Vinyl Art Toys Posts

What Do Millennials Collect? Experience, Retro, Irony

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

There have been a lot of articles claiming that millennials don’t spend their money on “things,” so we thought it would be good to take a look at their collectibles market. Millennials tend to be more mobile than previous generations, so instead of buying a house (and things to fill it with), they tend to live lighter, putting that money towards experiences and travel.

So What Do Millennials Collect?

lego star wars destroyer

funko pop c-3poExperience, irony and retro are key ingredients. So going to to a Comic Con (experience) and snapping up the latest “Star Wars” items (retro) would fit the bill. The “Star Wars” franchise shows no signs of slowing down, given the number of movies, TV shows, and especially collectibles released in the last few years. And when those items have an inherent oddness (irony) to them like FunKo Pop figures, Lego building sets, or Hot Wheels character cars, you’ve hit the trifecta.

Each of those brands goes well beyond the “Star Wars” theme, so the potential for collectors to diversify is a huge market. Lego is now a $2+ billion brand  (there is a huge market for old and new kits!), Hot Wheels is grossing more than a billion dollars, and FunKo, despite only being founded in the late 1990s, is on its way there.

nintendo nesVideo games are a huge part of the Millennial experience too. but modern systems increasingly lack physical games to purchase in favor of downloads and online multiplayer action. However, older gaming systems have a certain appeal and have become a big collectible business. And it’s not just late 1990s/early 2000s games these people played while young, but even systems their parents might have owned, including Nintendo and Atari systems from the 1980s.

minus 5 dungeon of horrorsModern music doesn’t usually have a tangible form anymore either. It’s mostly downloaded and streamed, not really “owned” like it used to be. The huge exception: vinyl records are increasingly collectible. In fact vinyl records are projected to sell 40 million units in 2017, with sales nearing the $1 billion benchmark for the first time this millennium!

Some artists like Jack White (White Stripes, Dead Weather, Raconteurs, etc.) treat a new record as an additional level of performance art beyond the music itself. It’s one thing to record a record live in one take… it’s another to record it direct to vinyl, instantly making a very limited number of pressings available for only one day. Consider that White recently released a record that secretly had to be played from the middle of the record outward, and the odd presentation becomes almost as important as the music.

Speaking of “records,” they used to be widely sold in places called “stores.” To celebrate the continued existence of such shops, Record Store Day (April 22, 2017) has become a huge annual nationwide event. It’s fun to stand in the very long line in front of the store and explain it to those not in the know.

“Record Store Day? Are they giving away free stuff?”

“Nope. In fact, they’re charging even more today.”

death cab for cutie cassetteIt’s true. Many artists release special recordings just for this event, often very limited editions in premium packaging, and none of them at all cheap. A few years ago, a band called The Minus Five created just 750 copies of a five record set of new material, including about 100 copies with each record in a different color (Yours truly was able to snag one of the regular copies that day, but not the multi-hued version.) In another instance, Death Cab For Cutie decided to release a new album only on cassette only (which led to Cassette Store Day becoming a thing!). In most cases, these come with a digital download in case you don’t have the right listening equipment.

Speaking of which, stereo equipment is a big deal with Millennials as well. For all the convenience of a tiny device that can put 10,000 songs in your pocket, there is still great appeal to a big honking multi component vintage stereo system. They sound amazing but are anything else than cheap. The market is there and it’s growing.

star wars record player star wars record player
Which brings us to this Star Wars portable suitcase turntable, another Record Store Day exclusive for 2017. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the original movie, this retro record player will be on sale in a store near you. Experiential, Ironic, Retro… this might be the ultimate collectible for millennials yet.

If you’re a Millennial, let us know what you collect in the comments selection!

A Look at the Scary Side of Collecting

The macabre, the horror movies, the candy, the decorations, the candy, the costumes…oh, and the candy.  Just a few of the many reasons I look forward to Halloween every year, and why it’s been my favorite holiday since I was a kid donning my Ben Cooper Boba Fett costume.  (You know, those plastic costumes you couldn’t breathe in or see out of, but were worn by children everywhere). As an adult….ok, as a “big kid”…it’s always amazed me to see the variety and cult following of horror-related collectibles and toys.  You can find action figures and statues for virtually every pop culture franchise these days, but you can still find a few classic collectibles from the horror genre.  Here are some of my favorite Halloween-friendly collectible ideas… the Scary Side of Collecting!

