Playtrek Year Two
Last Update: 11/16/99




Covers the period between May 11, 1998 to May 10, 1999
Congratulations to Playtrek for making it through two full years of discussion, trading, selling, exalting, grousing and even the occasional bickering. As I've perused the list's messages for the past year, I'm struck at how smooth it's all gone and how things have just gotten better and better for the list as we've moved through the year. At a rough estimate, Playtrek generated 24,000 messages during its second year on the net. That's a lot of messages for Playmates Star Trek toys! What the heck did we find to talk about so much? A lot, apparently. And Playtrek accomplished so much in those 24,000 messages. There's no big milestones, but a bunch of little ones, including the re-birth of Mara's Corner, an official Playtrek logo, Playtrekker of the Month, Playtrek Gazette, a Toys for Tots drive, and, of course, the usual discussion and information dissemination about Playtrek's favorite subject-- toys! The biggest and most exciting milestone in my eyes is the sub-title to this essay: The Year We Got Merchandise! That very fact incorporates so much of what happened in Playtrek year two history. For this report/essay/whatever, I've tried to cover things semi- chronologically, so let's start with the first day of the new year: May 11th, 1998.


Looking back at the Playtrek archives, I wanted to get a sampling of what was happening on Playtrek on the day of its anniversary. I find the following: a message from myself reminding folks to stay on topic, an update from Rick at NewForce about his latest allocations, a reminder from John Schmidt to submit bios for the Playtrek Family Album, an update from Chris Doyle about the Playtrek trade lists, and a smattering of off topic messages about Voyager, DS9, Babylon 5 and Mego. All in all, I guess it's the typical type of thing for Playtrek. It's an indicator that Playtrek is running smoothly and happily along. Wow! What a ride! Let's take a look back over the past year and examine some of the events that led us here...


(May 1998 to August 1998)

So after twice saying that they would no longer have limited edition "chase" figures (Tapestry Picard and T&T O'Brien), Playmates had put out the one-per-case Intendant Kira (sometimes reported as a none-per- case figure too) early in 1998. They claimed that she was not a limited edition figure, yet refused to confirm exactly how many were made. Hmm... Many Playtrekkers were stressing over her acquisition for most of the summer when it was finally confirmed in the early August edition of Mara's Corner that she was produced at approximately 8500 pieces. So, in true Bill Clinton fashion, Playmates was saying that the Intendant Kira was *not* a limited edition figure, but it was produced in smaller quantities than many of their limited edition figures. Okee-dokey! On the plus side, Mara did leak to Playtrekkers that the WFS4 wave with the Intendant Kira was being sold off at clearance to Kaybee Toys, so armed with this knowledge, most of Playtrek was able to finally acquire this elusive figure-- and at clearance prices! And, I might add, many Playtrekkers helped each other out with getting this figure at cost! That, after all, as one of the primary reasons I have established Playtrek in the first place!


(May 1998 and beyond)

On May 30th, just a few weeks after the one year anniversary of Playtrek, I moved the list from the listserv in Hannover, Germany to the World majordomo mailing list in Boston. There was a fee for the services, but I got 24 hour support and better cooperation when I needed fixes. You get what you pay for, right? Not that there was a whole lot of problems with the list in Germany (provided by my good friend Axel, for free), but he was graduating college and use of their servers was going to be dependent on an associates of Axel's at the University. Add to that, we were simply borrowing the machine, so any day the machine and listserv could be taken away from us without announcement or explanation. So a move was necessary. The new list has worked out extremely well with only a few minor glitches (and one major one) along the way. BTW, the "std" in the list domain ( stands for Software, Tool & Die. Now I really don't know what that means nor do I really care. Ted "Lilquestie" Nichols did make a comment shortly after the implementation of the new list that has stuck with me ever since when he thought the "std" stood for "Sexually Transmitted Disease". Ha!


(May 1998 and beyond)

