Friday, 20 June 2014

How much money is in vintage toys?

I've been hosting panels at conventions over the last year or so with Roomy, and sometimes Stormrave, on the broad topic of collecting including budgeting and tips on how not to get in over your head.  We've also talked about whether or not you can expect to make money off your collection.

The short answer, my friends, is no.

If you've gotten into vintage collectibles only to make a windfall, I'm afraid you're going to be disappointed.  I'm not saying you can't make money reselling, or that you can't finance your personal collection through reselling, what I'm saying is, you're going to be unlikely to find a $2000 vintage MLP for sale for 50 cents at a yard sale.

A certain buzzfeed rewind list (first posted on July 15, 2013) would have you believing differently.  33 Of Your Childhood Toys That Are Worth a Fortune Now would like you to think that selling the 1980s toys you've got gathering dust in your parents' basement or attic can net you enough money to pay for your dream vacation.  Shall we look critically at those prices and see how likely that scenario is?

Buzzfeed missed MLP on their list of 33 expensive 1980s toys (Philistines) so let's pay a visit to Roomy's side of the Geek Cave and look at #7: Princess of Power Action Figures.  The image they chose (re-created below) is of a Starburst She-Ra and Crystal Swiftwind set, an expensive POP set, true, but is $749.99 a reasonable price for it?
To check out how reasonable this price is, I'm going to ebay.  On June 19th, 2014, I searched for "princess of power crystal swift wind" and specified "completed listings" in my criteria.  This will bring up any recent auctions that have finished, whether or not they've sold.  My search returned 25 matches.  Of these, 15 had sold (several were for individual wings only, for $8.00 USD).  Only one auction was for the same set as the above, with some damage, and it did sell, but the end price was $297.50 USD.  The next highest price for a sold item was a loose horse, with all accessories, for $52.99 USD.

A search for "princess of power starburst she-ra" returned 34 results, with only 19 sold.  Aside from the gift set, the highest successful sale was a MOC doll listed at $99.99, but sold at less than that through the "best offer" process.

The main issue with the buzzfeed list is that it looks only at the asking price of auctions, not at the ending price.  As you can see from my above searches, a seller can ask for a certain price, but that doesn't mean he's going to get it.  More often than not, I've seen ebay auctions for good, clean MLP that have ridiculously high starting prices.  The same is true for any vintage toy (go do the same search on any of the other toys listed...I'll wait here).

Is this a problem?  At best, it gives collectors who know their toys' values something to laugh at or gripe over.  At worst, it causes new collectors to overpay for an item and regret it later.  Perhaps most frustrating, it gives the impression that all vintage toys are worth hundreds of dollars, regardless of condition, completeness, or how common they are.  This makes it harder for collectors to obtain their toys as non-collectors price themselves out of the market, and can also imply that collectors are gluttons, spending ridiculous amounts of money on little plastic toys.  It's not something I enjoy seeing.


1 comment:

  1. I shook my head at that Buzz Feed list too. Just because someone puts a crazy price on something doesn't mean it will sell or is worth that amount. Crazy non-collectors.