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Meet the collectors: Sonny Skinner

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Meet the collectors: Sonny Skinner

Video game art collectors discuss their treasures.

Arjan Terpstra

14 Oct 2021 ⋅ 4 min read

In this series of interviews, collectors talk about their love for video game and pop culture art, their personal preferences and the way they display their items. This week: Sonny Skinner from Redmond, Washington talks about collecting quality objects.

“For video game art, I find it difficult to find quality vendors,” Sonny Skinner says in our online meeting. "I mean there's always pop culture stuff to buy, but the high end stuff? That's still hard to come by despite the popularity of games and comics."

When I meet the Google Software Engineer online, he's burning the midnight oil in his Redmond (WA) home. Despite the late hour, he's upbeat and talkative, taking his time to walk me (and his phone camera) around the house for a tour of his impressive art collection--there's so much framed art on the walls he should charge people for gallery admission.

Iron Man

“When I want to add something to my collection, I feel fortunate that I don’t have to ask for permission or negotiate as my wife and I are both geeks,” he says while he trains the camera on a large, framed Iron Man print. "This is art by Ryan Meinerding, who is the Head of Visual Development at Marvel Studios. We are big fans of the Marvel franchise and we would look for Ryan’s booth at Comic-Con."
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© Jae Lykken Photography

Captain America fights Iron Man, in his large signed art piece by Marvel Studios' artist Ryan Meinerding.



The Skinner family has a long record of collecting artefacts from pop culture. "I first started collecting video games in high school, always buying two copies of a game, one to play and one to archive. People thought I was weird. Of course today, a shrink wrapped copy of “Castlevania: Symphony of the Night” or “FINAL FANTASY VII,” are so rare and incredibly valuable."

Conventions

The couple would graduate to collecting statues and posters. Soon, they would be regulars at pop culture conventions. "We religiously attended San Diego Comic-Con for years, where we found our first art piece, a lithograph inside a collector's edition strategy guide for Metal Gear 4. We got it signed by Metal Gear game director Hideo Kojima who was at the convention too. Meeting the creator and having a piece signed by him was the holy grail for us, you know?"
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© Jae Lykken Photography

The Skinner's "holy grail" is this lithograph, part of the collector's edition strategy guide for Metal Gear 4, signed by game director Hideo Kojima.

The litho set the tone for things to come. "We kept looking for similar items and learned that there wasn't much in the market for museum quality video game art. Like, where do you find it? For a short time, there was a French gallery, AOJI ('Art of Original Japanese Illustrators', now defunct), selling some video game art, but they no longer seem to be in business. On the video game front, Blizzard started selling lithographs on their website, mostly reproductions of box art, but for a long time, that was about it."
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© Jae Lykken Photography

Key art for the Hearthstone expansion Goblins vs Gnomes, by Laurel D Austin.

Size matters

“Finding oversized pieces was especially challenging,” Sonny adds. His tour ends in front of his dazzling StarCraft art, a piece called Marine vs Hydralisk, measured an impressive 150 cm high and 143 cm wide, and printed on metal. "This is my showcase piece. We had a 4th of July BBQ last summer, and my wife just kept bringing friends and neighbors in to admire it. Even though they were not familiar with the genre, they were impressed by the sheer size and material. They were all like, 'what is this', 'what is it made out of?'"
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© Jae Lykken Photography

Sonny Skinner (right) posing in front of the large "Marine vs. Hydralisk" artwork, 150 cm high and 143 cm wide, and printed on metal. "How I pick art sizes? I go by the go-big or go-home mentality. I just buy art that I like without any regard to my wall space or any expectation of hanging it. Most of my prints are stored in a custom flat storage table which can hold 28"w x 40"h prints."

"In short, excluding family photos, most people decorate their homes with traditional art. But for us, the tricky part is to display museum quality video game and pop art and make it look like a family home and not a gigantic man cave haha."

A collection of both shrink wrapped nineties' games and framed game art must hold some value. Does that mean the owners are looking at their art as an investment, too? "We should, but we do not. I mean I know the expense is not trivial and most items have true value in the market and we do take extra care when we archive things, but we never think about our collection in that way. We're just big pop culture fans."
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© Jae Lykken Photography

Thanos, casually doing his thing in this polystone statue.

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© Jae Lykken Photography

Various statues of video game characters, with Kerrigan (aka the Queen of Blades) of StarCraft fame on the left.

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