How To Collect Action Figures
By Colin Dorman

This short guide will help you decide what you want to collect, how to start collecting and the best places to look for action figures.

The information is particularly aimed at the action figure collector but much of the advise is applicable no matter what you are thing of collecting, whether it's stamps, postcards, toys or even kitchen sinks!

Ok, let's get on with it.

You have some important decisions to make.

First ask yourself...

Why do I want to collect action figures?

Is it :


  • For financial gain
  • For enjoyment
Most people collect for one of these two reasons. The answer will affect many of your choices and decisions over the course of this guide so it is important for you to decide now before you continue.


If your primary goal is to make money then make sure you read my "How To Make Money Collecting Action Figures" guide after reading this.

If it is for the pure fun and enjoyment of collecting, then great, this report will help you keep your costs down.

What Should I Collect?

How do you decide what to collect?


What to buy?

Hmm, good questions.

Have you decided yet?

Not sure?

Take your time, think carefully about your choice.

If you don't you'll end up with nothing more than a box full of miss-matched figures. All unrelated, incomplete and without any uniformity or consistency.

This may seem an obvious but so many times in the past I've seen collectors who don't think about exactly what they want to collect first.

The result?

They end up trying to collect everything.

If you're a card collector decide WHAT cards you want to collect?

Trading cards, card games, science fiction, cartoon, TV, Star Wars, Star Trek, Fire engines.....

If you're a stamp collector WHAT stamps do you want to collect?

Animals, trains, Thai, French, 1800's, planes, George Washington, civil war....

If you're a coin collector WHAT coins do you want to collect?

Gold, silver, bronze, Roman, Greek, British, American Civil War......

If you're an action figure collector WHAT action figures?

Movies, Star Wars, wrestling, baseball, cartoons, TV, Simpsons, PC Game figures......

Get the picture?

OK, so what's the answer?

Before we start you will need a pen and some paper and a cup of coffee, or tea (or a beer if you prefer, mines a Bud ;-) ).

Now we're going to do some brainstorming.

How To Choose A Subject

Think about the following questions:

What movies do you like?

Who is your favourite movie star?

What sports do you like?

What are your favourite teams?

Who is your favourite baseball star?

What are your favourite TV programs?

What cartoons do you like?

Do you like Action, Horror, Sci-Fi, or Fanatsy?

Write down your answers and build a list of subjects that you like and enjoy to watching, reading about or playing.

Make sure they're things you really like or enjoy something that grabs your imagination and is close to your heart. Something you are passionate about and care about.

There's nothing worse than collecting something that you have no passion for.

That becomes a business, or worse still WORK.

I know some people who collect purely for monetary reasons and they have no enthusiasm for it and get no pleasure from it.

Now take a look at your list and choose between 1 to 3 unrelated subjects.




  • If one is to narrow (more on this in a minute) you can start on one of your other choices.
  • To give your collection, and you, some variety.
Good, now you need to: Decide On A Niche


Ok, so what's a niche?

A niche is like a sub-topic of a larger topic, it is more concentrated and specialist.

For example a main topic or subject in action figure collections, and probably one of the most popular, would be Star Wars figures. But that is a HUGE market, so a niche here would be R2D2 figures or Darth Vader.

Get the idea?

Personally though I would not recommend anyone starting a collection based on Star Wars figures for the same reasons I NEVER stocked any in my shops or sold them on my website.


  • The market is too big.
  • There are too many.
  • The competition is fierce.
  • The market is saturated.
But that said if your mind's set on collecting Star Wars figures then choose your niche carefully. Make sure it's small enough to be affordable and collectable. For example you could specialise in collecting Luke Skywalker figures. Or you could specialise in figures from any one of the movies (although this topic is probably also a bit too broad).


Another good example of choosing a niche would be instead of collecting McFarlane's Baseball figures choose your favourite team or a couple of teams or players, and stick with them.

You'll be thankful you did because there is nothing worse than having all the figures in set or series "except for...".

It leaves you feeling incomplete and with a need to fill the space

The main objective of this exercise is to find a niche that is tight enough to enable you to:


  • build your collection
  • complete each release/series
  • keep costs down
  • increase your enjoyment and satisfaction
  • take pride in your collection
  • give your collection uniformity
  • build on a theme
So, in conclusion take your time in deciding on your niche now, then stick with it. If you find it's too narrow a niche you can always broaden it later or move onto one of your other choices.


But by being selective in choosing your niche now you will get more enjoyment and satisfaction out of your collection and probably save time and money later.

OK, so you've chosen your subject and your niche.

What now?

Now you need to decide...

Collect ‘em All?

You are probably thinking, "Of course I do"

But wait a minute...

...and think it through before committing yourself.

This decision will greatly influence how much you are going to spend on your collection and it will give you a better focus on what to look out for.

Most lines of action figures include regular figures, variant figures, chase figures, collectors editions, limited editions and exclusives etc.

Each "level" of rarity becomes more expensive than the previous level. The cheapest being the regular figures but at the same time these are the ones that are the most common and mass produced so rarely have any secondary value.

Again it is important to decide now because if you change your mind later you may have a hard time getting some of the figures you've missed.

Not sure what a variant, chase, or exclusive figure is?

Then read my "What Is A Variant Figure Report" article.

Good, almost done.

New Or Secondhand?

Do you want to collect new or secondhand?

Carded or uncarded?

Mint, near mint or...?

Do you want to keep them boxed?

Or display them?

All these decisions again will affect the final price you will have to pay for your figures.

If you're a budget collector then your best bet would be to go for second-hand figures and save buying the new ones for special figures or ones that you particularly like.

If you're into customizing your figures then second-hand figures is also an obvious choice. I discuss the topic of customizing your figures in greater detail on and it will be the subject of a future report. But if you have the spare cash and want your figures in pristine condition to display then new figures is the way to go.

But if you're a perfectionist and wish to ensure they stay in absolute mint condition and retain their value you will probably want to buy two of each.


Many purist collectors will often opt to purchase two figures so they can keep one carded and in Mint condition and open the other to display.

Which you decide to do will of course depend on how much money you can afford to spend on your hobby, and the actual value of the figure.

Generally second-hand non-mint figures have very little to no value whereas Gem-Mint carded figures will often increase in value over time, particular the variant figures or limited production runs.

My personal recommendation would be to keep any chase, variant, exclusive or Super Chase figures carded or buy two if you want to display one.

This is what I usually do, or I buy a good condition second-hand figure for display and a carded one to be kept.

Many toy stores or hobby shops will sell there own ex-display figures or items with damaged cards at a cheaper price.

Make sure if you're putting any on display, particularly any rarer ones, that they are displayed and protected properly.

Beware of massively overproduced mass market figures, as these, even in Gem Mint Carded condition are unlikely to increase in value for a long time.

I enjoy having most of my figures on display and I used to have a huge diorama of a wilderness landscape with dragons and monsters displayed that looked awesome and was hugely popular.

But unfortunately since moving I've not had time to make another...


But I will talk about building dioramas and displays some other time.

Now that we've sorted out exactly what you're going to collect, lets look at...

"How To Buy Cheap Figures?"

(coming soon)

Colin Dorman

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