Monday, May 30, 2022

What's In The Box?

When it comes to toy collecting, one of the most basic divisive aspects that splits the community straight down the middle is whether you open your toys or keep them in the box. While there is no right or wrong way to collect, and what you do with what you collect is ultimately your business, there are definite advantages and disadvantages to both sides. And it’s up to you as to what you value most in your collection.

For the most part, I open my toys. I originally got into the collecting game with Transformers because I was always fascinated with the process of converting the robot to its alt mode and back. I just love actually holding the toy in my hand and manipulating it. So it was never a question for me to open up my toys from the start.

Of course, once opened and fiddled with, the toy generally loses a certain percentage of its value which would be a strike against opening them in the first place. Which is an equally good reason to keep them in the box. And beyond that, there also is an appreciative aspect of keeping them unopened as the actual packaging of the toy itself, usually decked out in original art can definitely add to its visual appeal on the display.

not my collection...

I remember that in my early collecting years, even if I opened my toys I never threw any of their boxes for cards which ended up taking quite a lot of space in my home. That all changed when I moved to Singapore into a much smaller space. So small that keeping boxes was simply not an option and so I got used to throwing them away. And once I returned back to the Philippines, my first order of business was to throw away all the boxes and cards I had kept. I ended up filling over 10 large garbage bags! Crazy I know!

Anyway despite being a loose collector, there are a handful of toys that I have decided to keep unopened in their boxes and cards. The reasons for me doing so are different for each toy so I thought it would be a cool exercise to go over them in a post. So let’s get to it!

Classics Starscream

This was originally released way back in 2006. And unfortunately, for the longest time it was the only basic seeker release available on retail which was bad news for seeker completists like myself. Skywarp came in a more pricey two pack with a white Pri…I mean Ultra Magnus. And Thundercracker was part of an even more expensive 5 pack Botcon exclusive. So in order to complete my classic set, I resorted to getting multiple Starscreams to repaint into my missing seekers.

I got this Starscream with the intention of repainting him into his evil yellow clone Sunstorm, which I never got around to so he basically remained unopened all these years. Honestly I don’t remember how much I paid for this guy but I would think it was around 600 Php or around 15 USD back then. Nowadays, despite this mold being quite obsolete, an unopened Classic Starscream still is being sold at a range of around 20-40 USD. Not bad!

40th Anniversary Princess Leia

Considering this version of Princess Leia is arguably the most iconic look for the character, it’s quite baffling how Hasbro royally messed up their initial release of it for the Black Series. Granted that this was before they started using digital face printing technology, it was the face sculpt itself that was really off. It was so off that Hasbro literally went back to the drawing board and reworked the face sculpt for a new release just MONTHS after the original!

Anyway I already had the first release which I had fixed by a very talented local customizer that I was very happy with. Still, as another impulse buy I bought the second version as well, which came in a nice cardback which was a homage to the original vintage toy. It’s definitely an improvement over the first version, but once again I never felt the need to open her so she remains in her plastic bubble to this day. Given that there is an impending archive release of this figure with a more accurate digital printed face, this one is most likely going to stagnate in value. Regardless, I think it still makes for a nice display piece.

Funko Pops

If there is one collecting rabbit hole I am glad I never fell into, it was Funko Pops. I had a close call when I saw them in a local toy store. I almost bought myself a Mahna Mahna from the Muppets. Fortunately I only found 1 Snowth in stock so I ultimately decided to pass since you definitely need two of those pink cow creatures for a proper display. Talk about a major bullet dodged. And since then, thankfully I have never been tempted by or bought any other Pop again.

So what about these three you ask? Well simple, they were free. Captain Phasma was a Christmas gift from a cousin. And both Cobra Commander and Venomized Daredevil were freebies from toy vendors.

Anyway from what I know, most Funko Pop collectors keep their pops in the box so I never felt the need to open these as well. None of them are highly desirable or pricey (ranging from around 10 to 20 USD on eBay) so I don’t feel the need to sell them off either so there you go.

Marvel Legends John Walker Captain America

Despite being introduced as more of an antagonist in the series “Falcon and the Winter Soldier”, I have always been a fan of John Walker, ever since his first major story arc in the Captain America comic book. Even if I already had the more current US Agent version in hand already, being the completist, I ended up getting this too.

While I originally took this guy out of the box to take pictures, he was immediately placed back since I didn't really have a proper place to display him loose. I also figured that he'd make a more interesting piece boxed since its design is very unique from other Marvel Legends and is based off the fictional toy that was featured in the actual show.

25th Anniversary Airborne

From the first time I saw him on the action figure cardback way back in 1983, I pegged the Helicopter Assault Trooper, code name Airborne as my favorite G.I.Joe. There was no particular reason why I chose him other than I found him to be the coolest looking one of the bunch. And since then, despite literally hundreds of unique characters released, he has remained my favorite of the bunch. It didn’t matter if he was a rarely used and very obscure character, that just made him that more special to me.

