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AN ACTION FIGURE GLOSSARY

Being a compendium of action figure terms provided free of charge
in an effort to make the obscure plain.  Hey, we can't all devote
our lives to collecting toys; the unlucky out there can instead refer
below for greater understanding....

"Cy-Gor" -- A particular McFarlane Toys action figure, one of my
favorites and subject of the February 29, 1996 column.  Half-gorilla,
half-machine, the name derives from the term "cybernetic gorilla," and
is actually the third to grace this particular figure; the prototype was
initially called "Prime-8" (there is a large numeral eight on the figure's
left shoulder even in the final production) and later "Ape-X" before
McFarlane Toys settled on "Cy-Gor."

"McF," "McToys," "McFarlane Toys," etc.  All terms referring to
McFarlane Toys, nee Todd Toys, the young turk of the action
figure industry, a company started in the early 1990s by Todd
McFarlane to provide action figure counterparts to his successful
Image Comics comic book, Spawn.  McFarlane Toys action figures
are generally priced a bit higher than those of other manufacturers
but contain a level of detail fast on its way to setting a new
industry standard.

"Scalper" -- In my terms, a scalper is someone who buys a new toy
at retail, as an individual item, and then turns around and tries
to resell it for more than twice its retail cost.  This practice
of clearing out retail stock of brand new items creates
artificial shortages of figures, and makes the scalpers the
loathsome, profiteering parasites of the toy world.  Typically,
toy scalpers target toys with either a relatively lower packing
ratio (for example, toys that ship one per case while others in
the shipment come two, three or four per case, etc.) or high
collector demand (such as McFarlane Toys' recent "The Maxx"
figure, which had cross-appeal to watchers of the MTV cartoon as
well as regular toy enthusiasts, and which was heralded at its
inception as being a limited production run because the company
knew it would be losing its license to produce the character in a
few short months) [see "Shortpacks" below].

"Shortpack" -- A figure that is packed in reduced ratios per
shipment case, typically one per case while the other figures in
the same case come two, three or even four to a case.  Different
toy companies cite differing reasons for uneven packing ratios
(the higher cost of making a particular figure in a given case,
lower expectations of consumer demand for certain figures, trying
to enhance the "joy in the hunt" on the part of kids and
collectors, pure whimsy, etc.), but the fact remains that the
practice of shortpacking certain figures is the manufacturers'
bad seed that bears the horrible fruit of scalping, to mix a
heady metaphor.

Some manufacturers are honest enough to admit that their hope is
collectors will come in to a retail outlet seeking a particular
figure, and upon not locating it since the demand far outstrips
production (especially with the factor of the scalpers thrown in
to deplete the shelf stock), the collectors will (a) buy
alternative figures, and/or (b) communicate their frustrated
demand to the retailer, who will turn around and purchase
additional case units from the manufacturer.  Others spout a
doublespeak that approaches pure Orwellian in going to ridiculous
lengths to try to explain how mocking the consumer by dangling a
pittance of special figures is not only good for the hobby, but
makes it more *fun*.  Are you listening, Playmates?  [See
"Travesty Picard," below]

"Travesty Picard" -- To "honor" the 30th Anniversary of the
original Star Trek, Playmates Toys released an extremely limited
edition action figure of Captain Jean Luc Picard as seen in the
Star Trek the Next Generation episode "Tapestry."  Why torturing
collectors with a ridiculously, offensively difficult to get
figure honors Star Trek (or, for that matter, why a figure from a
spin-off dating from 20 years after the original show had come
and gone highlights the original show) is beyond comprehension. 
It would almost make sense if Playmates Toys somehow got a piece
of the $500-$700 these 1,701 figures have been getting on the
secondary market; I can only assume that the marketing toads
believe a promotion like this one gets the collectors into the
stores in droves.  (To my satisfaction, I have instead seen
droves of collectors responding by boycotting Playmates Toys
entirely, myself included).

"TRU" -- "Toys 'R Us" (If I could display the backwards "R" I
would, but ASCII has its limits)  The nation's largest toy chain. 
The 800-pound gorilla of the toy trade, TRU embodies both the
best and the worst of toy merchandising.  Their large stores
gather quite a bit of product in one location, but they are
notoriously slow in getting new items, especially lately.  Their
staff ranges from the best to the worst in the industry -- some,
particularly the aisle clerks, can be incredibly helpful and
friendly, while others, especially the managers, can be downright
rude and even deceitful.


I'd very much like to keep this glossary current and effective;
if you come across any terms in any of the columns that you find
puzzling, please drop me a line at [email protected]
Copyright (c) 1996 by John Gersten. All rights reserved.
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