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Kithaba
08-06-2007, 11:12 PM
I was just reading about AFA grading here http://www.toygrader.com/gradingscale.aspx and had a laugh thinking about these people wearing gloves to handle uncirculated figures. I mean, I know it's necessary to preserve their good condition for collectors who want mint figs and everything, but it started me thinking.

I've upgraded a few of my vintage figures - my earliest ones bought for me as toys when I was 6 or 7 - so that now for example I have a Luke Hoth without his head broken off. I kept the broken ones as well, and I find they have more meaning for me. The intact one is just a piece of plastic I paid money for that might look good in a display, but the broken one is the one I played with. It's the one I took to my mum in tears to ask her to fix it for me so I could play with it again ("you'll not be able to turn his head anymore mind!"). He's the one whose face I'm familiar with. I know every little scuff mark on him like the back of my hand. I even remember the moment when I broke his head off when I tried to turn his head round 360 and his scarf caught on his shoulder, followed by a "duh, why did I do that?!" moment.

So what do mint collectors think when they look at their collections - "nice pieces of plastic with not a mark on them - mustn't touch them in case the acids in my fingers damage the paintjob"?

I don't think I'd still be collecting today if I couldn't look at my vintage collection and think "these are the ones I played with".

Who are these mint vintage collectors? Are they people who were kids in the 90s and whose parents bought them the new figures, and now they're back-collecting to vintage figures or what?

plasticfetish
08-07-2007, 12:24 AM
Who are these mint vintage collectors? Are they people who were kids in the 90s and whose parents bought them the new figures, and now they're back-collecting to vintage figures or what?Well, they may be people that were kids back in the '70s who want to own a set of mint loose figures to go along with whatever other figures they might own.

I still have all of my old figures from when I was a kid, and I totally understand what you're saying about those having the most meaning. Trust me, those first four figures (Luke, Leia, Chewy and R2) that I waited for as a kid will always mean more than any other Star Wars figures that I own. :) And yeah, even though I've found a cleaner more "mint" version, I still have the first Yoda figure that I bought with my allowance money, that my dog later maimed and crippled.

So sure, I can understand the fun of hunting down and collecting a good mint vintage figure. I'm not as crazy about "mint" loose figures as some I imagine, but when I pick them up now, I always look for the best ones I can find. Funny though, sometimes "best" means having the signs of being loved by some kid... having just a little play wear to give them character.

JediTricks
08-07-2007, 02:27 AM
Pop culture version of collecting artworks, I guess.

plasticfetish
08-07-2007, 02:47 AM
Yeah, no different than collecting anything else... model trains, Fabergé eggs, old cars, human skulls... errr... I mean... beanie babies.

Bel-Cam Jos
08-07-2007, 12:14 PM
I was just reading about AFA grading here http://www.toygrader.com/gradingscale.aspx and had a laugh thinking about these people wearing gloves to handle uncirculated figures. I mean, I know it's necessary to preserve their good condition for collectors who want mint figs and everything, but it started me thinking.

I've upgraded a few of my vintage figures - my earliest ones bought for me as toys when I was 6 or 7 - so that now for example I have a Luke Hoth without his head broken off. I kept the broken ones as well, and I find they have more meaning for me. The intact one is just a piece of plastic I paid money for that might look good in a display, but the broken one is the one I played with. It's the one I took to my mum in tears to ask her to fix it for me so I could play with it again ("you'll not be able to turn his head anymore mind!"). He's the one whose face I'm familiar with. I know every little scuff mark on him like the back of my hand. I even remember the moment when I broke his head off when I tried to turn his head round 360 and his scarf caught on his shoulder, followed by a "duh, why did I do that?!" moment.

So what do mint collectors think when they look at their collections - "nice pieces of plastic with not a mark on them - mustn't touch them in case the acids in my fingers damage the paintjob"?

I don't think I'd still be collecting today if I couldn't look at my vintage collection and think "these are the ones I played with".

Who are these mint vintage collectors? Are they people who were kids in the 90s and whose parents bought them the new figures, and now they're back-collecting to vintage figures or what?Good points, Kithaba. There are many reasons why collectors collect, including for profit, for completeness, for nostalgia, for obsessive compulsive reasons, for friendship, for habit, etc.

I also have some figs that I "know well," some minus heads (and some just as heads :eek: ) or hands or thumbs. I've drawn on some (created a TIE PIlot by markering a Stormtrooper in black, Bespin Han made by coloring in SW Han's sleeves, etc.) and "had to" buy better conditions of those.

