Current prices, rarity & AFA
Many of you will have noticed that prices are rising in the Vintage world and while I have highlighted several crazy Trilogo auctions on Facebook and the forum recently, I felt my thoughts would reach more people if I actually wrote an article on the subject.
Current prices, perceived rarity and how AFA grading has changed the market over the years are all topics that I’m going to give my take on.
I’m going to try and provide a more accurate look at the Trilogo market, talk about why I feel prices are increasing and also why sellers high prices are all of a sudden being met. I also want to try and give newcomers some advice that may influence their decisions on how much to spend on the Trilogos they purchase.
So, to start with I need to clear something up:
The majority of Trilogos are NOT rare!
It’s a bold statement of course and one you probably weren’t expecting. I’m sure some will even disagree with me but when you think about things, it’s actually very close to the truth.
Every single toy that was released in Trilogo packaging (with a handful of exceptions) was mass produced. There were literally hundreds of thousands of Trilogo figures, vehicles and playpacks made and many of those have survived unopened to this day.
Most carded figures are out there in abundance. Trust me. I’ve followed Trilogo figure auctions and sales closely for many years now and in that time I’ve seen multiples of every single figure in the set come up for sale, including Fett, Jawa, the Hybrids and even Madine.
If you exclude some genuinely hard to find variations, miscards or even the “big three” (The more costly Fett, Jawa & Madine) you soon realise that most Trilogo figures are actually pretty easy to obtain and don’t always warrant high prices.
As far as boxed items go, in the last few years all of the hard to find POTF Trilogo playpacks have come up for sale, as have the majority of the body rigs, creatures and smaller vehicles. Even the harder to find mini rigs like the MTV-7 and the ISP-6 show up a few times each year on average, so they are all out there.
The only exceptions to the above are the Trilogo X-wing and Y-wing fighters, you can read more about the reasons why here.
Now that I’ve dealt with the general rarity of Trilogos, I’d like to write about possibly the most important thing in collecting which is patience.
It’s a concept that unfortunately seems lost on many of the new generation of Vintage collectors because we live in a time where people are used to having what they want, when they want it.
There are however some very good reasons why more experienced collectors try and promote patience to newcomers.
When you take your time you not only save money but you build a much better appreciation for your collection and the items you own, you also learn that spending more than you need to is really not a viable way to collect.
Collecting is not a race, nor is it all about keeping up with the neighbours. The majority of older collectors will also tell you that the most enjoyment they get out of collecting is hunting down the items they need at reasonable prices, even if that takes years. So why would anyone want to rush?
We’ve covered the fact that Trilogos aren’t particularly rare so there is really no need to rush into purchases or set out to complete your collection as quick as possible.
You don’t need to jump on the first “rare” figures you see for sale, especially if they are costly. I can almost guarantee that you will get another chance and often at much better prices.
It’s no surprise that graded figures are almost always more expensive than ungraded equivalents, but the premium attached to a graded figure often goes way beyond the actual cost of grading and the nice acrylic case.
Grading and huge price increases go hand in hand and have done for years in many different hobbies.
The funny thing is that when they are starting out, most grading companies drum up support from collectors by setting out with a similar kind of message: “Grading helps provide peace of mind for buyers and collectors when purchasing collectibles”.
In actual fact, the reality is that once established, grading companies also end up helping sellers and dealers increase their profit margins too.
With that said, it’s no surprise that the main reason so many good conditioned toys are sent to AFA is simply to inflate the price they can then be sold for.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that they are being graded for preservation or even authentication purposes because in the majority of cases they aren’t.
I do understand that grading appeals to some collectors and if that is the case for you then I highly recommend you try and buy your figures ungraded and then submit them yourself. The cost of grading is usually significantly less than the premium you can expect to pay someone else for a graded figure.
AFA population reports
The AFA population report (for those that aren’t aware) is simply a database that holds information on all of the figures that AFA have graded and the grades that they received. It does not indicate how many figures are actually out there or the condition they are in.
Some sellers routinely use the information from the AFA pop report to make their items seem more appealing. In fact, in some cases the aim is to make them appear even rarer than they actually are.
This is just a sales technique and nothing more, the aim is just to find that one uneducated buyer with deep pockets that will sadly believe everything they read in the auction description.
The auction below is a good example of this practice (notice the figure is referred to as the “only one in existence, a holy grail!“).
I can assure you that there are plenty of TIE pilot Trilogos out there, some probably just as nice as an AFA 85 but more importantly they won’t cost you anywhere near the asking price of the one shown.
It’s important to note that the grades AFA give to toys are totally subjective. They are the opinion of a grader (or multiple graders) and nothing more. There have even been cases where a lower grade toy, was resubmitted, then came back with a higher grade than before.
If grades can go up from one day to the next on the same exact toy then the reverse could also be possible.
