Action figures prove to be an investment for collectors
Toys from ''Star Trek,'' ''Star Wars,'' and more have grown in value
In the latest clash of the superheroes, it’s Jean-Luc Picard versus Ginger Spice. Who will emerge victorious? Check back in 30 years. By then, we’ll know whether all those Star Trek figures and Spice Girl dolls being stockpiled in basements and hall closets actually did turn people into the millionaires next door. In the meantime, avid collectors — believing that everything will someday be worth something — are transforming the action-figure toy biz into an estimated half-a-billion-dollars-a-year industry. And it’s not tots who are fueling this latest retail craze. Blame it on their parents, who now regularly scour the shelves of Target and Wal-Mart for TV and movie dolls. ”People buy one for their kids to play with,” says Marty Brochstein, executive editor of The Licensing Letter, ”and one to put in their closets.” If funding your retirement is your goal, better stick to mutual funds. Unlike genuine pop-culture artifacts — such as John Travolta’s disco suit or the Rosebud sled purchased by Steven Spielberg — don’t expect most of these items to ever bring record-breaking Christie’s bids. But the temptation is hard to resist, especially when a 1965 Bewitched doll fetches $4,296 at auction. And with collecting mania reaching new heights, it’s easy to get in on the action: Just check out such virtual swap-meet sites as eBay.com and AuctionUniverse.com. There are now so many new toys flooding the market that the law of diminishing returns could set in. Still, savvy collectors can get a decent return. Here’s how:
1 BE WARY OF THE TOYS OF OVERHYPED MOVIES The bigger the hit, the better the chance the toys will be worth money in the long run. However, Godzilla, which grossed $135 million-plus, created such a toy-manufacturing tsunami that it’s unlikely any of the product will be worth much in the near future. (There’s just too much out there.) And if you’re buying the toys of failed movies in hopes of cornering some cult market, consider Kevin Costner’s Mariner from 1995’s Waterworld. It retailed for $4.99. Today, it’s worth about five bucks.
2 BANK ON STAR POWER A Peter Weller-esque RoboCop isn’t worthless, but as in Hollywood, star power counts: An average RoboCop’s worth $10; Harrison Ford’s foot-tall 1983 Indiana Jones goes for $350. There are, however, exceptions. Gewgaws from Tim Burton movies are always in demand.
3 YES, YOU NEED THE BOX Don’t be too hard on your mom for throwing out that mangled Planet of the Apes doll, because it’s not worth much without the box it came in — and that too has to be in pristine condition. And retailers know this: Last summer, after collectors stormed some San Francisco-area Target store aisles looking for exclusive Star Wars figures, workers punched holes in the boxes to make them less valuable to collectors.
4 TV’S BETTER THAN MOVIES, SOMETIMES ”TV characters are more sensational,” says Michael Torres of Howdy Do, a New York City collectibles shop. ”There are women in their 30s who come into our store with that Farrah Fawcett haircut and they want the doll.” A Charlie’s Angels-era Farrah is hotter than her 1997 Playboy spread: It goes for $100. Time has been even kinder to Angel Jaclyn Smith. Originally $7.99 in the 1970s, she’s now worth $200.
Star Trek: The Next Generation