A reader writes:
"O most holy faceplate guru. I tremble in awe of your creative skills and your impressive collection. Tho not worthy of smelling the plastic of your collection, I would like to humbly attempt my own modest display. Please teach me thy ways, o master."
OK, it wasn't exactly like that. It was more like, "Where do I start?"
I've collected Star Wars figures since I was 11, WAY back in 1978. I got Darth, and then Luke so Darth had someone to fight, then Princess Leia, the droids, Chewie, Han and on and on.... for almost 2,000 figures. A couple of years ago, after my wife and I seperated and Star Wars figures were in a drought, I started collecting Gashapon figures. I won some figures at a site, then started buying them. Now I've probably got 300 or so.
I only started collecting faceplates about six months ago, after being thrust into the customizing field. That story is for another post.
Anyway, in all that I've collected over thirty years, there is one undeniable truth that goes for any collector...
Collect what you like.
That's pretty simple, but it's so obvious that people overlook it. They buy because "it's rare" or "my collection won't be complete" or "this will be worth something someday." In the end, if that's the reason for your collection, you WILL end up disappointed with the results.
THE PLACE TO START
If you own an Xbox 360, you have a collection already. A collection of one. Plain white or plain black. Chances are if you have something different, like the faceplate from the Halo 3 edition or some other LE console, you're probably already attracted to the idea of personal faceplates.
For me, it all started when they gave away the E305 faceplates. I LOVED IT and was immediately sucked into the idea of personlizing my console. (I never did get one and still don't have one, BTW). Then I went to Zero Hour. A couple of artists were there, airbrushing faceplates to be given away in a DOA4 tournament. I didn't win one and I've only seen one EVER listed for sale on eBay. It's a hole I'll probably never fill and I regret it because I was actually at the event. Then we were told that we'd get a Zero Hour faceplate that would be mailed to us. When it arrived, I had a collection... of TWO! Plain white and 0H. Then Shockwave from Teamxbox gave me a TXB plate, I got a Gears plate from E306, and that was the lot. Fin.
For most people, there's a couple of easy ways to get started. Preorder a game that offers a free faceplate with preorders. Find one at a retail store that you like. Or take a plate and paint or Sharpee your own. There are also a few online retailers that can get you plates from overseas that aren't readily available in your local stores.
KICKING IT UP A NOTCH
eBay (or other online auction houses) is the next step to adding to your collection. There are some things to keep in mind are almost all related to the seller.
1) What else is he selling? Chances are if he has multiple plates of a LIMITED EDITION plate, he's making them in his garage. Or the equivalent. For instance, Quake IV, The Outfit and Call of Duty 2 have a lot of bootlegs out there. Having twenty "Call of Duty 2" plates and advertising them as "War Mission" because you're from China and can't read the plate.... well, danger, danger.
2) Being in a foreign country, or from places infamous for bootleg ANYTHING, does not automatically make someone a bad seller, but it certainly makes it worth some additional investigation.
3) What is his feedback? If his feedback is less than 99% positive, go back and see who left him the negative feedback and why. I purchased from someone with 15,000 feedback and 98% feedback. I got screwed. I wondered how? I looked back at his feedback and found out that 2% of 15,000 people is a LOT of stiffed people. And the main complaint was that they had slipped through the cracks because of the large number of transactions he was doing, but it was virtually impossible to get ahold of the guy. No emails, phone calls or real letters were ever replied to. So don't take feedback at face value. The more expensive the plate you're looking at, the more you should check the guy out.
4) Contact the guy before the auction and ask him something. Anything. If he never gets back to you, don't bid. If he replies, that means he's not hiding behind anything and your comfort level can go up a bit.
5) The eBay dilemma: If there's a plate you HAVE to have, do you only bid on one at a time until you finally win one for the price you're willing to pay, or do you bid on multiples hoping you'll win one of them? Well, I can tell you just by looking at the FOUR promotional Ace Combat 6 sitting on my table that the last option can be a mistake. Chances are, you'll end up paying more for a plate if you try to get it when it is first released than you will if you're patient and let the hoards spend the big bucks to get their first.
6) Always use PayPal. If they don't take PayPal, it could be because it's harder to get your money back from them if they stiff you. On two occasions PayPal has come through for me. Once, they got my money back. Once, they denied the winner of my auction who was trying to accuse me of lying in an auction. Had the transaction not gone through PayPal, it would have been a serious headache.
PSST... HEY BUDDY... WANT A FACEPLATE?
One of the reasons I asked Kamshaft to let me start the forums at XboxAddict.com was because we could facilitate trades. Hopefully, people will be able to post their extras along with their wishlists, and collectors will be able to put the two together to fill holes in their collections
Since this is a brand new thing, most of the people in here know each other or at least have references. If you do a trade right now, you probably have nothing to worry about. You can also post feedback for positive buys/trades so that collectors can build up reputations.
Look through everyone's collections for plates you like, and then let everyone know you'd like to add that plate to your collection. Someone with an extra might step forward, or let you know where you can get one.
IF YOU WANT IT DONE RIGHT...
The best way to get the plate you've always wanted is to make it. We'll have tutorials where you can learn to make one. We'll also have customizers with a variety of talents who can make a plate for you or help you with your own. Nobody knows you like you, and no plate is more personal than one made just for you. Chances are, if you're frequenting an online gaming forum, then gaming means more to you than the average player. You probably spend more time in your gaming area and have put out a little more effort to make it a comfortable area in which to spend your time. If you can hang a poster or display a Spawn figure next to your TV, then you can take "personal" to a new level with a faceplate.