Best way to acquire Japanese figures

Discussion in 'Transformers Toy Discussion' started by hup2thepenguin, Jul 2, 2014.

  1. hup2thepenguin

    hup2thepenguin Beagle.in.red

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    What's the best way to find the Takara Tomy AOE figures in the US? Does Takara Tony have an online store? What's the typical price for getting a deluxe figure online? Ebay ones are often $30+, is that expensive or normal?
     
  2. editnis

    editnis Well-Known Member

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    plenty of ways, just gonna name 2: tfsource.com and bigbadtoystore.com are both within the US.
     
  3. [Wing_Saber-X]

    [Wing_Saber-X] Takara Fanboy Collector

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    you forgot our site sponsor brethren in the Far East: Robotkingdom.
     
  4. Macross7

    Macross7 Well-Known Member

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    Move to Japan
     
  5. shellformer

    shellformer @

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    Best way to acquire them? Theft. :z But any online store is your safest choice. And prices? That depends on the figure. You can get TF:Go Ratchet for like at most 25 dollars shipped but that's a recent and not super-popular or limited item.
     
  6. hup2thepenguin

    hup2thepenguin Beagle.in.red

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    $35 for a deluxe? :/ Dang
     
  7. BWfan86

    BWfan86 Well-Known Member

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    I wonder if TakTomy has an official online store myself - havent heard anything about this before
     
  8. lars573

    lars573 Well-Known Member

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    You won't find them cheaper. Their MSRP is like 25 to 30 dollars.
     
  9. Nevermore

    Nevermore It's self-perpetuating a parahumanoidarianised!

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    TakaraTomy Mall
     
  10. nobleboivin

    nobleboivin Well-Known Member

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    Amazon has good deals once in a while
     
  11. Lbsammills51

    Lbsammills51 Well-Known Member

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    Ebay:
    It depends how much you want to pay, and if you want to acquire stuff from retailers where exchanges, when needed, will be easier to attempt.

    Japanese Online Retailers:

    The cheapest way of going about it, for retail Takara products, is by shopping from Japanese-based Asian retailers. AmiAmi, HLJ (HobbyLinkJapan), Hobby Search and Anime Expo offer Takara retail Transformers at a price typically around or below Japanese retail (20ish for deluxes, 40ish for Voyagers & MP cars, 60ish+ for Leader-type figures, 100+ for larger MPs). That is before shipping, however, but if you choose a cheap shipping method (SAL w/tracking is offered at AmiAmi but not HLJ, I'm assuming it's available at Hobby Search and Anime Expo) or make a large order that cuts down on the average shipping amount per item, it'll be an incremental cost and you'll still pay less than you would had you purchased the same item from a US online retailer.

    However, exchanges can be tricky when something goes wrong. AmiAmi will not do any exchanges with non-Japanese based customers anymore, so if you buy something from them and it comes broken/missing parts/with incorrect parts, exchanging it with another will probably be impossible. HLJ will do exchanges...but if they've already sold out of an item, all they can offer is a refund. I'm not familiar with HS or AE, but I'm guessing it's somewhat similar to HLJ.

    Additionally, Japanese online retailers run out of stock on initial preorders MUCH quicker than US online retailers do, so you have to be quick about getting a preorder in for certain stuff, especially Masterpieces. They will typically reopen listings when stock does arrive, so as long as you pay attention you'll have another shot around the time of release (for MPs though, this can be hit and miss). TakaraTomy doesn't do "drops" of a bunch of figures at a predetermined time like Bandai/Tamashii Nations products do, so you're pretty much stuck hoping you're on AmiAmi/HLJ/etc. at the right time to catch a preorder go up.

    HLJ is better about preorders staying open longer...but they now have reputation for offering more preorders than they can actually fulfill at times, leading to people getting shorted for an item they thought they had locked up (if you've ever heard, or do hear, of people getting "HLJ'd," that's what they mean). This doesn't happen very often for the other retailers, so even if you do get a preorder in at HLJ, you may want to back it up somewhere else just to be safe.

    There are other smaller retailers (eToysJapan, Nippon Yasan, whose prices can vary but can still come in cheaper than US online retailers.

