Tomorrow's Collectibles Today!


How to Save Money When You Buy an Action Figure

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 children's toys but 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 demographic. For the collector this has been excellent news as you can now start your collection with virtually any theme you wish.

It has also entailed that figures are much easier to buy, generally cheaper and of a better quality than they were thirty, twenty or event ten years ago. This also means that many of the manufacturers catering to adults produce their figures in limited quantities to stimulate the market and create rare or premium action figures.

These 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 purely on the basis that 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 as we've said before, today's kids will be tomorrow's collectors.

One of the main benefits of the internet has been that it allows collectors to gather online in communities that are interested in the same subjects and group together, swap notes, stories and trade 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 and validate their passions and giving manufacturers, retailers and collectors a worldwide market for selling, buying and trading their figures and collections. This continual flow of information, buying and selling of figures has also made valuing your figures easier and more accurate.

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 your market and fully research it before you begin. Be prepared. Knowledge is a powerful tool, 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 originally available from and their approximate value now.

You can gradually build yourself a checklist of what has been produced to date, what is readily available and what isn't.

Arming yourself with this information will make it it easier to find what you are looking for and you 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 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 Aston Martin DB5, mint and still in its box, with the ejector seat (and the spare), and instructions for $35. This was around the year 2000 and at that time this particular car was valued at $1200!

Popular Doesn't Always Equal 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!

Most manufacturers sell their action figures to the retailer in cases of 6, 12, or 24 units (units being action figures) per case and there's usually 4-6 figures per set. In theory this should mean that there would be an even spread of two or three complete sets per case, but in almost every instance this is not what actually happens.

Let's take the early Buffy the Vampire Slayer figures as a prime example because this is a perfect illustration of this principle. Each case 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, and 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. So that's six times more Buffy figures produced than Giles. 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 also Willow outnumbered by Buffy three to one) continued to rise in value.

A great number of the excess Buffy figures were picked up by casual fans of the TV show who didn't normally collect figures. But only the avid collectors managed to score themselves a Giles.

So clearly we can learn from this that being prepared, knowing your subject and being aware of previous trends can help you get the figures you want.

How to Decide Where to Buy Your Action Figures?

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

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 actually 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 if a secondhand one is available. Likewise, if you want to display or play with your figure it would probably be better again 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 provided it is cheaper than getting them off the pegs at your local store.

However, many of the adult collectible action figures today are not mass produced and are of limited quantities. This makes good quality secondhand figures difficult to find. Many collectors do not open their figures but keep them sealed in their packaging as this adds to their overall value, often significantly.

Production Quantities:

Most mass-produced figures will be readily available from your local high-street stores such as Wal-Mart, Woolworths, K-Mart, EB, Gamestop etc. These stores obviously have a much greater purchasing power than your local independent outlet and will therefore have the figures at a much cheaper price.

Limited production figures on the other hand are generally sold in specialist stores such as Forbidden Planet and local comic book stores. Some manufacturers will occasionally produce a line for specialist stores as well as a mass produced line. For example 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 try to buy by the case.

For example, if you want a set of the new Major League Baseball Series 22 action figures and you have a few friends who want a set or individual figures from this line it may be 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.

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