Poe’s Point > Here come the price hikes

Earlier this year many manufacturers announced there would be price hikes on their 2008 products. Due to a combination of rising gas prices (most plastics are made from petroleum), Chinese and American governmental policies, the current toy safety crisis, and the weakness of the American dollar, price hikes on action figures were inevitable:

Mattel Inc (MAT.N: Quote, Profile, Research), which manufacturers most of its toys in China, said earlier this year it will raise prices by roughly 5 – 10 percent in the second half of the year.

For those of you curious as to how exactly this will hit close to home, Scott, owner and manager of the online retailer Enchanted Toy Chest, recently posted a message on the Fwoosh forum about it:

Greetings everyone. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but I was recently notified that there will be a price increase on all Mattel products starting in June. Because of this increase, Enchanted Toy Chest will be forced to raise our retail prices. This price increase will go into effect starting Wednesday March 19th. It will not effect DCUC wave 2 products but it will effect wave 3 and beyond. Also, the Dark Knight figures will be going up. The price increase will be $3.60 on the DCUC 6 figure cases and $2.40 on the Dark Knight 4 figure cases. I assume the reason for the increase is due to the rising costs of oil and gas but no official reason has been given. Any pre-orders placed at the old price will be honored so the early birds are safe. Again, I am sorry about the increase but unfortunately it is out of our hands.

That’s an increase of about seventy-two cents per DCUC figure, and sixty cents per Dark Knight figure (why the higher mark-up on DCUC? Not sure, but I suspect the BAF has something to do with it). [Correction: Scott of ETC emailed me and gently pointed out that the DCUC case contains six, not five figures–one being a duplicate, which of course I should have remembered since I’m having a contest for the extra one in the second wave. That means the price mark-up for DCUC is sixty cents, same as the Dark Knight figures.]

Like many adult collectors, I remember when you could pay three bucks for a Star Wars figure and a fin for a He-Man toy. I also remember when it cost fifty cents for a candy bar, and I’m sure my grandparents remember paying one-tenth that price.

Rising prices are unfortunate, but very little of the blame rests on the toy companies themselves. That’s not to say they’re guilt-free–the recent rash of recalls points to a lack of investment in supervising the overseas production process, and for many reasons, that was a mistake.

But we simply can’t expect action figures to cost five dollars each for the rest of eternity. The new reality for high-quality six-inch figures is about ten to twelve dollars each; specialty market figures of the same size run around fifteen, while smaller figures have taken over the five-dollar range. The price of the six-inch Marvel Legends figure you bought in 2001 now gets you a G.I. Joe 25th Anniversary figure.

Partly due to the reasons listed above, this year we’re seeing a big resurgence in the three-to-four-inch scale that was so popular in the late 1970s and early 1980s. By Christmas we’ll have smaller-sized lines based on DC superheroes, Indiana Jones, The Incredible Hulk, Heroes, Halo 3, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Hellboy II (!), and of course, plenty of figures from 3 ¾”-scale stalwarts G.I. Joe and Star Wars.

Meanwhile, it appears that the six-inch scale may soon join the seven-, eight-, twelve-inch and larger sizes as the realm of collectibles rather than kids’ toys. At least until gas prices go down, or a good (and hopefully environmentally friendly) plastic substitute is developed.

As an adult collector with a decent amount of disposable income, I’m okay with that. And before you feel sorry for the eight- or ten-year-old who wants that highly detailed and articulated six-inch figure, remember: it’s a lot more likely that kid wants a sixty-dollar videogame than a ten-dollar toy. Parents whose kids prefer action figures over videogames may–in some cases–be getting a bit of a deal in this day and age.

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  • Being a collector who has bought figures for my children, I can vouch for Poe's closing argument here–I am asked daily by my kids if they can play video games, and I'm lucky to seem them pull their toys out once a month.

  • ahh, Christ. this isnt good. i may have to stop collecting for a while to save up for college (i could also get a job, either works).

    i should try that "its cheaper than buying a video game" argument.

  • The problem with "Cheaper than video games" is that you often need 60 dollars worth fo toys to make then more "fun" and the video game tends to have a longer entertainment value (at least in my book).

    I still buy more toys than games though.