Does collecting toys make you unhappy?

Rob Bricken, formerly of Topless Robot and now of io9, has one of those blog-posts-as-call-for-help pieces over at his new digs:

Why collecting toys is like a heroin addiction

I’m still composing my thoughts on this, but I’m curious what you all think. Read it and report back below, please.

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  • The article is very much along the same lines of thinking that I've been having lately. I have a storage room in our building that is full of boxes of my toys. Stuff that I had every intention of displaying once we move into our dream home where I get my own toy room. The thing is we won't be able to afford that dream home if I keep spending on all this stuff. So I'm facing a catch 22 here. It's something I've been struggling with for a while and it's coming to a head.

    • I am deconstructing my toy room and sending much to storage to make room for my new baby; I am excited to do this. I keep walking the line back and forth on it, and he is the push I needed. I did a huge purge 2 years ago; it was so frustrating that it caused me to take step back. This time I am cutting out much of what I spend money on as well as giving myself a monthly allowance. I plan on finishing MOTUC just out of hard headed mentality. I was a huge G I Joe fan and collector; however, over the last two years, my relationship with the brand and fandom is sour for many reasons. I don't know about quitting H, but a hobby can become a compulsive addition, which is incredibly hard to kick. I made up my mind that when I finish this round of schooling, I will sit down with my children and allow them to take what they want from my Joe collection. The rest will either be sold or given to other children I know. I did the same thing with my Star Wars collection 5 years ago, and I walked away with more joy than I ever did collecting it. It was hard to let go, but once I did, it felt like a great victory. On top of that, I had a return of a little extra cash from the sales, and I made kids happy. That is a win win in my book. I cant really disagree with the article because I've assumed much of what he covered for myself. My dream home counters my hobby; I want a minimalist home. Every year, I incorporate the phrase, "More is less," into my life. The only toy lines I do not let anything go are my TMNT collection because it is small and manageable; also, I can't find the past generations in my storage to sell them. And Lego, I don't know if I could ever part with the Lego collection. That is just timeless and something I want to hand off to my kids. I suppose MOTU will stick around as well as more TMNT because those are lines I have no issuing handing over as well. For the most part they are sturdy toys with not many small parts to lose (ie Joe accessories) or easily broken pieces (ive seen more Joe vehicles and figures from all eras broken than any other toy line). Recently, for my own amusement, I began collection the ever growing range Glyos and related product, but I have a rule, if it isn't purple, I don't typically buy it unless it amuses me greatly. Again, another line that is fun that I enjoy with daughter and wife, and it requires very little storage.

      • Oh, and the GIJCC pretty much accidentally allowed me a chance to acquire an action figure of me, Voltar, so I have the crowning gem in my collection. A non-custom action figure that looks exactly like me or an actual action figure of me. He is even in my favorite color, purple. That is pure win!

  • Your happiness is a state that exists independent of toys – they will not "make" you happy. Like any hobby, they can help facilitate it, OR they can be a stress. And with toy collecting, there are a lot of potential stressors, as pointed out in the article. Like any hobby, it can also reach dangerously addicting levels, and collecting/hoarding is a very easy trap to fall into. You need to ask yourself why you collect what you collect, what you will DO with your stuff, and how to manage it responsibly.

  • On the one hand, you want to sympathize. I'm also a comic collector, and my collection is huge, unweldy, and occasionally terrible. Lots of X-Men fans in the 90's went through what I think Rob is going through now: they were buying the books out of inertia, because they had been buying them for years, even though they were often awful comics and they weren't enjoying them at all. Eventually, many realized they could simply not buy sucky comics…and quitting an unsatisfying toy or comic habit has to be easier than getting off 'H.'

    On the other hand, "I have so many toys I can't display them all" is not a complaint that should engender a lot of sympathy. If those figures aren't doing it for him, there are any number of ways to dispose of them, many of which might involve money or making someone who does want the toys happy. (I suspect Rob knows that.)

  • No, it doesn't. I try to watch how much I spend, (typically $50 a month or less, but there are times I have to adjust it down to $30). That makes me incredibly picky on what I get, which also means I will typically love anything I do buy because otherwise I would not have thrown the money down for it.
    There have been some times when I purchased a figure on an impulse, and immediately regret it. I can follow that up with somewhat of an eBay purging which makes me feel better.
    However, as Ridureyu, only you can decide to be happy. If toys are a stressor, then I highly recommend weekly or monthly budget, and if you want to go over that budget, sell something first to make up the difference.

    • Sorry, I meant to say "as Ridureyu pointed out." I'm not claiming to be Ridureyu. Also, because of how I approach collecting it means I can never allow myself to buy a subscription, which makes me the hated "cherry-picker" of several subscription holders.

