I’d have to think that for a newbie collector, jumping into the Star Wars collectible market would be daunting considering the franchise has been cranking out goodies since “A New Hope” hit the theaters 36 years ago. Ultimately there’s no easy answer, but here are some pieces of advice to help you in your journey:
1) Buy what appeals to you, not what you think will be “worth something.” Although it is possible that if you plan out the perfect collection – in time you might be able to sell it all for a lot of money, however planning to collect shouldn’t be based entirely off of thinking about your collection as an investment. Collectibles are a tricky market – take sports memorabilia, right now it’s near impossible to get top dollar for anything in sports thanks to the economy and the market bottoming out. This likely won’t always be the case, but for anyone wishing to make it big selling their sports stuff now, they’re going to be sorely disappointed.
Star Wars collectibles run hot and cold depending on the how popular the series is at the time. For example – when the prequels were released, all things Star Wars were hot. For about 3-4 years after Revenge of the Sith, collectibles were flying off of shelves and websites. Today? Well, it depends on what you’re looking for. Certain 3 3/4″ figure lines are hot, specific figures are rare and hard to get, but a lot of of other merchandise is stagnant. Although The Clone Wars is hot on TV, about the only line of merchandise that’s a true winner is anything SW related to Legos.
This brings me back to the original question – what to collect? Ultimately no one person should tell another person what to buy. The great joy with Star Wars collecting is that there are 36 years worth of goodies out there to find, sort through, and decide what you like. Are you head over heels for ships? If so, maybe you should look at Lego sets to build ships and the 3 3/4″ replicas that Hasbro puts out. Maybe you want your collection classy – Sideshow and Gentle Giant offer many high end, beautiful statues and scaled replicas of key characters and moments from the films. Perhaps you’re obsessed with R2-D2 – lord knows there are gobs of R2 goodies out there to fill four houses with merchandise.
What to buy needs to be YOUR decision, I can only steal from Shmi for my advice and ask, “What does your heart tell you?” If you see something and you feel a connection to the item, then you should think of buying it. Buy from your heart, not your head, and you’ll always be happier in the end.
2) Space Consideration: If unchecked, collecting can become a space hog. There’s nothing more exciting than finding bargains, bringing them home and adding them to your collection. Once you start you might find yourself with a box of beloved treasures – in time that one box can become dozens of boxes or more. If you rent, you need to remember that when you move, you need to move all of your stuff also – those boxes take up room in moving trucks. Plan wisely.
Collectibles management is a big part of owning a collection, especially if you start at a young age. You have to come up with some decisions on how to handle it, especially if you anticipate moves down the road. Owning a collection takes commitment, if you want to keep it, you have to be willing to take care of your items (keep them out of hot attics where plastic can corrode, melt or yellow, or damp basements where things can get mildewy and musty) for the long haul.
3) Spending Budget: Spend only what you can afford to spend. I can’t emphasize this enough. Yes there are kick-ass top of the line collectibles that are drool-worthy out there, there are ebay auctions that offer amazing deals that might be just outside of your price-comfort limit. Don’t tempt fate and go over and buy things that you can’t afford.
There are a couple of reasons for this. First off, if you start over-stressing your finances on buying collectibles, you’re going to start stressing out for real. Your health being put at risk isn’t worth a few extra items that you want to buy but can’t. Second, if you can’t get the item because it’s just now out of your price range, chill out, and keep it in mind. Things will eventually turn around and you’ll have the funds to get it somewhere down the road.
Some collectibles will be extremely pricey and will shoot up and will forever land outside of your comfort zone for spending – collector’s have a special name for these, we call them our “Holy Grails.” These are the items that we dream of one day adorning our shelves but we know our budgets will never allow them to enter it. This sucks, but it also keeps collectors going. It keeps our eyes peeled to our ebay alerts, haunting thrift and antique shops hoping that one day our grail will be hiding in plain sight for a price that we can afford at just the right time. Holy Grails keep collecting fun.
We live in a time where the economy sucks – jobs are hard to keep as companies lay off their work forces and go bankrupt. Remember that collecting is a luxury, not a necessity. If need be, you can always resell your collectibles to help you to get by. If you opt to debox items, just know that once an item has been taken out of package, it’ll lose value. So long as you look at it’s resale as “hey this is $$$ more in my pocket than I had yesterday,” you’ll never feel gypped with collecting and reselling. The great thing about it is that if you have to part with something – when you’re more flush with funds again, you can enjoy the thrill all over again of finding the item and bringing it home, again.
4) Quality or Quantity? Box or Debox? Once you’ve determined how much you can spend and how much room you’ve got to display things, you have to decide how you want to distribute that spending budget, are you going to focus on a lot of smaller items or save up and score a few larger collectibles a year? Once you get your items will you keep them in box or debox them?
Again there are pros and cons for either side of things. Picking up and focusing on smaller items, like 3 3/4″ Hasbro figures, Legos, or Gentle Giant Mini-busts generally will mean that you can fill shelves faster and have more goodies to show off. Picking larger items such as Sideshow’s 1/4 scale premium format figures can get more individual attention since you won’t have as many items on display.
Finally – to keep in box or debox? Generally I’m a deboxer. There are some items that I keep in box simply because their boxes are designed such that they help to enhance my displays, but overall I prefer taking things out. I know, this gives many Mint in Box collectors a heart attack, but I find it to be freeing. Rather than stress out if a box has a crease on it, or if it’s got some sun damage – I can focus on the toy inside and have fun displaying it. Because box quality isn’t a huge concern for me, I can also pick up those less than perfect new items on sale which saves me money.
I keep boxes for fragile things so that I can box them up if need be, but otherwise, I just don’t care about the boxes. I had kept many of my older Hasbro boxes for years when I moved a lot and used to put everything away in their proper boxes, now that I’ve got the prospect of having a permanent residence for my shrine, the older boxes which are now scuffed and crunched from too many moves will get recycled. Vintage boxed items of course stay in their packages.
5) Inform yourself: There are lots of websites out there with a wealth of information on them about the different product lines out there. RebelScum has a wonderful gallery of pictures of action figures that help you to identify the different lines. There are also many books out there – look up Steven Sansweet or the price guides by Geoffrey T. Carlton on Amazon and peruse them to get a feel for what merchandise most interests you.
Seek out collecting forums, lurk, then ask questions to other collectors and you’ll find yourself more informed every day to help you to decide what to buy. If you attend comic conventions talk to the people in the booths selling merchandise or the manufacturers and find out what’s new and hot and what are the best bargains out there.
Whatever you decide – collecting is meant to be FUN! No one can tell you that you’re doing anything wrong – get what you like, share your stuff w/ other fellow collectors, and you’ll really enjoy your hobby!