Will this be an ongoing feature? I hope so. It is literally up to you.
I genuinely hope M.U.S.C.L.E. collectors participate in the Sunday Paper. It’s not too often that crazy M.U.S.C.L.E. collectors can speak exclusively to other crazy M.U.S.C.L.E. collectors.
ADVANCED ECONOMICS – THE SUGARPAPPY AUCTIONS
The past few weeks we as M.U.S.C.L.E. collectors have watched and enjoyed one of the most interesting moments in high end collecting in recent memory: The Sugarpappy Auction Saga.
The Sugarpappy auctions are fascinating because they provide M.U.S.C.L.E. collectors with an observable snapshot of what is going on in the world of collecting Class A figures on a fairly large scale: 12 auctions ending in the span of 14 days.
ADVANCED SELLING TECHNIQUES
Essentially, what has occurred is that an eBay user has facilitated all of the criteria for great Class A M.U.S.C.L.E. auctions on a very large scale.
These auctions put all of the following pieces into play:
1. Highly desirable figures.
2. Auction format with $0.99 starting bid.
3. Several auctions all ending at the same time.
4. Great promotion, description, and photographs.
The seller has clearly done his homework, knows what he has, and has taken all of the right steps to sell and has been rewarded with very impressive sale prices on his figures. I would suggest that following this specific model is the best way to achieve the highest sale prices for Class A figures on the eBay market.
I think it is important to note that doing all of these selling techniques in concert and doing them well has really helped the overall ending prices of his auctions.
Highly Desirable Figures: I will talk a more about the specific figures later. However, having figures that people are actively looking for and want to collect helps with high ending prices!
Auction Format with $0.99 Starting Bid: Starting the price low gets the most people involved in the bidding process. When one starts the auction at a very high price it eliminates potential bidders right from the start because there is no illusion of getting a good deal. However, when people see a low price on something they’d like to own they become emotionally invested in winning. As irrational as it may be, people sometimes perceive being outbid as being beaten or losing which makes them more likely to bid more in the long run. Getting people involved in the process will earn you more in the long run.
Several Auctions All Ending At the Same Time: Because there were several auctions all ending at the same time it increases the likelihood that more people will be tuned in and bidding at the last minute. Having more people incentivised to be online bidding auctions at the last minute because there are all several auctions ending within the same hour dramatically increases selling prices.
Great Promotion, Descriptions, and Photographs: The seller also did a great job of getting the word out to the M.U.S.C.L.E. community via message boards like LRG. Everybody that I know in the M.U.S.C.L.E. community knew about these auctions and was watching them with a sense of excitement and anticipation. He got people interested and involved. Also, the great descriptions, photos, and community outreach creates a sense of confidence for bidders. People are much more likely to loosen their pursestrings when they are confident the item they are bidding on will be exactly what they expect.
SHOCKING ENDING PRICES?
Let’s go through the auctions and take a look at what sold and how much it sold for and see if we can’t draw some conclusions about what this may mean for us Class A chasers.
Let’s walk through the first batch of auctions that ended the week before last:
179M BLACK BUFFALO – $72.00 USD
086B DE BELLMAN – $46.00 USD
082LB RAMENMAN – $56.00 USD
109S ASHURAMAN NO CHICHI – $78.00 USD
050G – HAWKMAN – $73.00 USD
$179S – BLACK BUFFALO – $1.00 USD
The first trend that I’d like to point out is that the ending prices of these figures are much higher than I would typically expect them to end for in an auction and are much closer to what I’d expect these figures to sell for in a collector-to-collector marketplace.
There is a fairly robust collecting community for M.U.S.C.L.E. figures and a particular niche of these collectors who focus on working on Master Sets (every poster figure in every possible color). There is certainly an element of friendship and goodwill among many collectors but typically speaking a sale of one figure between two collectors will typically result in a sale price greater than what one would typically expect a figure to sell for in an Ebay auction.
There are a number of reasons for this.
1. Class A figures are typically difficult to come across and collectors don’t typically want to give them up cheaply — since, they appreciate them as collectible objects and understand the general “worth” of these figures.