Overall, it's up to the individual collector. That's not just relativism and "if-it's-okay-for-you-then-it's-okay" but the fact that no two collectors are truly the same. :snowflake: You just need to enjoy what you do as a collector.

Sinscia Fat'o
08-07-2007, 12:46 PM
Well some people are perfectionists and the kenner line is the holy grail of action figures espically mint. I think that graded vintages are okay if you are lucky enough to have mint on the card versions of these figures but loose...i can't agree with that. The kenner line if found loose will have wear and tear from being 30 years old...and if these were played with like most of them where...it's going to be hard to find a mint version of these. It's one of those things i understand but don't agree with. Personally my kenner figures are my most prized star wars figures no matter now beaten up or mauled they are..

Old Fossil
08-08-2007, 08:59 AM
Well, I was made to give up my small collection around 1983, when my folks decided I was getting too old for them. So I've had to basically start from scratch to build a vintage SW figure collection.

Having said that, I can tell you I don't mind a little play wear to my figures, but I don't want ones with heavy wear; i.e., markings or missing thumbs or heads, ripped capes, missing or torn decals, etc. Those are memories that belong to someone else. Figures in good or better condition more accurately approach what I remember my own collection to have been, whether or not that was actually the case, and thus give me greater pleasure therein.

But AFA grading? I don't need that. These are not museum pieces, not yet.:squareeye

JON9000
08-08-2007, 04:36 PM
Is the question why there is an obsession over highly graded figures, or why people want a figure designated "U"?

As to highly graded figures, I can understand this. I have my old figures and I love them enough to find weapons for all of them, but for those I need to fill out my collection, I want those as nice as possible, and I am willing to pay in some instances.

I understand the role of loose grading... you cannot be sure from pictures in most instances. Why somebody would pay to have a figure taken out of a package, graded, then placed into a case for a "U" I will never know. If it is on a card or in a baggie, I consider it mint to begin with, so it makes no sense to pay $40 or whatever to get it graded.

Even more strange is somebody paying a premium for a AFA loose figure at a high grade when you can get a baggied or carded one for less. Maybe they like the case. Weird.

Kithaba
08-09-2007, 01:30 AM
Why somebody would pay to have a figure taken out of a package, graded, then placed into a case for a "U" I will never know. If it is on a card or in a baggie, I consider it mint to begin with, so it makes no sense to pay $40 or whatever to get it graded.

Even more strange is somebody paying a premium for a AFA loose figure at a high grade when you can get a baggied or carded one for less. Maybe they like the case. Weird.

That was more or less what I was talking about - the weirdness. I too can understand why people want to have high grade figures (like I said I've been known to upgrade a few of my own). It's the extremes some people go to that I was thinking about, prompted by my having read about people handling items with gloves. Maybe people are after those UV-protective cases, knowing that carded figures have problems with bubble-yellowing etc. It just seems a bit extreme to me, given that the plastic's all going to degrade eventually anyway. It must be about preserving them for the future as museum pieces. Me, I like taking them out of their packages and handling them, but I'm just a big kid :grin:

JediCole
08-09-2007, 02:16 PM
Kithaba,
Thank you for starting this thread. Someone is addressing an aspect of collecting that has crept into action figures in recent years.

As nearly as I can determine, the practice of grading got its start in the sports card after market. As the hobby became less and less profitable the after market was (reportedly) casting about to reinvent the market and make sports cards appear to be a valuable investment. Enter grading. By grading cards an artificial value system was introduced. The thinking is that if this card is valuable then a professionally graded and preserved specimen will be that much more valuable. It takes the guesswork out of determining condition and adds value.

The problem is two fold. First, when grading is introduced the best of the best examples of whatever is being graded (trading cards, comic books, action figures) are suddenly taken off of the after market and repositioned as graded collectibles. By way of example, imagine someone who has their eye on a moderatly rare baseball card valued at $100.00. They decide to make the investment (whether for personal joy, potential future profit, or both) only to discover that the card's owner has decided to have the card graded and now demands a price of $350.00. The card is suddenly far out of reach because grading has (supposedly) increased its value. This of course leads well into the second problem. A collector willing to pay $100.00 for this card is not as likely to pay $350.00 for the same card simply because it is "graded". Especially a collector who collects for love not money. Now this card is not only financially out of reach but unappealing at any price.

