Retail product frustrating you? Consider alternatives.
January 27, 2009

This started out as a post in response to the DCIH Anti-Monitor points only being able for redemption at SDCC.  People are pissed, even though it was known months ago.  Collectors want to collect, and obstacles in their way are both frustrating and unnecessary.  I wanted to chime in.  As I formulated my post, I realized I had more to say about collecting current retail lines in general, so I decided to put all my thoughts down here in case others could identify with them.

I have some advice for everyone.  Retail product should not be so frustrating…so don’t collect them if they infuriate you so.  I know it will be difficult, but there are other ways to satisfy your collecting jones that will eventually cost out the same amount.

As my engagement fell apart back in late 2006, I needed something.  Something to keep my mind off of things…something familiar…something fun to do. I returned to an old hobby of mine…collecting action figures. Specifically, given my past connection to the DCAU, Justice League Unlimited from Mattel.

To sum up without being too long-winded, I was soon caught up.  Between retail and fellow collectors online, it was easy.  So easy that by the time DCUC Wave 2 was starting to show at stores I decided to branch out into that line as well.  Again, I was soon caught up with DCSH/DCUC as well…and at as close to retail as you could get.

Since then, it’s gotten worse.  Far worse.  Yet it’s gotten worse amidst fantastic news…character selection in DCUC and JLU was ramped up to a point that none of us could have imagined.  A few 3-3/4" line was announced with the objective of pumping out dozens of characters at a time.  More DC product at retail than ever before.  Throughout it all, rising costs and endless empty searches have made public opinion of DC lines bipolar (like me).  Great product (DCIH sculpting notwithstanding), impossible to find.  I also tried Hasbro’s Indiana Jones line recently.  I loved the Indy toys from Kenner, and this was a way to recapture that…if only they could be found at $7.99 as they should.

That’s why I had to stop. It’s frustrating to see all the cool toys…yet not be able to collect them within reason (i.e. at retail).  I hated to give it up completely…so I looked at how much I was spending (or was going to spend) to locate the toys I wanted, and then looked for an alternative to satisfy myself yet with the peace-of-mind that my money was being well-spent.

I made the decision that if I was going to pay eBay prices and lots of money to collect JLU & DCSH (and to a lesser extent, Indy) that I was going to put my money into something actually *worth* that expense to me.  I wanted to stay within the DC Universe to start.  Enter : Super Powers.  You all know how much I’ve been enjoying that, and in the near future you’ll see just HOW much.  😀

You know, though, I was in Walmart yesterday and they actually had one DCUC figure (Superman) and a bunch of DCIH. I had a "Jeff Cope Moment" and looked at all the different DCIH figures they had…Superman, Batman, Black Lightning, Spectre, Fate, Joker, Hawkman, Supergirl, etc…and they were actually neat to see as a huge group. Suddenly the issues I had with their sculpting didn’t see so worrisome; I could only imagine having all of them on a shelf…however, upon further thought I knew to find them all and pay the prices for them is absurd.  As it is retail prices are inexplicably rising…but when product can’t be found and eBay sellers are your only option, then the price borders on ridiculous.

IMHO, to pay $20 for a nice carded Super Powers Lex Luthor or Darkseid, OR to pay $35 for a DCUC Mr. Miracle or Shazam on eBay is a no-brainer to me. While Miracle and Shazam are awesome figures, I can’t justify the expense.

Any line at retail should be relatively EASY to collect, and if you want all the figures and are somewhat diligent you should be able to collect everything you want at retail prices. Even in a worst-case scenario, trading with friends online or paying above retail a few times should be a last resort.

In doing LESS searching for Super Powers than I ever did for JLU or DCUC, it’s amazing what I’ve been able to find.  Extremely rare figures, carded pre-production samples, proof cards, foreign packaged figures not previously known to exist…and the list goes on.  Are they expensive?  Some are…and most aren’t.  Given the choice to find a DCSH Two-Face for $60 on eBay or my Super Powers Green Lantern & Aquaman proof cards ($50 for both) I feel completely at ease that I made the correct choice.

