Makras Figures

The LOTR Movie Site
September 6, 1999

Guy Lepper Interview
Jeremiah Lewis

Guy Lepper sells rare Tolkien figurines sculpted by Mike Makras to customers around the world through his Tolkien's Middle-Earth @ Makras online store. Recently, Jeremiah Lewis got a chance to ask him a few questions about the products he sells and what his take is on the upcoming LOTR films.

Jeremiah: Let's get started. First, how do your figures reflect the wonder and ingenuity of Tolkien's amazing universe? Are each of the figures different from any other, in other words, are they hand crafted with careful planning?

Guy: I believe the Makras sculptures capture a small part of the overall wonder that Tolkien created with his Middle-Earth masterpieces. Many long time Makras fans have described their favorite pieces as having an Old World charm or even having a magical air about them. That’s precisely how I feel about the Makras works that’s what has kept me collecting for the past 21 years. As I have told many new fans, you actually have to hold one of these fine sculptures to appreciate the incredible hand made detail.

And yes each and every piece is all hand made from start to finish. No molds or presses are used to create these incredibly detailed works of art. As each piece is hand sculpted and hand colored you can sometimes see some minor differences in form and color from piece to piece.

I purchased my first piece in 1978, a large Bilbo sculpture, and I can honestly say that after 21 years I still find myself drawn to that particular sculpture. I still pause to admire the emotion expressed in that piece. This is perhaps Mr. Makras’ greatest talent, the ability to express emotions in his figure using very animated facial expressions.

Jeremiah: How will your business be affected by the movies by Peter Jackson. Do you expect a huge revenue increase, or has the need and desire for figurines been cheapened by plastic merchandising?

Guy: I really don’t believe that there will be a large increase in the sale of the Makras sculptures due to the upcoming LOTR movies. I’ve given a lot of thought to this subject and I believe that the movies will create a whole new type of fan. I think that these new fans will actually be fans of the movie first and then the whole Tolkien mythos second. The older, hard core, long time Tolkien fan will see the movies as a new addition to ,or a new rendition of, the much loved Tolkien epic. All of these existing fans have cracked the books and immersed themselves in Middle Earth many times. Their first interpretations of the images that Tolkien stirs with his words started with their own imaginations and have since been exposed to countless portrayals of Middle Earth images created by many talented artists. These fans have gladly accepted the many different visual interpretations of Middle-Earth.

For the new fans, their first exposure to Frodo, Gandalf and Bilbo will be the images presented by Mr. Jackson. To these fans Gandalf will be the image portrayed by Sir Ian McKellen , Frodo will be the image portrayed by Elijah Wood, and Bilbo will always then be the image portrayed by Ian Holm. I think that after the movies are released you will find that these fans will not really be interested in LOTR art and images that they cannot relate directly to the movie. I could imagine showing to a movie fan the Hildebrant Brothers interpretation of Gandalf. That fan might then respond by saying "No sir you are incorrect, that is simply not Gandalf , and believe me I should know…..I’ve seen the movie five times". So I think the licensed merchandise bearing the images portrayed in the movie will do a brisk business. Though I do not believe products or art bearing a different likeness than that of the movie images will be strongly affected. These works will still be collected by the existing fans that will, as I said earlier, only see the movies as yet another expression of the great Tolkien works

Also I don’t believe that the desire for the type of art that Mr. Makras creates has been affected by the increased volume of plastic figures offered by companies such as Toy Vault. The Toy Vault pieces are a very high quality and amazingly detailed product. But there is little comparison between a molded plastic figure, with a run of 10,000, and a hand sculpted work of art with only 80 previous renditions in a 20 year period.

Jeremiah: Are you going to be producing items specifically for the movies? If so, how soon will you begin production of new figures for the movies? How does licensing play into this scenario?

Guy: Mr. Makras will not be creating any pieces related to the upcoming movies. I’m sure that New Line Cinema has many incredibly talented people prepared to produce original sculptures to be used as prototypes as soon as the appearance of each character is determined. Obviously the merchandising end of this is big business.

Jeremiah: In terms of collectibility, do you expect the value of your statues to increase in the months following the first film's release? For example, would it be wise for a collector to invest in a statue now? Is there likely to be a high return?

Guy: In terms of collectability I honestly don’t think the Makras figures can be beat. Over the last 2 decades Mr. Makras has concentrated his talents on his extremely popular hand carved chess sets. These sets feature the smaller MiddleEarth chess pieces. He actually has not been offering these larger table sculptures for almost 20 years. But due to fan requests he is now once again producing the larger sculptures. All of his MiddleEarth pieces are part of a limited edition series. If any piece reaches the 1,000th rendition of that design then that design will be retired. In most cases there have been just over 100 previous renditions of any single design. I believe that the fact that there have been so few of these larger sculpture made makes each and every one more valuable.

For an example, last year I posted a piece from my personal collection on eBay. It was a 20 year old Bilbo sculpture. At that time I was not aware that Mr. Makras was still was still creating his Middle-Earth figures and I stated that in the ad. So many bidders must have assumed that there would be no new Makras pieces made available. With that apparent thought in mind the bidding was heavy.The final bid reached over $325.00 and yet I declined to sell, believing that these pieces will even have a much greater value in the future.

Jeremiah: Thanks for answering our questions today. Your insight into these subjects is greatly appreciated. Any last words?

Guy: In closing I would like to thank the LOTR Movie Site for the opportunity to answer their questions and also all of the Makras fans that have purchased sculptures at the Makras online store. Your enthusiastic response has been greatly appreciated.