Daniel Pickett and Scott Neitlich
Daniel Pickett and Scott Neitlich

By Nick Eskey

When toy collecting started to become popular, prices were relatively cheap. Now with increased gas prices, higher standards of living, rise of product control, and other associated costs, prices have been steadily on the rise.

As a whole, Americans purchase toys for a number of reasons: For their kids, for their collection, or for profit. If you fall in the collecting bracket, then you know how taxing of a hobby it can be.

Discussing the current environment for collectors at the “Toy Collecting for the Modern Age” panel were a number of people involved in the toy industry. Present at the panel were Daniel Pickett, of “Action Figure Insider”; Scott Neitlich, a “Toy Guru” and also of Action Figure Insider; Jason Lenz, of “Bif Bang Pow”; Jeff Trojan, of “Playmates Toys”; Jim Fletcher, DC Collectibles; Kevin Kiniry, DC Collectibles; and Justin Donaldson, writer for “Funny or Die” and “Keen and Peel.” David Vonner, who works in designing toys, could not make it due to traffic unfortunately.

The men first discussed how they became attracted to, and involved in the game industry. Scott shared that he always wanted to work with toys, but thought he’d have to first get involved with television and movies first before he could have that option. He “skipped a step” as he put it by getting hired by Mattel after applying for 4 years. Kevin Kiniry claims it was an early experience of his mother taking away all of his toys and donating them to teach him a lesson that convinced him to work with toys for a living.

After sharing about themselves, Scott spoke of the state of the toy industry. Toy collecting is getting bigger, especially because we are finding more ways to display our collections, as well as the internet helping to create more interest. With things like videoed “unboxings,” more people are become involved in the fandom.

But prices are getting tougher to swallow. Many factors these days are contributing to this, like dock strikes, labor prices in China, cost of oil, politics, and others.TCITMA

“These things are forcing [us] to make the toy smarter,” said Kevin. “How me make toys and the packaging mainly.”

Economically, many toy manufacturers are packaging toys in simpler boxes to keep costs low. Environmentally, this is also good, because it creates less waste.

These cost-cutting practices are especially good for smaller companies, as Jeff Trojan points out. “It’s a Big Fish versus Grass Roots. The big companies have more ability to absorb and to source cheaper labor. Small ones that haven’t made connections have to be really smart about their product.”

Scott Neitlich discussed that there are also the politics that go behind the toy veil. “Sometimes it’s an everyday struggle. The I.P. holder can decide to delay the product… Do you know how hard it is sometimes to get a toy to market?”

And though the toy might be out in stores, doesn’t mean it’s readily available. Resellers can be vicious in their hitting up stores, buying up as much product as possible, creating a scarcity for the consumer and collector alike. “This makes the price of the item even higher, sometimes making it near impossible financially to collect whole sets,” said Jason. “It’s not going to get any better unless both consumers and retailers works against their practices… [Even] in the digital age, toys are still going to be still going to be sought after… Toys are unique. They are physical. There’s no way you can touch a digital toy.”

“Book and DVD collections are disappearing because of digital,” said Kevin Kiniry. “And toy collections are getting bigger.”

So what are we to do about this ballooning toy situation? “We have to become smarter with what we buy,” said Scott Neitlich. “We’ll have to decide more selectively what we will collect.”

With toys becoming more geared towards adults as well as kids, creating a collectible toy market, they are being plagued with the same issues as any other commodity. But the excitement and joy a collection can bring definitely won’t sway fans away. If I’m to take one thing away from this panel, it’s that we all need to become responsible and smart in what we choose to buy.

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