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Remember when toys were just for kids?

By Bert Ehrmann
August 5, 2011

Bruce Lee

Is it a toy, or is it Bruce Lee? (Hint, it's a toy.)

These days, collecting toys is a very much different activity than it was even 15 years ago. Up until then, toys were something that were meant to be played with by children. And, if those toys sometimes appealed to adults who might also happen to collect them all the better. But something changed in the mid-1990s. Then, some toys started to be more "objects of cool" than items to be played with by kids and were instead meant for the teen and adult collectors.

But even then, the prices on toys were still reasonable. One could buy a detailed figure that looked a whole heck of a lot like one of the creatures from the movie Aliens for less than $20. And while those types of toys are still readily available, in the last few years a high-end toy market has started to develop, one that caters to a collector who's not afraid to spend hundreds of dollars on a small plastic toy.

Case in point; Hot Toys. This Hong Kong based "collectible" company creates, among other things, these kinds of expensive action figures.. But not just the run of the mill action figures. Hot Toys creates incredibly detailed action figures that generally comes with an extraordinary amount of accessories like extra clothes, hands, guns, sunglasses, etc., etc., etc.

Bruce Lee

Another look at the Bruce Lee figure.

One of the newest Hot Toys figures is that of legendary actor Bruce Lee. And while the Lee figure might be in scale with a twelve inch G.I. Joe figure one might find at Walmart, the two really nothing alike.

While most action figures look vaguely person-like with a nose, two eyes and a mouth, the Hot Toys Bruce Lee figure looks very much like Bruce Lee, right down to the pores on his face. In fact, I've confused photos of the action figure for a photo of real life Lee. And the way the figure is articulated, it not only looks like Lee it can be posed so that it looks like it's Bruce Lee in action.

The Bruce Lee figure isn't the only figure that looks surprisingly real. There's also figures of Captain Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean series, Indiana Jones, Superman, Spider-Man and The Terminator to name a few. And just like the Lee figure, each of these look incredibly realistic and induces all the accessories one would want with this kind of item.

The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight figure.

Unfortunately, this sort of quality and attention to detail comes at quite a price. The two Bruce Lee figures soon to be available will retail for $155, each. Other figures like Superman run $210 and the Indiana Jones a staggering $250.

Hot Toys isn't alone in these types of figures. Sideshow Collectibles, who is a seller of Hot Toys, also sells their own line of toys. One toy they've produced the last few years is a line of new twelve inch G.I. Joe action figures. Again, much like the Hot Toys figures, these Joes are incredibly detailed, look like real, abet anonymous, people and come with a load of accessories and weapons.

While the original 1960s G.I. Joe figures retailed for around $4, about $30 adjusted for today, these Sideshow Joes retail anywhere from $100 to $300.

G.I. Joe

One of the many G.I. Joe figures available.

Oddly enough, since there are so many accessories to go along with these kinds of pricy figures, there is a thriving after-market for them on eBay. One can purchase the right hand of Hot Toys The Dark Knight for $5.50 or one of the heads of Batman's nemesis The Joker for more than $100. You read that right, just the head of an action figure that was released a few years back is being offered for more than $100 on eBay.

While I have a few friends who have some of these expensive figures, they only own a few and even then only ever bought figures of their favorite characters. Which is, if I had to guess, the way most collectors operate. But surly there are people out there who buy multiple figures each and every year? And, if there are those kinds of people, then there has to be ones who spend hundreds each month buying everything that comes out. Perhaps they finance these purchases via selling the extra parts and pieces on eBay?

I guess if I were more gutsy and business savvy that's what I'd do.