I was looking around at pop-culture news on the internet recently as I sometimes like to do, as nerds like me sometimes like to do, and I found an article saying that there’s going to be a Funko Pops movie - it’s going to try to piggy-back on the success of the Lego movies. This has me in the mood to rant a bit. So this is me being my best “super-judger,” as my wife would put it – anyone reading this is forewarned now.
It has been interesting to me that Lego sets have become collectable in recent years and that some of them have appreciated in value quite significantly - to the point that I’m now starting to see articles talking about them as “investments” and that economists have been doing complete studies and publishing papers about the returns they’ve realized. I think the whole thing is a ridiculous and insane bubble that is going to pop and leave some people in tears… but I’m getting off topic.
I like / love comics and comic characters and love watching the superhero movies - much to my wife’s chagrin - but I have not and likely will not ever buy one of these little Funko Pop figures, with their odd, cutesy, chibi-style artwork, that retail for about $8-15 each most of the time. I just see them as mas-produced plastic garbage, the likes of which we already have entirely too much of in the world already.
My brother-in-law does not share my view on this. He collects them, quite avidly. I’ve never been inside this room in their house and I’ve never witnessed it, but supposedly he has an entire room in their house full of boxes of these things. He has so many he has to store them in the boxes, and he can’t even pull them out and display them properly in a way that he might get some kind of enjoyment out of owning them. I find it vaguely insane.
One of the biggest head scratchers for me is that these things occupy a room in his house and my sister lets him get away with this. I think my wife would murder me if we had a room in our house that couldn’t even be used because I was using it just to store my collectables. The smallest room in our home serves multiple functions as an in-home office for me while also being the place where I store photography equipment, coins, coin books, gaming books, and we even keep a twin guest bed in there on top of it all.
At Christmas last year (2018) we got into a discussion about them and he claimed that some of them, some of the ones he has, can be worth hundreds or thousands of dollars. I think that if someone will actually give him that much for some of them, he should sell them now while the money is good and my sister agrees, but what do we know? I did some research after that conversation and found that there are a handful that collectors of these figures will pay $500 to up to $2,000 for, but these are almost all special, convention exclusive variants with limited productions of 500 or less. I didn’t see any of the off-the-shelf ones that he’s always asking for for Christmas on that list.
To me, these things are a fad. They’re not at all unlike beanie-babies, baseball cards, comics or anything else. They’re popular and new right now, you’re going to see some crazy prices for a while, but, eventually, those prices are going to pop, and they’ll probably never see those high prices again. I think this movie is going to help build-up, hype up and extend the life of that bubble, but, in the long-term, I see these things going the way of the do-do. I wouldn’t want to be collecting them and left holding the bag when that happens.
Don’t get me wrong - I know coin collecting has had its booms and busts over the decades as well and that’s something we all have to watch out for. However, I think those booms and busts in the modern context of coin collecting tend to be more contained to smaller sections of the broader market, in areas that I don’t currently participate in. I don’t think there’s a bubble in the 19th and 20th century European gold coins I’ve been buying for about 20-50% over the spot price of gold. I think we might one day see a crash in the values achieved by modern condition rarities, but I think that’s going to be a problem for people that collect those condition rarities. I guess we’ll see if I’m ever proven wrong there.
My brother-in-law compared his collection of these toys to my coin collecting at one point. Call me biased, but, no. These made-to-be-collected toys will never be the same as 18th, 19th, and early 20th century coinage. They don’t have the artistry. They don’t have the history.
It’s also odd to me though that he feels that his collecting experience is similar to mine. I don’t know if he spends time researching his collection beyond mere price-discovery activities, but it’s hard for me to imagine that there’s much to look into or research there (again, maybe this is my bias showing). But I spend a lot of time with my collection. I spend a lot of time researching it, reading about it, taking pictures of the coins and notes, writing about them here and elsewhere. His Funko Pops sit in boxes.