When I was growing up, in my basic middle class American neighborhood, there was a kid named Billy who lived a few houses down. For a while, Billy was my older brother’s friend. Billy had a Mom who worshiped the ground he walked on. I’m not sure what his Dad did, but I know he made pretty good money. The end result was that Billy’s family had just a bit more money than most the folks in the neighborhood. Not enough to like, move to a better neighborhood, but enough that they enjoyed walking around like they were better than everyone else.

This was most apparent in young Billy, who had every toy he could want. Think of any rare toy that came out in the 70’s-80’s that was either expensive, hard to find or just plain elusive… Billy had it. If he wanted something, his Mom would go out and buy it. Not only because they had the money to get just about anything that he wanted, but because his Mom was the type who would drive around town to every toy store to ensure that he got it. Billy was spoiled.

What made things worse was that Billy was also a brat. Anything that Billy wanted, Billy got and if he didn’t, he didn’t want to play anymore. Billy was much like Francis Buxton. No, not the British politician, the villain from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.

Francis the GI Joe Collector
“Waaah, I want all the rare toys.”

When my Brother played with him, young Billy would dictate which characters my Brother could play with. If they were playing Star Wars, Billy was Han and Luke and my brother would end up relegated to playing, I dunno, the Rancor Keeper or something equally as lame. If my Brother by some chance had a figure that Billy couldn’t get his hands on, Billy wouldn’t want to play with those toys anymore. Billy had it all. The big Star Wars vehicles, the huge GI Joe bases, the rare Transformers… And he made sure to flaunt it too.

It’s this sort of mentality that I hate in the toy collecting community. Recently the GI Joe Club announced that they were going to do a second run of their popular Oktober Guard 2012 Convention set. You would think that this would please collectors, right? A highly popular set that sold out in record time, is now being re-released so those Club members who couldn’t get it before, are now getting a chance. But if you thought collectors would be pleased, you’d be wrong.

 

GI Joe Club

Immediately a bunch of Billys on the Club’s website began complaining. “So much for this being an exclusive,” they said. “Now mine isn’t rare and worth anything anymore,” they whined. “This sets a bad precedent, I’ll probably never buy an exclusive from the club again,” they cried.

You see, these people don’t care about the Oktober Guard. They aren’t fans of GI Joe in the traditional sense. They only care about having what you don’t have. It’s a point of pride with them. Much like Billy, they only like the Oktober Guard set because so few were able to get it. The original run was limited to 600. A very small run. In fact it was smaller than most GI Joe Club runs.

Which is exactly why the Club is doing a second run (which is pre-order only) to fit the needs of the Club members who wanted a set. The Club had to rush to put in their Oktober Guard order and due to some hiccups last year, went a bit conservative on their estimates when they ordered 600. Needless to say lots of folks wanted a set and asked the Club to look into it. It took some work, but the GI Joe Club has finally been greenlit to produce a second run.

This set will still be exclusive. First, you have to be a member of the Club. Second, you have to be prepared to drop a whopping $360 before shipping on the Oktober Guard. This is not a case of them flooding the market with something that was once rare and now is available everywhere. This is taking a rare and expensive item and making it slightly less rare and expensive. Prior to this announced re-release, some scalpers on Ebay were charging $600, $700, $800 or more for these sets.

You see every year, there are a handful of people who are members of the GI Joe Club who do nothing but buy up the rare sets and then turn around and sell them on Ebay for a huge markup. This is part of the damned problem to begin with. If these resellers didn’t buy up all the original stock and then inflate the price, many of the people who were willing to pay the Club’s price COULD have gotten it the first time around. I imagine that at least a few of these whiners are those people, but the vast majority are not. It’s the Billy types that are doing the complaining. They want to have the rare item. Not because they like it, but because it’s rare.

Francis Buxton
Francis finds out his Oktober Guard set is no longer limited to 600 sets.

For years Mattel has catered to these people. Creating alternate versions of figures that can only be purchased at a convention. Often producing very popular characters and then putting them into an outlet that can only be purchased by either paying exuberant prices or being in the right place at the right time. More recently, Mattel has cut down on this trend some, offering up “First Run” stickers or very minor differences to help appease this crowd.

But we’re talking about toys. Not financial investments. Fans of characters should be able to get these figures if they’re available. Things shouldn’t be limited just for the sake of creating a fake inflated sense of value. If the Oktober Guard was sold at retail, they might become rare or they might be peg warmers. Toy collectors should be people who enjoy toys, who are fans of a property or are just folks trying live out some nostalgia. It should not be a nerd version of the good ol’ boys club.

We as toy collectors need to stop feeding this elitist attitude. Buy items because you like them, not because you think it’s going to be rare and you can flaunt it to those who don’t have it. Popular items that fans want, should be available to anyone who wants them. When fans get the toys they love, that’s a GOOD thing. Anyone who begrudges fellow fans getting the toys of characters they love just because it’s not rare anymore, isn’t truly a fan at all. Instead you’re a Billy or a Francis, or in more layman’s terms… A jerk.

One Response to Toys Are Not Priceless Collectibles

  • barbecue17 says:

    This is a well thought out post. I also get aggravated by the manufactured rarity/ exclusive machine and you’re right, Mattel is really about about pushing this mentality (Hasbro’s pretty bad, too, although they seem like they try to act like they’re ignorant about the whole thing, but some of the fans who defend it really just make things worse. If you want to collect items with a manufactured exclusivity built in, go collect Mondo posters.

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