Ever spotted some old toys lying around the house and thought you could make a quick buck selling them online?
Rod Addamo and Sean McConville have taken a far more serious approach to their toy collections. The Melbourne-based men see them as investments that can potentially secure their financial futures and have poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into them.
Putting money into collectibles is part of a newer and less traditional way some are looking to build wealth. But are toys as safe as houses?
In an unregulated market heavily linked to social trends, some experts warn it could be "highly valuable one minute and not very valuable at all the next."
How does investing in toys like Funko Pops work?
Rod Addamo started collecting Funko Pops as a fun hobby but now his collection has turned into a half-a-million-dollar investment portfolio.
“I've spent close to $300,000 on Funko Pops over the last ten to twelve years,” he told The Feed.
“But I’m also confident in saying that my Funko Pop collection would be worth nearly half a million dollars.”
Rod estimates his Funko Pop collection is worth close to half a million dollars Source: SBS
“I have a long-term plan that one day, my kids will take ownership of my collection.”
Funko Pops are small, lightweight, vinyl figurines. There are thousands of variations, based on movies, video game characters, comic books and other pop culture icons.
Rod says he buys multiple editions of Funko Pops that he expects to go up in value (the standard retail price is $20 - $25).
He then holds on to them for at least 12 months until they are no longer sold in shops, and he can sell them at a premium price – some for thousands of dollars.
But you can’t just buy any old Funko Pop and expect it to be worth more in the future.
Rod and his children at the Funko Hollywood store in Los Angeles. Source: Supplied
“What you want to be doing is anticipating the next big thing, so looking if there is a new franchise movie coming out or if there is a new TV series in the pipeline and buying up Funko Pops associated with those franchises, ” he says.
“You don’t want to be buying Funko Pops associated with cancelled shows.”
Rod also claims to have the largest Funko Pop collection in the world. The current Guinness World Record count is 7,095.
Rod's most expensive Funko Pop. A limited release Spider-Man from 2011 worth an estimated $13,500. Source: SBS
“I reckon I have about eight thousand and something, I have so many stored away in boxes around the house, it’s impossible to keep track of them all.”
This is one of the limitations Rod says comes with investing in Funko Pops - space.
“It has legitimately taken over the entire house.”
“You also have to keep the boxes in mint condition, it instantly loses 50 per cent of its value if the box has been opened and 70 per cent of its value if you lose or throw away the box.”
Collecting Marvel memorabilia has been a lifelong journey for Rod. The franchise has a special place in his heart.
“When I was quite young my dad got sick and passed away. I was the eldest of four children and we were a single-income family.”
Rod (middle back row) and his dad (left the second row) in a family portrait. Source: Supplied
“I turned to Marvel comics and learned a lot of life lessons from them about responsibility, and about doing the right thing and about standing up.”
Rod has acquired every single Marvel Funko pop ever released, four out of the top ten most expensive Funko Pops in the world are Marvel characters.
Recently a man in California paid US$100,000 ($150,000) for an ultra-rare two-pack of Funko Pops.
It was a golden ticket, Willy Wonka themed pack with Funko Pops of the characters Charlie Bucket and Willy Wonka dipped in gold. It was one of only ten in the world.
I turned to Marvel comics and learned a lot of life lessons from them about responsibility, and about doing the right thing and about standing up.Rod Addamo
Rod says he hasn't gone that far for a single purchase.
“The most expensive Funko Pop I have is a metallic chrome Spider-Man from the San Diego Comic-Con in 2011. Its current value is around US$9,000 ($13,500).”
“I do see Funko Pops as a really good nest egg for my kids for their future.”
“There's a lot that I'll never sell in my time on this earth. And I think when the time comes, I'll give them my blessing that they can sell the collection.”
Sean's interest in Lego started as an escape. He's now spent almost $400,000
Lego investor Sean McConville told The Feed he has put a substantial amount of money into Lego sets.
“I’ve probably spent close to $400,000 over the last few years on Lego” .
Lego investor Sean McConville inside his second-hand Lego store, Brickville in Melbourne. Source: SBS
The principles for investing in Lego are similar to those for investing in Funko Pops.
“It is a process of understanding when Lego sets are about to retire, ” he told The Feed.
“Buying sets you think will perform well and putting them away, so that you can resell them at a later date at a higher price when demand outstrips supply.”
Sean first realised he could make money investing in Lego during a particularly challenging period of his life.
Five years ago his wife died after being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. He says that after her death he and his children aged 14 and 15 at the time “retreated from the world as a family”.
“We used Lego as a way to chill, escape from what was going on and keep us busy.”
“We would sort the sets out, bag them up and then I began selling them on eBay and we were able to make a little bit of money on the side.”
Sean, his former wife, and children before her illness. Source: Supplied
Now Sean runs a second-hand Lego store which specialises in rare and vintage sets which is where he sells all of his investments in Lego.
“A lot of Lego collectors are completionists, they'll buy a Lego helmet, or a Lego bust of a particular character that they like. And then they go, oh, I need to get the other ones now,” Sean says.
"And so they'll go to people that have spent money, putting aside these sets and they'll pay a higher price.”
“Or they're out looking for a special set they had as a kid. You know, because there's a lot of nostalgia attached to Lego as well.”
“Lego can be challenging as an investment, mainly because you need to care for those sets and you want those sets to stay in mint condition as that will impact the price.”
What are the risks associated with investing in collectibles?
Susan Thorp, a professor of finance at the University of Sydney, said investing in Lego and Funko Pops is closely linked to what is trending.
Susan Thorp is a professor of finance at The University of Sydney. Credit: Daniel Linnet
"So you could be holding something that's highly valuable one minute and not very valuable at all the next," she told The Feed.
"Good investments spread our wealth across a variety of different assets, some of which pay off in some circumstances, and some of which pay off in others.
"If we concentrate our wealth in particular assets, particularly peculiar assets, like Lego or Funko Pops, we're not spreading the risk."
Stefan Von Imahof is the founder and CEO of Alts.co, an alternative investment fund and website.
Stefan Von Imahof has invested in rare wines, tequila, vinyl records and art works as part of his company's investment fund. Source: SBS
He told The Feed there are dangers investing in collectibles such as Funko Pops and Lego as it is an unregulated market.
“Most of these investment markets are less than a decade old, so you’ve got to do your research before investing in them,” he said.
“They can also crash and we’ve seen that happen before with video games back in 1983 and same with sports memorabilia where the high-end has held up but the lower end has been completely decimated.”
However Stefan believes Funko Pops are a better investment than Lego due to their price and packaging.
“They’re only $20 a pop whereas Lego sets can cost hundreds of dollars,” he said.
“Funko Pops also have sturdy durable packaging that showcases the Funko Pop really well which is important as so much of Lego and Funko Pops value is tied up in the condition of the box.”
'It's certainly not a get-rich-quick scheme'
Stefan believes you need to be passionate - if you’re to start investing in either Funko Pops or Lego, its not an easy route to quick money.
“If you're going to go into Lego investing, it's going to take a lot of work.” .
“I think realistically, with a lot of hustle and hard work, you can expect to make somewhere between $30,000 and $50,000 per year; it's certainly not a get-rich-quick scheme.”
“Like with investing in anything, it helps if you have an interest in Funko Pops and Lego because you’re going to understand the market better than others and enjoy the process much more.”