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Living Frugal for Toy Collectors: Collecting on a budget

Updated on March 4, 2016
Drawing of Vintage Toys
Drawing of Vintage Toys | Source

Collecting Toys on a Budget

Collecting toys on a budget may seem counterproductive. Collecting anything quickly becomes an expensive hobby. However, collecting can be very full filling and fun. Treasure hunting can be even more fun when you have financial goals in mind. Here are some tips on how to collect things like toys without breaking the bank:

Know What You're Getting Into.

Familiarize yourself with the products you're interested in. Watch toy review videos to get a more realistic idea of what is in that package you're about to buy. Get a good understanding of what your money is paying for. Make educated decisions about whether you're getting a good value. Assess the figure's articulation, paint applications, and play value before you make a regrettable, junky purchase.

On the left, you'll see an example of a toy review. I highly recommend Pixel Dan's reviews.

Limit Your Spending.

Set realistic limits on your spending. If you know a really expensive must have item is coming up for preorder soon, save your pennies so you'll have the money when the time comes. That way, you can get that great new Hot Toys Groot action figure you've been eyeing with less guilt. Or, if you prefer to make more small purchases, keep track of how much you've spent this month on your collection, and try to keep that number at a responsible level comparative to your income and your other expenses. Give yourself an allowance and take yourself to the toy store.

Buy Vintage Toys!

Buy vintage, loose toys. Everyone goes about collecting a different way, but some of the most impressive toy collections I've ever seen have been loose figures displayed in creative ways. If your collection is centered around a character or property with a long history, don't be afraid to let your collection show its roots. Although TMNT classics, for example, are awesome toys with great sculpts, you may be just as happy picking up some loose turtles at flea markets, thrift stores, and estate sales. The chase is part of the fun here. It may be tempting to collect only ultra articulated, modern action figures, but it can be easy, inexpensive and fun to find 80's and 90's figures locally. You certainly don't have to limit yourself to figures that are less than MIB, but you can save a lot of money buying some items loose. You can even find some great deals on E-bay, especially if you buy figures by the lot.

Buy Low, Sell HIgh!

Look online for the going rates on choice items and stay up to date. Know how much things are worth, and obey the basic principles of economics. Buy low, sell high. Although some would say that scalping is somehow unethical, use the tools you have to your advantage. If you find an extra of a rare doll or action figure that you don't need for your collection, pop it on e-bay and make some quick cash. This is exceptionally easy around Christmas. Capitalism can be very profitable.

Try to stay ahead of the trends. Pay attention to what has a cult following and what doesn't. If you want a toy that you know has a cult connection, grab it while you can before the price gets jacked up. This year, it's Dancing Groot figures. Next year, it'll be something else. Stay aware.

Key sources for buying toys in person

Flea Markets

Estate Sales

Garage Sales

Thrift Stores

Specialty shops, like comic book stores and doll stores.

K-Mart, particularly when they have toy clearance. They have the best toy clearance of any store I know of.

Tuesday Morning sometimes has some unusually cool items, such as imported dolls.

Big Lots buys things in bulk, so you might find a lot of something unusual there. I've heard of them getting large lots of Masters of the Universe Classics and selling them at very reasonable prices. They tend to have mostly lower end stuff, though.

Big box stores like Walmart and Target.

Toy stores, like Toys R Us. It's regrettable that KB Toys isn't around anymore, because that was my favorite place to buy toys. One of our local Toys R Us stores is now going out of business. Support your local toy stores, or they may be gone forever.

Wait for a Sale!

Wait for a sale. Many of the major collectible doll companies, such as Tonner, have big sales and other promotions. Unless the doll is a major must have, sometimes waiting is the best option. On the other hand, I do have some regrettable gaps in my collection from when dolls have skyrocketed in value on the secondary market, such as the Tonner Severus Snape from the Harry Potter line.

Use Your Smartphone!

If you have a smart phone, check out bar code scanner apps like Red Laser or the Amazon app. A bar code scanner can tell you whether the price you're about to pay is the going rate for the product or not. Be sure to take note of any shipping costs when you're making purchasing decisions. An online price may seem lower until you have to pay shipping. Not all Amazon items are available for free super saver shipping.

Hold Back When Prices Seem High.

Curb your enthusiasm on inflated prices in the secondary market. The most fun toys to collect, in my experience, are the rarest, hottest ones. We're all out looking for the money rares, and that keeps scalper prices high. If you really like whatever the hottest toy of the season is, I advise you to wait. Hot toys usually get cold later. Toys are not generally a solid longterm investment. I can't tell you how many garages full of Power of the Force Star Wars figures or 90's X-Men figures I've seen, selling new on card figures for low prices. Some of these figures use to be highly sought after, and now they're hard to sell even 20 years later. Be aware that your figures may go down as well.

Use Promotions to Get a Good Value.

Keep track of promotions and incentives. Joining the Barbie fanclub is more than worth the money. Find out whether the things you collect have a fan club with special figures or discounts. I know GI JOE has a fan club, for example.

Watch out for subscription services, though, because those can rack up serious costs with little or no ability to opt out. Being part of a subscription service takes serious commitment to buy, and you could get stuck with figures you don't want. At the time I'm writing this, Loot Crate is a really great subscription service that you can acquire some Funko figures through, they've had a couple of really neat exclusive pop vinyl figures. Their items tend to be very on trend. It does have a recurring montly charge, though, so watch out for that and keep an eye open for changes in quality you don't approve of.

Another example of a promotion you may be interested in would be mail away figures. To get these figures, you may be expected to cut proof of purchase off a figure's packaging and send those proofs of purchase to the toy company. In exchange, the toy company will send you something. An example would be the mail away offer on a free Boba Fett Star Wars figure Hasbro did a few years ago.

Cherry Pick.

Only collect what you really love. It can be tempting to fritter your money away on items that only mostly have your attention. Keep in mind, the less money you spend on other stuff, the more money you have for your favorite things


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    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 

      8 years ago from California Gold Country

      There are a lot of things to consider, and I think you have covered them well. Good first hub. (A couple of photos would make it even better.) Welcome to HubPages!


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