Many years ago I made a fairly decent splash on the internet with an article called, “Defending Toy Collecting” and then later with another piece called, “Why I collect Toys“. Both articles articulated exactly why I collected action figures and why I didn’t think it was some sort of abhorrent behavior. I like to think in my own way I helped contribute to the world we live in now where people buy action figures and display them at work and it’s no big deal.
It’s been about seven years since I wrote those articles and I’ve slowly come to the point where I realized I’m not a “toy collector” any more. While I do pick up toys and toy like things here and there I’m effectively out of the game. I think not having interest in the 99% percent of new Star Wars toys during a big movie push is a big sign. If I’m not going to get excited about Star Wars toys… well it’s pretty much over folks, turn off the lights.
For those interested my downfall, if you will, came about because of several reasons:
After you collect tons of Star Wars figures starting in 1997 up until about 2013 you kind of run out of room to collect any more. This is made worse when you’re a mint on card/box collector like I was. Then add up with all the other types of figures and you’re bursting at the seems with toys that you couldn’t possibly display unless you were Steve Sansweet.
I’ve got plastic tubs of toys in my basement. Tons of toys just sitting in tubs going to waste. Why should I have all this space used up by stuff I don’t ever look at? Why would I want to acquire more when I’ve already got tons of stuff already filling up all our storage space?
Even if I wanted to keep collecting Star Wars figures, I can’t. I have too many. A tactic I’ve used for a long time is selling off what I don’t want to make room for the new, but even then I still have many figures I do want. I’m at max capacity for collecting.
So you have a bunch of Star Wars figures that you dig. A year later they make even better versions. A year after that, there’s an even better version. This happens so many times that the figures you had 3 cycles ago aren’t wanted by any one, even you. The only ones that are worth anything are the original ones and the newest ones. And if you do like some of your older figures, you need a really compelling reason to buy your 100th variation of a Darth Vader figure.
Do I want to buy a bunch of action figures I’ll look at once or twice or use that money for something else? This is the question I started asking myself a lot more as I grew older. And as I took on more debt.
Figures now seem way more expensive than they ever were before. They might not be, due to inflation or what not, but they certainly seem to be and that perception makes it very hard to buy toys constantly. I can choose to buy a figure for 20 bucks, or I can use that 20 bucks on something that interests me a lot more. Back when most toys I collected were five bucks a piece, it was a lot easier to pick a figure or two up at a time.
The same applies to vintage toys and figures from Hot Toys and Sideshow. Do I want to drop 200 bucks on a figure or save money for a future mortgage or make an extra payment on my student loans?
Over the last several years I’ve gotten into a few new hobbies. One of them being table top gaming (which can come at it’s own considerable monetary cost). For a very long time I didn’t have enough friends willing to play games with me, yeah that sounds lame but it’s a problem for a lot of gamers. After the big table top gaming explosion and curating a few that, while not super into rpgs and strategy games, I have a good pool of people willing to play these games with me.
At about the same time I got more into gaming, I developed what are stereotypically (and inaccurately portrayed) as strictly dude interests. Now this next part will probably make me sound like a douche, but I’ve liked cars for awhile, but I was never able to get one that I really liked. That all changed when I got a 2007 Mustang. Now, it was only a V6 base model, but I started customizing it. And if you think toy collecting is an expensive rabbit hole, car modding is really expensive. After someone rear ended me and totaled that car I went ahead and bought a more expensive car. While I’m not modding it, the payment alone accounts for a big chunk of possible toy cash.
Likewise, is my new motorcycling hobby. I took a motorcycle safety class and found out that I have a passion for the dumb things. Seriously, give it a try. It’s fucking fun.
Every new hobby shares a commonality from table top gaming to motorcycle riding. Even if you’re not actively spending money on these things, you find yourself spending more brain power thinking about them. Your head is so full of motorcycles and the next rpg adventure you’re going to write that you don’t have as much time thinking about the next action figure coming out or when you’re going to find it. You can only have so much passion for things.
A Shift in Toy Desires
New mass produced toys do almost nothing for me. It feels like it happened over night. I think a big part of it has to do with having so many versions of the figures already, plus a trend to reduce the amount of articulation and detail in a lot of action figures.
Aside from a very few Star Wars Black 6 in. figures, there’s nothing that really piques my interest these days. There are Sideshow and Hot Toys figures, but I can’t get many of those without busting the bank and dealing with my space issues.
What really does it for me now are vintage toys. And again, space and money.
One thing that really kept me collecting was being part of a toy collecting community. Your passion kind of feeds off the passions of other people. You’re not alone in your hobby and you can talk about it all day with others.
Over time it became more and more annoying to associate with a lot of the toy collecting community. There’s forums out there just filled with horrible people. And it grows so tiring seeing grown people constantly complaining about little plastic figures.
Thankfully, there’s a collection of people I’ve met through collecting who are super awesome. I stick to talking to the few people I know now and stay far away from message boards or the other old haunts of toy collecting. I’m exposed a lot less to new toys news and info, so I’m kind of out of the loop of scene on the whole. I do see posts from these friends that I have that are still into it, but it’s not a constant barrage of stuff. I can like an image they share and move on.
Okay, so the title of this post was a little misleading. I still like toys and many of the ones I have I don’t want to get rid of because I still love them. It’s just that actively hunting or keeping an interest in new toys does nothing for me.
I wonder if this is the natural order of collecting toys, to get older and lose a bunch of interest in the hobby. I know kids usually put a hamper on collecting… but when you’re a childless weirdo you don’t have kids does it take longer to lose the desire? I don’t know. I just know that I’m in a different place than I was years ago. I have the feeling though if I somehow got a bigger house and made more money that my tune might change a bit and I’d have shelves and shelves of brand new Hot Toys figures… we’ll see… Regardless, I believe I’ve slipped from the label of “toy collector” to “casual toy enthusiast.”