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  1. #1

    What's the point?

    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?

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by Kithaba View Post
    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.

  3. #3
    Pop culture version of collecting artworks, I guess.
    Darth Vader is becoming the Mickey Mouse of Star Wars.

    "We named the dog 'Chewbacca'!"
    The use of a lightsaber does not make one a Jedi, it is the ability to not use it.

  4. #4
    Yeah, no different than collecting anything else... model trains, Fabergé eggs, old cars, human skulls... errr... I mean... beanie babies.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Kithaba View Post
    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 ) 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.
    "May the 4th be with you?" "Why yes, thank you for asking."

  6. #6
    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..

    Honestly, I don't get why someone would prefer a guy in a helmet with little or no back story over a EU character, and if this guy in a helmet does have a backstory it's EU!!!!

  7. #7
    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.

  8. #8
    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.
    Peeps who have hooked me up: General Grievous Dark Marble jjreason Ramy GrandMoffLouie Josephe vader121 Val Da Car

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by JON9000 View Post
    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

  10. #10

    The Grading Question

    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!
    "Does the name "Dingo" mean anything to you?" - Jedi Boulton to DingoDad at the October Dallas ComiCon.

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