US Coins

Monday Morning Brief for May 20, 2019

A recent online offering of this Star Wars figure in different packaging by Hasbro Pulse resulted in a fast sellout and complaints from collectors that are identical to those heard from coin collectors when a popular U.S. Mint product sell out quickly.

Original images courtesy of Hasbro Pulse.

Collecting experiences can be similar no matter the focus of one’s collection. The drives are similar, as are the fun and the heartache — the fun that comes from adding a hotly anticipated piece to your collection and the heartache of being unsuccessful when the item you want sells out before you can complete the transaction in your digital shopping cart.

Longtime readers of Coin World will be familiar with the fallout from the fast sellout of an in-demand U.S. Mint product followed by the appearance of multiple pieces being offered by the same dealer: annoyed, enraged, disgusted or just disappointed protests, from collectors who wanted just one piece for their personal collection at the issue price but not at a vastly higher secondary market cost. You also likely well know the agony of adding the prized item to your digital shopping cart and then waiting for the checkout, only to have it digitally removed from the cart, replaced by an on-screen message: “Sorry, this item has sold out.” That has happened to a lot of us.

Recently, Hasbro Pulse, the online store for the Hasbro toy company, offered a pair of six-inch Star Wars action figures that had been first released for the Star Wars Celebration convention in early May. The figures were one of a young Obi-Wan Kenobi and the other of Darth Maul — apprentice Jedi and Sith, respectively. When the figures went on sale, the website was bombarded by collectors hoping to score one of each of the figures. And as with popular U.S. Mint products of recent years, the website got very slow, customers had trouble putting anything in their shopping carts, and even those successful to that point experienced the “sold out” moment just when they were able to click on the final button to complete their transaction.

The complaints on the closed Facebook group Star Wars Black Series 6” Collectors came in hot and heavy even before the figures sold out, and then just escalated after the inventory of the figures was exhausted. But that was not the end.

Some successful customers sharing their joy of good luck after they received their action figures were bombarded with hostile remarks. One such person posted a photo of his haul: three of each of the two figures. Here is a sampling of the comments to his posting: “Flipper,” “CLOSET ScalpR ScalpR ScalpR,” “This Kind of [expletive] is Exactly What Will Kill The Black Series,” “This is why they needed to limit them to one per person,” and “Why 3 sets?” Other comments were less accusatory, with group members congratulating the customer on his good luck. 

Sound familiar?

The same kinds of comments are heard on coin collecting forums and at the Coin World Facebook page after a popular U.S. Mint product sells out in the same manner. Remember the brouhaha that followed the end of sales for the 2016 Winged Liberty Head gold dime?

It does not matter whether you collect coins, action figures, or die-cast cars like Hot Wheels (I collect in all three categories, and then some): When you are shut out from getting one at issue price, you get angry. When you successfully get one, you are happy. When you get multiple ones but then see complaints from others who got none, you feel a tinge of guilt. Feeling this way is human. 

Getting so angry that you think about dropping out of collecting may be the new normal, and if too many collectors do the same, the sellers of such items can suffer. That is why it so important for the sellers to get things right from the beginning: to make sure the website works smoothly, to establish household limits that ensure the broadest possible distribution of the collectible, to keep buyers from exploiting loopholes that enable them to buy more than permitted limits. Otherwise, mints and private companies alike risk antagonizing their clientele.

Those two actions figures? They are now selling online for many multiples of their original costs. At least some people are happy. 


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