1979-kenner-alien

1979 Kenner Alien Large-Size Figure

Its evil brains glow in the dark! When Kenner picked up the license for the 1979 Ridley Scott movie, Alien, they were hoping to be on track with the next big thing after Star Wars.  While the movie was undoubtedly a success, the film’s R-rating and graphic violence resulted in a very quick death for the toy line. While a line of 3 3/4″ figures was planned (and later reproduced by Funko & Super7), the only item to make it to production was this behemoth 18″ figure. Given that these are often found missing the dome, one of the five back spikes, or tail, and often with a broken set of retractable teeth, finding one of these complete and in nice condition can be difficult.  Gentle Giant later reproduced these in larger scale (24″ tall).

 

maxxfx-freddy-krueger

Matchbox MaxxFX Freddy Krueger

Kenner wasn’t the only company to have a toy from the Alien franchise planned, only to later ditch the concept.  In the late 80s, Matchbox was to include the Alien Warrior from the 1986 film, Aliens, in their MaxxFX line. These 9″ action figures were similar to Mego figures in style, and allowed the owner to dress up the character as one of multiple horror characters.  Several prototypes were developed for this line, but ultimately only Freddy Krueger was released.

 

cult-classicsNECA Cult Classics

McFarlane Toys might have set the stage for horror figures coming to the mainstream with their Movie Maniacs line, but in 2005 NECA took it a step farther by introducing their Cult Classics line. Similar in style to the Movie Maniacs, these 7″ tall figures took small-scale collecting to a new level with their incredible sculpts, statuesque posing, and the diversity of the line. While the line featured many horror favorites such as Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees, fans were also treated to debuts of figures such as Patrick Bateman from American Psycho, Frank the Bunny from Donnie Darko, and The Jigsaw Killer from Saw.   The line continued for a solid five years and gave us dozens of unique characters from the genre.

 

neca-nbxNECA The Nightmare Before Christmas

What Halloween would be complete without some of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas? In 2004, NECA launched a line of figures from the cult movie, and what is in my opinion one of the best action figure lines of all time (despite the occasional quality issues).  Over the course of five years, nearly every character from the movie saw release in this line, making it not only a fun set to complete, but also making for an amazing display.  (Note: the image shown is only part of the line!)  NECA even produced the Spiral Hill and the Snow Buggy Jack heisted from Christmas Land.  The only downside to this line is that it’s *sooooo* close to being complete, those of us who are completists will feel annoyed about the few missing characters.  (The band, Finklestein’s second creation, the tree with hanging skeletons, and the reaper…I believe these are the only characters not made.)

 

mcfarlane-twisted-christmasMcFarlane Toys Twisted Fantasy

NECA has had many successful 6-7″ action figure lines, but along side them has always been McFarlane Toys, the company that sparked the highly-detailed figure lines in this size.  McFarlane is known for Spawn, various sports series, and their Movie Maniacs, but some of my favorites fall in the “Twisted” categories.  McFarlane has lent their horrifying takes to The Wizard of Oz, Christmas and general Fairy Tales, creating masterpieces in action figure form and inducing nightmares everywhere.  Some of this stuff is not for the faint of heart (like Humpty Dumpty), or oversexualized (like Mrs. Claus), or both (like Red Riding Hood), but these series add an extra degree of macabre to any collection.

 

sideshow-horrorSideshow Collectibles 1:6 Scale & Statues

OK, so maybe the smaller figures aren’t really  your style.   Maybe you’re looking for something a bit larger to be the centerpiece(s) of your frightful collection.  That’s where a company like Sideshow Collectibles comes in.  Sideshow has made a name for themselves making top-notch large scale figures, having started with 1:6 scale action figures and moving into 1:4 and even larger.  Some of their early offerings included 1:6 scale versions of horror icons like Freddy, Leatherface and Jason, which then progressed into their mixed media 1:4 scale line, the Premium Format Figures.  These days, Sideshow is revisiting new versions of their classics with all new and improved sculpts and features.

 

lovecraft-sota-statuesSOTA Toys H.P. Lovecraft Statues

In my humble opinion, H.P. Lovecraft is the undisputed master of terror.  Writing well ahead of his time, Lovecraft let the imagination run wild with indescribably horrific creatures in other-worldly settings, creating horror that to this day remains some of the best of all time.  Many have tried to capture the spirit of the creatures of Lovecraftian lore, but few have been as successful in doing so as SOTA Toys.  In 2010-2011, SOTA released statues of Cthulhu, Dagon, and Nyarlathotep, each measuring over a foot tall, with insanely good detailing and paint.  While these retailed in the $200 range, they generally go for at least twice that now, when and if they become available.

