By Philip N. Zeman, Editor-in-Chief
This isn't about the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It isn't about bunnies with big, sharp, pointy teeth or the Black Knight. It isn't about knights who say "Ni!" or shrubberies. It isn't even about Indiana Jones and his father (thought I was going to make another Monty Python reference, didn't you?)
No, this article is talking about the one aspect of collecting that every collector encounters at least once in his or her own life. It doesn't matter what you collect. Sooner or later, you will hear about one item that you know you must have. You will spend hours, days, months, or even years searching for this elusive treasure, and you will be willing to spend more money on this one item than you normally would for a comparable piece in your collection. This one thing that you just have to own is your holy grail.
The phrase "holy grail" has its roots in the Christian religion, as demonstrated in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The Holy Grail was purported to be the cup of Jesus Christ used at the Last Supper. In the middle of the twentieth century, it became the focus of many quests, as knights searched for this cup.
While the Holy Grail has never been found -- and any powers it may contain the stuff of movies -- the phrase found its way into normal conversation, minus the capitalization. A "holy grail", or sometimes simply "grail" is defined as the object of an extended or difficult quest (link).
In today's collecting society, the grail is different for each person. And while you can have many things that you want, your grail is the one thing you will do just about anything legal to get. And it's something that does exist, not something you want to be made.
The funny thing about grails in the collecting world is that they often change.
When I went to my first BotCon in 1995, my grail was Action Master Optimus Prime. He was the only version of Optimus (at the time) that I never owned. Luck was with me that weekend; the first table I stopped at when the dealer's room opened up had one. I immediately snapped it up for whatever the price was. I didn't haggle with the dealer; I just wanted that toy.
And I was happy.
For a while.
Y'see, I started learning more about all the Japanese Transformers thanks to a little book from Fumihiko Akiyama called "Transformers in Japanese Transmissions." I picked up this book the final day of BotCon '95, and there I saw this new robot that attached to Powermaster Optimus Prime. Suddenly, I knew I had to have this "Godbomber", as he was called. There was another toy called "Star Convoy", but I figured he was secondary. I had to have Godbomber, but alas, there were none to be found at BotCon '95.
Over the next two years, I attended BotCon '96 and TransCon^2. I found no Godbombers, but at TC2l, in 1997, I found a Star Convoy. Bought him and enjoyed playing with him -- but I still wanted Godbomber.
Finally, thanks to the wonders of Ebay, I found Godbomber sometime in 1998. I was happy.
For a while.
Somewhere during this Godbomber/Star Convoy business, I got this funny idea in my head that I wanted a darn near complete Optimus Prime/Optimus Primal/ Convoy collection. So, I made sure to get the different Japanese Beast Wars series' Convoy figures.
Clear Convoy from Beast Wars? Got him.
Black Convoy, the G1 Prime Re-release? The TF Jr. versions of Convoy, Super Ginrai, Godbomber, and God Ginrai? Got them.
Japanese Go-Bot Prime with the different paint detailing?
Don't have him.
Uh-oh.... Guess I have a new grail, don't I?
An interesting twist is that if you have multiple collecting interests, you can have a grail for each line. Case in point: I'm a big fan of Vince DiCola's work. For at least 3 years, possibly as many as 5, I've been looking for "Artistically Beatles", an album released by Vince in the early 1990's. I'd search online record stores, Ebay, Yahoo! Auctions, other websites, used record stores -- nothing.
A month ago, I found a site that suddenly had some audio clips from the album. While not the completion of my quest, it at least provided me a bit of happiness.
Then, a week and a half ago, I did a Google search for the album, expecting to see the same pages show up in the results. Not exactly; a page from half.com appeared.
I gasped. Could it be?
I clicked. Could it be?
It was. Half.com had a copy for sale.
I didn't think twice; a few clicks and some keystrokes later, my grail is ordered, arriving three days later.
This brings me up to a very interesting question: What next? I'm enjoying that DiCola CD immensely, don't get me wrong. But if I am to be honest, I have to admit, part of me is thinking, "Now what album of his can I get?"
The thing is, save for three or four relatively recent albums that contain one or two songs written by him or featuring him on keyboards, I have all his albums.
All the obscure and rare ones? Got 'em.
All the BotCon CD's? Got 'em.
The vinyl single of "Living in America" from Rocky IV featuring a B-side DiCola piece? Got it.
So... what's left? Virtually nothing, unless I want to get the early albums on vinyl.
What is it about collecting that makes you move from grail to grail? Is it an obsession, a sickness? Is it not appreciating what you do have, just an overwhelming desire to "Get get get get get"?
Maybe it's a combination of having an item and searching for that item. It's like hunting for new releases of toys -- sure, you can order them online or have friends pick them up. But then the thrill of the hung is gone. The emotional payoff when you find something is not to be underestimated.
I'm interested in hearing what your current grails are, as well as what your past grails were and what it took to complete your quest. Drop me a line at email@example.com. Let me know what you found and how you got it, or what you want and what you'd be willing to pay or do for it.
So here's to grails -- the hunt and the capture. May both aspects prove to be fulfilling.
Philip N. Zeman
October 22, 2002
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