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,