I don’t want to make this sound dramatic, but I love action figures. The idea of taking a fictional character and creating a physical representation of them in a miniature format that I can hold and be involved with their continuing adventures was something that I cherished as a kid, and to this day, I still look at action figures and see the adventures of these characters that I have loved since my youth carry on as I have gotten older.
But you know what sucks, becoming addicted with acquiring stuff. Let’s say that you have a action figure on pre-order for months, and you finally get it home and you take it out of the package and you’re reminded of why you love collecting toys. But then, not long after that, something else catches you’re eye, you want to throw down money on it, and the whole cycle starts over again, because right now, you don’t care about the figure you just bought, you can only think of buying something new. And yes, that is just as embarrassing as it sounds.
Five years ago, I started collecting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures because I had fallen in love with the brand after years of being away from it. During those five years, I learned a lot that I wish I had known back then when I started my collection. Some of it may sound obvious, but to me, these were hard lessons to learn, and in some ways, I’m still learning them.
Know what you want
Now it doesn’t matter what you collect, be it toys or rare pennies, because everyone collects something and it’s your job to make sure you’re collecting something you actually want. While roughly ninety percent of my action figure collection is centered on TMNT figures, I do have a large bin of action figures that I now wish I hadn’t bought. While I love the Predator, I didn’t need to own the figures put out by Kenner back in ’94. Sure they look great and they are an awesome example of both a character that I love, and an era of action figure that I think was the best, but it really sucks when you see something that you bought and you just wish you hadn’t. Now maybe you just want everything you can get your hands on, and if that’s the case, dude, go for it. But if you’re like me, and you want a singular vision for your collection, don’t be afraid to say “No” to yourself.
Price should not be negotiable
This may sound like a bit of a no brainer, but I can remember more than one occasion when I bought something that was slightly (and sometime not so slightly) out of my budget. I never really cared or thought much about it at the time, but the reality was that I was making myself (as well as my family) broke, fast.I hadn’t properly budgeted out what I was going to buy, I hadn’t really bothered to save much and the worst art about it was that I didn’t care, I wanted to get the next thing and I was a little afraid to let that next thing go over something like cost. I wanted something, and I was going to get it. Look, if you are on top of the world and price is not an issue, than more power to you. But for those of us that live here on planet earth, know that money is something that is gone once it’s spent, so whatever you’re getting, make sure it’s something you want, and not just the satisfaction of buying the next thing to put on your wall.
Don’t fall prey to what is “popular”
Sticking with action figures, I’m committed to only collecting TMNT action figures. Yes, I know that Funko Pop toys are adorable, and Marvel Legends figures are legitimately awesome, but I just can’t bring myself to start collecting them because my heart isn’t in it for those figures and you may or may not be surprised to learn that I thought that as a collector, I should have at least some of those figures. I mean, shouldn’t I? The quick answer is no. I will admit to be slightly weak willed when it comes to certain things, but I will admit that I wanted Marvel Legends figures because , while they are amazing figures, they are kind of the popular brand right now and I wanted to be a part of that. But I knew that as soon as I opened one of figures up and posed them, I would have started to wonder why I bought them in the first place. The Ninja Turtles represent a major part of my childhood and I want to celebrate that. So why clutter that up with figures I don’t really want? Bottom line; never buy something because you think you should. Buy it because you want it.
Don’t let collecting become a priority
This, again, should be a no-brainer, but collecting, for a while, really became all I thought about. All of my free time was spent researching the latest figures on the market, the prices of the aftermarket, and honest research for a book I was writing. But at the end of the day, I spent more time on little plastic men, than I did enjoying what I have around me. This is hard to say, but I put collecting ahead of what is truly important. I spent more time posing action figures for display, than I did playing with my sons. I didn’t take my daughters to band practice, but I stayed on top of the latest pre-orders out there. Now, I was never neglectful of my children, but I know now that I should’ve spent more time in their world than off in mine. I know that now, and I am taking strides to make up for it. If you’re a collector with kids, know that while they might like the same things you do, it’s not what they always want to do with you.
You may never be finished
My series, “just the basics”, is a collection of reviews and retrospectives of the basic TMNT action figures from 1988 to 1997. While I was collecting those figures, it was always my intention to stop collecting when I acquired all seventy figures in that line. It took me about a year to do it and when it was over, I was honestly a little depressed because I didn’t want to stop collecting. I love the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and those figures were a massive inspiration to me creatively. As an adult I wanted to recapture that feeling because I had thought that I had lost it somewhere and I thought that by collecting, I could find it. Unfortunately, what I had become to enjoy was the act of spending money and not getting the figures I loved as a kid. And when I said I was done, it bothered me. This may sound cheesy, but it was after a lot of thought and a painful day of boxing up the extra figures I had bought, did I decide that I was going to go back to basics with my collection. It started out as collecting only the four Turtles, and blew up into collecting anything from the lovely 90’s era of action figures, to just finding a way to spend money of toys; toys that I didn’t actually want, despite what it looked like. Now, now I only collect the figures I want because I want to collect figures. The four Turtles, the bad guys from the 2003 toy line or the Gamestop exclusive movie figures from NECA, these are figures that I actually want and am willing to wait for and will no longer be willing to pay top dollar for because there are honestly more important things out there, like bills and groceries.
At the end of the day, collecting should be about celebrating something that you love. I let it become about spending money because it made me feel good to be able to afford something while ignoring that I really couldn’t. While I will continue to collect figures, I am much more strict in what I buy. It all has to come down to what I really want as apposed to what I want in that moment. Because a collection is like a mosaic, small pieces forming a beautiful image. Don’t let it look like a bunch of shit thrown together like a Jackson Pollock painting.