How to Decide What to Collect?

Very few people give much thought to WHAT they are going to collect before they start, yet this is one of the most important decisions you will have to make and will affect just about everything else that you do.

Many new or novice collectors start by collecting what they think looks cool or will be a good investment and as a result their collections have no central theme or cohesiveness and therefore are likely to be of little value to anyone else.

Also there is little personal pride or joy to be gained by this. Just imagine for a moment that you have to display cabinets. The left-hand cabinet houses your collection of anime figures, this is just a mix of figures you like with no central theme.

The second display is your collection of Star Wars: A New Hope figures. These are arranged into several dioramas featuring famous scenes from the movie. 

Now which do you think would look the most impressive?

Also, a collection with a central theme is likely to sell for more, simple because you are more likely to be able to sell them as a “job lot”.

There are several factors that you should take into consideration when deciding what you want to collect: 

• Cost

• Availability

• Time

• Quantity

• Theme

• Reason for collecting

Choosing Your Theme

When choosing the central theme for your collection you need to think of something you really like, enjoy, and are passionate and knowledgeable about.

So, the first thing you need to do is grab yourself a pen and some paper, a cup of tea (or something stronger, if you prefer!), sit down, clear your mind and relax.

Now, think of all your favorite:

• TV programs, 

• video games 

• movies.

• movie stars.

• genres i.e. Horror, Action, Comedy etc.

• anime or manga. 

• sports.

• sports stars.

• football, basketball, baseball or hockey teams.

Once you’ve made your list, look through it a few times, and then choose 3 of them. These will form the basis of your collection.

The reason for choosing three is so that if one of them turns out to be too expensive, difficult or too broad, you will have another choice to fall back on, also it will give your collection a little variety.

Choosing Your Niche

What is a Niche?

 A niche is like a sub-topic of a larger topic, it is more concentrated and specialist.

 For example; a main topic or subject in collecting action figures, and probably one of the most popular, would be Star Wars figures, but this is a HUGE topic to cover and it would be impossible to collect them ALL, so it would be better to concentrate on a niche of this, e.g. Star Wars Episode 1 figures, or may be Han Solo figures.

 By doing this you will make your goal a lot more achievable, and therefore more rewarding and enjoyable.

 On a personal note I would discourage anyone starting a collection based on Star Wars figures for the same reasons I have NEVER stocked any in my shops or sold them on my website, because:

  •  The market is too big.
  •  There are too many.
  •  The competition is fierce.
  •  The market is saturated.

 Another good example of a niche would be instead of collecting all the McFarlane's Baseball figures, just collect the figures from your favourite team or teams.

 The main objective of this exercise is to find a niche that is tight enough to enable you to:

 Build your collection.

  • Complete each release/series.
  • Keep your costs down.
  • Increase your enjoyment and satisfaction.
  • Take pride in your collection.
  • Give your collection uniformity.
  • Build on a theme.

 So, in conclusion take your time in deciding on your niche now, and then stick with it.

 If you find it's too narrow, you can always broaden it later or move onto one of your other choices.

 By being selective in choosing your niche now, you will get a lot more enjoyment and satisfaction out of your collection, and probably save time and money later.

 OK, what’s next?

Should You Collect ‘em All?

Are you a completist?

 Do you want to collect ‘em all?

 Then you need to be extra careful on choosing what you collect, to make it achievable and affordable because some sets have multiple chased and variant figures to collect!

 Most modern lines of action figures these days include regular, variant and chase figures as well as possibly deluxe, or collectors’ editions, limited editions and exclusives.

 Each "level" of rarity becomes more expensive than the previous level, the cheapest being the regular, or common, figures.

At the same time, these are the ones that are mass produced, and so rarely have any secondary value.

 That doesn’t always mean they won’t become valuable though, and if you’re collecting for fun then this really shouldn’t matter.

 When deciding remember that the more variant and chase figures there are the more expensive collecting it will become.

Also due to the low production run and high prices on many of these figures completing a full line would be nigh on impossible.

New Or Secondhand?

Do you want to collect new, or second-hand figures?

Carded or uncarded?

Mint, near mint or...?

Do you want to keep them boxed?

Or put on display?

All these decisions will again affect the final price you will have to pay for your figures, and which you will buy.

If you're on a budget with limited resources, it may well be worthwhile buying good condition second-hand or loose figures and only buying rare, limited edition or chase figures new or carded.

Also, if you're into customizing your figures, then second-hand figures are an obvious, and cheaper, choice. 

What is customizing?

Customizing is a fairly new and rapidly growing extension of the hobby whereby collectors “create” new or unreleased figures using parts of other figures. This topic is discussed in more detail in another tutorial.

On the other hand, if you have the spare cash and want your figures in pristine condition then new, carded figures are the way to go.

If you're a perfectionist and want to keep them in absolute mint condition, and retain any possible increase in value, you may want to buy two of each.

Why two?

Because many purist collectors will often opt to buy two figures, particularly of the rarer ones, so that they can keep one carded and in mint condition, and open the other for display purposes.

Which of these options you decide on will depend on how much money you can afford to spend on your hobby, and the actual value of the figure concerned.

