Friday, June 01, 2007

Oooh! Buy Me! I'm AFA Graded!

I enjoy going to eBay every now and again to look for things I might add to my Transformers collection. Although I'm a bit of a cheapskate, and I have to admit that going to eBay isn't necessarily the most cost-effective method for finding used toys, given the likelihood of success in finding something interesting when compared to yard sales and flea markets (other venues I enjoy, which tend to be much cheaper!), I'm willing to argue that you usually get what you pay for, and part of "what you pay for" is the convenience of going to a place that has items of interest, rather than just "taking your chances" that a place (such as a yard sale) might have Transformers at all!

But one thing I've never really understood is the attention some collectors give to "graded" items. I'm not just talking here about an item that is still in it's original box, and the box and the toy are in pristine condition. That can be important, and I recognize that. What I'm talking about here is a specific type of grading that, after you've had your toy sent in and assessed, the toy (and, usually, it's original box from which the toy has never been removed) is placed in a clear, tamper-proof, acrylic case. Here's an example. Now the pristine toy in its pristine box can only ever be viewed through the case. You can never, ever touch the toy, let alone take it out and actually play with it. It seems to me that such an item defeats the purpose of what the toy is all about!

Of course, ensuring that one's pristine toy stays pristine can be important if you want to sell the toy and make some money off of it. And, of course, anyone who is putting something on eBay is wanting to sell it, and presumably hopes to make as much money as they can. That's normal enough. And it's certainly true that items graded in this way tend to sell for more than items that were not graded (but are otherwise identical). It's also the case that having something graded is not cheap. The service itself can be quite expensive, depending on what you're looking to have graded and sealed in a case for all eternity. All that said, some people tend to go overboard. For example, here's a current auction that the seller is trying to get nearly $2000 for! As nice a toy as he has, and as popular a character as Cyclonus is, I just can't image that it's worth so much. And that's the minimum bid! (Off-topic in regard to grading, this seller is committing another "sin" by typing out his auction details in such a large font that's hard to read. Seriously folks, let the item sell itself. These kinds of "tricks" are irritating in the extreme. It's one thing to want to take advantage of HTML code to make your description easier to read and understand, or even eye-catching. But this is ridiculous!)

But even if we grant that sellers are simply doing what they can to maximize their profits, why would anyone buy an item like this? You can't ever open it! Buy something similar that's not been graded, and save tons of money! It's a toy, for crying out loud! It's meant to be played with! Take care of it properly, and it will last for quite a long time, but go ahead and play with it! That's what it's for! The only reason I can imagine someone buying something like this is because they, themselves, want to sell it again later. Ironically, I expect that most such people will never make as much money off of it as the original seller. Such "investments" really tend not to pay off all that well.

If you're into collecting expecting to make money off of this stuff, you're not really much of a collector. A "speculator," perhaps, but that really is a different thing. That's not to say that collectors never sell the items they collect: I do it a fair bit myself, but any "profit" tends to be an unusual occurrence. Usually I don't even make back what I paid on an item in the first place, and that's okay. I more likely than not enjoyed the item while I had it. I realize that some people don't always recognize the difference between collectors and speculators as much as they ought to (I still sometimes wonder if the folks behind the Official Transformers Collectors Club recognize the distinction), but the difference really should be pretty clear.

3 comments:

  1. I know it doesn't really explain much, but that Targetmaster Cyclonus is probably a production sample and that's why it's legitimately rare. Here's a short writeup by the owner of the other AFA graded TM Cyclonus.

    I do believe AFA grading is a sham, mostly because the company that does it has a vested interest in the value of secondary market toys, but what can you do? What really scared me was when I was filling out the recent Hasbro online consumer survey and they asked what I thought about AFA grading. Why would Hasbro care?

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  2. Hasbrotoyshop.com has started AFA grading some of their toys (mostly SDCC exclusives and some of the extra Star Wars/GI Joe 25th anniversary stuff they had lying around) and of course charging ten times what the toys were worth to begin with. I dunno whether to laugh or cry, but at least you know the toys in question were probably graded right out of their shipping case, and in all but one instance they aren't Transformers (they graded a Titanium Skywarp). Most of the figures are aimed at older collectors and are just action figures, which could do just as well as a display as being played with. It's just absurd that the manufacturer is the one doing this.

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  3. Yeah. I'm with you re: HTS being a part of all this.

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