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Do You Want To Save Money Buying Action Figures?

Yes! Of course you do.

So do I.

But how?

Where are the best places to buy my Action Figures?

How can I get discount?

All these questions and more will be answered in this short guide on how to buy cheap action figures. I will give you a breakdown on what to buy and where. How to do the research and how to get discounts? With this guide and my tips and techniques from over ten years in the business you will be able to save yourself loads of $$'s on building your collection.

Over the past three decades the popularity of Action Figure collecting has exploded phenomenally and a huge multi-million dollar market has sprung up around the hobby.

Previously the market catered mainly for the children's toy market but as there has been an increasing number of adult collectors to cater for more and more manufacturers have been producing action figures specifically targeting this new market.

This has meant that there is a much wider variety of Action Figures available than ever before. In fact in many circles of Hollywood or Sports you are not considered to have "made it" until you have had an Action Figure based on you or your character produced.

For the collector this has been excellent news as you can start your collection on virtually any subject you wish.

It has also meant that they are also much easier to buy and generally cheaper and of a better quality than they were thirty years ago.

But it has also meant that many of the manufacturers catering to the adult market produce many of their action figures in limited quantities to stimulate the market and create rare, or premium action figures.

These are the ones that generally increase in value over the years and are often the ones that collectors "chase" after, hence the term "chase figure" that is often used to describe these.

However, it is also important to bear in mind that something doesn't always appreciate in value just because it is rare.

As with all things it comes back to the old supply and demand equation. The greater the demand and lower the supply the higher the value.

Remember, it's what is popular TODAY with kids that will be of value and in demand in the future because it is TODAYS kids who will be tomorrow's collectors.

Anyway, I drift from the purpose of THIS guide and will deal with investing in figures and their values in another report.

Ok?

Another big benefit other the last decade has been the internet.

The internet has allowed collectors to gather online in communities that are interested in the same subjects and group together, swap notes and stories and trade or swap with each other.

This sharing of information and coming together of collectors has been a great benefit to the hobby as a whole by allowing collectors to find others who share their passions and allowing manufacturers, retailers and even collectors a worldwide market for selling or trading their action figures and collections.

This continual flow of information, buying and selling of action figures has also made valuing your figures easier and more accurate.

Please bear in mind that this guide is aimed at the individual collector and not your average trader although both will benefit from reading it.

When deciding where you're going to buy your action figures and how much you are willing to pay there are several factors you should take into consideration.

Know Your Subject

First and foremost make sure you know you're market and fully research it before you begin, be prepared. Knowledge is a powerful tool, but ignorance is your worst enemy.

Make sure you know which figures were made, when they were made, how many were made, which were the rare or "chase" figures available, how much they sold for when new, whether they are now out of production, where they were available and their approximate value now.

With this information you can gradually build yourself a checklist of what has been produced to date and what is readily available and what isn't. Armed with this information you will find it easier to find what you are looking for and will be better able to negotiate a good price.

One of your biggest obstacles will be that manufacturers don't always list all the variants or error figures available so always keep your eyes open and ear to the ground for anything unusual.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to research your chosen "niche" carefully and thoroughly. Many times I've come across "unofficial" or unknown "chase figures" at ridiculously cheap prices, simply because I knew my subject.

I once picked up a 1964 James Bond Austin Martin car, mint and still in its box, with the ejector seat (and the spare), and instructions for $35. This was about ten years ago and at that time this particular car was valued at $1200!

Popular Doesn't Always = Valuable

Many people are under the false impression that the more popular an action figure is then the more valuable it will be, however this is often NOT the case.

In fact it is more common for the LEAST popular action figure in a line to be the more valuable!

Why?

Let me explain.

Most manufacturers sell their action figures to the retailer in cases of 6, 12, or 24 units (action figures) per case with usualyl 4-6 figures per set.

In theory this should mean that there would be two or three complete sets per case, but alas this is NOT what happens.

