Poe’s Point > Eras End All the Time

Ryan “The Superfly” Prast has a blog post at AFI in which he predicts “within the next few years, the 6″ action figure will be an endangered species, and possibly completely extinct.” He continues:

My rants on ‘corporate greed’ are commonplace on the forum, but I am also aware that overseas manufacturing costs have been kept artificially low for over a decade due to the influence of certain retailers. We have seen fifteen years of adjustments in just the past few years, and many collectors can no longer afford the action figures at today’s prices. Add in improving factory conditions, fair workforce compensation, additional regulations and safety standards, and, well, you begin to realize the days of cheap 6″ action figures are nearly over.

Hold on – there’s a big difference between saying “the 6″ action figure market will become extinct” and “the days of cheap 6″ action figures are over” (my italics). The latter is obvious. The former is unlikely.

He then laments the end of the toy hunt:

Remember what it used to be like?

Walmart, Target, Toys R Us, the mighty Toy Hunt, heart pounding for the thrill of the chase, the eternal struggle of Collector VS Scalper!

Many times I came away empty-handed, but man…those rare finds made this collecting hobby fun.


That word seems very foreign to my action figure collecting these days.

I’m willing to consider the argument that era of the toy hunt may soon be over, if it isn’t already. And to that I say: good riddance.

I had a love-hate relationship with toy hunting at best. I’ve got pretty low frustration tolerance. Why subject myself repeatedly to a situation which will often end in disappointment? I found the “eternal struggle of collector vs. scalper” a source of simmering rage, not “fun.” Yes, the occasional success was exhilarating, but I would have happily traded it to avoid miseries like chasing the first DCUC Walmart wave.

I couldn’t start ordering toys off the Internet fast enough once the opportunity came along. And while I do have treasured memories of the Great Turtle Hunt of 1989, that came very close to ending in bitter disappointment.

Of course, all of the above is just my opinion. I know a lot of collectors loved the thrill of the hunt. I just wanted to make clear that the end of the toy hunting era isn’t something everyone would miss.

Prast then digresses a bit into a discussion about how DC and Marvel have been running their comics, concluding with:

I look at the lackluster efforts on some of the DCUC Subscription figures, wonder if I even care anymore. Are these action figures really worth $25 each, or are we fooling ourselves with rose-colored nostalgia?

Look, I don’t even like most of the Club Infinite Earths figures myself (I’ve been mailing off my CIE sub figures to pay for a custom figure commission). But this just reads like a bummed-out person trying to validate his own sense of being bummed-out. There are plenty of people who wanted these figures and love them.

Prast then discusses “[o]ne last contributing factor could be the biggest of all – Brand Exhaustion.” At this point I’m still not clear on what brand exhaustion is a contributing factor to – the end of 6″ figures? The end of cheap 6″ figures? The end of these specific brands? The end of toy collecting as a whole?

[…] is the ‘WOW’ factor gone? Is there anything left to achieve? Perhaps all the goodwill and excitement created from that 80s sentimentality has finally worn off, and collectors are finally satisfied. We literally have dozens of Spider-Men, Optimus Primes, Darth Vaders, Snake Eyes. We’ve all been unbelievably spoiled. Maybe we have taken it all for granted, and there’s nothing new left to make, nothing left to be enthused about, and nothing new that deserves our money.

So there it is.

The End of Days.

Where is the evidence for this? Transformers is getting another movie, and I just wrote a post yesterday about how I’m excited for the new Grimlock. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – another ’80s property – is a huge holiday hit and selling out everywhere. Joe fans are excited for Retaliation, despite the delay. Star Wars has three new movies coming in the next decade. Masters of the Universe Classics is getting a gigantic Castle Grayskull next year.

Furthermore, every single one of the brands listed above have come and gone several times. They’re all evergreen properties and while they sometimes get put away in the vault for a bit, they make a comeback eventually.

And that’s to say nothing of the surge in independent toymakers and toy lines. Want a glimpse of what could very well be the future of toy collecting? Visit Onell Design.

On a related note, in a response to a comment in the post’s comment threat, Prast writes:

How many more Snake Eyes and Duke figures will be purchased when the line resumes in 2013? And how many other fans will be willing to continue to plunk down literally hundreds of dollars for just a handful of exclusive collector club figures?