    In terms of payment method, it varies from store to store. Some won't ask you to pay until items come in stock (HLJ), while others allow you to compile orders by month and not pay until the final item in that monthly order is in stock (AmiAmi). HLJ does feature a PoL-type system similar to BBTS, though it's only for two months rather than six.

    Robot Kingdom & US Online Retailers:

    Robot Kingdom is based in Hong Kong and, due to their proximity to Asia, gets both Takara, Hasbro and some third party releases a bit before US online retailers do. Their prices are cheaper, BUT their shipping prices have gone up quite a bit in the past year or so, meaning what you pay to get it from them even at the cheapest shipping method evens out compared to US online retailer prices in most circumstances. They do offer exchanges and refunds, however, though I think they have a habit of slow responses in some instances.

    BBTS and TFSource are the "big two" US online retailers for Transformers. They import them in, so you're paying cost of the item + their shipping cost to import it + whatever they tack on for profit, and that's before shipping. I've noticed that, as the exchange rate has gotten better from where it was a few years ago, the price of deluxe Transformers has gotten closer to what it would be to get them directly from Japanese online retailers (the upcoming Legends Rattrap is $29.99 compared to 2110 yen, or about $21-22, at AmiAmi), so that's a plus. It's not as good to get anything larger than a retail deluxe from them, however.

    That said, BBTS, TFSource, and most other US-based online retailers (Captured Prey, Toy Arena, Toy Dojo, etc.) will make exchanges and refunds pretty easily when issues arise, and they're domestically based so it's much less of a hassle than having to ship a toy back to one of the overseas sellers that do offer exchanges/refunds.

    In terms of payment, some ask for payment immediately (Captured Prey) while others ask for payment once a preorder comes in stock. The non-BBTS retailers now offer free shipping for large orders (typically anything over $125-150). BBTS offers a Pile of Loot (POL) system that allows you to sit on stuff and continuously add items to an existing order for a period of six months; adding new items to an existing POL does add a bit of shipping for each item, but it's typically an incremental cost (a dollar or two) unless it's a small order and/or a large item.

    Japanese & Asian non-retail/exclusive items:

    This is where it can still be expensive, no matter where you shop. Japanese online retailers don't offer exclusive/non-retail items, and US online retailers add a markup to the ones they do import. Your best bet is one of the Japanese secondary market retailers, Mandarake or Jungle.

    Both offer pre-owned toys in good-to-great condition for good prices. Retail and exclusive Transformers (amongst other things) are available. They typically use grading systems and/or list items as having "box damage" of some kind, but that's basically creased corners, a bend on a flap or some scuffing on the box itself. With limited exceptions, it's no big deal and the actual toy is perfectly fine (along with the box, unless you demand perfect boxes on all your stuff). They are pre-owned, but are typically complete and noted when they actually are missing something.

    Even then, you'll probably pay something close to Japanese retail or a bit above for most exclusives; Fireblast Grimlock goes for about 5000 yen, recent microns will go for maybe 1000 yen right off the bat, Infiltrator Starscream clocks in somewhere between 70-90. With shipping tacked on, it's not cheap but it can still clock in under what US online retailers offer stuff.

    I have no idea how exchanges go with either company, so I couldn't tell you about peoples' experiences. I haven't heard complaints, but I haven't heard of any instances where people had to go the exchange/refund route because of some issue.

    Mandarake will tack on a 500 yen ($5) handling fee for any orders under 5000 yen; Jungle will tack on a 5% handling fee for any non-Japanese order. Jungle's shipping prices are a bit higher than Mandarake's, so there's still a tradeoff.

    (AmiAmi does offer a pre-owned section as well with items of the same quality as Mandarake/Jungle in terms of condition, but their pre-owned Transformers are nowhere near the variety or amount of other types of products; if you use them for pre-owned stuff, it's probably because your into other Japanese products like Figuarts or Chogokin-type releases).

    Mandarake's a bit funky in that it's a bunch of retail stores that work under one banner; each listing indicates which store it's a part of, and you can't truly combine orders of items from different stores into one order (they will be shipped out separately and you will get separate shipping charges for each). These different stores are actual physical stores, so there's the possibility the item you order has already sold before they could take the online listing down. Mandarake/Jungle typically take three days to get back to you to confirm the order, provide a shipping quote and request payment.

