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Will's Guide to the Universe

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Will's Guide to the Marketplace of Action Figures

Live, Learn, Collect and... BUYER BEWARE!

February 29, 2012, by Will Hoover

If you're an avid lover and collector of toys, both new and vintage, like myself, then you probably know just exactly what it's like, to spend hours perusing department and toy stores, eBay, flea markets and garage sales, looking for the stuff of your childhood dreams.

The only thing is however... that the marketplace can really be a jungle, fraught with both beauty and danger.  Yes, there's that thrill, that palpating level of high octane excitement that comes from trying to track down a favorite old toy, or even a brand new one that may be in short supply. You know, like the kinds of epic battles people get into at the local department store to get ahold of the hottest selling toys for their kids at Christmas time.

Unfortunately though, as brick and mortar stores have gradually begun to be replaced (or in many cases, simply supplemented) by smaller, online retailers who often specialize in mail order merchandise, the nature of the collecting hobby has begun to change quite a bit.  For newer lines of action figures that have a more limited appeal, like vintage style MEGO and Marx action figures for example, the paradigm has in fact, shifted dramatically.

It used to be that if you had a problem with a product sold by a decent retailer like Wal-Mart, all you had to do was take it back!  Get a refund or simply replace it!  After all, that's just good business, isn't it?  And, in most cases, with the big box stores, that is still very much the truth.  Although Wal-Mart in particular has had to tighten up its return policy in the recent past, due to abuses by some customers, but by and large, it is still a very collector friendly retailer and always has been.  Good deal.

Sure, make your own box by cutting it down, but if you do... TAPE THE CORNERS!!!

But buyer beware.  Many of these smaller, shop and click retailers that have cropped up over the years (most of whom also sell on eBay) are not always quite so trustworthy or reliable.  In fact, many are simply folks who try to ply their wares Online as a part time venture on the side.

Being that most of these individuals are small business people with that tried and true moxie that tends to come with entrepreneurial zeal, it is sometimes actually a really good thing to work with them, since you may get individualized attention in terms of customer service and etiquette.

However... there are also unfortunately a lot of Online retailers out there these days that seem to know little to nothing about what the heck they're doing!  And believe me, I've met such folks.  You know the type.  "Hey!  I love toys!  I know....  I'll start my own business, selling stuff I like ONLINE!!!"

Right.  Good idea.  And in many cases, it does seem to work for some people.  Some of these new fangled low overhead retailers do quite well.  They learn the ropes and their business just keeps growing.

But some... are a nightmare to deal with.  They ship slowly or don't ship the items you've paid for at all!  Some, like many, many novice sellers on eBay, wouldn't know how to pack a decent box for shipping if one fell right into their lap!  The thing is though... when it comes to vintage toys especially (that may be somewhat rare and in various states of age or disrepair) it is honestly and truly the full responsibility of the seller to make good and sure that the items they are parting with reach their destination in as close to the same condition as they were in when they left their home, garage or warehouse.

And that's only fair, isn't it?  Not for some people, it seems.  Believe or not, I've personally had similar problems with so called collector's clubs and Online stores representing long gone classic toy companies.  These folks, despite coming up with the necessary capital and product to sell, are sometimes incredibly stubborn about using bubble wrap or other packing materials!  Some even make you pay an extra charge for bubble wrap!

In those cases, I usually just humor them, since bubble wrap in particular, doesn't cost more than a few US dollars at most.  But folks, it does make all the difference in the shipping process!  I'm talking about packing peanuts, people!  I'm talking about simple, affordable packing materials like old newspapers or cheap plastic shopping bags!  Who doesn't have that kind of stuff lying around, huh?


Come on! Is bubble wrap really that expensive or hard to come by?

Believe or not though, I once won three G.I. Joe Club Exclusive Adventure Team figures from a seller on eBay.  He took my money, sent the package very promptly and gave me positive feedback.  Great!  I earned it because I PAID PROMPTLY.  Except that... he didn't bother to wrap each item individually or fill the rest of the box up with anything more than a jagged piece of cardboard that, just like the figure boxes themselves, rubbed together like SANDPAPER in transit!

Bummer.  HUGE BUMMER.

But... I was happy to get the club exclusives, since I'd missed them when they first came out.  It was my only chance to get them, right?  After all, in most cases, the Club only produced 1,974 pieces of each reproduction figure and... when they were all sold, they were... all sold.  Poor me.  BUT... one day, I found them on good old eBay!  I bid, struggled to win, and win I did!  Then, I paid.  I paid good money for those figures, but... the seller didn't even have the good sense (or care perhaps) to simply slip each one into a spare plastic supermarket bag.  That's all it would have taken really.

Instead, the colorful printing on the vintage reproduction boxes rubbed off on one another, devaluing them significantly.  Oh, the figures inside were fine, but one must remember, I DID NOT win an auction for mint, loose Adventure Team G.I. Joe figures.  I won an auction for MINT IN MINT BOX Adventure Team G.I. Joe figures.

Bummer.  MAJOR BUMMER.


It may not be from Italy, but it sure is FRAG-I-LE!
What brings this up now is that sadly, I just had this problem yet again.  But this time, not with some poor, unsuspecting guy who had probably just been cleaning out his garage and was obviously too witless to even KNOW how to pack collectibles for interstate shipping.  No, this time, it happenened with a fledgling online retailer who also sells on eBay.  They've got the product though, buddy!  But... they seem to be TOTALLY CLUELESS when it comes to the simple matter of packing collectibles toys in a cardboard box!

But who's naturally good at that, right?  Who instinctively knows these things, right?  Heck, look around you and you will see ample evidence that quite a few people that make up the human race in the world today don't even know how to raise their own children, much less when they should and shouldn't make them!   But these things happen, of course.  Life doesn't come with an instruction booklet, after all.  Instead, throughout the danger fraught days of our lives, we've all got to live and learn as we go.

Yep!  That's the spirit.  Live and learn.  I mean, if there was an instruction booklet dropped down from the heavens by God himself that said stuff like, "Don't smoke.  It'll kill ya.  Not today, but eventually.  One day at a hacking, smoker's coughing and gagging day at a time."  Or, "You've had a few too many drinks, so you really shouldn't drive now."  But wait....  There IS information just like that out there, isn't there?  Yes, and there is always good old fashioned COMMON sense when it comes to packing a box to be sent to a friend, family member or... even more importantly, a CUSTOMER.

Food for thought.  That said, do exercise caution when you buy from any Online entity that you can neither see nor look directly in the eye of to deal with when a problem does arise.  And believe me, in this life, on good old planet Earth anyway, crap does tend to happen.  And that's just part of life.  Either way, happy collecting!

Selected Online Action Figure and Toy Retailers

Monkey see, monkey want!  At least that's how I feel sometimes.  But collecting anything can become expensive.  My advice is to just focus on what you like the most and only buy what you can when you can.  Below is a list of online retailers that are usually quite reputable and generally offer exceptional products.

Amok Time

CCG Armory

Cotswold Collectibles

Entertainment Earth

Hasbro Toy Shop

Intergalactic Trading Company

Marxman Bros Creations

Sideshow Collectibles

Small Joes

Tough Nerd Toys

Action Figures for the Ultimate Collector!

Urban Collector

Urban Samurai

Various toy and action figure retailers are listed here for reference purposes only
Action Figure Universe.com bears no responsibility, financial or otherwise for unfulfilled orders
or any other problems that may arise between merchants and prospective buyers

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