Hey there, fellow collectors and visitors, welcome to Dan's ToyBox! Taking a little departure from our normal routine as today, I wanted to talk a bit about getting started as a collector. It should be noted that for the purposes of this article, I am going to focus on 1/12 scale action figures. First and foremost, this will be an entirely subjective article as I'm writing from my own experience. Second... thank you for your patience over the last several days as I've been battling an upper respiratory infection that nearly turned into pneumonia. I appreciate all of your continued support for the website and our content.
So, you want to start collecting toys, huh? Well, you've picked a good time to do it. The market out there is absolutely flooded with an incredible variety of collectibles. The first, most important thing to think about is going to be your wallet. The hardest decision you'll have to make though, is WHAT to collect, immediately followed by how you intend to display said collection. Honestly, the easiest answer to all of this is... collect what you like, what you can afford, and display it how you want. To be honest, though, it isn't as easy as just doing that and here's why.
1) Your Wallet.
Over the last few years, the price of collecting has gone up considerably. Figures that were retailing at $15-$20 each are now mid $20 and up. Certain lines have managed to keep their costs down a bit, but if they aren't what you're after, that doesn't help you much. On the other hand, there are figures out there from companies that specify these are "For the Adult Collector" and can run a hefty price. Over the last couple of years, I have been adding more figures from companies like Medicom Mafex and Bandai/Tamashii Nations SHFiguarts. These import figures can run from $70 to $150 easily. Granted, they tend to come with a lot more accessories, significant articulation engineering, and amazing character designs, but those aren't necessarily prices anybody on a specific budget is going to be willing to pay. Companies like Mezco continue to become increasingly popular, but also come with a hefty price tag. I recently purchased my first ever Mezco figure and though I'm really impressed with the look, quality, and overall experience, I probably won't expand into adding many more. I just can't afford it. For a number of years, my primary focus has been on collecting Hasbro Marvel Legends Figures. As mentioned at the top of this paragraph, they have been steadily climbing in price but, like McFarlane Toys DC Multiverse line, still remain relatively affordable. In fact, the bulk of Hasbro's products: Star Wars, Power Rangers, G.I. Joe, et al... check in at the $20-$30 range, with some special/deluxe figures going for more. As such, these are among the more desirable lines of action figures to collect. Certainly, though, price alone isn't going to be your sole determining factor, nor should it be. Just know that whatever it is you're looking for; Wrestling Figures, Transformers, MOTU, Superheroes... you are going to need to plan your spending. If you choose to look at the higher end figures, be realistic about what you can afford and work your way up to the collection. When I first began buying import figures, I made a deal with my wife that I'd limit them to four figures per year (one purchase per quarter) as I was still buying a lot of domestic figures at the time. This was done for two reasons... it kept me accountable to my wife to prevent over-spending and it helped me gain the discipline to say no to myself from time to time. Collecting figures is an awesome and fun hobby, but only when it doesn't interfere with your financial responsibilities.
2) What Should I Buy?
I could really make this a cop-out answer and say... "Well, what do you like?" While that is the valid question, the real question is..."Why do I want to collect...?" Remember, you have to look at the stuff you buy and you are going to want your displays to be aesthetically pleasing. Nobody collects just to throw stuff in a corner and forget about it... well, there are some people who do that, but that's an article for a different day. People collect for any number of reasons. For some it's the resale value, for others it's the joy of having something tangible from a specific interest, still for others it's purely an intrinsic motivation. Whatever your reason for collecting, base the collection on your "Why". For me it was really simple. As a kid, I loved superheroes and Star Wars. I still own roughly 80% of my original Star Wars collection from the 70's and 80's and though I don't collect much Star Wars now, I do enjoy adding pieces every now and then. The biggest impetus though was just how cool superhero figures are now, compared to when I was a kid. The amount of articulation and the incredible details are things I'd never dreamed of when I was young. The variety of characters that are now available in plastic is actually, overwhelming, but it's an absolute joy to see some obscure characters (like Web-Man) who may have only made one comic appearance, start popping up in action figure form!