    EDIT - 3 July Update:

    A few things I forgot to touch on previously:

    Points systems: AmiAmi and Hobby Search offer point programs. At AmiAmi, you receive a point for each hundred(?) yen you spend on each order; Hobby search is 3% of your purchase before shipping (I think). Either way, you can redeem the points as credit for future orders. Since points are tied to purchase amounts in yen, it'll be slow going before you amass enough points to matter (I've made several large orders from AmiAmi in the past year and have over 5000 points, so equivalent to over 5000 yen/$50 in store credit). You can use your points all at one time or only use a few here and there, it's up to you.

    Search methods: AmiAmi, Hobby Search, HLJ, Anime Export (forgot the "rt" earlier), Jungle and Robot Kingdom are all English-based sites or offer English sites, so searching for stuff is typically no problem. Mandarake is different in that items are listed primarily in Japanese (with some English thrown in, usually for major identifiers like "Transformers," "S.H. Figuarts," etc. added in).

    For more specific or broad-ranging searches, it's best to find the Japanese characters to search for stuff. You can check the wiki or Google Translate for translations/Japanese characters, then save your searches in Figinstock or similar sites that offer storing of searches and alert emails when new matching items show up.

    Posting new listings: AmiAmi, Hobby Search and HLJ will typically post new stuff in the evening (mid-to-late for East Coasters and Midwesterners, early-to-mid evening for West Coasters). I'm not sure about Anime Export and thought I saw them post stuff during the day, but I can't recall for certain.

    Jungle posts all their new listings at 11 AM EST/8 AM PST each day. Usually there are at least a few new Transformers posted. They have separate categories for Takara vs Hasbro Transformers ("Transformers" vs "Transformers US Edition"). They will actually post third party stuff periodically, and that gets slotted (humorously) in with US Transformers, though the prices aren't dramatically different from US online retailers.

    Mandarake posts their new listings throughout the evening and early morning. If you use Figinstock to store searches for Transformers and other stuff, get used to receiving notifications starting anywhere from 7:30-8 PM PST/10:30-11 PM EST to 8 AM PST/11 AM EST the following morning. Mandarake will also post third party stuff, though it's not as common and, like Jungle, the prices aren't dramatically cheaper. If you do a generic search for "Transformers" in Japanese characters, some third party stuff will be returned when it's first listed; other third party listings do not.

    There appears to be no rhyme or reason when AmiAmi lists pre-owned stuff, other than it's also somewhere within the range of mid-to-late evening through the early morning. Sometimes it's only a handful of things, other times it's a ton of stuff that gets listed all at one time. I've also noticed it's harder to sort pre-owned stuff on their mobile site, and it's really hard to get their normal site to come up on Android devices.

    Was that Toy Hobby Market still? I thought that was the store they were affiliated with directly.

    EDIT: Forgot about TakaraTomyMall too.
     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2014
  12. Raiju

    Raiju Navel Shocker Veteran

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    Your post needs to be stickied or something. Loads of useful info for Japan TF purchases.
     
  13. AzT

    AzT Moderator News Staff TFW2005 Supporter

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    Motion *so* seconded! Thank you for that wealth of information, Lbsammills51!!! :rock  :thumb 
     
  14. mpau25

    mpau25 Well-Known Member

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    That's a great post, definitely needs to be stickied
     
  15. LegendAntihero

    LegendAntihero Banned

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    shop Toy Arena
     
  16. bignick1693

    bignick1693 Maximal

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    I go to hlj. Importing can be a pain and when I mean pain I mean expensive.
     
  17. HairyDawg

    HairyDawg UGA - Go Dawgs!

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    Great information, even for those of us who have been buying imports for a while!
     
  18. Lbsammills51

    Lbsammills51 Well-Known Member

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    Ebay:
    I'm glad some are finding it useful; stuff like this is something I wish I'd known when I started collecting, so if it helps people out, cool.

    I did add a bit more to the earlier post on a few things I forgot to point out earlier (point systems, search methods-mostly in regards to Mandarake, and when stuff actually gets listed).