Monday, January 11, 2016

Why I Quit Collecting Toys – Masters of the Universe Classics

The last time one of my posts had that tile it was about Star Wars toys. In it, I was hilariously wrong about many things, including the pricing on what was then the upcoming Force Awakens line. I was also wrong in thinking that I might be done collecting Star Wars toys. Sort of.

That’s a post for another day.

Today I’m going to talk about a line that has dominated my collecting for the past five years. It’s filled my shelves and emptied my wallet. It’s had ups and downs and has been the source of much frustration and a decent amount of… not quite joy, but certainly satisfaction.
I’m going to talk about how and why I quit collecting Mattel’s Masters of the Universe Classics line just four figures shy of “the end”.


To date, I estimate that I bought roughly $1330 worth of action figures that I would not have purchased if this was a normal retail line that I had been picking and choosing like I normally do. I know that sounds absolutely fucking nuts, and it totally is.

And that’s not even including the shipping, which I am not going to tell you about.

In my defense, that number includes all of the toys that I wouldn’t have bought but that I did end up liking. I ran down the list of releases and picked out every figure I’ve had to buy since I first subscribed in 2011 that I wouldn’t have bought if it had just been on a peg in a store. Of course, if anything from this line had been on a peg at a store for the prices that Mattycollector.com was charging I wouldn’t have bought any of them at all.

I can’t explain how I got so caught up in this line. It started with Scareglow. The new He-Man line had caught my eye, but as much as Masters of the Universe had been a part of my youth, it was never one of my big things. I liked the look and style of these new figures, but these just weren’t characters I needed. Until I saw that beautiful glow-in-the-dark skeleton man. If Matty had waited any longer to produce Scareglow, I might not have all of the Classics toys that I own today. He was my gateway drug. I had to have him. And of course, once I got the figure in my hand I was elated at how great the articulation and sculpt were. It’s hard to remember the excitement I felt then after five years of buying essentially the exact same figure, but I know that I was blown away by Scareglow.

So much so that when Matty offered Skeletor again in 2010, I bought one. And that’s where they got me. Because then there was Trap-Jaw and Moss Man and Evil-Lynn and Optikk and this amazing run of figures. 2010 was an almost perfect year of Masters of the Universe Classics figures. I was cherry picking at the time – only buying the ones I wanted – and out of the twenty-two characters that were offered I own sixteen and am still looking for two (Wun-Dar and Battle Armor He-Man). I spent the entire year waiting for Matty sales and hoping desperately that they wouldn’t sell out of the figures I wanted.

At the time I suspected that the sellouts were all a clever marketing scheme to pressure people into subscribing. In retrospect, I am positive that this was the case. Every one of those figures that “sold out” so quickly was at some point offered for sale again on the site. I couldn’t have known that at the time, though, and so I fell for their scam and subscribed in 2011. I was tired of the sales and the frustration of logging onto Matty. Everything I had bought so far had been so good that I had no doubts the line would continue to delight me.

Ha. Ha.

To be fair, 2011 was another great year. If it hadn’t been, I probably wouldn’t have resubbed in 2012. There were twenty-one figures in the sub. There were six I didn’t want, but I ended up happy with four of those anyway. Clawful and Snout Spout were the losers. Both figures had terrible heads and Snout Spout is still a low point of the line in my opinion, though he was significantly improved by his 200X head.

So Scareglow was my gateway figure, the 2010 collection was my sign that the line was strong, and the 2011 sub was confirmation that subbing was the way to go.
It was all downhill from there.

While the bulk of the 2012 subscription figures were still solid, Matty kicked the year off with the Star Sisters 3-pack. It was something that very few people actually seemed to want. The execution was fine, but the choice was iffy. The year was also oversaturated with product. In addition to the twenty-two club figures we also saw six Thirtieth Anniversary figures that, in retrospect, were completely insane to buy and four non-sub items that were mostly okay.
2013 was the beginning of the true decline. In retrospect, there were only four out of the total twenty-eight figures that I consider must-haves. Some of the rest are nice and some are turds. But this was the year that I really started to think, “What the fuck am I doing here?”

