The GeeksverseMy Toy Box | On the Funko Pop! phenomenon

My Toy Box | On the Funko Pop! phenomenon
Published on Wednesday, August 5, 2015 by
Joe Milone looks at the current Funko Pop! craze and compares it with one of biggest collectible cautionary tales of the past 20 years.

Welcome to a new edition of My Toy Box. In this article, I’d like to take a look at a toyline that is sweeping the nation with both toy collectors and non-collectors alike, the Funko Pop! vinyl figures.

20140723_185159_1I’m sure that you have seen these little guys somewhere, as they seem to be available at almost any type of retail setting. For those who are unfamiliar with the Funko Pop! figures, they stand around 3 ¾ inches tall and have large heads with black dots for eyes. There’s a Funko Pop! for just about any character you can think of.

I’m guilty of owning quite a few of them myself—I mean how can I not own the Funko Pop! versions of the Masters of the Universe, KISS, or Army of Darkness‘ Ash? They are fun and easy to collect, and the more I think about them, the more they remind me of another hot collectible from years past: the Beanie Baby!

Does it sound crazy? Maybe. However, the more the similarities between the two toylines are really quite similar.

AshpopIn 1997, I was 16, and in high school and I worked at a McDonald’s. That same year, the restaurant chain had a Happy Meal promotion for Teenie Beanie Babies, which were smaller versions of the retail offerings. They were so popular; people were lining up to get them and we couldn’t keep them available for Happy Meals. This promotion sparked a huge boom for the retail versions.

As the demand increased, so did the availability. It wasn’t long before the Beanie Babies could be found at grocery stores, pharmacies, card stores, and more. Ty Warner, CEO and founder of the company (Ty, Inc.) that made the toys, restricted the number of designs allotted for store shipments and regularly retired designs to drive up the demand in secondary markets. The growth was incredible, as were the demand and prices for the retired and “rare” Beanie Babies.

VegetaPopIn 1996, revenue from Beanie Baby sales was at an estimated $280 million; by 1998, that figure had ballooned to $1.3 billion. In 1999, however, Ty, Inc. stopped production of the original Beanie Babies, sales and the secondary market trade declined, the market crashed and you couldn’t give them away. I still see tons of them at garage sales, flea markets and thrift stores today.

While the Funko Pop! isn’t the same thing as a bean-filled animal, what makes them similar is availability and overabundance. You can go just about anywhere and find a wide assortment of them. And to me, they are like Pringles—once you (Funko) pop, you can’t stop. If you don’t get them when they are available, prepare to pay over-inflated secondary market prices.

PicsArt_1421117457020In 2014, the Funko company generated an estimated $40 million in revenue and $28 million of that was from the Funko Pop! figures alone. As long as these things keep selling, Funko is going to be producing them, so barring some catastrophic supply shortage, there’s no real reason to believe that the secondary market prices will persist over the long run.

This isn’t to say the Funko Pop! toys won’t hold their value over the years, but the collectibles market is always fickle. Thirty years from now maybe that Funko Pop! Daryl Dixon will be worth thousands of dollars, but the market is currently saturated with these things, so chances of that happening are slim.

I’m not hating on the figures or deterring anyone from buying them—like I said, I am just as guilty as the next person when it comes to buying them up. In fact I am a big fan of many of the Funko products, particularly the company’s vinyl My Little Pony line.

As with any other collectible, however, consumers should collect Funko Pop! for fun, not potential financial gain.

4 Responses
    • I do agree that there are a lot of similarities. My wife has 3 huge plastic bins filled with beanie babies (which to me all look a like, run of the mill bears and animals of different colors. We have given many to our daughter over the years. But there is one huge difference between beanies and Pop Funko bobbles– the Funko line has licenses agreements with freakin everyone! From Doctor Who and Star Wars to whatever 80s movie you love also Marvel & DC… video games… it’s crazy! So while I know there are a lot of collectors out there I think more people are buying these for love of whatever the subject matter maybe and not return on investment. I do agree that Funko’s will never hold crazy “send my kids to college” value (save maybe a few? lol). Everything with a glint of popularity is over-produced overnight in the US. Good ol’ capitalism at work. Take as much money from the consumer while you can before the fad goes away…. The toy photography boom on IG, if nothing else, encourages us all to get out our toys and play with them… There will be a day when Pop falls by the wayside but people I think will always be happy with what they are left with setting on their shelves and unlike my wife’s beanies I don’t think most of them will end up in a box in the basement. They are fun and when you look at that Slimer or Ash you remember what they represent- most of the times not only a fandom you love but great memories. Just my 2 cents. lol. :)

    • Great article, a good friend of mine,he and i were having a discussion on FunkoPops and how they did out step the beanies by aquiring the licensing with the big’s Disney, Marvel, DC, etc. … what we both can’t believe is the scalper market, the recent Conan Pops from SDCC sell at a rediculous amount…. would like to hear more thoughts on this.

    • No comparison at all!! Beanie babies had absolutely no connection to the pop culture world. Where Pops can continue to span generations of characters and new shows that are hot. You just never saw that in Beanie babies. They had a ceiling. Pops appeal to comic collectors, movie collectors, music collectors, sports, etc… it goes on and on.

    • I forgot to mention too that Funko has so many great collectible figures. Ty was really only in the stuffed animal world if I’m not mistaken.

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