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.

23 Responses to Toys Are Not Priceless Collectibles

  • codymix says:

    Well written and completely true, elitism in the toy collecting community should not be tolerated. You know who everyone hates? Francis, and everyone knows a Francis.

    • Newton says:

      It’s a growing problem. Mattel has fed this for years, but I give them credit for mostly downplaying it recently. We need the companies to stand up as well as fellow collectors. Once toy collectors stop treating toys as some sort of speculative market and more as a collection of children’s playthings, we’ll all be better off for it.

      Francis and Billy were a lot alike.

  • MST3KFan says:

    *claps*

    Bravo. This. THIS is something that definitely needs to be addressed.

    It’s like when Hasbro released Thundercracker, Thurst, and Dirge in the Transformers Generations line after they were originally only in that Classics themed boxset at BotCon and people who owned those sets cried out in anger at Hasbro giving ALL the fans a chance to complete their Decepticon seeker jets in the CHUG (Classics, Henkei, Universe ,Generations) lines.

    Why? Because it made their sets ‘not as rare’. They felt entitled for spending all the money they did for those toys at BotCon when suddenly the average TF fan could suddenly walk into Wal-Mart and buy them up for $8-10.

    • Newton says:

      Thanks. I feel there’s just too much of this going on in our community and it seems to be growing.

      On some very basic level, I get being upset that something that cost more is now cheaper. But at the end of the day, that stuff happens. What really boggles my mind in this situation is that we’re talking about something that will still be both rare and expensive when the dust settles. Yet these people STILL aren’t satisfied.

      And in this instance, this will ultimately HELP the GIJCC to continue to produce quality sets like this. Instead of a handful of scalpers being able to sell their sets at inflated worth, the Club will be able to sell a few dozen more at their lower (but still far too rich for my blood) price and it helps both the fans and the Club that produces them. Seems like an easy win-win to me.

      • MST3KFan says:

        People keep looking for quick ways to one-up others. Like having the next new video game system first. Or seeing a movie before anyone else.

        Your metioning of Mattel is a good example of things as well. I recall with the DCUC Wonder Twins set and how to get Gleek you were expected to be at the SDCC or know someone whom could get it for them. Sure you could get the Wonder Twins off Matty Collector, but not Gleek. Many fans felt Mattel was ‘punishing them’ for not being able to afford going to SDCC, wait in a line, and hope things don’t sell out before you get to the front to get it in person.

        People whom brag about having something others do not in general to me aren’t collectors, or fans. Even more so if they’re turning around and selling the stuff they buy up on eBay. They’re looking more often for a cash cow. So long as people willingly pay the inflated prices, these people will continue to do what they do.

  • Shawn Robare says:

    Yeah, I certianly hate the Francis’ of the world, but the toy companies that feed Francis’ are almost as bad. This past Halloween Mattel had some exclusive Halloween Hot Wheels only offered in Kroger supermarkets. I’m lucky enough to live in an area where there are plenty opf Kroger stores, but I noticed that two of the cars (the repaints of the Ecto-1 and the ’66 Batmobile) were rapidly disappearing from the displays. Quick check on eBay and you could find them, at 500% markups by scalpers.

    I was put in an awkward situation as I knew of a bunch of toy-minded friends around the country that didn’t have access to the cars. I wanted to help them out, but at the same time I didn’t want to clear the pegs of the ones that were left in order to do it. At the end of the day I bought 5 of each pop culture re-paint and send them out free of charge (including shipping) to the folks who didn’t have access. I hated that I took that many off teh shelf, but it made me feel good to give them away to folks who would appreciate them and not horde them to resell on eBay…

    • Newton says:

      That was certainly a very generous thing to do! Good on you.

      I think part of my major objection to this was that suddenly the Club was on the defensive about their actions. The “Francis” folks came out in droves, but very few people spoke in support of the Club. Even though, it’s obvious that lots more people wanted this than were against it.

      A very loud minority has proven in the past to shape the way toy companies do things. Mattel caters to this crowd fairly consistently. So I object here at least, because it does potentially shape the landscape of things.

      And that I have a problem with.

  • People should enjoy their hobby for whatever reasons make them happy, rather than conforming to someone else’s idea of *why* they should collect. If someone wants to focus on rare items that aren’t in everyone’s collection, where’s the harm in that? Why can’t people take pride in collecting something that isn’t produced in the tens of thousands and sold in every backwoods Walmart? I happen to think limited editions are pretty cool, whether they’re toys, statues, comics, or trading cards. That doesn’t mean my Con set will be any less awesome after a second run than it is now (I couldn’t care less about that), but I’m not going to demand all collectors approach their hobbies the same way I approach mine. I do what’s fun for me, and I would expect no more or less from anyone else.

