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How to Start Collecting Action Figures: Part 2 What Makes a Figure Collectable?


Halo action figure

What makes a figure collectible?

People often ask me how I know if something is going to be collectible or not?

To be honest most of it is a gut feeling and part of it is an educated guess based on my experience in the business.

Obviously the more knowledge you have, the more accurate your educated guess or gut feeling is likely to be.

Having been in the business for 15 years, both offline and on, and being in touch with the grass roots collectors and consumers has helped me keep my finger on the pulse.

There's one simple piece of advice I can give you, which is to remember that:


"Today's toys are tomorrow's collectibles"

Now, let me clarify what I mean by that;

Look around you.

  • What are the kids into NOW?
  • What drives their imagination?
  • What games, cartoons, and comic books do they want?
  • What are the most popular toys for Christmas?

These are what are likely to be the collectibles of the future, the things that will be selling in another 10-20 years. So why?

Simply, because the market is driven by nostalgia.

If you take a good look at today's most valuable and collectible items, they're generally what were popular when we were kids (or at least when I was a kid!). Unfortunately, it's not just about numbers. If something is made in sufficiently low quantities it doesn't always mean it will become collectible and increase in value, in fact many mass produced figures have become highly collectible.

This is because there are many other factors that come into play here that can and do affect the market and market prices.

So what are these factors and how can you best use them to your advantage?

The most important factors to consider are:

  • Popularity
  • Supply and Demand
  • Accessibility
  • Brand loyalty
  • Longevity

ben 10 action figure

So let's take a closer look at each of these:

Popularity: In order for something to become collectible it needs to have a certain fan-base in order for there to be a demand for the item. The greater the fan-base and the more loyal the fans are the greater the collectability of the merchandise.

Supply and Demand: This is the driving force of ANY economy or product, no matter what it is. If there is more demand than supply prices will rise but if there is a greater supply than demand prices will fall.

The secret is to find that fine balance between the two and this is where many companies get it wrong, by either over supplying the market so the product ends up getting "dumped" or undersupplying the market thereby forcing prices up and becoming overpriced.

Accessibility: By this I mean actual ability to purchase the product as this can vary from region to region as well as from country to country. For example McFarlane Sports Picks figures aren't licensed in Asia so they are hard to come by and collectors are therefore willing to pay a little more for them. Also many manufacturers release different quantities of the same figure to different markets or the case split between the USA and Europe may be different.

Brand loyalty: Are the fans hungry for the merchandise? Will they buy anything that is associated with this movie, sport, cartoon or video game?

A great example of brand loyalty is major football fans who will often buy anything and everything related to their chosen team. The sports market produces a vast amount of collectibles because of this phenomenon.

Longevity or Staying Power: Will it still be around in 20 years? Will people still remember it?

If the answer to both these questions is yes, then it's highly likely that this will become collectible and will be a good "investment".

Look at Star Wars, PoKeMoN, Transformers and Star Trek to name but a few.

They have become part of today's popular culture and are still talked about, watched and seen as being popular, even decades after their original release.

So my advice is this...

If you're getting into collecting to make a quick buck, forget it. There are simply too many factors involved, making it as complex as stock market trading. That being the case there are other, simpler markets that you can look into.

However, long term if you invest in the right lines the return in 10-20 years can be huge, certainly better than the average return on your bank savings.

disney action figure

So to sum up:

Look for what's popular now

Do your homework. Check the top comics, cartoons, TV programs, films etc and look for common themes.

Look at popular household names.

What games or toys do your kids and friends want.

Which toys end up getting broken a lot. Examples of these in perfect condition will be extremely desirable in a few decades.

What has a high demand and low supply right now? (This may change over time, remember how difficult it was to get Buzz Lightyear in 1995. Now he's everywhere. But some lines never get that resupply and their scarce figures become collector gold.)


Here are my five hot tips for the future...

  • Ben 10
  • Yu-Gi-Oh
  • Bakugan
  • Beyblade
  • Skylanders

These are currently HOT with kids, not just in the States but GLOBALLY, and it's that, I believe, that will make these so collectible and sought after in the future





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