2. Most Class A figures are acquired from eBay in the first place and so in order to give up a figure that a collector purchased they typically want to make a little something on the transaction. As a collector, one doesn’t want to sell a figure to another collector for less than they paid for it in the first place or less than they might get on the open eBay market.
Knowledgeable collectors tend to get a feel for which figures are most desirable and which Class A figures tend to be more scarce as they get deeper into their collecting journey.
There are generally two categories that influence perceptions of price when valuing Class A figures:
1. Desirability of the sculpt.
2. Perceived scarcity of the figure.
These factors fall into a basic understanding of supply and demand. The more scarce and popular a figure is perceived to be the lower the supply and the higher the demand.
It is important to note that both of these factors are to some degree “subjective.” There is no exact science to knowing which figures are most desirable or most scarce AND the data that we can observe can change depending on the tastes and perceptions of the collecting community.
For instance, it is a widely believed fact (one of my favorite Futurama quotes!) that the Claw and Sunshine are the most desirable sculpts in M.U.S.C.L.E. collecting and I believe that observation to be fairly true. However, there was a time when the Mito sculpts were much, much more popular than they appear to be today among collectors and commanded higher premiums.
There was also a time when people believe the Purple Claw was one of the “most rare” figures and we now know that isn’t true either. It may be the most popular or most in demand but it is certainly not the most rare. So, tastes and what we know are all subject to change as collectors continue to delve into the hobby and learn more about the figures that exist over time.
Knowing which Class A figures are believed to be more or less uncommon than others is kind of a niche skill that a collector develops over time and there is no exact science. My approach to learning about the rarity of figures has always been to learn which groups of Class A figures share the same tree groupings and to roughly keep track of how often figures from each tree grouping appear for sale on eBay over a long period of time.
It is worth noting that the figures from Trees that are observed to be the “most uncommon” tend to fetch the highest prices because they attract Master Set collectors who tend to only need the most difficult to find figures and pit them against one another.
Albeit, which Class A figures have sold on eBay over the course of a five year span is a microcosm of the total figures that exist in the world, it does provide valuable insight into what has been available for purchase and does shed some light on what the larger whole of the M.U.S.C.L.E. pool may look like.
In the first wave of figures we have a mix of figures with varying degrees of popularity and scarcity.
The three figures that sold in the $70-80 range (179M, 109S, 050G) are in my opinion the most difficult figures of the batch to acquire and the most popular sculpts. I’m not at all surprised to see these three figures as the top earners.
I am also not surprised to see them selling in the $75.00 range in the slightest. In fact, these particular price tags are exactly what I’d expect (and have observed first hand) that these figures tend to sell for in the collector-to-collector marketplace.
The only surprising factor is to see the eBay market directly reflecting my impression of the collector market (since figures tend to sell below these prices on eBay). The fact of the matter is that Sugarpappy did a good enough job of getting enough people involved in bidding that he basically got high end prices for his figures on eBay. So, kudos to him!
The figures that ended in the $50 range (086B and 082LB) are far more common and less desirable sculpts than the ones that hit the higher tier, which is reflected in their lower price tags. The Dark Blue 28pack figures are one of the more common groupings of Class A figures and all of the Light Blue figures tend to show up in decent quantities.
I don’t mean to undersell how uncommon any Class A figure is (as they are all challenging to find) however relative to other more difficult Class A figures to track down some groupings are much, much more common than others.
Last but certainly least…
The 179S figure closed out at a buck… Poor 179S is the whipping boy of the Class A figures. Personally, I really enjoy 179 as a figure and think it looks pretty cool in Salmon but it is a known commodity that this particular figure is one of the most common Class A figures in existence. There are a lot of figures from this tree known to exist and they appear to show up from in auctions from all over the USA and UK as well as Canada.
He technically has Class A status but most collectors tend to think of him as either the most lowly Class A or just a glorified Class B figure. If you needed any confirmation that not all Class A figures are created or sold equal here is your evidence! Most of the collectors spending premium buckaroos on Class A figures know the difference between which figures are highly prized and which ones are fairly easy to acquire and the end prices reflect these attitudes.