If current collecting frustrates, annoys, or angers anyone as much as it did me…all I can say is take a step back and at least give some thought to the fact that there might be another alternative.  Super Powers, Secret Wars, Dungeons & Dragons, hell even the early 90’s Toybiz DC and Marvel lines can all be had easily for an expense similar to what the current retail status (or lack thereof) of both Mattel AND Hasbro offer up.  Even if you don’t decide to go that route, at least give it some thought.

You might be glad you did.



Read other articles by ChipCataldo.





  • ZAXILLA2 says:

    Very well put. It certainly puts things in perspective. I refuse to resort to eBay for figures that should be readily available at retail and if I don’t find them, so be it. I have been fortunate enough to find all JLU figures at retail, less so with DCUC. Just as Wave 6 has been starting to drop, I happened to find a few figures from Wave 2.

    and then the ‘walmart wave’…who knows if it will ever find it’s way to my shelf, or many other fans’ shelves for that matter. I have been to more walmarts more times in the past four weeks then I probably have been in the past four years. and, save for when I found Black Lightning, I have walked out empty handed each time.

    Finally, I can’t wait to see what more you have picked up for your Super Powers collection. Everything I’ve seen thus far looks fantastic!

  • mentalpower says:

    Nice post, Chip. Also a good choice, to go back to pick super-powers. I did that already a pair of years ago and it was a very pleasant feeling when I got all the characters I wanted. Which then lead me to think about my own strategies in collecting.

    There is still a third option if there is a character you would kill to have but either a) it is sold out, b)its prices on eBay are ridiculous expensive, or even c) it has not been made yet in plastic: customizing your own figure. not being able to get some of the Super Powers figures such as Green Lantern, Dr. Fate or Shazam was what pushed me into customizing, more than a decade ago. Then my customizing craziness extended to characters not made in plastic, of course, but still now-a-days I tend to weight pros and cons when I am about to buy an exclusive or hard-to-find figure online: shall I pay this price if I acn do one by myself?.

    One of the latest examples was Lord Hawkgirl in the JLU line. I was so tired looking for non-ridiculous prices for it that finally stopped and decided to do my own directly with one of the extra regular Hawkgirls that were piling dust in a box. (I might show the result one of these days in the AFI forums…).

    So my message for the people out there is that if you have to pay $50+ for a figure (which sometimes is even just a repaint of an existing one anyway), you might consider doing it yourself and saving the money.

  • bnjmnrlyr says:

    Hey Chip,

    You are exactly right. This is so frustrating to me right now. I love this line (DCIH) like no other. This is the line that my son and I bond over. This is the line that lets me live out whatever fantasies I want to recreate be them from the comics or our imagination. I simply cannot get enough of this line (JLU is a very close 2nd for me, DCUC is on its way out I think).

    I enjoy DCIH the way I enjoyed all my toys as a kid. There simply isn’t any other way to put it. Not getting this exclusive will not be the end of the world, I understand that. I accept that. I have had to pass on must have items in the past. I am sure I will again in the future.

    Thanks for putting this out there. It helps to have someone else say what you already know but won’t admit.

    taking a deep breath …

    p.s. you speak in a much different voice here than you do as “Marillion”. I think I prefer this one.

  • Wildcard says:

    I applaud Hasbro for what they have done with their Star Wars line. They have made 99% of figures easily available to buyers. No matter how desirable a figure is, one can eventually find it in retail stores. At least, that has been my experience with it. Even their exclusives are accessible through starwarsshop or hasbrotoyshop.

  • OddJob says:

    Hasbro doesn’t have the problems Mattel does. Joe and SW are easy to collect and to get the characters. Same with Marvel Universe I’m sure.

    Indiana Jones was relatively easy to get sans a couple of waves and that actually WASN’T Hasbro’s fault. It was Indiana Jones as a line tanking’s fault.

    Mattel just has no idea how to run a boys toy line and they likely never will.

