As a Transformer collector I am always evaluating and re-evaluating the market on vintage figures that I still need for my collection, as I am sure all of us do. Recently I have started making spreadsheets to track price changes over time to hopefully give me a good idea of how much I have left to spend in order to complete my collection. But what I saw last night shattered my expectations.
We all know that eBay is the absolute worst place to find a deal on vintage Transformers, unless that figure has been reissued many times over. There is just too much exposure and emotional bidding can artificially inflate the prices, which is what I believe happened not too long ago.
Since eBay eventually removes the auctions I will not post links, but rather images of the completed auctions to view, be prepared:
And this is only a sampling, a loose Dinoking for $920, a loose Galaxy Shuttle for $710, and many more. If you don't watch items like this on a regular basis then you may not understand exactly what is going on here. Just for comparisons sake a MIB Black Shadow & Blue Bacchus sold on eBay not more than a few weeks ago for a combined price of $2000, which was still high in my opinion. I originally only paid $500 for my Black Shadow in much better condition, and Heroic Decepticon told me he paid less than half the price for his Blue Bacchus which is complete with box. So what exactly happened?
I think there are a couple of things going on here that helped to inflate the price on these figures. First of all they were all from the same, reputable seller, giving buyers confidence. Secondly they were all out of Ohio, giving US bidders much more incentive to purchase due to figures not having to pass customs and low shipping costs. But can those factors alone explain, doubling, even tripling of prices?
Part of what astonished me so much was that all of these figures were without boxes, and in many cases without much of the paperwork normally associated with Japanese G1 figures. It isn't often you see these figures loose and incomplete in this manner. To me, the box and original paperwork adds a lot of value, but I recently discovered this isn't the case for everyone. Some people don't put the same value on the box and are willing to pay almost the same price for a loose figure as a MIB one. This is demonstrated by the Dinoking example, as a boxed complete version sold on eBay a couple weeks ago for $1,067. So in this case, the difference between the boxed auction and the loose auction was a measly $147 which frankly boggles my mind. I would expect collectors to be willing to pay much less for loose figures.
Part of what worries me about seeing auctions like this is realizing that in each case there is more than one person willing to pay outrageous prices for these figures: obviously the winner of the auctions, as well as the second highest bidder who only lost out by a couple of dollars. I believe this is an ongoing trend in collectible toys and Transformers collectibles especially; many of the people that grew up with the figures are entering the period in their lives when they are going to be making the most money and have the most disposable income. Compounded by the fact that so many new fans have entered the marketplace since the live-action movies started coming out makes for more competition now than ever before. The final straw in this back-breaking scenario is emotional bidding which I touched on above. These auctions were sitting out there for a week with people watching, planning and preparing. And as anyone who has bid on items before can tell you, live auctions get the heart pumping, which is exactly what they are designed to do. In fact it has been suggested that perpetual online bidding can alter the chemistry of your brain to make you more susceptible to continue bidding even after you know you should have stopped.
So, do these prices represent the new normal? Will Japanese G1's (arguably the rarest and most sought-after wide release figures available) continue to double in price every couple of months? Personally, I don't think so. I think this was a perfect storm of variables, that came together for a brief period of time. I think Japanese G1 figures will continue to rise in value, just not in the insane jumps we have seen here. In fact, I think there will probably be at least a couple of people putting up a couple more Sonic Bombers or Blue Bacchus's in the next few weeks in order to try and cash in on what they may believe is a price spike. Then we will see if the prices really hold.
As for me I will be staying off eBay for anything other than SCF's.
Japanese Exclusive: Black Shadow
*UPDATE* Check out Flywheel's Thoughts on last night's insanity!