Por el Staff de Star Wars Spanish Stuff

We continue this secction with an interview with a top ten mundial collector, Gus Lopez

Gus Lopez con el medallón patrocinado por él.

Gus Lopez is one of the most world-known Star Wars collectors. He started collecting in 1977, with the release of A New Hope. It began with the trading cards, records, and stickers, then followed by the toys in 1978 and continued for many years thereafter. Gus created the Star Wars Collector’s Archive in 1994, which was the first Star Wars collecting website on the Internet. He also writes for magazines on Star Wars collecting and occasionally appears at conventions and on tv programs on the Star Wars collecting topic.

He has put together a vast collection of unusual and rare Star Wars items, which are on display all throughout his house in Seattle. Gus and his wife, Pam, have traveled to various parts of the world on Star Wars related adventures, including three trips to Tunisia where they located many original Star Wars set pieces and props left behind years after filming.

Today, we are very proud to be able to make a Q&A with him, in order that he can share with us his vast knowledge about the Star Wars world.

About yourself:

Gus, even if we know that you’re a worldwide-known collector, we would like you to tell us a little about yourself and about your career in collecting

• SWSS: Collecting Star Wars material is your great passion, could you tell us what was the first object you had and if you still have it? What does it mean to you?

• Gus: The first Star Wars collectibles I picked up were the Topps trading cards in 1977. I started with the blue set, the first set of cards, and it was the first series of any Star Wars collectibles that I completed. From there I moved to the Wonder Bread trading cards, the Marvel comics, and then the action figures.

• SWSS: We know that Marino has helped you, in order to get Spanish promotions, which one do you remember most fondly?

• Gus: Marino has helped me with several Star Wars food promotions in Spain. Every time they release Star Wars cereals around the world, I contact my collecting friends like Marino who help me locate them in their countries. He has helped me find some obscure Star Wars cereal boxes that were only available in Spain.

Colección de cajas de cereales.

• SWSS: Do you think that Star Wars marked your childhood?

• Gus: Yes, I never left Star Wars since 1977. Not only did Star Wars mark my childhood, I sometimes think it extended it to today.

• SWSS: During all these years, you’ve been collecting a lot of collectibles. Which one was the hardest collectible to get? And the most expensive one? Also, which one have you been looking for for years and you are not able to find it? And the one you like the most?

• Gus: I have many one of a kind Star Wars collectibles, so each of those is difficult to get since by definition there is only one to find. There are some items (such as my run of the 14 unproduced Droids and Ewoks prototype action figures) that took me 12 years to assemble from various contacts at Kenner. My most expensive pieces are some of my prop items.

Believe it or not, there are quite a few things I haven’t been able to find that I have searched for for many years: the Australian Weeties Star Wars cereal box from 1978, several of the Canadian Star Wars cereals boxes from 1978, a Mark Hamill high school yearbook, the Kenner prototype for the Rebel Blockade Runner, an Industrial Light and Magic X-Wing T-Shirt from 1977, etc.

Vitrinas con la colección de Gus López.

• SWSS: We have seen your home, Bobacabana. Where does the name came from?

• Gus: The name came from a discussion at lunch at San Diego ComicCon in 2000. We were having lunch with Chris Trevas, Mike Wistock, Steve Sansweet, and Chris Reiff and talking about the new house we were in the process of buying and needing to name it. Someone came up with the name Bobacabana as a parody of «Copacabana».

• SWSS: We have seen your travels around the world in search of movie sets and Star Wars locations, which one do you choose of all of them?

• Gus: Tunisia is by far my favorite Star Wars location since it has so many filming sites and since Tatooine is my favorite planet in the Star Wars movies. To sit in the Lars Homestead eating dinner in the dining room or walk through the streets of Mos Espa are experiences I’ll never forget.

• SWSS: You have attended many events that we are sure you know most of the actors of the Star Wars movies, do you have some history on this that you would like to share?

• Gus: I have met many of the actors of the years, especially the ones who frequent many shows.

Props de la colección de Gus Lopez.

• SWSS: Moving on, what’s your favorite movie in the series and why?

• Gus: It’s always hard to pick. A New Hope will always have that special place as such a ground-breaking film. It stands up even to this day and changed movie making and merchandising forever. The Empire Strikes Back has a style that epitomizes the Star Wars universe and is perhaps the best made film. I also love Revenge of the Sith as one of the best action and dramatic films in the saga.

• SWSS: ¿Y tu personaje favorito?

• Gus: I have several favorites, although Luke is possibly my top favorite. He’s an interesting character based on the transition he goes through and how he ultimately redeems his father and saves the galaxy by defying his elders and placing his personal bonds over Jedi dogma, which ironically is the thing that causes Vader to fall.

• SWSS: What is the craziest thing you’ve done to get one of your pieces?

• Gus: There are so many, it’s hard to count. I suppose going to Tunisia to bring back large set pieces by boat was one of the craziest things I’ve done. A friend and I bought and transported hundreds of kilos of Star Wars set pieces that were sold off as scrap to a local merchant. It took us an extensive amount of work to track down.

Algunas piezas recuperadas del desierto de Túnez.

• SWSS: What would you say to those who, after years of collecting, become overwhelmed and think about quitting collecting?

