A Beginners Guide to collecting Funko POPs in the UK
All You Need to Know About Funko POP Collecting in 2020
This blog has been created to give you an overview of Funko POP collecting in the UK. If you're completely new to the world of vinyl figures or if you haven’t yet started your collection, but you want to know a bit more about buying, this page should help you become the ultimate Funko POP collector in no time.
A little history about Funko POPs and how they started to take off?
Funko has been going for longer than you would think, the company was founded way back in 1998. A collector of toys called Mike Becker came up with the idea after looking for a specific product and not finding it, and so Funko was born.
The first product Funko ever made was a Big Boy coin bank (see image below). Sadly these didn’t take off as they had hoped and the company almost went bankrupt. Thankfully they had the idea to start creating bobble heads and this is where the company really started to take off.
After gaining the rights to make licensed Austin Powers bobble heads the business started to grow and sold around 80,000 of their first figure. The licensed products were a huge hit and they expanded on this by adding titles such as The Grinch and many more. Mike Becker had always had a love of ad icons and bobble heads such as Tony the Tiger and other well know US food brands were added to the ever growing range.
In 2005 Mike sold Funko to Brian Mariotti. His main focus was to grow their range of licensed merchandise and so the the first Funko POP Vinyl figure was born. The first POP was a classic Batman figure which was released at San Diego Comic Con in 2010.
There has since been 1,000’s of other characters produce in the highly successful POP vinyl format over the decade that followed.
Funko probably has one of the biggest range of licenses in the toy industry and continues to make 100's of different characters ever year. Surely it's only a matter of time before they bring out a Del Boy POP Vinyl!
When people come into our shop one of the questions we get asked the most is "how many Funkos have been made?". As I’m writing this Funko have produced over 13,000 different items, which is a staggering amount of products.
Do Funko just make POP figures and bobble heads?As we mentioned earlier, Funko started out selling a Big Boy Coin Bank followed by Bobble heads but after the Funko POP took off they have created lots other ranges within the Funko brand. These include
Dorbz, Mystery Minis, Hikari, Fabrikations, Mopeez, Rock Candy and the list goes on.
But let’s stick to Funko POP vinyl figures, there are various different sizes but the standard 3.75 inch version is the original and by far the most popular. They have created 6 inch, 9 inch (which has now been taken over by 10 inch), and recently 18 inch versions.
There are also POP rides which feature characters with vehicles, for example Batman with his Batmobile. Movie moments have also been a recent edition to the POP brand featuring everyone's favourite scenes like Luke and Leia in the trash compactor.
With more and more lines being produced every year. There are usually some big announcements at the UK and US Toy Fairs, where Funko tend to release new products to retailers that have accounts. This year we attended London Toy Fair where Funko launched their range of Soda Cans for example which are new for this year and we think they are awesome. Look out for more on these coming soon!!
Why do some have bobble heads and some don't?
Many of you will have noticed that the Marvel and Star Wars range of POP figures are actually bobbleheads while all other ranges are just figures. This was originally because other toy manufacturers had the vinyl figure license, so Funko had to make these characters bobble but still keep the same look as the original POP figures.
How to start your Funko POP collection
Most people start their collection with their favorite TV, movie or gaming character. Other collectors get bought a Funko POP as a gift. If you have seen or heard about them but want a bit more info before you buy your first POP vinyl then you have come to the right place.
It can be easy to get carried away when you first start collecting, our advice is to not buy in every character you see in the early stages. We suggest sticking to a theme of characters at first then try to finish that set before you move on. We have seen lots of collectors go on a buying frenzy when they first start out and almost all of them regret buying in something, often they end up selling these to free up space for POPs they actually want to keep.
There are thousands of Funko POP vinyl figures on the market, you couldn’t possibly collect them all. Start out with a small collection of figures, maybe you love the 80's POPs as they bring back nostalgia, something like Masters of the Universe.
I would probably steer clear of Star Wars or Disney at the beginning as the range is so huge you probably won’t ever get your hands on all of them. Especially the rarer ones that have been discontinued.
If you really want to collect Disney, try picking a specific film like Snow White and complete that set before you move onto other titles or limit yourself to just the main characters like all the Princesses or all the Villans.
Collecting Funko POP's can get slightly addictive, especially when you find that rare POP at a good price and you check the going price on eBay to realise you have a picked up a bargain.
Where can I buy Funko POPs in the UK?
Funko POPs are everywhere at the minute, there are loads of places that sell Funko POPs from local supermarkets to specialist toy and collectors shops like our store The Film Cell. Big supermarkets often have some good deals as they buy in bulk but their selection is usually very poor. They tend to stick to mainstream POPs and things that are popular at that point in time. They often stock sale items which is great, but it's often POPs that Funko are trying to clear as they haven't been as popular as first thought. So the chances are you might not find your favourite character in a big store.
