There’s been a lot of talk about value lately, and whether or not something is a “Good Value” or “Worth it”. Value is a very subjective thing, and very difficult to address in a review. What may be a value to one collector may not be to another.
It’s no secret that we get a lot of free toys here at CollectionDX. Most of these new High-End items – we don’t pay for. They are often furnished in exchange for a review, but no guarantee is given that it will be a positive review. Sometimes toys are given in lieu of advertising dollars. Regardless of the circumstance of how CDX gets a toy, we pledge to be objective and fair in our reviews.
But then, you ask, how can I accurately evaluate a toy’s value if you did not pay for it?
For this question, I will use an analogy. When people who don’t know about the site ask what kind of site CollectionDX is, I say, “It’s like Top Gear for toys”. Top Gear is a British TV show about automobiles. They review and test drive new cars, classic cars, exotic cars, even one off custom cars. They review with a sense of humor and a love of the subject matter. Does this sound at all familiar?
On a side note, which one of us would be the Stig? Feel free to project Top Gear personalities onto the CDX staff. Who's Hammond? Who's Clarkson?
The most exciting cars that Top Gear reviews are the exotic cars. The Ferraris, the Lamborghinis, the Astin Martins. These cars are well beyond the reach of the casual car enthusiast. When a host jumps behind the wheel of a supercar and does 180 miles an hour around a track, do you think they are thinking, “But is this car a good buy for the money?” No, they are thinking, “was this car awesome, and how does it compare to similar cars in the same genre?”.
A $300 toy is not a value, no matter what way you slice it. It’s a luxury item. The question of “Is it worth it” really is a question of “Is it worth it to YOU?” If you are a college student living off of part time pay, of course this is going to be out of your price range. But if you were car shopping, you wouldn’t be shopping for the Porsche, you’re shopping for the used Dodge Neon. Value changes subjectively based on where you are in life. Do you make over 6 figures a year? Then maybe the cost of a high end toy is worth it to you to get this particular expression of a character. Toys like Revoltech and such exist because not everyone can buy high-end gokin. These expensive toys are not a right, they are a privilege.
When we review a high end toy on CDX, we first and foremost look to see if the toy succeeds in what it was intended to be, and how it compares to similar toys. To go back to Top Gear – the Ferarri cannot be compared to the Kia, even though they are both cars. One is utilitarian, the other pure decadence. But both must function as cars first. The same goes with our toy reviews.
The case of the Jumbo Fetish
To take a specific review – the recently reviewed Neo Jumbo Machinder Mazinger Z. The thing is beautiful, maybe the toy of the year for me. Would I pay $300 for it? Not without seeing a review first. But it hits all the right notes for me, and had I not been given it, I would have bought it. But the toy speaks to me, and that is all that matters. If the toy speaks to you, then go for it. If it does not, then that’s fine as well.
If one thing is certain, It is that prices are going up, and continue to go up. Production runs are going down and material cost is increasing. Manufactures now have a niche market that they can sell to – the collector market. Items in this market tend to be nostalgic, high end items aimed at the adult collector. Think EX Gokin, Brave Gokin etc... These items have low production runs due to the size of the market. While Bandai can make a hundred thousand Gundams, CM’s can only expect to sell maybe 1,000 pcs of a high end product. Considering how much tooling costs for these things, it’s no surprise that the cost is high. It’s the cost to bring what the collectors want to the market. They would not make them if we did not continue to buy them. It's what the market can bear. Don’t think it’s worth the money? Don’t buy it and vote with your wallet.
Fact: only 1,000 Masterpiece Cyclones were produced. In the world.
For a culture that has grown up on cheap disposable toys, this can come as a shock to new toy collectors. If you are used to going to Target and picking up a Twelve Dollar Transformer, you can’t compare it to a Soul of Chogokin. You just can’t. If you can’t wrap your head around the difference, then perhaps you are not ready. But those who appreciate and understand the items, want to know if it is GOOD, and that is what we do.
It's all relative
Some items are priced way out of their league, an in cases like that, we feel it is appropriate to question the value. But when all the jumbos coming out are in the $300 price range, well, that’s just what they cost. If one came out that was 3X as much, of course we would question if the increased cost is worth it. But as a rule, high-end toys are just that – High end. They are going to be expensive, no matter how you look at it. We here call it the Otaku Tax. If you want these things, you are gonna pay.
Otaku tax: (noun) derived from the Japanese word Otaku (literally meaning house, but more popular as an exreme fan of anime and manga), The Otaku Tax is when you pay an extraordinarily high retail price for a new item, despite better judgement, simply because you must have it, and you have no other choice if you want it.
The same can be applied to Vinyl toys, or any other toy line. Cheapo Godzilla vinyls can be sold at Toys R Us for $15 because the make hundreds of thousands of these that are sold around the globe. But you get a small factory in Japan pumping out small runs of 100 pieces of vinyl, and people crap all over them because they are expensive. Of course they are expensive. They are a labor of love. I’ve made vinyl toys, I know what they cost, and you are lucky to break even selling them at what they sell at now. Add in currency fluctuations, shipping costs etc.. and lets just say that these people aren’t hardly making any money with these. They do it because of the love.
