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Deciding Where to Buy Your Action Figures?

With the burgeoning popularity of the hobby and the speedy adoption of the internet action figures, even the older more sought after collectors items, have become easier to find but this has also led to an increase in prices.

But when deciding where to buy there are several different to take int account:

Do you want new or secondhand?

When deciding whether to buy new or secondhand think about what you are going to do with your action figure. 

For example if you are going to customize them (more on customizing later) then you would be wasting your money buying a new figure. 

Likewise, if you want to display or play with your figure it would probably be better to buy a good condition secondhand figure. 

Also most mass produced figures do not appreciate a great deal over the years so again you are probably better advised to buy your more common figures secondhand.

However, many of the adults collectible Action Figures these days are not mass produced and are of limited quantities.

This makes good quality secondhand figures difficult to find. 

Also many collectors DO NOT open their figures but keep them sealed in their packaging as this adds to their overall value (often adding 2-3 times the value).

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A Collapsible Table:

Production Quantities

Most mass produced figures will be readily available from your local high street stores such as Wal-mark, Woolworths, K-mart, EB, Gamestop etc.

These stores obviously have a much greater purchasing power than your local independent store and will therefore have the figures at a generally much cheaper price.

Limited production figures on the other hand are generally sold in specialist stores such as Forbidden Planet and local comic book stores.

Some manufacturers will occasionally produce a line for “specialist” stores as well as a mass produced line.

A prime example of this is the recent Halo 3 Series 1 action figures from McFarlane.

How many do you want?

As with most things the more you buy the greater your bargaining power and the better your chances of negotiating a bigger discount.

Where possible I try to buy by the case.

For example, if you want a set of the new MLB Series 22 action figures and you have a few friends who want a set or individual figures from this set it may be worthwhile “clubbing” your money together and buying a case or two.

You will find that by doing this you can generally cut your costs substantially.


The rarity of the action figure you are looking for will not only influence where you buy it from but also the price you are likely to have to pay for it.

The rarer the figure is the harder it is likely to be to find, but you never know where it may turn up so remember, no matter where you are ALWAYS keep your eyes open.

I’ve found some excellent bargains in the strangest of places other the years.

Sometimes the MOST obvious of places to look are also the MOST expensive. So be patient, take your time and shop around.

 Remember they’re many different terms and types of rarity associated with action figures so make sure you understand the terminology and different levels of rarity first.

What Is a Variant Or Chase Action 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.

Here are the five basic levels:

A Regular Figure

A regular figure is just that. It is the most common figure in a set or series. It is your bog basic standard figure.

This will be the same as the figure pictured on the box, shown in magazines or seen on the TV ads.

They are the mass produced figures that are sold in your local Wal-mart, Toys R Us or Target stores. Generally the quantities made are unknown and often new “runs” will be produced if they sell out and demand is sufficient.

A Limited Figure or Series

A limited figure or Series is one that has been produced to a limited quantity or production run. A limited release series of figures may have both regular and chase figures available within the production run but the availability and quantities is generally known.

Often the manufacturer will number the individual figures on the base, e.g. 233/10,000 (number 233 of 10,000 produced), or issue a certificate of authenticity.

A Chase Figure

A Chase figure is a different version of one or more of the regular figures within a series or set.

This variation maybe something as small as the color of the eyes, as in Tiffany from the Spawn Series 30 release, or Sarah O'Connor from T3: Rise of the Machines where the chase figure had no cap and windswept hair, or a different color uniform, shirt etc.

A chase figure is usually an intentional and planned figure that is usually publicized before its release.

The availability or rarity of these figures is also generally known with a quoted ratio of its availability compared to a regular figure given.

For example a case of figures will normally contain 12 or 24 figures with maybe one chase figure in each case (a ratio of 1:24).

Therefore the greater the ratio the higher the rarity and therefore its value. A figure with a 1:48 ratio is therefore rarer than one with a 2:24 ratio.

The term "chase" comes from the fact that diehard collectors will often search out these figures to add to their collections, therefore literally "chasing" them out.

A Variant Figure

A variant figure is very similar to a chase figure but a variant figure is usually an unexpected variation on the figure or in the set.

Generally variant figures aren’t publicized before their “discovery”. A variant figure is usually considered rare than a chase figure as the variation is often due to an unplanned change during production.

A variation often occurs during the production of a licensed line when the licensee decides they don’t like something on a figure and production has to be stopped to make the change.

A recent example of this is the Baseball Series 18 set that has two version of Mariano Rivera.

