Sunday, June 9, 2013

My History with McFarlane Figures: It Just Wasn't the Same as SLU's

The McFarlane Figure that started it all

At around the same time the Starting Lineup Era was ending, there was a new Sports Collectible Figure franchise starting up. Todd McFarlane decided to come up with his line of Sports Collectible Figures. He initially came out with baseball figures in 2000 that were licensed by the MLBPA  and NHLPA but not MLB or NHL respectively. The details on the figures were amazing to say the least. Nothing at all like the Starting Lineup Brand and the quality of the figures blew everything else out of the water.  For me though, I just wasn't interested at all due to lack of MLB licensing. I didn't want to buy a Barry Bonds figure in some generic Giants knock off jersey or home run challenge jersey. I never bought any inital run of McFarlane's as I was still collecting SLU's at the time and honestly thought the product would be a bomb without featuring players in their official major league jerseys.

Barry Bonds McFarlane Figure from the inaugural set. Awesome details, but lack of MLB licensing makes these bland in my eyes

When I got out of sports figure collecting I thought it would be forever. I had a nice run of hunting for SLU's, and thought it had run its course and that I would focus more on my card collection. During my hiatus, McFarlane did end up getting licenses from all 4 of the major sports.  Initially, it didn't faze me, I just didn't want to get back into that hobby again. Slowly but surely though my interest started up again and Christmas I got a Tracy McGrady Series 2 Orlando Magic figure and the bug had hit again. I was officially collecting McFarlane Figures. At first, just like with Starting Lineups, it started out very small. I would buy a couple here or there but nothing big. The big problem though was unlike Starting Lineups which you could find literally anywhere from Wal Mart to Target to even grocery stores, here in Corpus, stores that carried McFarlane's either didn't at all or carried them very inconsistently. Our local Wal Mart for example, would carry them for a while, stop, carry them again, and I never knew the rhyme or reason. The only store that consistently carried them was Toys R Us, who also happened to be the most expensive. That was another hurdle with McFarlane Figures, the prices. I was used to $6.48-$7.99 for SLU's. McFarlanes were usually $9.99 or up and here in Corpus it was basically "up" since if I found any it was usually at Toys R Us. Paying $12.99 per figure was way pricey especially for regular figures which brought me to another problem, "chase pieces". While collecting SLU's, there were very few variant pieces, the chase was in the superstar or rookie piece. Regular SLU's WERE the drawing power. Even finding a 1998 Ken Griffey Jr was awesome, because people used to gobble up pieces of superstars every year. McFarlane on the other hand bascially made variants of every regular piece, and worse in my opinion, later came out with a chase piece system where the figures were serially numbered and short printed. This basically made regular pieces worthless, as everyone just wanted to collecte the rarer variant/chase pieces and left the regular pieces to just sit there. Even first regular pieces didn't sell for as much as you think. There was really no value in collecting regular figures. For example shouldn't LeBron's first McFarlane figure be worth a king's ransom??
Shouldn't this piece be one of the most coveted basketball pieces ever?

These sell (or don't sell at all) for under 10 dollars regularly. If I bought this piece at Toys R US I'd actually lose money selling it on Ebay and it's LEBRON'S ROOKIE PIECE!  If you don't have the rare limited chase piece, you really don't have much. As I mentioned earlier, lack of stores carrying the product really hurt the enthusiasm for me. When I was collecting SLU's I could hit 3 or 4 Wal Marts, K-Mart, multiple HEB's, K-B Toys, Toys R US, Albertsons, and Target to hunt for SLU's. With McFarlanes? Like i mentioned, all Wal Mart's were very unpredictable as was Target, K-B was out of business and zero grocery stores would carry these. That  combined with Toys R' Us ridiculous price points,  let me to go through the internet to buy cases which was cheaper than retail. There was no hunt, I just bought a case, got a complete set with one variant and that was that. After a while, that became really boring for me. I wanted so bad to recreate the magic of SLU collecting, but it just wasn't cutting it with these figures. Even when I found some, I NEVER found a chase piece here, all regular figures, and while with SLU's I'd scoop up any superstar piece at retail level I could find, I couldn't justify paying $10 or more for a figure that I knew just wouldn't hold its value. Surprisingly I did collect McFarlane Figures from around late 2002-2011, but once again I decided to hang it up and I sold the majority of my collection only keeping my Dallas Cowboys and my Ken Griffey Jr. Clarktoys exclusive piece. I don't wanna sound like I'm dumping on the product. The figures are awesome, and make great display pieces and some of the early pieces and chase variants still bring in a pretty penny. For me though, I think I compared them too much to SLU's, and Starting Lineups brought me so much fun and memories that it was impossible to recreate that with McFarlane figures. McFarlane figures did made me appreciate SLU's more and my time with them, so it wasn't a total loss. To me though you can keep your autographed chase pieces numbered to 50, I'll take a Kobe 96 extended FP anytime, lol.


  1. Great post. My story is similar to yours. I didn't get into McFarlanes at first because of their uniform issue. And during the peak of the McFarlane craze, I was out of the hobby and saving up for a home.

    Now that I'm back into collecting, I'll pick up a figure here and there if the price is right (won't spend more than $10 on any piece). But most of the time, I'd rather spend my money on a nice SLU for the collection.

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