    I don’t get the sense of entitlement that leads people to believe they should get to have *everything* that *everyone* else has, either. We’re not little kids anymore, so we don’t all have to share toys. Telling others they aren’t “true fans” or collecting for the right reasons is no more welcoming than “a nerd version of the good ol’ boys club,” and that kind of attitude is one of the primary reasons I don’t bother with forums anymore. And not for nothin’, but for someone calling others “whiners,” the stuff about “elitists” and people who sell collectibles on eBay is pretty whiny.

    • Newton says:

      Actually I think we’re more in agreement than not, but I know we have pretty different viewpoints as it pertains to certain parts of this.

      I don’t think there’s anything wrong with collecting something rare. My issue is with trying to either make something rare or complaining when it’s no longer rare. Rarity is a fleeting moment. You can’t really collect that. You can collect something that is rare, but you can’t collect it because it’s rare, if that makes sense. You can collect stuff that is rare for a time (and in many instances a LONG time) but if you’re collecting solely because it’s rare, it could become unrare. My own humble opinion is that if it becomes unrare, and you no longer like it, you never really liked it to begin with. You were collecting something that was intangible and not really part of the item.

      I’m with you for the most part and perhaps this post came off a bit different than my intent, at least with you. I don’t think everyone should collect for the same reasons, though I do think most people collect for somewhat similar reasons. I do think (and the reason for the rant here) that some of this mentality is changing the way companies work, often to the detriment of the collecting majority. So that’s where I have the most issue, I suppose.

      Likewise, I don’t think everyone should have everything that everyone else has. But at the same time, I don’t think those who have, should complain when some of what they have is now available to those who didn’t have it before. That’s a two way street, IMO.

      Any time someone complains about something else that someone else is complaining about, they are effectively doing what they’re rallying against. Of this, I’m well aware. However I don’t think that’s a particularly strong argument to never complain about someone’s actions, even if it includes complaining.

      • “You were collecting something that was intangible and not really part of the item.” Agreed, but I don’t think telling people they shouldn’t collect for that reason accomplishes anything.

        I don’t have a problem with the Club making more of these sets. The figures will always be among my favorites no matter what, but I can understand why some others would be disappointed when something that was promoted as limited to a certain number is suddenly available in a larger quantity long after it sold out. I certainly don’t believe that makes any of those people less of a true fan or means they’re collecting for the wrong reasons. That people who missed out can get a set is great, but I’m not going to point fingers and judge anyone who might be bummed over how they perceive the situation.

        Make sense?

  • Wes says:

    You know I agree with your point… but I think this is a bad example to use to make it, since a very expensive limited-run exclusive collector’s set ($360 for 15 figures… and they’re only 3.75″ figures at that?!) is a product that appeals to and encourages the Francis collector mentality. If it costs that much and is that difficult to get, then it’s not a toy anymore — and the few folks willing to pay that much (or more, via eBay) and jump through hoops to get it are necessarily going to form their own good ol’ nerdboys club.

    I’d like to see a day when stuff like this doesn’t even happen. I’d like to see companies not encourage it, because I’d like it to not be as profitable as it is. I’d like to see scalpers close up shop because nobody’s willing to pay their inflated prices, and I’d like to see Toys “R” Us take major hits until it learns to stop scalping at the retail level. I’d like to see a future that will never come.

    • Newton says:

      I totally get what you’re saying here, Wes. I guess I felt this was my personal breaking point, because of how tiny this problem was. As I said above, this item will still be both rare and expensive when the dust settles. Yet folks still complained. That’s what boggled my mind and irritated me enough to rant or “whine” about it.

      😉

    • Since I went to New Orleans, acquired the set, and bought all the additional exclusives at the show, I guess that makes me part of the good ol’ nerdboys club. Who knew? Do I get a membership card or something?

      • Newton says:

        I don’t think I ever implied that. To me, the entrance into the “good ol’ nerdboys club” would require you bragging about what you had that others didn’t and/or complaining that others were able to get what you had that was once more elusive.

        Likewise, in Wes’ defense, I don’t think he was saying that everyone who bought the Club exclusives is a Francis, but that the Club’s higher prices and low runs would likely attract more Francis types. Thus this wasn’t the best example to rally against the “good ol’ nerdboys club” because there was likely a lot more of them in the Club than the general collecting populace and that this behavior should be more expected then.

        • Yeah, that was in response to, “the few folks willing to pay that much (or more, via eBay) and jump through hoops to get it are necessarily going to form their own good ol’ nerdboys club.” It wasn’t commentary on anything you’ve said. He may not have been saying everyone who bought them was a Francis, but he definitely said everyone who bought them is part of the good ol’ nerdboys club.

