The Circle Is Now Complete!
April 25, 2010

 

Wow, five years. I think this makes it the longest that I’ve been at one online "home" (not counting ToyOtter.com, which is really more of a rest stop than a home for new content). And it’s easily been the best place I’ve had the pleasure to be a part of.

So, to celebrate our "wooden anniversary" (thanks for that bit of knowledge, Mr. Lenzi), I’m going to write a series of blogs this week with each one being a follow-up to an older post that I’ve made, possibly even going back to old content on RTM and ToyOtter in the spirit of celebrating what has come before. Yes, believe it or not that means a new Ottertorial for every day this week!

I don’t believe it either.

And what could be a better way to kick this off than revisiting my very first blog that ran here at AFi? I’m speaking specifically about my appreciation of Funko’s Wacky Wobblers, in particular the ones based on Ad Icons. When I started collecting these things were much different in my life: I was a toy designer who liked the old marketing mascots, but outside of Wendy I hadn’t had a lot of contact with them (although you won’t believe how many times I pushed to get a head bobber made of Dave Thomas!)

 

These days, though, I actually do work in marketing, thinking up promotions for such diverse brands as Kraft, Castrol, Frito-Lay, Campbell’s, etc. And while I’ve tried a couple of times to push promotional merchandise on my bosses (sad to say I can guarantee you won’t be seeing a Frito Bandito Wobbler anytime soon) I really haven’t had much more opportunities to see cool retro stuff make it out than I used to.

And it seems like that’s how it goes for Funko, too. It’s been awhile since they’ve really pushed out any nostalgia properties; I talked with Brian Mariotti at Toy Fair this year and he confirms that they really don’t have any plans to make ad icon wobblers anymore. I can see where he’s coming from: back when they were a smaller company, Funko only made a few thousand of each Wobbler and the licenses were for small, one-shot runs. Those sold OK, but many of them took a little while to sell through all the way. And that was when they had outlets to sell them like Tower Records and Suncoast, which have gone the way of the dodo. Nowadays Funko plays with the big boys: they make hundred of thousands of Marvel and Star Wars Wobblers and sell them in big chains. The last one they made was the modern Burger King, and he’s easily available still.

So what it appears to be is that my collection is more or less complete…at least, it is as of a week ago. That’s when I acquired the last of the Wacky Wobbler Holy Grails: the Outback Kangaroo! Who, you say? The Outback Kangaroo?!? Since when does Outback Steakhouse have a mascot? Well, they don’t. Except for this Wobbler that was made solely for a corporate event and never available on the mass market. Funko used to (and stay may for all I know) make small runs of custom Wobblers for whoever wanted them, and better yet made them with actual packaging so they were considered as part of the overall collection. So you could pick up great icons like the Gorton’s Fisherman or the Empire Carpet Guy if you went to a little effort and expense. The only other corporate one I know that they did was Magic, the Old Navy dog who kinda existed as a real dog in their ads 10 years ago.

But Outback had no such mascot, so they created this boomerang throwing Kangaroo to fill the gap. I had never picked him up before as I refuse to spend more than $20 or so on any wobbler (I got lucky to start collecting when they first came out, as prices for some of these hit the hundreds of dollars, easily). I only have a few of the rarest ones already because I traded logos and website designs for them. So I pretty much forgot about getting a Kangaroo, and since he’s not really a legit mascot it didn’t bother me too much. Not enough to spend $100 in any case.

And then a couple of weeks ago I was looking over some old emails and noticed one from a few years back where I was watching an eBay auction for one. So I went to do a search to see if any of them still show up. And found one…for a Buy-It-Now of $12.95. Sold! And that, my friends, is the end of a collection. Why so cheap, you ask? Well, I think two things are in play here: one is the principle of "all good things come to those who wait", namely that toy prices in general are their highest shortly after the toy is released, when the maximum amount of competition is after it. As each collector’s need is satisfied, the demand goes down and supply goes up. Unless an item is truly rare, the longer you wait the easier it is to find. Ebay helps this factor tremendously. Second, the hobby of collecting these Wobblers has diminished quite a bit from the mid 2000s, when Funko was releasing new Wobblers every few months at short runs. So like me, if you aren’t always on the prowl for new items you just aren’t paying attention to what’s out there. Pretty much all of the "rare" wobblers that commanded hundreds of dollars a few years ago are readily available at reasonable prices.

Still, I do hope that one day Funko cranks out a few more of these. I really would like the rest of my favorite icons to make the grade: CrunchBerry Beast, Pizza Hut Pete, Sugar Pops Pete, King Ding Dong, or the Piggly Wiggly Pig among others. But if this is all I get, them I guess I’m pretty happy. After all, who would have though ANY of these guys would get a toy 30-40 years after their heyday? Not me. Although one day I still would like to see that Dave Thomas sitting on my shelf, pitching his square hamburgers to the rest of the marketing legends…

 

Jason "ToyOtter" Geyer
AFi Editor-In-Chief Jason Geyer has been part of the online pop culture world for nearly 20 years, having founded some of the very first toy sites on the web including Raving Toy Maniac, ToyOtter, and now Action Figure Insider. Along the way he helped pioneer online coverage of industry events such as San Diego Comic Con, E3, Toy Fair, and CES. He is also a former toy designer who is now a marketing genius. If he does say so himself. And he does.
Read other articles by Jason "ToyOtter" Geyer.

 

 

 

6 Comments »

  • Lt. Clutch says:

    What a great story, Jason. I love advertising mascot and anything collectible that goes with ‘em, but I’m seriously interested in these Funko Wobblers now. My chances of heading out to the other side of the country are slim, so when I received a figure from an eBay dealer wrapped inside a Piggly Wiggly plastic bag, I kept the bag for the sheer novelty of it. (We don’t have those in Southern California.) And how cool would it be to have a series of Hostess Wobblers? King Ding Dong! Twinkie the Kid! Captain Cupcake! Fruit Pie the Magician! Happy Ho-Ho! Chauncey the Chocodile! Chief Big Wheel! (Does anyone remember these last two? They were regional!) And yeah, Dave Thomas would rock. I loved his commercials.

  • Lt. Clutch says:

    Congrats on the awesome collection, btw! I’m checking out the links you provided for the various advertising mascots. Pizza Hut Pete had a lot of neat stuff produced during his heyday, even toys and a playhouse. Wow!

  • demoncat says:

    Cool post. and glad you got one of your holly grails for a steal. as for the wobblers not created given how sooner or later in the industry toy lines make a come back and experiance a new wave of being wanted. some day those things may see the light of day even the Dave thomas one for after all at first you do not suceed try try again.

  • Jim_Abell says:

    Great blog, Jason. That reminds me, I stopped at a Big Boy a few weeks ago and bought a character bank on a lark. I was surprised to find the Funko markings on the bottom when I got home.

  • Danny CantinaDan says:

    Love the kitschiness of it all! A buddy was over the other day and we spent like 10 minutes just staring at that pic of your display. SO much fun stuff there. Congrats on the Kangaroo!

  • Jonas Grumby says:

    I think that if I had to give up all my collections except one, I’d hang on to my ad icons. There’s something supremely pleasant about having them about me.

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