Non-Fiction Reviews

Sci-Fi & Fantasy Collectibles

(2003) Phil Ellis, Millers, 14.99/US$24.95/Ca$34.95, trd hdbk pp128, ISBN 1-840-0072-9

The 'Sci Fi' in the title is a straight giveaway that Miller's commissioning editors know little of the genre and that Phil Ellis' use of the term demonstrates that while he may very well be an expert collector, he is not expert in what he collects. Indeed the dust flap biog implies that he is an expert in collecting generally with no mention of expertise in SF other than some interest in Sci Fi as per cognoscenti understanding.

But do not despair for the above results in, not one but, two lots of good news which I will come to later.

This is an interesting, if light weight, reference work. Being in full colour, with photo's of the memorabilia being valued, is of intrinsic importance: after all how many different types of dalek models and toys were there in the late 1960s? Each item is given a value estimate price range both in Pounds and Dollars (US) with a paragraph descriptor. Items are broken down a variety of ways and sometimes a little haphazardly but fortunately the book is not long enough for one to get lost and an index at the back is helpful enough. Categories include: 'action figures', 'books and annuals', 'comics and graphic novels', 'toys', 'trading cards', 'movie posters', 'props and promo', 'licensed products' and 'ephemera'. Final sections, on addresses as to where to sell and buy SF and fantasy collectibles, are most useful.

Most SF fans should have at least one copy of a book such as this so as to ascertain their collection's worth. This is the first bit of good news. Middle-aged SF buffs and fans may well be sitting on a small fortune: very likely a few thousand pounds worth if not a few tens of thousands. My own book collection probably would not get much value as it contains few first editions and the autographed books in it are personalised; though I guess I have a few gems. The shock came with regards my childhood comic collection, which thankfully I've kept, and as for my complete set of Star Trek bubble gum cards, it is probably the single most valuable item I have in storage! Of course I am going by Phil Ellis' costings. Here then is the second bit of good news. Book buffs may well be able to get better value from selling book items at a Worldcon or UK Eastercon and film memorabilia might get better prices from the Festival of Fantastic Films (especially if advance advertised in the Progress Reports). Then there are the specialist antiquarian bookdealers. Another bit of good news is that thieves would have difficulty selling on someone's collection as the outlets are so few. (So if any naughty people out there are reading this you'll have better luck going for more conventional targets such as domestic appliances.) So as for us forking out for extra insurance, it simply would not be worth it both for the afore reason and because even if you did lose your collection in a fire you could never replace it item for item.

Given this book is an expert collector's guide, as opposed to an SF experts guide, it is an informative work (though not encyclopaedic), and at some stage the SF buff and/or fan really does need to think about consulting something like this to get a feel as to what they have. In this sense Ellis has done us a genuine service. (Though if this is the Old Age PSIFAn Phil Ellis then I know you could have done a better job...)

Jonathan Cowie



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