M.U.S.C.L.E. II: THE NEW BATCH
125R – BUKA (A) – $236 USD
113S – KINNIKUMAN SUPER PHOENIX – $114.00 USD
145P – BLACK TOMAHAWK – $108.00 USD
182G – MYSTERY PARTNER – $136.00 USD
177S – ASHURAMAN 4-ARMS – $147.00 USD
036LB – KINTOMAN (SKELETON) $145.00 USD
A few general notes before we get started at delving into these auctions:
One thing I noticed in both sets of auctions was that the prices seemed to creep up with regard to my expected ending price the later an auction ended within each batch. The first two auctions always ended slightly lower than I expected them to and the last four always ended a bit higher than I expected them to.
One possible reason for this phenomenon is that people were less willing to put in higher bids on the first auction because they were still planning on bidding subsequent auctions. As it became clear that bidders didn’t win the first couple of auctions they were willing to commit more money to the last auctions because A. They wanted to win something! B. They didn’t win the first auctions and thus had more funds to commit.
Anyways, by far the most interesting, desirable, and rare figure (at least by my estimation) in this lot of figure is the 125R figure which fetched a whopping $236.00 price.
Figures from this grouping of red figures don’t show up very often and so there is always a solid demand for them when they do. The $200-$250 price tag seems pretty standard for figures from this tree as far as I’ve observed in open eBay auctions.
I’ve heard stories of these figures selling for a wide range of prices in the collector-to-collector market but it is impossible to ever actually confirm these transactions as fact or fiction. My belief is that these figures are worth whatever the highest bidder is willing to pay at any given time, however I’ve seen three sell in open auctions and all went for around $250.00.
The trend of the rest of the auctions from this batch is that they all sold higher than I would expect them to sell — not only in an eBay auction — but at a premium in a collector-to-collector deal!
Sugarpappy’s hard work and solid tactics to get people involved, interested, and most importantly bidding really paid off in spades!
The figure that I’d estimate to be the most uncommon of the remaining four figures actually ended at the lowest price of the bunch, 145P. Typically, I don’t think that Purple Class A figures are particularly uncommon as far as Class A figures go, but the Part 9 Tree 1 figures (019P, 143P, 145P, and 157P) tend be be pretty difficult to find.
I’m also a pretty big fan of the sculpt as well. The figure is pure action and quite sharp especially in purple and all of the figures with weapons tend to be fairly popular. I predicted this figure in this high profile auction to hit $100.
I wasn’t at all surprised to see the 113S Super Phoenix at slightly over $100. It seems like every single time I hear about this figure for sale or selling in a collector to collector deal the price is always right around $100. The Phoenix / Kinnikuman figures also appeal to a certain group of collectors (particularly fans of the manga). It’s a fairly uncommon figure and looks quite sharp in bright, clean Salmon.
So far so good. Everything ended up right about where I’d expect figures to end up around. Sure, these prices seem higher than typical on eBay but our seller has done a heck of a job promoting and putting out a quality product and there is enough interest to get premium collector-to-collector prices…
Then things went crazy…
077S – $147
182G – $136
036LB – $145
These figures at these prices surprised even me (an individual who tends to embrace elements of high end Class A collecting).
All three of these figures ended significantly higher than I’ve ever seen these types of figures end for even in collector-to-collector type settings. My expectation for these figures is that they tend to float around in the $60-$75 range.
As a point of reference, the 077S sold for nearly $150 which is twice as much as its same tree counterpart 109S ($78) sold for the week previous! Keep in mind that these are both Ashuraman sculpts from the same tree (implying similar rarity) AND the 109 sculpt is typically found to be the more desirable Ashuraman sculpt.
Of course, “desirability” is a subjective term and perhaps we hit a unique moment in time where two big fans of the 4-arm Ashuraman sculpt got into a MRT bidding war. Nonetheless, the end result was surprising and fascinating!
The 182G figure went for $136 nearly twice as much as the 050G Hawkman figure ($70) the week previous and my observation is that the Hawkman figure is from a more difficult to find Green grouping of figures. Perhaps the Mystery Partner is a more desirable sculpt than Hawkman? Maybe two Mystery Partner collectors? Maybe two people who just really wanted the same figure?
