COLLECTOR: A person who gathers or purchases action figures that
reflect their interests and constructs an accumulation of such objectsfor
study, comparison or exhibition purely for their own enjoyment.
SPECULATOR: An individual who gathers or purchases action figures
for the toy's future value. Their goal is to evaluate the current retail value of
the item and the potential return of the investment at a later date.
SCALPER: Speculators who deliberately seek out a new limited action
figure(s) for the sole purpose of gaining an immediate monetary return of
at least two to three times the current retail value of the item(s).
The Cause & Effect of Scalping:
Now that you know what kind of people we're dealing with, let's take a gander at the marvelous repercussions these cretins inflict upon the aftermarket.
Typically, scalpers target "shortpacked" or "high demand" action figures which have a low production run. Clearing the retail shelves of these new "harder to come by" figures causes an artificial shortage of particular items which are already limited in the first place. Thus creating higher prices placed upon these items as the demand for them grows.
But, believe it or not, this practice heavily influences the pricing procedure on the aftermarket. All this is perfectly legal since there is no law limiting what a small group or individual can charge for merchandise in their possession.
It is a well known fact that price guides base their system on the "dealer-market" and report their findings. This is done by conducting a survey among notible toy dealers across the country on what they would charge for a particular item based on the popularity, rarity and/or limit of production. Then they toss out the extremely low and high numbers and average out the existing figures to arrive at a base price.
Well that all sounds fine and dandy... yeah, if we lived in a utopian society where honesty and goodwill towards all humanity nesseled itself within the breast of man. But, in reality, a good portion of the "dealers" that this survey emphatically relies upon are people who know very little about the true worth of an action figure after it's retail availability (such as comic book store owners and toy-dealing speculators).
And when the only available source to get a particular action figure is through the underhanded dealings of a scalper, well then even these owners and speculators have to pay inflated prices. In turn, since they paid more for this figure, it MUST be extremely rare and valuable... yeah, right!
Why this is preposterous you say? Think about it. What other "toy officials" are there? It's certainly not you and me (the collecting hobbists).
So the next time you're flipping through your favorite price guide and realize that the BTAS: Penguin, which is proudly displayed on the wall in your room (next to the rest of the bunch), is now worth $120.00... think again.
The "Little Man" Eliminating the "Middle Man":
A common practice among scalpers is buttering up retail toy store managers or even being toy store employees themselves. In these "cases" (no pun intended) what happens is the target figures are pulled before they even hit the svelves!
The manager sets the figures aside for his partners in crime (scalpers) until they can arrange a time to meet and make the exchange. Why would a manager stoop to such a hienous act? The answer is simple... money! Usually the scalper will pay a little over retail for the figures since he knows he will more than make up the difference after he convinces some poor misinformed souls to purchase them at his higher price. Thus the manager can avoid trouble and record the retail sale of the figures to the store and pocket the rest, sort of like a finders fee, if you will.
If the employee is the scalper, a different strategy is used. Most retail companies restrict the sale of merchandise to their employees while on duty and often don't allow discounts. So, to circumvent such policies the employee will hide the figures wherever he can to avoid detection or simply "forget" to stock the case in which the target figures lay and later return to claim the treasure. In some instances the figures remain hidden until they are forgotten (if hidden well) and recorded by the store as a loss due to theft or what have you.
It should be noted that both of these practices by store employees are HIGHLY ILLEGAL!!! Store employees (including managers) are prohibited from making profit off of prices set by the company... it's called extortion! And in the scenario of the action figure underground railroad, employees are prohibited from keeping merchandise from the consumer... it's called a consperacy, and denying the company payment for the said item(s)... it's called theft!!!
The Scalp Me Not Resistance League:
By now you're probably thinking, "Wow! The problem is so massive and some of the people doing these hideous things are at levels I can't even hope to reach there's nothing that I can do about it!". NOT TRUE!!! There is plenty you can do to help bail out this great hobby of ours and not let it go to hell in a handbasket! All it takes is a little brain activity and the courage to stand up for what you, and the rest of us, believe in.
To get you started, I've prepared a few tactics to employ against the
evils you are sure to encounter on the collecting battlefield:
If you happen to notice a lot of scalpers that frequent a particular store, simply don't shop there.
In theory, if enough people do this, the manager(s) will take notice of the lack in regular customers and try to stop the scalpers in one way or another.
In the real world, something quite different happens... either the managers don't really care as long as someone is buying the merchandise or they stop selling action figures all- together, since only a few are being bought at any given time.
So, as you can see, taking a nonactive approach to the problem pretty much accomplishes "squat"!
You can always start your own local toy group!
As of late, there have been many such groups poping up all over the country with the intention of improving the atmosphere of toy collecting in their area.
Here are a few groups which may be in your area:
Action Toy Organization of Michigan
New England Collectors Club
Society Of Female
Florida Toy Collector's Exchange
THE AXE MAN:
When witnessing dastardly
acts performed by store
employees (i.e. giving items
to known scalpers, hiding
items in the store, etc.),
immediately contact the
company who owns the
store and inform them of
the "activity" at that store!
Also, knowing the name of
the culprit(s) helps in the
expedience of their reprimand.
Although this method is
harsh, it's quite effective.
sorry for the long read