Auction Watch #192

The world of M.U.S.C.L.E. auctions on eBay is forever fascinating. After, at least, 15 years of watching M.U.S.C.L.E. auctions I firmly believe we’ve entered a new phase of eBay auctions. There used to be a predictable ebb and flow of M.U.S.C.L.E. prices. The per-figure-price would start to climb over $1 per figure and then drop back down to the “normal” $0.50 per figure. This pattern held steady for years and years with the occasional M.U.S.C.L.E. Rule of Two (MRT) playing the key role in the price of an auction.

Then in early 2013 there appeared to be an impending bottleneck approaching for M.U.S.C.L.E. collectors. I believe the bottleneck has finally happened. It has become the rule when looking at M.U.S.C.L.E. auctions.

But something happened that I didn’t expect. There are unpredictable and wonderful exceptions to the rule. I don’t know what to call these exceptions, but let me share a pair of examples.

The first auction, 1983 Muscle Wrestlers Empty Pack Very Rare, is a perfect example of the new bottleneck norm.

The seller has an empty 4-pack with the bubble still partially attached. M.U.S.C.L.E. collectors, myself included, have always stated that it can be hard to throw away pieces like this one. But the same collectors would also admit that they aren’t worth anything.

This seller has a $5 BIN for the worthless item – plus $6.70 for shipping! That’s almost $12 for something collectors would argue is worthless. If the seller had a $0.99 opening bid, then maybe it would sell. Maybe. But until that happens the empty 4-pack is a perfect example of the new bottleneck norm.

The second auction, Greek Battle Beasts Exogini M.U.S.C.L.E. Men lot of 7 boxes in great shape, isn’t a M.U.S.C.L.E. auction but illustrates how an auction can be an exception to the bottleneck rule.

This is a lot of seven boxes, not just one single box. Instead of arbitrarily declaring a price/value, the seller is going to let the buyers decide. The auction is starting at $0.99 and has cheaper shipping ($6 shipping) than the previous auction.

I’ve said this ad nauseum, but I’ll repeat it yet again. I believe when sellers set outrageously high prices it comes from fear. They fear not getting “what they deserve.” And that isn’t limited to the price they deserve. I believe they place a subconscious value on the price they set. Getting their set price validates their self-worth and expertise. That is why it is many sellers argue and dispute logical arguments about price. Admitting an error or inaccuracy means they aren’t as wonderful and perfect as they previously believed.

Before moving on to the third auction, it’s worth noting that the previous seller also has a second auction of boxes also with a $0.99 opening bid. If he listed these auctions based on fear, then he would have held back the second auction until the first was over.

“But that’s just good auction strategy.”

It is, if you’re afraid you won’t get what you believe the item is worth. If you are fearless, then you just list them and let the market decide.

The third auction, 196 M.U.S.C.L.E. MUSCLE MEN Lot + Poster + No Duplicates = Awesome, is another bottleneck example. I believe this is a bottleneck for two reasons: (1) unattractive price; and (2) limited buying audience.

The $229.99 BIN, ignoring the poster, would be $1.73 per figure. A very unattractive price for a lot of Flesh figures. M.U.S.C.L.E. posters have, at least, some value in any condition. Poster condition plays a critical role in the final price of any poster. This poster appears to be in fair/fine condition. It is certainly not in a condition that would demand a premium price.

An overly generous estimate for this poster could be $40. That leaves the 196 with a $0.97 per figure price. Neither of these prices are terribly attractive.

It becomes almost impossible to sell this lot because the seller must find the perfect buyer. The buyer must want a large lot of Flesh figures and a poster in fair/fine condition and be willing to overspend on both.

As two separate lots (a Flesh lot and a poster lot) the audience increases dramatically. With the larger audience, it may be easier to find buyers willing to spend $40 on a poster or pay $0.97 per Flesh figure. It still isn’t an easy sale; which still results in a bottleneck.

The fourth auction, MATTEL VINTAGE M.U.S.C.L.E MEN FIGURES LOT GUC, is another great exception to the new rule.

The lot of 28 figures has a starting bid of $2.99. That’s $0.11 per figure.

The fourth lot is not original M.U.S.C.L.E. figures. Instead it is a lot of counterfeit figures. But at $0.11 per figure it opens the door to a huge M.U.S.C.L.E. audience. Collectors looking for a few counterfeit figures have the opportunity to pick up a few for their collection and have a few extras to trade away too.

It could be argued that there are not any exceptions to the new bottleneck rule. The two examples are not authentic M.U.S.C.L.E. items. However, they serve as solid representative examples of the occasional exceptions. The ebb and flow will never return, but hopefully the exceptions to the rule become regular allowances.

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