Starting a Collection, Part Two: Choosing Figures
This is the second part of a series of articles for new toy collectors. Last time I advised restraint and pacing. I suggested that those new to the hobby get started in our namesake, focusing on bargain figures and special deals to decide what you're after. Today, we're going to turn our attention to the craft of deciding whether something's worth your hard-earned cash.
There is a science to buying action figures, a philosophy. I've already touched on the first rule of this, and now we shall turn to the process of researching and choosing toys.
Now, obviously this is more applicable to toys you're buying at full retail price or on a secondary market like Ebay. If you're focusing on the clearance section of your local Toys R Us - like I suggested - you aren't going to have the same number of options open to you.
But every now and then you'll want to add something special to your collection. Before you spend top dollar paying full retail price, be sure you're getting your money's worth.
Of course this brings up another question: How do you separate the good figures from the bad? It can be a little disorienting at first, since packaging is often designed to conceal flaws.
The cardinal rule, buy what you like, doesn't always work in the real world. The fact is, some figures look better out of the box than in and vice versa. If you see something you love at a decent price, by all means pick it up. But the honest truth is looks can be deceiving.
And that's assuming you can see the figure, at all. A lot of buying now is done online, where you have to trust the seller's pictures and descriptions. How do you know if a deal is really a bargain... or just a business trying to unload something no one else wants?
In addition, a lot of characters have multiple incarnations out there. Even if something looks all right, there might be a better version available. If you're interested in buying a single Batman figure, for instance, you've got dozens of choices. You don't want to spend twenty bucks on Ebay just to discover something twice as good a week later.
If you're not sure what you want, it's a good idea to read some reviews. We have a few here (with more on the way), but obviously this represents a small fraction of the toys out there.
Some online retailers, including Amazon, post customer reviews, which can give you a quick idea of what you're getting into. Of course, you never really know whether the reviews are being posted by customers at all. Even if they are, the toy collector is usually confronted with numerous reviews geared towards a younger audience - for some reason, people still seem to associate toys with kids.
Fortunately, The Clearance Bin isn't the only game in town. I recently posted some links to other sites which can help you tell the difference between something you need to buy and something you need to skip.
Also, because it's required viewing, I want to plug one of the pages again here. Michael Crawford's site has the single best database of reviews I've seen on the net. If you're looking for advice on a figure, there's no better place to start.
The internet is full of tools for collectors - use them. Research figures, characters, and companies before laying down handfuls of cash. There's nothing wrong with spending money on something that's worth it, but there's nothing worse than buying something expensive that isn't.
Next week we'll offer a field guide to toy collecting. Don't leave home without it!