The Day Craigslist Won

You win craigslisters, you win.

I spend a lot of my words here at htfblog dishing it out to craigslist and the people and Morlocks who sell their collectibles there. As a business and collector I do what I can to exploit their desire to sell in order to benefit my desire to buy. Every once in a while, through some kind of mysterious, invisible machinations, the totality of craigslist conspires to thwart my every move no matter how nobly motivated. I guess if I’m going to dish it, I gotta be prepared to take it.

A few weeks ago I was riding a buy-and-sell high with the acquisition of a very large and meticulously cared for 25th/30th Anniversary G.I.Joe collection. It provided a solid 2 weeks of sales and even allowed me to acquire some of the figures from this series that I needed for my own personal collection.

lot

Following that I was able to flip a few items from a guy that focused on Comic Con exclusives. It was one of those situations where he was able to acquire them at a price that allowed him to flip them to me, and then I was able to flip them to ebay. We both made enough off of them to suit us. The last sale from that purchase was made on March 3rd. Since then, it’s been a trickle, but not for a lack of trying. I’ve attempted to make several acquisitions, but every step of the way, craigslist has beat me down and made me reconsider my place in this chain of collectibles ownership.

Here’s an example of the kind of back-and-forth that goes into these things.

The original listing was innocuously titled “vintage star wars figures.” It’s a title I see a hundred times in a week. My expectations are usually very low as people generally over-value their vintage Star Wars figures. Yes, condition and completeness are important. If they are in exceptional condition, if they are particularly desirable, late characters, if they have their original accessories, yes, vintage Star Wars action figures CAN sell for very good money. The problem is that damned date stamp. Everyone sees that “1977” and they lose control of their faculties. As if everything that is 35 years old is automatically worth thousands of dollars. They forget that Kenner made MILLIONS of these figures and EVERYONE had them. Most of them really aren’t that rare once you start looking. Perhaps you’ve heard of The Boba Sett?

The seller has since taken down the original posting, so I can’t copy/paste verbatim, but he basically said that he had 21 vintage Star Wars figures in good condition and some of them were very rare limited edition ones.  No price was listed, simply a request to “make an offer.”

The listing had these 3 crappy photos accompanying it:

3E93L83N85N45Ge5H4d3a75d0fb802a24171d 3G33Me3H35L25F95H2d3a97421df929271722 3K23J33H95L25Na5F9d3aa917d6ef5e501a94

I glanced at the photos and just as I was about to move on assuming that there was no way they were going to agree with me on the very, very, VERY low opening offer that I would have submitted, I realized that, in fact, one of those figures WAS a very rare, limited edition figure. This craigslist post was a historical marker, it was the only time in history that vintage Star Wars figures had been accurately labeled. If only the seller had actually KNOWN that at the time it would have been THE historical milestone of all time!

bs_hilite

Right there in the photo, there he was, one of the most desirable and elusive vintage Star Wars figures of all time: Blue Snaggletooth. His name belies his actual value to collectors.

Blue on the left. Punishment on the right.

Blue on the left. Punishment on the right.

REGULAR Snaggletooth was a regular release, carded figure and is extremely common. Every kid had him and no one ever wanted him. They still don’t. In my country, the police give Regular Snaggletooth figures to criminals in lieu of jail time. Santa Claus’ environmental policies prevent him from leaving coal in stockings for naughty kids so he has replaced it with Regular Snaggletooths. Whenever I see a Snaggletooth I buy it and destroy it in the hopes that if I can destroy like 800,000 of them, one day the value of all the surviving Regular Snaggletooth figures might go up by 1/10th of a percent.

I have personally owned this box.

I have personally owned this box.

BLUE Snaggletooth is different. Blue Snaggletooth was only available in 1978 with the Cantina Adventure Playset and THAT was only available as a mail-in through the Sears catalog. As if that weren’t enough, legend has it that this figure was designed from a black and white photo that only showed him from the waist up. There was no way for the toy designers to know that he was supposed to have really short legs and that the colors and costuming were totally wrong.

As of 1979 this was corrected and every other version of Snaggletooth that was produced was of the REGULAR variety. Blue Snaggletooth truly is very rare and (while unintentionally) a limited edition (although no one can say exactly how limited edition he was).

When I realize there is a Blue Snaggletooth in the listing, the game changes. The game is on.

First I establish if the figures are still available (my standard opener):

“Hello,

I saw your listing for the Star Wars figure assortment and I was wondering if it was still available.

Thanks!”

 They succinctly verify:

“Yes.”

I begin to gather information:

“2 questions:

1. Do you have any other photos of the figures? I want to make a reasonable offer, but I need to be able to judge condition.

 2. Do you have an idea of how much you’d like to get for the figures?

 Thanks!”

