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Major Matt Mason Restoration - Rewiring and Repainting Figures

The question has arisen about the relative value of re-paints/re-wires. Many collectors value them less than original painted figures and some think that even a figure with broken wires and most of its paint gone are worth more than repaints. Here are some considerations:


1.) Most re-paints/re-wires (shortened to rp/rws for convenience) are done from shot figures, most are un-poseable and have little of their original paint. The value of these shot figures is negligible (they can usually be bought for less than $15). If not rp/rw they usually collect dust in a bag with pals in similar condition. Rp/rws offer an option for those that are kept hidden and not enjoyed.

2.) Rp/rws can be painted with custom colors, introducing a rainbow of astronaut suit options. The heads can be painted with beards. Blondes, black hair or titian coloring can be incorporated for an unlimited number of design variations. Here are a few exceptional ones from Pat's site:


You could populate a whole otherworldly landscape with re-painted figures while your original, valuable ones enjoy a rest, safely tucked away in safety. Or an option is to repaint your figures using the prototype paint schemes from earlier Mattel dealer catalogs:


3.) Rp/rws offer a new display option. Because they don't have original paint, many collectors don't mind posing them in more difficult displays. Who would sacrifice a nice original paint Jeff, for instance, in the talking backpack knowing that the paint will come off from rubbing against the strap?

4.) Many of the rp/rws have a heavier gauge wire, often of stainless or better material, which resists breakage (at least they're stronger than the 30 year old wire presently in original figures) and is easier to pose. Because the paint is fresher, the figures hold up to wear and handling better (exceptions below).


1.) Depending on the rw/rp technique used, there could be detectable joint seams (the following example has not been re-painted so the "v" shaped cut is more noticeable):


2.) Some paints "aromatize" (a term for the "gassing out" of plasticizers changing the composition of the paint) and become duller or have "blooms" or other defects. Some paints take months to harden and are as delicate as the original paint. The original paint is paint developed for covering latex..others are merely substitutes.

3.) The new paint may be "too shiney" and cause the figure to be extremely glossy, not approximating the original paint (which had some gloss but not as much as a gloss paint. Somewhere between semi-gloss and gloss).

4.) Some re-paint artists have little skill and can really butcher the job (especially the details of the flag).

5.) Some use stainless steel wire which is actually more brittle than regular steel wire (of course, fresh, heavier gauge stainless wire would still be stronger than the original, 30 year old played-with wire!).

With this in mind we come to the real worth of the figures. Are they worth more or less than original painted figures? Considering a nice minty Matt is worth $75-125 on today's market (look at what he's fetching on eBay if you don't believe me!), I think a nice re-paint is worth at least $50-75. Most who are willing to rw/rp figures charge around $40-50 to do the job right.

Add in $10-15 for a beat-up figure and you've got $65. Add in shipping charges both ways and the trouble to re-sell the figure and $75 seems reasonable indeed. If nothing else, the figure is worth far more than the original beat-up figure. The value is really relative to the purpose of having the figure re-done. If the figure is enjoyed as a poser that otherwise would have been locked away on a dark shelf, its value is priceless.

There have been many people who have rw/rp-ed their figures. I've seen pics of figures painted with many different types of paint...Latex Acrylic from Home Depot, Enamels, Polycarbonates, and real paint for Latex. The Latex acrylics and Enamels seem to hold up to wear the least, the Polycarbonates take the longest to dry (if they ever!), and the Paint for Latex seems to be the best (as it's what Mattel appears to have used).

Steve DeLong, a collector in Atlanta painted a Matt with a green Polycarbonate paint. He added a little automotive de-glossier and an automotive drying agent to approximate the original paint. Although a nice figure when I received it, over time the paint has become tacky and has stuck to the stand I placed it in. Steve did a beautiful job painting an ecology flag on his chest, though...


