Keith Guppy Star Wars FanWritten by Nick Churchill
Eccentric? Obsessive? Canny? Misunderstood? Keith would probably recognise the truth in all such epithets and a few more besides. His collection numbers more than 2000 pieces and is worth up to £50,000.‘I dread to think what I’ve spent over the years and even if I could work it out I’d probably keep it to myself – my wife would murder me,’ laughs Keith down the phone. We’re speaking just days after the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the first of six new films in six years and out on DVD this spring. Universally acclaimed, the film became the biggest global opening in movie history and Keith had seen in three times in six days.
‘I love it, as you would expect. It’s great they’ve brought back some of the old actors and it goes back to the original films in that it’s all-action and not too much CGI. I think this new series of films is going to breathe new life into Star Wars.’Which is probably good news for Keith’s collection, although he has decided not to buy any toys relating to the new films. He reckons his body of modern Hasbro figures is about 95 per cent complete, although he is always looking to expand his assembly of original vintage toys from the 1970s and 1980s.
The value of the vintage stuff has gone bonkers – it’s up a good 30 per cent in the last six months and it’s only going to go up. For the rest of it, I could go online and spend a thousand pounds to complete the collection but there’s no real fun in that. The fun comes from the buying and selling, getting a good deal or finding a bargain. Most of what I’ve got was bought when it was at least a few months old, so a figure that cost say six pounds new I probably got for three or four pounds and it might be worth a bit more than that now. It’s quite a slow market.‘When people ask me for advice I tell them to buy the most expensive and exclusive toy they can and obviously keep it in the packaging. A basic toy will take years to appreciate, but if you spend £200 on a limited edition official toy now it could be worth £250 in six months.’
As a lad Keith built up a small set of toys that related to the first three films – Episodes IV, V and VI in Star Wars parlance. He played with the toys and even built an Ewok village diorama in his parents’ loft where it stayed for a good 15 years or more until a trip to Germany in the mid-1990s re-kindled his interest and he began collecting again in anticipation of the prequel trilogy – Episodes I, II and III – which began in 1999. Those toys have remained in their boxes as the serious collection took shape.
Today it consists of around 1500 figures and some 500 play sets, spaceships and display models, including a large-scale Naboo fighter that hangs from the ceiling. Keith spends time most days buying and selling, looking for new acquisitions online and checking the ones he’s already got. The bulk of the collection fills the second floor of the family house in Yeovil and has started to creep down the stairs, although ‘the Resistance’ – Keith’s wife Emma for the uninitiated – is doing its best to repel the inevitable invasion.
Actually she’s not that resistant, he says. On their wedding day last August the Guppys had a stormtrooper and a scout trooper to greet their guests, check invites, hand out cocktails and generally keep an eye on things.
‘That was great; the kids loved it, but to tell you the truth Emma’s not really into Star Wars. Mostly she just indulges me and buys me a few bits at Christmas. I dragged her along to the studio when we did a bit for BBC Points West before Christmas and they got her on the sofa, but it was pretty clear she didn’t really want to be there. They didn’t do it for me, but the producer took great delight in flashing a caption on screen that said ‘Emma Guppy – Star Wars Fan’ when she spoke!’
Sharing a home with what is almost certainly Britain’s biggest collection of Star Wars memorabilia requires a certain amount of give and take and Keith readily accepts the negotiations that precede any new expansion in good heart.‘Oh, there’s always a trade-off,’ he sighs, ‘not that I mind. The last time, to get down the stairs I had to build a gym in our eldest daughter’s bedroom, complete with mirrors. I dread to think what it’ll take if I want to expand into there one day.’
The collection has been featured by several national and regional newspapers, as well as on television, which Keith hopes may lead to some new opportunities. He has already been hired by Argos to set up a Star Wars museum at its flagship London store as part of a launch event for the new merchandise and is hatching plans to make a mobile museum available for related events.‘There’s going to be a lot of interest in Star Wars for the next few years so it would be fun to see where it goes and maybe make a few quid. We’ll see.’No doubt. Meanwhile, the Force is alive and thriving in South Somerset.
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