It's hard to tell where the idea of Playtrek Toys, Inc. exactly started. Searching through the Playtrek archives, as near as I can tell, it started out as a joke by Russell Yim (the Trekker, Disnoid and Sheena Easton fan). At the time, a malaise had fallen over Playtrek because of Playmates' announcement that the Star Trek: Insurrection toys being made would be four 9" dolls, four 12" dolls, a re-tooled Enterprise-E and a re-painted phaser. *Yawn!* Playmates said there was no more support for the 4.5" line and there would be no 4.5" figures. All of Playtrek was despondent over it and Russell Yim posted a parody news article (pre-Playtrek Gazette) about Playtrek Toys, Inc. taking over the Star Trek line. I followed it up with a message that I'd been fantasizing about such a company with various Playtrekkers running the company. Of course, for me it was just a fantasy, but several Playtrekkers started to run with the idea. Well, after some thinking, I decided to give it a shot. I had no intentions of actually starting a company, but I thought we could pool our resources and actually make some action figures like *we* wanted to make them. The first step was to decide what action figures to make. Since I'd volunteered and conscripted to sculpt and mass produce the figures, I wanted to start off easy. I was willing to do a Nomad or Horta (since they would be relatively easy to mold) and any headswap figure and Don Hi11en***** would make the cardback. The whole list got excited and voting began on what figure Playtrekkers wanted to see made. In early June, the winners were Nomad and 1st season (beardless) Riker. Woohoo! We bandied around for a bit and decided on various accessories. Don Hi11en***** agreed to do the design for the cardback. We were in business and work began on the sculpting of the Nomad! And time passed... and passed... The lazy, hazy days of summer faded and autumn arrived. And time passed... Well, what happened was very little. I did get the main torso of Nomad sculpted out of epoxy putty and started some rudimentary work on the base, but it was a slow process. I was working on some other projects that I let take my creative energy and time and the Nomad kept being put off. Don Hi11en***** did some rudimentary design on a cardback. Then, from sources that I'm not a liberty to divulge, around Christmas I found out that Playmates already had a Nomad figure in the works and it would possibly/probably be out in 1999. I saw this as both a blessing and a curse since I'd already put a lot of time and effort into it. Then again, Playmates was making a Nomad! I quietly told Don to hold off on making the cardback until we found out more on the Nomad figure from Playmates. I myself stopped all work on it. Then, in February, Don left the list. He told me I could use the designs he'd started for the cardback, but the whole project was in limbo. And it's still in limbo with still no confirmation on the status of Playmates' Nomad. At this point, I don't hold out much hope for Playmates and have slowly started up work on the custom again. I've gotten a set of Riker figure parts and it awaits being torn apart for molding. It's really a shame that this project started with such high hopes, yet never really seemed to go anywhere. I admit to being the main blame for this with my foot dragging. Hopefully, now that I've started work on it again, we can actually get something done, but only time will tell. I'd still like to see Playmates Toys make a Nomad, though.


(May 1998 and beyond)

One of my favorite things about Playtrek is the many contests we've run. Almost a month doesn't go by without somebody giving away something in some sort of fun contest. I, myself, have hosted trivia contests with Mara Hart of Playmates toys and given away lots of cool, low-numbered prizes and rare toys. Here's a listing of some fun stuff that's been given away and the various methods used in awarding the prizes:

I'm probably missing a few, but this is also not including the out-and- out giveaways that have been conducted on the list either. It's obvious that Playtrekkers are really into giving stuff away, although sometimes you may have to work for it a little bit (i.e. trivia questions).


(June 1998 to August 1998)

Through a whimsical comment that someone made about Playtrek making its own Trek toys under a Playtrek Toys, Ltd. banner, David Moore suggested the packaging have a specific Playtrek logo. From there, the idea started getting bounced around and several people stepped forward and wanted to design one. After a little brainstorming, Web Wrangler extraordinaire, Chris Doyle came up with the "Design a Logo for Playtrek!" contest. Contestants could enter Playtrek logo designs, as many as they liked, for a chance to win a bootleg Enterprise toy donated by Chris. Playtrekkers voted on the design entries with a random voter to win a to-be-determined toy (which was later to be determined a limited edition Dress uniform McCoy figure). Voting was completed and votes tallied-- Ack! There was a three way tie for first place! A run-off round of voting was done with the winner being the current "starburst" logo designed by Don Hi11en*****. The runner up entries and almost winners were by Dean Andrade, who also did an excellent job-- enough to capitalize 2/3 of the finalist logos. And the random voter dress McCoy went to Aussie Playtrekker Nelly Nordio. Ironically, the logo designer, Don Hi11en*****, went on to leave Playtrek behind and hasn't been seen or heard since, but he sure designed a damned fine logo! Playtrek now had an identifiable emblem to indicate itself and this led to website endorsements and eventually, logo emblazoned Playtrek merchandise! Woohoo!