      • It's okay. I just interpreted it as, "only Ridureyu can decide if YOU will be happy."

        I CONTROL THE POWER OF HAPPINESS! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!

  • I think like any hobby, you have your ups and downs. And I have to be honest, PGPoA has been contributing to the downer feelings for the past year or so. Before I continue, let me thank you for all you've done and please take this as constructive criticism. The various posts about a lack of desire to write about toys, the state of the union addresses where we find out you were inches away from blowing up the site, the decline of MOTUC, DC content all have made this a sad place to visit as of late. I come to toy sites to read news, commentaries and reviews and possibly a heads up on an online deal. I hit up itsalltrue.net every day because I know Noisy will have something new I'll enjoy. I know you post every day, but a BBTS newsletter and a pic of a day isn't what I'm looking for. Have you thought of incorporating more contributors to the site? Maybe a podcast if the writing is a chore? You've mentioned you're fickle and have moved into Godzilla and S.H. Figure arts. I'd love to learn about these things. Tell us about your Godzilla collection, explain what SH Figure arts does. Collector Dash has made a huge debut, are you a member and what's your opinion on the site? We used to have a Toys for Tots give away every year, is it still happening? As for Rob's issue, how about an article on how to avoid the "action figure blues" ?(also a great toy site) Talk about budgeting for your favorite lines, about setting up proper displays and rotating collections in/out.

    Again, thank you for all that you do. I loved when this site was at full tilt during the MOTUC height. If you're ready to call it quits, understood. But I think the site needs something to get back on track.

    • A positive take on this is – you know, I would love to hear more about Monsterarts… or other things that are positive, good, and cool. Stuff you like right now! Mix in a little more among the problems with Mattel.

  • Well.. i am not sure.. the problem is it is addictive because it makes me happy. the danger is when.. buying toys makes you happy, and nothing else does.
    If you can afford it, why the hell not. but if you can’t, then we need to priroitize. It’s tough, sometimes I don’t succeed, but it’s not worth stressing over. If you/ anyone is stressing over it, then it’s time to draw lines.

  • isn't that kind of funny that collector malaise is getting talked about and the feedback is A) set a budget and B) quit talking about mattel. that's funny right there.

    as for the malaise, i totally get what rob's talking about, i faced it about a year or so ago, and decided that i wasn't really fulfilling my dream. like a lot of people, i want the cool room display, but i was buying figs hot and heavy and not really doing anything to give them the set up they deserve. so over the course of the last year, i read through the upcoming product and really thought about what/why/how i was buying and decided i was going to have some great send-offs over 2012, 2013 and then i'm out. as of castle grayskull, the defining piece of my childhood that i'm replacing/updating, that's my sendoff.

    it's actually been kind of fun, plotting the end. marvel legends wave 4, lyra and red shulk will be my swan song from marvel legends. jitsu will be the swan song for motuc figures unless two bad hits before the end of the year, but it's been a good run and if he doesn't come before grayskull, i'll live. the only figure i'm willing to extend past 2013, though i'm hoping i won't have to, is the raven set from the horsemen, then i'm done w/ those too. i love the horsemen, and i wish i could keep supporting them, but i just can't. they've made it clear that doing mattel's thing is more their comfort zone then branching out and being truly independent, whatever, i've logged my miles and i'm comfy w/ the efforts i've made to promote their work. it's up to a different generation, or the guys themselves, to get more mileage on their own.

    and then, 2014… i start the dio work. i've already started laying some of the groundwork, acquiring materials, testing sculpting materials, paint types, that kind of stuff, and deciding who's in what faction so i know who's getting displayed together… and then designing each group an area they can call their own. i have a dojo planned for the street fighters and MMA figs, i'm making modifications to fort kerium for the COPS, i'll have castle grayskull for the heroic motucs and the 7th kingdom characters, scarabus and his group have two environments planned, galactus and the cosmic powers are getting one… that's been as much fun or moreso than slaking the buy urge this year. just because i've grown up doesn't mean i can't love my toys, it just means how i love them and what i use them for has evolved. some of the figs i have i don't have plans for, so those can be liquidated, and again, doing that sort and actually writing down the roster has been fun, and i have been able to involve my kids in that too. it's all in how you view fun and what your goals are.

  • It doesn't make me unhappy, but I guess it doesn't make me as happy as it used to either. There was a time when I couldn't wait to race home and open whatever packaged had been delivered (or as is becoming more and more rare these days, race home to open a figure I purchased in store). But lately, a new figure can sit in its box for weeks, if not months, before I open it. For example, poor Mekanek is still in his box. Not so much that I don't like the character, but moreso because I know I'll need to re-arrange my MOTUC display to fit him in and I'm running out of space which makes it harder and harder to display all my MOTUC.