Generally second-hand, non-mint figures have very little to no value, whereas “gem-mint” carded figures will often increase in value over time, particularly the variant figures or limited production runs.

My personal recommendation would be to keep any chase, variant, exclusive or “super chase” figures carded, or buy two if you really want to display one. You can often buy the common figures cheap in close-out sales, car boot sales or on eBay Auctions etc.

You could even contact your local comic shop or toy shop, and ask them if you can buy any shop-soiled, damaged or ex-display figures at a discounted price.


Make sure if you're putting your figures on display, particularly any rarer ones, that they are protected, or you’ll find that they will start to yellow and become sun damaged, it is also important to check the humidity of your display case or cabinet as this can also affect your figures’ condition, but there are ways to protect them (I’ll be discussing this later in the book).

That’s about it, for now…

You should now know what you are going to collect, i.e. your main theme and niche, and which figures you want to buy. 

You should have also have decided on whether you are going to buy all of them, or just concentrate on the common figures and whether you’re going to buy new or second-hand, carded or uncarded.


Beware of massively overproduced figures, even in “Gem Mint 10 Carded” condition, being sold as rare or limited figures. 

Make sure you do due diligence and learn your subject, you should know everything about the figures you are collecting; from the latest releases to the rarest ever made, because you never know when you’ll find that elusive figure at a cut-down price.

I remember once picking up a James Bond original Corgi Aston Martin car in its original box with the spare ejector seat man, valued at up to $700 for…


Another time, I came across a Sex Pistols 1977 “God Save the Queen” single on an A & M label for $10, which is the “Golden Chalice” of Sex Pistol collectibles. Bargains can be found, if you know where to look for them and what you are looking for!

More Tutorials + Articles

How to Predict What Will Become Collectible?

People often ask me how I know if something is going to be collectible or not?

Well, to be honest I would say 705 of it is pure gut feeling and about 30% of it is an educated guess, however both of these are heavily influenced by my experience and knowledge of the business.

You see, I’ve been in this business for more than 15 years, both offline and online, as a trader and this “being” in touch with the grass roots collectors and consumer means I’ve had my finger pretty much on the pulse.

But I’ve also been an avid collector since childhood and spent hours of fun with my Action Men and Steve Austen figures in the 70’s and my MOTU and TNMT later on.

The best piece of advice I can give you is to remember that [ Read more... ]

Where to Buy Your Action Figures?

These days there are numerous places and options open to you when you want to buy any action figures, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

 I usually have a short list of three places that I regularly buy from, depending on what I’m looking for.

Why three? [ Read more...]

How to Beat the Scalpers?

Today I’m going to continue on the same theme and give you some insider tips on how to save money when buying your figures. 

Remember these tips and knowledge come from more than 15 years of experience in the business and 30 years as a collector!

Read more... ]

What is a Variant Figure?

In the good old days all figures were created equal, but not so today!!

The modern day collector needs to be aware of the different levels and rarity of figures and the different terms used to describe them. 

It is becoming increasing difficult, and frustrating, to know what is available and to make matters more difficult most manufacturers are very secretive about exactly what is available and how many have been made.

But even if you’re a casual collector it’s important to know the different terms so that you can recognize an important or valuable figure when you see it or just as importantly that you don’t get duped with an overpriced figure. [ Read more... ]

Looking After Your Figures

OK, so far we’ve looked at everything from deciding what figures you want to buying them, but what will you do with then once you get them home?

Most people either hide their figures away in some dark and dingy cupboard where they are left forgotten for eons, or put them proudly on display in the most prominent place at the mercy of the elements.

But if you had just bought a new car, sofa or TV would you treat it the same way? [ Read more...]

Storing and Displaying Your Figures

Taking care of, protecting and storing your action figures correctly is of tantamount importance if you wish them to keep their value, whether it’s a sentimental or financial value.

Loose figures are a lot easier to store than carded figures but carded figures are better protected so storage isn’t quite as problematic as it is with loose figures.

One of the most important factors to take into account when storing them is their value. 

There are many companies now, both on and off the internet that supply various ways to store and protect them.

Read more...]

Cleaning Your Figures

When was the last time you cleaned any of your figure?

Is your Luke Skywalker looking a little brown around the edges, is your Storm trooper more gray than white?

Does your G.I. Joe have dirty, greasy matted hair?

Would you like to have them looking new and pristine again? 

Whether your figures have been displayed carefully in a cabinet, on a shelf, desk, or just lying loose in a large storage box the chances are that at some point, if not now, you will need to give them a clean. 

But how do you clean them without the risk of damaging them? [ Read more...]

What Causes Your Figures to Become Sticky? 

Why do your Action Figures have Sticky Plastic?

Do your action figures have sticky plastic?

Have they been stored or displayed for a long period of time?

What can you do to protect them and prevent this from happening again? [ Read more ]

How to Grade Your Action Figures?

Find out how to grade your action figures professionally and save yourself money!

Trying to find accurate grade and values for your action figures can be a minefield but if you know what defects to look for you can save yourself money when buying second-hand figures and also how to check your own action figures when valuing them. [ Read More ]

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