(June 1998 to September 1998)

Well, it seems that the Star Trek FanClub sanctioned by Paramount, known as The Communicator, finally got an exclusive toy. In particular, they got a 4.5" action figure of Captain MacKenzie Calhoun from the Pocket Books series of Star Trek: New Frontier novels. Playtrek was excited about an exclusive figure, but at the same time, they were frustrated with the choice of figure. In Calhoun's defense, many fans of the novels wanted the figure (and even voted for it on Pocket Books' website) and thought it was a novel idea (pun intended). But many Playtrekkers bemoaned the choice of figure when so many more canon figures had not been made. The detractors affectionately called him Captain CalWHOun. Adding insult to injury, the 4.5" completists felt they *had* to buy this figure, even though they loathed it. On a plus side for those that didn't like the character choice, the figure would be the grey shouldered, First Contact style uniform, which would lend itself very nicely to customizing the TNG and DS9 crews. Then in late June, the photo of the prototype was published and nearly everyone was stunned. The figure had problems-- serious problems. What they had done was mold a new head, which was great, but the body was a regular early DS9 type uniform mold with the shoulders painted grey to emulate the First Contact style uniform. Ugh! First of all, the shoulders were missing the "ribbing" of the uniform. Second, it had the wrong comm badge, using the old rounded TNG style, rather than the squared off newer version. There was a lot of moaning, grumbling and finger pointing on Playtrek about the figure. The burning question surrounding the controversial figure was whether or not the errors would be fixed by the time the figure was actually released. The figure started arriving to the doorsteps of Playtrekkers in early September. The correct comm badge had been added, but unfortunately the error of the wrong styled shoulders remained in all its glory. Who was at fault for the character decision? Clearly the Communicator and Pocket books since Playmates was just making what they had asked for. (And again, to be fair, some people *wanted* the figure). Who was at fault for the poor execution of the figure? Playmates pointed the finger at Communicator for not being willing to spend the extra money to retool the body. However, many Playtrekkers also pointed a finger at Playmates for letting such poor quality merchandise get made and released. In any case, the figure was released, completists grudgingly bought it, and Playmates made their money.


(June 1998 to September 1998)

The whole concept of royal titles has an interesting past that I think many people don't realize. It started off because of a near flame war. When Playtrek moved from the Hannover, Germany listserv to the majordomo at World, I had chosen to set the list so that the "Reply-To:" field was set to the mailing list address rather than the original poster's address. This was causing a problem because many Playtrekkers were not paying attention to how they were replying to list mail and were sending personal email to the list and not directly to the intended person. In a voyeuristic sort of way, it was interesting to read! But it was causing a problem for many people getting too much useless email. Many Playtrekkers cried out to have the "Reply-To:" changed, but I refused because I thought the way I had it was right. Well, a power struggle ensued and some Playtrekkers demanded that I change it. Added to that, I suspect some people were *intentionally* sending private email to the list to try and force the issue. I posted a message to the list in response to all this and stated emphatically that *I* owned Playtrek, *I* made the decisions on how it was run, and, as a symbolic explanation, that Playtrek was *not* a democracy, rather it was a monarchy and I was its king. That seemed to settle the matter for the moment. On a totally different topic, I had been known simply as "Roberto" on the list for a long time. It is, of course, not my real name and is simply a nickname. The use of the name goes way back, and something I've used on the Internet for a long time, but I was growing tired of it. Plus, Playtrek was starting to get a lot of high profile attention from Playmates and the media. I figured it was time I be a bit more professional and use my real name, Robert Porter. The only problem was that so many people on the list knew me as "Roberto", so I knew the transition wouldn't be easy. I needed a new moniker that used my real name. So after all the stuff about Playtrek being a monarchy and me being its king, I decided to have fun with using "King Robert the First". This would use my real name for a transition, and reinforce that I am owner of the list. Well, this little tactic launched an unexpected trend where Playtrekkers started requesting and proclaiming similar Playtrek titles. Dan Trembley started it by proclaiming himself as "Royal Chancellor to King Robert I". Then Terry Hulett declared himself to be "Terry H, Duke of the Eastern Seaboard, Loyal Subject of His Majesty King". And then Joan Butrum requested to be the Royal Court Jester and just for fun, I publicly granted her the title. Well, this started a whole silly trend that lasted most of the summer where folks were requesting royal titles, I was granting them, and folks were using them on the list. By September, though, the trend had faded. I had stopped using the "King Robert" moniker because folks kept calling me "King Roberto", which kind of defeated the purpose of me using the title in the first place. Occasionally, I still use the title in fun and a friendly reminder to the list about who is in charge, but it was fun while it lasted. Oh, and I did later concede to change the "Reply-To:" setting to go to the original sender and not the list. I admitted defeat after so many useless personal messages kept getting posted to the list.


