I’ve always found it intriguing what drives collectors and hobbyists to customize their action figures. Some do it for pure fun and pleasure. Others do it for the glory of bragging rights, and some do it because they are unsatisfied with the original figure.
For me, my journey in customizing figures started by pure accident. I used to be a re-seller of custom and collectible action figure toys. I would buy them low, usually in large lots and bulks, then piece them out and sell them high for a profit.
Most of these lots contained random pieces, and the original accessories were often not included. Let’s face it. There’s a reason why they were being sold at a bargain. The sellers knew the only way to get some money for them was to offer low.
Because most of the figures did not come with accessories, selling them “as-is” was always a challenge. I often found my figures sitting around in my inventory before being sold. To make matters worse, sometimes, I had to take drastic actions and take a loss just to get rid of the item and free up shelf space.
After a while, I got tired of having the feeling of defeat hanging around me. So, I decided to study the market a little closer. I watched my competition and paid close attention to what other sellers were doing that I was not, and looked at the sold listings every day and compare them to mine. I was eager to find out why these listings sold and what could have been the driving factor that made them sell.
To my surprise, I started to see a pattern. I realized a lot of the figures that sold came bundled with accessories. On average, compared to mine, these figures sold for 2 to 3 times more than my original asking price. Also, the average time it took to sell was about 3 to 4 weeks. Compared to my average of 3 to 6 months to sell, “pathetic” was not enough to describe how I felt!
But here’s what I found most intriguing during this time of market studying. Almost none of the figures sold came bundled with their ORIGINAL accessories! What the heck?!
Even though the bundled accessories were from a third party, the figures sold for much more and much faster. Again, “WHAT THE HECK!”
Armed with new knowledge, I decided to buy pre-owned loose accessories for my figures. I thought this would level the playing field and give me a better chance of making more sales.
I often found pre-owned loose weapon lots on eBay. Other times I would see them at garage sales or Craigslist. Sometimes I would find lots from Marvel Legends sets, NECA, and many others. Things were going ok for a short while, but I soon realized another obstacle. Although I could get these weapons for much cheaper, it was a tedious process and often became a waiting game!
I had to wait for new listings to show up on eBay. When new listings do come up, I could only hope that the accessories will be in the same scale and size as my figures. Sometimes, the sellers would not consider lowering their asking price because they “know” the value of the accessories they are selling.
There has to be a better way to do this, I thought. I wanted some sort of control. And the only way I could think of at the time was to buy a resin 3D Printer and learn the ropes. Then, I could print my weapons on-demand and bundle them with my figures as I saw fit.
This worked out great for me. Since I’ve done some 3D printing in the past, I could apply most of the 3D printing concepts and principles. This sped up the learning time, and within a few short weeks, I was making custom weapons for my figures on demand.
And I didn’t stop there. After I realized how much of a pain it was to get your hands on custom accessories, I decided to be of service to fellow hobbyists and collectors.
I started a small business around needing access to customized weapons and accessories to bundle with the figures I used to sell. I started offering custom 1:12 scale weapons and accessories for GI JOE Classified, NECA, MEZCO, McFarlane, and other action figures similar in scale. Thus, Mini Arms Depot (MAD) was born.
In the early stages, we were resin casting and 3D printing everything. Because of the time required for resin casting, we quickly abandoned the process and moved to injection molding. With injection molding, we can produce parts much faster and offer them to our customers for much cheaper too!
Today, we are a small business in total production. Our custom 1:12 scale weapons are injection molded, while some accessories unsuitable for our injection molding machines are 3D Printed. We release new weapons and accessories twice per month. We’ve certainly come a long way!
How about you? Why do you customize your figures? What’s your reason behind it?
Feel free to send me a message and let me know.
Thanks for reading, and until next time.