Collecting is a hobby that has been around for decades and is easily accessible to everyone, from tiny toddlers who find new stones on their daily adventures to octogenarians who accumulate cats the way some people amass shoes. Collections can range from the commonplace, such as stamps or currency, to the downright bizarre (anyone been to Gatlinburg’s Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum?) Ever since the 1980’s, toys and action figures have dominated the hobby. The plethora of Star Wars merchandise that inundated the market more than likely can be blamed for starting this trend. Soon though, GI Joes, Barbies, Cabbage Patch Kids, and Masters of the Universe toys helped to cement toy collecting as a permanent hobby not just for kids, but adults as well. Some children never let go of their treasures, while others, smacked with a heavy dose of childhood nostalgia, went back into the game as adults and now have amassed enormous collections.
There is a new phenomenon which has hit the toy collecting world. You’ve more than likely seen them, as they can be found at dozens of retailers, from Walmart to Costco to Best Buy. The occasional grocery store claw machine is stuffed full of them, they line the shelves at arcade redemption counters, and show up on Amazon regularly. They run off pop culture, from 80’s nostalgia to the latest big budget flick playing at the theater. In fact, they’ve already begun to cement themselves as a cultural icon themselves. They even get their name from pop culture!
These little plastic figures that have taken over the world are known as POP! The vast majority of them stand about four inches tall out of the box and can vary from bobbleheads to statues on a base, depending on the line. POP! figures are easily recognizable by the distinct lack of features on the statue. As a rule, they have no mouth and future simple round eyes. Those are about the only thing they have in common, as there is such a HUGE variety of shapes, sizes, and franchises to choose from. No matter what you are a fan of, there is no doubt a POP! line that will peak your interest.
Modern cinematic experiences see dozens of POPs release, from the latest Avengers movie to Ready Player One. Star Wars, Marvel, and DC are perhaps the three largest lines that can be found, with hundreds of individual statues available for each franchise. We can’t even get into the Disney ones or it would take up the rest of the article. Like your 80’s films? Dark Crystal, Ghostbusters, and Back to the Future are all available. He-Man and Skeleton represent the toys of the period. Do you still love those Saturday morning cartoons? Scooby Doo, Looney Toons, and Animaniacs are all here! Anime fans will be thrilled to find every character from Dragonball Z, Sailor Moon, and Death Note. Sitcoms such as Big Bang Theory, dramas including The Walking Dead, and classics such as The Munsters all have their own lines too. Video games are well represented, with retro classics including Pac-Man and Q-Bert, and modern favorites such as God of War.
If you’re not into movies or TV, there are still hundreds of POPs you can collect. Elton John, Metallica, Kurt Cobain, even Justin Beiber all have graced the faces of the figures. 2016’s election cycle saw Trump, Clinton, and Bernie Sanders all receive their own POP! Monsters, pets, sports teams, board games, ad icons, drag queens, and even the Royal Family all have series dedicated to them. No matter what your interests are, you can be sure to find a POP! that fits them.
Even if you find a series you like, it can still be overwhelming when you first start collecting. Where do you put your focus? There are store exclusives only available from certain retailers such as Walgreens or Target. Some show up on the Funko POP! website and are sold out within minutes. Others are con exclusives which require you to either visit the comic con in person or else fork over the cash to someone who’s ready to usually make a hefty profit on their excursion. Exclusive pops can be flocked (that means furry), glow-in-the-dark, 6” (about twice the size of a regular POP!), 8-bit (they look like a retro video game), clear, chrome, or even glittery. POP! Rides feature entire vehicles for our bobblehead friends to ride in style on the bookshelf. Occasionally, you might run across an ultra-rare chase POP! These are usually limited to one per case or even less that a store receives, and can quite often run into the hundreds in aftermarket value. Be prepared to stand outside Hot Topic 30 minutes before the store opens if you want to snag one of these bad boys. We never said it was easy, but that’s what makes this hobby so much fun!
POPs are an international craze which shows no signs of stopping. That is good for die-hard collectors who always must be on the lookout for the next piece to add to their staggering collections. Unfortunately for those who are on a budget, it can also be bad for our wallets, as we contemplate whether we really need electricity for the next week in order to afford that new Avengers: Infinity War set that just showed up for preorder. Watch out when you buy that first one because just like the crazy neighbor who has two dozen cats, you won’t know what hit you until your house is full of them!