It seams to me that a great many of the members that post here are disgruntled about how difficult it is to find figures and about how much they cost. I would like to pass on a little info about how I collect in the hope that someone my find that it helps to make their collecting experiences a little less stressful and a little more enjoyable.
There are many different techniques that people use for acquiring figures. Some add to the experience and some detract from it. Some of the things people do that detract from the experience are:
Scalping: Epitome of collecting evil. I have seen few people who like scalpers. Even other scalpers don't like them. That should tell us all something.
Buying from scalpers: I feel sorry for people who buy from scalpers. It justifies the thing a lot of collectors hate most about the hobbie. And it reminds me of a junky going to see his pusher. I used to buy from a scalper a lot and that is how I referred to him. He eventually just quit selling to me because he got tired of hearing me calling him that. There is just no reason to pay more than shelf price for an item except as an offer to someone who has something you want, but isn't necessarily looking to sell it.
Profiteering: That is the term I use to describe the act of collecting a figure solely based on how much a person thinks it will be worth. Most people are coming to realize that you will most likely not retire by investing in Star Wars figures. And it is awfully close to scalping.
Hoarding: I am guilty of this. I buy 3 of everything. 1 to open, 1 to display in the package, and a spare in case anything happens to one of the others. And if there are variations (not errors) I will get one each of the variations as well as long as I can get them for shelf price. I am working on developing the mentality of not buying the replacement figure until I need it. And I have been known to 'fess up a piece that I have an extra of to someone who doesn't have one and probably won't be able to get it.
Stashing: If you don't have the money, don't deprive another person of the pleasure of acquiring the item. You will get one eventually. I would hope by now that people are seeing that the majority of the items, exclusives included, are pretty plentiful. And I have watched people stashing figures...they look pretty pathetic.
Now I'll go into the things I do (and don't) to make the experience a better one.
Practice patience: Doing this actually negates a lot of the problems of collecting. You do not have to be the first on your block to get a figure. Nor do you need to have the original variation of a figure. I do realize that this is presicely what some collectors look for. So if you are like me and don't care...give it a few days or a few weeks after the release before you start to look for the new figures. You will find them eventually AND the guys who just gotta have that .00 card or the original mispaint will be happy as well. And the scalpers will go bankrupt if you steadfastly decide to wait until you can get it off the shelf. Even if you do eventually get it from a scalper, if you let the scalper hold it long enough, he may drop the price back down to around the shelf price.
Share: Whether it is figures or information. If you are standing in front of the SW display at Wal-Mart with the last one of each of the five newest releases. 'Fess one up to the guy who got there 1 minute after you and doesn't have any of them yet. And if you know where to find a figure that is "hard-to-find", tell the collector you hear talking to his buddy about wishing he had it. And for goodness' sake...let everyone know about the hiding places the scalpers and stashers use behind the toe boards at the bottoms of the shelves and in the backpacks in the camping section, and in the garbage cans, and in the furniture displays at the stores! Doing these things is very rewarding.