How to Start Collecting Major Matt Mason

I've had a few newcomers to the hobby ask for some advice on how to start collecting Major Matt Mason toys, so I thought I would share my thoughts and have something to link back to - thus this post - note that I originally wrote this for Shogun Warrior collecting and have just adapted it to the Major.

I think  the "why" should determine how you use my advice - let me explain. Most collectors don't start out with the idea that they are collectors - they either see something interesting and just buy it because of some memory (in the case of a vintage toy) or because they like the aesthetics of the thing. I break it down to the following:

  • Non-Collectors - there's a small group of people that buy things just because they are appealing, with no intent of understanding the context behind the item or anything. You might see something at a tag sale or in an antique mall and think "that's really cool" and just buy it.

  • Collectors - there's an old saying that if you own more than 3 of something you're a collector. Congratulations! So from here we need to talk about some strategies around collecting - why you ask? Because if you don't have something in mind you'll end up over-paying (don't worry if you've already done this as everyone pretty much starts out buying something and then realizing afterwards they paid too much). This is where the "why" becomes important. I think it can be broken down into the following:

  1.  You had the toy as a kid and you really just want to replace what you had to relive the experience
  2. You had the toy as a kid and you always wanted the rest of the toys that went with the toy
  3. You had the toys as a kid and you want to pick up others that fit into the same context
  4. You're some variant of the above but you never had the toy - maybe you remember the toys, are a collector of Space Toys or something similar.
  5. You're an obsessive collector that needs to have everything associated with the toyline - note that I didn't put anything in between 4 and 5 as I think most "real" collectors are obsessive and buy as much as they can afford.

So where to start? This is where you need to do a bit of soul-searching and decide the following:

  1. I'm going to only buy loose items that I had as a kid - this is the most visceral of collecting as it means you can touch your toys and use them to bring back memories. A variation of this is to buy both a loose and a boxed example - some collectors love that feeling of discovery in the toy store when they first saw the toy and eventually made it their own.
  2. I'm going to fill out a collection of what I like (could be loose or boxed) and will need to figure out what the current prices are for this stuff and where to find "deals."
  3. I'm going to own everything MIP (Mint-in-Package) or OSS (Old Store Stock)

There's sort of a progression for most people - they don't think they're going to be at the "I'm going to own everything" stage until they start feeding the need - and yes hobby collecting can be quite addicting. I think most collectors start with the purchase of a few loose items and then, depending on availability and degree of OCD-ness, they progress up the ladder. The trick is to decide what you really, really want to do (if you're wishy-washy about this it can end up costing you lots of money - I'll explain later).

So what should you pay and where should you go? These are my recommendations:

  1. Buy the best figure that you can find that you can afford. You're better off having one very good minty figure then a half-dozen beaters. What do I mean by better off? All things being equal, it's easier to store, display and resell better items rather than common beaters.
  2. You can find just about any Major Matt Mason figure, vehicle or accessory on eBay - everything that's ever been made has ended up there. I recommend that you parse the listings with "Matt Mason" or "Major Matt Mason" as the search criteria.
  3. Start with the basic large figures released in the US by Mattel - there are foreign variants and knock-offs - I would recommend you keep away from them until you understand them more - the collectors of that group are fierce and both the quality of knock-offs and the condition of expensive foreign-issue toys may be disappointing to you.
  4. You need to start developing your own lists of prices for this stuff to see how much items are actually selling for. I use a spreadsheet plus some other utilities to keep prices up to date so I know the relative value of just about every item - I've been doing this for many years so I have a lot of data. You'll be starting from scratch. Don't take anyone's word on the value - in general retail values are all overreaching (dealers have additional costs to reconcile so this normal - it's up to you whether you want something bad enough at the asking price). Buyer beware!
  5. In general and as of 2018 most of astronaut can be found for a $100 or less loose (with the exception of Scorpio who tends to be a bit more expensive). Prices go up depending on whether the figure is complete, has any broken parts, etc. Overall condition can make a big difference in both the price and the competitiveness of any given eBay auction.
  6. For your own sanity, I would not buy figures that aren't complete (meaning all limbs with no broken parts or internal wires). By the time you replace missing bits with reproductions you'll end up spending the same amount as a complete figure. In some cases you won't have much of a choice about it but most recently I've seen many carded or boxed figures that were complete or near complete for sale.
  7. If you can find a loose figure that's complete (with all accessories) then pay a bit more and get him. As above, the accessories, even as reproduction, will drive the cost of the figure up to about the same price.
  8. If you don't want to buy carded or boxed, don't ignore the packaged versions, especially if the cards or boxes are in bad shape - often you can buy a crappy packaged, complete figure for about the cost of a loose, complete figure. Note that in the US a nice box is often more valuable than the figure itself. Overseas the opposite can be true, with rare figures in the hundreds and the box only added a bit more to the value. In the US we have a "swap upgrade" mentality, meaning some of the figures are so common that you can find a nice example figure and match it up with a nice box bought separately - it's one of the reasons you find so many mismatched boxed sets at shows.
  9. If you can, physically examine the figure or at minimum, ask if any of the parts are reproductions. Reproductions can be nearly as good as the originals, however some are quite inferior and do nothing to add value.
  10. Once you get into the chip boxes, look to see if it's original or replaced and be aware that for the higher end toys there are very good reproductions that are difficult to tell without comparing to an actual box.
  11. Look for sales listings on the Major Matt Mason and other space toy groups on Facebook - these prices in general will be a retail price, but you can usually trust the quality and experience of the seller (plus most are well known to other collectors so you can get a better feel for what they are charging).
  12. Shipping can be quite expensive on the boxed playsets - some weigh more than 5 pounds boxed. If the box is oversized (and all pre-made are from what I've seen) there's an additional shipping markup and possibly extra duty (like a tariff) owed - I've had figures ending up costing hundreds more in import fees (nothing like getting slapped with a customs bill) - that's why most eBay sales have very high shipping. Factor this in on the value of the item - I've refrained before because the shipping was so excessive.

If you decide to become an advanced collector you 'll want to start parsing the foreign eBay Auction sites - there are a few utilities that will translate for you - understand that this drives up the costs and shipping can be quite expensive.

If you have already decided to become an advanced collector - don't wait on the hard-to-get items and buy the most expensive items that you can afford - prices are only going up on all but the most common items. If you wait a year you may have a hard time finding something you need and when you do, expect to pay 30-50% more. It's very rare that I've found something I previously passed on when looking at a later time. This is what I meant when I said earlier that it can end up costing you.

For my own experience, I have always had a collector's personality - I'm rather a completist and it shows in my collections. If anything I have to refrain from over-buying. I found my first Major Matt Mason figure (with a talking backpack) for $3 at a flea market - no helmet, unbroken wires and still talked/functioned. That started the pursuit for me.

One other note - about displaying these - I love the idea of having a whole wall covered in Major Matt Mason figures, carded accessories and playsets - however I don't have the space plus it's difficult to keep that big a display well dusted (sunlight also has an impact on figures exposed to direct light). You could either put everything behind glass or do what I do and rotate out the figures from time to time in my office.

Anyway, I hope these tips will help new collectors. Let me know if you have any questions.

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