how to start collecting action figures

article by ron bowen

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Wednesday, Aug 04

If you love action figures and would like to start collecting them, you might feel a little overwhelmed at first. This is normal because after all, there must be millions of figurines out there that you can start your collection with. Nevertheless, even beginners can start collecting sooner than they think once they keep a few tips and suggestions in mind. Learning the terminology, the options you have available to you, and what the most valuable characters are is a great start, and all of this is much easier than you think.

First Thing’s First

A big part of the decisions you’ll make when you start collecting is which size figurines to choose. At one time, toy and collectible figurines were very large, which meant you needed a lot of space if you were planning to collect them. Then the Star Wars movie came out, and all of a sudden, the figurines were under four inches in height. This made sense for a lot of reasons, and all of a sudden, action figures were smaller and therefore easier to collect. Nowadays, you simply don’t need a lot of space to collect your figurines, and therefore you can collect more of them without changing the amount of space you have available.The Walking Dead_Rick Grimes with a zombie_Image by ErikaWittlieb

When you think about it, nearly every successful movie has collectible figurines and tons of other items you can collect and even trade and sell if the mood hits you. These things being said, here is what you need to do first if collecting figurines is what you’ve chosen to do:

Decide which characters you want to collect; for example, ones from a particular movie, television show, or cartoon character.

Decide which size to start out with, unless you just want to collect figurines of all sizes and designs.

When you first get started, collecting is just much easier when you narrow down the collection and only purchase certain characters in certain sizes. You can always expand later on and choose characters of different sizes and types, but it’s always easier in the beginning to start with smaller goals.

You should not only choose what you’re going to collect, but why you are collecting that particular item. Some of the items you can start with include characters from Star Wars, DC Comics, Marvel Comics, items from the horror genre, such as Cult Classic characters, or even movie franchises that center around movies such as Alien and others.

There are hundreds more that you can collect, of course, and when it comes to figuring out why you’re collecting these things, and this usually means determining if you’re collecting because you love these characters or because you’re going to think of this as an investment. Collecting for the sake of collecting versus collecting because you wish to sell the characters at a later date is important because it directly affects which characters you’ll look for and which ones you end up buying in the end. It can even affect the condition of the figure, when you think about it.

Loose Figurines or Still in the Box?

There is a general perception that collectible figurines are worth more when they’re in mint condition and still in the original packaging. For the most part, this is true. Nevertheless, if you are collecting them just because you love the items and you have no intention of selling them at some point, you can feel free to take them out of the box and set them up in the space you have designated for your collectibles.

You should also keep in mind that the condition of the figure and how rare it is both will affect the price you pay for it, and besides, if you buy loose figures, you’ll be able to set them up any way you wish to do so. The bottom line is, a lot of factors go into how much you’ll end up paying for a certain figurine, so the loose-versus-still-in-the-box scenario is only part of the equation.Stargate SG-1_Image by ErikaWittlieb

Action Figure Terminology

Collectible characters also come with their own terminology, which is useful to learn before you start trying to find the characters you love. Below are a few terms you should be familiar with before you get started:

Back. If you hear the term “12 back,” that means there are 12 characters in that particular addition and that’s what you want. If they add another 10 characters later on, it becomes a “22 back” because there are now a total of 22 characters available, even though the first 12 are likely worth much more.

Graded. When figures are graded, that means they’ve been authenticated by the Action Figure Authority, or AFA, and they are still in good condition. While graded figurines are more expensive, they are worth every penny, especially if you intend to sell pieces of your collection some day.

Loose. This refers to figures that are sold individually and are not in a package or box.

MIB. This stands for “mint in box” and refers to figurines in “mint” condition, which are still in their original packaging.

MOC. This stands for “mint on card” and it means they are in mint condition but are packaged on cardboard backings and in bubble wrapping instead of in a box of some type.

POA. This stands for “point of articulation” and refers to action figures that move. As a general rule, figurines that move are worth more than those that don’t.

Series/Wave. The first time a figurine is released is called the first wave or the first series. You can tell which “addition” the characters are by the number referred to in the wave or series.

What Sizes Do These Figurines Come in?

The sizes of action figurines come in various sizes, and the decision you make regarding the preferred size is really a matter of preference and nothing else. Here are some of the most common sizes for these characters:

3.75” (1:18 scale)

5” (1:12 scale)

7” (1:10 scale)

8” (1:9 scale)

12” (1:6 scale)

18” (1:4 scale)

72” (1:1 scale)

When you’re researching figurines, keep in mind that in descriptions, most sellers will round up or down the sizes. Because of this, the 3.75” characters cover figurines that are both 2.25” and 4.25” in size. This is something important to keep in mind when you’re shopping around for the characters you wish to add to your collection.

Life-sized figurines are nearly impossible to find, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. While a lot of people prefer the smaller characters, if you ever do see a life-sized figurine, you might want to grab it since it’ll be a rarity!

Where to Start Looking for Your Figurines

Collecting action figures is a lot of fun, and finding that rare figure is always exciting, but you also have to know where to find these figurines in the first place. As you can imagine, eBay is the perfect place to start looking because they seem to have everything. If you find something you like there, make sure you contact the seller, tell them you’re a collector, and ask how it is shipped and what condition it is in so that you can be sure of what you’re getting.

Other places to find collectible action figurines include:

Amazon. Amazon has a reputation for high-quality items and excellent shipping options, and the reputation is well-earned. Shopping on this site will never disappoint.

Facebook Marketplace. This is almost like an online garage sale, and you can narrow it down to your particular location so you’re not traveling too far when you have to pick up the item.

Local vintage stores and antique stores. It’s a little less common to find action figures in places like this, but it does happen occasionally.

Depending on how passionate you are about your new hobby, you can easily be looking for your action characters in dozens of places. The more you look, the higher the chances that you’ll find something to add to your collection. In fact, it’s easy to become almost obsessed with the art of collecting because once you start finding items you love and are excited about, it’ll be even easier to continue looking so you can find something better.Superhero Action figures-Image by Ralph Leonard Poon


When you first start collecting, you’ll have tons of questions, but it’ll be easy to get answers to those questions because there are always experts you can go to for help. The best thing you can do in the beginning is research your hobby as much as possible because the more you do this, the more you’ll learn and therefore the more productive your searches for the right items will be.

Collecting action figures is fun and can enable you to find some extraordinary items. Once your collection starts to grow, you will have learned some things to make finding the next items a lot easier. Furthermore, since the tips mentioned above are not the only suggestions that help you find great figurines, you should definitely keep researching this hobby even after you start collecting. This way, you’ll have quite a collection available after only a short period of time.


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