Allow me to introduce you all to Zack, who lives in Canada and this is his amazing Smurf story.
How long have you been collecting Smurfs, and what’s the appeal?
In the 90’s, I got ‘retro fever’ and my friends and I were constantly reminiscing about the 80’s which we all grew up in as kids. So I started going to toy collectable shows so I could look at all the cool things from that decade. At one particular show in 1997, I came across a table that sold a bunch of the Schleich Smurfs, and totally got happy flashbacks. I didn’t think of collecting them, but I did buy a keychain version of the clown #2.0033 because I thought it would be a fun ‘retro thing’ to have hang off my keychain. I had it on for a few months, but eventually it broke off and I lost it somewhere. Oh well. It was good while it lasted.
My interest in the pop culture items I grew up with continued strong, and a few more months past before I decided I wanted to dive into collecting something from the 80’s. It could have been so many things, because my thoughts and joyful memories were all over the place, from toys, tv shows, movies, fashion, advertising, etc.
But ‘toys’ won me over, and Smurfs was a natural choice because 1) of its over-whelming presence in the 80’s, 2) the Smurfs being something that is ‘happy’ and ‘fun’, matching up perfectly to what I felt about my childhood, and 3) the toyline and merchandise list had a huge history, and that meant the possibilities on what to collect would be vast…and continuously fresh since it was STILL being produced!
So, 1998 was the year I started, and it was a good year because it happened to be the 40th Anniversary of the Smurfs AND the Irwin 1996 toys were still on toy shelves in my area (believe it or not), so I had a great time getting my first batch of Smurfs the traditional way, just like when I was a kid!
How many do you have now?
Like most Smurfs collectors, I started with the Schleich PVC figures. To me, these figurines were perfect representations of all the Smurf characters I’ve spent watching on Saturday mornings for a decade (and then more, through syndication on weekday mornings, and, of course, holiday evening specials!!).
It’s as if each 2″ figure jumped out of the screen; they were so compelling in their likeness. So it wasn’t long before I made it a goal to collect ALL the Smurfs in Schleich’s numbered checklist, along with the houses and playsets, for the purpose of creating my own Smurf Village, just like on TV.
I had no desire in obtaining all the paint and mold variations, the promos, the specialty figures, and figure extensions (i.e. as keychains, smurf-a-grams, etc), so my criteria was simply to collect 1 version of each number.
The ironic part of collecting the Schleich stuff was I didn’t have any of it growing up! The closest I got was a pen set, where the Schleich cowboy smurf figure was glued to the base. I had TONS of merchandise, though, which was overflowing in North American stores in the 80’s.
From lunch pails and doodle sets, to stickers and shrinky dinks. Not having any figures to play with definitely didn’t stop me from loving the Smurfs. The brand and cartoon episodes were always in front of our face – even when I visited overseas, naturally.
Although the Schleich line is/was my main line, I inevitably got hooked on gathering 7 other categories too: puzzles, plushes, comics, mega bloks, McDonald’s, and some live-action movie stuff. All with cap-offs or criteria, because I didn’t want to collect everything and anything from those categories.
My 7th category was ‘promotions’, and this happens to be my favourite section. It’s a small grouping, but I picked out a bunch of worldwide promotions I found fascinating in concept/product, and I obtained a sample of it. For example, the campaigns for the 2008 Unicef 50th Anniversary, the 2013 Cora and Match supermarkets, the 2004-2007 ‘Je Collectionne Les Schtroumpfs Et Je Construits Leur Village!’ magazine (which translates to ‘I Collect The Smurfs And Build Their Village!), the 1978-1982 National Benzole gas stations, etc., etc..
So if I had to take a guess, I’d say I have about 600 Schleich-numbered products, and another 400 or so items from all the other merchandise stuff. I had a rule of thumb, that ‘if I bought it, I had to display it’, so eventually I’ll set that all up, but for now they are in storage.
I also felt it was important to create an ‘end’ date for collecting (which was 2015) because if I didn’t, I would no longer be able to follow my ‘rule of thumb’, due to space restrictions. Plus, collecting for the sake of ‘just collecting’ would de-rail my enjoyment and I didn’t have that ‘completist’ mentality across the board for all Smurfs items.
