In the Limelight

When Hake’s Americana & Collectibles consigned The Star Wars Collection of Russell Branton for upcoming auctions, the company wanted to work with an expert that specialized in the franchise. They found their Star Wars expert in James Gallo, owner-operator of Toy & Comic Heaven.

As the excitement was building for this collection in Auction #222 and future sales, Scoop chatted with Gallo. He talked about his history as a collector and dealer, Toy & Comic Heaven, and the material he deals in. Gallo shared lots of great info about Branton’s collection from the highlights to AFA third-party grading to speculation on which items will garner the bidding wars.

Scoop: How did your journey as a collector and dealer begin?
James Gallo (JG): I have bought and sold my whole life, I started selling in the mid-1990s off a small part of my dad’s tables at toy train shows.

Scoop: You own and operate Toy & Comic Heaven. How did that get started and how has it grown over the years?
JG: I opened my first shop right out of college and had it for 4 years. I then took a position in another company down south for a year. I had decided that I was going to move back up north and start working on my own again. I was working out of a storage unit mostly but the inventory grew so much that 3 years ago I opened up another shop which carried comic books along with toys.

Scoop: What types of collectibles and which franchises do you typically deal in?
JG: I deal with almost anything from the 1960s to today. The biggest sellers are the comic book heroes and Star Wars, followed by classics like Transformers, G.I. Joe, and other ’80s toys. On the comic side, I carry everything from Golden Age to Modern books and have both graded and ungraded toys and comics.

Scoop: What are some of the most incredible things you’ve seen as a dealer and collector?
My business has allowed me to travel a good bit as I have set up at shows in London, England and Essen, Germany among other places. I also have traveled all across the US and have seen and met tons of collectors over that time.

Scoop: How awesome is The Star Wars Collection of Russell Branton?
The quality and berth of the collection is really amazing. Just about every figure on their debut card is included as well as sealed playsets and vehicles. There is a large selection of proof card material including Revenge of the Jedi and Power of the Force.

Scoop: Can you give us a highlights reel of the best stuff in the collection?
JG: There are some mega rarities that I have never seen offered for public sale like the double telescoping Darth Vader and Ben Kenobi. There are prototypes as well as sealed playsets exclusive to stores like Sears. There is a full set of 16 three-figure packs which is extremely rare and exceedingly hard to assemble.

Scoop: Do you come across a lot of Star Wars figures in high grade?
JG: Amazingly a good amount of stuff was saved in nice condition but there are several pieces in this collection that go beyond high grade. Stuff has certainly become harder to find over the years so to be able to work and offer a collection like this is a treat.

Scoop: How does this collection compare to other Star Wars collections that have come to auction?
I believe this to be the very best quality vintage Star Wars collection to ever be offered for public sale. It covers both high grade carded figures as well as sealed vehicles and playsets which are also in top shape. Generally larger collections contain a lot of junk or lower priced items which is not the case here.

Scoop: In your opinion, what are the rarest pieces in this collection?
The rarest pieces are by far the three carded double telescoping figures as well as a handful of the three-packs. There are also some unique prototype items which are one of a kind. These include proof cards and two Anakin Skywalker prototypes.

Scoop: Were you surprised by any of the pieces in the collection?
Yes, I was. There are some playsets and vehicles that are extremely hard to find in sealed condition. In addition there was a sealed Empire Strikes Back 12-inch Chewbacca figure that only had a limited release in Australia.

Scoop: The items in the auction are AFA graded. How will that impact the price?
AFA, or Action Figure Authority, is a third party grading company that rates the toys and cases them in acrylic. This adds a level of security and accuracy to the items condition. It can increase an items value 10-20% or more depending on the grade received. Items are graded out of a 100 with 80 being an average grade and anything above that being above average. There are three AFA 95 items in this collection which may be the only three 12-back graded this high.

Scoop: If Hake’s has customers who aren’t currently collecting Star Wars, but want to bid on this group, which items would you suggest they focus on?
I always tell people to buy what they like or have a connection to. Depending on how much you’re looking to spend there are some very nice entry level pieces in the $100-$200 as well as pieces that will sell into the tens of thousands for the more advanced collector. The Return of the Jedi figures are affordable and very collectible. The first figures issued named the 12-back (they show 12 figures on the back of the card) are probably the most in demand figures and many people start with those although they can be more expensive.

Scoop: Which ones do you foresee causing the fiercest bidding wars?
JG: The marquee pieces will be fun to watch as usually these are always sold privately and not auctioned. Included in this group will be the three carded double telescoping figures, the rocket firing Boba Fett prototype and several of the three-packs. In addition, the proof cards will also generate a lot of interest. That being said, some of the basic vehicles and playsets that are in high grade will also generate a great deal of interest.