I feel I am rambling a bit here, so I will tie it together for you.
Like the cars at Top Gear, here at CollectionDX we review all kinds of toys. New, vintage, mass-market and high end. You can’t buy them all, and they aren’t all made for you. As I said before - toy collecting is not a right, it’s a privilege. It is up to YOU to make the value call. All we can do is tell you if we think the toy is cool, and if they toy succeeded in what the manufacturer set out to do.
Perhaps, if there is anything we have been guilty of here at CollectionDX, it is covering too many high-end things. We try to mix it up, but it is these fantastic items that really get our blood running. Who can blame you for being mad at us for dangling these out-of-reach playthings in front of your faces? But perhaps we can act as a surrogate collection for you. IF we can convey that sense of ownership to you, if we can make you feel what we feel when we handle a piece, then maybe you won’t feel so alienated at all. Maybe you will get inspired? Maybe you will go out and get a better job so someday, you too can own things like these? In turn, helping the economy, in turn making the world a better place.
What do you think?
I would like to end this by inviting you to engage in a discussion about value and what it means to you, and how much it controls your purchasing habits. Is there a point that you just cannot justify a toy purchase at? When you are lusting after a certain piece, how much does value factor in to your decision to persue it?
Thanks for listening,
Comments61 comments posted
As one of the model builders of the CDX family/community, my perspective is basically "Do it Myself" as terms of insuring the quality of an item. Comparing the monetary value of a review item, my big spender of 2009, the PG 00-Raiser, cost over $300. That does not take into account my tools to build it, a $5 pair of cutters, $4 packs of X-acto blades, and an additional $10-$30 worth of paint supplies. Factor in the time to complete the model ranged from 2 hour periods to 12 hour blocks over the greater span of a month.
In short, the value and quality is based on the time and effort I put into a product, let alone the monetary costs. Though I understand the concept that anything thats worth more than an extranious organ should keep its flaws to a minimum. Even the 00-Raiser still had excess plastic skin that needed shaving, and I don't need to remind myself of the Shoulder Clutch nightmare.
I look at Japanese/Korean blog sites like "DALONG" and I see how the site goes from box to shelf in no time flat or less than a week. I notice the certain 'rush-to-completion' signs; floating decals, flooded ink-lines, scarring from cutting parts away from the frames. Its these sort of mistakes that I try to avoid, even if I am an out-of-the-box-fill-in-details Gunpla builder.
The Gundam Model Guy
...But not everyone has the artistic talent like you to build a kit like the Raiser, or to fix a flaw in a toy they buy.
While I love custom built model kits, and do on occasion pay for something that is built-up, I know I am in the minority. If I'm buying something sold as a "toy" then I shouldn't really need to modify or glue or re-paint it to fix stuff from the factory. If it says "model kit" then I know I have to do some work. There are some products that cross both borders too (Hot Toys' 1/6-scale figures and Takara's 1/48-scale VOTOMS line come to mind as two products that straddle that fence.)
If you're buying a PG then you probably know the amount of labor involved to make it look great. Much of the fun of a PG is in the building, not the end product... and that's awesome. That is a very different product and completely different experience from buying a modern gokin or vinyl. While I am a "casual" model builder, I have paid a pretty penny for better model builders to build kits for me in the past, and some of the kits out there are actually far better than many of the toys of the same character/subject. I do agree that a little "do it yourself" can add a lot to a mediocre piece, but at a certain price level, it's tough to justify having to repair or repaint something because the paint rubs off in an instant, or glue something damaged in the box. For a PG, I wouldn't mind needing to sand or clean up edges, or glue together a stand. I have used Acetone on pre-painted kits before to fix nasty factory paintjobs. But I really shouldn't have to do those type of things with a toy.
I get on about this a lot around here because sometimes we all get excited about something new coming out, and it has some flaw that to a super-fan, who will buy anything from the show/character, it doesn't matter. But to someone who may be a casual fan but willing to drop the cash, something like getting 1/2 a stand, or broken legs out of the box... things like that... that just sucks. You just can't spin it any other way. [EDIT: EVA's recent Star Trek Enterprise review is a perfect example of how to handle a serious defect in a review. He explains that the defect sucks, but to him, it's not too much of an issue because of his love for ST and that it's not an issue across all toys made. Thus, "your mileage may vary."]
There are some fun "do it yourself" things you can do that are easy and can make your collection look awesome. Two things that can instantly come to my head, to make your toy collection look great and different, would be those cool print-out paper inserts people do for clear vinyls, and the Mechanical Chain Base series of display bases. Those both require zero artistic talent to use, and with the latter, can really make both modern and vintage gokins and vinyls shine on your shelf.
Hiya. Long time lurker, first post.
Great article; there's not much more that can be said.
(I dunno about the Top Gear comparison, tho... I usually compare high-end toys/collectibles to Fabergé Eggs! You certainly don't NEED them, but... okay, I kid, I kid!)
Heck -- if it wasn't for you folks, I probably wouldn'tve known most these amazing toys even existed. (i.e. the SoC line, most of the stuff made by Fewture, Yamato, et cetra.)