Let's take a set of the early Buffy figures as a prime example because this is a perfect illustration of this effect.

Each case of the action figures contained twelve figures and because Buffy was the main character and therefore more popular more Buffy figures were produced than the others.

Likewise as Giles was seen as the least popular in the series, Angel and Willow were the other two figures in the set, there were a lot fewer of him produced.

The final case breakdown therefore was six Buffy figures, three Angels, two Willows and only one Giles.

Now here's the kicker. Which one do you think sold for the most?

Buffy?

No, this is the most logical answer but...

Remember there were SIX TIMES more Buffy figures produced than Giles and so the demand for Giles outstripped the supply causing it to rocket in price.

In fact as a result dealers, myself included, started buying cases to get the Giles figure resulting in the price of the Buffy figure plummeting to about $1 each!

But the Giles figure (and Willow) continued to rise in value.

So the moral is be prepared and KNOW you're subject.

What Should I Consider Before I Decide Where To Buy My Action Figures?

There are several different factors that will ultimately influence where you buy from and how much you will pay, so we'll look at these first then where to buy.

Do you want new or secondhand?

Before you jump to decisions and decide on only buying new figures first think about what you are going to do with your action figure.

For example if you are going to customize it (more on customizing later) then you would be wasting your money buying a new figure.

Likewise, if you want to display or play with your figure it would probably be better to buy a good condition secondhand figure.

Also most mass produced figures do not appreciate a great deal over the years so again you are probably better advised to buy your more common figures as secondhand.

However, many of the adults collectible Action Figures these days are not mass produced and are of limited quantities.

This makes good quality secondhand figures difficult to find.

Also many collectors DO NOT open their figures but keep them sealed in their packaging as this adds to their overall value (often adding 2-3 times the value).

Production Quantities:

Most mass produced figures will be readily available from your local high street stores such as Wal-mark, Woolworths, K-mart, EB, Gamestop etc.

These stores obviously have a much stronger purchasing power than your local independent store and will therefore have the figures at a generally much cheaper price.

Limited production figures on the other hand are generally sold in specialist stores such as Forbidden Planet and local comic book shops.

Some manufacturers will occasionally produce a line for "specialist" stores as well as a mass produced line.

A prime example of this is the recent Halo 3 Series 1 action figures from McFarlane.

How many you want:

As with most things the more you buy the greater your bargaining power and the better your chances of negotiating a bigger discount.

Where possible I try to buy by the case.

For example, if you want a set of the new MLB Series 22 action figures and you have a few friends who want a set or individual figures from this set it maybe worthwhile "clubbing" your money together and buying a case or two.

You will find that by doing this you can generally cut your costs substantially.

Rarity:

The rarity of the action figure you are looking for will not only influence where you buy it from but also the price you are likely to have to pay for it.

The rarer the figure is the harder it is likely to be to find, but you never know where it may turn up so remember, no matter where you are ALWAYS keep your eyes open.

I've found some excellent bargains in the strangest of places other the years.

Sometimes the MOST obvious of places to look are also the MOST expensive. So be patient, take your time and shop around.

Remember they're many different terms and types of rarity associated with action figures so make sure you understand the terminology and different levels of rarity first, if you're unsure you will find full details and information here.

OK, those are the main factors governing your choices of where to buy your action figures from.

Now let's look at the different places you can buy them from.

Where to Buy Your Action Figures From

There are many different places you can go to buy your action figures and each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

I usually have a short list of three places that I regularly buy from, depending on what I'm looking for.

Why three?

Simply because I use one for buying my "common" or standard figures, one for bulk purchases (i.e. cases) and one for the rarer or limited addition figures.

This way I can generally get the best price possible from each supplier and by using a regular supplier you can build a better relationship and get more "perks".

High Street Stores:

Your local high street store is often the best and cheapest place to buy your action figures, however your choice is often very limited as they tend to only stock a few of the most popular lines and then they generally will only stock them for a short period of time.

