On Bbotcon toys, eBay, and market forces: an update and retrospective

Discussion in 'Transformers Toy Discussion' started by Ray Kremer, Jul 3, 2015.

  1. Ray Kremer

    Ray Kremer Well-Known Member

    Jun 3, 2004
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    A few years ago I decided to start studying the pattern and price trends of Botcon toys on eBay. My running assumption had been these are exclusive toys in very limited numbers, buy as fast as you can before the supply dwindles and the prices go even higher. That notion was quickly proven false as I discovered that prices started high during Botcon weekend, and within a week would level off at a lower amount. At the time I published this data and said this was important to know. For buyers, don't be in a rush, there seems to be plenty of toys to go around, wait it out for a better price. For sellers, get that listing up as soon as possible. One day auctions and Buy It Now are king during those key first days.

    Now, confession time. I bought into all the hype. Back in 2011 I bought a bagged set of the animated Stunticons, figuring I could hold onto it for a few years and then flip it for a decent profit. To this end, I decided to keep an eye on the long term price trends. How many years after a Botcon does it take for the eBay market prices to rise even higher? For the past several years I have been dutifully recording eBay results for 2011 and 2012 Botcon toys. The results of which shouldn't actually be surprising at this point. I don't even have to make graphs to show you. It's a big fat nothing. The supply hasn't dwindled in the slightest and prices haven't moved. All sorts of sellers have been hoping to unload these things for years, relisting them week after week, but never so desperate that they would actually lower prices and break even or take a loss. Only the occasional toy gets listed at a low enough price for the honest market value to reveal itself. More of them lately have been opened ones, but ones still sealed in the bag remain easy to come by as well. This clearly represents a massive glut in Botcon exclusive toys.

    Some other important things have happened, but let's fast forward to this year. I live near Chicago. Botcon was local to me for the first time in ten years. I make it a policy not to go to conventions that I can't drive home from at night, and finally I could go to Botcon! Finally I would be the one selling exclusives on eBay rather than buying! Obviously I had to keep some for myself still, but I figured I could grab some of the leftovers on Saturday and then flip them quickly and easily. As I entered the store line on Thursday night, I learned that my "one times the limit" voucher didn't restrict me to just one of everything, I was actually allowed to buy two of the Diaclone set and two of the Waruder set!

    I knew a little about how this worked, I had brought an envelope stuffed with cash to avoid the longer credit card line. I counted up every last dollar I had with me. Just enough to get the three main sets, the Kre-o set, the autograph cards, Nova Prime (I avoided shipping costs by waiting until Botcon for that), and one extra $170 Waruder set. (Didn't need the unpainted custom class figure. I was in the actual class.) I got home, took photos, and listed the Waruder bag as a one day auction with a minimum bid of $230. Other listings already up gave it a Buy It Now value of $250 or more.

    Then, Saturday morning before I left, I relisted it with a min bid of $200. The winning bidder on that quickly e-mailed me Sunday to request I cancel their purchase, claiming they didn't remember bidding. Sunday night I relisted it with a min bid of $170. That time it sold for real with a final value of $200. After fees I made a profit of about $10. So what's going on here?

    At this point most of you probably already know. In the intervening years, something unprecedented started happening: Botcon sets that didn't sell out at Botcon. These would later be put up in the online club store, accessible to all members, at the original price. The bottom fell out of the eBay market for every set this happened to. It got so bad that the 2013 Sixth Primus package figure (Starscream) was offered in the online club store as a "free bonus" with the purchase of leftover subscription service figures, because they needed to get rid of their leftover Starscreams but couldn't sell them outright without violating the supposed special exclusivity of it. Fun Pub clearly recognized the problem and had announced a "greatly reduced" production of the sets for 2015. It didn't help, none of the three sets sold out. The box set didn't either.

    The dynamic here must have been clear to everyone, whether they had seen my data from 2010-2012 or not. Always wait and see before buying. Any set might not sell out, any set might be available without the eBay mark-up. Fun Pub themselves was stuck with piles of past sets that even now they are still trying to sell. This fact only compounds the problem, everybody who was accustomed to scooping up as many Botcon sets as possible to quickly flip must have learned that tradition now comes with heavy risk. I'm sure many of them gave up the game altogether, further reducing the number of sets sold and the chance that the sets would sell out by the end of the show on Sunday.

    The main question now is where does it go from here, and the answer lies entirely in the actions of Fun Pub, who controls the supply. The best of all worlds would be for Fun Pub to produce just enough sets that they would sell out completely or nearly so after a week or two of being up in the online club store post-convention. This would give the Iacon package buyers a chance at the entire Botcon range without the eBay markup (sans the Sixth Primus package figure, unless 2013 repeats) and still maximize the toy sales for Fun Pub. On the other hand, they might seek to further cut production to levels that would again not last through Botcon weekend itself, which would restart the entire cycle back to the point where a mad rush to buy the toys on eBay while the convention itself is still running might be entirely justified. This, I think, would represent the worst outcome, at least for the fans that don't fly out to Botcon every year.

    As for my diligent work collecting data for the 2011 and 2012 sets, I guess I don't really see the point anymore. I haven't been learning anything new from it, and the entire paradigm has shifted since then and may yet shift again. The only question left is how much of a loss am I going to take on that 2011 Animated Stunticon bag set when I finally do sell it?