Hey all. I wanted to share some (terrible) pics I took of something dear to my LEGO heart.
I bought this particular 6086 back in the dark ages of eBay (c. 1996). It came from a toy shop owner in Italy with crazy kindness who actually shipped this to me before I paid him. I have documentation somewhere, but I believe I paid ~$180 USD at the time.
At that point I already had my own copy of the set that I had built and displayed since a couple of years prior. It quickly become my favorite LEGO castle set ever, and the collector in me wanted to get a second, sealed set before the price got too much more out of hand.
It sat in storage and suffered a few moves with me over the next 15 years. It became tiresome trying to protect it, while still busting it out to look at it every now and then. What I really wanted was a way to display it safely. I had the idea in my head for some time to get an acrylic case for it, but couldn't quite bring myself to pull the trigger on the project. I didn't have the right tools to do it, and I'd never done anything like that before which meant a high probability that I'd mess up and have to redo it, etc.
Then one day I was scanning eBay for random crap that I most definitely didn't need, and came across some Transformers that had been graded and encased in an acrylic shell. They looked well-done to me, so I went to the AFA (Action Figure Authority) website to research costs.
Turns out that AFA is a sub-division of CGA (Collectible Grading Authority), who also has CDA (Collectible Doll Authority), DCA (Die-Cast Authority), and VGA (Video Game Authority). They are in the business of "professionally grading" your item, and securing it in acrylic. I can only imagine that this company started up because of the insane success that a similar company provided the comic book collecting hobby, which had since been completely transformed in the wake of the concept of comic books being independently graded by a third party.
Anyway, I wasn't terribly interested in having my 6086 graded, as I knew it was in decent shape and didn't really need anyone else to tell me that, and I had no plans to ever sell it. And while the cost wasn't cheap, I decided to get it done knowing (hoping?) that it would be in the hands of someone that would do it well, and leave me with with a final product that I was happy with.
I'm very happy with it and their service. When I pick up the case, there's no wiggle room in there. The box is secured within the outer shell by some smaller, acrylic "wall" strips which I tried to showcase in one of these pics. The label is large and easy to read.
My cost breakdown on the invoice was as such:
1) the grading service and construction of a custom size acrylic case using their best acrylic, which they call "archival" (no U/V penetration): $160
2) I opted to have them "gently clean" the box of anything they could find on it: $3
3) return shipping: $25
4) mandatory insurance: $6
At face value, that may seem outrageous. I mean, that's the cost of a freaking Town Hall. But it was something that I wanted to have done for awhile, and was important to me. I'm sure there had to be a couple of hours of labor involved in this, so the price feels perfectly fair. I also found it nice that they included a "grader's report", which I've attached.
Some other thoughts/clarifications:
~Yes, this case is permanent! Since it's a graded product, you cannot access the item inside ever again. I mean, I could obviously break it open but that would void the grade. I know it seems blasphemous to do this to a LEGO set, but like I said, I already have another 6086 that I do actually build and enjoy. The collector side of me wanted to have a sealed copy.
~Aside from my terrible cell phone camera, the pics may also look extra-fuzzy because the case itself is wrapped in a fairly thick, protective poly bag. It was so perfectly wrapped and taped that I haven't bothered to ever remove it. Keeps it from getting scratched. The bag also has some fold lines which you can see on the top-edge pic. The case itself is very smooth and seamless.