Having bought and sold comics and action figures at conventions for many years as well as having contacts in various after market retail genres I have heard all too often how greed killed the sports card after market. There was a time in my general area where one could find in upwards of six sports card shops (sports cards only, mind you, not comic shops that also sold sports cards). Today there may still be one, but I am not certain it is still around. Between the price of new series of cards going through the roof as publishers courted the adult collector at the expense of one or two generations of potential child collectors and the advent of grading the market imploded financially.

Much to my surprise grading crept into the comic after market industry on the heels of the crippling of the once mighty sports card after market. Pick up any copy of Wizard Magazine and see how they have become an active participant in promoting the concept that grading equals big bucks. In my convention experience I've only seen graded comics change hands in trades between dealers. I have yet to see a con-goer happily clutching thier newly purchased graded comic.

And so it is of no surprise that grading has found its way to action figure collecting as well. Like the comic industry, action figures (and their after market) will be more than able to survive the arrival of grading. The difficulty that collectors will face is the scenario I described using sports cards. It is going to become almost impossible to find a (relatively) inexpensive carded vintage figures. Many collectors trying to fill in or rebuild their vintage collection are willing to pay a little more for a mint figure on a badly damaged, faded, or yellowed card/blister. This is a great way to find a figure of this era in pristine condition if you are a loose figure collector. With grading on the scene (and Toy Fare magazine taking up the cause in its pages) a great many vintage figures will become grading fodder in the pursuit of an imagined value added.

Like many who have responded to this post I have collected for the lifetime of Star Wars action figures. My personal collection began with the Early Bird set in 1977. Most of my vintage collection consists of the original pieces I bought as they came out. I have upgraded a few figures over the years (my original Death Star Droid had lost most of his eye black paint over the years) but only when I could find a good figure at a good price.

In closing I will share the crux of my thoughts about grading, be it in trading cards, comics, action figures, home appliances, or whatever collectibles the graders set their sites on next. As a collector of over 30 years (not just of Star Wars) I feel that most who collect prefer the actual article, not something sealed away in plastic forever. If this is your preference, grade away. If you are collecting with a hopes of retiring on the profits from selling your collection, avoid grading. You will just be spending money today that you will have little likllihood of recouping in the future.

The bottom line is that the only people who are going to make a forutune on grading are the graders!

bigbarada
08-09-2007, 03:21 PM
I never really understood the whole point of AFA grading on any action figures, carded or loose. It's annoying for carded figures and absolutely ridiculous for loose figures.

I don't even bother with AFA grading. I get the monthly Brians Toys catalog and I usually just skim right past their section for AFA vintage figures; I refuse to support this nonsense. However, I really am hoping that this craze results in the total collapse of the action figure aftermarket. For one, I would love to see all of these speculators get stuck holding the bag and have to let go of their "investments" for dramatically reduced prices. I also hope to see the aftermarket collapse to the point where I'll be able to pick up a vintage carded Yak Face or Amanaman for under $20.

Now, at this point, I must concede that I will buy the occasional carded vintage figure. Most of the time to ensure that I am getting a loose figure that has been untouched. Other times to recreate that joyful moment of opening a new Kenner action figure as a kid.

Rarely, it's to keep that figure "mint on card," but not for speculative purposes. As a Graphic Designer, I have a great appreciation for good package design and I find that most modern package designs are too busy or too monochromatic. The vintage cards have the perfect balance of design consistency without sacrificing the individual "character" of each card.

JediCole
08-09-2007, 04:44 PM
However, I really am hoping that this craze results in the total collapse of the action figure aftermarket. For one, I would love to see all of these speculators get stuck holding the bag and have to let go of their "investments" for dramatically reduced prices. I also hope to see the aftermarket collapse to the point where I'll be able to pick up a vintage carded Yak Face or Amanaman for under $20.


Ah, my sentiments exactly! Mark my words, in about 10-20 years there will be such a glut of unwanted (by collectors) AFA graded action figures that you can pick them up for about what the figure inside the case is worth, or perhaps less. I would not be surprised to see a trend toward buying up blowouts of graded figures and then "liberating" them from their cases. Especially loose figures.

And speaking of loose figures, the question was raised as to why would anyone want to have loose figures graded. It's really for the same reason anyone has carded figures graded. They are buying into the idea that this will make their collection worth its weight in gold.

It is of little wonder really, given AFA's presence at conventions across the nation. They have been at every incarnation of the Dallas Comic Con/Sci-Fi Expo for the last couple of years. This is a great convention but to this day does not hold the prestige of San Diego Comic Con or Wizard World (sad to say). It certainly has never attracted Hasbro as an exhibitor. But AFA is always there to help convince you that you are mismanaging your collection if you are not preserving it for time (and future skyrocketing value) if you don't have your figures graded. Couple that with the concerted effort on the part of Toy Fare to work in concert with AFA to perpetuate the myth.

