By: Caroline Maclellan
August 8th, 2023
While anime itself is a popular form of entertainment, fans of the medium often find themselves being sucked into other hobbies that revolve around it. Anime figure collecting is one such example. It may look simple on the surface, but anime figure collecting is a more complex hobby than most may think. There’s a multitude of different factors that go into the hobby, including their price, rarity, where to buy figures, how to store them and sell them, the different types of figures, and much more.
Anime figures are static or posable 3D representations of an anime character. There are several types of anime figures, some being scale figures, prize figures, Nendoroids, figmas and more. There’s also a large number of companies that produce anime figures, and some collectors may find that there’s one they prefer over the other. Some include Kotobukiya, Goodsmile Company, FREEing and Alter.
Anime figure collecting is, first and foremost, a very expensive hobby. While it’s possible to start collecting on a budget, many first time collectors find that they get what they pay for. Cheap figures that are mass-produced and low-quality are called prize figures. Not only are prize figures cheaper, they’re also figures that can be won in Japanese crane games, thus giving them the name “prize figure”. Oftentimes, prize figures are the only figures that are budget friendly, as they range from about $15 to $75.
However, there’s nothing wrong with collecting prize figures. But, if a collector wants higher quality, elaborate or limited edition figures, they’re going to have to increase their budget. Similarly, the larger a figure is, the more it will cost. Additionally, most figures ship directly from Japan, and due to the size of the item shipping overseas can become incredibly high.
The prices make figure collecting a somewhat inaccessible hobby. Building a collection can take years upon years, and sometimes collectors may miss out on figures they’re dying to have due to a lack of funds. Some collectors may never be able to afford a scale figure, which are the most expensive and highest quality type of figures. These types of figures can range from $100 to over $500.
Additionally, many figures are only obtainable through preorders, and once all preorders are reserved or the preorder period is up, it may become almost impossible to find that figure again. As such, collectors who need to save money for figures that they want may find the hobby difficult. If they miss out, they have to cross their fingers and hope for the figure to be released again later, or hope that whatever shop they’re buying from has the figure in stock once it’s officially released.
This also means that some figures become quite rare over time, and collectors hoping to find even just one will have to scour the depths of the internet to obtain it. This also contributes to the complexity of the hobby, as some figures may only be found on Japanese websites, such as Yahoo JP auctions or Mandarake, rather than typical figure sites like these. Those who are unable to speak or read Japanese might run into trouble on this front.
Figure collectors may also encounter another obstacle in the form of scammers. Since anime figures, especially rare ones, can climb to incredibly high prices, there are certainly those who will try to take advantage of people. Newer collectors might not know what to look for when it comes to bootleg figures, for example. Bootleg figures are figures made to look exactly like the authentic version, but are often poorly constructed or feature shoddy paint jobs. It’s easy to be fooled by a seller that has a well-made bootleg, as some look so similar it’s difficult to tell real from fake.
Because of such risks, figure collecting certainly becomes a more complex and sometimes frustrating hobby to have. Many seasoned collectors urge those new to the hobby to do their homework, and make sure they’re buying figures from reputable sellers and websites to avoid losing hundreds of dollars for fake figures.
Despite some of the hurdles, anime figure collecting is an exhilarating hobby. Anime figures are a perfect way to immortalize a collector’s favorite character and surround themselves with things they’re passionate about. It’s thrilling, too, to order a figure and wait months for it to arrive. Admiring the craftsmanship and hard work put into the figure is also a part of the experience, and many collectors take pride in the beautiful figures they’ve acquired.
All hobbies come with their critics though. Many view figure collecting as childish. They perceive figures as something made for kids. It’s clear though, from both the intricate details and fragile parts of many anime figures, that they’re not meant to be played with. Others simply don’t understand why someone would choose to pay so much for a hunk of plastic that sits on a shelf.
Anime figures are often carefully crafted and designed works of art. Many originally start as drawings or concepts, and a sculptor and artist work together to make the character come to life. There are many steps to completing figures, and the hard work that goes into them should not go unnoticed.
Similarly, it’s important to understand that to collectors, figures are worth the money. Even cheap figures are valuable to those that collect them. While some may criticize those who collect anime figures, ultimately what’s most important is that they’re doing something they’re passionate about.
Caroline MacLellan is a senior studying Professional and Public Writing, with a minor in Japanese. In her free time, she loves watching Korean dramas, reading manga and creative writing.