(June 1998 to March 1999)

With the return of Playmates Toys customer service representative, Mara Hart, to the Playtrek mailing list, Playtrek finally had their "inside connection" back. It was also hoped that this would herald the return of the formal Q&A session, Mara's Corner. Unfortunately, things didn't go as smoothly as planned... I had ran it before, but quite frankly, due to the difficulties with people getting upset at Mara for her answers and a brouhaha that had occurred just before she left for her maternity leave, I was rather disinclined to continue it myself. It had been so much of a head and heart ache with little to be gained. Add to that, Mara was feeling stresses at work and was fearing that it would be too difficult and time consuming to continue Mara's Corner. Eventually Playtrekker John Cline agreed to pick up the ball and run with it, so with Mara's blessing (and some answers), Mara's Corner returned in early August. In it, Playtrek got several scoops, such as WFS5 being clearanced at Kaybee. The Corner had returned! Sort of... From it's return, it was plagued with problems, like formatting errors causing several people to be unable to read them, the promised website never materializing and the Corner itself continually being published late-- several months late! Add to that John was experiencing several chronic computer problems which caused him to be incommunicado for weeks at a time, lost email, etc. This led to RTM Trek page designer, Scott Gordon, taking over Mara's Corner in March and publishing Volume 3, Issue 1 on March 31st. There was nothing too earth shattering in the newest volume, but publication went smoothly for once. It finally looked like Scott Gordon was the perfect partner for Mara's Corner. He published timely, communicated with Playtrek about the Corner's goings-on, formatted the text for easy reading on the list, and designed a tasteful, easily navigable, and working homepage for Mara's Corner. It was stable. From then on, all was well with Mara's Corner. Despite the early problems, big thanks to John Cline for reviving it and attempting to tame it, thanks to Scott Gordon for finally taming it, and especially Mara Hart for putting up with everyone's shenanigans while all this was going on.


(June 1998 and beyond)

Playtrek 3rd in command and bootleg toy expert, Chris Doyle had been keeping a Playtrek Buy/Sale/Want list for Playtrekkers on his Bootleg toy site for several months. He had been wanting to create a full blown Playtrek homepage for a while, but hadn't yet gotten around to it. Then, about a month after Playtrek had moved from the Hannover listserv to the World majordomo, I realize the package I was buying gave me some web space on the World servers. So... I gave an extra set of keys for Playtrek to Chris Doyle and asked him to go make a Playtrek homepage. And he did. On June 11th, 1998, the Playtrek homepage was born! Woohoo! It was shortly followed up with a bunch of updates with suggestions from myself and several Playtrekkers. Chris did a great job of keeping it current and fresh all summer long and it soon came to hold links to the Playtrek Family Album, Playtrek Gazette, the Playtrek Geography page, and all things Playtrek. Thanks to Playtrek's Royal Web-Wrangler, Chris Doyle, many a lost collector has found their way to enlightenment through finding the Playtrek homepage and getting on the list. Thanks Chris!
(You're most certainly welcome! - Chris)


(July 1998)

In the wee small hours of the morning on July 15, 1998, Playtrek's newest member joined the world. Playtrek's "Super Merchant" Rick Whitelock posted a message to the list because he had orders to process, but would be unable to do so or communicate with folks because his new daughter, Alyssa, was being born! Rick's exact post to the list was: "It is 2:30 am and we are on the way to the hospital to delivery baby Alyssa... just wanted to let all know that if you have outstanding orders...they are not going out for a couple of days!" We all got a good laugh out of the image of Rick's wife, Bridget, going into labor and Rick wanting to log on real quick and let Playtrek know he was going to be late getting orders out. Truth is, he was on-line at the time (2:30AM), so it wasn't quite that bad. Many congrats rolled out and Marsha Collier even took a Starfleet baby outfit off eBay to send to Alyssa as a gift. The next day, Rick announced that Alyssa Brea was born at 5:53 am on 7/15/98...6 lbs. 9 oz and 20.5 " long! Psst! And I'll let you in on a little secret... One reason the birth of Alyssa sticks out so well to me is that me and Alyssa share a birthday (although different years, of course)! Since then, there have been many jokes about the littlest Playtrekker and Rick had a grand ol' time with sending diapers out to Playtrekkers with their orders as stuffing. I got one and carefully opened it to see if it was a used one... :-)


(July 1998 to August 1998)

When a new Playtrekker, Brian Rice, posted a message to the list that he was new to collecting, only had three figures and did anyone have any advice, lots of people on the list offered to help. Taking it a step further, Playtrekker, Don Hi11en*****, offered "A proposal to the group". He proposed that with the altruistic nature of folks on Playtrek, why don't we help out this "virgin collector" by sending him figures to help with his new found collection... for free. Many Playtrekkers took him up on the challenge and offered to help. With Brian's mailing address and Don keeping track of who was sending what, toys started going out in the mail. What a great group! Unfortunately, Brian seemed less than grateful (probably due to age and maturity), so many people were put off by his attitude. In the end, the whole concept fell apart, but Brian *did* get a bunch of cool toys. No matter how it turned out, I think it's important to note how giving Playtrekkers are that they would spend their time and money to send out toys to someone they don't even know. I love you, man!


