How to Start an Action Figure Collection

High Angle View Of Toy Soldiers On Table For Sale
Getty Images Daniel Limpi / EyeEm

Collecting action figures can be an incredibly fun and rewarding hobby. It can make you feel like a kid again. It can help you celebrate your love for your favorite movie, comic book or TV show. And, if you buy carefully, it can become a great financial investment, as many figures reach values of hundreds of dollars on the collectible market.​

Why Do You Want to Collect Action Figures?

We all know that action figures are cool, but what is your deeper reason for wanting to collect action figures as opposed to, say, stamps or coins?

The answer to this question will help you make smarter purchases and ultimately build a better collection.

Are you a fan of a particular movie? Then you may want to limit your collection to action figures based on the movie (e.g., collecting only Star Wars figures). Are you a comic book fan? Then you may want to focus your collection on specfic character, stories, movies, or TV shows.

Limiting your collection to just one or two themes will keep you from spending willy-nilly on any old action figure that catches your eye. Not having a focus can lead to a mishmash collection of figures that, down the road, you may consider impulse purchases and ultimately a waste of your money.

Perhaps you're looking to find all of those great action figures that you had as a kid. This can be an expensive but greatly rewarding and nostalgic way of collecting.

Or maybe you're simply a fan of the craftsmanship put into action figures.

Therefore, you may want to focus your collection on figures that have excellent sculpts and paint jobs. This could make for a very beautiful collection as each new figure is added.

Where Should You Look to Begin Your Collection?

Once you've gotten a good idea on why you want to collect action figures, you can start your collection by making some smart first purchases.

Start out by doing a little research by reading online action figure news sites and fan forums. They'll let you know what's hot and what's not.

Great places to find action figures:

  • Toy sections of stores in your area: Look up and down the action figure aisle. For example, I'm looking for Spider-Man figures and I'm only going to allow myself to buy the best two. With any luck, you'll be walking out with the beginnings of a great collection.
  • Thrift stores, garage sales, and flea markets: Some sellers just don't know what they have, so you stand a good chance of finding vintage action figures for a fraction of their going rate on the collectible market. They may be in worse condition (missing paint, missing accessories, etc.), so you'll have to decide how important condition is to you.

Displaying Action Figures

A lot of thought should be put into how to display your figures. This is just as important for building a satisfying collection as which figures you buy. Many furniture and department stores sell beautiful display cases with shelves and glass doors. These are ideal for displaying collections in a specific area of your house or office, and help keep your collection from spreading all over the place.

If you can't find a nice display case, a couple of tall, matching bookshelves work just as nicely.

Loose or Mint?

This is a major debate among action figure collectors.

"Loose" refers to action figures that have been taken out of their packages, in order to display them in poses and holding their accessories (weapons, gear, etc.). Some collectors feel that this lowers the value of an action figure, but other collectors, who are less worried about the collectible resale value, prefer displaying their figures loose for the fun they get from displaying them "in action."

"Mint" can refer to action figures that are in the condition in which they were displayed in stores, in their original packages, with the packages in brand new condition. You may see terms on collectible and auction sites like "MIB" (mint in box), "MIP" (mint in package), or "NM" (near mint, meaning the figure is still in the package but has some wear and tear on the packaging).

This is a purely personal choice and can be equally rewarding for the collector, so be sure to give it some thought.