These types of stores include Wal-mart, Woolworths, K-mart, Tescos, EB and Gamestop etc.

There are many advantages of buying from your local high street store.

Firstly because they AREN'T specialists and deal in volume rather then individual items they usually sell all the figures in a line for the same price no matter how rare or popular it is.

This makes them the ideal place to pick up "chase" figures at a low price when a new line is first released.

But you'll have to be quick as there are many collectors and traders who scour the shelves of these stores regularly for this reason.

Specialist Stores:

Most towns and cities have a local comic book shop or collectors shop selling action figures, trading cards, collectible card games and other such items. If you're not sure where yours is check out the local yellow pages or go to the comic shop locator on Diamond Distributors website to find the nearest to you (Sorry, for U.S residents only).

Your local comic book shop should have a wide variety of figures available, although usually at a higher price but they are also usually more open to negotiation.

The biggest advantages of using a local retailer are:

Your figures will be in mint condition

  • No postage charges
  • No risk of damage due to mishandling
  • You can physically check your action figure before you buy it. More approachable
  • Easier to build a relationship
  • Online Shops/Stores

The internet has opened the hobby up to multitudes of people who previously couldn't buy their action figures locally but now, with the internet, you can get virtually anything you want.

But beware!

The biggest disadvantage of this has been the huge increase in fraud, scammers and conmen on the net.

But follow my basic guide for finding a reputable and genuine online retailer and you shouldn't have any problems.

If you do, or have any cause to complain about any online store please let me know and I will investigate the matter for you and if need be blacklist them.

So, how do you decide who to trust?

The following steps are how I usually find a new supplier when I'm looking for something:

Google search the item

  • Look at the top ten sites listed
  • Check the prices, shipping + handling charges, delivery times, return policy and contact details on each site. If any of them are missing any of this information then I cross them off my list.
  • Send an e-mail enquiry- I do this for two reasons, to see how good their response time and customer service is and to make sure that there is someone there!
  • Google the site name- this is an excellent way of finding out if there are any complaints or bad press against the site.

However bear in mind that most people are quick to complain but rarely write about how GOOD a site or company was.

So if you find ONE complaint about a particular site this is unlikely to mean it is a BAD site.

You also need to take into consideration how busy the site is and the number of complaints in proportion to the number of visitors it receives. You can check this at www.alexa.com .

Short list the top three by comparing their prices, shipping charges, and returns policy. Then make a "trial" order from your top choice.

Initially make this order small enough so if there is a problem it will be no great loss but at the same time is something you need. This will stand as a good test of their service and quality.

Follow these simple steps and you should find a trustworthy and reputable dealer to order from without running the risk of loosing your money.

Most importantly check their policy on returns or damaged stock as many Action Figures are fragile and if not packaged correctly are easily damaged in the post.

Having been both a retailer and buyer I know from hard experience that the post office will often throw your packages about without any thought of what might be inside and without any heed of the "FRAGILE" sticker on the outside.

I will list a few of my top recommended sites at the end of this report.

Car Boot & Garage Sales:

Car boot and garage sales are big business in the UK and are usually held on a Sunday.

A garage sale is when you hold a sale out of your own garage. Maybe your moving house and selling of what you don't want to take, or last years clothes and toys. A garage sale is therefore usually a private sale making negotiating a deal much simpler, but it can also be very time consuming with little reward searching round all the local garage sales, although some excellent bargains can often be found.

A friend of mine used to make a living by going round the local garage sales to buy things he then took home and sold on eBay.

A car boot sale is usually held in a large field often on the outskirts of a town or city. Each person pays a nominal fee for their pitch which is general a cars length.

Traditionally car boot sales were exactly that, people would pull up and sell directly from the back of their cars. This has now progressed to people usually using a pasting table or such like to display their wares on.

Car boot sales are extremely popular and some have hundreds of cars in attendance each week. These are brilliant for finding bargains and even if you don't find the action figure you want I guarantee you won't go home empty handed!

