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]
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