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The first in an occasional series of stories about Star Wars stuff…
Tim Ferrante, Comic Shop Owner, Clinton, Mass.
There’s something special about any comic shop. However, if you find a well-kempt comic shop with a beautiful collection of ephemera and games and collectibles — and parking — well, hell, that’s heaven.
My slice of heaven is in Clinton, Massachusetts; yeah, the one down the street from the old Strand Theater (I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens there). Inside the One Stop Shop, you’ll see the requisite display of new books lining the walls, old comics prominently displayed, memorabilia on the shelves… and Tim.
Tim Ferrante, the owner — alongside his acolytes of the beyond — runs a nice store; the kind of place that other comic shops send you when they don’t have something.
“You know that shop in Clinton,” they say, “head over there – he’ll have it.”
Recently, Tim and I struck up a conversation about the Saga, and it turns out that beyond his business, he collects Star Wars stuff. A lot of Star Wars stuff…
I’d been thinking of writing an occasional piece or two about the “uneti” driftwood folks find in their closets, and Tim had an item to show me: “The Jabba the Hutt Dungeon” set from Kenner, featuring Amanaman, Barada, and EV-9D9.
“I started collecting Star Wars stuff when I was four,” said Tim during a quick break on that busy Wednesday preceding #MayThe4thBeWithYou and “Free Comic Book Day” (May 5). “In the price guides and stuff, this was one of the rarest, most valuable ones. I got that about four years ago at a local auction. I was doing the preview and came across that in the pictures – absolute steal because no one else there knew what it was. ”
Hey, we’ve all been there. For me, I get that same feeling whenever LEGO reveals their new sets; particularly “microfighters.” However, when it’s a rare Star Wars item, it must be even more spectacular.
“I was shaking I was so pumped,” agreed Tim. “It was something I wanted for 25-years, and to finally — not even just see it — but to be able to buy it, was just awesome.”
Being a layman at all of the stuff beyond the bricks — I secretly wished Cargo Hold Corey were there — I asked the first thing that came to mind. Could I see it?
“The box is open,” said Tim, in a kind tone. “But everything inside is sealed.”
Ha! Noob. But (obviously) I knew the scene from which the collectible came – the moment when the droid’s feet are “burned” as C3PO and R2D2 learn of their new duties in the employ of Jabba.
“That was a Sears exclusive,” added Tim to a newly overwhelmed interviewer. “They had a regular version that had a red background on the package, and that’s the one you could walk into K-mart or whatever and buy. But this one (with a green background) was a catalog exclusive, which is why it’s so rare. The playset is the same no matter what, but it’s the figures and the box that are the really rare parts.”
Thankfully, because my head was spinning, the next piece was a little more familiar. I said, “Hey, I had that!” as Tim brought out a Kenner-era Darth Vader.
“So, that’s how I got into Star Wars,” said Tim, as I carefully inspected the nylon-caped Dark Lord of the Sith. “My parents are antique dealers, and I grew up going to flea markets and antique shows; stuff like that. I got into the wheeling and dealing early, so I’d buy something for a couple of bucks, sell it — hopefully — for a little more and, you know, my two-dollar allowance would turn into 10, 12, 15-dollars and then I’d go buy a toy.
So I’m walking around the flea market, Darth Vader caught my eye — I’d never seen Star Wars — no idea what it was, but I just had to have it. And I bought the Darth Vader figure. And I asked my parents what it was from, and they told me Star Wars, but I was too young to watch it. I had to wait about two years until they let me sit down to watch the movies.
“At that point, I had probably 30 or 40 Star Wars toys, heavily invested in the franchise without ever seeing any of it. And it all kind of went uphill or downhill [chuckle] from there; whichever way you consider it,” he said.
Another prized possession is a framed photograph of droids, Ewoks, and an AT-AT.
“I went to Disney World when I was eight, at the peak of everything Star Wars,” explained Tim. “The whole reason we went to Disney World was that, on the calendar, they said they had the ‘Star Wars Experience’ with actors [in costume]. So, we went down there and for whatever reason — I think it was weather — it was canceled. But because of a customer service issue, they ended up having guys come in, suit up in the Star Wars outfits for a private meet and greet with me.
“And that was the picture that they all signed and gave to me.”
All of this Star Wars experience made a big impression on young Ferrante, who began to branch out from his collection of figures; a life-changing decision.
“Star Wars was the first thing I started collecting,” said Tim, looking around his shop, full to the brim of his Red Sox cap with collectibles, books, comics, and video games. “It was ‘down the rabbit hole’ from there.
“I started reading comics not too long after the Star Wars figures. Collecting comics, too. And I started playing video games, and that was the trifecta.”
And that leads us to the final item on our tour of Tim’s SW stuff: Star Wars comics.
“The modern-day Star Wars stuff is much stronger [than the Marvel work from the 1980s and 90s],” said Ferrante, who reads all of the current Marvel run, but enjoyed many of the old Dark Horse books, as well. “The stories, tying into the continuity and that kind of thing, it seems like they sat down with a plan this time rather than just multiple people writing random stuff.”
That said, if you happen to come across one of the old Marvel Star Wars comics, especially the final issue, you might have something special on your hands.
“That is the final issue of the original Star Wars Marvel run,” he said, handing me an issue with a $90.00 price tag. “And that was after all the [Original Trilogy] movies came out, and interest in the comic was waning. So, a lot of stores weren’t ordering Star Wars at that point. And the final issue of a series is always a lower print run comic.
“It’s a really nice condition, lower print run copy of the final issue,” he said.
After we finished the formal interview, Tim admitted to having a good feeling anytime a younger person picks up a new Star Wars comic in his store.
“Yeah, and even when it’s just a kid’s first time buying a comic,” added Tim, who surely sees himself in his younger customers
Ferrante is glad to offer much more than just video games in the One Stop Shop. Tim loves gaming too but explained that he’s thrilled to see members of the younger set look up from their electronics to enjoy a RPG, comic book, or collection.
“It’s a great experience,” he said. “I like it when the younger kids come in, interested in reading and collecting.”
Today, May 4, is #MayThe4thBeWithYou. Tomorrow, May 5, the first Saturday in May, is #FreeComicBookDay – perfect days to head out to your local comic shop. JB