  • David says:

    I’ve recently been rethinking my collecting myself, based on only finding terrible JLU product. I’ve become so jaded finding Hawkman so many times and never buying him because of poor production quality. The worst was when I actually bought the villians 6-pack only to get home and find Batman’s hand was melted. Mattel sent me a $6 coupon, but seriously, what am I going to spend it on? I still plan on having a talk with Scott Neitlich at NYCC, but your absolutely right, Chip. It should be fun, and when it’s not, it’s time to move on. Glad to know others are feeling this way too.

  • Spilldog says:

    I agree with you, Chip. But I have also found that if someone wants something (like an action figure) bad enough, they will pay any price to get it. I’ve found myself guilty of that too. I was impatient waiting around to find a DCUC Deathstroke figure (just so I could complete my Solomon Grundy BAF), that I went and bought Grundy’s remaining arm on Ebay, paying more for it than I would have paid for Deathstroke WITH the Grundy arm. Was I stupid for doing that? Perhaps… but I wanted that remaining piece bad enough that I was willing to pay anything to get it.

  • Erik superfriend says:

    Nicely put, Chip.

    A good alternative option. I’ve yet to jump into either DCSH/DCUC or DCIH, sticking to DcDirect and JLU for now. DCDirect used to be more expensive, but their price has gone down over the years and I can now get new releases reliably for 13$ a figure. And I know way in advance what figures are coming, can order them from my local comic store, and pick them up there with no searching at all.

  • dean says:

    I agree with this 100%. Mattel has done a terrible job with everything they try to do. They have the best intentions but keep screwing up. I have given up on any dc product from them due to the high cost and unable to find it. (Hasbro too, the new 3 3/4 marvel figures are 9.99 in Canada) I’ve gone back to picking up classic figures of gi joe/transformers/star wars and super powers too. It’s wierd that it’s cheaper to get the classics.

    DC diect is the way to go. I can get any figures and the price is a bit higher but i can acually get them.

  • Mouther says:

    Man, for people who collects here in South America all this retail product thing is out of the reality. Here collecting means invest a LOT of time and money… and you do only if you really want to do it.
    The thing is that if you want your collection grow, you have to buy: online, ebay, mercadolibre.. and scarpels thath sells used toys like they were brand new. Anyway collecting is luxury here.

  • abotepol says:

    Collecting toy in the US still better than us in Indonesia. A DCUC at retail/specialty store is about 22 USD right now, same goes to DCD. Used DCUC about 15 USD. Also real luxury here. Strangely, more variants found here than regular ones, like Modern Aquaman and yellow suit Sinestro.

  • Danny CantinaDan says:

    Enjoyed that blog, Chip. And I think your new collecting philosophy makes a lot of sense. Its funny you mentioned Dungeons and Dragons ’cause thats exactly what I’ve been wanting to go back and complete.

  • Lt. Clutch says:

    Nice suggestion, Chip. I just bought 9 of the 10 figures found in the Captain Power series that Mattel released over 20 years ago. The whole lot plus shipping came out to about $6.50 per figure. That’s less than the average price for a 3 3/4 inch figure at retail nowadays. Heck of a bargain compared to the newer stuff out there.

  • Its says:

    Yeah, I noticed people are pulling their hair out on the DCUC variants and one such figure is Black Suit Regen Superman from Wave 6. He’a also available in the Sueperman:Doomsday movie line and another DC Superheroes related line from awhile back. The Doomsday release is still fairly cheap and faithful to the Supes’ appearance (long hair) in the comic. The other release goes for anywhere between 30-50 dollars it seems.

    Another example is the Despero Build A Figure wave 4 for DCUC. A comparable release in the Total Justice line years ago goes for around 20 dollars on E-Bay and online shops if search hard enough. There’s also the Superman/Batman release that was more recent but less faithful in its representation of the comic version and smaller scaled.

    But yeah, many different versions of these characters have been released over the years and collectors who open their toys and don’t care about mint condition items have a good chance of finding substitute thats more common and cheaper thanks to DC’s rich history of producting action figures based on their characters.

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