The first figure, produced in very small quantities, has the full version of the glass player’s entrance door but because this was found to be too big and bulky for the packaging the regular figure only has the door section.

The main difference between a chase figure and a variant figure is that a chase figure is planned and intentional whereas a variant figure isn’t.

Ok, with me so far?

Now, this is where things begin to get complicated.

A Chase Variant Figure

A chase variant figure is exactly that.

It is a chase figure that also has an unintentional variation.

A good example of this the McFarlane's NFL Series 6 Emmitt Smith figure.

The regular figure came with a white jersey but the chase figure a red jersey.

However the chase figure was intended to have white gloves but there was a variant that had red gloves, so the figure with a red jersey and red gloves was the chase variant figure.

OK, got that?


Because it gets worse...

There were also variants of the regular figure with red gloves instead of white AND there was also a SECOND chase figure available!!

So recapping this series had:

A regular Emmitt Smith figure (with white jersey), a variant regular figure *with a white jersey and red gloves), a chase figure (red jersey, white gloves), and a variant chase figure (red jersey and red gloves)!

This example is a very unusual case and it is very rare to have this number of variation of the same figure in one series, but...

Super Chase

A Super Chase figure is an intentional variation, like a chase figure, but produced in very small quantities therefore making it both a lot more difficult to find and more valuable.

Instead of one figure per case it maybe one per container.

Surprise Chase 

A surprise chase figure is an unplanned addition to a series that usually hasn't been publicized and isn't included on the official checklists.

But there is a certain amount of debate however as to whether these truly are chase figures as often they have the same production run as a regular figure but are just last minute addition to the series.

A prime example is the Trevor Hoffman figure in McFarlane’s MLB Series 18 Baseball figures.

The problem with these figures again is because there generally isn't any further information on their production runs nobody really knows which are a chase figures or regular figures.

My best suggestion here is to keep an eye on the auction sites, online stores and forums.

By listening to what others are saying and gauging the quantities and prices available you should get a reasonable idea whether the figure is a true “chase” figure or just a late addition to the set as a regular figure.

An Error Figure

An error figure is completely unintentional and often passes through the normal quality control checks unnoticed, for whatever reason.

As a result these are not publicized in any way until "found". Often even the manufacturer will not be aware of their existence until the error comes to light.

The error could be missing paint, or the wrong color used somewhere on the figure. It maybe something missing accessory or …

An error figure is just that, an error, a mistake, unintentional and unknown until found.

This makes them extremely rare and often very valuable. An error figure is often a “one off” or in very low numbers and are therefore probably the rarest and most sought after.

Very rarely the error is intentional and "planted" by a member of the production team.

A famous incident where this happened is the infamous “C3 P0" trading card from the original 1977 series of Star Wars bubble gum cards where, on some, C3P0 was given a bit of male antinomy. This card now error card can now exchanges hands for $1000's.

An Exclusive Figure

An exclusive figure, unlike all the others mentioned, is not part of a regular series or release and is NOT distributed through the normal channels, distributors or retailers.

An exclusive figure is one that has been especially commissioned by a company, business, or team for their own promotional uses.

There are generally four different types of exclusive figures:

  • Distributor/Retailer Exclusive-Toys R Us have commissioned many exclusive McFarlane releases including the NFL 3 packs and usually the first series of baseball figures at the start of each new season.Diamond Comic distributors also often carry exclusive figures that are only available to retailers through their distribution network.Many NFL, NHL, NBA and MLB teams have commissioned special event exclusives or stadium giveaways over the years as well.

  • An Event Exclusive- This type of figure is usually unplanned and released outside of the normal release schedule usually to "celebrate" an important event, a good example of this is the Bond 756 figure, the annual Fanfest exclusives or a Hall of Fame exclusive.
  • A Stadium Giveaway /Promotion- This is a figure usually commissioned by a team or organization to giveaway at one of their games or for a special event.This type of figure is generally not available anywhere else and has different packaging, often dated when and where it was given away, and has a separate checklist.
  • Collectors Club figure- Many manufacturers have their own in-house collectors clubs where you can purchase Club Exclusive figures or variants.

More Tutorials + Articles

The 5 Best Things To Collect as a Superhero Fan

As a Superhero fans there are hundreds of different collectibles that you can choose from, but which will give you the best bang for your bucks, will be the most enjoyable and will likely appreciate in value over time?

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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PLEASE NOTE: All prices and values quoted on this site were correct at the time of publication based on the average value across several online and offline auction sites etc. The prices quoted ARE NOT an offer or solicitation to buy any figures at these prices.

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