Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Addendum ad nauseam.

Wow, a "two-fer" today!
It's February and as sure as the sun rises, on various hobby message boards I visit, threads have started with people grousing about prices. You can almost set your watch and mark your calendars for this to happen. It goes through just about every sub-set of collecting but I notice it especially prevalent among people who collect what I call "media property" figures and related items. A media property is, by my definition, a work of fictional popular entertainment and the characters, objects or design elements featured therein. More simply, a character in a movie, tv show, video game, comic book etc. would be a media property, as would vehicles and other original design elements and the very "back story" itself. Star Wars is a media property in all its various forms, as well the characters like Han Solo, vehicles like the X-wing fighter and even the little symbols and design elements used throughout the series (like the insignias for the Empire and the Rebellion). Obviously, the price of a media property license adds to the cost of a product and the only ways to address this are to cut corners or raise the selling price. Heck, some folks even do both!

And I get it, the price of hobby market 1/6 scale action figures has gone up extraordinarily the past five or six years. It's difficult to find them much under $100 US and the media property figures are even more. Some Hot Toys items are now creeping very close to the $200 US mark. You get a round or two or ten of threads on various message boards decrying the price increases, people declaring that they are priced out of the hobby, people angry with manufacturers and retailers over "profiteering" and "price gouging" (often backed up by wild claims of cost vs. profit margins), calls for boycotts and accusations of deceit and apologia from people who try to explain what's going on.

Here's the deal kids: It cost what it cost. If you feel that it's unfair and a rip-off for Hot Toys to charge $180 US for the latest Terminator figure, then don't buy it. If other people DO buy it, they sell out and you don't get one, that's just how life goes. These are toys, albeit expensive and sophisticated toys for adult collectors. They are not a life sustaining commodity and you aren't guaranteed nor entitled to have them. Whether it's a combination of economic and market factors that have been repeatedly explained and rejected, or it's simply "greed" and "profiteering" as the whiners usually insist, it doesn't matter. It is what it is and again, it cost what it cost. If a significant part of the customer base can no longer pay what an item cost, this will either cause the price to go down or, more likely, it will no longer be profitable to produce. Someone else may try to produce something similar but at some point they're going to be up against hard numbers of cost per unit and the need to make money and grow their company. If you make 2000 units of a highly detailed item aimed at a discriminating customer base, expect that the final retail cost will be higher than if you make 20,000 of a similar item for a mass market. That $200 figure might indeed be over-priced but it isn't likely that you'll get anything close to it for, say $50.

Many of these complaints basically come down to "I want what I want but I want to pay what I want to pay for it". I get that desire because I feel the same way. If I had the money for a Chevy Malibu but I could buy a top of the line Mercedes for the same price, which do you think I would choose. Is one car significantly superior to the other? Is one worth 2 or 3 times the price of the other? That's a judgement call for the customer to decide and it's why both cars are on the market. Same with these 1/6 scale figures.

By all means, protest, whine, cry, make accusations and above all, don't spend more than you feel you can afford. I'm an advocate for hobbies being affordable and believe that affording something is one of the keys to enjoying it. (That's a whole other article for another time.) However, be aware that you may succeed in convincing the manufacturer(s) that there's no market for their over-priced items and that your "victory" may be pyrrhic when they quit making said items. Alternately, your protest and refusal or inability to buy such items might make someone else say "great, more for me" and go right on buying as the price keeps going up. That's just life!

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