I most certainly appreciate the time and effort gone into the reviews, and the site... I hope to somday submit some reviews of my own. (yeah... someday.)
Keep up the good work!
I write for a video game review site (co-optimus.com), and we get our fair share of free games for review. Typically, we get more codes to redeem for downloadable games than we do physical copies, but in any case, it's ours to use as we wish. I can tell you that there are plenty of games I buy just because I want them, and even when the game is free, I feel like I've "earned" it by reviewing it. Because playing a game for review is NOT the same as playing it for fun. I'm sure the fellas here feel the same way about reviewing toys.
I absolutely love this site, and visit here daily, but I am far from a high end collector. I've never spent more than $80 on any one toy; I just can't justify that cost as a casual toy fan. Mostly, I buy Transformers, Power Rangers, and maybe a few Super Hero toys off the shelf, and I share them with my kids. Coming here allows me to enjoy the vast variety of awesome toys out there that are beyond my reach. Sanjeev's Spazer, for instance, had me giddy as a schoolgirl. I'll never have one myself, but I sure can appreciate the awesomeness of it.
I like sharing in the excitement of the hobby with others. Value doesn't really enter the equation for me, beyond quality control issues. I've even been able to pick up some toys in my price range that I wouldn't have even known about, like Revoltechs. And I absolutely fell in love with Laserion, who now sits proudly on my shelf thanks to The Enthusiast. We love toys here, right, not just toys that are "worth it"?
I wasn't going to comment since most of it has been discussed, but the value I look for is sentimental value mostly. So anything that brings back the feeling I had as a kid. Next would be how much am I willing to spend for so and so. For example, I have an old tiny plastic iron gear proudly displayed in my display case. Why? Because that is probably responsible for my obsession with robots today. I've even restored it. it survived 27 years without much damage. Its probably worthless to most people but if someone was to come into my room and break it, I would inflict the same damage to them.
Other value comes in where do I like the robot enough to spend so and so on it regardless of whether its low or high quality? Ill buy basically any voltron toy I come across (except panosh place..there are limits) I'm even buying the new jumbos no matter the cost. No I'm not rich, I just love the characters.
Then there is play value and overall coolness. Sometimes I buy a bot cause I think it looks cool or the toy is awesome even though I know nothing about its origins. Most if not all my purchases in this category have been because of their reviews on cdx.
I've even bought one that got a bad review.. that vf-100 valkyrie that josh smashed and then resmashed in slo-mo... just cause it looks cool on display. I just buy what I like and for whatever reason i feel like. Everyone has their own type of value they gauge their purchases with. Josh gave you his in the review, its up to the viewer to make their call. Can't blame the guy for loving it for what it is. I'm buying mine for the same reason. Its awesome and I will terrorize my dog with it, there's tons of play value in that alone.
Honestly, I read and enjoy the reivews here BECAUSE you review the high-end stuff. It's normally way out of my price range, so I barely pay attention to that kinda stuff and when it gets released. However...if something comes along that I actually DO want and can manage to afford...well, I know the folks here will have it covered and I'll be able to tell if - for me - the price of the figure is worth it. I don't consider this "dangling out of reach items in front of our faces" at all, really. I'm sure there are other sites that review this kinda stuff, but I don't know about them and I don't care to search out more. This place reviews the really nice stuff and robots in general. It serves the purpose for which I need it.
Although this has been an interesting discussion, I do find it a bit amusing. If someone were to come to the site for the first time today and see this article, they'd think we reviewed nothing but super expensive toys. It seems to me that for every high end piece we do review, there's probably about 5 reviews (or more) of stuff like cheap vinyl, Transformers and Revoltechs's etc.. Last year there seemed to be a pretty long stretch were there were hardly any high end things being reviewed.
"You can't sell it until you get it from him, but you gotta sell it to pay him to get it to sell it".
---Jerilock, talking about me trying to raise the money I need to pay for the toys I already bought....
Awhile back there was a month where it seemed like almost everything was a Hasbro Star Wars item you could buy at a TRU.
I don't think there's any real "snobbery" going on here. Yeah,the SoCs and stuff generate more interest than a plastic Spider-Man,but how could they not?
A master of mind control who hides inside a Ford Pickup
It was a pleasure reading this thread, which gives voice to what I'm sure all toy collectors have thought about. I thought I'd belatedly contribute by offering a working summary to the different types of value in a toy, as have been discussed on CDX.
Monetary value - what you paid for it, and does its material and workmanship justify the price tag
Resale value - how likely are you able to recoup your money in the future, should you want to
Sentimental value - maybe the toy is an advanced representation of a character you've always liked. Maybe the toy itself is something you owned as a child, or wanted as a child. Maybe it brings back memories.
Entertainment value - there is a place for cheap and cheerful as well as expensive and sophisticated
Educational value - as adult collectors, we can pretty much ignore this one - unless you are sharing the toy with your child or cousin, which incidentally is a very good thing
Play value - the fun gimmicks the toy packs, its poseability and durability
Cultural value - toy collecting as pop cultural archaeology
Aesthetic value - the toy as a design object, to be appreciated for its own sake