(July 1998 to October 1998)

After the idea for the Playtrek logo took hold and the contest was in the works to design one, Playtrekker Russell Yim suggested the idea of Playtrek merchandise-- in particular a Playtrek T-shirt in early July (July 4th to be exact). In August, shortly after the announcement of the Playtrek logo, I started looking into getting T-shirts made. Within a month, I came up with prices and an announcement of the shirt design. My idea was to have navy blue shirts with the logo on the front of the shirt. The design (incorporating the new logo) was open for debate. Should it have the Playtrek URL? The Playtrek contact email address? Or some sort of catchy Playtrek slogan? Well, it seems there could be no consensus on design and there were also many complaints and concerns regarding the shirt color and logo placement (front or back). While all this wrangling over the shirt decisions was going on, Andy Novasitis contacted me about a T-shirt dealer he knew that could get a much better deal than what I had found. He had been following the list discussion about the shirts and had come up with the idea that we make multiple designs and let people pick an choose what they wanted. And he also agreed to do all the ordering, purchasing and distribution of the shirts! A big thank you to Andy for taking on the project and taking the burden off my shoulders!!! (Andy went on to win Playtrekker of the Month for his efforts as well.) The shirts came in navy blue or white and with the logo on front or back, to give four different variations. They shipped at the end of September and arrived to most Playtrekkers, who were quite pleased, throughout October. It's helped many of us find each other at cons and even while out toy shopping! A total of 106 Playtrekkers received shirts-- people all across the United States (including Hawaii), into Canada, France, England and even down under in Australia.


(August 1998 to September 1998)

In late August, Playtrekker Marsha Collier announced that she was going to be on TV. It was a cable show on Lifetime called "New Attitudes" and would air in early September. Marsha would be on to talk about her eBay expertise and the auctioning of Beanie Babies, but she did say they took some film of her Star Trek collection as well, including her Tri-Fold Borg. They also filmed her saying "Hi Playtrekkers!", but she doubted much of the Trek related stuff would make it to the screen since it was eBay and the Beanie Baby stuff that "New Attitudes" wanted to discuss. Still, the fateful day came and Playtrekkers with cable tuned in... Marsha's on TV! The show was mostly about eBay and Marsha's auctioning of Beanie Babies, but they did give a glimpse (a *very* brief glimpse) or her collection, including the Star Trek stuff. Most of what could be seen was a few 4.5" figures, a bunch of 9" dolls and even a her coveted Tri-Fold Borg. Adding to her embarrassment, much of the testosterone on Playtrek also saw and pointed out that Marsha is "one cute Trek Babe". They *did*, however, cut out her "Hi Playtrekkers!" comment. Oh well. Way to go Marsha! When're we gonna see you on TV next?


(August 1998 and beyond)

Way back in my seaQuest mailing list days, we seaQuest fans had a parody newsletter we used to put out. It was written as if we were a staff of reporters, reporting the latest happenings in the UEO, on the seaQuest, and all things of the seaQuest universe. Most of it was bitingly sarcastic because, if you've been a long time seaQuest viewer, you know that it's so easy to poke fun at with it's many continuity errors, characters whose personalities change from episode to episode, etc. Well, I got to thinking... Playmates Star Trek toy line is also quite easy to poke fun at with their many manufacturing errors and misprints, product choice errors and generally bad management decisions. When Jeff Riemersma posted a humorous psuedo-article to Playtrek, it set my mind in motion and I decided to launch the Playtrek Gazette: a parody newspaper poking fun at all things Playtrek and Playmates Trek toys. However, with so many things already going on in Playtrekland and my having a hand in so many of them, I found the thought of taking on *another* project to be too much. So I set out for an editor. After a few secret contacts, John Russell said he was up to the task and on August 7th, 1998, the premiere issue of the Playtrek Gazette was launched. It's been a rousing success with many contributors over it's run. It doesn't publish on a regular schedule, but rather when John gets articles and get time to put it out. Stories have included the launching of new Playmates Trek product (i.e. Nano Kirk), special Playmates Trek promotions (i.e. buy a jet engine, get a mail-in toy), and interviews with fans (i.e. Bill Eggler injures himself for toys). The Playtrek Gazette is one of my favorite things on Playtrek and I wished it were published more frequently, but I'll take what I can get.