TheRealDubya
08-09-2007, 05:30 PM
I have heard rumors here and there that the AFA is in cahoots, either through financing or its very founding, with both Brian's Toys and Cloud City Collectibles. Which wouldn't come as a shock at all, since they are two of the biggest online proponents of AFA graded items. However, I cannot support that with any evidence, so take it as pure rumor. But it does lend itself to a conflict of interest in regards to an unnatural inflation of the secondary market.

AFA (aka Toy Grader) also recently acquired the one company that produced sliding bottom acrylic cases for action figures, thus eliminating our option to buy those type of cases from anyone else (securing a monopoly.)

NOW, having said all that let me confess my sins: I have gotten all of my VOTC style guys graded and a handful of my vintage loose Kenner Star Wars and loose Superpowers cased and graded. This has absolutley nothing to do with me thinking I will make money on them down the road, I just really like the way they look and appreciate the protection the UV-resistant cases can provide for some of my more precious figures. I'm kind of OCD, so they certainly play on that with their meticulous "protection". However, going forward I am done using their services (WAY too expensive) and will just buy the sliding bottom cases for certain figures (the McQuarrie's, for example) and be done with it. I don't need the AFA's validation on the condition of my items (some of their grades are spotty too, and I feel like they grade on a curve that favors the aforementioned big online dealers.)

In my opinion, the best use for the AFA's services are on the following items: unproduced figures, test shots, rare figures (vinyl cape Jawas, Blue Snaggletooths ((teeth?)), proof cards and POTF coins. I think having those graded are legitimate. But yeah, it jacks up the market and is quickly draining all of the vintage carded figures off the market (as people seek to either grade them MOC or open them for the old "U" classification.

Keep an eye on this auction -- I bet it gets out of control near the end.

Here's an interesting article (http://actionfigures.about.com/library/weekly/aa030201a.htm) on the whole topic.

That's my 2 cents!

TheRealDubya
08-09-2007, 05:43 PM
I had a link to an eBay auction that was removed; I guess that is not allowed. Can I post a query? Search for "VERY RARE INDIANA JONES COMPLETE SET OF 12 AFA GRADED" to see my reference. Mods, sorry if I broke a rule!

JW

bigbarada
08-09-2007, 05:44 PM
I was collecting comic books in the late-80s thru mid-90s, so I got to watch the complete collapse of two speculator markets: the black-&-white indie comic craze started by TMNT, and the mainstream, creator-owned comic book craze that started with Image comics and the "Death of Superman" storyline.

Back in 1992, I started to hear rumblings of trouble on the horizon for comic book collecting; but I refused to believe it. Instead continually trying to convince myself that things were okay and all this money I was spending on comics would pay off one day. Little did I know that the entire market would collapse within a few years.

For the record, I never intended to be a speculator. I bought comics because I loved to read them and study the artwork; but the "collectibility" aspect was a way for me to justify the hobby to my parents and friends who didn't understand why a 18+ year old would spend so much money on "kiddie books." After a few years, I found myself, buying comics purely for resale value later on. That's when the hobby stopped being fun and became an obsession.

Anyways, I see the same thing happening now with the collectible toy market. In a sense, we've already seen one collapse of interest. Interest in the prequels and the modern line has taken a lot of attention off of the vintage line, so we are seeing prices begin to drop for those figures. Which is good news for those of us who are in this for the enjoyment of the toy and not trying to finance our kid's college education.

TheRealDubya
08-09-2007, 05:56 PM
Interest in the prequels and the modern line has taken a lot of attention off of the vintage line, so we are seeing prices begin to drop for those figures. Which is good news for those of us who are in this for the enjoyment of the toy and not trying to finance our kid's college education.

Exactly -- I've scored more vintage loose Star Wars this past year at lower prices than ever before, in part because the demand has seemed to ebb in ungraded figures. Which is cool with me. The more vintage Chewies and Stormies I can get for $5, the better!

Kithaba
08-10-2007, 05:57 AM
Wow, thanks - some interesting comments on this thread.

