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How To Look After Your Figures

Collecting action figures has become an extremely popular hobby over the past four generations since their introduction by Hasbro in the 60's.

In fact many action figures are now produced specifically for the adult collectors market. This increased popularity of the hobby can be attributed to several different factors:

Yesterday's kids are today's collectors:

The collectors market is basically driven by nostalgia and adults such as you and me trying to recapture our childhood.

Most of today's collectors grew up with the original G.I. Joe, Action Man, Masters of the Universe and Star Wars action figures of the 60's, and 70's, or for the younger collectors it's probably the Transformers of the 80's and the WWF (now WWE) of the 90's.

Why has it become so popular?

Simply because now we have the money to spend on all those wonderful toys that we couldn't afford in our childhood but wanted SO much.

My wife is the same, she could never have a Barbie doll as a young girl but now...

She buys anything Barbie!

(she even wanted Barbie seat covers for the car, but I put a stop to that ;-) )

It is because of this basic need that we will continue to see a growth in the action figures collectable market, and values as they continue to be popular with today's kids who will in turn become tomorrow's collectors.

Availability:

As the action figure market has grown up and matured along with generations of kids they have become far more accessible. With the increased demand most of the popular lines of action figures are sold in the local high street stores as well as speciality shops.

But the biggest influence in the increased demand in the hobby and the availability of the action figures has to be the explosive spread of the Internet.

The advent of the internet allows people to buy, sell, or trade their action figures anywhere in the world.

with specialty shops and large chain stores now stocking many of the popular lines that cover a variety of topics from sport, military, TV, movies and music.

Affordability:

Action figures are basically a toy and most are still generally aimed at kids. This means that they must be priced accordingly and remain affordable for kids to buy, which also makes it a relatively inexpensive hobby for collectors.

There are also many large auction sites such as eBay where you can get virtually anything you are looking for and if you shop carefully you can save loads of money on your collection.

Action figures can often represent a good investment if taken care of properly and choosing them carefully.

The down side of this is that they are also often mass produced in such large quantities that they are unlikely to appreciate in value a great deal, but...

On the other hand kids are notoriously bad at taking care of their toys so the vast majority end up either broken, disfigured or lost, so if you keep yours safe and in pristine condition...

Sense of Community:

The internet and particularly the rise recently in the popularity of social bookmarking sites and forums and auction sites has also added interest to the hobby and given it a sense of community.

There are many forums dedicated to the hobby where collectors "meet" to trade action figures, swap tales and reminisce about their childhood, all of which helps to stimulate the market.

Then there are the auction sites where collectors can look for any action figures that may be missing from their collection, usually at very reasonable prices.

Fun:

The hobby also remains fun by allowing you to keep a little of the inner child in you and collect the figures that you REALLY wanted as a child now that you can afford them.

Today's market is very different to that of yesteryear and with the increased interest in the hobby and there are now several companies, e.g. McFarlane's, Sideshow, Neca and Art Asylum, who cater specifically to the adult collectors market and there is a whole industry of paraphernalia and accessories that has grown up around it.

Protecting Your Figures

There are several measures you should take in order to protect your figures, especially your loose figures, to ensure they stay in as mint or pristine a condition as possible.

There are two main types of collector, the hobbyist who collects for the fun and enjoyment he gets and the investor who hopes to make a profit over time.

In the past investing in action figures was often considered a waste of time and money but with the increasing demand in the hobby and the record prices that some action figures have recently sold for, particularly since the growth in the internet and auction sites, many people have had to reconsider this assumption.

But I will discuss the subject of investing in action figures in depth later.

Personally I am a hobby collector first and investor second. In fact it was my passion for collecting that led me into starting my own business and discovering McFarlane figures in the first place but all this was before I moved to Thailand (see my about me page).

Ok, so what should you do to protect your action figures?

First and most importantly, when they're not in use or being stored, you should remove any batteries.

It never ceases to amaze me the number of people who forget this simple, yet important procedure and as a result I have seen many action that have been ruined by battery acid leaking out from the batteries because they hadn't been removed.

It is important that if you intend to store your action figures for any length of time to remove the batteries.

Even better, remove them after every use, just to be safe ;-)

You should also give your figures a good clean before you store them to get ride of any dirt or grime that may damage them. But be careful, this can be a difficult procedure.

To clean them properly see this article...

Whether you intend to display your action figures, play with them or store them for a long period of time or just temporarily it is important to protect them properly.

How can you protect them?

Avoid handling them:

Your hands and fingers have a lot of natural greases and oils which maybe good for your skin but are unfortunately far from healthy for your action figures.

These oils and greases will cause your action figure to yellow and spot if handled too often. When, or if, you have to handle them use gloves or a cloth if possible or pick them up using the shell of a carded figure or the base.

In other words use as little direct contact with your action figure as possible.

Avoid direct sunlight:

One of the biggest problems, and most common, amongst collectors is damage caused by the UV rays from direct sunlight. This can be disastrous for your action figures as it will cause them to become discolored, brittle and cracked.

Even if your action figures are still carded there is still the danger of them getting damaged and the carding will also become discolored as well as the plastic shell becoming brittle.

Humidity:

The humidity of the environment is another important factor to take into account when displaying or storing your action figures.

What is humidity?

Humidity is the amount of moisture in the air.

If it is very humid there is a lot of moisture in the air whereas if it isn't humid then there is little moisture in the air.

But how does that affect you and your action figures?

I will discuss this in more detail further on when I discuss how to store your action figures.

For now let me just say that it is best to keep them in an ambient temperature and humidity.

Removing price tags:

Hopefully, if you've bought your action figure from a reputable dealer the price tag will be on the plastic shell making it easy to remove with warm, please note I say warm NOT hot, water.