• Gus: To some collectors, it natural to quit if they’ve achieved an objective or have different priorities in life. I believe collectors who continue to look for new and interesting things to find never get bored and stay in it for a long time.

• SWSS: What would you highlight of a lifetime collecting?

• Gus: Obtaining the Death Star was definitely one of the highlights. At the time I bought it from three collectors in 1999, the significance of it didn’t hit me. I only bought it to have one example of a major piece but it has turned out to be one of the most significant pieces in any collection. As I’ve developed in prop collecting in recent years, the Death Star still remains one of the greatest finds I’ll ever have.

Prop original de la Estrella de la Muerte en la casa de Gus.

About your collection-work:

• SWSS: In 1994, when Internet was not a worldwide-known tool, you decide to set up a website called toysrgus. What led you to make this initiative?

• Gus: I started it as a place where friends could place images of cool Star Wars collectibles that could be found nowhere else. At the time there were no Star Wars collecting sites, so I thought one was needed. People thought it was a crazy idea since Star Wars collecting was a topic of such «narrow» interest. Today there are hundreds of Star Wars collecting sites.

• SWSS: Years ago we read that you had problems with the Toysrus shop because the name of your web was mistaken with the name of the toy chain, eventually, were you able to reach a friendly agreement or was it something worse?

• Gus: No, they threatened legal action multiple times including a few years ago. Their claim is groundless because they do not own a trademark on «rgus» or «rgus» domains. I changed the domain name to theswca.com to avoid getting further legal threats from them.

• SWSS: During these years have you participated in the preparation or have helped or given to any licensee your opinion about which products they should bring to market? Could you tell us which ones?

• Gus: I have given input to multiple Star Wars licensees on product ideas. Most of those conversations are confidential so I can’t give details. I can say that many of the things I’ve suggested over the years have eventually come out. I don’t think my input in particular changed anything but I can point to several specific recommendations I’ve made that eventually became the top of the priority list with some Star Wars licensees, perhaps due to input from other collectors as well.

Vitrinas con la colección de Gus López.

• SWSS: If it depends on you to create a new line of merchandising of Star Wars, what would it be?

• Gus: I would create a new retro Micro Collection line that had additional playsets that were never made in the 1980’s.

• SWSS: Some time ago you published a book with Duncan Jenkins, «Gus and Duncan’s Comprehensive Guide to Star Wars Collectibles», that is an authentic beauty. How long does it take to make it? Do you think that is the definitive guide to the Star Wars collecting or you are already thinking of making a seque?

• Gus: It took us five years to put that book together and we spent almost every weekend on it over those years. Some day we’ll do an updated version but not for a long time. There’s enough material there that we hope should help collectors trying to track everything.

Gus and Duncan’s Comprehensive Guide to Star Wars Collectibles.

• SWSS: Recently, both of you have published the book «Gus and Duncan’s Guide to Star Wars Prototypes», to get a prototype is not an easy task, even if your trips to Cincinnati may have a role. We would like to know, how have you managed to gather so many prototypes? Especially the old vintage Kenner prototypes.

• Gus: Most of my Kenner prototypes came directly from former Kenner employees. My friends and I networked with many Kenner employees over the years and were able to piece together a good history of the toy line and see many examples of prototypes from the vintage line. It was a fun time, although today almost every Kenner employee has been contacted and few items from that era are being discovered.

• SWSS: Following this questions, We know you’ve visited many times to Cincinnati to speak to former employees of Kenner, to gather information and try to get collectibles ever produced like prototypes of figures or cards, what item were you able to get that you thought you would never have?

• Gus: I never thought I’d have a collection like I have today. I remember seeing Steve Denny’s box flats for the 12″ Empire Strikes Back Leia Bespin, Luke Bespin, and Han Hoth in the mid 1990’s and thinking collectibles like that were impossible to obtain. Now, I not only have all three box flats, but the 12″ figures as well and a whole lot more. There are so many pieces that I once thought were unattainable that I now own. I’ve been very lucky.

Vitrinas con la colección de Gus Lopez

• SWSS: We know you have a very good relationship with Duncan, both of you have been in conventions talking about your collections, you have written books together, but have you ever thought of joining your collections for display in Europe or America?

• Gus: It would be a monumental task to join our collections for exhibit. Even my collection, which has way fewer items than Duncan’s collection, takes up 10 rooms in our house. The logistics of displaying all that together would be impossible. I could see loaning out pieces of my collection to various exhibits from time to time. For instance, I had the Death Star on loan to the Science Fiction Museum in Seattle for 5 years so people could see it.

• SWSS: Have you ever been offered to work directly for Lucasfilm? Now that Steve Sansweet Lucas leaves the factory, would you like to take their place?

• Gus: I have never been offered a job at Lucasfilm. I do enjoy my relationship with them and getting the chance to work on different projects.

I certainly could never fill Steve Sansweet’s role at Lucasfilm as I don’t have the right skillset. I actually don’t know anyone who could in the way that Steve delivered for Lucasfilm over the years, but there are some wonderful people at Lucasfilm, so I think Star Wars is still in great hands.

Props de la colección de Gus López.

The Gus Lopez’s web: Theswca.com
The Gus Lopez’s House: Bobacabana

Entrevista realizada por el Equipo de Star Wars Spanish Stuff
Fotografías realizadas por Gus López