You expect 2013 to be even better, and I would like to agree with you, but I think we’re going to see drastic changes within the industry.

He says that we will see “drastic changes” in the industry right after mentioning what I think are the sort of drastic changes the industry is in the midst of making. Exclusive collector club figures is where this hobby is going. Action figure collecting is becoming a high-end adult hobby (but will continue to draw in small but significant amounts of young fans). The same thing happened to baseball card and comic collecting. I suspect 5-10 years from now, the kind of 5″-7″ action figures collectors want will probably have more in common with Hot Toys and Sideshow 12″ figures than Playmates’ current Ninja Turtles lines – but those figures will exist.

While I don’t to make any assumptions about Prast’s own experiences, I do think the sense of pessimism he’s expressing is common among longtime collectors at any time. As I noted above, do it for too long or get too close to it and you can become bummed-out, and sometimes you start trying to bum out other people to validate your own sense of being bummed-out.

And in the course of writing this piece, I realized that I’ve been guilty of this myself – especially in regard to MOTUC. Collecting fatigue is real and common, but it’s a mistake to assume that one’s own experience of the hobby at any given moment is the same as everyone else’s. I’m going to try to remember this in my own writing here on the blog.

Finally, it should be noted that Prast is writing this on Action Figure Insider, one of the flagship toy news websites that helped change the nature of action figure collecting by introducing things like extensive Toy Fair news coverage, area reports of where toys have been found in stores, tracking case pack ratios, and engaging in interviews and other dialogues with the people behind the toys. AFI and other websites changed the nature of collecting over a decade ago. They helped bring about the end of one era, an era where collectors had to visit stores just to find out what was even out there, where it wasn’t just the thrill of finding a toy, but the thrill of discovering that toy even existed. They ushered in a new era where a collector could be well-informed and engaged with his peers and sometimes even the toymakers themselves, directly leading to those toys with “all the sculpting, articulation, and details we all wished our original toys had when we were kids.”

I want to thank Mr. Prast for writing such a thought-provoking (and provocative) post. It allowed me to gain some badly-needed perspective on the hobby myself. I may not agree with his conclusions, but it gave me a chance to sort out my own feelings on the hobby right now. Are we entering a new era of collecting? Maybe. But there’s no reason to think this will be a bad thing. It may be even better than we imagine.



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  1. Tribsaint

    I would like to weight in, I don't mind prices going up, that is just how it works. Though I did find some unopened giant man wave legends tagged for 7.95.

    I don't like the toy hunting going away. I just found a big time Spider-Man and a full wave of legend minus deadpool and veriants. The surprise and joy of finding a figure on the shelf is the closest I get Christmas morning 1984 and get an Omega Suprime again. Ordering something on the web doesn't give me that feeling. Plus, I think s&h is an unfair tax on the hobby. I know it has to be paid but I almost feel like there should be an adjusted suggested retail price for online.

    No doubt the hobby is changing and maybe the end is nigh for six inchers. Some how I doubt it. I do bum out a little because I am exclusively a sixish inch collector. What bums me out is the lack of retailers carrying toys. However cool toy will always have buyers.

  2. I think both of you guys have a point. His pessimism is helpful for those who are planning to slow down on toy collecting while your optimism helps us decide for ourselves if we should really think of moving forward with toy collecting. Both of your views give balance to someone who has been collecting toys for years. And from the years spent on toy collecting, it is natural to experience fatigue. I enjoy hunting for toys in my favorite shops. The same thing can also be said on ebays and amazons. But the access of online shopping only helps worsen my addiction to toy collecting. So it all boils down to how I can discipline my toy diet

    • As with everything, you need a little balance and some perspective. Whether its one way or another, its nice to know that other collectors are going through the same motions.

  3. Bigbot

    I thought this post was about the Undertaker-HHH match from this past Wrestlemania. 😉

    Times were different back then. You had your scalpers, but you also had Walmart and TRU getting cases upon cases of Marvel Legends. You may have missed out on the Dark Phoenix or Phasing Vision, but you were still able to pick up the normal figures. Same thing with Transformers. Costs are going up, and there's nothing anyone can do about that. As long as there's a market for 6" figures, lines will continue. Companies will just shift the way they sell them.

