Buying toys as presents for a toy collector is hard. Believe me, I know, because I’m the recipient very often – and the truth is that unless the buyer is a fellow collector and we communicate often about what we like, it is tough to get me something I don’t already have. (Admittedly, it was tougher when toys were cheaper.)
I don’t know how many casual readers we have who might check in on this site just to get a sense of what toy li’l Gallen or Cousin Poe might like to find under his tree, but this list is in large part for them. Parents, friends, lovers, wealthy benefactors – if your knowledge of collectible toys falls somewhere between “fuck” and “all,” yet you wish to please the plastic addict close to your heart…we have some tips.
First things first – we have to figure out what sort of person YOU are, and what sort of person you’re buying for. So that’s how we’re gonna break it down.
1. If You’re a Broke-Ass Victim of the Economy – or a Cheap Bastard – but Still Want to Show a Nerdy Friend That You Care…
…get them a Walking Dead Building Sets Blind-Bagged Figure from McFarlane Toys. At $3.99, this is just about the cheapest action figure you can buy that still looks somewhat decent – they’re hand-painted, have a few points of articulation, and will stand on Lego blocks. So even though they don’t look much like Lego, you can build environments for them with Lego. Bonus: because these are blind-bagged, it doesn’t matter if you don’t know which ones your friend already has, because she has just as much of a chance of buying duplicates as you do.
Double bonus: explain to your friend how Todd McFarlane thinks Lego bricks have nipples, and you’ll have an in-joke forever. The individual blind-bagged figures are available only at Toys R Us stores and not online, though if you want more certainty, you can get a five-pack of Rick Grimes and four zombies at Toysrus.com. It’s just mildly out of “broke-ass” territory.
Alternate: Bandai Big Hero 6 action figures.
Action figures that sell for $9.99 these days usually sacrifice something, but these 4″ scale characters pack quite a bit of bang for the buck, with multiple points of articulation, movie-accurate sculpts, and every major character in the first wave, including both girls and the masked villain Yokai. Yes, Hiro and Baymax will be the easiest to find in stores, but they’re also likely to be the most in-demand. If you’re shopping for feminist friends, though, going out of your way to find Honey Lemon or Go Go Tomago will probably be much appreciated.
Substitute: Crystal Head Vodka, single-serving size.
Okay, so this isn’t actually a toy, but there ain’t a collector of scary figures alive who won’t appreciate the crystal skull mini-bottle this comes in, intricately sculpted to be worthy of the former Ghostbuster who owns the company, Dan Aykroyd. Even if they never down the shot of vodka inside, it makes a creepy cool collectible. And if they do, it’s the cheapest way to bring awesome booze to the party that you’ll ever get away with.
Please note that laws about shipping alcohol across state lines vary, so check before you buy.
2. If You Can Spare a $20 or Thereabouts for a Pal…
…you can’t go too wrong with Guardians of the Galaxy Marvel Legends figures, especially if you find the highly sought Rocket with Groot torso.
It’s the top-grossing domestic movie of the year, so it’s pretty safe to bet that everyone you know likes James Gunn’s cosmic superhero saga. However, before it opened, Hasbro didn’t know how just how well it was going to do, so Guardians of the Galaxy toys have not been the easiest things to find all year. With stores restocking now for the holiday season, though, it’s finally possible to snap up other figures in the flagship toyline besides the non-movie Iron Man they tossed in just because they figured kids might like him better if the whole thing went south. But you’ll need to pick him up too if you want to build Groot and complete the team.
In stores these should run you about $21.99 each, while online they are priced by popularity, so folks buying a full set to get Groot can score an okay deal by averaging it out.
Alternate: Vader and Chewie, Star Wars Black Series 6-inch.
Show me someone who doesn’t like Star Wars stuff, and I’ll show you someone who’s reading the wrong damn list on the wrong freakin’ site. Seriously, if you’re reading this and didn’t grow up with Star Wars figures, I can only surmise that you were super-poor as a kid. And you need to make it up to yourself now.
The Star Wars Black Series 6-inch line is, simply put, the best domestically released, mass-produced line of Star Wars toys to date, with a level of detail and articulation few lines could manage at the $20 price point (if you find them at retail, which you should be able to now). They offset this with Stormtrooper repaints and the like, but Darth Vader and Chewbacca are all-new sculpts of two of the most distinctive core characters, and well worth the minor investment. Vader even features a removable helmet and cloth cape.
Buy these and the Guardians of the Galaxy above, and you can have an in-scale re-enactment of Patton Oswalt’s ultimate nerd-movie pitch. Do it well enough, write your adventure down, and maybe someday you can even sell the idea to Disney when they inevitably make the Marvel/Star Wars crossover movie that you know is coming.
Substitute: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Comic Packs.
NECA’s original comic-styled turtles are long-since off the shelves, but now, after decades of doing TMNT, Playmates has finally branched out into figures done in the original Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird style. Packed with reproduction comics, they might not be rare collectors’ items, but they’re a steal at $14.99. It’s a nice and easy way to get folks who didn’t grow up with the original Turtles to go back and take a look, and for Eastman and Laird fans to own toys which actually look like those early books.
Cowabunga? Well, at least the sticker price won’t cow my bunghole.
3. If We’re Talking About Your Kid, or Significant Other…
…say “halo” to NECA’s 18-inch Master Chief action figure.
If you are a human being who is alive and has played video games for more than a few years, you’ve tried a Halo game at one point, which means you have been the Master Chief. His full-body armor lets anybody imagine they could be him, and everyone practically has; likewise, many toy companies have taken a crack at the guy, but only NECA has gone above and beyond to create a three-dimensional, fully poseable rendition that goes beyond the game console in its attention to detail.
