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I am a low key collector of vinyl figures – mostly tokidoki and Kidrobot, but also other figures that I find fun and affordable. One brand of figures I don’t collect, is Funko – I simply don’t find them interesting enough.
However, I am aware that a lot of people collect Funko items, especially the Funko Pop! figures. There are lots of YouTube channels dedicated to collecting these, and I have watched a fair share of YouTube videos with unboxing of Funkos. One of the things I have noticed is that the YouTube videos always seems focused on the reselling value of the items, which shows that the YouTubers consider the figures to be investments, rather than items to add to their collection. Not all obviously; some talk about whether they have the figure already or not, but even these YouTubers tend to focus on value.
Watching this, I can’t help comparing the Funkos to Beanie Babies, which also were considered an investment by many of the people who purchased them, and which ended up burning a lot of “investors”.
This is something I have a feeling might also happen with Funkos. Some reasons for this:
- Some Funkos sell for extremely high prices, due to artificial scarcity
- A very large number of Funkos are released every year
- Focus on keeping package in mint condition
- Even small things, make a huge differences in price for the same figure
Let’s start with the first point. There are quite a few Funkos that are only made in a limited series. This obviously make their prices go up during resale. There is no real reason for Funko to make these limited runs, except for creating hype/higher prices. Be that as it may – it is not an uncommon thing to do after all, Funko also tend to retire (or “vault”) their Funkos, instead of keep making them as long as there is a demand. Both the limited runs and the retiring of figures are tools to make people collect the figures.
Even though Funko tries to appeal to collectors, by making the individual figures scarce, or at least harder to get, they are also optimizing their profit, by releasing a large number of figures every month, making it hard for even the most focused collector to buy them all, even if they can afford it.
Both the scarcity of the individual figures, and the large number of figures released, seems to be aimed at creating an environment where peoples’ natural tendency to collect kicks in. And kick in, it does, which is demonstrated by 3) and 4). There is an extreme focus on the condition of the boxes, which clearly shows that it is not really the figures themselves that matter, something which is also demonstrated by the fact that there can be a huge difference in price of the same figure, depending on what stickers are on the box. The stickers shows if it was sold/connected to a con, is part of a limited run, or if it is sold exclusively at some store (chain) or another. As I said, even if the figure is the same, these stickers make a tremendous differences in price.
So, all in all, it seems clear to me, that Funkos have become a collectible and an investment item, quite like Beanie Babies were. This leads me to believe that we’ll see a similar development – maybe not quite as bad, since the scarce figures will still probably be worth something (as I believe also is the case for Beanie Babies), but the many, many ordinary ones will decrease their value a lot, no matter the stickers on the box.
For a quick introduction to the story behind the Beanie Babies, see The Insane History of Beanie Babies at Otis Magazine, which also have a quick introduction to Funko Funko Pop! Mania (note on Otis – I am linking to the articles because they seem like good introductions to the subject. I do, however, not endorse their website in any way, and have never used it – and giving the fact that they promote NFTs, I am not likely to ever use them for anything)