I was born in January 1976 so Star Wars was the biggest influence on my entire childhood. I mostly collected the figures because that's what my allowence could afford me. I only had a few full-size ships that I got for presents but I had all of the small die-cast ships since they were in my price range and could be played with in the sandbox and woods without worry of damaging them.
When Kenner/Hasbro put out the new line of Star Wars figures I was torn. I was 18 and broke and couldn't decide if I should buy the figures and look like a geek to any girls I knew or satisfy the urge to reclaim a childhood thrill. I decided that not looking like a geek to girls was more important, but I made weekly trips to the local Payless to check out the figures.
In 1998 I was working as a graphic designer at a small publishing company. I became really good friends with a salesman named Dave at the company who happened to have a 6 year old son. Dave invited me up to his house one evening and I met his son, Kevin, who instantly asked me to come up to his room and pass a level in some game for him (he'd heard stories of my game playing prowess). As I entered his room I saw a sight on his dresser that made my jaw drop. He had about 15 small Star Wars ships that looked exactly like my old die-cast ships. I called Dave into the room and asked him where he got these awesome little ships. He told me that he'd been buying them for Kevin for a number of years.
The next day I went to every department store in my area. I wasn't able to find a single ship although I did pick up a couple of Battle Packs. I kept my eyes open for them but didn't have much luck until one lucky day when I walked into Target and found a shelf with about 40 AFs on it. Target must have had a few cases that had been lost in storage. I went home with about 10 different AFs, including Jabbas Barge, the E-Wing, and the Defender, and I had no idea that any of these were more rare than the others.
I finally got wise one day and starting checking eBay for the remaining AFs. I found the E-Wing selling for over $100 and since I didn't really care for that ship I sold it on eBay to give myself enough money to buy up the Afs I didn't have.
I am now a die-hard AF collector. I collect some 3/4 figures, mainly Jedi, Sith, and all types of Stormtrooper, but AF is my the collection I just can't do without. I have them all stored in boxes right now but I plan to build a display case as soon as I have a house. I am no longer worried about letting girls see my collection of Star Wars stuff. I got over it after I started collecting SW toys again and I realized that any girl I was going to date would have to accept my boyish hobbies. I met my wife 6 years ago and she never once thought I was a geek for collecting Star Wars toys and comic books although she may be surprized to see just how many boxes of toys emerge from my closet when we finally move.