  • By the way, there was a kid whose parents had more money than everyone else in our neighborhood, too. Their house was kind of out of place on the street, larger than all the others. I wouldn’t call him a Francis, as his attitude wasn’t nearly *that* bad, but he definitely got anything and everything he wanted. He was the only kid I ever knew who had a U.S.S. Flagg, and I never would have gotten to play with one (or even so much as *see* one in person until adulthood) if he hadn’t lived there. He wasn’t the most liked kid on the street, but we all liked playing at his house!

    • Newton says:

      You bring up a good point. It’s certainly not an economical thing, per se. There was a kid who didn’t live in our neighborhood (I suspect he lived in a much nicer neighborhood) who visited his grandmother who did live in our neighborhood. He’d spend weeks there during the summer and he always had some of the neatest stuff around. Stuff I’d never seen, including some import toys, video games and lots of cool Legos. He had no problem sharing or letting other people in on the fun.

  • BubbaShelby says:

    Here’s the root of the problem – companies that make money by selling mass quantities of a mass produced something marketing that product (whatever it may be) as a rare item. Nothing made by a company that mass produces items for profit can be rare, or else that company will go out of business.

    As you stated, Mattel appeared to have based their entire toyline business model of the past few years on perceived rarity. To the extent of never actually stating how many of any item exists, lest people realize they were in fact not rare at all. This mindset helped breed a ‘new’ (not really new) type of collector that built their collections off the rarity, exclusivity, short-window-of-time-to-buy mentality. But that house of cards eventually folded when everyone discovered they (and hundreds of others) were sitting on seven extra MOTUC Beast-Men that they couldn’t unload at cost.

    I agree, collect for whatever reasons you want to, but if you collect mass produced toys because you think you will have an item no one else has, you are in for a surprise either now or very very soon.

  • I really don’t understand why people are upset over GIJCC being MORE inclusive for collectors wanting this set. I’d love one but $360 is the moon, the stars, and most of the sky for me, so I’m sitting this out for the second time in a row. I can understand being irritated at paying $500 for a set that’s announced as getting a second run at a lower price the next week but you can’t really put a price on peace of mind. We’ve all overpayed for stuff at some point (Masterpiece Megatron is my ultimate icon of overpaying shame, as I sprung for one without the safety cap) but that’s just how hobbies are sometimes. People should be glad that there’s more Oktober Guard for people to enjoy and that the people who bought up some of the original run solely to resell at jerk-level prices are now getting a little stung for their selfishness. It’s still on the high-end of pricing but no one’s ever going to pay for a mansion or a fleet of BMWs with some con exclusive Joe figures.

    Don’t people want to help out other collectors? I’ll never forget people on certain boards getting upset at the suggestion that Mattel should reissue Giganta’s head and lower torso for the approximately 98.9% of DCUC collectors who never found a carded Gentleman Ghost. The reasons were pretty much what’s seen here, with people being angry that the perceived value of their hyper-rare BAF would be reduced by the rest of the community getting a statistically sane crack at it. I lucked out with ordering a set of the Giganta wave at BBTS but I know I definitely wouldn’t resent Mattel putting the rare parts out there for everyone else. Don’t some of these people have friends that they want to share the hobby with as opposed to lording over them with the superiority of their collection? It’s so strange to me, building walls to keep other people out of the hobby.

  • JFCC says:

    Uh…as a kid I had the Millennium Falcon, Castle Grayskull, Trypticon, Scorponok and Fortress Maximus, as well as imported Godzilla figures from Bandai that my dad picked up at Mr Big Toyland in Waltham, MA.

    I don’t think I lorded that over anyone…largely because I didn’t have a whole lot of friends to lord it over, especially not ones who cared much about toys.

    As for the topic of toys being re-released and thus lowering the value of the originals…I personally fall firmly on the side that this is a good thing. The company makes more money, workers who make the toys get paid, and collectors get to finish their collections. Make more toys, period. Always. Reissue Giganta.

    That said, I do have some friends who make a lot of their disposable income from selling vintage toys, and I must admit I understand, if not necessarily agree with, their viewpoint on things like re-releases of, say, vintage Star Wars figures. But with stuff like the Oktober Guard we’re not talking about old toys that no one ever expected to re-sell. Many were bought for speculation purposes in the first place.

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  • Devon Decker says:

    I’m gla dyou write this I am tired of the collector driven marketplace. It bothers me to no end that people purchase rare items just to turn around and sell them for twice the original price. Its not just toys its everything that has assumed value. My biggest gripe is the variant comic book cover. Which if I were to buy new on day one would set me back 10 dollars when the cover price is $3.99, I know its not exactly the same thing, but it is frustrating nonetheless and I am glad to see you taking the time to address it.

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