As someone who has slowly been acquiring anime figures over the past 2 years or so, I've had a rather uneventful task of getting any of the ones that I really want. This ease has recently changed as I have learned that not everything is as it seems. So, I decided to do a little write up on what people who are starting out or have been collecting figures for awhile to keep in mind as they look for their must have figures.
My first figure was that of Asa Shigure from Shuffle. I saw the figure on Tomopop after watching the anime and had to get it. After going through some normal searches I ended up going with some of the more normal importing sites that I saw on Tomopop: amiami and hobby search. I ended up going with amiami and have sense stuck with them as they have proven to be excellent so far with both their promptness and their quality of shipping.
I have ordered a few things from them, but as anyone that has imported anything before will tell you, importing can be rather expensive. Shipping can almost double the price of the item depending on the type of shipping you choose, so doing your research and finding the cheapest you can before buying is definitely worth the time and effort. Also, exchange rates tend to change a lot, especially if you are dealing with the Japanese Yen. It used a rather good exchange rate in the past when the Yen was weak, but the Yen has gotten a lot stronger in recent years meaning the advantage that you used to get isn't there as much (in the past it was about $1 = 100 Yen but now it's more like $1 = 80 Yen). This means that at times you'll be getting a better deal then others, but it has seemed to be consistent over the past few years so don't be expecting a miracle in exchange rates to happen, at least for anyone's economy sake I hope not. If you want to check what the current exchange rate is you can check out xe.com for current rates.
Another thing you need that is good to know is the type of figures that are out there. There are a few main types that you will commonly see: PVC figures, Figmas, and Nendoroids.
- PVC Figures are the more common static posed figures that you will find. They tend to be the most expensive and the most detailed of the figure types and have few, if any, extra parts to customize what they look like when you display them. There are a lot of companies that produce these type of figures, but the more popular companies tend to be Alter, Kotobukiya, Max Factory, and Alphamax (these are up to debate, but have been the best that I have found). A lot like name brand versus generic brands in America prices and quality will vary depending on what company's figure you go with so your mileage will vary. There are a variety of sizes that PVC figures come in, mostly in the 1/8 to 1/6 scale range (8 to 10 inches). If you're looking for high detail and are willing to spend a little more, then PVC figures are what you'll want to check out.
- Figmas are basically action figures. You can pose them in multiple different ways and they tend to come with a lot of accessories to change appearances. These accessories can include everything from objects like a music instrument or weapon, different facial expressions or hair, and even different hand poses to grasp or do a peace sign. These are the most flexible (pun intended) figures that you can get as they allow their owner a lot more choices as to how they want them to look instead of being stuck with just one pose the entire time. Figmas also tend to be cheaper than PVC figures even though they come with more stuff. Sizes tend to range around the 6 inch range for the most part although you will find some bigger and smaller.
- Nendoroids are "deformed" figures that usually have a big head and a small body. They are a lot more of a love or hate type figure as some people love them and some people hate them. They tend to be a cross between PVC figures and Figmas as some are stationary (can't change poses), but some do include different faces or accessories to change appearance. The biggest of these tend to reach the 6 inch mark with most tending to be smaller than that.
The hardest thing with figures is actually finding them. Unless you find a figure that hasn't come out yet and you can pre-order it, some of the more populare figures tend to be difficult to find, unless you don't mind them being used. If you do find a place that you can pre-order and you want it, then pre-order it. It learned that when I got the re-release of the Rise Kujikawa figure from Persona 4. I pre-ordered it early from amiami and by the time it was released it was already sold out. PVC Figures tend to be the hardest to find especially after being released for awhile so when you do find them they tend to be near the $100+ range, some going a lot higher than that. Personally, I have been have good luck recently finding stuff on trusty Amazon some even with free shipping. Depending on your figure your mileage will vary and so will the price.
Another route would be going on auction sites such as eBay. You will run into high prices as well, but also have a chance at getting a good deal on something hard to find. I will caution everyone going this route though, there are counterfeit/bootleg figures out there that look almost exactly like the real thing. This is something that I learned yesterday. While looking for a Black Rock Shooter figure, I found the one I liked for a real good price and free shipping. Turns out it was too good to be true. It can be hard to tell the difference as sometimes it's only small details that could be different, but if you're a stickler for quality then you'll want to be careful. Small details like eyes, mouth shape, hands, and hair color can be off and the overall quality can be rather poor leaving you a sad buyer when you finally get it. Thankfully, on sites like eBay you can dispute stuff and can get your money back if such things occur (as I did with very little hassle), but the hassle and disappointment can be a strain. My best advice is to check out myfigurecollection.net and find the figure you are looking at and check to make sure if there are counterfeits of it out there before you buy.
There is a lot more that I can go into, but hopefully for those looking to start a collection or already have a small collection going you have learned a little bit to save you some money, some headaches, and some time. For those that have any horror stories or advice you are more than welcome to share what you know.