The Thrill of the Chase
April 22, 2011


 

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-unrelea

sed 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.

 

Ryan "TheSuperfly" Prast
Current designer, future artist, eternal manchild, Ryan "The Superfly" Prast uses his toynerd acumen to delve deep into the profound nuances of life. With a penchant for tiny plastic men and nostalgia of times past, he also enjoys panelology, obscure cultural references, tomfoolery and/or shenanigans, conspiracy theories, and watching his Cubs flush another season down the toilet. And he always keeps his fork when there’s pie.
Read other articles by Ryan "TheSuperfly" Prast.

 

 

 

26 Comments »

  • CJF28 says:

    “Are you addicted to the product, or addicted to the thrill of the chase?”

    this is the best line out of the entire article.

    I consider myself more of a “hunter” than a “collector”. many times I rush to finish an entire set or toyline, only upon completion do I look back and stare at the toys and think “What now?”

    It usually ends with me selling them as a set, to break even, and begin looking for something else.

    Great article. and fun. Thanks.

    Cory

  • jzachery says:

    I can honestly say with 100% certainty, that collecting has never been about the chase for me. Heck, often some of my favorite figures are the easy to find ones. While I do admit, finding the new figures in the aisles was intoxicating, the last few years of JLU collecting has completely soured me on the chase. I had started with the MOTUC on Mattycollector, and I had the first 11, but it got way too complicated, and way too much work. I loved the figures, but after collecting JLU I knew the hassles I had ahead of me. I just wasn’t up for it. The hunt doesn’t exist in the same manner that it used to.
    Years ago there was a range of figures, some easy to find and plentiful, some medium, some hard to find, but not impossible. Now, they are either on the pegs or they are not. And that’s it. There is no more hunt. The product is either available or it isn’t. I’m so soured on collecting right now it’s not even funny.

  • demoncat says:

    i always considered myself a hunter just doing the toy collecting thing for the hunt.since knowing if the one figure i was looking for was not in stock or sold out that sooner or later i would come across the character that he or she would be back in stock down the road . or online. mostly lately with dcuc .

  • Shellhead says:

    While I can appreciate the thrill of the hunt, I’m much more of a collector. If I could get my figures online for the exact same price as I could in a store (and get free shipping), I’d order everything from the interwebs. But as I hate paying for shipping, I almost always try the retail route first.

    • stewbacca says:

      I agree 100%- its all about the owning not the hunting– although hunting for a good deal may fall into that category–

      Id almost say we were brothers -except for that fascination for an Orange Scaley Clad man–or the Red and Yellow armor-(which oddly enough mix to make orange)– If your favorite Lantern is Larfleeze– I think you may have a problem. :)

  • Tom2814 says:

    Oh, I haven’t enjoyed the thrill of the hunt in a long, long time. Most every figure I’ve gotten in the past few years either has been on the net or pre-ordered from my LCS. I think the last time I actually found something that I was looking for — for myself, not an extra for the boards, but for ME — was when I stumbled across the Atom from the old Total Justice line. A crap line with lousy articulation and the same body used over and over again, but it was the Gil Kane Atom and I actually found it. I think I jumped up and down like a little kid. (Fortunately I was alone in the aisle.) I seem to have no luck with JLU; most everything since 2007 with JLU has been from a fellow collector, eBay, or an online purchase. Same with DCUC: I haven’t seen wave 16 here, ever. I love the characters and the figures that I collect — DC nerd from the git-go! — but even though I still make the rounds, it’s not productive. I guess it’s become habit. Sad, sad habit….

  • Cephus says:

    Yup, I’m a hunter. While it’s nice to have the toys, it’s the chase that’s fun. Otherwise, it’s just a credit card exercise. If all I have to do is log on, pay for a set and log off, where’s the fun in that?

  • Jeff Cope Jeff Cope says:

    Brilliant blog, ‘Fly. Brilliant.

    I would say that it’s not about the chase for me, but yet I find myself chasing from time to time. Between reports of some TRUs putting out GL product early, and the second series of Jakk’s POTC line due to hit any time now…I’ve found myself in TRU and Walmart more often recently than I’d care to admit. And completely non-aerodynamic Honda Element gets crappy gas mileage and gas is like $4.89/gal right now. It’s ridiculous, and I get frustrated for doing it. And, yet…

  • TRDouble says:

