy glove puppet that maybe 3000 or 4000 people were given as they visited the Bethsoft stand at the expo.  Anything over that just couldn’t be justified.

The seller responded that they were quite insulted, and that they had purchased the items from someone else with the intent to sell them on for a much greater profit… so they would only accept my offer if I countered it with one closer to $700 and one which was “within $50 of the asking price” which basically meant that the “Make Offer” option was just there to encourage communications.  Smart move.  I did explain that I wouldn’t pay that much money for something which, in my mind, wasn’t worth it.  There were thousands made, it’s not THAT impressive looking, and it doesn’t have any history attached to it other than being given away free at an expo.  The seller responded again saying that I’d never see one again, that they’d guarantee that fact, and that only 2500 were made… I’m not sure where they got their information from but it certainly didn’t prompt me to make that acceptable offer of $650 for a glove puppet.

The Sword of The Hessian from Sleepy Hollow.. designed in conjunction with Christopher Walken and the weaponsmaster in the props department, but replaced when Tim Burton saw the final piece, worring that Walken may be injured. One of a kind.

When I explained to them that I will only pay for something what I believe it to be worth, they wouldn’t understand.  I explained how there were only 144 of the Brotherhood of Steel statues made and they had been selling at upwards of $7000 on eBay before therefore I could easily justify spending the £550 or £600 that I did on Fred.  I explained how I own the Sword Of The Hessian from Sleepy Hollow which was designed from ideas by Christopher Walken and how there was only one ever made, and that didn’t even cost £1000 (although I got mine for free from a client who deals in props), but that would have been worth the money because of the history behind it.  The seller wouldn’t accept that, still saying that $700 was a fair price for this mass produced freebie glove puppet.

That prompted my question, “How much is too much?”.  When we love something, and we want to take pride in a collection or obtain that final missing piece that makes a collection complete… how much is an acceptable spend?  What actually makes something worth the cost… is it the scarcity, the history, the materials and craftsmanship, or simply our desire?  If there were only 144 glove puppets made I still wouldn’t have paid $700 for it and yet I paid something like $900 or $1000 for the Brotherhood of Steel statue.  It’s over 8ft tall though, weighs 120lb and is a force to be reckoned with.  The glove puppet would be around 8 inches or thereabouts, probably weighing 250g in total and doesn’t have a high degree of workmanship.  Yet I still find myself looking at the relisted auction every day wondering if I SHOULD just offer a higher price to see if it would be accepted.  If it is, then I’m contractually bound to go ahead with it even if I can neither justify or afford it.

All for the sake of a collection but, I ask again, how much is too much?

Last five articles by Mark R



  1. Lorna says:

    There always comes a wall where your collecting will just hit and then slither down into a heap. Some things are just too much but it can vary from item to item just as from person to person. People who mock geeky purchases also go on to fritter their money on gadgets of the moment because they read a measly review in What Dobba magazine. Horses for courses, etc.

    It is true that something is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it, but making that decision, especially when money is tight is often a case of considering the provenance, full history, condition, scarcity, whether it fits the rest of your collection, whether you can do without it, if you are likely to see one again, etc…

    Ultimately the worst thing that you can do is to take the plunge and then get the shitty feeling in the pit of your belly that you have just overstepped the line…often exacerbated when the item turns up to a sinking feeling of ‘is that IT?’. Trust your instincts….and if collecting on Ebay has taught me anything, another will ALWAYS turn up…just a question of whether or not it is cheaper ;)

    Great blog as always :)

  2. The Rook says:

    If you had made a decision of what you feel an item is worth, then that should only change if the seller has made a reasonable arguement and makes you consider the item’s value with new information.

    Consider how much you saw the other Brotherhood Of Steel figures for and then how much you got yours for. Imagine if you paid closer to his figure and then saw another one sell for much less another time. Have patience, another will turn up eventually .

    Failing that, you could offer to trade him some limited edition Fallout 3 A3+ sized prints that you can ‘guarantee’ he won’t see ever on e-bay. :D

  3. [...] true words in this fine blog from ImpulsiveCompulsiveInsane.  How much is too much indeed?  The perils of collecting so often means making tough decisions as [...]

  4. Kat says:

    I came, I read, I enjoyed. Hope to meet Fred someday :)

  5. Jon says:

    Do you still have any of this fallout stuff? Wondering if you decided to sell Fallout and move on.


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