The following year was actually better, partly because there was what I personally feel was a more interesting selection of characters, but also because I didn’t subscribe to the Princess of Power sub-line. I think that I had seriously considered not subscribing in 2014, and I know that I had no intention of purchasing the 2015 subscription. As far as I was concerned, I was done with the line.

But then San Diego Comic Con arrived and Matty gave me many reasons to hang in there. First they announced that 2015 would be the final year of Masters of the Universe Classics. With the end so near, how could I drop the line now? Second, they showed some truly awesome figures. The assortment that was revealed was the most exciting since 2010 and they were at long last delivering a character that I had been waiting for – Oo-Lar! Finally, at some point it was announced that Scott Nietlich – or Toy Guru – was leaving Mattel.

Let me be clear – if it wasn’t for Scott Nietlich, the Masters of the Universe Classics line never would have happened. He was solely responsible for getting the line started, for recruiting the Four Horsemen to work on it, and for the level of communication that the customers (not fans; customers) had with the company. While the interaction was not always satisfactory and was sometimes deceitful or even inflammatory, it was there. And not many toy companies have ever kept fans as informed as Nietlich did.

As the head of the brand, however, there is no doubt that Nietlich was responsible for some of the greatest travesties the Classics line presented – poor quality control, questionable character selection, reprehensible customer service, and downright rapacious shipping fees that paid for the most inefficient shipping I have ever experienced. The number of times I felt outright disgust with one of these factors is unacceptable, and I think that I was one of the lucky ones. I never had an issue so bad that I had to return product or make multiple calls to the so-called customer service department.

Despite feeling like 2015 was the end of the line, I subscribed to next year’s Collector’s Choice line. It was only six figures and two beasts, they dropped the prices, and the three figures shown looked awesome. Plus, for the first time ever Matty actually announced every figure in the sub. There would be no wondering about who was coming and every character announced seemed like a winner. I can’t say I was one hundred percent certain I should be subscribing, but I definitely felt better about it than I had the past two years. It felt more like a choice (a Collector’s Choice!) than an obligation.

Side Note: I did not subscribe to the Filmation sub. As much as I love the look and style of the figures, they are an entirely different collection and I simply can’t start collecting a whole new He-Man line. I will buy Trap-Jaw, though.

Back in October I started planning out finances for Christmas and the rest of the end of the year activities. I was in good shape, but one thing kept sticking in my craw – all of that money that was going to go out in the second week of December for four Masters of the Universe Classics figures that I essentially did not want. And certainly didn’t need. I was ready to make the break.

The credit card that was on file with Matty had a bad strip that wasn’t going to get any better. I decided it was time to order that replacement card, knowing that the number and expiration date would change. As soon as I heard the confirmation that my old card was deactivated and that my new card was on the way, I felt great. A few weeks later I got an e-mail from Matty to let me know that subscriptions were renewing and to update my payment information if need be. I laughed to myself, knowing what was going to happen. A week or so after that I received the e-mail stating that they had been unable to renew my subs and that I needed to act now if I wanted to continue receiving my figures!

It’s done. I’m done.

I recently gave Battle Armor Faker to my friend Beau because, as you know if you’ve been with the site for long, he adores Masters of the Universe Classics. It’s not that I don’t like that figure, but it was the only one that Beau didn’t have and it meant more to him than it did to me. I didn’t cry over it, I didn’t despair. I don’t feel like there’s a hole in my collection. I have a feeling I’m going to be reducing the size of my Classics collection over the next few months. I’ve been trying to figure out how to make some room for my 200X figures and getting rid of some less desirable Classics seems like a good way to do that.

If you take anything away from this, I hope that it’s to give thought to your collectibles. Try not to buy stuff out of habit. Try not to let yourself get worked up over the possibility of not owning a thing. Just the other day I was out with my family and there was a figure or toy or something that I wanted to buy. I picked it up and carried it around for a while, but eventually put it back. I realized that while it was cool and that in that moment I would like to own it, in the long run it wouldn’t really make any difference in my life if I had it or not. I put it back and as of right now I can’t even remember what it was, this thing that I was probably about to spend twenty bucks on.

That’s the story of how I got into and out of Masters of the Universe Classics. I’m sure I’ll return to the “Why I Quit” theme sooner or later, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, if you enjoyed this post and have a story of your own, join the Needless Things Podcast Facebook Group and get in on the conversation.

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