The Funko Phenomena

The Funko Phenomena

Think of this as an ode to Funko. Actually don't, because my bardic skills are quite lacking, but my love for (read: obsession with) Funko's pop culture collectibles ought to be quite clear soon enough. I first discovered the vinyl and plush figures three years ago at Fan Expo Canada when a few vendors lined a shelf

Think of this as an ode to Funko. Actually don’t, because my bardic skills are quite lacking, but my love for (read: obsession with) Funko’s pop culture collectibles ought to be quite clear soon enough.

I first discovered the vinyl and plush figures three years ago at Fan Expo Canada when a few vendors lined a shelf or two with them. I picked up a Garrus Vakarian (Mass Effect), Queen of Blades (Starcraft), Deadpool, Panthro (Thundercats), and an exclusive Stan Lee Funko, which I subsequently got signed by the man himself. He is the only one that remains in the box. All others are free to come alive and play together when the lights go out in my house (what did you think toys do at night?).

I knew from then that these collectibles were going to be a serious problem for me for two simple reasons: (1) They are adorable, and (2) I am an impulse shopper. So I made myself a rule: I’m only allowed to purchase one representative from each of my favourite creative properties. This has worked out with limited success for two simple reasons: (1) I like a lot of creative properties, and (2) Funko LLC keeps making more and more and more and more, and I neeeeeeds them all….

Wendy Browne's bookshelf

Can you spot all the Funkos?

Furthermore, my daughters (ages 10 and 7) now have collections of their own, but the youngest refuses to accept my rules. Consequently, when I got her Maria from The Book of Life, she demanded to know where the others were. I found them and ended up paying three times as much for La Muerte. Lesson learned for when I bought her the Inside Out figures this past Christmas.

These are, obviously, collectors items, and, while I happily unbox them, there are many who keep them safe and pristine in order to secure their potential value. At about ten dollars a pop, they are an easy-on-the-wallet purchase, but any number of factors can increase their value. The tragic death of Robin Williams stalled my plans to get the Genie figure. Whether or not a particular figure is still in production will affect the value, as will the variant and exclusive versions. Many exclusives first started appearing within Loot Crates. Now that such subscription boxes have caught on, Funko LLC has teamed up with Marvel and with DC to stock their respective Collector Corps and Legion of Collectors boxes, as well as the Star Wars Smuggler’s Bounty box.

While I worship the Storm statues from Sideshow Collectibles that sits on my desk and would love to have her joined by Jean Grey and Emma Frost, their purchase prices are a bit cost prohibitive. Moreover, it’s not very easy for my kids to take those statues to school for show and tell, and I have no place for them at my office. But Funko figures are bite size and inexpensive, making them the perfect collector’s piece, which is exactly why the company was created by T-shirt designer and toy enthusiast Mike Becker in 1998. It became an opportunity for him to revive his favourite brands while enjoying new ones.

The company was purchased in 2005 by Brian Mariotti and now boasts annual revenues of approximately $40 million and over 180 unique licenses, including the soon-to-be-introduced Barbie-based series. If there’s something you love, whether current or past, there’s a good chance there’s an adorable 3.75 inch figure that represents it. And if you’re friends with me, there’s a good chance you’ll be getting one for Christmas or birthdays (my friends recently unwrapped a Cthulu, a Dawn of Justice Wonder Woman, a Hannibal Lecter, and a signed Agent Carter). They are “a gateway drug for collectibles,” says Mariotti, and he could not be more accurate.

The company has various styles of collectibles, including plush toys, action figures reminiscent of the old school Kenner toys,  the new Rock Candy series, but the POP! Vinyl figures (my favourite) and accessories—which include pen toppers, keychains, mugs, pins, t-shirts, and more—make up about $28 million of those annual sales figures. The POP! Vinyl template is pretty simple and consistent: a big, squared head with round (usually) black eyes, a teeny tiny nose, and possibly a mouth hovering (sometimes bobbling) over a tiny body. There is some variation to this depending on the character, but nothing strays too far from the familiar theme. What makes them so special is that each figure is meant to capture the elements that make the particular character unique. This could be Wash (Firefly) holding a toy dinosaur, or Alison Hendrix (Orphan Black) looking particularly soccer mom, or Jack Skellington’s (A Nightmare Before Christmas) pinstripe suit, or Hershel (The Walking Dead) with a missing leg and removable head, or Walter White (Breaking Bad) in his tighty whities, or Leeloo Dallas (Fifth Element) mooltipass!, or Aquaman sporting Jason Momoa’s eyebrow notch and moles. The celebrity aspect certainly helps with their sales, I’m sure, especially when it’s so easy to grab a box from a nearby vendor and get it signed right then and there at a convention. And the celebrities themselves seem to really enjoy the figures as well. You know you’ve made it when…

Ming Na Wen shows off her Funko collection

So, how does the company determine what their next “thing” will be? The fans, of course, but the focus is not just on what is hot now. Funko LLC still adheres to its founder’s desire to dip into nostalgia, as well as current trends. This is why you’ll find everything from classic monster movies to the latest Star Wars film and everything in between, including Disney, sports, and cartoons old and new

I was pleasantly surprised to discover their Saved by the Bell figures (Amazon should be delivering my AC Slater any day now, along with TMNT‘s Raphael and Star Wars‘ Kylo Ren) and have not yet decided which Friend will adorn my shelf (probably Monica Geller). The list goes on …. and yet, there are still so many more to come (Dear Funko—could I please have Bubblegum Crisis and Babylon 5? Pleeeease?)

World of Pop! vol3 by FunkoIf you aren’t sold by now, then I dare you to scroll through Funko’s collection of over 3,000 figures or flip through the pages of the four volumes of World of Pop! collector books and not find something that strikes your fancy and/or tickles your nostalgia bone. While you do that, I’ll be over here checking out the Sailor Moon set for my kids (I’m keeping Tuxedo Mask for myself), Dom and his Charger (Fast and the Furious), Captain Marvel, Dany riding Drogon (Game of Thrones), and—wait is that Wonder Woman in her invisible jet? Are those the new Ghostbusters??? Am I finally getting a Falcon and … and is he actually flying???? HOLY SHIT IS THAT VOLTRON???????!!!!?

Wendy Browne

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