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Tips for Buying Action Figures: Finding Hidden Treasures

How often have you gone to your local Wal-mart, Toys R Us or Target store to buy the latest Marvel or DC action figures only to be disappointed when you get there as the shelves are bare or there are only a few left?

The trouble is that due to the hobby’s increased popular and the expotential growth of the secondary market there are now many “scalpers” about.

Scalpers often buy up ALL or most of the toys from a popular line, rare figure, or figures of a popular character in order to resell them for a quick buck and are NOT collectors.

But who are these scalpers?

Scalpers are often the employees of stores such as Wal-Mart, Toys-R-Us, The Entertainer etc and are not serious collectors; they are only interested in making a quick buck off of the traditional collector.

Also because it generally means buying large quantities of the figures at once, you can mostly rule out kids.

These greedy people don't care if kids or the collectors can't get the toys; in fact they WANT to ensure that you can’t and that you are disappointed so that you have to buy the figures from them, generally at double or even treble the price!

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Well, here are a few tips to help you keep one step ahead of the scalper and help you to find the figures you are looking for and how to make sure you get “first pickings” of any new releases.

1. Get to know your local store, how it stocks items and how it rotates them.

When it gets its new deliveries and when these are shelved, as not all new deliveries get shelved immediately as sometimes stores will wait until the old stock is sold first!

2. Some stores stock mid-afternoon, some overnight others in the morning. So if you know your stores delivery days and when they re-stock their shelves you can pretty much guess when new releases will be “shelved”.

3. Sometimes new stock lies out the back in the store room until the current stock has been sold so if you don’t see it ask.

4. Get to know the staff, be friendly and talk to them. Always thank them for their time and help. This is one of the most important tips because it is rare that anyone takes the time to thank them so you little appreciation WILL be remembered and will probably get you “inside” information on the latest arrivals.

5. As a side note you’ll probably get a better response if they know you are a serious collector and NOT a reseller.

Who knows they may even offer to “keep” items aside for you if you’re a regular customer.

6. The Customer Service area is an often forgotten and neglected service provided by most large stores and is generally used for making complaints but remember it is Customer SERVICE not Customer COMPLAINTS.

They are there to HELP you. Often the staff at the customer service area will be able to look up what stock is due in and when it is due. Again remember to thank them for their time and help!

7. Don’t forget to check out your local Supermarket or Grocery stores, although they may not stock regular lines of action figures many have a “Bargain Bin” where they put cheap close out stock.

You’ll be surprised how many bargains and hidden gems can be found in these out of the way and unsearched in stores.

8. Find out where your local $1 stores, close out stores or second hand stores are. These shops often stock end of the line items, bankrupt stock or close out stock at a fraction of the usual cost (on my last trip back to the UK I picked up 3 collectible porcelain dolls for my wife for $5 each from the local Oxfam charity shop. These dolls generally sell for anything up to $50 retail).

9. Try out stores in the poorer parts of town where people generally don’t have the disposable income to buy higher end of the market “toys”.

10. Along the same lines check out stores on the outskirts of town or in less frequented areas as often each store is “allocated” an initial stock level for an item from their head office, leaving it to the store to re-order when this initial stock runs out. 

When I had my stores in the UK I made friends with several of the local “high street” toy shops staff and managers and made it known that I would buy any excess stock they had.

Often these stores are “allowed” to write stock off on their monthly stock take after a given period of time and will sell the excess for next to nothing. 

My local store used to sell me their excess after a 3 month period and I used to get some excellent bargains, e.g. 1st Edition sealed boxes of Base Pokemon TCG for $1 each!

11. And don’t forget if you’re on an overseas trip to check out local stores as often there are country specific releases and exclusives.

12. Toy and Collector fairs are another excellent source for finding older toys or close out stock and many bargains.

13. Here’s a little tip on finding “hidden” toys. As the hobby has grown and become more “mainstream” and with prices and values continuing to rise some store’s staff have become savvy to the action figure market and will do all they can to “keep” the rarer figures back for themselves.

Most stores however have a policy where staff cannot keep items back, but an easy work around to this is they get a friend to come in and purchase the item that has been “saved”.

 So where can you find these “hidden” gems?

·  Checkout behind current stock, often you’ll find new stock is put behind the old. Also gems are often hidden way back behind everything else, and not always on the correct shelve so look around.

 · Another “trick” is to hide items under the bottom shelve. On many of the standard shop units these panels lift up to reveal a space underneath that is ideal for storing stock. In fact I used to use this area to store spare stock to replenish my shelves on a busy day.

 · Try it yourself sometime, you’ll be surprised at what you will find. And if someone sees you and asks what you’re doing? Either tell them the truth or make an excuse, e.g. you dropped some money down the back.

 · If there are any high shelves, i.e. above head height, ask to use the store’s ladder to have a look. Knowing that most customers will not bother looking, think about looking, or ask to look here it is the ideal place to “hide” items.

 ·  Remember don’t just check the toy aisles as sometimes items are miss-shelved or stocked in the wrong aisle. Especially if someone is trying to hide them.

 · In specialist or hobby stores the rare figures are often “held” back so it’s always best to ask if you can’t see it.


Always be friendly, polite and courteous and always say Thank you to the staff. It doesn’t cost anything and you’ll be surprised at the reaction and help you’ll receive just by being “Mr. Nice” guy.

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Here, I will take a look at what I consider to be the best options currently available without breaking the bank!

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!

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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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