The following story is a companion to my Beyond Non-Sports column in the current Apr/May ’12 issue of Non-Sport Update. Be sure to pick-up a copy of the issue from your favorite hobby retailer, on a newsstand, or from NSU’s online store.
Back on the Hunt!
First, some news…the Travel Channel show Toy Hunters, which was a one-off special at press time, has now been optioned for a full season, so expect to see Hollywood Heroes’ Jordan Hembrough picking through other people’s treasures at least twelve more times in 2012-13! Congratulations and good hunting!
Care and Feeding
Action figures take a little more care than card folk are used to worrying about, primarily because they’re three dimensions, and they often have joints which can be dust traps. If you display yours out in open air, know where your cotton swabs are and keep toothpicks on speed-dial. Direct sunlight affects paint colors just like card collectors watch for; unlike cards, toy packaging brings up heat and condensation issues (not to mention girlfriend condescension issues; sorry—I couldn’t resist).
Where Art Thou?
New to action figures? Start at stores like Wal-Mart, Toys “R” Us, Target or K-Mart; even grocery stores or the large drugstore chains! Family Dollar, Big Lots, Marshalls, and Tuesday Morning or other discount stores may yield surprises, since toys made in smaller quantities or closeout stock from bigger stores end up there on the way to oblivion. Online Amazon and Big Bad Toy Store could offer you values as well. I know, this seems obvious to some, but with card collectors being such an arcane breed, networked to specialty stores, shows and Internet dealers, it’s almost a revelation to realize you can start action figure collecting, where the rest of the world shops for commonplace stuff!
Some Common—Wisdom Keys to Building Your Set
Yeah, most of these things already pertain to us, but in a fresh hobby with so many players, it’s useful to refresh…
Know what you’re looking for, even if means you pass on something you don’t know anything about; don’t pounce on the first one you find, they tend to come around again; be patient, and you won’t regret spending too much.
Maintain a list: what you’re looking for, what you might be looking for, what you have on hand that you’d let go for a trade; the key to not folding when a deal presents itself, is to have your information at hand; also, it’s nice when you walk down the aisle, and a dealer can remember “Oh yeah, he’s the guy looking for the DC Heroes,” because that was something you rattled-off to him earlier.”
Don’t go shopping unless you’ve been “window-shopping”; knowing what you’re bound to find shopping online, at the local stores (both big-box and indie), at toy fairs and flea markets.
Not buying right now, but know you’ll be in the market for it someday? Then you should know who’s currently selling what you have, and for how much. Even if it’s gone by the time you’re ready, chances are that person will be able to point you in the right direction.
If you have a store you visit regularly, don’t just lurk…TALK to the folks that work there! They may have useful info or advice for you, and they’re more likely to remember you when they have something you’re looking for. Obviously this goes for all collecting, but toy people put up with enough guff for their hobby, and a lot of it really is in their own head. If there’s a ‘civilian” who will be understanding of your hobby, it’s sure as heck going to be the one you spend your money with!
Do it for you…not for anybody else. Sure, you can get caught up in other people’s collecting mania, especially in toys, but just because you find that thing one of your friends covets, doesn’t mean you’ll be any happier if you snatch it up just because you heard it was rare. So what if the world likesStar Trek and you prefer Star Wars…it’s your freak flag, let it fly!
Shopping Like You Mean It
Something we didn’t have room to discuss in the column was something I found interesting about shopping: something a fellow who goes by the name of EGM calls, “The Hidden Toy Trick”—the art of concealing more desirable toys on the shelves in case you have to come back and get it, but don’t want them displayed prominently. It starts normally, such as “the good toys” hidden behind more commonplace models, but can degenerate into almost ninja-level precision of stowing your finds wherever the store manager cannot actually SAY they’re being hidden on purpose. Read EGM’s Tips for Toy Hunters and pay extra attention to the “shelf lifting” section. These guys can be hard-core!
If you go down this road, and find your shelves sharing space with Hummels,Precious Moments, nativity sets, My Little Ponies or (gasp) sports figures…it’s a very addictive pursuit, you have been warned, and…you’re dead to me.
The Elephant In The Room
There’s an obvious “geek factor” for somebody who collects items supposedly intended for kids. The internet offers safe haven for collectors to meet, trade and share information without mocking comparisons to Comic Book Guy, or The 40 Year Old Virgin (both of whom, ironically, have their own action figures). Apolonio says, “In all honesty, I did squirm when The 40 Year Old Virgin was released. I literally realized that I had to hide my collecting identity because I felt the general public would already paint me as the stereotype portrayed by the film and other media outlets. David, on the other hand, says, “I don’t care about the public’s impression. I went into Wal-Mart one night to the register with 2 GI Joes. The girl at the register made some comment, and my wife simply said, ‘they’re for him, he collects GI Joe’. If I get a negative comment – and it’s rare – I consider the source and ignore it.”
Finally, some Figure Fun!
Say, G. I. Joe, Captain Action, and Major Matt Mason walk into a bar…which one is more likely to end up decking Ken, and walking out with Barbie? No consensus here; each of my three experts had different answers, ranging from, “one is more macho than the rest,” to, “HELLO, his name is ‘ACTION’…!”