Why Are We Enamoured By Collectables?
It started out of the blue for me.
One look at these figures and I was enraptured by them.
They were so cute and adorable that they instantly became my favourite animal.
Over the years I’ve amassed a collection of these creatures. From stuffed animals and now to more unique figurines, I’ve enjoyed collecting them leisurely over the years. And while my collection is pretty small, it is nothing compared to some collections I’ve seen of other things.
The most notable one in recent years was of the vinyl figurines known as Pop! Figures. I was floored last year when I walked into my cousin’s apartment at the time to see one of my cousin’s roommates collection of these figures.
It took up roughly a quarter of entire apartment wall on one side.
It’s to the point that it made him look like a complete addict of these figurines.
Far more than my puny collection of frogs that grows by maybe one or two per year.
But it’s got me thinking of something:
Why are so many of us experiencing addiction towards these collectable figures?
The obvious answer to that is simple. People get shots of dopamine whenever they pick up a new collectable. This encourages them to continue to spend and spend as their dopamine tolerance builds. This requires them to buy more until they get that addictive and feel-good sensation that dopamine brings them.
But that only really answers why people would continue to buy. It doesn’t answer what would bring people in in the first place.
And to better understand that, we simply need to look at a company who has boiled this down to basic math. A company who has been doing this since 1998 and exploded in 2005:
Funko LLC, the company behind Pop! Figures.
To better understand how this company grew so quickly, it’s important to understand Funko first. Starting out in 1998, Funko was run by Mike Becker out of his home in Snohomish, Washington.
He created bobbleheads at the time.
But the company started to change drastically around 2005 when Becker sold the company to its current CEO, Brian Mariotti. He relocated the main office to Lynnwood, Washington, but also immediately expanded the business.
And that expansion was a very bold move. It moved away from bobbleheads (though they still make them today) to vinyl figurines. And it was quite easy, especially since the toy company signed licensing deals with many companies.
Some of these companies included Marvel, DC Comics, WWE, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, Lucasfilm, Disney, and HBO.
It was through those aggressive licensing signings where the Pop! Figures exploded. By 2012, the company made over $20 million dollars. And just last year, they recorded overall revenue was $516 million.
So clearly, people love these collectables.
Why Do We Collect?
As I mentioned above, many of us love the sheer sport of buying something unique. It makes us feel good. Not to mention, it might make us feel so good that we’ll buy more.
But digging more into human psychology, we can discover a few reasons why people buy collectables in the first place.
The first is simple: mere interest. From cards to figures, there is always a level of interest. I can speak from experience about both frogs, but also of Magic The Gathering cards.
For Magic, I’m interested in their arts, and interactions with other cards in the decks I play with my friends.
As for frogs, I’m always interested in the artwork and the overall uniqueness. Hence why I moved from stuffed figures (which are more generic in design) to a more refined taste for them.
But the other reason ties to a much deeper emotion:
You see, collections can get to a certain point that they fill an emotional gap.
And we can see that in even our early years on the planet. Our ancestors collected a lot of food as food at the time was safety. They wouldn’t have to worry if they had plenty of food. Nor would they have to hunt which was nice seeing as there was so much danger out there.
Another good example is money. We feel safer if we have a lot of money, while some of us can get into a depressive state if we lack it.
Collections serve as a way of soothing us. It’s a place where we can create a comfort zone. It can empower us and motivate us as well as bringing us great memories.
It brings nostalgia.
And that’s really where Pop! Figures come in. And why they are so popular in today’s world.
Why People Love These Figures
For sure some people develop OCD and compulsive behaviour for these figures. This is the case no matter what with any kind of collectable. However, for the hobbyist, these figures provide an outlet, a feel-good outlet.
Remember, Funko signed a licensing deal with a multitude of companies and these are companies brought us many great things.
Lucasfilm brought Star Wars.
Marvel brought The Avengers, Thanos, and Spider-Man.
Disney has Mickey Mouse, Huckleberry Hound, Goofy, and Donald.
And the list goes on.
Funko now has licensing rights to make these characters. These characters that we’ve grown up, seen on the big screen, and have become invested in their story.
Those characters can now be collected in the form of 3.75-inch tall squarehead-with-rounded-edge figures.
All standing in a neutral pose.
All for us.
Mariotti was smart with the tagline of the company:
Everyone is a fan of something.
And that’s absolutely true. There is bound to be a character that Funko has designed that you want. Whether you’re an avid fan of the company buying multiple figures, or you simply found one and want it.
Pop! Figures are relying on our nostalgia and how these characters made us feel when we first saw them. And that’s what captivates people. They remember those things because that’s how characters work in films and novels.
It’s designed for us to make an emotional connection with the characters. And that emotion is then manifested into one of these figures.
A figure you want to buy.
It’s as simple as that.