While roaming the WonderCon floor, a little something caught my attention over at the Nintendo booth. No, not Splatoon– which I did end up playing –but a small glass case that showcased some rare little trinkets. The display was filled with the unreleased but already sold out amiibo figurines. They were all there with the caveat that they were prototypes, even though they looked exactly like they did when they were unveiled during a recent Nintendo Direct. That’s when it dawned on me– this may be the last time we get to see these in person. A sad reality that many fans will have to accept since Nintendo refuses to produce enough amiibo figures to get everyone in on the fun. That is why I found a perfect panel to give us all some insight on the toy collecting world, which I can connect to with my concerns in this amiibo madness.
The panel was filled with some of the toy industry’s biggest names, including: Moderator Daniel Pickett (ActionFigureInsider.com, host of Geek Shall Inherit podcast) and panelists Justin Donaldson (collector, director, The Tournament of Nerds), Jason Lenzi (co-founder, Bif Bang Pow!), and Scott Neitlich (director of play, Jakks Pacific, collector), Jeff Trojan (Playmates Toys), Jim Fletcher (DC Collectibles), Kevin Kiniry (DC Collectibles), and Justin Donaldson (Funny Or Die). With the exception of Mr. Donaldson, these are all men that in some way, shape, or form, have worked on creating toys. The panel arranged to talk about the state of the toy industry and discuss why collecting toys at this time is so expensive.
The first topic that was focused on was the problem with scalpers. We all know these people. They stock up on a rare item and then sell them online for obscene prices. Donaldson worked at a Toys R’ Us for 5 years and actually encountered one of these types of people. This man would go from shop to shop, brown-nosing the managers and even slipping them $20 so that he was allowed to purchase a ton of products before anyone else–often right off of the truck. Donaldson would have none of this and not allow him to touch his stock. Scalping is very common now a days, and all you need to do is go on eBay to find these people. Their picture of whatever particular item will be a picture of boxes upon boxes of said item. Amiibo figures are no exception to this issue. Some of the more rare amiibo figures go as high as hundreds of dollars online. That is brutal considering they retail at about $13.
A good point was brought up though– the consumer is part of the blame for this. We have all wanted that limited edition item so badly that we are willing to pay almost any price. In a way, we are enabling scalpers. They are the reason we can’t find the Golden Mario amiibo at retailers (that and Nintendo not producing enough of them). Yet, scalpers know that the consumer wants the item, so there will be someone willing to pay the ridiculous prices. It is a vicious cycle–one that could possibly be solved if Nintendo would restock the rare amiibo figures. The question is, would that devalue them?
Outside of the amiibo realm, toys have for the most part gone up in prices, making it harder to collect them now. There are some fairly good reasons, like the cost of oil, the dock strike in LA, and even labor prices. Most customers don’t even give these situations a thought. For the most part, oil prices were expensive at some point, but it has become cheaper. Unpredictable fluctuation in these prices is the reason that the decrease in oil prices won’t affect merchandise fares. Then the dock strike in Los Angeles also created some problems for pricing.
Most people will agree that improved labor conditions for everyone is a positive change. It is basic human rights to have proper working conditions and appropriate pay for everyone. Well, that forces companies to jack prices up. These are situations most consumers don’t ever consider. Surely it is no excuse to sell items at such a high price point, so it has forced the toy industry to become smarter about how they do business. One of the men pointed out that in order to hit the right price point, it may mean removing an accessory or just including less in the package. The goal is to keep prices as low as possible, but real life situations like worrying about the environment and shipping come into play.
As a whole, we have also become more environmentally conscientious, which has forced everyone to attempt to provide more environment friendly packaging. Again, most people are okay with this idea, but are they fine with prices going up?
There are some collectors that want to keep things in the box, there are some that like to open them and keep the box, and there other collectors that just want the toy inside. A point was brought up during the panel that unboxing videos online have become somewhat popular, and the reason is because people enjoy that experience of opening up these items, seeing how they are packaged, and seeing the accessories that are included. Because of this, companies are now trying to turn the opening of toys into an event. It is all about the experience. The industry is more focused on packaging than ever, with the intention of giving people a good experience when opening their product up. Now there are also boxes that are part of the toy display, for those that enjoy keeping the package. The internet has allowed people to share their collections with their friends, so keeping in mind how customers will go about displaying their collections has become ever so important.
To answer the question posed by the panel– yes, toy collecting has become less affordable as time has progressed. Collecting fewer toys and being selective is a completely different mindset from when toys were much cheaper. Being a completionist has become expensive.
Though it was not a panel about amiibo figures, it sheds some light on how the toy industry works behind the scenes and it can certainly be applied to Nintendo’s collectibles. It is apparent that prices of toys must go up in order to protect the environment and improve human rights. At worst, it has made it important to focus on collecting what you love and being selective with what you choose to collect. It has become almost impossible to collect entire sets– Yes, amiibo figures as well– at a reasonable price, but for the most part, it is for good reasons. Just make sure not to support scalpers, because they only do harm while bringing in loads of money. You can check out the photo gallery at the bottom to see all of the amiibo figures. Let us know what types of collections you have going on and whether this has improved your understanding of the toy industry in the comments section below.