  4. Harrig

    I have found the toy price increase helpful, in a perverse way. I can afford far less, and have been forced to become more selective in what I pick up to keep to a budget. This has helped my "collector fatigue" that was being discussed a little while back, as what I do pick up is more valued by myself.

    I think this also highlights why I personally find it more helpful to read Poe Ghostal than Pixel Dan's site – although I always enjoy a visit, and fully understand it's value -I just find it overwhelming to be told how cool all this stuff is and have it shown off in front of you, without a sense of cost or display/storage perspective – something I find here.

    I also appreciate the articulation of a collectors dilemmas and highs and lows that I imagine mirror a lot of people's feelings on their hobby.

    • I truly appreciate what Pixel Dan does, and I know he puts a ton of work into his reviews, so I don't want to discount that. However I look at his videos as more light entertainment than actual reviewing. Sort like how I wouldn't watch TMZ to keep myself abreast of whats going on in the news… then again, I wouldn't watch CNN to find out who Kim Cardassian is sleeping with now.

    • Cardassian?

      I for one care very much about the Cardassian occupation of Bajor, thank you very much.

  5. I feel like this guy is bummed out and just wanted to pour the lemon juice into everyone's cup of milk.

    Every Era will have an end, and the thing about an "Era" is that you don't realize it until you're in the thick of it, and you don't realize its over until a new one has begun.

    "Collectors Clubs", KickStarters, and Pre-Order w/ a minimum to make are going to be a huge part of the new era.

  6. Dayraven

    At you at all familiar with the skylanders game? Cuz truthfully, I think there’s a future there too, for figures that serve as virtual game pieces, if someone figures that out. A mainstream motu release could easily include game interactive bases that could promote sell through in the same way that BAFs did in the early millennium.

  7. E.T.

    I'm with you all the way, Poe. Always hated the hunt. It WAS cool when me and my toy-collecting best bud would go hunting together… but only because we'd pick up some good eats, b.s. about stuff, and ride around causing terror to some headbanging tunes. That was the fun part. If we found something it made the night all the more better. Hunting in general sucks the big one.

    • Sure, there is some fun in hunting, but… nostalgic about scalpers? REALLY? One of the most complained-about aspects of toy collecting finally seems to be on a downward trend, and suddenly you MISS it? GAH!

    • I think we've all had our experiences where we went to four or five stores looking for that ONE thing and on the final store emerged triumphantly — but that feeling of euphoria is very short-lived. Such is the nature of the hobby, but wasting an entire afternoon and a tank of gas is not my definition of FUN.

    • ferris

      Yeah, plus for me that "high" was always just about getting the toy, not hunting or finding it, so I still feel it every time I receive a big box of toys in the mail. These days pretty much the only figures I buy in stores are the ones where I want to avoid dodgy paint problems, like those wandering eyes on the Turtles Classics.

    • In my past experience, I can't count how many times I'd waste time & gas looking for something — and then once I got it, it would just end up in a pile, not even getting opened for a month.

    • Black Arbor

      Yeah, we've all had that experience… It was the last store we looked at 'cuz that's where we found it and didn't have to look anymore! 🙂 just kidding!

    • For me, it was every single store AFTER the last store I looked in. It feels like when I find something I've been searching for — the new Transformers Combaticons are a perfect example — as soon as I find it I start seeing the toy(s) everywhere.

    • THIS.

      That happened to me with the Generations/FOC Shockwave. I can't remember how many stores I checked out to find him. The night I DID finally nab him, I had driven about 45 minutes to find that MF'er. A week later I was seeing him E.V.E.R.Y.W.H.E.R.E. *facepalm*

  8. His article is a prime example of foggy nostalgia glasses.

    He's lamenting the horrible reality of IMPROVED FACTORY CONDITIONS?

    He's nostalgically missing the days of HAVING TO FIGHT SCALPERS OVER A DAMN TOY?

    Really, did this man READ his own article?

    • The factory condition thing did make me raise an eyebrow. Improved conditions is going to cost money. I'm happy to pay that . . . and I say that as a manufacturer and a consumer.

    • Dayraven

      I hear too a shifting of production is underway to other countries, like Vietnam, to keep costs down for a bit longer

    • Okay, so its not just me then — as I'm reading the article it felt like he was talking about improved factory conditions and fair compensation like it was a BAD thing.

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