Patrick Storto has experimented with re-painting his own figures. Pics are here:

     http://www.phd.msu.edu/st (there are more in a link above)

There are four who have previously offered their services as rw/rp specialist (at different times, they have withdrawn their services due to overwhelming orders or work/home responsibilities so an answer to an e-mail may be ignored):

1.) Tom Wentland retro50@agapeis.net (no longer has time to rw/rp but still has copies of the video) Produced a video tape for the DIY enthusiast (you can order one directly from him). One of the first to offer his services and has done a lot of research. Uses a heavier gauge wire.

Tom Wentland adds:

Copper wire, 14 gauge, should not be used in white Matt figures. This will cause the same problem as the Barbies with brass earrings. That is, the Chloride in the PVC figure will react with the copper to form cupric chloride and discolor the figure. (over 20 years or so, but I want the figures to last for someone else when I'm gone).

I previously used polycarb paint in my video, in light coats with a long dry time, however recently I attempted a repaint for a client and it turned into a mess. The paint would not cure; I thought it was a bad mix, so I bought another can, and had the same problem. I suspect that Pactra may have changed it's paint mixture slightly- I have no other explanation and don't know why it happened. I have updated the addendum in my Matt repair guide to reflect this.

The paint to use for Matts is called Perma-Matt, from Monster Makers. 7305 Cleveland Ave, Cleveland, OH 44102. 216 631-4329. This stuff is PERFECT and is the exact paint Mattel Used, as far as I can tell. It is also water-soluble. It comes in amounts from $20 and up. The base is white; then you buy color to add to the base. For those who don't have an airbrush, Home Depot sells disposable air brushes for under $10 that accept any type of paint.

2.) Tom Langland mattmason@earthling.net (I receive a bounce back so I believe the address has changed)produces a fine line of rw/rps.
(Try Tom at Tom.Langland@quickmail.llnl.gov)

3.) Dennis Widner (The Toy Surgeon) obiwan@wctel.net
Uses paint that is the closest approximate to the original Mattel paint. Go to his Web site:

     http://www.ps.uga.edu/cs/donna/toy.html for pics.

Dennis adds:

I actually did testing on wire and found that stainless is more durable. I have also used heavier gauge copper which works well also. (but see Tom Wentland's warning above about White Rubber Matts).

As for the seams, You can ask my customers about them. I actually cut on the original seams. In some cases the seam must be filled and I can do that. I try not to disturb the original surface as much as possible. I used to cut down the zipper but I have quit doing that in liu of making more cuts. The zipper area is very noticeable and any disruption here is a disaster. I have sucessfully opened at the zipper area and the sharkman and others have a couple. I now make more cuts, but very un-noticeable.

I have my own questions on durability and longevity. I ask my customers to report in from time to time to see how my work is standing up.
I tell everyone that I know the value is less but at least its more appealing to see a rp/rw, than a half stripped Matt with broken appendages.

I have also customized, they have been very successful. I am actually working on a line that will be out for review soon. Not just different paint jobs !

I think the stand idea is really functional. It allows you to stand him up with gear without anything touching the paint. I will be expanding on them also.

I also "brand" my work under the left foot for those people out there who will try to pawn them off as mint. There are a few out there without a brand.

In closing, I would like to say that I do this only as a hobby and to honor Major Matt Mason. Everyone knows why we are into them. As kids they brought us joy and amazement and these are things we remember for a lifetime. I am just glad I was born to be able to enjoy them. I hate to see bruised MMMs anywhere and I try to bring them back to their glory days.

4.) Jim Hampton jthamp@flash.net Created the John Glenn custom...pics here:


- John Eaton

As stated above, we make no guarantees of any of these cleaning and restoration techniques and provide a listing of what's been tried as a service only. Try these procedures at your own risk.

Finally, should anybody reading this have any similar information, additions or corrections, then we would very much appreciate hearing about them.

All Mattel images and captions are copyright Mattel and used without permission. All other content is copyright 1997-2001 John Eaton or the content's contributor. If there are any comments or objections, please contact John Eaton, by clicking here.

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