    Well, I want what I want, when I want it! LOL! So I do more online ordering these days when I can (see: DCUC) and that was even before the first gas price hike! So, I consider myself a collector, first & foremost. That said, I still love the hunt! If I know Target has the latest JLU or MU, I will push to get the kids out of the house to school on-time just so I can stop off at Target on the way to work. I will make lunchtime runs to Target and TRU (and, when they were there, Media Play & Walmart) and eat in the car to fit it all in… even when there wasn’t anything I was specifically looking for! Getting a package in the mail is cool, but nothing beats the joy of finding something in the aisle. I remember it when I finally found a Spider-Man Classics Yellow Daredevil at K*B ToyWorks after finally giving up on it, finding the ML blue Ghost Rider and Dark Phoenix on a late night stop to Walmart, a ML maskless Wolverine when I had the guy at Walmart climb the ladder to a stack of MLs and that was the first one he pulled down… to finding the Walmart DCUC waves and the latest Target JLU 3-Packs! I don’t get caught up in the hype quite as much as I used to — I still have an attic full of ‘hype’ that I cannot get rid of for a price I find acceptable (see: non-OT SSC Star Wars, 4HM 7th Kingdom) — but it certainly plays a part of my hunting when people find something new that I want. Too bad gas prices have curbed my hunting a bit (or maybe that’s not such a bad thing!).

  • Sector1014 says:

    I’m with TRD. If I can order it online, without a huge mark-up, I do it. I’ve expanded that more and more, and usually I only don’t order online if I’m really confident that I’ll find it easily at retail and save a few bucks.

    Hunting can be fun, but I almost have more fun hunting for friends. When I strike out I’m not annoyed, but I still feel the victory when I score.

  • Erik superfriend says:

    My expectations have been lowered so far that I never make a separate trip to a store anymore. And I rarely even pull in if passing by. I just do not expect any new product to be on the shelves anymore.

  • Erik superfriend says:

    And – OMG! Ryan wrote a blog!

  • Lauren says:

    DISCLAIMER:

    This is all in good fun. I love my husband and think his collecting is pretty hilarious and sometimes awesome. I just wrote this to tease him.

    We’ve all felt it.
    It begins when you think you’re *just* going grocery shopping with your husband. He fidgets and rushes through each aisle, and as you compare different organic dog treats, he says “JUST PICK ONE!” like his brain is literally on fire. After grocery shopping with your hubs on speed-mode, you’re pretty tired and psyched to just go home and relax.
    But, wait… he just passed our turn? Then, it dawns on you…there’s a Toys-R-Us on this side of town. Sigh.

    “Can we skip Toys-R-Us today? We have ice cream in the trunk.” you ask. He looks at you with panic-stricken eyes and almost chokes on the words “PLEASEITWILLJUSTTAKEAMINUTE!” True, but, add this toy run to the 15 other toy runs from this week (on the way home from work, while running errands, secret midnight cross-county excursions…) and you are logging some serious gas money, mileage and time.

    Hubby circles the parking lot like an eagle, and descends upon *his* parking spot. He’s a creature of habit, you know he parks in this spot every time. Suggesting he park closer or somewhere else causes him physical pain. You might as well stab him in the leg with a pencil. He puts the car in park and gets out faster than you ever thought possible. You follow your husband into the store, where he practically somersaults to the toy aisle. The stench of obsession wafts backwards at you.

    Finally – you reach the toy aisle! But wait -someone is already there! Your husband screeches to a halt. Obviously, more than 1 person cannot look at figures at the same time. Under normal circumstances you would stand next to that person or politely say “excuse me”, but this person shoots you with a hateful glare, like you’re trying to abduct his first-born child.

    Your husband skulks to the next aisle, peering around the endcap periodically. The ice cream is likely a goopy puddle by now.
    As an indifferent wife, you stand your ground against the outsider, and the fact that you have a vagina overpowers him soon and he darts away.
    Like a starving lion descending on a crippled zebra, your husband assaults the shelves. He flips through the rows of boxes, even though after 15 milliseconds of looking, he already knows that the figure he wants isn’t there. You can feel the nuclear disappointment radiating from him like he’s a kid getting punched in the face by Jesus on Christmas morning. You could probably cut off his arms right now and he would barely notice while he visibly writhes with his toy-related heartbreak. You glance at your watch. That ice cream is boiling by now.

    He reaches up on top of the shelves, looks below displays and digs through row after row of toys. This is highly dissimilar to his half-hearted search for the TV remote, when he looks under one couch cushion, declares “THE REMOTE IS MISSING”, and then sits and watches QVC for 3 hours. Now, suddenly, he is an expert hunter, able to pin-point dented packaging from 3 miles away.

    You wander over to the girls toys to let your husband grieve. You see some kind of action figure buried with the barbies and you extract it. “Hey, I found an x-figure. Is that what you were looking for?” He appears beside you instantaneously, a far cry from when he somehow eludes you in your 900 square foot apartment on laundry day.
    “Oh,” he sighs. “It’s just an x1-figure.” He slinks away.

    You follow him, preparing yourself for when his adrenaline bottoms out and he’s like a gambler who’s lost everything to South American drug-lords.

    Finally, back to the car. You both get in. You know he can’t wait to get home to go on the Fwoosh to post about his defeat. You close your eyes, dreaming of the soft couch that awaits you. 15 minutes later, the car comes to a stop. You open your eyes. Damnit. We’re at Target.

