OK, so I have seen a couple of threads complaining about items in the 3rd Party world. Now complaining is just part of the way things work here, however, I figure I would start this thread in hopes of educating new consumers on what occurs with most 3rd Party products. This is just what I have learned in my short time, so if I miss something, please post here and I will try to add it to the list. The hope is that this will get stickied and future collectors can learn from us. 1- Figures for 3rd Party companies are almost always delayed. If they say June 2012, expect in early 2013. Better yet, don't expect it at all. It will be better when it actually comes out. We all get excited for new stuff and our "we want it now" comes out, but just be prepared to wait, and wait and wait. 2- Don't buy directly from a 3rd Party company if you can. The one exception is Fans Project at this moment. Also Crazy Devy has a pretty good (but expensive) track record. A lot of the time, you will be shelling out money up front and you won't see that money for a long time (check point 1). So if that matters to you at all, go with companies that don't make you pay for the figure until it comes in stock. The only problem is, those companies tend to charge you a surplus for this. So it is up to you if you want to pay 9 months early and forget about the money, or if you want to pay when it comes out and pay a 10%-20% mark up. So think about what type of person you are and if you mind having hundreds of dollars invested in something you won't see for months or even a year, or even longer. Patience is rare amongst some collectors. 3- 3rd party toys will have Quality Assurance issues. Yes, they almost all do. So if you are about to buy a 3rd Party product, be prepared to do some work to fix it or to wait for a fix. If Hasbro cannot get it right on their MPs (Rodimus anyone?), then don't expect the third party companies to get it right either. The other point to make about QA is that buying from a reseller like BBTS, TFSource, Captured Prey, etc is actually better then buying from the third party company themselves. There is people still waiting for items from iGear and not seeing any e-mails back on their issues. This is the nature of the beast. Paying a surplus guarantees you better service and positive turn around on these figures. 4- This bears repeating since it is in 2 separate points. BUY FROM A RESELLER. Yes, your paying more for these things, but you are getting peace of mind. As already mentioned, you get replacement parts from the reseller. You also can wait till they are released before you have to pay for them. The surplus you pay gives you something. If you want to save, go with Captured Prey. As this is being written, they are the cheapest on many 3rd Party items and they take care of their customers. The negative is that you need to pay now and wait for your figure. But I much rather go with Captured Prey then to go with iGear. 5- These things are expensive. There are some that believe 3rd party should be cheaply priced (along Hasbro's price range), they feel the plastic should be up to snuff in comparison, & they feel that paying triple digits for some 3rd party items is ridiculous. Part of that is opinion, but they should realize that these are NOT mass produced, at least in the way that HasTakTomy product is. These are produced in finite quantities (usually) & the costs of design, engineering, materials, parts, time, & even distribution have to me taken into consideration. To put it bluntly, these items have more in common with kitbashes & customs than actual retail product. These are, in a way, custom figures that aren't mass produced, but produced with enough number to cover most of the people that are interested. These companies do not have unlimited funds, they work hard for the products they release, & some feel they should offer the products for little or nothing. Now I know we'd all LOVE to see these things at retail prices, but unless they are snatched up by HasTakTomy & put to work, we'll have to pay the extra to own these awesome toys. They will always be expensive, but they have come down in price. When you see something like MMC Cyclops at $160, you can tell prices have come down. So just know this going in. No amount of complaining will make these cheaper, but we can hope they will be cheaper. If you don't feel comfortable with the price, don't buy it. You will only be more pissed off when it is delayed and comes with a piece broken. 6- New 3rd Party Toys rarely if ever sell out on preorder. Let me repeat that, they rarely if ever sell out on preorder. What does this mean? It means that you can wait, in many cases at least 1 week after it is released before it is sold out. Why is this important? Well, you can see reviews of the product and see if you really like it, and if there are any issues with it. If you don't have to be the first to own it, maybe you can learn something in the process. One word of warning. Don't wait to long. Many times the original release is the cheapest release. So if it came in stock, and the reviews rave about it, hit the add to cart button now. In 6 months, the thing will be more expensive. Even in 2 months, the thing will be more expensive. 6a- Be careful with rereleases though. FansProject rereleases of items sell out on Pre Order in minutes, if not hours, even with tremendous mark ups. So don't sleep on something when it is rereleased. You may miss it all together. 6b- Know how to check stock level. Just like life, things don't stay constant. Out of the hundreds of items, some will sell out on Preorder. Fansprojects exclusive are very likely to do so. Also, when buying combiners, if you begin the orders, finish them off. If you liked the first 4 figures, your already invested. Go buy the rest on preorder or you'll quickly learn how expensive buying 3rd party in the after market can be. So how do you check stock levels? Easy, add the item to your cart and change the inventory to 9999, then click update cart. The number in your cart will now represent the stock the store has. 7- Do homework on the third party company you are buying from. Some companies have shit reputations but make awesome toys. Here is just some quick starter notes: (These are based off of what I have read or experieced personally with a vendor. Your experiences may vary, but I think this represents the norm. If I get enough people saying x,y and z company is great, then this will change). iGear: - Company best know for filling in G1 Classics and MP voids in your collection - They have a bad rep in the business. - They use to KO figures, if you care about that stuff (I don't). - They never meet release