But unfortunately many of the national chains put the price tags on the backing card making it difficult to remove without damaging the card.

In the case of particularly stubborn tags you could try using Goo-Gone but this must be used carefully and correctly or you will still risk damaging the card.

Storing Your Action Figures Safely

Taking care of, protecting and storing your action figures is of tantamount importance if you wish them to keep their value, whether it's of sentimental or financial value.

Loose figures are a lot easier to store than carded figures however carded figures are already well protected by their packaging so storage isn't quite as problematic as it is with loose figures.

One of the most important factors to take into account when storing your action figures are their value.

There are many companies now both on and off the net that supply various ways to store and protect your action figures.

Personally I think that your action figures should be displayed and shown off, not locked away in some dark old closet for twenty years, after all that's why you bought them, isn't it?

However, you may not have the room to display all your figures all the time so an alternative is to display what you can and store the rest and then "rotate" them monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly so they aren't "mothballed" forever and will regularly get to see "the light of day" to be looked at and admired.

One of the big benefits of the rise in the popularity of action figure collecting as a hobby is that there are now several companies that specialize in ways to store and protect your collectibles.

There are several alternatives to choose from depending on why you want to store them, how long for and their value.

Sealed Storage Containers:

These are for action figures at the high end of the market. By this I mean action figures that are worth $100's or $1,000's.

Sealed containers are usually used by grading companies to ensure that the items are kept in their graded condition.

They are generally made from a tough, clear plastic often with UV protection as well and are vacuum sealed and are air tight.

The biggest disadvantages with sealed storage containers are the cost and space. The storing of your action figures will cost between $10-$15 using the method so save it for your most valuable only.

Display Cases:

Ideal for both storing and displaying your action figures they are often "stackable" for added flexibility and storage. Most display cases are made from an acrylic plastic, making them strong, durable and hard wearing.

There are many companies that offer these display cases in various styles, shapes and sizes. Many of the display cases on the market will hold six or more figures at a time, providing an excellent and save way to store and display numerous action figures at the same time but also preventing them from both physical and environmental damage.

Another big advantage is that they allow you easier access for periodical cleaning and maintenance of your action figures.

Plastic Shell Cases:

Probably one of the most practical solutions as they offer excellent protection, are affordable and can be used for both loose and carded figures.

Plastic shell cases resemble the manufactures packaging but they are made from a more durable and harder plastic than most and are slightly bigger so they can accommodate loose figures or already carded action figures.

They are available in a variety of sizes and shapes some specifically made to hold certain manufacturers cardrd action figures whereas others are of a more standard size and shape.

Plastic shells are your "in between" solution if you have a figure you want to keep in mint condition or think may become value in the future. They have most of the advantages of storing your action figure in a sealed container and are a lot cheaper and more readily available.

But as with sealed containers it can still be expensive if you have a lot of action figures and storage space can also be a problem.

Re-sealable Containers:

Re-sealable containers have several advantages, they are cheap, generally hard wearing, available in a variety of shapes and sizes, and are easy to store and access.

General everyday re-sealable food containers are ideal for storing your action figures especially the more popular brands of containers such as Tupperware.

Most of this types of containers are made to be strong and hard wearing, they are easy, cheap, easy to store and offer your action figures good protection.

Be careful!

If you are using large containers to store more than one action figure make sure you wrap each figure with a cloth or bubble wrap to help protect them and to prevent them rubbing against each other and causing damage.

Food containers are also useful for storing loose accessories but make sure you label each container clearly so you know what it containers, you could even color code them.

Re-sealable bags:

Re-sealable bags are probably the cheapest, easiest and most convenient way of storing your action figures but they don't offer them much protection.

Available in a variety of sizes and are usually fairly strong they are ideal for storing loose figures and accessories. You can often find a variety of re-sealable storage bags in the kitchenware department of in an office supply store.

I would not recommend using these though except for your cheapest and least valuable of action figures as they protection they offer is very limited.

What Do I Need To Check Before Storing My Action Figures

OK, so now you know how protect and store your action figures what will you do with them now? where should you store them?

There are three very important factors to consider when deciding where to store your action figures:

  • Sunlight-
  • The amount of direct sunlight your action figures are exposed to is a very important factor in deciding where to store them. Direct exposure to the suns UV rays will cause your action figures to discolour, fade, spot, bubble and the plastic will become brittle and dry making them very fragile and easy to brake.

  • Humidity-
  • Humidity is the measure of moisture in the air. The greater the humidity the more moisture there is present.

    If you store your action figures somewhere with a high humidity, i.e. with a lot of moisture, they will rot and corrode but on the other hand too little humidity can cause dry rot and cracking as well as causing the rubber to rot.

  • Temperature-
The temperature of the room or cupboard where you store is also important for similar reasons, if the air is too cold your action figures will become brittle and if it's too hot they will become warped and disfigured.

Where is the best place?

Mmm, so we need to find somewhere away from the sun but isn't to dark to see your action figures, somewhere where it is not too dry, or too damp and isn't too hot or cold.

What place in your home fits all these criteria?

The basement?

No, too cold and damp.

How about the attic, or loft?

No, again too cold and damp.

I know, how about a closet or cupboard in the main house?

This is the ideal place main houe as the temperature and environment are generally ambient and consistent and they will be shut away from the damaging UV rays of the sunlight.

Another advantage of using a cupboard or closet in the house is that they will be easily accessible for periodical cleaning and maintenance.

One more hint, try to use a closet or cupboard that only you use or they may get damaged by others trying to get to something else.

And don't forget to clearly mark or label, on all four sides as well as the top, any boxes or containers you use with what's inside.



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