However there are hundreds of independent toy shops like us that sell Funko POPs and have been selling for many years now. Just to give you an idea, we have over 1,000 different Funkos in stock at any time, some that have been vaulted and discontinued, others that are rare US exclusives from previous years and no longer available. These are the places where you can find the harder to get hold of POP vinyls.
You probably want to build up a relationship with your local POP shop so if there is something specific you are looking for they can help you get your hands on it. Just be aware, Funkos release dates do change and sometimes can be released months after the original dates advertised. Also as soon as you hear about them contact your local store, if you wait until new POP's have been released there might not be enough to go around and you will either miss out or end up paying more on marketplaces.
We also trade, swap and buy in collections from time to time, so an independent store is a great place to find some of the older POPs that you can't find anywhere else.
Another great place to purchase Funko POPs is at comic cons, there are a number of traders that travel around the country exhibiting at cons and events. We are one of them here at The Film Cell. We exhibit at all the major Comic Cons all around England, Scotland and Wales. Here is a photo of our stand at a recent event to show what sort of items we take to these events.
MCM London is a great event to attend if you collect Funko POPs as Funko themselves often exhibit and have UK exclusives at the convention. Traders like us will take all their best stock with them, just get there quick as these sell out fast at big events.
So why are some Funko POPs so expensive?
Many of the original Funko POP vinyls were made in limited numbers and when they sold out Funko then moved onto another character and discontinued this line. The first Funko POP's produced in 2010 was a series of 3 released exclusively for San Diego Comic Con, these included Batman, Batgirl and Green Lantern (see picture below).
There were only 480 Batman POPs made, 240 Batgirl and 240 Green Lantern. These are currently selling from between £1000 to £1500 each, with the most expensive being the Green Lantern.
However these are not the most expensive POPs you can buy, currently the most expensive and sort after would probably be Disney’s Dumbo in clown disguise. This was limited to just 48 worldwide and only available at San Diego Comic Con in 2013. You probably won’t find this in any shop but if you do want to purchase one of these for your collection you will be looking at around $7,000.
This is closely followed by Planet Arlia Vegeta from DragonballZ which was released as a New York Comic Con exclusive in 2014 for Toy Tokyo. This has sold for up to $4000 in the past few years.
What are the rarest Funko POP vinyls and how can I find them?
When Funko started making POP vinyls you would probably see runs of between 1 to 2 thousand of each character. These days the standard mainstream and non exclusive figures are mass produced, so the chances are, if you're buying a POP from a supermarket it’s not going to be rare or have much value in the future. So just buy them because you like the character. You need to be looking for exclusives and ones that have limited runs if you want you collection to grow in value.
There are still a lot of rare Funko POPs out there that either collectors are selling or independent shops still have on their shelves. For example, we recently found a couple of cases of the Blue Mater which was made for New York Comic Con in 2015 in our warehouse. This was limited to just 1,500 pieces worldwide where a very limited amount were offered out to the UK after the event had finished. These were originally £15-£20 however these have recently shot up to around $55 and are still increasing in value.
The earlier release POPs are also still rare however these tend to be only found online or again in independent shops if they still have stock kicking around. As soon as Funko discontinue their POP figures they move into what's called the Vault. Funko then removes this from production. This makes way for a new lines and new versions of that character.
A good example is Spider man, there have been a number of Spider man movies, he also features in the Avengers and video games. The first Spider-man POP character was made at a time where Funko wasn't mass producing figures. Then a new movie came out so they stopped production on the first figure and created a new design to keep up with demand. This first figure is now sort after for completests but as it can't be bought in stores it pushes the prices up as it can only be bought from someone who has it in their collection and is willing to sell it.
Another example is the Thing from Fantastic Four, this was one of the first Marvel POPs to be released and has been vaulted for a few years now. They even brought out a Black and White exclusive version limited to just 480 the same year but the original non exclusive is still worth more. They have recently brought a new version of the Thing which will be available in stores from £10-£15.
Its all about the exclusive sticker
You will have seen many exclusive Funko POPs online and in-store with an exclusive sticker. There are a few types of stickers to look out for. Most of these mean the same thing, that they are limited in number. We are going to talk through a few of those stickers now so you have more of an understanding of what you should be looking for.
Comic Con Stickers
These are usually exclusive POPs that are made for release at comic cons, there are a number of big events that feature exclusive POP vinyls. You will have seen us talk about San Diego Comic Con and New York Comic Con, these are the two big US events. However there are others like Emerald City Comic Con and Dallas in the US, you may also have noticed a few UK comic con exclusives at London MCM over the past few years.
Comic con exclusives are usually limited in number, extras are sometimes made that are sent out to retailers across the rest of the world to give international collectors a chance to pick up these exclusive POPs. These usually come with what's known as a summer exclusive sticker, which resembles the con sticker but it is a way of differentiating them from the con exclusive.
Does this mean they are still rare? They can be but some collectors pay more for the original release sticker.
We still have previous years comic con exclusive POPs in stock on our website and in our shop so you can still pick these up from independent stores. We also get offered exclusives from US events, these are usually very limited when they hit the UK so make sure you follow us on Facebook to see all the latest figures we are offered.