(August 1998 and beyond)

Due to all the list hubbub surrounding the Playtrek Toys, Inc. and Nomad/Riker ideas, it prompted someone (I wish I knew who) to ask on Mara's Corner about the possibility of a Playtrek exclusive figure. Mara's answer was: "It's possible. There is a minimum order quantity [MOQ] and you would have to pay in advance - at a price we can discuss - taking possession in Hong Kong and importing into the US yourself. We currently do such low MOQ specials only for items that combine existing tooling." Well, this got Playtrekker thoughts on getting an official Playtrek exclusive. Of course, the requirement to pay in advance was a daunting task! Who has $20,000+ lying around to spend on Star Trek toys? But just the same, Rick Whitelock of NewForce Comics and Collectibles, a long time Playtrekker and dealer in high regard started making discreet inquiries into MOQs and what steps were necessary to actually get an exclusive figure made. Meanwhile, John Schmidt, Photoshop extraordinaire started scanning various figures and digitally manipulating them to give Playtrekkers an idea of what various headswaps would look like. In fact, it was John's dedication, skill and fun in this that earned him the coveted Playtrekker of the Month award! After a particularly nasty flamewar (no relation to the exclusive idea, but I found it when scanning the archives for information and thought it ironic), Playtrekker Ben Barackman started tallying votes for a Playmates manufactured headswap figure based upon images seen on John Schmidt's website. And among the figures shown was the Aussie Playtrekker, Ian McLean's idea, a "Flashback" Janeway (Saavik body, Janeway head). Well, after a frenzy of voting, on August 27th, the winner was announced to be the McLean suggested Janeway figure! Woohoo! Runners up, in order, were: Captain Spock, Captain Sulu, Dress Janeway, "Corbomite Maneuver" Uhura in gold, 1st season Riker and Commander Sulu. So now we knew which figure we wanted as a Playtrek exclusive. Could it become a reality? It was up to Playmates and the man with the money and the power, Rick Whitelock. Comically, a momentary snag was hit when Paramount rejected the idea of the figure because "she never wore that uniform in that episode". DOH! Of course, Paramount was wrong and Playtrek was right, but after some plot reminders, Paramount relented to Playtrek's superior Trek knowledge. Ironic, isn't it? However, as usual, things didn't go as planned. It seems that Playmates wasn't really taking Rick seriously and didn't want to do any negotiations until 1999. Even then, they kept changing their story on costs and MOQs. He could never get a straight answer! Fast forward to the end of April, 1999 when Rick went to Star Trek's Grand Slam convention in California where he got to meet several Playtrekkers, including Chris Rei, Mark Cutler, Freddy Heller, Bob Caruso and Brad Lent. He also met with the infamous Mara Hart (at her first ever Trek convention), as well as several others at Playmates Toys. With this face to face meeting and the assistance of a well placed mole, contracts were finally signed. The NewForce exclusive, Janeway from the episode "Flashback" was going to be a reality! It was decided not to call it the "Playtrek" exclusive because of legal reasons and, after all, Rick was the one fronting the money so it was his baby! But still, all Playtrekkers knew they had a hand in getting it made, even if it was just voting for which figure to make. And all this was on the eve of the second anniversary of Playtrek! It was a day to rejoice on Playtrek! YEEEEEEEEHAW! We were going to get our own exclusive!!!


(August 1998 and beyond)

Playtrekkers as a whole are a pretty generous bunch. They give so much of their time, energy and sometimes even toys to their fellow listers. And very rarely is there a trade or sale problem from a Playtrekker due to their consistent honesty and the fact that other Playtrekkers would not let them get away with it. In early August 1998, Michael Munoz mentioned in passing that he'd like to nominate John Schmidt for Playtrekker of the Month due to his excellent work on graphics art work to show Playtrekkers what various headswaps would look like. Of course, there was not "Playtrekker of the Month" concept, it was just something that Michael had made up to express his admiration for what John was doing for the list. This, however, sparked an idea for Don Sears. He suggested that there really be a "Playtrekker of the Month" award with imaginary prizes like a reserved parking space at Playtrek Headquarters. Well, one thing led to another and Don Hi11en***** started the Playtrekker of the Month Committee (with Don Sears as co-chair) to vote and award the honor to a different Playtrekker each month. Meanwhile, I started gathering goodies to give away to the award winners, with non-toy Trek prizes contributed by myself and Mr. Atoz. In late August, the POTM committee awarded retroactive POTM honors to myself for starting and running Playtrek, Chris Doyle for his web-wranglin', and John Schmidt for his Playtrek Exclusive and Playtrek Family Album efforts. Then, for the real winners were Rick Whitelock of NewForce Comics for being such a good friend and great dealer and Andy Novasitis for helping out soooo many Playtrekkers with "at cost" deals and making the Playtrek T-shirts a reality. And from there it began... but not without some bumps along the way. Things went pretty smooth the first few months, but quickly, Don Hi11en***** and the POTM committee began having difficulties getting nominations. Part of the problem was that the same people kept consistently doing remarkable things and others weren't getting proper nominations. Then, in a surprising move, Don Hi11en***** abruptly left the list in February, leaving the POTM committee main chari empty. Don, if you're reading this, you are missed. I still regret losing him, but everything changes... Anyway, thankfully Don "DieHard" Sears stepped up to the plate and volunteered to chair the committee by himself. And in March it got rolling again. Still, the entity has continued to limp along, through no fault of Don Sears, but with meager or no nominations each month. The committee flirted with the idea of stopping the idea altogether, but it was decided that it needed to continue in order to point out shining examples of Playtrekker behavior. Despite several attempts, a website for POTM has yet to materialize. I may make one myself to learn some HTML. So it goes along...


