Was it always your dream to be one of the superheroes so revered in comic books? It is a common fantasy--I am guilty of wanting super-powers too. When I was younger, I used to pretend I was She-Ra's magical horse Swift Wind. But since I couldn't find any magical horse costumes, action figures really helped me to get into the role. When you are able to pretend properly, it lessens the pain of not being unable to do something cool like manipulate electricity. Ah, the joy of toys.
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A lot of the times people are hooked into sales by phrases like "limited offer!", "exclusives!", and "limited edition!!!!!!!!!". Before you buy these items, know what you're getting into. When speaking to other collectors or when browsing an action figure forum, knowledge of the abbreviations and action-figure-speak will prove mighty helpful. For more collector's lingo see: Geek Speak for the Toy Freak.
- MAIL-IN PREMIUMS (or mail-aways): These are usually one-time-offers used to promote any number of other products and always destined for limited production runs. The concept is to get the consumer to buy other products and send "proof of purchase" seals of those products back to the manufacturer in order to receive the figure, which is not available elsewhere.
- EXCLUSIVES: Figure lines that attain top-seller status are great candidates for an "exclusive." Large retailers who can afford to purchase massive quantities of product from the toy manufacturer (such as Toys 'R' Us) are in a position to request something special. These retailers also want products not available from other competitors so they can get customers to shop at their stores.
- SEMI-EXCLUSIVES: The same idea as an exclusive (see above) applies here, but with more than one retailer offering the "exclusive" product. "Semi-exclusives" are designed to avert the problems associated with regional retailer exclusives, such as stores located only in certain parts of Britain. There are also cases where some figures are offered to all retailers, but only one or two actually place orders for them.
- VARIATIONS: Variations are minor changes made to the figure which usually result from one or more of the following:
- The correction of flaws or defects that made it into the retail market.
- Changes to comply with government safety regulations.
- Identical figures produced in different moulds.
- LIMITED EDITIONS: Toy companies frequently reduce the production of one or more figures in a series and are even possibly numbered in an attempt to enhance collector appeal. Most toy manufacturers feel that characters which are not expected to sell in large quantities often merit the "Limited Edition" label and are frequently found in the company's collector edition series.
- PROTOTYPES: These are the test moulds of future figures. Usually made for the sole purpose of showing the detail of the figure before it goes into full production and for the most part appear unpainted. Most prototypes never leave the buildings of the manufacturer, but some do slip out to be sold on the secondary market. Sometimes they obtained by action figure magazines to be given away in a contest. Most people don't explore this avenue of collecting due to the simple fact that nine out of ten of these "rarities" are fakes produced by talented con-artists. If you are interested pursuing these items, I strongly suggest you check the background of the individual trying to sell you a prototype figure and/or call the manufacturer to see if any were released.
- SHORTPACKS: A figure that is packed in reduced ratios per shipment case. Typically one per case, while the other figures in the same case come two, three or even four to a case. There are a number of reasons this is done and it depends on what marketing strategy the toy company holds belief.
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