For me, being able to purchase these great childhood memories, with even more amazing details and engineering was a no-brainer. Granted, if you've been a reader of our blogs, you'll see that I don't always just purchase superhero figures. Again, out of respect for my wife and the wallet, I try to keep my focus on a specific genre but have made a number of "one off" purchases. For me, it comes down to not going too overboard and having a wide number of lines that I try to keep up with. Instead, I will pick up something that has a specific appeal to me, for example... I really dig the G.I. Joe Classified Series but have restricted myself to only Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes figures from that wave. Over in Star Wars... I'm focusing on Mandalorian styled figures. This allows me to add some different collectibles but prevents me from going too far out of my lane. So, really, what this comes down to is... what is it you are passionate about and why do you want to collect it? When you figure out your "why," you'll go a long way in determining your "what."
3) Now that I've got it, what am I going to do with it?!?
You've made the foray into collecting, you got your first big haul home... now what do you do? There are two primary schools of thought when displaying action figure collections. Loose or In Package. As you can see, I love to have my figures loose. Honestly, neither way is right or wrong. It's just a matter of personal preference. I've seen photos of amazing displays of loose figures on beautifully lighted shelves and cabinets, or in incredibly built custom dioramas and I've seen jaw-dropping pictures of in-package displays hung on walls, or arranged in neat rows on shelves, so that the box art makes an awesome collage. Just know that there are some basics to keep in mind for safely displaying your collection. Whether in package or loose, figures are subject to the environment you keep them in. Exposed to direct sunlight will spell certain disaster! Fading and discoloration are two of the biggest enemies of the collector. If you read my retro review of the Millennium Falcon, you saw pictures of what happened, even though I thought I had adequately protected it from sunlight. Excessive temperature changes are also a big danger to collectors. You've all heard the trick of using hot water or a hair dryer to loosen stuck joints, I'm assuming. Well, the principle behind this is based on softening the plastic enough to make the joint pliable, without causing any warping. Storing your figures in a room that gets too hot can actually cause the plastic to soften and warp, often leading to the dreaded domino effect. Yes, a leg joint gets soft and the figure tips over, into it's neighbor, causing a cascade effect... and likely a great deal of clean up. Now, I know what you're thinking... "all the more reason to keep figures in package." I'd say yes, but, how many times have you seen a figure that was packaged in such a way that invited warping of the plastic? Now, if the figure is already dealing with some warping, exposing it to heat is going to magnify the problem even further. Sure, you might never open the package, but how much fun is it looking at a deformed Spider-Man? Up here, in the "Geek Tower" I keep my window shades down and the blinds closed when I'm not in here working. This keeps the room dark enough to protect against sun damage and cool enough, during the summer, to keep my figures standing upright. Of note, when I first moved everything up into this room, I kept the door closed... we have cats. This led to the room getting really warm during the summer and when I'd come in, I'd discover figures on the floor. My first assumption was that it had to be one of the cats. But when I'd see where the figure fell from, or what figure caused the avalanche... I soon realized it wasn't feline in nature, but soft joints due to the excessive warmth. My room could get up to 80-90 degrees during the summer... imagine a few hours in an enclosed space with no airflow. After that, I started leaving the door open so air could circulate. Thankfully, it kept the temperature much more reasonable, and, to date, the cats haven't caused any havoc.
However way you choose to display your figures, whether loose or in-package, do it in the manner that brings you the most enjoyment. Keep sunlight and temperature in mind and you'll go a long way in preserving the look of your collection!
There are so many more sub-topics we could get into about collecting and I'm sure at some point I'll be writing my thoughts on those as well. Are there any specific thoughts or questions you'd like to share about your collection or collecting experiences? If so, please feel free to comment below, just keep 'em clean! Or, if you are a member of the Dan's ToyBox Facebook Group, please comment in there. Thank you, as always, for spending some time in Dan's ToyBox and until next time... GEEK OUT!