A high grade such as an 85 may well come back as an 80 if graded a second time so don’t put too much trust in either the population report or the grades that AFA give certain figures.
High grade Trilogos
Following on from the subject of AFA grades, I wanted to touch on the subject of condition.
Collectors have always sought out high grade toys which is perfectly fine, but it’s important for collectors to be a little more realistic when it comes to Trilogos.
Many Trilogos were routinely thrown in and out of bargain bins both in Europe and America. They usually have faults and issues due to being roughed about but actually, that’s part of their charm!
The slightly dog eared cards, price stickers and dented bubbles all tell a story and when collectors become more accepting of these (often unavoidable) condition issues they soon realise that they can actually save money by simply lowering their expectations a little.
An example of the price increase
While I was putting this article together I wanted find an example to sum up the state of the market right now. One that not only combined perceived rarity and high prices but also involved AFA too.
It just so happened that the best example I could find was a Trilogo figure that believe it or not collectors used to seek out as a “cheap” alternative to it’s much rarer POTF cousin.
That figure was Yak Face.
So, what’s a Trilogo Yak Face worth? Well, if you were to believe the prices in the auctions below then a Trilogo Yak Face is apparently worth anywhere from $1500-3000..
So that answers that question! Right? Well, actually no it doesn’t..
You see, Yak Face Trilogos in similar condition (albeit ungraded) regularly sold for prices between £250-400 just a couple of years ago.
In fact, the Yak pictured below sold for just £325 in November 2012, which is two years ago exactly.
This ungraded example below sold for £350 in August 2012..
And finally this one in slightly worse condition sold on eBay for £285 in October 2012.
Now, I’m not totally against the idea of toys becoming more valuable over time. I could certainly understand a slight price increase over a period of a few years but I absolutely refuse to believe that a figure that regularly sold for under £400 is now suddenly worth £900-1500+ just two years later! That’s madness.
We are sadly already seeing “copycat” auctions as a result of those recent Yak Face auctions:
One high priced sale can’t possibly be quoted as “the going rate”, but when you suddenly have three or more examples of the same figure selling for similar prices it gives a lot more credibility to a high value quote or sellers ambitious prices.
The danger here is that the more Yak Face Trilogos that sell at those kinds of prices, the more buyers and sellers will start to believe that they are actually correct.
Please don’t believe for one moment that a Yak Face Trilogo is a rare figure. I mean I’ve just shown you five different ones listed on eBay just weeks apart – hardly rare.
Don’t believe they are worth that kind of money either, they aren’t.
I strongly advise collectors not to jump on overpriced AFA graded figures when they appear for sale. In most cases they are a huge waste of money and I think it’s a shame that so many Trilogos have been sent to AFA for no other reason than profit.
So, do Trilogo collectors need a price guide?
When I started up Trilogo.info, many collectors asked me if I thought writing a price guide was a good idea and I was always quick to say no..
I could have easily written one I suppose, I just didn’t feel there was any real reason to at the time.
Back then, collectors seemed to have a good idea about prices and how much items were really worth. They were patient and often did their research. Many Trilogo collectors had very little interest in graded figures either.
There were always times when newer collectors would become interested in Trilogos and spend more than they had to of course, raising prices for a little while in the process but things usually went back to normal soon after.
The price increase of late is totally different to anything we have seen before though and while there are many factors that are determining prices right now the fact remains that nobody ever imagined we would see prices rise to the incredible and unprecedented amounts we are seeing today.
If enough people think it’s a good idea then I would be happy to put together a sensible price and rarity guide in order to help newer collectors understand Trilogos a little better. Who knows, it may even save people some money.
I don’t usually open my articles up for comments but if you would like to post some feedback about this one or want to let me know your thoughts on a price and rarity guide then please do so on the forum by clicking here.
UPDATE 25th November 2014
A large number of Trilogo figures were recently sold at auction on eBay (not Buy It Now’s) by BriansToys. None of the figures had reserves, all were AFA graded and there were plenty of AFA 80’s as well as a few AFA 85’s.
It’s extremely pleasing to report that almost ALL of them ended at very reasonable prices for a change.
It’s not often dealers let AFA graded figures get auctioned off in this format and many people believe that an auction that’s allowed to run till the end sets the true market value for an item .
Some of the following ending prices were perhaps a little on the low side (possibly due to the amount of figures for sale at one time) BUT it does show a huge difference in what a figure (even a graded one) sells for in the auction format vs the BIN format we are used to seeing these days. Check out the screenshots below for all the listings!
UPDATE 17th APRIL 2015:
Click here for an interview with a UK dealer who made a substantial Trilogo find in 2014.
It’s difficult to imagine that amount of Trilogo figures still out there in their original shipping boxes (even for me and I’m a firm believer that there are thousands of Trilogo figures in existence) but the pictures don’t lie!