Funko Pops! For some when these words are uttered, they are met with a light exhale, and a subtle roll of the eyes. For others, its frenzy inducing, stampede causing Black Friday madness! So what are Funko Pops, where did they come from, why are they everywhere, and more importantly, should you invest your hard earned money buying and selling these little guys? However, before I answer that question, it’s best to get you up to speed with all things Funko Pops.
What Are Funko Pops?
For the uninitiated Funko Pops are simply small vinyl caricature figures based on pop culture characters. They range from the cliché Marvel tropes, through to classic rock bands, WWE stars, Anime characters and even political figures. If there is a character you can imagine in popular culture, there is a good chance a Funko has brought it to life. Though Funko Pops have evolved over the years to become far more dynamic, with unique poses, movie moments, variants, and the list goes on. Their defining feature, is still their oversized heads. It’s this feature that sets them apart from normal action figures, and quite possibly what made them so appealing to collectors.
Where Did They Come From?
For some Funko Pops were like the Zombie apocalypse we’re all waiting for. In that, we were all just minding our own business, and out of no where, they have taken over the world as we know it. You might be surprised to learn that, Funko actually began with humble beginnings back in 1998. Their inaugural line was a series of theme bobble-heads, called Wacky Wobblers. Unfortunately for Funko though, these guys were met with mediocre success. After their launch, the company stumbled along for another 7 years without making much headway in the Pop culture scene. In 2005 a friend of the original owner, who was also a fanatical pop culture collector purchased the entire business. If there were any other potential buyers, they would have to feel like the person who didn’t invest in Apple, as today Funko is now worth over 1 billion dollars. That’s right, those small pieces of plastic, that do literally nothing, now play in the same space as brands such as Mattel and Hasbro.
Funko’s Rocky Roots
After the new owner, Brian Mariotti came on board, he quickly began to launch new lines to diversify the brand. His first attempt in 2009, was Funko Force, which was met with mediocre success. He then followed it up in 2010 with Funko Force 2.0. These lines were so unforgettable, that even the most hardcore Funko Pop collector, probably is not aware of their existence. Then 2011 happened, which saw the launch of the Funko Pop. It was a fizz! If you went back to 2011, you would be hard pressed finding a Funko Pop fan. These guys were hard to find, and mostly in discount bins at comic book stores, or places like GameStop, EB Games for my Australian friends. However, this did not deter Funko though, and they doubled down, and kept acquiring more licenses, to make even more Pops.
The Funko Renaissance
Funko may have just disappeared into oblivion, but then 2012 happened, and no one could prepared for the fever pitch that would follow. 2012 saw the release of so many big movies, but more importantly, it saw many very popular characters come to the big screen . If 2012, felt like a lifetime ago, let me jog your memory. 2012 was the year the Avenger’s finally assembled and Disney studios cleaned up with over 1 billion dollars in ticket sales.
Although Avengers was the shining star, 2012 also saw the release of many other huge titles. We met Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games. Andrew Garfield became, The Amazing Spider-man. Tom Hardy was trying to recreate the magic of Heath Ledger, as the titular villain in, The Dark Knight Rises. And Martin Freeman was taking us on an unexpected journey in the new Hobbit trilogy.
For the kids there was Disney’s John Carter, as well as sequels for both Madagascar and Ice Age. Over in the world of gaming, we saw new releases for some truly big franchises including; Hitman, Grand Theft Auto, Mass Effect, Assassin’s Creed, BioShock, Max Payne and Tomb Raider.
The world was ripe with Nostalgia as many beloved characters made their way back into our lives. Although this time there was something different, they were cool. These characters had transformed from dorky costume wearing weirdos, to characters loved the world over, and Funko was poised to cash in. By late 2012 Funko Pops had become what is arguably one of the most successful toy lines of all time, cementing its place alongside some of the greats like Bandai, Hasbro & Mattel.
Should I Invest in Funko Pops?
Now that you have an understanding of Funko Pops, the big question remains. Should I be spending my hard-earned cash on these little plastic joys? In short, NO! If you were hoping to jump on the Funko Pop bandwagon, buy smart, and cash in big. I am sorry to inform you, but you’re about eight years too late to the party.
As someone who has been a buyer and seller of toys for almost twenty years, Funko Pops were on my radar, way before they were a global sensations. As a result, I got in early, and when Funko Pops hit fever pitch (2017-2018), I cashed out hard, and made myself some serious coin. For an investment of approximately $7,000 AUD, when I cashed out in 2017, I made close to $15,000 AUD. So how did I do so well, and why should you avoid spending money on Funko pops in hopes of striking it big?
Like many things, Funko’s value was struck down by a fatal flaw, it’s the same flaw that created the Bit Coin bubble, greed. There was greed on Funko’s part. In the beginning Funko Pops were produced in small runs, with a limited shelf life, and quickly vaulted (retired). This meant if you were lucky enough to buy one, chances were, there weren’t too many people who owned it.
It was this scarcity that drove the value of the early pops up so high, as when Funko Pops weren’t hugely popular, there weren’t a lot being made for stores. However, as Funko Pops became increasingly popular, Funko just kept making more and more of each Pop. Nowadays it is possible to walk into a store and find “limited edition Pops” from the previous year, still sitting on the shelf twelve months later.
There is no doubt Funko Pops can sell for crazy money. However, they are crippled by an underlying problem. Funko Pops are simply not growing in value anymore. Most of the Funko Pops I sold two years ago, have gone the other way, decreasing in value. You might be thinking, what if I buy some new Pops today, then sit on them for a few years? Firstly, the chances are there are hundreds of people who’ve had the same idea. Secondly, Funko just produces so many now, that you would be hard pressed finding a genuine fan who didn’t already own it.
My advise would be, if you’re a genuine fan of a particular line, then buy it! I would caution against paying more than retail though, as there are far better toys to waste your money on. To me Funko Pops are a cool accessory to bring some life to your office cubical, or your desk at work. I doubt these guys are ever going to pay your mortgage, there is always Lego! But that is an article for another time…