The best place for checking out your local car boot sales or garage sales is your local newspaper of Trader magazine.

Collectors Fairs and Comic Cons:

These are very popular in the USA and UK but I can't vouch for the rest of Europe, or other countries. The most popular of these will often have thousands of dealers or traders in one or two large exhibition halls, whereas the smaller more local Comic Cons or fairs are often held in hotel function rooms.

These events have everything from Lego to Hornby Trains, Star Wars to Pumpkin Head, Autographs to stickers. The variety and prices can often be eye opening and you'll always find something of interest.

Most of the bigger shows usually have stars in attendance signing autographs for a small fee. These are excellent places to fill those gaps in your collection and great opportunity to find some fantastic bargains.

Many dealers at these shows "dump" there old stock, much in the same as the local high street fashion shops have their end of season sales, to make room for new stock coming in.

You can find information on these by googling Comic Cons, in your local paper or in collector's magazines such as Toyfare.

Alternatively you can check here where I will be listing the most popular of these that are held annually so if you know of any in your area or country please let me know.

If you are an organizer or promoter of a Comic Con or Collectors Fair then please add yours to the list.

Magazines and Newspapers:

The classified section of your local newspaper is another good source of cheap action figures, or the classified sections of national magazines.

Instead of looking in the collectors magazines try looking in magazines or fanzines related to the subject, e.g. If your looking for a New York Yankees McFarlane figure checkout the New York Yankee's fan site, magazine or fanzine.

When looking for your figures it is also important to remember that not everyone has a computer, so try and think about where those who don't might go to sell their action figures.

Government Auctions/Local Auctions:

Have you ever wondered what happens to a shops stock when it goes bankrupt or out of business?

Many times its stock ends up in a government auction and is sold off to recover any taxes that maybe owed by the business, on other occasions a local auction house may be requested to auction the stock on behalf of the auditors in order that the proceeds can be given to any creditors.

In both of these circumstances you can get items for a fraction of their usual retail price, but the times and locations of these auctions are often a closely guarded secret.

Online Auctions:

I've saved this one till last because it is a HUGE subject and I will be covering it in depth as a separate report, looking at eBay particularly.

EBay is probably the biggest and most popular of the online auction sites is with approx 56 million users!

EBay is definitely a buyers market with just about everything you could imagine being sold.

One of eBay's biggest ever sales was an old WWII Warship, and not a replica or toy ship, but the real McCoy!

But over the years as its popularity has grown so has the number of crooks and conmen who will very quickly take your money and run.

It is therefore very important to know what you are doing when buying or selling on eBay and to know the scams to look out for and how best to protect yourself against them.

It is because of this that I will look at some of the most successful online auctions separately and in detail from signing up to buying your first action figure and completing your first transaction.

If you are already a buyer or seller on eBay then you've probable already experienced what I'm talking about, if not I hope it stays that way for you.

In summary there are many places to buy your action figures from. My recommendation to you is that you find a reputable local dealer and strike a relationship with them for your basic requirements.

Find a good online source for your harder to find action figures and a good source for your bulk purchases.

Find out about any good car boot sales that are held regularly in your area and any Comic Con or Collectors fairs.

Lastly, use the online auctions only when necessary for those harder to find items.

A Few Tips and Hints

The biggest scam on the internet currently is phishing or identity theft. NEVER EVER EVER give out any passwords, id's, bank details etc by email.

Always go to the companies or banks website through your browser, i.e. Explorer, Safari, Firefox or Opera etc.

Google Alert- this is an excellent tool and highly recommended. Let's say you are looking for a Rock WWF(E) wrestling figure. All you need to do is add an alert for The Rock, or The Rock WWF and whenever this is used on a forum or website (or eBay listing) Google will email you with a link to the site or auction concerned!

Register on any relevant forums or newsgroups, these are great sources for finding figures either for trade or sale, often in mint condition.



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