deadlines. Be prepared to WAIT. - They have the same amount of issues with their toys as any other 3rd Party company. - They don't respond to e-mails if you have an issue with your product - Their toys look amazing in many cases CrazyDevy: - Company best know for add on parts for G1 figures and combiners - Good quality stuff - Products have been known to damage original figure when not handled with care - EXPENSIVE - Good client support TFC: - COmpany has been around a while, but now is best known for Hercules and the upcoming Uranus combiner - Awesome looking toys - Good client support (a little bit delayed sometimes, but strong support) - Have been known to have issues with their figures - Delayed like everyone else Toyworld: - New company that did a great first toy with Hegemon (Most accurate classics scale G1 Megatron to date) - Toy had some issues out of the box - Delays were not huge, but still delayed like everyone else. - Amazing looking toys Master Mind Creations: - Relatively new company that has started out well and best known for making Hearts of Steal (comic) figures - Amazing looking toys so far - Support is excellent - Figures have problems when first released but the 2nd release fixes issues with first release most of the time. FansProject: - Considered by many as being the best of the best when it comes to 3rd Party Toys. Known for making fillers to the classics line. Now make completely original toys as well. - Safe to order directly from their site - Toys have the least amount of defects, but still have them - Customer support is stellar - Toys look great as well Maketoys: - People believe they are the same company as FansProject but that is rumor. The company is relatively new and had a strong start with "The Giant" and "Battle Tanker" both of which were positively reviewed toys. - Figures have issues, which are corrected - Figures look great - Customer support is average, not as good as FP Impossible Toys: - Best known for making G1 and Classics fillers. - Make pretty crappy toys - Figures break relatively easily - Price can be high for what they are - Support is lacking Perfect Effect - Another top notch company known for making Classics fillers. Now they have made completely original transformers. - Make really cool toys - toys also have some issues, but tend to be minor - Good Support BTS: - Know for making Sonicron (Soundwave) and his tapes. - Items had some QA issues - Client support unknown - Items more affordable then most, but it could have to do with the aesthetics of their toys. Justitoys -so far have been completing the G1 WST line -also did parts for MP Prime and Megs -very accurately recreate and at times subtly and tastefully improve the original design -always late, sometimes up to a year (the TF Source stocking stuffer campaign must have caused TF Source employees much stress!) -infrequent communication and updates, so-so website -I've not run into QC issues or needed support so I'm not sure how they handle this -a must for WST fans Headrobots: - Known for their headmasters. - Items had no outstanding QA issues - Client support unknown 8- Do your homework on vendors and decide what vendor suite you best. This is my experience with some of the vendors out there, and also some stuff I read. Also, when comparing prices between companies, do what you want, but it is only fair to compare prices for US vs foriegn companies by adding the shipping to the figure price and then comparing the prices. Big Bad Toy Store (BBTS): - Biggest online toy retailer of the bunch - Considered over priced, but good deals can still be found - Considered to have excellent client service - Is in the US so apply above mentioned pricing rules - Pay for Pre Order when the figure arrives - Has a Pile of Loot system where you can order many things and decide when you want to ship. Great if you want to order a couple of figures now and ship when your preorder arrives. TFSource: - Huge TFer retailer. Unlike BBTS, focuses mainly on TFers - When a figure is first released, they always try to undercut BBTS prices to get business. They do raise their prices soon after that period is complete. So prices on par with BBTS - Client service is considered very good. I have heard some bad, but for the most part very good - US based company - Pay for Pre Order when the figure arrives, but if you cancel, prepare yourself for an angry e-mail - Has Pile of Loot system like BBTS - Credit Cards have been compromised twice on TFSource, so it is recommended you use PayPal. Robot Kingdom: - Another great big retailer of TFers and other toys - Pricing is considered excellent, but the company is not in the US, so you will pay a lot more on shipping - Company is not US based, as mentioned above - Customer support is excellent, but you need to wait to get the missing part, etc from another country - You may have issues with customs on imports. This is just a gamble you take when importing anything. The company is not to blame though. - You pay via paypal when you put in the order. If you order anything else with the pre-order item, none of it will ship until all items are in stock. - Availability will say "in stock" as long as the pre-order isn't sold out. Look for "Pre-Order" in the item name. For pre-order items, IN STOCK does not mean they actually have it in their warehouse ready to ship. Captured Prey: - Smaller company that gives you a great personal touch. - Owner is a member here and regularly communicates and posts on these forums which says how good Customer service is - Best prices on figures - Company is based in the US - Offers a Pre Order system, but you need to pay for the figure now not when it comes in - Has gotten in 3rd Party products others have not sold AcesToyStore: - Another smaller company that gives a personal touch - Owner is a member here and regularly communicates and posts on these forums which says how good Customer service is - Great prices on figures and he will work with you - Based in the US - A lot less stock then other companies, but great with KOs as well as 3rd Party items - Offers pre order system, but not sure how it works. I only ordered from him when the figures were already in You can also check the banner on this site, other sites like Hobby Link Japan, Toy Arena, etc are also reputable companies but they are not talked about as often at least on this site. 9- This rule is the most important. Have fun, this is a hobby. Don't let it stress you or piss you off. That is not why we have hobbies. We have hobbies to get away from things that piss us off. Don't let 3rd Party things piss you off. Hopefully this can serve to educate those of you who plan to buy 3rd Party items in the future.