Just made me think of something else. I've been wondering about this: why is it that, at sites like Brian's Toys you can often be paying way more for a loose (ungraded) figure than for the same figure carded C-7/8? At first I thought that it was just their mistake in pricing the figures, but if you check you find that it happens consistently right across the board. I can't fathom it for the life of me. Ok the card might be a bit damaged, but the figure inside is mint, right? Whereas the loose figure has been opened. So, it's, like, not mint. Is it because they're targeting different markets - loose collectors and carded collectors? That still wouldn't make any sense, because I'm a loose collector but I just ended up buying carded C-7/8 and opening them. Maybe they want to get rid of them or something. It's so weird. and some of the prices they charge are so ridiculous. These people need to remember we're talking about plastic toys here, not art like vintage music recordings or antique, long-out-of-print books. It's just wrong.

I recently got my 1st blue snag on ebay. All the graded ones are going for like $200 a piece - have you seen? People are practically fighting over them. That's way beyond my league as a collector. This is a hobby for me. I'd still like to be able to pay my rent and put food on the table, know what I mean? There were others available (at one point I counted about 10 or 11 up for auction - so much for being "rare"). One seemed to be in nice condition from the pic. A few scuff marks, it said. The silver paint looked intact. Maybe it was a respray job, dunno. But I thought you know what, I don't even care if it is. I want a blue snag because I want a blue snag, not because I want to make money selling it.

I also recently bought my first vintage carded figure since the SW craze died down in the mid-80s. The last figures I bought as a kid were POTF around '86 or maybe even '87. I've been missing Lumat's bow, so I bought a carded Lumat. I never kept any of my vintage cards - must've chucked them out I suppose - so I wanted a POTF card just to keep. But, like bigbarada said earlier, the thing I'm going to most enjoy about this fig (I haven't received it in the mail yet) is gonna be opening it. I'll take great pleasure in that. And I'll know that the bow won't be a repro. That's another gripe of mine wrt ebay. Not just that, but a lot of the figures advertised by the ebay shop so-called "power sellers" have the wrong guns/capes. One vintage Luke Endor I saw recently had Leia Endor's poncho - really blatant. You'd think they'd know their stuff if they're in the secondary market as "power sellers". :rolleyes:

TheRealDubya
08-10-2007, 10:24 AM
Yeah, I had the joy the other day of opening a carded ROTLA Belloq & Indy as German Soldier. It was pretty awesome and it took me back.

Over on otheRSite I found an AFA section in their forums, and the dudes in there are WAY into it. One dude must've spent thousands getting all his loose and carded vinatge stuff cased. There's pictures that made my jaw drop. Kind of fascinating peak at things from the full on "pro" side of the fence.

JediTricks
08-10-2007, 01:16 PM
I had a link to an eBay auction that was removed; I guess that is not allowed. Can I post a query? Search for "VERY RARE INDIANA JONES COMPLETE SET OF 12 AFA GRADED" to see my reference. Mods, sorry if I broke a rule!

JW
I believe you're mistaken, the only edits done in here have been from your account. The system keeps a log of any moderator editing, this thread's was empty until I just did a test edit right now.

TheRealDubya
08-10-2007, 01:22 PM
Cool -- I must've just biffed it up myself. Thanks JT!

bigbarada
08-10-2007, 05:59 PM
Something about the plastic used for vintage figures, they just smelled clean with a faint rubbery odor when you first opened them. As opposed to the toxic smell of modern figures.:dead:

A little bit of collecting history from me. When I was a kid, our family was kind of struggling financially, so we didn't get many toys except hand-me-downs from other kids. So, up until 1985, all of my Star Wars figures were secondhand, broken figures.

In 1985, however, my brother and I started to finally get decent numbers of new figures. Mainly due to an estranged aunt who was trying to get involved in our lives again and planned to win us over with toys. Of course, my grandparents weren't going to be outdone by this relative "newcomer" so they had to step up the toy buying as well.:yes: Of course, my brother and I didn't care about the perceived competition, since it just meant that we were getting a ton of new toys.:D

So it's kind of funny that we didn't become serious Star Wars collectors until the year the line died. The next few years were excellent years to be a collector. We started junior high in 1986 and all of our friends were too "grown up" to play with toys anymore, so my brother and I were able to amass a huge collection for practically free by the time we graduated high school in 1991. It's like everyone we knew was just waiting to give away all of their Star Wars toys.

However I don't have a single figure left over from childhood, it was all sold off by my parents when they hit some financial troubles while I was in the Army (with my permission of course). So 1995 was a chance for me to start fresh and rebuild my collection from scratch.

JON9000
08-26-2007, 02:06 PM
I have heard rumors here and there that the AFA is in cahoots, either through financing or its very founding, with both Brian's Toys and Cloud City Collectibles.

Gee, whiz, I cannot fathom why anyone would think that, other than they are practically on the same street!