COLLECTABLES – AN EXPENSIVE HABIT FOR A HOBBIT
The organisers of the Sydney Entertainment Collectables Fair, 2007, Michael
and Amynta Ormsby of Movie Models, have seen this niche business become a
mainstream industry over the past eight years. Movie memorabilia – like
figurines of the Hobbits - is now an expensive addiction for many, and suppliers
are happy to feed the habit, as Michael and Amynta report.
Where once there were a few Star Wars, perhaps a G.I. Joe or a Barbie doll
collector, there are now thousands of people of all ages jumping into the
diverse collectables market. Studios release collectable toys, action figures,
electronic and computer games, as well as an endless supply of branded
merchandise to coincide with the release of new movies. Deals are now struck
with lead actors regarding merchandising agreements, which sometimes et greater
financial returns than the contract price for their roles in the movie. Tom
Cruise and his Mission Impossible franchise is a perfect example, whereby the
merchandising and property rights to the movie were worth more than the
extremely large wage he earned for his performance.
"rare or hard to get items"
Vast assortments and ‘waves’ of new items spread into the collectables market
with rare or hard to get items increasing dramatically in value. Manufacturers
and film licencees cash in on the insatiable urges of the new breed of
collector, who feels they have to complete the full range of each assortment to
maintain a complete collection. This often means a big financial and time
commitment to their hobby.
This ‘Collector Lust’ of the modern collector is further fuelled by the speed of
release of the collectable figures; miss one, and you may never catch up, or
worse, will have to pay top dollar later to fill the gaps in your collection.
However, it is not only quantity, but quality as the saying goes. As each new
manufacturer competes for a greater share of the market, what were once
considered collectable toys are now far from it.
Vintage figures, although initially produced for children, are now highly sought
after by adults. The rarity of vintage figures is due in part to the lack of
understanding that these first release figures would be worth anything in the
future, as they were firmly thought of as child-only play things. By their very
nature, items played with by children do not tend to remain intact, in good
condition or in their original packaging. Those items which do remain in what
has been termed “mint condition” are very valuable. While the value of vintage
toys makes them desirable, the quality compared with those produced today
doesn’t even come close.
Consider the stiff, upright, unmoveable examples from the first Star Wars movies
in the 70s. A straight swivelling arm was the best one could expect of vintage
figures, whereas the new plastics, materials and technologies have seen vast
improvements in the manufacture of these toys. The full articulation of each
joint allows for greater “poseability” of the figure, along with more realistic
movement, which are marked improvements. In fact many manufacturers are now
releasing figurines that could scarcely be distinguished from the real life
characters they portray. Enhanced technology such as computer scanning of the
actual actor, leads to incredibly detailed, life-like representations of the
real thing. The work of such innovative companies as Weta, who are responsible
for the amazing work on Lord of the Rings and who also produce a superior range
of models for the collectable industry, are prime examples of the new standards
set for this market.
For the most enthusiastic of collectors there are Limited Editions of many items
in small quantities, which are generally individually numbered and often come
with a special certificate. These small runs are produced and distributed
worldwide – but sometimes it’s just 100 pieces. The investment value of such
items is difficult to predict, however interest and desire for the item is
guaranteed considering the many millions of collectors worldwide.
There is a prestige amongst collectors who maintain their collection and add
exceptional pieces to it. Aiming higher in their urge to compile the most envied
collection, individuals may begin adding to the toy items, life sized,
movie-accurate replicas. Such an example is the life sized Terminator
“Endoskeleton” which is about to hit the Australian market at around the same
price as a small family car.
Despite the fact that one can now buy life sized replicas, which are precise and
accurate copies of your favourite film character, there are of course those
collectors who are still not satisfied. So where do you go from there? The real
thing of course. For those who can afford it or are willing to forgo the family
house and car to satisfy their collectors’ urge, there is also a thriving
industry based on the original film props actually used in the movie. Expensive?
Yes. Hard to come by? Most certainly.
"no shortage of buyers"
As Paramount Studios recently discovered, when auctioning off many of their
Star Wars sets and movie props, there is no shortage of buyers willing to pay
tens of thousands of dollars for an original piece of the set or model used in
filming. A ‘real’ helmet or even better, the actual Captain’s chair from the
Enterprise film set, are priceless items in the minds of collectors. But here
one may find the absolute irony of the collectables industry. Some of our most
prolific collectors of movie based action figures are people who work in the
Be they actors, directors or special effects artists, many of these individuals
will spare no expense in acquiring that one ‘special’ toy figure from the movie
they worked on, even though they are surrounded by the ‘real thing’ at work.
Famously, George Lucas produced an exclusive figure for a Comic/Toy convention
in the U.S, of himself in a Stormtroopers outfit. When you removed the figure’s
helmet, the true identity of the character was revealed, grey beard and all!
Collectors are often professional, intelligent and interesting people, who for a
variety of reasons get a buzz out of the small, plastic, tangible
representations of their favourite films, feelings and fondest memories from
Published May 10, 2007
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The Sydney Entertainment Collectables Fair
May 26, 2007
Sydney Town Hall
The Fair brings together a wide range of collectables from the vast realms of
Movies, Music, TV, Pop Culture, Comics, Books, Games, Toys, Action Figures,
Anime, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Star Wars, both new and vintage items.
Entry: $5 at the door; FREE for children under 10 accompanied by an adult ticket
Novus Ordo, a costuming club who create and parade movie quality costumes, will
be attending in fully detailed outfits.
More information www.collectablesfair.com.au