If you grew up in the ‘90s, chances are, you are one of the many kids who instantly got hooked on Pokémon when it premiered on local TV in 1999.
And while we ‘90s kids know that the fascinating li’l characters of this anime series were all make-believe, there was one young boy who considered them as his real-life confidants.
Meet Vince Lubuguin, a Singapore-based Pinoy Pokémon collector, who has been impressing netizens with his huge, ever-growing Pokémon collection.
In an interview with Speed, Vince revealed that his great fondness for the hit series dates back to 2001, when he was only 10 years old. His first few pieces were those he requested his parents to buy during their “family day” every Sunday.
“When I was still a kid, I always asked my parents if they can buy Pokemon toys for me,” Vince said. “They let me choose one to two toys, and that’s where I started my humble Pokemon toy collection.”
An introverted kid back then, Vince found a connection between him and his toys that goes beyond any display stand. And it is one that the 30-year-old collector now sees to last for the rest of his life.
“I have this small desk to place my toys and that served as my collection area back then. I still remember when I return from school, I would normally run [to] my room and check if everything is in place. If something fell down, I’ll put it right back the way it should be placed,” Vince wrote in an Instagram post last year.
“I grew up having few friends because I’m not as sociable as other people,” he said, adding, “I preferred being at home rather than partying or going out, doing outdoor activities. I treated my toys as my friends and that’s why they have a big place in my heart.”
Vince told Speed that since then, he has been updating his toy collection, inspired by the show’s famous tagline, “Gotta catch ‘em all.”
“I started my collection by completing the Generation 1 Pokémon and then when Pokemon updated their list of Pokémon, my collection grew along every update of Pokémon generations,” he said.
From an old TV rack to a highly followed Instagram account
Years went by and Vince’s collection grew off their family’s old TV rack. He then moved them to a multi-tiered wooden floor shelf specially built for him by his dad. Early this year, he finally fulfilled his dream of having them all displayed in a glass cabinet similar to those he would usually see in toy expos.
On top of that, it’s not just Vince who finds joy in them anymore, but more so, his Instagram followers that total 82,300 as of writing.
“When I was starting my journey as a Pokémon content creator, I used to buy five to ten figures a month with a certain budget from my savings. When I got discovered by online businesses and companies, they sponsored me with Pokémon items: figures, console accessories, and apparel,” Vince recounted to Speed.
Vince had to leave his prized collection in the Philippines when he and his fiancé, Mikee Reyes, moved to Singapore in June 2019.
But like a true Pokémon trainer, Vince knows where to find his catch. Soon he was able to fill a table in his new home with another set of Pikachu action figures, many of which are even custom figures, Vince said.
Vince’s dose of power-ups during the pandemic
While Vince wouldn’t deny missing his Poke friends in the Philippines, the long-time collector is happy to have gathered a new bunch that has been giving him his much-needed power-ups amid the pandemic.
In fact, Vince made the rounds online in the past two months because of his home workstations that he converted into jazzy Pokémon nooks.
“I wanted to do something unique with my Pokémon collection. So when we were asked to work from home, I took it as a chance to design my workspace,” he said.
Vince redesigns his workstations—one for his day job and the other for gaming—every month with a Pokémon that “most people know and loved from their childhood,” such as Pikachu, Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Squirtle.
The revamped areas would usually contain an overload of action figures, plushies, gadgets, and other toys—all made more sparkly with a lighting setup that matches the color of the featured Pokémon. Check them out below.
Vince’s entire Pokémon collection has grown to more than 1,500 figures and collectibles to date. “If I would estimate the cost of all my Pokemon merchandise on both of my collections here in Singapore and the Philippines, I can say that it’s around P700K to P800K collected in 20 years,” he remarked.
Although that is certainly a huge sum of money, the avid collector wouldn’t have it any other way, regardless of other people’s antagonistic view toward adult toy collectors like him.
“Weird, nerd, childish — Yes, I heard them all and I’ve come to a point where I asked myself, will I be able to get respect for my passion?” Vince wrote in a separate Instagram post in February this year. “Right now, looking back at my journey, I realized, wow… look at where I am now. The Vince who was scared to open up about his love for Pokemon is now a Vince who is confident and proud of his passion for toy collecting. As my toys grow, my passion grows as well.”
“As a Pokemon fan and as a collector, my experience thought me to believe in myself and be proud of who I am and for what I want to do with my own life,” he continued. “If I respect myself, I know I will get the respect I deserve from other people. I’ll continue to make my dreams into reality, hoping that I can inspire and motivate others to be proud of their own passions in life.”
With this deep understanding of himself, there is no doubt the then ten-year-old Vince would be proud of the version of himself today. “I always say Pokemon is for everyone to enjoy regardless of age and gender. Pokemon has always been a part of our childhood,” Vince told Speed. “I love that collecting Pokemon merch has always made me feel the young me where I live my life full of happiness.”