We’ve all felt it.
It begins when you read on the forums that Figure X may have been found at retail and your heart skips a beat. You hop in your car, get a ride, catch a bus. With a rush of adrenalin as you enter the store’s parking lot, your mind filling with the possibilities of what awaits you in the toy aisle. The building anxiety as you walk towards your destination, your pace and heart rate increasing with each step. Your mind is racing.
Could it really be there? What if someone has gotten to it first?? What if it’s a scalper??? What if he’s there RIGHT NOW WITH MY BELOVED TOY IN HIS FILTHY SCALPER HANDS????
The pressure is building. You are almost running now. You nearly roll an elderly woman as you dart around an endcap, focused on your goal. It’s got to be there, it must be there!
Finally – you reach the toy aisle! But wait -someone is already there! NO!!!
Frozen for just a few seconds, you glance his way, your eyes frantically scanning his basket, his hands, anything he might be touching, making sure this subhuman hasn’t stolen what is rightfully yours. How dare he be in MY aisle! What figures is he looking at?? You quickly rifle through the options in your head while pretending to calmly peruse the dozens of unloved Arctic Threat Destro and Iron Man figures.
Go the next aisle and patiently wait until he leaves? Impossible! Take him out with a Karate Kid crane kick? No, no, I couldn’t do that……but it’s FIGURE X! Oh, how I’ve been waiting for this day! I NEED IT! I mean, I’m a real collector, I’ve been faithfully supporting Company X and discussing Figure X on the forums and I cannot wait to post the photos of it on the forum! I deserve this!!!
Your panicked and desperate mind has taken you over the edge, and you are determined to claim this action figure, no matter the cost. You spin to confront your Toy Intruder – only to see him leave the aisle. VICTORY!
You step to the rows of action figures, your eyes darting back and forth, looking for Figure X. Where is it?? You look around, flip behind other figures, under the shelves. It HAS to be here! Maybe someone hid it! You keep searching, scanning, moving through the aisle, looking behind larger boxes, pushing them back to the rear partition to confirm nothing has been hidden…
…and it slowly dawns on you that Figure X is not here. It hasn’t even been shipped to the store yet. With a sigh, you slowly shuffle out of the toy aisle, while looking for something, anything to buy, just so the pain of your fruitless search will go away.
Leaving the store, you start to come down off the adrenalin. You begin to think a little more clearly and you realize that your behavior was a little too obsessive and irrational.
Maybe you begin to shake your head and laugh…and then you realize there are four more stores within 30 minutes’ drive. The Chase begins anew.
- – - – -
Overly dramatic? Perhaps. But I’m sure at one time or another we’ve all found ourselves getting caught up in the thrill of collecting. The monthly MattyCollector WSOD. The emo toydrops of 3A. Exclusives at SDCC. It’s nothing new to the world of collecting, but fans increasingly find themselves in competition with each other just to acquire the Latest and Greatest action figure or collectible. And that begs the question – do you collect action figures because you like them, or do collect because you love the rush of searching, finding, and sharing?
Are you addicted to the product, or addicted to the thrill of the chase?
Your mileage may vary, but I generally find what I am looking for on very few sessions of the ‘Toy Hunt’. These days, my success rate is, maybe 10%? Which is why I go on fewer Hunts than I used to. I just don’t want to waste the time and resources, knowing that I probably won’t find that specific figure. And at times, that does affect my enthusiasm for certain lines or figures. But in the days of widespread Marvel Legends distribution and chase figures, and the SOTA Street Fighter Gamestop exclusives, I would hit multiple stores per week, sometimes every day, searching for the goods. And often I came out empty-handed and bummed out, only to repeat the same pattern the next day. It was nuts.
I’m sure many of you can relate to this behavior. Even after unsuccessful Toy Hunts that leave you so frustrated and discouraged that you vow to quit on the spot and sell everything on eBay, you find yourself doing it again. Ok, sure, maybe you take a few days off out of frustration, but inevitably you find yourself running errands, driving by that Target and wondering if the new JLU figures are sitting there. Before you know it you have parked and are heading towards to the door. Why??
Because every once in a while…you WIN.
That rare day when you are the first collector in the aisle, or that late evening you find an unopened case and a helpful employee. And somehow this single ray of sunshine, this unlikely triumph, erases all the countless wasted trips over the past few months. The proud toynerd march with the spoils of victory towards the register makes the whole game all worth it. I remember searching for weeks when the Marvel Legends Red Skull chase figure was released, finding nothing but leftover Mr. Fantastic and Nick Fury figures. But one Thursday afternoon, I happen to be returning from a presscheck on the north part of Denver and decided to stop at an unfamiliar Walmart. I turn into the toy aisle, and three full cases of ML wave 5 are being stocked onto the shelf. The stocker happilly let me rifle through the cases, and ecstatic, I walked to the checkout with three Red Skulls. (Should I have bought all three? Maybe, maybe not, but that’s another discussion for another blog). This rare discovery made the other twenty five unsuccessful trips a distant memory.
Maybe some of you have changed your buying habits to online-only in today’s collecting environment, assuming that whatever is out there will be purchased by Scalpers or (heaven forbid) Moms. But buying online seems so…Boring. Lame. Unsatisfying. There’s something to be said about walking into a store and stumbling upon Something New. Playing the odds, taking a chance. And then, once the prized possession is in-hand, working the forums into a frenzy by posting pictures (with proof-of-purchase receipt and circled date, natch). This “Seek ‘n Share” mentality has really altered our current collecting habits. The forums, the overseas eBay auctions, we’ve been worked up into a frenzy – not just to hunt down the elusive item at any cost, but to be the first to share it with the rest of the collecting community.
Look at the prices that fans pay in eBay auctions for the initial releases of mass-retail figures, just to have it before the rest of us. Certainly these figures aren’t worth ten times the retail price, so I can only assume these bidders are driven by the thrill of acquiring the figure before anyone else does. We’ve all seen the attention generated on the forum when photos of yet-unreleased figures are posted and discussed. Feelsgoodman, right?
What about companies providing this rush? The DC Direct Hal Jordan Blue/Orange/Red/etc Lantern variants were exclusive to SDCC and near-impossible to get singly, let alone an entire set. Were the figures really that great? Or did fans get caught up in the ‘collect them all!’ hype?
Or take a look at the MOTUC line on MattyCollector. It’s brilliant, really. Mattel announces the figure months in advance to build the hype, the forums discuss the coming figure for weeks, increasing the excitement and anticipation, then on Sale Day the fans rush the site at 9:55 am, spend up to an hour refreshing and stressing, and then maybe, maybe actually end up with the Limited Edition figure before it sells out. That’s a pretty exhausting and possibly emotionally satisfying/devastating day. If you wait a few months, you might be able to acquire the same figure easily through secondary markets, but now you’ve missed the window. It’s old news. No one wants to hear about you finally buying a six-month-old figure. The multiple threads containing the giddy success and emo complaints have been long-forgotten and buried. Everyone has moved on to Something New. The topic is dead, and along with it, your enthusiasm. So I ask, is Matty more about the amazing product, or the amazing hysteria generated by limited quantities and guaranteed sellouts?
It’s an interesting looks at the psychological motives behind our collecting habits. Take an objective look at why you buy certain lines or figures, and share your thoughts. I’ve address a few different topics above but I’d love to hear your perspective, either here or on the forum.
…Oh by the way, I happened to stop at Target yesterday and find the JLU Barry Allen, Power Ring, and Starro Superman figures. Sigh. I will never learn.