  • Cont'd

    Then again, there are still toys which I can't wait to open and discover. The new Retro Classics Ninja Turtles is one example. Mikey was opened ASAP and the others wete staggered over a period of weeks with Donnie being opened after a particularly crappy day at work. Similarly, I finally managed to snag a DCUC Giganta for a decent price and I couldn't wait for the package to arrive so that I could have a battle between Giganta and Wonder Woman. So, I guess the moral of the story is that I should only buy the figures I'm really lusting after, for example, The Dark Knight Returns Batman which Mattel is releasing soon. And the second lesson is that Ebay is there to help when it's time to part with a formerly much loved collection.

  • I used to have similar-ish problems, until I started making some rules for myself.

    1. The figure needs to be articulated. Toys are meant to be played with; they're interactive. They're a product of the creativity of someone else, that you can inject your own imagination into. So, if it's not properly articulated, I won't want it. It's a statue, not a toy; collecting statues is cool, but it's not my thing."

    2. The figure needs to represent a character or concept I'm interested in. I'm a giant Batman fan. Batman, to me, is a pop-cultural representation of everything that's good and true about humanity: we're damaged, obsessed, violent, determined, terrifyingly intelligent… and ultimately, moral. That's what I'd like to think. And that's what I remember when I see or play with an action figure representing that character. I don't really buy characters that "just look cool" anymore.

    Nowadays, there isn't much about successful toy collecting that makes me sad. What makes me sad is unsuccessful toy collecting (specifically a) having something break, and b) being unable to find something I want).

  • That guy is right. I'm still chasing the dragon trying to get the thrill of finding the perfect action figure.

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  • Amassing physical objects seems to be part of western culture. Just look at how many people keep storage lockers full of old books, and rusy appliances they'll never use. While cleaning out my grandfathers basement years ago (aside from finding waaaayy too much about the guy), I realized collecting things without a goal is pointless. The old addage 'you can't take it with you' kept ringing in my head with every boxload of 'stuff' I carried out and away.

    For every completionist collector thread I see at tfw2005.com, I see that person hitting a wall in their future, not unlike the depressingly honest accounts I remember reading on PlasticCrack's old blog – lamenting his attic of shame, filled with things he doesn't remember buying, nor really wanting.

    Earlier last year, I hit a very, very rough patch in my life while working overseas, and clearly recall looking at my shelf of figures – just what I'd bought that year via BBTS and eBay – and feeling that I wold give everything up I owned to have made different life choices. As cool, articlated, detailed, or meaningful toys can be, they're just that – outgrowths of our interests in various franchises. They're just things, like expensive socks.

    The thought of having an amazing display, or fidiling with a figure/playset/etc. can keep people buying, or in the drug metaphor, 'chasing the dragon'. Sometimes that fills a void in their life, sometimes their endgame is to feel the way they did as a kid, surrounding by their favorite toys on a sunny Saturday morning.

    I know I've belonged to both categories at one point or another in my life. To avoid that, I find other, more meaningful pursuits. Family, friends, music, and art. The last one is actually the only reason why I buy toys now – I've run a customizing hobby business since 2008. I've never been a 'mint in package' type of person, and customizing is inherently destructive in the creations of new pieces. What prevents me from overbuying is a combination of self control, and the firm belief that in the end, toys are just plastic – another art medium like a canvas. To be used, modified, and appreciated – not to be obessivly horded like a rodent collect nuts for winter.

    I still find it hard to read 'dear diary' true confessions about collecting – to most of us, you'll always see something of yourself in them, and that can be difficult to face. To avoid the pitfalls of collecting Rob mentioned, people need to honestly assess their own motivtions for buying toys, motivations, and have clear goals for what they collect. A realistic budget that doesn't sink you into debt wouldn't hurt either. :)

    If anyone would like to check out the custom figure work I do, please visit http://blayne.dark-ware.org
    Thanks for posting a link to Rob's article, Poe. I'm looking forward to your thoughts on it.

  • Some good comments here. Nothing to add here that hasn't already been said, other than I do struggle with the materialistic aspects of the hobby. But it is what it is.

    I look forward to reading Poe's thoughts on the subject.

  • While its easy to sometimes get caught up in things, be annoyed or disappointed or even angry (damn you matty!)…

    If i didn't enjoy my hobby I would do something else.