And so with that in mind, it was in 2008 where I was extremely tempted to start collecting the newly launched 25th Anniversary line of G.I.Joe. At that point I was solely a Transformers collector. So I told myself, IF Hasbro released an updated version of Airborne, I would get into the line. I figured the chances of them actually going that deep into the character well at such an early point of the line was close to zero. But just as if it were kismet, only a few days later of mentally making that stipulation, on a random online search, I came across an updated 25th Anniversary Airborne! And just like that it was game over. Back then, 25th Anniversary Joes were fairly plentiful on retail shelves, so I ended up getting multiple Airbornes for the collection. While most of these were used as fodder for customs, I kept one mint on card. I figured it would be cool to have a pristine version in hand. Aside from being my favorite character, he was the sole reason for my fall into a major collecting rabbit hole. Back then the retail price was 380 PhP or a little over 9 USD. In 2022, mint on card Airborne sells for around 30-40 USD or more in the secondary market.

Black Series Cara Dune

In 2021, actress Gina Carrano made headlines when she was fired from the Mandalorian for numerous controversial tweets and comments she made online. Whether her firing was warranted or not is debatable. But as a direct result of this, toys of her character Cara Dune shot up in price as collector’s speculated that no more new toys of the character would be produced….ever.

While I already had Cara Dune in my collection, I impulsively bought a second one due to this speculation. Fortunately I didn’t end up forking out too much at around 28 USD. And while the price jump didn’t last due to her firing becoming yesterday’s news, a boxed version of Cara Dune still sells on the secondary market for a respectable 60-80++ USD.

2018 SDCC Exclusive Laughing Prince Adam

Over 10 years ago, a YouTube video of Prince Adam singing “What’s Going On” by the band 4 Non Blondes went fairly viral on the internet.

And in 2018, Super7 decided to immortalize this “version” of Adam as an SDCC exclusive. To their credit, they made this exclusive available to anyone around the world when they offered it up for preorder on their website. I figured that it was a cool novelty purchase for 35 USD. In hand I didn’t feel the need to open it since as an exclusive it came with really nice glittery rainbow packaging . I also figured that Super7 would eventually get around to releasing a regular version of Adam sooner rather than later..which they did. So this laughing Adam remains in his box until now. Since Super7 made him easily available, this guy is one of the more easily attainable exclusives on the secondary market. It has appreciated a little though, selling for around 60 USD on eBay.

2010 SDCC Exclusive Sgt Slaughter

Since he’s based off a real life WWF Wrestler, the Joe’s trainer Sgt. Slaughter is one of the more popular and recognizable characters from G.I.Joe. Unfortunately, due to copyright issues, Slaughter was initially left off the 25th Anniversary revival of the Joe 3.75” action figure. Eventually though, Hasbro managed to get the rights to produce a Sgt Slaughter figure but only as a San Diego Comic Con exclusive. Making the most out of this opportunity, Hasbro ended up producing two unique Sgt. Slaughters for the convention.

Anyway, funny thing about living in Asia, due to some distribution mix up I presume, a number of Hasbro convention exclusive figures regularly found their way to our shores, some even coming out on retail shelves. And it was this luck that I found both Sgt Slaughter figures in a little hobby shop in Singapore where I was living at the time. To my recollection the pair cost around 120 SGD or a little under 4,000 PHP or around 90 USD using the exchange rate at the time. Not a bad price considering now that these figures are selling for 200-300USD…each.

I ended up opening one of the Slaughters to display on my shelf. But not seeing the need to have two opened, I kept one mint on the card, where he remains to this day. Yo Joe!

The Phantom Menace & Black Series Darth Maul

And finally, it was 1999 and everyone was abuzz with the impending release of the first new Star Wars film in over 15 years, Episode 1, The Phantom Menace. And of course, with a new film came new toys. While I wasn’t into collecting toys at the time, I was very aware of all the excitement over these new action figures. Collectors and fans had visions of these new toys skyrocketing in value over the years just as the vintage ones did, and were scooping up as much new merchandise as they could find. Anyway during a random trip to the mall, I came across a hobby shop that had a handful of Darth Maul figures and I figured what the hell, why not? I got myself one as a novelty purchase. I figured, best case scenario this 400 PhP purchase would fund my retirement in the future and worst case, I had a cool looking action figure in hand.

And over twenty years later, through several moves, I’ve managed to keep this little Darth Maul unopened. Sure the plastic bubble is a little yellow and the card has some dirt (or mold????) but other than that, the figure itself remains sealed and intact. Then in 2019, to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Phantom Menace, Hasbro re-released Darth Maul for their 6” Black Series line. This special edition version came packaged in a blister card almost identical to the original 3.75” 1999 release, the same one I bought all those years ago. So even if I already had that exact figure in my collection already, this was an instant buy as he goes along nicely with my original version.

While the original never really appreciated in value (you can easily find one on eBay for around 10 USD), as the very first toy I bought as an adult, this little Maul will always hold a special place in my collection. And his larger counterpart serves as a nice complimentary piece.

Anyway at the end of the day, like I said, there is no right or wrong way to collect toys. Whether you open and play with them or keep them pristine in the packaging, it all ultimately boils down to what brings you the most happiness.