One last Week in Geek: Ben & Mr. T

As far as the A&E section of The Signal goes, the 2005-2006 academic year will be known as The Year of the Geek. I hope that I have informed as well as entertained, and I hope I have made everyone on campus feel a little more comfortable about their geekiness.

My last column is a personal one because it deals with the one geek hobby people on campus associate me with the most. I, Ben Leach, a skinny, white, middle-class kid, am working on amassing the world’s largest and most complete Mr. T collection.

Mr. T, to me, is the physical embodiment of the 1980s. He was a hero, whether he was the tough guy/mechanic B.A. Baracus on “The A-Team,” leading a team of crime-solving teenage gymnasts in his self-titled cartoon or being Rocky’s most formidable opponent (even more so than Ivan Drago). He was the man.

Collecting Mr. T memorabilia may seem like a challenge since it’s so specific, but thankfully, Mr. T was a merchandising mogul. He put his face on everything. I have no doubt that Mr. T signed every contract that was put in front of him in the ’80s when it came to merchandising.

Toys seem to be the most common items. “The A-Team” was enormously popular with kids, and so all kinds of Mr. T items were produced in relation to the show. The Mr. T doll was actually the first doll to outsell Cabbage Patch Kids after their wildly successful debut. I also have about 10 different versions of the infamous “A-Team” van.

Mr. T is also found in many classic ’80s toys. I have Colorforms, Lite Brite patterns and Shrinky Dinks that all bear Mr. T’s likeness.

“Yeah, well, I’ll bet he doesn’t have the Mr. T cereal box like the one from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure!” you may say. A Mr. T cereal box is rare (sealed ones with the cereal still intact sell for well over a hundred bucks), but not only do I have one, I also have a folder sent to supermarkets on how to set up and promote Mr. T cereal. I even have the stickers that came with Mr. T cereal.

I also have a few one-of-a-kind items. I have a contract from the “Late Show with David Letterman” from one of Mr. T’s appearances. This has all kinds of personal information. I actually know Mr. T’s social security number (and no, I’m not telling you what it is). I also own a photo of Mr. T that was used in the barbershop scene in “Undercover Brother.” Look closely and you can see it.

eBay has been a wonderful resource for Mr. T collecting because not only can you find one-of-a-kind items like the ones I just mentioned, but there are hundreds of Mr. T items from around the world that were never available in America! They may cost an arm and a leg to ship, but they’re worth every converted penny.

What makes collecting Mr. T stuff even more exciting is that new Mr. T merchandise is produced today. The Mr. T bobblehead and the Mr. T In Your Pocket are two of the items you may have seen at your local Spencer’s or Hot Topic.

Mr. T is a hero. He’s my hero, and I hope someday, I get the chance to meet him to tell him how much money I’ve spent to acquire every last object that bears his likeness.