Limited Star Trek Highs and Lows
I RECENTLY WARNED that Playmates may one day try to find some way to re-release the 1701 series figures.
Well, call me a psychic - or a cynic - but my prediction came true. Playmates is releasing the three figures as a boxed set. And unless you consider…
Oh yes, White’s Guide to Collecting Toys. You guys should read Monzo’s post and follow his Tumblr, it’s a good one.
It’s so amazing to think that people paid money for what constituted a price guide, and many mom & pop stores would use multiple guides for different reasons - I remember hearing a few local shops being accused of using White’s higher prices for selling, but Lee’s or ToyFare for buying.
Back in the 1990s I found the whole secondary market on new toys to be a bit baffling - on the whole, it seems to have died out as most toys hit quickly and hard. eBay and Amazon allow sellers to display their wares, rather than making people go to the antique show or Brass Armadillo to see overpriced new toys in glass cases.
I remember Star Trek commanding a lot of premium prices - Borg and Troi in year one, Lore and Guinan were particularly hard to find, plus the situation with waves was such that it wasn’t uncommon to see a figure on a cardback that may not yet be in stores until much later. This caused people to assume - sometimes incorrectly - that the item was out and people were scrambling to find them. It’s difficult to convey the sheer preposterousness of the 1990s toy rumor mill, everybody had a brother or a cousin that found a toy that hadn’t yet seen release. (See: 12-inch Chewbacca, Removable Helmet Darth Vader.)
My opinion back then was that toy reissues are a Very Bad Thing for any dead line. Kenner Super Powers was over, so I didn’t want to see more of them - do something new. On the other hand, “current” lines, I felt, should ship to meet demand - so I think they did good by making more of those rare figures, but by the time it happened I had moved on to more Kennery pastures. There is a feeling in toy lines - and it’s partially true - that you should inject rarity or some sort of lower-run toy in a line to boost interest. It makes the company no money on that product, but the buzz can be valuable and cheap marketing in collector circles. I personally did not want a Tapestry Picard figure in my collection, but I sure as heck looked for one - I’d have been delighted to have sold it off to pay for pretty much every toy I’d buy in a given year.
When it comes to the secondary market and speculation on modern toys, I actually want people to lose money in the short term. If a figure you bought on clearance today is worth more money down the road, that’s cool. If an old figure in your closet is worth a few bones, go ahead and sell it. If you buy a figure today at regular price to sit on until it potentially hatches… well… that’s the 1990s for you, and why the comic market and trading card market are what they are.
My enjoyment of any toy or collectible is increased when other fans can get it. I’d prefer to hear from fans who say “I read your review of that figure, I went out and got it and I love it!” rather than “I read your review, and I can’t find the toy for less than $50 on eBay.” If I ran a toy line as some sort of tyrant, I’d be more kid-driven - all toys released in big numbers, and any and all “collectibility” should be coincidental or an accident.
As a young fan at the time, I was less interested in Star Trek figures by the time 1701 was a thing because of what I considered to be too many uninteresting costumes on Data, Picard, Riker, and the like. We never got Sherlock Data, but we got Malcorian Riker without a companion Bebe Neuwirth. We got a whole line of Generations figures with reduced articulation and outfits not in the movie, so by Tapestry Picard my collection had a few gaps and I think I could count the number of figures I bought on one hand after Playmates decided to make everyone’s collections incomplete. People were also very interested in getting figures with a lower collector number - but I don’t believe I ever met someone who paid a premium to get it.
The big takeaway from this is how this excerpt is a reminder of the gulf of the toy world of the 1990s and 2010s. In the 1990s, Playmates sold hundreds of thousands of each figure to collectors as well as a younger kid audience who watch the show on TV every week. Diamond’s last few Trek figures were produced in 1,500-3,000. The fact that figures were numbered left many fans leaving their Playmates Star Trek toys in the package because maybe they could sell them later. I know a few collectors now who buy and love things, but also treat them as a thing they may have to sell later. I see buying a toy as flushing money down a toilet, that toy will likely be here with me when they pull me out in a body bag.
There are indeed still a lot of collectors buying things to sell later, especially as Comic-Con exclusives go. Many have told me that they go to San Diego to purchase items to sell later to pay for the trip - which to me seems exhausting and wasteful. Now that most 1990s Star Trek and Star Wars toys are borderline worthless, I would say that this mentality tends to not work all the time… but it seems there are several items from 2006-present that *were* worthless but started getting more expensive with time. This is how I’d prefer to see things, I hate the idea of anyone making a brand-new toy and intentionally shorting the market in the name of hype. Even back then I found it unpleasant, but that’s why I subscribed to Tomart’s Action Figure Digest - the only price guides were for dead lines, where they may be of value to me as a collector. Looking back on it, considering the lead time for print, the price guides were utterly preposterous - ToyFare and/or Lee’s would make up a price for a figure that, when the magazine hit your mailbox, still wasn’t available. In some cases this seemed to dictate the market, rather than the market dictating the price guide.
If chunks of plastic have a place in your heart, I recommend checking out his Tumblr or his website. Also apparently he’s a big thing in Star Wars circles? I dunnos.