He looks like a million bucks, but the good news is he only costs a hundred, and is new enough that most people on your list won’t have him in hand yet. And he’s so big and heavy that you can also use him to bludgeon would-be burglars into unconsciousness.
Alternate: K’Nex Titanfall Angel City playset.
Titanfall seems like such a gimme for a toy line. Giant – but not unreasonably kaiju-sized – battle suits, pilots who can eject and fly around on jetpacks, and various buildings that can be trashed in the process. For people not into games, there’s still a primal appeal there.
Alas, the only detailed action figures out there are insanely high-end, but the K’Nex sets allow for a somewhat affordable option. $99.99 nabs you the pieces to build two Titans, six pilots, vegetation and buildings, plus action features that include launching missiles and levers that simulate the pilots running along the sides of walls.
Add in some of those McFarlane Walking Dead minifigs from earlier in the list for extra apocalyptic fun.
Substitute: Kre-O G.I. Joe Cobra Terrordrome.
The ’80s kids will appreciate this one the most, as so many of us owned the original, action-figure scaled toy when we were younger, and despite the fact that there was no practical explanation as to how any character ever made it to the upper level without stairs or an elevator, we loved it. Re-releasing the original would be cost-prohibitive today, and even this building-block version is half the size but twice the price. Still, it retains most of the classic play features, and includes Serpentor’s air chariot and the Joe team’s Skyhawk VTOL, plus several key characters including Hawk, Serpentor, Gung Ho, and weirdly, a solo Xamot minus his twin brother Tomax.
Until Kre-O really goes for it and tries to do the USS Flagg, this is probably the ultimate G.I. Joe item you’ll see from them. And since the regular line is practically hibernating, that makes it the ultimate Joe item you’ll find at retail, period. In an era of complicated real-world wars, these toys keep it simple – masked terrorists who dress like snakes are the baddies. Period.
4. If You Wish to Buy Somebody’s Loyalty for Life…
…get them Hot Toys’ Batman and Robin. The good Batman and Robin – the ones everybody likes now. Like everything Hot Toys makes, these feature superb detail and tons of accessories, including shark-repellent batspray and that giant bomb you just can’t get rid of some days. They are also every bit as expensive as everything Hot Toys does, though there’s a bundle discount going on right now – buy both, and you’ll wind up paying less than $400 total.
If your one and only is nerdy enough, though, they’ll appreciate this gesture more than a ring.
Alternate: The Simpsons Lego House.
I don’t care if you’re jaded about current storylines or not – the opportunity to build a real-scale Simpsons house playset has never come along before, and you may not see it again. The cartoon styling is perfect for Lego, just as the set is perfect for people who don’t normally play with Lego, representing the house on Evergreen Terrace as well as any model kit could. Granted, the minifigs look a little sleepy, which feels like a ploy to get you to buy more…and it sadly does not seem like more Simpsons sets are on the horizon any time soon. But don’t have a cow, man – Lego did not proudly under-achieve on this signature set, and instead came up with one of the definitive toy items of the year.
Smithers, what is that intricate-yet-cartoony playset that occupies the masses so? Simpsons, eh?
Substitute: Castle Grayskull
As in “By the power of…” Yeah. That one. Or rather, the painstakingly recreated-from-artwork, high-end recreation playset resculpted for larger collector figures. Mattycollector still has them in stock, as you may be shocked to learn that some people balk at a $300 price tag. Hell, the first time I spoke to Rob Bricken on the phone, I was shocked to learn that even he was daunted by the price.
And my wife let me buy one. It’s still in the box because there’s no room to put it anywhere. But remember what I said about “Somebody’s Loyalty for Life”? Yeah. Pretty genuine sign of it there.
5. If You’re Donald Goddamn Trump, and for Some Reason You Want to Get Edgar Wright the Perfect Present…
…how about a Walking Dead Limited-Edition pinball machine? Featuring an illuminated floating-head fishtank and a crossbow assembly to fire balls anywhere, this exclusive coin-op game can offer you more second-to-second tension than the actual TV show.
We could lie and say it also contains the cure for everything wrong with the world right now…but we don’t want to get punched by Abraham. Now, who do I know that can spend nine thousand dollars on this sucker?
Substitute: Sideshow’s 6-Foot Darth Malgus.
Dropping six grand on a life-sized Star Wars character who isn’t even in the movies is proof of nerdiness that only a rich bastard can show off.
Capturing the vicious Sith Lord of The Old Republic in startlingly realistic 1:1 scale, the looming figure measures over 7 feet tall and more then 3 feet wide. Each piece is individually hand painted and finished to exacting standards, the trademark of a handcrafted Sideshow Collectibles product. Featuring an LED lit Lightsaber (TM), LED light up components in the chest, collar, and wrist gauntlets, highly detailed armor, and a real fabric hooded cape; the Darth Malgus Life Size figure makes a spectacular addition to any collection.
I can’t add to that except to say it will almost certainly make visiting toddlers piss their pants. Which could be good or bad, depending how much you hate their parents.
Alternate: Gentle Giant’s Life-Size Kenner Boba Fett.
This might be the gift to get Joe Johnston, if you happen to know him.
The mail-away figure that made kids of the ’70s imagine so many things is now as tall as a human being, big enough that you could even hump him if that’s your thing, as you wonder aloud, “Hey man, how can we get that rocket in your pack to blast off?” I mean, you can’t spell “fetish” without three out of four of the letters in “Fett.”