RiNG RAiDERS: A TOY COLLECTOR’S ViEW

Back in 2018 in the days of the old blog I chatted to Dom Blanco, a classic toy collector who had begun sharing his collection on Instagram, particularly of more obscure 80s and 90s toys. He was enthusiastically researching and buying up the entire Ring Raiders collection, a toy range I was obsessed with as a kid and the comic of which I’ve covered on the blog already. In fact, that comic remains one of my very favourites from my childhood to this day.

I was just waiting for Dom to send me photographs of his collection before publishing the interview, but he never did and he even stopped updating his social media. I’ve tried to reach out since (including just recently) but unfortunately it appears he’s moved on. Because of the lack of photos I didn’t publish the interview on the old site but I’ve decided to go ahead and do so now with the two Ring Raiders photos still on Dom’s (apparently abandoned) Instagram and others from this blog to illustrate what we’re talking about.

With the comic’s real time read through now complete and interviews with editor Barrie Tomlinson and writer James Tomlinson (who wrote under the name James Nicholas at the time) now up too, I thought Christmas was the perfect time to discuss the original toy range. So if you’re interested in finding out more about the Matchbox range which inspired the comic, here’s our chat from four years ago, published now for the first time.

OiNK Blog: Hi Dom, thanks for agreeing to do this interview about your Ring Raiders collection. You’re relatively new to Instagram (at least your FigureAboutIt account is), I see it goes back to March of last year (2017 – Phil). Can you tell us a little about yourself by way of an introduction?

Dom Blanco: I was born in 1980 which was the golden age of action figures and associated media. I love toys, they have so many great memories for me. Collecting has always been a form of stress relief, my wife can actually measure my stress by the amount of boxes that arrive. I have a very good memory for action figures, more so than anything else. I can normally go through a box of accessories and pick stuff out (which is very handy). I’m not sure if or when my collection will ever end, but it really is my passion.

OB: As far as your collections go, how long have you been collecting retro toys and videogames?

DB: I’ve been collecting on and off for 25 years. I have sold up a few times, but always came back. Thankfully over the years I have had some great toys and met some amazing people that have become very dear friends all over the world.

OB: Is there anything in particular that draws you towards a certain toy line? Or are they all ones you remember from your youth?

DB: Everything from my early youth I have or have had. The 90s for me was when I became a teenager. I collected vintage Star Wars at that time, but the 90s toy lines I was just not interested in. Now as an adult I have learned to appreciate them and see them like a cornerstone of my collection as the action figures industry evolved in the face of the rise of video games. As far as being drawn to a line I have developed a love for the more obscure ones. There’s plenty of info out there for the major brands, but there’s a ton of very cool stuff most people don’t realise exists. I keep finding stuff that I never knew about and that is a big part of the appeal.

OB: On to the subject at hand then, the Ring Raiders. You’ve stated in a comment on Instagram that you’re trying to document all of the variations in the range so there’s a complete guide out there. What drew you to Ring Raiders originally, either as a child or an adult?

DB: I had one Ring Raider as a kid and that was the A10 (one of my favourite planes). As an adult an auction lot came up with the Air Carrier Justice which you don’t see very often. From that I just started looking into what else was out there and discovered there were a lot of unknowns. There are plenty of lines from the early 90s that have a lot of grey areas around what was actually released.

OB: So what do you have so far in the range? Any particular favourite purchases you’ve made or pieces you’ve hunted down?

DB: I currently have about 75% of the line. The new stuff from Series Two is definitely my favourite, as it’s all very new to me. The bombers are great and some of the Skull Squadron decos are very cool.

OB: The toys were moderately successful here in the UK but unfortunately not so much worldwide so only lasted about a year or so as far as I remember. However, there were still a few different series of aircraft and bases etc. Do you have any idea how large the collection will be once complete?

DB: After a lot of digging I believe the line has 72 basic planes, 13 chrome variants, six medals and 12 bombers. As far as play sets there are two small Ring Raiders play sets, one medium play set for Skull Squadron and the Air Carrier Justice. There are also two Battle Blasters and a display stand. I’ve just found a Series Two packaging card with a carry case, but I can’t confirm that it made it into production. There were also two mobile assault bases that I have parts from, but nobody has seen them before so how many made it out is an unknown. I would not be surprised if other stuff surfaces in the future.

OB: For anyone thinking about collecting them, how difficult is it to track them down these days in comparison to other toys you’re collecting?

DB: It depends how deep into a line you want to go. I’m a completist so I get it all. I’m not collecting everything packaged or the variations as most planes were packaged in multiple ways. The main issue is the fact most people don’t seem fussed by this line and there is virtually no information out there about what a complete collection looks like.

OB: I’ve covered the comic here on the OiNK Blog. It was my favourite (non-OiNK) comic as a child and holds up brilliantly today, but you didn’t know about it until you saw my reviews, is that right?

DB: I didn’t know it went for as long as it did. Same with the TV show, I just saw the one on VHS, but there are still episodes I have not seen as they don’t exist on the net or DVD.

OB: It seems every time we think we’ve seen everything the range has to offer, something pops up we weren’t aware of before. The comic is a good example for you, for me I’ve found out about a lot more merchandise than I ever saw as a kid, as well as some of the toys you’ve obtained. Clearly Ring Raiders were designed to be the Next Big Thing, but unfortunately that wasn’t to be. Why do you think it is that we’re still finding brand new things after all these years? How can that be for a toy line which didn’t seem to last long?

DB: The development cycle on a lot of toy lines is currently 12-18 months, back then it was longer because pre-internet communication would have been harder between all the various components of bringing a brand together. Star Wars changed merchandising forever. There are also so many lines that were planned that never made it off the ground. By the time wave one is in the stores, wave two is normally at prototype stage and wave three is in concept, just in case they have a hit on their hands and need to keep it rolling. It’s strange they went to the level they did with additional merchandising for Ring Raiders, but like you say somebody had a lot of faith in it and Matchbox didn’t have many other properties at that point, so I guess they had more reason to be all-in.

OB: Can you give us a quick run down of what else you collect and the same question there about favourites or rare pieces you’ve tracked down?

DB: I collect anything 80s or 90s that’s action figures. I am not actively collecting major brands, but more the niche stuff. I’m about halfway through Street Sharks at the moment, which is a great line with awesome sculpts. There are a lot of lines from the 90s that had stuff released in Europe that never made it Stateside due to cancellation so we got some great stuff that is now very rare there. I just love the hunt and talking toys with people, being an adult on a full-time basis is just no fun.

Thanks to Dom (if he’s reading this) for sharing his thoughts and some interesting nuggets of information on Ring Raiders. It’d be great if he returned to Instagram to continue updating us all on his searches, although sadly it looks like he may have sold up again.

On the subject of the toys, watch out for a special post next year in which I take a look at a very special piece of Ring Raiders history, one which I doubt fans will have seen before and which should interest anyone who collected franchised toys in the 80s or 90s. There may even be another interview to accompany it. You’ll have to wait until then to see what I’m whittering on about, but don’t forget about the comic’s coverage on the blog in the meantime!

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