      • ShadowOwl says:

        While I do enjoy the thrill of finding that hard-to-find toy on the shelf I definitely prefer *having* the toy. I’ve been slowly switching to online ordering but I’m still very much as described above; visiting stores anytime I’m within a mile or two, stopping obsessively in the hopes that I will get lucky.

        I’m glad you liked my rainbow Green Lantern picture above. They were a pain to get and caused me some serious stress with my girlfriend who went to SDCC with me and is part of why I managed to get my one set. We do go to extreme lengths sometimes to get the toys we love. Would I do it again? Probably not. The multi-colored Hals are nice to have but that’s almost all I did that convention.
        http://www.flickr.com/photos/shadowowl/3796792240/

        Anyways, fun article.

        • Ryan The Superfly says:

          ShadowOwl – thanks for the pic used above; I stumbled upon it a while ago and could not remember the source, so thank you!

    • George says:

      Lauren, if more wives were like you, the divorce rate would be close to 0%.

    • Willis says:

      Damn, this was almost as good as the article itself. Great writing with great details, I felt like I was right there with your husband looking for x-figure.

      I have to agree, that I used to have “Action Figure Fridays” because the local walmart would get there trucks on Friday and lately even on Friday no matter what time I go I seem to miss the boat and I can tell everything has been picked thru or what I think sometimes happens is while the truck is there that shipment goes to the warehouse and what was in the warehouse hits the floor because often times I see nothing but old figures. Now my action figure Fridays consist of me surfing the net and just putting in a pre-order these days. Its not as fun, but in the end its cheaper and I actually get the figure I was looking for.

  • Shellhead says:

    As much as I believe I’m more of a collector than a hunter, I will admit to practically squealing like a teenage girl when I found Transformer Generations Thundercracker and Warpath at a TRU in Tucson on Saturday.
    So there very much is a “thrill of the hunt” aspect even for me.

  • ed case says:

    I used to enjoy the hunt when it was just one chase figure every now and again I was hunting. But with JLU for the past few years, it’s entire case assortments you’re hunting, and for months at a time. The difference is that you don’t get to buy a figure once in a while to keep you excited. It’s just months and months (and months) of frustration before you finally find something, and by then a lot of the enthusiasm has been dulled by the time & resources wasted.
    I decided once the end of the line was announced that I was just going to pay the online price for the rest of them, because I expected the last few assortments to be worse than average. But now it seems like the decision has been taken out of my hands.

  • George says:

    It’s not about the hunt anymore, since I don’t think there’s a fighting chance any longer with Walmart (the ones around me) hardly ever having the stock in or the complete deficiency that is Matty Collector. Thankfully the exclusivity component to DCUC will soon come to an end, I can just get things (eventually) at the LCS. Other than that, when I am in a Target or Toys R Us (less frequently than Target), I’ll just check things out at my leisure & scoop things up when I see them because I don’t know if they’ll be back on the shelves or pegs anytime soon. I’m against taking the entire supply of a certain figure or toy, unless you’re legitimately going to use them or give them away (presents and what not). Best to leave something on the shelf for a guy/gal like me, who’s looking for that particular toy. Greed, I find, is one of the factors that kills the hobby and enjoyment for all.

  • Danny CantinaDan says:

    @ Lauren: “You can feel the nuclear disappointment radiating from him like he’s a kid getting punched in the face by Jesus on Christmas morning” = ROTFLMAO
    @ Superfly: Great blog. If I only collected JLU I would have long ago stopped going on toy runs. Fortunately I collect other stuff, like Star Wars, that keeps me in the isles. Not a lot, mind you. But, yeah, the rush of hitting a jackpot is heady stuff and that’s at least part of it. Ultimately, though, I want certain figures and I’ll get them be whatever means necessary.

  • UncleMarsellus says:

    I’m more about the product. I’m not the collector I used to be. So much of what I buy are online exclusives so there’s no necessity to go on the hunt. Star Wars is about the only thing I still buy regularly in a store and I usually find what I’m looking for. What I don’t I can usually get online. But I only get what I want. The rare, hot, ultra-desirable figure has no appeal to me; unless I want it. ;-)

  • gl666 says:

    First, you didn’t mention doorwarming and races, which I’ve seen plenty of. Or the fact that some collectors or scalpers will try to grab something out of your hand.
    I’ve found that patience usually gets what I want eventually, and I’m more about the item and not the chase.

    • Ryan The Superfly says:

      gl666 – it’s funny you mention the foot races…I have another personal story involving that, maybe for a Part II followup blog…

  • Ryan The Superfly says:

    ShadowOwl – thanks for the pic used above; I stumbled upon it a while ago and could not remember the source, so thank you!

    Lauren – brilliant story, worthy of a separate blog at AFi! ;)

    gl666 – it’s funny you mention the footraces…I have another personal story involving that, maybe for a Part II followup blog…

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