If you are reading this, it might already be too late. You might be a member of a cult!! A cult that worships…Sellotape (Scotch tape if you’re an American cultist). Toy collectors like anyone else who desires an accumulation of certain items, has an interest in the quality of those items. The better the quality, the better the item, and presumably more valuable. The logical end of this thinking is that your collection should remain untouched in perfectly preserved boxes to be the best collection possible. But what’s the difference between the best Mint In Box (M.I.B) and a loose item…just a tiny piece of tape. Here is todays lesson for all you cult members…it’s just a piece of tape, snip it open and enjoy that thing you paid for.
Why do you do it? Take a second and really think to yourself, why am I collecting this stuff? If it is for selling later at a profit, I’ve got some bad news for you. Most of your toy collection is not going to appreciate in value, regardless of the quality. You will be very lucky to sell for what you paid, and much more likely to sell everything to a dealer for whatever you can get. Are you collecting for the love of the toys, or movies, well that’s another thing altogether. I’ll use myself as an example, and tell you some of the things I realised about my own collection. These are some reasons why I’m knee deep in little plastic space men, freed from their prisons.
The amount of space required to keep everything in it’s box, is enormous.
Boxes within boxes, within boxes. If you like brown cardboard, you’re in the right business. I’ve stored these things in my house, and in storage lockers of ever increasing size. You are spending money, to put things in a box, and then spending more money to put those boxes in storage. That doesn’t make sense long term but occasionally you can’t avoid it. Don’t feel bad if this is where you are currently, as long as you are working towards getting that display going. Moving house with a collection of fragile cardboard treasures is a nightmare and I’m never doing it again.
Displaying boxed items looks great, but also gobbles up the available shelves in an instant.
Your house can only provide so much display space. How much is up to you, but even if every room is a temple to tape you are going to need lots of shelves or cabinets. Once you have decided between metal and wood, black or white, glass or perspex, your house is suddenly full of furniture. Don’t call me when you need help moving.
Toys sold with batteries in them, must be opened or they will quietly melt in their boxes from leaking acid.
Toys sold with batteries are especially hard to keep in their packages, because of the battery acid problem. Batteries weren’t meant to be stored inside these plastic people, and the acid WILL leak out. The good news is cleaning them up is cheap and easy, but you have to break that tape to do it. Toys with batteries in them will usually have some sort of demonstration functionality, a ‘try me’ button for example. This is great, we can hear the quality of the sound effects, see those flashing lights, and decide if we want to buy whatever it is. This also means other people will too, encouraging handling of the toy, and wear and tear on the package. I’ve worked in a toy store, seen it every day. People will press every button they can reach, and then take a fresh toy from the back of the shelf to buy. What’s left is ragged and has flat batteries. Even if you buy those dregs, you’re going to want to put in fresh batteries, and that means opening the package.
Inevitably some items get opened, and then you have two collections to manage.
So you’ve opened a few to save them from melting, opened a few to put the pilots in the ships or stand 3-PO next to R2. Now you have two collections to cater to, boxed and loose. Once you are at this point, you’re likely to continue to open the odd toy here and there. I propose you cut to the chase, cut that tape and open up those toys. Enjoy what you have paid for with money, with time, and with space devoted.
Is M.I.B even a thing?
I get it. I understand the appeal of the new, virginal, untouched, complete, probably unbroken item fresh from the factory. The problem lies in the distance between the perception of value, and the actual value. The truth is the value of the item, is almost entirely in your mind and largely because of a little piece of tape. M.I.B is a term that gets tossed around by all sorts of people who have never even held a price guide, because they think it means ‘I can charge more now that I’ve used the magic word M.I.B.’ I’ve seen boxes that look like a car has backed over them, items standing next to the opened box they come with, or just plain loose items, all described as M.I.B or Mint loose or Mint opened, or hilariously Mint on card re-carded!!. That’s a topic for another post, but the key point is that someone has decided item X = $Y. The truth is, it is worth what someone pays for it, and that’s all it is worth.
So what is worth keeping in its package?
Good question. There’s no right answer of course, but if you mean, what is actually going up in value, that’s easier to answer.
- Unique items, such as props from the movies themselves.
- Vintage toys sealed in their packages.
- Production variants can be very valuable. There are a number of different paint jobs through the years on Boba Fett figures alone, and value differs greatly.
- Regional Variants can also have more value, largely due to the packaging itself being unusual. This is a series of articles describing some of the packaging differences in Vintage toys from New Zealand. I had some of these growing up, but they are far from mint now.
- Vintage cardbacks are very sought after by collectors either as items themselves, or for the purposes of re-carding.
- The last items produced for the Vintage range are some of the most valuable, for example the last 17 figures, the Droids vehicles range, and the desert skiff. Production and distribution was dropping off by this point so many countries only got a small amount. Yakface was not widely available outside the U.K for example, so for many collectors it is a prized commodity.
Is anything new likely to increase in value?
For most of it, sadly not. Production runs are far larger from 1995 onwards, and scarcity is not really an issue for toys produced in the tens of millions. Ever since The Power Of The Force range relaunched, Hasbro has put its foot down hard on the gas, and there’s no end in sight. Combine this with a renewed interest in Star Wars in general, and a lot of lapsed fans have returned to toy collecting, many with profit in mind. Look on Ebay and it is very common to see carded figures from the green and orange ranges of POTF. Exclusives are not even exclusive any more when you can buy them from any number of retailers. So with more being made, and more being kept on card, theres no scarcity. The one area you are very likely to see an increase in value is signed items. Obviously more scarce initially, and even more so once that person is no longer available to sign any more.
I have found a lot of the problems of collecting have disappeared since I decided to open all these toys, carried away with the recycling. Some things will be in their boxes forever of course, but the amount of toys that qualify for that list is shrinking everyday. I encourage you to do yourself a favour, get some use out of these little plastic spacemen. Life is short, leave the cult.
Star Wars Figure Checklist : TSolinas, SWF.UK