The last figure in the group of figures with ending prices that surprised me was the 036LB Skeleton figure selling for nearly $150. I’ve never seen or heard of this figure ever hitting these kinds of heights before which is an interesting moment in M.U.S.C.L.E. collecting. As a point of reference I acquired my 036LB Skeleton two weeks ago in an eBay auction for $40.00 USD in a lot of 10.
That is literally three times the final ending price in an auction and mine came with 9 other figures! Once again, from everything I’ve observed I believe that all of the LB Class A figures tend to be on more common half of Class A figures — but I certainly acknowledge that popular sculpts play a big role in dictating price.
The Skeleton guy is without a doubt a popular and beloved figure. He’s one of the premier villains in the comic series and he’s a skeleton guy (and, people looooove skeletons).
I think maybe there is also an element of people who didn’t win the first three auctions bidding even more aggressively on the last three auctions to win at least one auction from the batch. Nobody wants to go away from the party empty handed!
FINAL ANALYSIS OF AUCTIONS
If we look at the Sugarpappy auctions we can draw some conclusions and create some narratives about what we are looking at.
Firstly, we can see that when sellers do a top rate job of creating exciting, well promoted, and desirable auctions that the M.U.S.C.L.E. community of high end collectors will respond and bring the $ to the party.
It looks like enthusiasm has grown and gathered momentum from the first auction to the second and I’m very interested to see how it will carry over in the third wave of Sunshine and Mammoth Man auctions. These figures are all pretty popular sculpts (especially the Mammoth Man which looks absurdly gorgeous in Green!) and I’m curious if this upward Class A price creep will continue on into the third wave.
Another subjective observation that I think plays a part to some degree in these auctions is that there is a new and highly enthusiastic group of M.U.S.C.L.E. collectors who have been very active in bidding eBay auctions. Generally speaking, this is a great thing for the collectible hobby and demonstrates the overall health of the hobby.
However, new and enthusiastic collectors are also a real monkey wrench when it comes to predicting final prices of auctions! It isn’t a bad thing at all and in fact it is something I embrace and adore about the hobby.
The genuine “true passion” of new M.U.S.C.L.E. collectors is a ton of fun. I remember when I was new to the hobby I had no idea which Class A were more or less rare than others. I just wanted the sculpts that were my favorites in the colors that I thought looked sweet. My bidding strategy was to bid a random amount based on no information and see if I won!
With that being said newer collectors do tend to be more enthusiastic and less informed about what things have tended to sell for in the past and could also be an indicator of some of these higher prices.
One indicator that stands out to me is that many of the “more uncommon” figures sold for significantly less than figures that were “more common.”
No intended disrespect to new collectors at all. Everybody does this to some extent when they first get “M.U.S.C.L.E. Fever.” I just think it is helpful to point out in constructing a narrative about how these prices ended up coming into being.
I’ve always felt that there was some degree of a baseline in M.U.S.C.L.E. Class A prices. There are trends that tend to hold up as a general rule over time. However, one of the cool things about M.U.S.C.L.E. collecting is that there is always some degree of mystery and intrigue involved. You never really know what something will end up selling for in an auction until the final second has ticked completely away and everybody places largely subjective values upon what any given figure is worth at any given time.
The biggest question that these auctions raise is whether or not these collector-to-collector type prices will hold up as the norm in eBay auctions or not. Will the collector-to-collector type prices increase to reflect the rising eBay prices? Or, is this just a case of a series of really well put together auctions doing extremely well in a favorable market?
Only time will tell. However, I can tell you one thing for certain… If I were an informed seller I would certainly pay attention to the steps that Sugarpappy took to put together an A+ product and follow them 100%. As it turns out, putting on high quality auctions does net higher prices!
Tarmogoyf on LRG (hit me up anytime to talk M.U.S.C.L.E.)
Tweet at me: Briandemars1 on Twitter.
Whoa. Are you still here?
That was a lot of words.
I certainly agree with the main points: (1) start your auctions at $0.99; (2) run a good auction; and (3) those figures sold for more than most people would have probably expected.
What do you guys think?
If you want to write something for the Sunday Paper (and it doesn’t need to be this long), then please email UofMUSCLE@gmail.com with your article. The post introducing the Sunday Paper idea has more details and guidelines, but feel free to email me with any questions.
Thanks again to Brian DeMars!