Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Peaks & Valleys of Wrestling Figure Collecting

It's that time again. Every decade or so, it happens. Lapsed wrestling fans are looking to unload their unwanted toys of the past, in most cases looking for a huge windfall. Message boards, Craigslist, and even my various inboxes are stuffed with ads from those who, a decade ago, couldn't wait to get their hands on the newest Jakks WWE figure. Now, looking at the rose-colored past, those same collectors are hoping to cash in on their childhood. At this point their celebratory dinner will likely be constricted to the Dollar Menu.

It isn't as if the figures from that era are bad, it's just that a number of factors have left the toys dead in the water for the time being. For starters, let's look at the previous time period, known to many as "The Attitude Era." While WWE capitalized on the nostalgia for that late-1990s period when launching WWE Network, the popularity has not translated to most of the corresponding collectibles. Mass production was at its peak and Jakks could not churn out enough Stone Cold, The Rock, and Undertaker figures. To this day, those and other Superstars of the era are consistently sold on store shelves, now by Mattel and with modern production techniques.

If the figures of the icons of that immensely popular era aren't doing well, you can imagine that those of just five years later aren't fairing much better. That period of time saw very low-level interest in wrestling as a whole. It was a time of virtual identity crisis for the business when it seemingly could not decide between the adult themes of the "Attitude Era" or the family friendliness of the decade prior.

While I continually have little hope of the 1997-2001 toys ever making a comeback, I do have good news for those of ten years ago. My advice? If you're one of the ones that I addressed above initially, hold on a bit. Although John Cena, Randy Orton, and other headliners from then are continually remade, others from the 2002-2008 WWE will likely never see additional figures. While great stars, they never saw the popularity that the mid and undercard stars of just a few years earlier enjoyed. For various reasons, collectors will want figures of these stars again. One reason? Compatibility.

When Mattel rolled out their WWE line, interest in the first TNA figure line from Toybiz shot up. This was because many of those figures were similar in scale to the Mattel offerings. Suddenly, figures of Jeff Hardy, Sting, Samoa Joe, Kurt Angle, and others that were unlikely to be made by WWE at the time were seeing a greatly renewed interest. With several new lines coming soon from Figures Toy Company in the Jakks scale and style, I could see the same thing happening with the old official Jakks product.

As with any collectible, collectors are also always looking for top condition. If you've collected the Jakks product, you know that many have not stood the test of time. Loose or missing limbs, scuffed bodies, and chipped paint are very much the norm when finding these figures second hand. Those who kept their figures pristine should have an advantage, as it seems that there's little middle ground when it comes to condition issues.

It's hard to predict trends. If it was easy, we could all be making some big money. But as far as those "Ruthless Aggression" era WWE Jakks figures? I wouldn't give them away just yet. Collectors may come a'knockin', and a'buyin', in the relatively near future.

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