  • Sometimes I have a seat in my little toy room and just stare. Building up my collection over 25-some-odd years has been one of the greatest joys in my life. I routinely take everything down and rearrange it. I play out toy scenarios by making comics with photoshop. I do a pretty good job of tempering my spending, and I don't have any toy-related debts. Stuff that doesn't get displayed for a long time eventually gets sold.

    So no, collecting doesn't make me unhappy. But on the other hand, I don't think simply having and building the collection would be a suitable replacement for my relationships with people and reality. And I can totally understand how clicking "buy it now" instead of, ya know, talking to someone, would be grounds for a serious addiction.

  • I was a revoltech addict, a DC, marvel comics toys addict, a halo3, halo reach toys addict, a transformers toys addict (all the lines since beast wars), a MOTUC addict, all that in the last 6 years of my professional life (I'm 27). Six years spending money in lots of plastic. I realized i was trying to fill a hole in my life. That hole was that my parents never bought me the toys a wanted as a kid. I was a toyless boy. As an adult I was trying to get the feeling everyone had of having new toys, you know, like open the box, having the toy in your hand, smell it and play with it. But then i tought "for how long i'll be doing this". I wasn't getting the same pleasure as before. Then, the figures started to look useless to me, ridiculous items. I've sold them all this year. The only minor thing i'm indulging myself to collect is the OMFG series just one glow in the dark pack and flesh color pack. These are cool, small and really cheap figures and they only come once a year (for now). So i consider myself cured. There is a point in your life when you have to say STOP to something and let it go for good. There wasn't a point to continue in my case.

  • i think i collect toys for 3 reasons…
    1 ) some i just buy because i know (or i think i know………..) they will insanely inflate in value. example: deadpool blue variant packed with warpath? the thing is ****ing stupid, but i bought it hoping to sell it to somebody for crazy money in 5 years or something. until then they are in storage and nobody is enjoying them.
    2 ) to tear them open and put them on my desk or somewhere posed dramatically. and occasionally change how they are standing to other dramatic positions, lol. i realize they are mostly worthless open, but i buy them to open so screw it. example: transformers prime! i have been buying one of each of them (the store releases, not dedicated or wealthy enough for the takara japanese ones) and putting them on my desk. this is prob really my favorite transformers toy line ever!
    3 ) part 1 and part 2. i really like the toy and want them, but dont like them enough to open and play with. so i keep them in the boxes. some get displayed. many are in storage because i have been lazy and havent bought or put up the shelves i want too. also they are in the boxes, so i “know” they will be worth something and can sell them off down the road….

    -the strongest mustache in the universe

  • No, it makes me happy because I gave up the things that made me unhappy about collecting:
    – trying to chase down figures that were too tough to get (Star Wars, Marvel, etc)
    – spending without any limitations
    – buying things just for the sake of buying things
    – arguing with #%$& on the internet about them. Well, I've mostly fixed this one.

  • Two thoughts:
    1: So glad i never collected MOTUC after buying loose figures of He-Man and Skeletor.

    Side rant: people seem to forget that He-Man and Beast-Man were stagnant on the Digital river website for months……MONTH….. something has always been shady with the supply and demand and relationship between the two companies.
    Funny how the next figure sold out first day, artificial "short stock"? Yes……can anyone explain how they had a recent Black Friday sale of thousands of previously sold out monthly figures at a discount?
    And the miraculous recovery of the doomed Castle Grayskull? It was going to be released all along folks, but whatever they got your cash now…so expect a fast sellout followed by a "found" surplus 2 Thanksgivings from now…..

    #2 I turn my toy faucet on and off, at the moment I'm on a GI Joe RAH vehicle kick, and then onto Fortress Maximus and Masterpiece Soundwave…then probably nothing for awhile, anyone else notice not much to hunt for lately.. barely decent stuff at Target or Tru for myself personally in 2012. I've been thinking about making DIY dioramas like another commentor mentioned…picture GI Bridgelayer like the brochure…..awesome.

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  • This is honestly kind of interesting. I used to mix and match toylines from all over, to me it didn't matter what it was so long as I could play with it and it was cool. However, now I'm at the point where I'm an adult, living in a house with a car and bills. I think the steady price increase of toys combined with my bills has just made collecting harder.

    I collect Marvel figures and I was all about team-building. It didn't matter whether or not I liked the team in particular, just so long as it was complete. I have an entire shelf full of X-men I don't know anything about because I just wanted to finish my teams. I've found myself paying crazy prices for things just because they fit in my collection. Collecting does make me happy, but it's not the same as when I was a kid- I could team up or battle with my toys and share the joy of playing with my friends, but now that I'm an adult, it's weird. I can't share them or enjoy them in the same way I did when I was younger, and I honestly wonder if it is time for me to "put away childish things."

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