How to Start Collecting Shogun Warriors

I've had a few newcomers to the hobby ask for some advice on how to start collecting Shogun Warriors toys, so I thought I would share my thoughts and have something to link back to - thus this post.

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're already done this as everyone pretty much start out buying something and then realizing afterwards that you 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, the anime or tokusatsu the toy is base on 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" collector 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) - this is the other end of the spectrum - I’m firmly in this camp. 

There's sort of a progression to collecting 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 Shogun Warrior jumbo machinder figure, die-cast or accessory on eBay - everything that's ever been made has ended up there. I recommend that you parse the listings with "Shogun Warriors" as the search criteria. Note that prices vary widely. 
  3. Start with the basic large (jumbo) 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 Japanese-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 (you want completed sales and not listing prices - some sellers inflate the value as a means of increasing the potential value of their collection, others are in some fantasy world that has little basis in reality).  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 2022 most of the jumbo machinders (the big, 2 foot tall figures) can be found for a $150 or less loose with at least some accessories (with the exception of Daimos who tends to be a bit more expensive - about double - and Rodan which is quite a bit more). 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). 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 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 boxed, don't ignore the boxed versions, especially if the boxes are in bad shape - often you can buy a crappy boxed, 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 thousands and the box only added a bit more to the value. In the US we have a "swap upgrade" mentality, meaning some of the SW 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 SW jumbos 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 boxes, look to see if the bottom is original or replaced and be aware that for the higher end toys (not so much the Shogun Warriors) there are very good reproductions that are difficult to tell without comparing to an actual box. Of the SW boxes, the only repros I've seen were pretty crappy and obvious photocopies glued to cardboard.
  11. Look for sales listings on the SW and other Japanese 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 fell for what they are charging).
  12. Shipping can be quite expensive on the jumbos - they weigh 3 pounds loose and 5 pounds boxed. If the box is oversized (and all pre-made boxes are from what I've seen) there's an additional shipping markup and possibly extra duty (like a tariff) owed - I've had figures that cost me $5K 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 advance collector you 'll want to start parsing the Yahoo Japan Auction site - there are a few utilities that will translate and proxy bid for you (most sellers in Japan won’t ship internationally) - understand that this drives up the costs and shipping can be quite expensive (I factor in $200-300 per box but most of the services will put multiple items in the same box).

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 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 completest and it shows in my collections. If anything I have to refrain from over-buying. I found my first Shogun Warrior Godzilla at a  yard sale for $20 - it had a broken lever but came with the fist. Inside the tail I found a small Godzilla bendy that I still own. I bought it because I love Kaiju and Godzilla in particular - I actually thought the commercials for the Shogun Warrior Godzilla quite stupid when I saw them as a young adult - why would his fist fly off? My reasoning for collecting this toyline has more to do with the aesthetics and an appreciation for the original Tokusatsu programming or anime.

One other note - about displaying these - I love the idea of having a whole wall covered in Jumbo Machinders - 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. The photo at the top is a typical display  

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

-- John     

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Roger said...

Very cool article thanx for sharing. I think I've caught the Shogun Warrior collecting bug and this helped a lot.

Unknown said...

I have a 17 in ufo grendizer and have no idea how old it is. Got at a garage sale. Any idea if uts modern or vintage?