Tips For Buying Your Figures and Where to Find Them

Tomorrow's Collectibles Today!


How to Find Action Figures Hidden in Stores

aaa wrestling figure

How often have you gone to your local Toys R Us, Wal-Mart, or Target store for the latest action figures and been disappointed by the lack of selection? The trouble is that the hobby has become so popular now, that there are many scalpers about. Scalpers sometimes buy up most of the toys, if not all of them from a popular line, and certainly rare figures, or figures of a popular character in order to resell them for a quick buck.

But who are these scalpers?

Most of the time we can rule out the notion of kids buying up the stock because of the targeted nature of the purchases, the high quantities and the sheer amount of capital it would take to get them.

Scalpers are often the employees of the very same stores you want to buy figures in, though they often buy up the stock in other outlets than their own place of business. Frequently, scalpers are not serious collectors, but are instead only interested in making a quick buck off of the traditional collector. They work close to the markets and are thus well aware of trending lines and what's hot. When you're disappointed because you can't find the figure you want, the scalpers will have it for you on eBay at double or triple the shelf price.

Well, here are a few tips to help you keep one step ahead of the scalper and help you to find the figures you are looking for and how to make sure you get "first pickings" of any new releases. You pretty much have to know what the scalpers know and be there at the same time as they are, only you can use this information to build your collection of beloved figures rather than extorting other collectors which I think we can all agree is unsporting and frowned upon.

1. Get to know your local store, how it stocks items and how it rotates them. When they get their new deliveries and when these are shelved, as not all new deliveries get put out immediately. Sometimes stores will wait until the old stock is sold first!

2. Some stores stock mid-afternoon, some overnight others in the morning. So if you know the delivery days and when they re-stock their shelves you can pretty much guess when new releases will be "shelved".

3. And of course some of this new stock will lie out the back in the store-room until the current stock has been sold so if you don't see it, it never hurts to ask. Actually it can hurt if you ask all day and every day so try not to pester these people, they're only doing their job. Always be polite and upfront about your requests. You have every right as a consumer to be discerning.

4. Get to know the staff, be friendly and talk to them. Always thank them for their time and help. This is one of the most important tips because it is rare that anyone takes the time to thank them so your little act of appreciation will be remembered and will probably get you "inside" information on the latest arrivals.

5. You'll probably get a better response if they know you are a serious collector and toy enthusiast and not a reseller. They may even offer to keep items aside for you if you're a regular customer. No store likes to think of themselves as simply supplying stock to opportunists.

halo action figure

6. The Customer Service area, often forgotten and neglected, yet provided by most large stores and generally used for making complaints. This is their designated area to help you with exactly this scenario. Make full use of it.

They are there to help you. Often the staff at the customer service area will be able to look up what stock is due in and when it is due. Again remember to thank them for their time and help!

7. Don't forget to check out your local Supermarket or Grocery stores, although they may not stock regular lines of the latest action figures many have a bargain bin where they put cheap, close out stock. These are often out of the way and ignored by most customers so you'll be surprised how many deals and hidden gems can be found in these.

8. Find out where your local $1 stores, close out stores or second hand stores are. These shops often have end of the line items or bankrupt stock at a fraction of the usual cost 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!

9. Try out stores in the less affluent parts of town where people generally don't have the disposable income to buy high end toys. There may well be some rarer figures missed by the scalpers, who haven't gone too far out of their way and they will be affordably priced.

10. Along the same lines check out stores on the outskirts of town or in less frequented areas as often each store is allocated an initial stock level for an item from their head office, leaving it to the store to re-order when this initial stock runs out.

When I had my stores in the UK I made friends with several of the local "high street" toy shops staff and managers and made it known that I would buy any excess stock they had.

Often these stores are allowed to write items off on their monthly stock-take after a given period of time and will sell the excess for next to nothing.

My local store used to sell me their excess after a 3 month period and I used to get some excellent bargains, e.g. 1st Edition sealed boxes of Base Pokemon TCG for $1 each!

11. Don't forget if you're on an overseas trip to check out local stores, as often there are country specific releases and exclusives.

12. And of course, Toy and Collector fairs are another excellent source for finding older toys and many bargains.

13. Here's a little tip on finding hidden toys. As the hobby has grown and become more mainstream and with prices and values continuing to rise some store's staff have become savvy to the action figure market and will do all they can to keep the rarer figures back for themselves.

Most stores however have a policy where staff cannot keep items back, but an easy work around to this is they get a friend to come in and purchase the item that has been saved.

nfl action figure

So where can you find these hidden gems?

  • Check out the peg areas behind current stock, often you'll find new stock is put behind the old. Also gems are often hidden way back behind everything else, and not always on the correct shelf so look around.
  • Another trick is to hide items under the bottom shelf. On many of the standard shop units these panels lift up to reveal a space underneath that is ideal for storing stock In fact I used to use this area to store spare stock to replenish my shelves on a busy day. If staff ask what you're doing, it's probably best to just be honest and say you were looking for figures that might be in there for storage.
  • If there are any high shelves, you can ask to use the store's ladder to have a look. Knowing that most customers will not bother looking, or won't think about looking, or ask to look here often makes this high area the ideal place to "hide" items. If they won't let you climb their ladder because of health and safety the staff can do it for you.
  • Remember don't just check the toy aisles as sometimes items are miss-shelved or stocked in the wrong aisle. Especially if someone is trying to hide them.
  • In specialist or hobby stores the rare figures are often held back so it's always best to ask if you can't see it. Comic shops will of course be likely to increase the price on variant figures anyway.


Always be friendly, polite and courteous and always say thank you to the staff. It doesn't cost anything and you'll be surprised at the positive reaction and help you'll receive just by being a pleasant person to deal with. That pretty much applies to all walks of life. These people most likely have to deal with rude, self-entitled and demanding customers every day. Making their job a little easier stands you in good stead.


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