 

funko-horror

Funko Pop Vinyl, Mystery Minis, & ReAction Figures

OK, maybe you love horror, but the blood and guts or a two-foot tall machete-wielding murderer isn’t the best decor for your home.  Or maybe having a large statue of the Master of R’lyeh is enough to give Grandma a heart attack when she visits.  If so, then Funko has some much more tame, adorable options for you.  Unless you’ve been living under a rock over the last few years, you’ve no doubt seen or heard of Funko’s Pop Vinyl figures. This collection of cute, stylized 3 3/4″ tall figures includes everything from My Little Pony to A Clockwork Orange, including a wide variety of your favorite horror characters. The beautiful thing about these – they’re small, inexpensive (with a $10 price point) and won’t result in the neighbors running from your house screaming.  If the Pop Vinyl isn’t enough, Funko also makes retro style ReAction Figuresblind box mystery figures, and even various forms of plush.

No matter your taste or budget, there’s always something out there for those of us with the horror gene.  Tell us about your favorite horror collectibles in the comments!

Meet Frank Kozik, Designer of the Smorkin’ Labbit

Frank Kozik kidrobot labbit

If you’ve ever seen Smorkin’ Labbit vinyl art toys from Kidrobot, you might wonder what kind of person would design such a thing. With their hostile eyes and cigarette dangling from their mouths, they aren’t the friendliest creatures. It turns out Frank Kozik, the San Francisco artist who created the character for concert posters and other projects, is quite the opposite. And he was kind enough to chat with hobbyDB about his creations and the design process.

Like many successful artists, his career started out as something fun. “I would always invent characters, even as a child,” he said. “Things got serious around 1998 or so when I made the connections in Japan to have my works made as products. An amateur hobbyist goes pro, basically.”

Kozik medicom labbit

Kozik has worked with several toy companies over the years, but is probably best known for his designs for Kidrobot. His favorite design so far is the Ride ‘Em Bob Labbit. If you don’t have one in your collection, that’s understandable… Kidrobot only produced 450 of the blue “Ancient Bob Slug” version.

As elaborate as that toy looks, Kozik says a different Labbit was the most complicated to produce. “Bony Bunny, the first skeleton Labbit with Medicom presented quite a few engineering challenges,” he said. Looking at it, it’s easy to see why. The top half of the creature is a removable shell to expose the bones, and lining keeping it lined up can’t be easy. “It was early in the genre and factories had not quite gotten it together, so figuring shrink rates for the separate pieces got complex.”

The skeletal theme continued with a simpler version for Kidrobot, this time with a Labbit that showed flesh/fur on one side and when turned around, the skeleton body.

Kozik kidrobot labbit skeleton

The angry eyes and smorking… er, smoking, themes carry on with a lot of his toys such as the Mongers series (anthropormorphic food). One of his recent departures from this them depicts a certain North Korean dictator as a whiny baby.

Kozik baby huey kim jong un kidrobot

He said the process form sketch to finished product can take six months to several years. “Average time when there is a system in place is 12 months.”

Kozik kidrobot labbit ride em bob

His outside interest include collecting “Original pre 1970’s Disney attraction posters as well as original art, books, vintage toysweird stuff in general.” His favorite toy is described as “a wooden rabbit pulling a cart from a tiny company in Oregon from the 1940’s.” Overall, he tries not to get too obsessed with collecting things. “Stuff is cool, but don’t define yourself by it.”

In case you were wondering where the term “Smorkin’ Labbit” means, Kozik has a wonderfully random explanation. “Several years ago, I did version of my rabbit with a company in Japan,” he explained. “It was supposed to be ‘Smokin’ Rabbit,’ but they printed it ‘Smorkin Labbit,’ which sounds about a billion times cooler so thus it became REAL.”

