The Economics of Action Figures Part I: Value

Russell Michaels

Russell Michaels

Russell is inside his own mind, a comfortable yet silly place. He is also on Twitter.

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9 Responses

  1. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    I liked reading this essay; thank you for contributing to it!

    A couple years ago I did some minor collecting; first Japanese anime-robot toys (mostly Kaiyodo’s “Revoltech” series), and then later US-retail Transformers. (I liked having them on my desk at work, but I also didn’t want things that I’d have to worry about inquisitive co-workers breaking by playing with them, and the Japanese figures were pretty fragile.)

    I didn’t keep at it because that is a muuuuuuuuney sink. And, really, once you have too many Transformers to change them from alt-to-bot-mode (or back) in a single afternoon, you’ve got too many.

    But one thing I’ve been very impressed by is how good modern Transformers toys are. The alt mode actually looks like something rather than being entirely a vague brick of folded-up robot parts, the bot mode is a genuinely poseable multi-jointed action figure rather than “a car with arms sticking out of it”. I’m getting them as much for the engineering involved as for the play value…

    The other thing that’s impressed me is the amount of third-party stuff. Everything from simple fan-produced conversion kits or “accessories” (guns) on Shapeways and Thingiverse, up to professionally-engineered and -manufactured toys.Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird says:

    A number of years ago, mom finally cleaned out a little drawer she had that she called “the gift drawer”. It had a bunch of little things in it for if you needed a present for someone else but didn’t have time to do much than grab something and wrap it in aluminum foil and get in the car.

    In the very back of it, she found a Kenner Empire Strikes Back Darth Vader still in its original packaging. She said something about giving it to one of the grandbabies for his birthday and I immediately freaked out and said “no, sell it on Ebay!”

    And it sold for some obscene amount and they dumped most of the money into his savings fund but still had enough left over to buy multiple sweet toys.

    It’s nuts.

    I was reminded of the old Onion story about the antique dealer who kept being asked to appraise collections of Smurfs.Report

  3. Avatar CJColucci says:

    What is “value” as opposed to “price”? As Ricardo pointed out, water is essential for life yet, in much of the world, it is cheap. Diamonds, by contrast, are, except for a few industrial applications (easily satisfied by low-quality diamonds), useless, purely decorative geegaws but very expensive. I used to drive a beer truck, which, these days, would make me an “essential” worker, yet I made far less (even accounting for inflation) then than I do now as a far-from-essential lawyer. Why? Because many more people can do my “essential” former job than can do the unessential job I do now. (I’ve had dreams that I was back on the beer truck. I wonder how long I would last?) Which version of me has, or had, more “value”? You can answer that any way you like, but the market avoids the question and merely sets a price.Report

  4. Avatar CJColucci says:

    “Explain” You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.Report

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