MOTU Joe, Masters of the Universe

Joe Teague collects merchandise from the Masters of the Universe franchise. In this edition of Collector Spotlight, Joe — also known as MOTU Joe — puts out a call to other collectors for information about a specific item and sheds light on the fine line between passion and obsession when collecting.

How do you describe your collection?

In one word: excessive.

It’s a passion that is slowly manifesting more and more every day. It’s an evolving collection. If it has the Masters of the Universe (MOTU) vintage logo on it or was officially licensed by Mattel, I want it in the collection.

I’d estimate that I have between 6,000 and 8,000 items. The collection is quite diverse. I have trading cards from Greece, banks and sleeping blankets from the United Kingdom, bootleg toys from Mexico and Yugoslavia, t-shirts, pencils, pendants, and books from all over the world. One of my favourite aspects of MOTU is that very few toy lines have its international breadth and diversity. Star Wars was up there and MOTU is close behind it.

I typically don’t collect bootlegs as a true bootleg collector would. I have some items that were either given to me or acquired through buying an existing collection. There is one figure I have from Mexico that is about 8-inches tall with eyes that light up and a Power Sword. It’s an unlicensed product but it’s beautiful. It really caught my attention even though I don’t typically buy a lot of knockoffs.

The collection is a monumental undertaking. It’ll probably keep me going until the day I die. I don’t see an end in sight.

When and why did you start your collection?

Masters of the Universe is one of the toy lines I grew up with. As a kid, I had a variety of different toys but not too many of any one particular line. When I saw Masters of the Universe make a comeback in the early 2000s with the animated series, it got me really excited about He-Man again. That’s what got me looking for items. Then the Matty Collector series of figures was released by Mattel. It was a massive expansion on top of what we had in childhood. That pushed me over the edge.

How do you display and store your collection?

That is a big challenge, especially with the state it’s in right now.

My wife, Kristle, affectionately calls it “leaking”. The collection is leaking out of the toy room. You make simple agreements in relationships like, “Okay, you like toys, you get a toy room” and no one else says what happens with that room. Now that the toy room is leaking, I’ve figured out ways to have nice formal displays that also work with the house. In the downstairs living room, we have what would be the equivalent of a wet bar with a countertop. It would be great for liquor or books — I’m using it for toys at the moment. It looks good and it doesn’t interfere with the flow of the house. In the guest room, I am able to use the display cabinets with lighting. It looks nice. It also helps that it’s the room where I have artwork and animation cels — things that are relatively intriguing to the layperson who may not know much about MOTU. It’s interesting and still looks good — it’s not just a hodgepodge.

The 2000X line is complete and the Matty Collector series fills up an entire section of the toy room. There is some space left to fill in the gaps in the toy room with vintage toys, but those spaces are few and far between.

Recently, a screw on a shelving unit pulled away from the wall. It was a near disaster but I caught it in time and was able to fix it. I don’t want to risk anything getting damaged — my brain shifted to not putting much else on the shelves for the time being. I have between 20 and 30 storage totes of MOTU items that I don’t have space for yet. I don’t want to just sit on a collection and have it in storage — I don’t intend on those things staying there. At some point in the not-too-distant future, I’ll be able to share the process with everyone and highlight what I’m doing and how I’m doing it. It’s a challenge I know a lot of collectors face.

I don’t have a specific method or checklist for keeping track of my collection. I think many collectors possess certain obsessive-compulsive characteristics — we just kind of know what we have. It’s not too often that I make a mistake and buy something I already own, but it does happen. Fortunately, it hasn’t happened with a $500 item. If I buy a $20 colouring book that I already own, I’ll just put it back up for sale to the MOTU community.

What do you consider to be the Holy Grail of your collection?

The things that have eluded me are mostly price-driven. As an example, I don’t have a Wonder Bread He-Man or an Eternia playset. I’ve avoided those due to cost. I can get them but I have chosen to buy more of the less expensive things. Those are definitely two items that collectors consider to be Holy Grails, myself included.

He-Man bicycles are elusive, whether it be from South America, the United Kingdom, Australia, or France. There were only a few companies that made them for a limited period of time. With that being said, there is a four-wheel pushbike from the United Kingdom, it’s more of a scooter, that I didn’t even know existed until about 2 years ago. I found the company that made it but I still can’t find any information about where to acquire one.

As a corollary to that, one of the Holy Grail items in my collection happens to be a bicycle. This particular bike is a Tonka and Hedstrom collaboration from Canada. The bike was only ever distributed and released in Canada. The bike in my collection is the only one for which I can find an example. I’ve done a video on it and I’ve requested help. I’ll do the same here: if anybody has one, please let me know. It’s an odd feeling to think I may have the only one in existence.

I’ve only been able to find three examples of the bike. The one that I have is — as best I can tell — 100% complete with stickers, side panels, graphics. It looks to be all there and original. I found a second example several years ago — it was an auction listing. It was missing several pieces but it was the bike. The third example is from a picture taken in a barn. The bike was hanging in the barn but it had everything stripped off of it except for the Tonka Hedstrom badge at the front. When you search online for the bike, you’ll find images of it but it’s the exact same bike in all the images — you can tell based on the sticker position and a little flaw on the fender. It went from one collector to another to me. It’s very compelling to me to have this in my collection.

What advice would you give to someone interested in starting a MOTU collection?

I think the best piece of advice I could give is to pursue your passion and find a community that is equally passionate.

Collecting can lead to financial trouble, trouble with the family, and in other areas of life. So when I encourage people to pursue their passion, I don’t mean to go broke trying to do that. It can be a fun spiral until it spirals out of control. It isn’t fun if it takes over your house or your life. I don’t want to sound condescending by saying someone should or shouldn’t do something. Just be smart about it. It’s a fine line between passion and obsession.

I created MOTU Joe as a break from Joe Teague. It’s a way to compartmentalize and have a space on social media. I realized shortly thereafter that I would like to turn my passion for MOTU into a paycheck. That’s how Retro Rags and MOC Masters started. If I can turn my work as MOTU Joe into a job, I’ll never have to work again.

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