10 Funky Toy Mashups that Only Make Sense in the Kidrobot World

Kidrobot’s vinyl toy collection includes a lot of items that can only be answered “If you don’t understand it, then butterscotch.” Of all the weird combinations of creatures and concepts, these toys make such a strange impression that they come full circle if you think about them long enough. In some cases, they might even change the way you see the world for better or for weirder..

kidrobot vampire tweety

Tweety Vampire

Tweety Bird always seemed like a pacifist cartoon character, using only his wits to kindly defeat Sylvester the Cat. According to this toy, he was also a vampire, which really flips that narrative on its ear. You’ll never watch Looney Tunes the same way again.

kidrobot homer simpson buddha

Buddha Simpson

The idea of Homer Simpson as Buddha is kind of odd until you realize they have the same basic physique.

kidrrobot siracha sketracha dunny

Sketracha Dunny

A Dunny is some sort of rabbit-like creature. Unless it’s made of glass and filled with hot sauce. Then it’s…. I dunno, delicious? The bigger question: Is it half empty or half full?

kidrobot black pac man dalek dunny

Dunny Pac Man

Remember when you used to play Pac Man and thought, “that character looks like an eyeball”? No? Well, apparently Dalek, the designer of this toy, did have that idea. And somehow it works.

kidrobot vandal express

Vandal Express

Many Kidrobot figures are inspired by graffiti art, so a subway car makes the perfect canvas. So why not make it a psychotic anthropomorphic hot rod while you’re at it?

kidrobot cover the cap gold fatcap

Cover the Cap Fatcap

Speaking of graffiti related items, there have several figures of spray paint cans over the years, including the Fatcaps, which were based on just the nozzle. This one is subjected to a bucket of paint poured over its head, so the grafittist becomes the grafittee.

kidrobot staple pigeon

Staple Pigeon

Imagine a world where everything looked like Bib, the bulbous mascot for Michelin tires. Now imagine what a pigeon would look like in that world. Actually, no need to imagine it, they’ve already done it for  you.

kidrobot war melon

War Melon

The Mongers series of toys featured things smoking cigarettes that shouldn’t be smoking them. Not because of health reasons or anything, but seriously, a half watermelon with a cigarette? Somehow, adding the Tiger Mouth fighter plane motif to it makes it badass enough to excuse such behavior.

kidrobot smokey el roy

Smokey El Roi

Speaking of things that shouldn’t smoke, a cigarette smoking another tiny cigarette is almost cannibalistic. Which somehow makes sense, right? The Filter Kings version of Smokey wears a crown. Because of course.

kidrobot howie lighter

Howie

And then there’s Howie… can someone explain how a lighter can light its own smokes? Do we really need to answer that for you?

Of course, the world of Kidrobot is populated with countless more marriages of odd concepts that work despite all common sense. Add your favorites in the comments below. You can see the official online archive of everything Kidrobot related on hobbyDB.com.

 

Kidrobot’s Allen Richardson Joins hobbyDB Advisory Board

Allen Richardson Kidrobot

Over the past year, hobbyDB has been collecting everything from Kidrobot, and now we’ve added Allen Richardson. No, he’s not a Vinyl Art Toy, he’s VP of Product and Marketing for Kidrobot, and he’s joining our Advisory Board.

The Kidrobot archive on hobbyDB is the most complete listing you will find anywhere on the internet, and Allen will be able to help us stay on top of all the new releases. “I get to work with the best independent vinyl artists and largest licenses available today,” he told us. “I love getting to live in two very different worlds and make a living within them both.”

If that sounds like a fun job, consider the rest of his history in the world of toys.

He started in the video game world with Konami, and then moved to Tiger Electronics. When Tiger was acquired by Hasbro, he was put in charge of their “Star Wars” product line. “It was a dream come true as I had collected action figures all of my life. My earliest memories were of receiving the very first Star Wars action figures for Christmas. Star Wars, and most all of what we call the “Boys Action” category, has been in my blood for a very long time.”

As Director of Marketing /Product for Hasbro, he handled a few other brands you may have heard of: Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, The Littlest Pet Shop, FurReal Friends, VideoNow, Hitclips, PooChi, and Furby for example.

And before coming to Kidrobot, he worked for Sphero. “I returned to Star Wars to work on everyone’s favorite new Droid: BB-8! Being able to take traditional toy play and add an app-based experience to it was truly innovative and memorable.”

Aside from those interests, he collects original comic art. His favorite piece is a Judge Dredd page from “2000AD” by Brian Bolland. “This page pairs my favorite character with my favorite artist. They are pretty rare, so I was elated to finally have it for my collection.”

hobbyDB is just as glad to have Allen on board.