The seller ignores my request for additional photos, but establishes his floor:

“Already have an offer for 250”

I recoil from his number. Not being able to judge condition $250 is a ridiculously high number. A quick assessment of the figures in the photos returns the following based on my experience:

1. Second most common Star Wars figure case. Made out of vinyl exterior and 2 plastic interior trays. Highly prone to vinyl cracking discoloration and terrible interior sticker placement by unsophisticated children. In excellent condition it can go for $20 to $30. Until I see it in person I have to assume it is more like $10 to $15 condition at best.

2. Stormtrooper, Greedo, Hammerhead, Walrusman, Luke X-Wing Pilot… all very common figures. No weapons, can’t judge paint or joints tightness from photo. Have to assume they are at most $2 to $3 figures. Can’t see the condition of R5-D4’s sticker, can’t judge the paint on Death Star Droid. Can’t pay more than $1 per.

3. Sandperson, Jawa and Darth Vader all have their capes/robes. Sandperson looks to be in good condition and has his gaffi stick. Can’t tell if Jawa has his gun. Vader looks like he’s in good condition, but can’t tell if he has his light saber in his arm and if he does, what condition it’s in. Have to assume that, again, these are $5 figures. Can’t pay more than $2 or $3 per.

4. Chewbacca, small head Han Solo, Luke, Leia, C-3PO, R2-D2, Obi Wan, Power Droid and Yoda actually look like they are in very good condition. Vinyl capes look good. R2-D2 sticker looks good. Yoda is complete. Luke has Chewbacca’s bowcaster so Chewy is complete. The condition of these figures makes me think that the other figures might also be in very good condition even though I can’t tell from the crappy photos.

5. Death Squad Commander has a discolored torso which brings condition of all figures back into question.

6. One of these figures is a Buck Rogers figure. Now I start to question if the seller actually knows what he has. If he doesn’t even realize that one of these figures is not even from Star Wars and made of a completely different kind of plastic and articulation… maybe he isn’t aware that Blue Snaggletooth is BLUE SNAGGLETOOTH. Even if he overvalues the other 20 figures, I could potentially have TONS of room to work with if he doesn’t know about Blue Snaggletooth’s real value.

But then, he said he has offers of $250 which means he’s looking for MORE than $250 otherwise he wouldn’t even be answering my emails.

I change my strategy. If he’s really got $250 on the table, he won’t continue to talk to me. I call his bluff:

“Ok, thanks. I can’t beat that offer.

I appreciate the quick response, though.”

He takes the bait:

“Yours if u can match the others have not got back yet”

I have an opening! He’s talking to me. I decide to see what I can do to earn his trust and appeal to his intellect, get him to trust me, poke some holes in his “offers” of $250 and see if we can work that number down to a more manageable place:

“Based on the photos, I couldn’t offer more than $150.

The real value in this lot is the Blue Snaggletooth (I don’t want to assume that you know the names of all the figures, but I don’t want to offend you if you do). He’s the blue alien with the silver boots. The condition of the paint on his boots and hands is everything. If it’s perfect that figure by himself can go for $300. If there’s even just a little bit of paint loss, it drops to $200 or $150. If it’s really bad, he’s a $50 – $75 figure.

 I would be willing to make an opening cash offer of $125 based on the photos, but I would be willing to increase that once I was able to look at all of the figures in person especially the Blue Snaggletooth.

 Here’s a link to a ebay search for all of the recent completed listings for that figure. You’ll have to ignore the prices that are for groups of figures that include Blue Snaggletooth. But, like I said, there’s a range from $150 to $300 based on paint.”

My hope here is to establish a realistic range for what we are talking about. I am absolutely willing to pay for a quality figure. But condition can be a subjective thing. Mint to you may not be mint to me. Of course as the seller, he is going to over value his figure and as the buyer I’m going to undervalue it. Ideally, we meet somewhere in the middle. Unless the figure is actually graded and sealed in a graded case, there’s wiggle room in both directions. My $125 gives me a little room to go up if it indeed is an exceptional piece, but it also gives me the option of going back down to where I really want to be if I get to see the figures in person and it turns out that they looked better in the photos. If nothing else, I figure that he might just kill the whole thing based on my lower (by half) offer. And that’s that. I have lost nothing.

The reality is that, at this point in the conversation, I don’t even consider myself a contender. I’m just trying to determine the seller’s willingness to be flexible on that price. Most sellers start really high, but when they actually get someone who is ready to give them cash, they tend to soften. Again, If this guy has offers of $250, he wouldn’t be wasting his time with me. His response to my short-story about the current market value of Blue Snaggletooth:

“Mint condition”

He also includes a new photo of the Blue Snaggletooth and, even though this pictures is still kind of crappy, I can’t argue that this figure looks like it’s in really good condition. It’s easily a $100+ figure (probably $150+). I just can’t be sure about that kind of money unless A. I can see it and verify the condition with my own eyes and hands or B. we’re not talking about much money. If he can give me a low enough price that reduces my risk, I can’t roll the dice on condition based on what I see in the pictures.

