Raise your hand if this doesn’t drive you up the f***ing walls….
‘Are Pops the next Beanie Babies?’
Always some new guy trying to figure out if he should drop 100 bucks his ‘grail’, or trying to ‘start a conversation’, or just being a dick about ‘only collecting commons’. I think it’s a rite of collector passage. Part of the jading process. The last stop before you commit to completing the Star Wars line or finishing up that wall of pop in the basement that you’re afraid to show your family.
What they’re really asking is, ‘Before I throw any more money into the rabbit hole, is it worth it?’
No. It never will be if you only think of money.
But let’s get back to the original question. Are Pops the next Beanie Babies?
The answer…no, with a hint of yes.
I’ll start with ‘yes’.
It is fair to compare Pops with fad toys of the past, Beanie Babies being the most memorable if you’re under a certain age. I remember people paying top dollar for special editions and ‘rare’ pieces. I remember my mom and aunt stalking toy aisles, waiting on new shipments. People drove all over town looking for them. Employees backdoored them to make a couple bucks. There were even a few near-riots. Of course, I’m talking about Cabbage Patch Dolls, but you could just as easily plug in Beanie Babies, or Tickle-Me Elmos. Or Nintendo Switch. Or Hatchanimals (a little bit). Or Turbo Man.
Seems that anytime there’s money to be made or everyone decides all at once that they have to have what everybody else has, that people lose all their dignity and haul their postages scales to Hot Topic.
Yeah…that side of the equation…the us side…it’s always the same. No perspective. Really selfish. Kind of shitbag-y.
Now, for the ‘no’.
For starters, the question is outdated. From first release until 2012, the line was doing okay, not gangbusters, but okay. Funko wasn’t doing a ton of chases or exclusives, they weren’t in Hot Topic, and no one was trying to flip Tony the Tiger for 200 bucks. Quick question - did you know that Target carried Pop way back when? You do if you have a DC bobblehead. That’s the only place they were sold. Then Clearanced. And now you can’t find a friggin’ Vader Tie Fighter to save you life? But I’m going off topic. At first Pops didn’t sell great, and then, all of the sudden, they were.
(SIDENOTE: They literally took off overnight. The price of a chase piece was a solid 20-30 bucks. Then it was over one hundred. In a single night. A bunch of us were on Ebay and the Forums while auction after auction went for higher and higher BIN prices. 35. 55. 75. 125. Boom, boom, boom! We were stunned. These pieces were online for maybe 10 minutes before they sold. It was surreal.)
So, if you asked in late 2012 if these were like Beanie Babies, the answer was most definitely ‘probably’. Pop were suddenly everywhere. People, it seemed, had lost their minds and spending way more time and money to collect them than seemed appropriate. Most everyone who collected at the time thought that demand would peak, that things would settle down, and that prices would normalize (collapse). You know, like Beanie Babies did.
But they haven’t, and probably won’t for another couple years and here’s why.
What has ALWAYS distinguished Pops from Beanie Babies is licensing. BB were proprietary characters that only had value inside of a Hallmark. And calling them ‘characters’ is quite right. It’s a blue bear named ‘Royal’. Now it’s a Pink Bear called ‘Diamond’ and so on. The demand for such a toy is pretty much limited to grandmas and zoological fetishists. Outside of those two groups, no one cared. And once those two groups stopped caring….well, I think we all know how that went.
Pops, on the other hand, are all about someone else’s creations. There will always be a fan base beyond people who like all their toys to stare at them with those dead, black eyes set in featureless faces. Do you like Star Wars? Great, which Trilogy. Marvel? Pick an Avenger. DC? No problem, here are a million Bat-Variants. And that’s just scratching the surface. Movies, TV, cartoon, video games. Yeah, there’s probably a Pop for it. And as long as Funko’s big licenses keep putting out new contents (Marvel, Star Wars, Disney, DC) there will be no shortage of fresh waves of toys which will match with everything you already have. Should Funko ever change the box design, there will be riots in the streets.
I think is also helps that Funko’s growth has largely been ‘organic’, meaning that people come into collecting Pops through one license, then expand into others. The success of existing licenses allows Funko to sign more properties, which brings in more collectors, which brings in more retailers, which expands the Funko footprint. Ty, on the other hand, was much more manipulative of their collector market by limiting what stores could carry BB, what stores received what product and how much they got. You could argue that Funko does something similar with retailer exclusives, but those are a small part of the bigger picture. The other 2000+ figures Funko produces can be found everywhere. Literally, everywhere. I don’t think there is an outlet that Funko won’t wholesale to or partner with to distribute product. I found some at a local grocery store. They never would have had found a place for Beanie Babies, nor Beanie Babies for them.
So, to summarize. Pops have a faddish quality that makes for an easy comparison to ‘hot’ toys of the past, especially when they were just starting to take off. Unlike those toys, Pops appeal to a much wider audience of collectors, that has only helped to expand the brand and will continue to do so until the world runs out of plastic or ideas. That’s not to say that they won’t cool off at some point, but in my opinion the ‘collapse’ of Pops is still a few years down the road, probably around the 10 year mark (2020). Now that they’re developing original content (Wetmore Forest), that could all change. I think you’ll see them mature into something more like Hot Wheels or Barbie. A solid performer in a well-rounded portfolio of product.
That doesn’t sound too bleak, does it. Go ahead and keep collecting.