(September 1998 and beyond)

In a September issue of Mara's Corner, she revealed the news that there were plans for the entire movie crew (TNG) to be released in 1999. The list debated what this meant: Were there to be more Warp Factor Series released? Would they be store exclusives? Would they be multi-packs? Unfortunately, Mara said we'd have to wait all the way until Toy Fair's February 1999 show to find out! Luckily the news was leaked around Christmas that they would be Target exclusives. This was both good and bad news. Good news because the flailing line was going to continue into 1999, bad news because the flailing line was going to continue at Target only (with a smattering of ToyFare exclusives). The fact is, many people did not have access to Target stores, beit not in the US, in a Target-less part of the US, or in a Target starved part of the US. Traditionally, the Target exclusives have had poor distribution, so everyone was of mixed emotions about the news. Late in 1998, the exclusive transporter Sulu and Chekov figures were produced in larger quantities that previous TOS transporters and the Tholian 9" figures were redundant and overpriced, so the 1998 Target exclusive product, despite poor distribution, were easy to find and no Playtrekker who was willing to pay cost for them went without. In fact, they languished on the shelves and eventually hit clearance. Would it be the same for the 1999 exclusives? The first of the 1999 Target exclusives (4.5" Picard and Worf with retooled uniforms) were late getting out of the gate and didn't see a Target store until early March. But again, they were made in sufficient quantities that no Playtrekker went without. To me, the fact that so many Playtrekkers are without Target stores, yet everyone got their needs met is a testament to Playtrek and its community of helping each other out. Vive le Playtrek! (as Bruno the French Playtrekker would say).


(October 1998)

Late one Saturday night I sat up trying to work on some of the list configurations. One problem that I was seeing on occasion was that people were not replying to the right address when replying to a list message. Their software was automatically replying to the "Sender:" address in the message headers, rather than the "Reply-To:" header. Well, the sender field was set to "" which was an alias for me! So what was happening was that some people were erroneously sending their messages to me, rather than the whole list. I wanted them to send their messages to the list, so I changed the sender field to the Playtrek posting address. This was a mistake. After changing the field, I walked away from my computer for a while and didn't realize the consequences of my actions. What that did was cause all administration mail, including bounces, to go to the entire list instead of playtrek-approval. Well, a Playtrek message bounced (ironically, Chris Doyle's earthlink account), which caused the bounced message to go to the list. In turn, that message bounced, which caused the bounced message of the bounced message to go to the list. And so on and so on. The list went nuts! And endless loop of bounce messages was going to the list and flooding people's mailboxes! Of course, making matters worse was people sending messages to the list asking what was going on, which only created more bounces. I quickly realized my error and tried to fix it, but since the commands to change the list configuration are done via email, the reaction of the list was extremely slow! I couldn't get the list to respond fast enough because it was too busy trying to process all that bounced mail. AAAARGH!!! I finally called World's support at 2:00AM and after some frantic explanations, had them shut off the mailing list. Whew! The next day the list went back up and I had some explaining to do. Needless to say, many people were extremely annoyed at me for giving them 350+ emails in just a few short hours. Michael Heintz jokingly suggested that I unsubscribe myself as punishment. *BLUSH!* Boy, was I embarrassed and I learned to pay a little more attention when changing settings for the majordomo.


