Dan Larson is the host of Toy Galaxy, a channel about toys and so much more. Every week Dan gives out comprehensive lists of what he and his audience believes are the 10 best…whatever the subject may be. On top of that, he also delves into the history of toys and offers commentary of geek culture as a whole.
For someone that wants to start a “serious” action figure collection, what would be your advice to them, if you could only tell them one thing to send them on their way?
Dan Larson: Beyond everything else I would say to have fun and not worry about what anyone else is buying. Don’t worry about trends or speculative value. Just have fun, try to set a budget and stick with it. Don’t let the collection take over your life. There’s really no such thing as a “serious” collector in my book.
More and more, we see that the toy industry is targeting an adult collector with money to burn. More and more pre-orders are being made for 1/6 scale action figures or quarter scale statues, do you think the toy industry could potentially put the children’s market on the back burner?
DL: That’s something that I’ve been watching for years and I have to say that I really don’t know what the future holds. Just when I think the time has come that the kids market has been abandoned… there’s some new cool toy release, some line gets rebooted for kids that makes all the adult collectors mad, or I see a whole slew of commercials directed right at the kids market and I think: “well, we aren’t there yet.”
There are still plenty of kids out there into action figures. $20 a figure makes it tough, I’m sure, to build a collection. But, honestly, the only reason $20 figures are still in places like Walmart and Target is because kids ARE still buying them, as well as adults.
What is a toy from your childhood has yet to be improved upon by modern action figure aesthetics? For me, it’s the ’87 TMNT figures by Playmates. I know there are “better” Turtles figures out there, but I still think that the ‘87 action figures are the best.
DL: I don’t think there’s a comparable piece for me. I love all figures. I can’t draw a line and say THIS one is the best and can’t be topped. There are things about vintage figures I love and there are things about modern figures that I love.
If I absolutely had to pick a SINGLE Boba Fett out of my collection for all of eternity, yeah, I would pick my original vintage figure over everything else. But that has more to do with the nostalgia than the engineering or aesthetics. It’s more of a symbol to me now than anything that I would consider to be a “perfect” figure.”
The Boba Sett is something of an icon when it comes to Toy Galaxy. So far you have over three hundred Boba Fett figures from the original 1981 Empire Strikes Back action figure line. How many figures do you think the Sett will include before you decide to throw in the towel and say “I have enough Boba Fett figures.”?
DL: As of this writing The Boba Sett has recently passed 400 pieces.
When Mrs. Toy Galaxy and I came up with the idea for the collection, there was never an end number in mind. We were just going to collect them for as long as we felt like it. Just to see how big the collection could get and where it could go. It’s very possible that at some point we’ll say “OK, that’s enough” but we’re not there yet.
Toy collectors of a certain age have their favorite series of figures. From Transformers to Super Naturals, to G.I. JOE to Care Bears, what makes an action figure line so iconic and what, from a design level, makes older action figures so desirable?
DL: Whoa. That’s a really big question.
Most importantly, I think it’s the emotional connection that people have with those toys. They remind you of being a kid and the hopes, dreams and aspirations you had for the future. For many people, that was a time when things were easier, they were less burdened with responsibility.
A collector’s favorite piece is simultaneously an interesting thing as an object, but it also has all those memories wrapped up in it. There are fun, original gimmicks, really amazing pieces of engineering that some very creative salespeople and artists were able to infuse with mythology and character, ideas that kids really connected with.
Looking back on them now, we can see that the 70s, 80s and 90s were an amazing time of really creative thinking in a really competitive toy market. Something that doesn’t exist the same way NOW because fewer people, fewer YOUNGER people want figures the way they did 30, 40 years ago. Since the collector market has aged quite a bit, there has been a diluting of the real creativity of the industry, because adult collectors all seem to want the same thing: realistic, highly articulated, 6″ figures that can all work together with each other.
Hard to break into that with a different scale, a different aesthetic or crazy gimmicks.
Not to mention the fact that the collector market and the manufactures are trapped in a feedback loop where neither party can escape the attachment to the brands from 30 to 40 years ago.
Ironically, I think the answer to your question is that the thing that is TRULY desirable about those vintage pieces in comparison to the modern stuff is the originality. And desire to have that first experience with something new and fresh again.
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