This guide is aimed to educate a new collector and help them avoid some of the pitfalls associated with collecting. Although this is geared toward 1/6 Military Action Figures, the general principles apply to any collectible. There are 1/6 scale figures based on the middle ages, Roman/Greek Empires, Revolutionary War, Civil War, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, up through the modern military units from around the world. Another popular genre is figures based on military movies.
Hasbros G.I. Joe 1964-1978 (Painted Heads, Adventurer, Adventure Team) is where it all started. They were the first "action figures." Fully poseable unlike the toy soldiers that came before them.
During the same time period Hasbro liscenced foreign versions of GI Joe (Action Man (UK), Geyperman (Spain), Takara Combat Joe (Japan)).
G.I. Joe 1992 Hall of Fame DUKE based on GI Joe Real American Hero (RAH) cartoon series was released. He was dressed in the chocolate chip Desert Storm type uniform and was available exclusively through Target stores. This was the first 12” GI Joe in over 14 years (the Dark Ages). The initial issue sold out the first weekend.
In 1996 GI Joe released the Classic Collection line of modern military figures; WWII, modern military, police, rescue and adventure series appeared in this line.
In 1998 21st Century Toys released the Ultimate Soldier line that started with Vietnam era figures, WWII and also had figures based on police and rescue services.
A year later, in 1999, Dragon Models Limited released their first figure based on WWII. The majority of Dragon figures are based on WWII but they also have expanded over the years into other modern and police/rescue related lines.
Hasbro also released GI Joe Masterpiece Edition, Timeless Edition and 40th Anniversary Lines that were replicas or re-releases of their original 1960-70s figures. Some accessories were made of metal instead of plastic and were marked China vice Japan or Hong Kong so collectors could tell the difference from a vintage piece and a remake.
Blue Box Toys BBI –(WWII, Modern Military from around the world, character figures, Police/Fire, Rescue etc.
Dragon in Dreams (DID) Mostly WWII but they also have delved into other genre's. Highly detailed figures and accessories.
Sideshow Toys- Movie related figures plus untapped military genre’s Civil War, Revolutionary War, WWI, Napoleonic, Monster, Sci-fi and more.
HOT TOYS- Hi grade/price movie related, some generic figures. They also sell “Highly detailed model kits” which are action figures that have to be put together in some way. They are movie based and highly detailed and accurate.
Medicom/Takara Japan – Hi price Sci Fi/Action Movie charectors, Japanese Anime
In the Past Toys WWII German, Japanese figures, War Criminals of the 20th Century (Hitler, Himmler, Goring, Wittman, Paulis and more)
Today there are numerous companies producing high quality, limited quantity figures. Many are based on modern Special forces units and include Saturdays Toys, Toys City, Dr. Figures, Wild Works, Soldier Story, well, you get the idea.
With so many companies, so many genres, and such a difference in price and quality, where do you start?
2. How to decide what to collect
Before you start to spend your hard earned money on any collectible, you need to know why you're doing it. You MUST ask yourself (This is the MOST important information in this guide….)
- Why am I collecting? Personal Interest/Investment/Nostalgia/Regain lost childhood memories?
- What is my interests?
- It is a personal interest in a certain branch of the military? Family history with the military? A particular branch, unit or maybe place where they were stationed. What era is most interesting? Middle Ages, Revolutionary War, Civil War, WWI, WWII, Vietnam, Modern?
- Do I want to recapture toys I had when I was a child?
- Do I want toys related to my favorite movie or a historic battle?
3. START SMALL - Start with a narrow focus, it’s easier (and cheaper) to expand than consolidate.
One thing I can tell you is that it’s easy to fall into the “gotta have it all” craze when you begin collecting. When I started, I wanted all the toys I had when I was a kid. I wanted GI Joe, Big Jim, Capt Action, Marx Best of the West, Mego’s, Hotwheels Rrrumblers, Star Wars and more.
In 1989 when I started, there was no company was producing 12” Action figures, so it was vintage figures and uniforms or custom uniforms ($200 plus each!) for me. This may be one reason I started to buy everything I saw when Hasbro started producing the 12” GI Joe again in 1991.
My experiences have brought me to realize the following; although it’s nice having items that bring back memories, you have to focus or narrow your collection or you’ll have tons of stuff and no money, or worse yet, massive debt! I didn't have a guide like this to suggest that I start small, narrow my focus and figure out what I really wanted to collect.
I have stopped collecting many items I used to actively seek. When I narrowed my focus, I found that I could be more selective in what wanted, had more money to buy the higher quality items or I could buy more of the items I was really interested in.
Do some research BEFORE you buy. What are you collecting? Check out some of the many books, websites and guides available on the subject. Who produces what your looking for? If more than one company, what is the difference? Ask other collectors (like me). We're glad to help others out and welcome you to our insanity!
Many of the the collectors I know have been involved in the hobby for several years and have nice focused collections. Some collect just one era, i.e. WWII, some narrow that genre to WWII German and some even further to WWII German Fallschirmjagers (Paratroopers). You could also select one company only, or get one unit from all companies.
5. Avoid the Investment Pitfall
I know waaaaaay too many people who collect toys in general that thought that they could buy new toys and save them a few years and they would be worth more in the future. In the 60's and 70's there weren't large communities of people "collecting" toys, they played with them. Finding a 1964 GI Joe in the box is a nice find and can be quite expensive. Keeping your 1991 GI Joe Duke in the box for the next 20 years might not be as appealing. He was $24.99 when released and you're lucky to get $10 for him now. Of course it's only been about 20 years since his release but not a good sign.
Purchase figures (or whatever you're collecting) because you like it. It makes you happy, fills a void, brings back a memory etc. Investments aren't fun, toys are fun!
5. Bottom Line:
How specific or wide open you make your collection is up to you. Develop a plan or purpose for your collection. Remember to ask yourself why you're collecting. Sometimes when you see items outside your main collecting area, you get like a kid in a candy store and want to buy it all. Unless you can afford it, keep your cool and focus on what you really want.
Remember, having a small focused collection will allow you to have a more detailed figure. If you have $100 to spend, you might be able to get 10 loose figures, 2 or 3 boxed ones, or one highly detailed or customized one.
6. Now that you're a collector, how do you display your figures?
Do you keep them mint in the box (MIB) or display them?
Keeping them in the box or displaying them is a personal choice, I have some figures I keep MIB, some I display with the box and still others, I cut them out of the box and display them by themselves. Some I even customize, weather and paint to make them battle tested.
Again, the main thing to remember is what is your interest. . For some, the boxes can serve as decorations. Many of today’s figures have nice box art. If you bought them for an investment, MIB never opened is the best bet, but remember the pitfalls of buying for investment.
Displaying loose figures. Stands, Dioramas, With the box, without. Boxes take up a TON of room. Loose figures do not. It’s also nice to pose your figure holding the weapon instead of watching him stand at attention in the box. On the other hand, it's a lot easier to dust off a box than it is a loose figure!
How/where you display your figures is, like everything else in collecting, your preference.
My suggestion is to have fun with your TOYS!