Those boots are so shiny. A little TOO shiny if you ask me.

Those boots are so shiny. A little TOO shiny if you ask me.

If he’ll take $150 or $175 to be done with all this back-and-forth and put some quick cash in his pocket, we could have a deal. I won’t have much room to make money on the lot at $175… but at least I can say that I had a Blue Snaggletooth and it was a really, really nice one. And who knows, maybe I catch ebay on the right day and it goes for $200+ and someone overvalues the other Star Wars figures. I could be looking at paying $175 for a batch of figures that could be worth $250+ and less time to post them than it took to email with this guy. I test the water with a low-cash, quick-sale deal:

“What’s your rock-bottom-get-me-in-the-car-right-now-with-cash-and-buy-these-figures-immediately price?”

And that’s when everything blew up:

“Like i said knowing that 450 the luke is an original blonde hair very short production”

I’m stunned. He opened at $250 and now, based on information that I gave him he is suddenly at $450. But, the weird part is that he seemed to think the real value in his collection was something about his Luke figure. I check the photos again, am I taking crazy pills? There’s nothing about that Luke figure that says “very short production.” Yes, there are 3 different Lukes, a yellow (or blond) haired, a light brown and a dark brown haired. I suddenly have no idea what this guy is talking about and am worried that I am dealing with someone SO misinformed that I can’t possibly negotiate with him using logic or human words.

I quickly do some research to verify that I am NOT taking crazy pills and that there hasn’t been some sort of recent discovery of a new version of that Luke figure to effect the value. My research reassures me that the only way this figure could be particularly valuable is if it has the double-telescoping light saber. The very early versions of this Luke figure would have had a light saber in his arm that was 2 pieces. It is VERY rare (more rare than a Blue Snaggletooth) to find a double-telescoping light saber.

So I attempt to find out what it is about this Luke that he thinks is so valuable. Clearly he was basing his original $250 on his perceived value of the Luke and NOT the Blue Snaggletooth. I ask:

“Maybe I’m missing something here with the Luke. Is he double-telescoping lightsaber? What is the copyright mark on his leg?”

There’s nothing special about the copyright mark. There are Hong Kong marks and Taiwan marks. I’m just trying to figure out what this thing is that he thinks is so special. He responds:

“1977”

And there it is. There’s no getting past that date stamp. It’s the only thing he can see. 20 figures all marked 1977. I’m doomed. I don’t know why I’m still fighting. Perhaps I’m blinded by Blue Snaggletooths shiny, silver moonboots. I press on:

“I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be a bother or waste your time, but it should say more than just “1977”. There are several different versions of this figure and the value depends on where it was made. There are versions that were made in Hong Kong and versions that were made in Taiwan. Some say “LFL” some say “GMFGI.” Also, from the photo, it looks like he doesn’t have ANY lightsaber in his handle. If that’s the case, this is only a $10 Luke figure at best because the real value is in the condition of the lightsaber insert.”

He sends me a picture of Luke and his laundry with the response:

How much for the Nike shirt?

How much for the Nike shirt?

“Hong kong”

I realize now that I’ve been talking to a crazy person which makes ME a crazy person. I decide to withdraw, lick my wounds and spend some time reconsidering my friendship with Scott Langlais, the man responsible for getting me into Vintage Star Wars action figures in the first place. I wave the white flag and hope that the “I give up and you’ve lost any chance at a deal with me” strategy works:

 “Okay, thank you.

I think we’re just going to be too far apart on price, especially if you’re really looking to get $450.

 My max offer, based on all of the photos and our conversation, is $150 and that would be dependent on me verifying the copyright marks and condition of the paint on the figures for myself.

 Thanks again for taking the time to discuss this with me. I hope I haven’t wasted your time.”

He responds with a very brief: “ok thank u” and proceeds to take down his original craigslist posting.

Because he sold it? No.

No, no, no.

Because he RAISED HIS ASKING PRICE to $500!

This is the kind of week it’s been.

Maybe I should try to say nicer things about craigslist, about the people and Morlocks who use it to sell their collectibles. Maybe this is karma’s way of telling me that the negative energy a person puts out into the universe always comes back to the source… eventually. Maybe the things that I ridicule about craigslist and the people and Morlocks who sell their collectibles there are the things that I secretly identify in myself that I wish I could change.

Or maybe I should have pursued my real dream of playing Batman at Six Flags in their Batman Stage Show Spectacular. If only I had taken the time to learn to ride a motorcycle.”

The regrets of a misspent youth, I suppose. This round to you, craigslisters.

One Response

  1. […] The Day Craigslist Won […]

Comments are closed.