(October 1998 to December 1998)

Back in my days of working in Trek fanclubs, we always tried to do some sort of charity work at our various public functions. I figured it would be fun to do something similar on Playtrek. An obvious charity was Toys for Tots, an organization that takes toy donations around Christmas time and distributes them to children of less fortunate homes. Problem is, as a bunch of computer connected people who are spread out over the entire world, what could we do? Well, the previous year I tried to organize something where people would make local donations, then report it to a central person to track the various donations and we could have a "pledge drive" type of thing and see how far we could get. This worked okay, but proved to be a sore subject when the person keeping track of things publicly chastised Playtrekkers for not making more donations. My intention was not to make people uncomfortable! Well, that was last year. This year I suggested that I would like to do something again, but since the previous year turned out to be such an embarrassment, we had to try something different. Several ideas were bandied about, including having regional Playtrek gatherings and doing big drives. But there was still the issue of some people wanting to maintain toy donation anonymity and not necessarily being able to make the regional drives. In the end, Playtrekker Dean Andrade came up with a nice, discreet solution. He designed a Playtrek/Toys for Tots website where people could go and anonymously report how many toys they donated, and if they wanted, what they donated. It wasn't quite as big as I'd hoped, but enough gentle reminders from Dean as Christmas drew near helped keep the drive going. Shortly after Christmas, Dean reported 320 toys donated by Playtrekkers to Toys for Tots. Not too bad! It's just another sign of the kindness and generosity of Playtrek. And Dean's efforts helped earn him Playtrekker of the Month! Thanks Dean and thanks Playtrekkers for helping out with donations!


(October 1998 to February 1999)

Right on the heels of the Playtrek T-shirt idea, Playtrekker Dean Andrade got the idea for Playtrek pins and started looking into getting them made. He set up a promo page to take pre-orders and show off the design: essentially a metal pin, 1" wide of the Playtrek logo. By mid- November, the prototype arrived for approval and me and Dean gave it our stamp of approval. Dean placed the order! Things didn't go quite as smooth as hoped, though. The order arrived to Dean in December and... they screwed up. Maybe the pin company had the new guy on the job, but they looked horrible! The best way to describe it is that they were blurred. All the colors were improperly placed so that it was a fuzzy image. Well, thankfully, the pin company admitted the problem and were willing to replace them for free. So the official ship date (December) was missed and they had to wait until the next shipment... in February. As an added bonus to those who ordered the pin, Dean made up official Playtrekker membership cards with people's names on them. He also made up some Playtrek business cards to pass our at conventions and fellow Trek buyers that are found in the toy aisles. Woohoo! Thanks Dean! As a funny aside, Dean shipped the pins protected by gauze, so Charles Apple, the Playtrek smarta$$ extraordinaire, started a fun thread about finding a severed finger. So now Playtrekkers had T-shirts and pins to wear with pride. Also, Dean won the coveted Playtrekker of the Month award for his pin efforts (as well as the cards, his Toys for Tots effort and really helping out many Target-less Playtrekkers). Dean is one of the truly special folks on the list.


(November 1998 to December 1998)

Have you ever heard of the concept of Secret Santas? This is a Christmastime (Duh!) concept where several people put their names into a hat and draw other people's names at random, then they buy that person a gift and "secretly" give it to them. No one knows who drew who's name, so the giver is totally anonymous. Well, Chris "Bath Hero" Doyle came up with the idea of Secret Spocks! Each "Spock" would put their name in a proverbial hat and Chris would pass out names for someone to secretly buy and mail out a gift. They would mark their package as coming from "Secret Spock" so as to hide the sender's identity. After a sufficient period to get names in for it, there were 24 Spocks this go 'round and mail gift exchanging began! There was a bit of confusion about whether the inside gift should be wrapped or not, causing some folks to open their package and get an early surprise. And some did not properly label their packages as coming from "Secret Spock", thus spoiling the surprise of who sent it. But all in all, it was an exciting time. Part of the trepidation about this was people not following through to send a gift, but for a few stragglers, everybody did finally follow through. Because he was going out of town for the big day, on December 23rd, Chris revealed via the homepage who the Secret Spocks were. From there, it was a cornucopia of "thank yous" and the generosity of Playtrekkers was shown again. Many people got several holes in their collections filled with some rare and not too easy to find toys-- including a 3/$10 T&T O'Brien! After everything was said and done, the whole program was a blast!

All in all, it's been an incredible year. Sure, there have been some ugly moments on the list as well. I have purposely excluded those because I'd much rather remember the good times and not the bad. The list has experienced some growing pains, but it just keeps getting better with so much promise on the horizon. Plans include Playtrekfest 1999, the NewForce exclusive and of course, more contests and giveaways. It's really not so incredible when you think about what a "family" that Playtrek has become. We're a group of people that spend time with each other almost daily. We've gotten to know each other's personalities, likes, dislikes, etc. And like a good family, we watch out for each other and help each other in times of need (i.e. limited figures, store exclusives, etc.).

Thank you to each and every contributing member on Playtrek for a fun time. Here's to the future.

Robert Porter
(AKA Roberto)