NEW YORK – Young people often venture into collecting by acquiring items they grew up with, especially things related to pop culture: comics, toys, action figures, trading cards and the like. The pop culture specialty company Funko believes everyone is a fan of something. Funko has been making its Pop! vinyl figures, for more than a decade in nearly every collecting genre.
Characterized by their oversized heads with big round eyes atop a tiny body, over 8,000 of these appealing little figures have been made so far. They come in a variety of themes, including movies and television shows, sports, advertising (Cap’n Crunch and the Pillsbury Doughboy to name two), Disney, superheroes, animals and more.
Pop! fans are passionate and fill online forums like Funko Fanatic and Funko Forum with spirited discussions on many topics, from what one’s favorite glow in the dark Pop! is to which characters should next be made. For collectors, it’s as much about the toys as the camaraderie and talking with other Pop! fans. Unboxing videos are popular online where people open up packages, be it a monthly shipment of essential oils or fashion items. Funko routinely gets in the act and posted on its Facebook page in February 2020 a live unboxing video, revealing some of its newest Pop!s, including Medusa, a minotaur and a gnome. The video so far has about 19,000 views.
One longtime collector, Stephen Sprouse of Kansas City, Mo., has been collecting Funko since before the Everett,Washington-based company began making Pops in 2010 and has around 300 Pop!s, mostly advertising icons, Freddy (Funko’s mascot) and Funko originals.
“The most desirable figures vary from person to person and fandom to fandom. I don’t believe there are any universally desirable figures,” he said. “Most of the more desirable pieces are older, low edition (12, 24 and 48-pieces) that were exclusive to shows or conventions like San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC). Many of these were released before Pop!s really took off so they’re hard to find, like Headless Ned from GoT [Game of Thrones].”
Another passionate collector, Jaemeel Robinson of Brampton, Ontario, echoed his sentiments. “Low numbers in such a large fanbase make them hard to get and thus more money is needed for a collector to give it up,” he said. “Some of the Fundays items have low counts. Most recently the Golden Hopper from the [Netflix series] Stranger Things immediately jumped in value due to only producing like 24 and giving it all to one table. Now if an item isn’t desired then regardless of how many it is made, won’t cost much to get.”
Other desirable figures include “Freddys,” made for Freddy, the company mascot who has been made into various special Pop!s like the Statue of Liberty or as a space robot. “For Fundays – a collector event held during SDCC [San Diego Comic-Con International], they usually mix Freddy with their more popular pops (Freddy head on Yoda’s body, for example). Older Freddys can sell for several thousand dollars, especially the low edition pieces,” Sprouse said.
According to PopPriceGuide.com, the top 10 selling Pop!s are led by a headless Ned Stark from the GoT fandom at over $1,000 for a 2013 figure exclusively released at SDCC.
Among the most popular and best-selling of Funko’s Pop! lines are Star Wars, Disney, Marvel and DC Comics, and Game of Thrones. Recent top sellers issued include Rick and Morty. “I think Baby Yoda, when it comes out [fall 2020], is slated to be Funko’s best-selling Pop! of all time, based on preorders,” Sprouse said.
Sprouse suggests collectors begin collecting figures from fandoms that they enjoy if they’re collecting for themselves. “If they’re collecting to make a buck – they’re wasting their time – but if so, then they look for things like rarity, exclusivity, the popularity of the character or license, and the condition of the packaging (sticker, mint boxes).”
A YouTuber from Canada, who runs a channel called TopPops, also suggested staying within one fandom line to start with and displaying them on shelves out of the boxes but stacking the boxes sideways for display purposes.
Besides the vinyl Pop! figures themselves, some collectors avidly collected store displays and packaging items. “The Funko catalog from Toy Fair was something a lot of people tried to get their hands on when it was real and not online,” Sprouse said. “Items from Fundays, the annual event I mentioned earlier, are collectible – table displays, name badges, party favors, that sort of thing.”
An avid Pop! figure and T-shirt collector, Robinson said new collectors should do their research, never pay more than they can afford, find a good group and use that as their base. “Groups work together in getting exclusives. Join the official Funko board – a great place to get tips and help,” he said. “Understand that you can’t always get what you want. Be patient and hopeful.” In his five years of collecting, he says the fan community has many good people who will look after those who are a positive force in the community.
“Start with what you like. It’s yours to enjoy so make it enjoyable to collect,” Sprouse said. “You don’t need rare and valuable pieces to build a collection that makes you happy. Don’t get me wrong, they’re nice to have, but not necessary. After that, spend some time to get to know your fellow collectors through social media, Funko events and Funko’s online Funatic forum. Many of us who’ve been around will tell you that we came for the toys, but stay for the people.”