Store exclusive stickered POPs
Some Funko POP figures are exclusive to certain stores in the US. The main companies in America that get exclusives are Hot Topic, Barnes and Noble, Box Lunch, Target, Walmart, and Amazon each have their own sticker design. These are sometimes offered out to the rest of the world as limited runs, you will probably have seen the silver exclusive sticker. These tend to appear in Europe when a US exclusive comes over to the UK.
These store exclusives tend to cost a tad more as they are usually a limited run and Funko add a premium on these which is why they are usually around £5 more than standards.
Funko Chase Stickers
Chase figures are usually found in limited numbers, for example 1 in 6 or 1 in 36 will usually contain the chase sticker and has a slight variation to the standard. In the early days Funko would make 1 in a case of 36 POPs metallic or glow in the dark so for every 1,080 made there would be 30 chase figures.
These days Funko have started to offer chases in a 1-6 ratio and sometimes are completely different designs. You can sometimes find these in shops but these go pretty quick so are harder to find. Some independent shops offer these at a slightly higher price to give real collectors a chance to pick up a limited edition. This helps stop flippers hiking up prices (we talk about what a Flipper is below).
What’s a Flipper
Flipper is a term for someone who buys a Funko POP solely with the intent to sell this on for a quick profit. Some collectors don’t like flippers as they try to get hold of limited edition figures first before they hit the shelves and sell them for double the price.
However some flippers can get hold of items that you wouldn’t be able to get elsewhere, often they wait up until 2am when the US or International companies release specials and get on line straight away to order before they sell out.
They then sell these POPs to the UK collectors. Any money they make usually pays to cover the cost of international delivery or their Funko POP habit, as they buy multiples and keep one for them self.
Pros and cons of displaying your POPs out of their box
There are a number of benefits to taking your POPs out of the box, firstly some POP designs are amazing and the back of the figure never gets seen. There are sometimes some great detail on the Funkos which if you left in the box you won’t ever get to see.
Also if you do display POPs out of their box on a shelf you can fit a lot more in the space you have, if you displayed them in the box however you can stack POPs on the top of each other and this might help you display even more on your shelves. If you decide to become an out of box collector but you are not sure if you’ll ever want to sell your collection, you will need to store the box in the attic or somewhere out of sunlight. You will also need to display your collection out of sunlight so they don’t fade. The good thing about Funko packaging is there usually isn't any tape on the boxes so as long as you open the boxes carefully you can remove your POPs and put them back without causing any damage.
If you do become an out of box collector you will be able to pick up some real bargains for your collection. A lot of collectors only collect POPs that have boxes in mint condition, a lot of the toy sellers receive boxes of damaged POPs and have to put them in the reduced section. This is where being an out of box collector comes in handy.
How to protect your rare Funko POPs
There are a few different ways in which you can protect your rarer and harder to find POPs. Your first option are thin plastic cases, a lot of these come in different sizes so you can protect your 4 inch, 6” and two packs. Make sure you get acid free protectors from a reputable company as some protectors can stain the box. These are usually a few pounds.
You can also buy Hard stacks for your POP figures, these are from Funko and are a little more robust. These are clear and made from a thicker plastic but are more likely to keep your rare POP vinyls from harm. These are more expensive around the £10 mark, but if you have a really rare Funko you are going to want to invest in these for your collection.
When you have a few POPs how should you display them?
Most collectors whether you are an in box collector or out of box collector display their vinyl figures on shelves. One of the most popular shelving units to buy are the Ikea Billy Bookcases which you can get in a variety of sizes. Other collectors build their own shelves that go around their TV units in the man cave or around the desk in their bedroom. If you do want to keep the dust away from you collection most people opt for a glass display cabinet so you can still see your collection but its safely tucked away behind glass doors.
Some take them to work and display them around their computer area or on their dashboard in their lorry. We have done a number of blogs based around how our customers display their collections so make sure you read these too.
In my opinion by the characters that make you happy, collecting Funko's should be fun and sometimes the hunt for a rare POP is just as fun as finally getting your hands on it.
It can be easy to get carried away with POPs and they can become very addictive. If you are starting out its a good idea to stick to building up one collection. If you like Star Wars try to collect all the Jedi first or if you are a Harry Potter fan try to collect all the characters from Gryffindor.When you get a bit further down the line you can start to expand and look out for older and rarer items.
One word of warning, as soon as some exclusive Funko POPs are released there can be a lot of hype with items going out of stock with retailers. These will then make their way onto online marketplace stores for silly money, you may be tempted to spend a fortune on a POP to complete a set. More often than not these prices do go back down in value so just be careful how much you are willing to pay for a Funko.
If you do buy a rare POP then make sure you buy an acid free protector preferably a hard stack to make sure the box stays in brilliant condition. Then enjoy displaying these POPs in your collection.
Head over to our range of Funko POP UK figures and start expanding your collection today.