There would always be something from the past I didn’t have, and there would always be something new coming out…I’d rather just appreciate now, what took years to collect.
When did you start?
I officially started in late 1998, and after picking the shelves off all the Walmarts, Toys R Us’, Zellers’ and hobby stores around my surrounding area, it was pretty much online shopping, toy/retro conventions, and antique store visits from there-on-out. I had no choice because I had a lot of catching up to do with the figures.
But for the ‘new items’ Schleich put out annually, I was lucky enough to deal with local collectors and store owners that had connections with the Schleich. As we all know, there were only a handful of new figures every year, so collecting those were quick and easy. The real fun for me was researching the endless amount of Smurf-related items that were distributed around the world in the years gone past, and seeing what I could add to my collection as ‘bonus‘.
I still remember my first two websites I referenced when starting out: AstrosTreasureChest.net, and MushroomVillage.com. The both don’t exist anymore, but they helped me immensely. And, I joined the official Smurf Collector’s Club International, naturally!
What’s my favourite item in my collection?
I never cared for getting autographs, so I never chased them, and definitely avoided buying autographed merchandise due to their high pricing and skepticism on authenticity. But somewhere along the line while maintaining my twoother big collections, an autograph was added to each of them. Wanting to make things even across all three of my collections, I decided to pursue an autograph for my Smurfs hobby, too.
Getting a voice actor from the Hanna-Barbera cartoon series made the most sense, and getting the actor (Danny Goldman) that voiced my favourite character (Brainy), also made sense. Being quite informed of the pop culture convention scene, I was aware Mr. Goldman didn’t attend them…so approaching him at a booth for a signature was out of the question. Therefore, I decided to go the traditional route, and write him a hand-written letter. This was in 2015, by the way.
All I needed was his address to mail it to him. Finding his mailing address online was non-existent, but through some research, I found out that he recently retired from working, where he owned an acting agency. Being retired, Mr. Goldman did not have a contact email anymore, but his younger associates that worked with him continued in the business, and I was able to find their new contact email on the web.
I emailed three of them hoping the addresses were active, and politely asked if there was a way to connect with Mr. Goldman, or even if I could send them my letter to pass along to him (if home privacy was a concern, of course). I never heard back from any of them.
But 5 days after sending those emails, I get an email in my inbox directly from Danny Goldman HIMSELF!!! And it simply said “_______ said you are looking for me? Danny Goldman.”. UNBELIEVABLE!!!
So communication went back and forth, and I scanned him my original letter too for him to read, and it was so great!! In the end, naturally I asked if I mailed him something, could he possibly sign it for me; and he agreed! He was ok with writing something specific on it, too, at my request.
What I sent him was a hardcover notepad I had previously received as a gift, which had the Brainy Smurf character on the cover. He was drawn holding a book, and holding up his pointer finger as if to speak his ‘knowledge’. Typical Brainy depiction! And I thought it was PERFECT for Mr. Goldman to sign a ‘book’ too, being that is what Brainy often carried around.
I also asked him if he could inscribe it with “Papa Smurf always says…”, which was one of Brainy’s repeated sayings in the cartoon episodes. And, of course, Mr. Goldman’s signature at the end.
In a small package, I mailed him the notebook, a black marker, and a self-addressed stamped envelope to return the notebook to me. It eventually arrived to my home in Canada and it is easily my most cherished Smurf possession AND experience. I will be framing not only the book he signed, but portions of his emails and my letter to him, as well. It had been a surreal moment!
Do you ever find yourself having to explain your collection to people?
Basically, ‘collectors’ understand other ‘collectors’, from what I’ve learned over the years. There’s no need to give reason on why you have this hobby to the like-minded. In fact, the late 90’s seemed to be the beginning trend for collecting things. And today, it’s so mainstream, that’s it’s more abnormal if you don’t collect anything. The companies – and society in general – make everything collectible and give strong pushes to people to do it and say it’s “ok”.
Regarding Smurfs, whether I ever spoke to a ‘collector’ or a ‘non-collector’, I’ve yet to meet a person (young or old) that doesn’t know what/who the Smurfs are. So, no explaining was ever needed. And the other common trait was that it always brought a smile when they heard about my hobby. Everyone loves the Smurfs!!!