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Sci-Fi Magazine

Below is an article mentioning T.O.R.C.H. that was published in the June, 1998 issue of Sci-Fi Magazine. The article appears exactly as it was printed on the Sci-Fi web site, except that I updated T.O.R.C.H.'s URL. I've also scanned the original magazine pages here:
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T.O.R.C.H. is specifically mentioned here. Unfortunately, some of the sites below are no longer around. But I would like to send out a special hello to my friends at the Raving Toy Maniac site, mentioned here, who are very much still around.

Alternative Media

How the Information Superhighway has changed the face of sci-fi collecting.

By Melissa Perenson

Let's face it: collecting and science fiction go hand in hand. It's of little wonder that so many of the popular toy collectibles on the market are somehow tied into a sci-fi movie or TV franchise, or even comics, for that matter. Probably it has something to do with bringing the fantasies we see on-screen to life. The shooting-star growth of the Internet has done wonders for the world of sci-fi collecting. Suddenly, through newsgroups and Web sites, people have a way to reach out to others around the world, sharing tips and trading in ways that were heretofore impossible. For example, when the highly sought-after, limited edition, Hong Kong 1997 commemorative three-packs of Star Wars figures were released last year, toy collectors in Hong Kong were online offering to trade those figures for items to which they didn't have access. Online trading and sales between collectors has invigorated the nature of the secondary market for collectibles. A growing phenomenon in the past two years, it shows no sign of slowing down, and will only keep on growing as the Internet's reach continues to expand.

[ Alt Media ]

In a way, doing an online trade is a form of gambling: You take the risk that the trader or seller is going to provide the merchandise in the condition described, and in a timely fashion. The trade-off is that by dealing with fellow collectors online, you have access to items you might never otherwise be able to find - and at a better deal than you might get at your local shop or toy show.

Although there are risks to doing online trades, nothing comes without risks, and you generally find that people will keep their word. "Overall, I'd say that folks on the Net are extremely trustworthy," says Gus Lopez, who runs the Star Wars Collector's Archive (http://www.toysrgus.com/). "I have done, literally, over a thousand deals on the Net over the past several years and I've only had problems three times. In all of those cases, I was able to resolve the loss by being persistent with the person."

"It's just intuitive sometimes," adds Lucy Carey, a collector who's done a fair amount of trading on the Web, "such as if I like the way someone responds to my request for an item-be it with some other chit-chat, or with a phone number without my asking for it first, or saying they will let me know when my payment has arrived. However," she admits, "I never have more money out there at any one time than I can afford to lose." Still, that doesn't mean there aren't unscrupulous traders out there. But there are precautions you can take. Here are some tips to better online trading: Use the popular Usenet search engine Deja News (http://dejanews.com) to do a search on the e-mail address of the person you're planning to trade with. This background check will not only reveal the person's past posts, but will also reveal if anyone has posted comments about their dealings with them.

Ask for references, and don't hesitate to follow up with those references to see how their trade went. Remember to ask detailed questions about the condition of the merchandise to eliminate any surprises and disappointments when the package comes.

Refer to price guides - either online or in print - to gauge whether you're being charged a fair secondary market price. Always use a personal check, as opposed to a postal money order. This way, you have proof that your check cleared. Also, when you're the seller, wait for payment before sending out the merchandise. Although many users have free Web e-mail accounts like yahoo.com or hotmail.com, try to avoid such anonymous accounts, which are easier to hide behind than ISP accounts with identifiable usernames. Make sure you get the person's full name, address, and telephone number.

Usenet newsgroups are the best place to start if you're looking for the latest news on toy releases, or a place to buy/sell/trade toys. For tracking down and discussing science fiction and comics tie-in toys, your best bet is to start at rec.toys.action-figures. You may also find some relevant tidbits in rec.toys.misc, particularly if you're looking for nonaction-figure-related information. Star Wars fans have it easiest -there are newsgroups dedicated to the discussion, selling, and trading of Star Wars toys. If you're looking to relive your childhood by acquiring all of those old Kenner toys your mom got rid of against your wishes, your first stop should be rec.arts.sf.starwars.collecting.vintage; this group covers the original Star Wars toys that were released prior to 1990. For the latest Star Wars releases, check out the more general rec.arts.sf.starwars.collecting.misc. And if you're looking to learn more about customizing your own Star Wars toys, try rec.arts.sf.starwars.collecting.customizing.

If you're interested in participating in a more structured auction format, try online auction houses Auction Universe (http://www.auctionuniverse.com/) or eBay (http://www.ebay.com). Both sites sell a wide range of merchandise beyond action figures and collectible toys, and both allow individuals to sell directly to other potential buyers via an auction format whereby a bid is submitted using e-mail. Caveat emptor: Each system has its advantages and disadvantages, so be sure to read about how the system works before bidding on an item. EBay, one of the pioneers in the person-to-person auction space, has offered over seven million items for sale since its inception in 1995.

