Friday, 21 June 2013

On collecting...

This post will be dedicated to a few pointers and advice about the noble art of collecting Gundam miniatures. Other rules of engagement apply for the larger action figures and various model kits.

00 : Formulate your strategy. This is perhaps the most important tip of all. Before you go in, spend some time researching your options. There are dozens of figure lines out there, find one (or more...) that fits with your criteria regarding assortment, quality and price. Consider if you are going to focus on particular mobile suits from various figure lines, or spending time to get many types in a series instead. Are you going to focus on a particular Gundam time period, or a particular faction? Are you looking for advanced details, moving parts or something handy? Setting this goal early will make it easier for you to trawl through the thousands of Gundam related items available online.

01 : Grab it while it's hot. One obvious feature of the miniature figures is that they are usually released in waves over time. As a consequence most models would quickly disappear from the market and end up on the second hand and collectible arena, now with very different price tags attached to them. Although some figures in the Ultimate Operation and Converge series have shown up in re-packs (these often differ in some slight aspect, such as colour tone), the overwhelming majority quickly came, conquered the shops and then left. If you have the opportunity it is often a good idea to pick items up while they are still fresh in the shops.

This problem is even more exacerbated for promotional items such as items bundled with magazines or sold exclusively through specific retail channels. The most striking example I can think of is the two items in the Converge line which were available through 7-11 only. They would have showed up in convenience stores all over Japan and probably cost a few measly hundred yen. Now they are hidden on the second hand market where you might come across one with a VERY RARE tag and a heavy multiplier on the price. That is, if you are lucky.

02 : Two's a company, four a set. Since items are released in sets, carefully consider if you would like to grab all the figures in a particular set or if you are happy with just some specific ones. While figures are typically sold one by one in shops, letting you pick and choose, you will also have plenty of opportunities to grab complete sets, especially when hunting online. The set option can be very handy especially to catch up on previous sold out waves, so consider this option before bidding on loose items.

03 : A set is a set, not a whole box! If you are looking for sets, inspect the product or read the item descriptions closely. Apart from limited versions or specials, all the figures in the Gundam Converge, STANDart and Assault Kingdom series are considered trading items. This means that Bandai will ship figures in semi-randomly packaged boxes.

A normal STANDart wave contains four different models, but they are sold in boxes containing six figures. Assault Kingdom figures (four per wave) come in boxes of ten, as do Converge items (which are six plus one secret figure per wave). Make sure that you know if you are purchasing a hand-picked set or a random box. And if you are purchasing a Converge set, make sure you know if the secret seventh item is included in the set or not.

04 : Know the market. Before jumping into the fray, take some time to look around what is available to try to get at least a rudimentary feel for the going rates for the different waves of figures. Older figures will quickly rise in price, a fate that also befalls popular models from recent waves. Unless you are looking for some really old models there should be a fairly decent supply of the later waves, so start your bargain hunting there. This will give you a better idea of availability and pricing, which will aid in your purchase decisions for more expensive and long out of production figures.

05 : Yes I'm limited... Try to keep an eye out for limited versions of  figures. Limited figures can be exclusively awesome or just a meh-repaint. In the Gundam STANDart series alternate limited versions pop up from time to time. These are typically repaints in alternate colours, often glossy or even clear versions. The Assault Kingdom series has no true limited releases yet, although it has seen a unique figure in a magazine edition. the same goes for Ultimate Operation. As for the Converge series, it has a theme of doing a "hidden" version of one of the figures in each wave, these are typically the same mobile suit but kitted out with an alternate weapon, though sometimes colour variations occur as well. Converge items also pop up in limited packaging and as magazine features from time to time.

06 : Stay up to date. Many blogs and shops repost information from the manufacturers, but it is just as convenient to go to the source and keep an eye on the Bandai shokguan page directly. Here you can keep track of new releases in the still running product lines.

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