When I created the classifications I never imagined they would become so popular and so ingrained in the hobby. But when I created that guide, I also felt that the Non-Poster figures needed further classification too. It seemed crazy to me that Satan Cross, Spinning Head Ashurman (SHA), and Prism Man could all be discussed as homogenous Non-Poster figures. I thought assigning Alpha, Beta, and Gamma designations would make conversations easier and help novice collectors quickly catch-up to the experience of longtime collectors.
If I underestimated the popularity of Classes (A, B, and C), then I vastly overestimated the popularity of Non-Poster classification. I looked through old Alpha auctions in Auction Watch, and only the example of the Alpha-usage was an auction I listed for someone else.
With many years to look back on Alpha, Beta, and Gamma (plus a very recent Auction Watch search) I fully understand why the terms were not embraced like the Classes. The labels don’t make the figures more special. In fact, the labels detract from the illustriousness of the figures. Most people will never have an Alpha or Beta figure, but Gamma figures are the Non-Poster figures for everyone. People don’t want a “lesser” Non-Poster figure.There is another, even more sinister, reason the labels did not become more entrenched. They do not help to overly inflate the sales price like the Classes have managed to do. Alpha figures do not need any special labels. The only people that care about them are hardcore M.U.S.C.L.E. collectors. Those figures are so iconic that an auction title could simply state, “One M.U.S.C.L.E. Figure.”
M.U.S.C.L.E. collectors would quickly discover the auction and manic bidding would instantly follow. Would the same be true for Beta figures? Probably to a much lesser degree. Even a frugal collector like me would spend $500 on an Alpha figure (maybe), but I would never consider it for a Beta like SHA (which is happening right now).
The Beta Non-Poster figures are popular and desirable, but longtime collectors know there are more of those floating around. Not as many as a Satan Cross, but 10,000% more than Prism Man. So when these Beta figures are occasionally sold it does not help the final sales price if they are “downgraded” Non-Poster figures. Non-Poster and “Super Rare” are legacy terms that drive excitement and significantly help raise the final sale price. The same is true with Gamma figures – especially Satan Cross.Speaking of Satan Cross, five years ago there was an awesome Satan Cross auction. Well, there were actually two. The first auction ended “mysteriously.” In the eBay world that usually means a offline, private sale happened.
But the second auction literally made me smile. I know that I’ve mentioned in Auction Watch and Epilogue how mixed lots used to have various brands of figures and start at a sane price. This is a great example. It is a pretty random lot of toys, plus it had a Satan Cross. Even more amazing the entire lot sold for $22.50.
I wish I saw more of these situations. I imagine someone nice scored the lot, but a total dickhead could have won. Either way I think these kinds of good events are really healthy for the M.U.S.C.L.E. hobby. I think the serve to encourage hope and optimism in collectors. That feels like a great antidote to the many ridiculous Class A auctions and BIN’s we see today.