T.O.R.C.H., the official site of the rec.toys.action-figures newsgroup, is at http://figment.org/torch/, and offers a good starting point for information if you're new to trading. There's a listing for many action figure toy lines to help keep your collection complete, and links to collectors' clubs online. The best part about this site is the listing of Good Traders, and the accompanying tips for trading online. Organized alphabetically by e-mail address, the ever-growing list is based on submissions by Net users who've successfully completed online trades and who wish to publically acknowledge traders with whom they've had good experiences.

Tomart's, publisher of Action Figure Digest, maintains an excellent What's New section, as well as free classifieds (http://www.tomart.com). Action Figure Times' World Wide Web Edition (http://www.primenet.com/~btn/aft.html) is a useful starting point filled with news on upcoming releases and online ordering and sales information through online toy dealers.

The Raving Toy Maniac page (http://www.toymania.com/) is jam-packed with information. Among the site's regular features are a bulletin board for trading rumors, original feature articles, action figure lists, a complete Toy Fair report, and links to other Internet toy resources. The Mining Co.'s Action Figure Collecting page (http://actionfigures.miningco.com/) is a nicely organized, comprehensive resource that offers a good, general overview of what's available on the Web for users interested in collecting. It includes links to toy company sites, Toy Fair '98 reports, and more.

The definitive place for Star Wars collectibles information - past, present, and future - is at the Star Wars Collector's Archive (http://www.toysrgus.com/). An ever-expanding locale, this site offers visuals and information on the more rare and unusual Star Wars collectibles, as well as the scoop on all the latest Kenner offerings.The contents of the site go beyond the realm of toys to cover collectibles of all sorts, including posters, customized toys, props, and store displays. The Star Wars Resource Page (http://pages.map.com/starwars/) is hands down one of the best sites for Star Wars collectibles, especially vintage Star Wars toys. Curious as to what your old collection is worth, or what the going rate is for a new collectible? Visit The Ultimate Star Wars Action Figure Price Guide (http://www.galstar.com /~mrmiller/), an illustrated price guide for all generations of Star Wars toys. On the Star Trek front, The Star Trek Action Figure Collectors Page (http://www.unc.edu/~lbrooks2/playmate.html) offers a solid resource, including a price guide to the Playmates toys.

Although you can find a number of reports from the American International Toy Fair-held last February-at a number of the sites listed above, it's also worth going to the manufacturer's Web site for information.

Kenner, a division of Hasbro, maintains a regularly updated resource for those seeking details about the latest line of Star Wars toys (http://starwars.hasbro.com/). With cleverly named sections like Troop Transport, Mos Eisley Space Port, Death Star, and Jabba's Palace, you'll find a complete listing of all Star Wars games and toys, and photos too; details about forthcoming releases; information on mail-away figures; views of products in development; and play-set scenes that you can download, print, and construct yourself.

Other companies with useful sites: Bandai (http://www.bandai.com/), makers of Power Rangers; Exclusive Premiere (http:// www.exclusivepremiere.com/), makers of Babylon 5; Galoob Toys (http://www.galoob.com); manufacturers of MicroMachines, Men in Black, and Starship Troopers; McFarlane Toys (http://www.spawn.com), makers of Spawn and the upcoming action figures for The X-Files movie; Playmates Toys (http://www.playmatestoys.com), makers of Star Trek; and Trendmasters (http://www.trendmaster.com/), makers of the new Godzilla and Lost in Space lines. And never forget that the Sci-Fi Channel's own website, the Dominion (http://www.scifi.com), is an invaluable resource for Internet treasure-hunting.

Ever want to freeze-frame a scene from your favorite television series? Play (http://www.play.com), the company that revolutionized capturing video frames a few years back, remains the leader in the still-image frame-grabber market. Snappy 3.0 allows you to attach this hand-sized parallel port device to your PC so you may capture video from any video source, be it your camcorder, VCR, or DVD player. Although not perfect, the images produced are excellent, easily beating out any of the competing devices in this category. In addition to better software and higher image quality, there's now the ability to send captured images via e-mail. The Deluxe version of Snappy goes several steps further by adding the ability to record Windows.AVI video files, as well as synchronized sound recordings. A PAL version of the device is available as well.

The latest entry into the strategy sci-fi gaming market comes from Interplay Productions (http://www.interplay.com), who has released A.I. Alien Intelligence. Offering simultaneous land and space combat scenarios, A.I. offers an abundant variety of options for you to explore. There are five different planet types, 12 unit types per species, over 10,000 ship designs, and a playing field that spans multiple star systems; plus, there's multiplayer support for game play by up to six players via LAN, modem, serial, or Internet connections. The player can choose to represent one of six alien species. Your mission: to explore the hostile environment around you in order to repopulate your own species in that area after a devastating nuclear explosion. The explosion, caused by an unknown race, has cut off all your communications with your home planet, and has destroyed your world. Meanwhile, you have to guard against the Raiders who are after your supplies.

FIGMENT.ORG is designed and maintained by Cherie Brush.
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