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When toys get funky

Mel Sia with his Robin (from Batman) collection and his giant Robin Funko Photos by Jesse Bustos and Mel Sia

I once asked six of my friends over lunch if they knew what Funko Pop toys were. Not one did. Yet there have been tens of thousands of these bigheaded, black-eyed dolls based on existing TV and movie characters created over the last 20 years, leading to a rapidly growing culture of collectibles. Name any character — from Pennywise the Clown to Wonder Woman — and there’s surely a Funko Pop character out there in different versions. Would you believe, there are around 9,000 Funko collectors, or at least members of the Funko Funatics Philippines Facebook group, in our country alone?

Mel Stephen Sia manages his family business involving agriculture and agriculture-related inputs and produce in Bohol. He started collecting Funko in 2013 with a Robin Pop doll (Batman’s sidekick). “There were three variants so I started hunting for the other two. But I started seriously collecting only in January 2015,” begins Mel. “Every Christmas, I would gift my barkada with a variety of items depending on their personality. In 2014, I decided to give each one a Funko Pop character they would love. I asked them to take a unique picture of them — maybe posed in their garden or at the beach or with food, etc. They were so beautiful when photographed!” he happily relates.

“That made me decide to collect more of them and I started taking pictures of them in different locations. It also helped that I had two other friends who got hooked as well, which made collecting them more fun,” he adds. Mel’s collection is quite varied. He doesn’t just have one or two themes; he collects almost all of them, depending on how he relates to them. Most of the characters are from the TV shows, movies or video games he loves.

“When you are a geek and watch way too many television shows and movies or play a lot of video games, then you are Funko’s target market,” adds Mel.

One can never really get enough of Funko Pops. Some collectors have as many as a thousand pieces. “Out of my collection of over 400 pieces, my favorite would have to be the Robins. I love Robin characters from Batman; that got me started. So there’s some sentimental value attached to them. A close second would be the Harry Potter figurines, because I’m a Potter head,” he enthuses. Mel has all the characters from Justice League and Avengers, and even Funko Pop versions of all the Game of Thrones dragons.

I asked Mel how his family feels about his vast collection. “My family is quite supportive of my hobby. At first, I was really worried that they would see me as a kid wasting a lot of money, buying and collecting toys at my age. To my surprise, they did not see it that way. My younger sister would sometimes borrow them and take pictures of them when she travels. My older sister got me the Lion King set for Christmas and my mom agreed to construct a shelf for me to display them in our house,” says Mel.

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“Although other collectors keep them in boxes, I prefer to take them out of their boxes and display them in order to save space. So I guess they’re pretty okay with it. Honestly, my mom is just happy that at least I’m not doing drugs and that Funko Pop is my addiction.” Individually, Funko Pop dolls aren’t too expensive. “A regular Funko Pop costs around P550-P600. Sometimes, toyshops have sales and you can get them for P300. However, there are exclusive ones, released during Comic Con, or only through a particular store in the US. Those will cost more. I think the most expensive ones can go for more than P10,000. The prices vary depending on the rarity of the character,” says Mel.

What do you do with over 400 characters and still growing? “Some collectors take good care of them to eventually sell them for a higher price,” he says. “My own collection I plan to keep to remind me of that period in my life when Funko Pop made me really happy.”

Some Funko Pops have movable (“bobble”) heads, but the body parts are immoveable. “I always just use my imagination,” says Mel. He invites others to play with his collection. “The community is very diverse. Funko Pops appeal to the entire age range of collectors. My baby nephew enjoys playing with them too. Moms don’t have to worry too much about their kids choking on small parts, because they don’t have any,” he notes.

Funko Pop collectors do meet up and show each other their collectibles. “I’ve made a few friends with other collectors I’ve met through the Funko Pop group and I get to hang out and play games with them during Funatics parties or Christmas parties. I usually see them in Greenhills, where most of the sellers are and during toy and comic conventions,” Mel adds.

The Funko Pop company actually listens to its rabid fans, responding to comments and suggestions from collectors to make the dolls better. “There may be similar vinyl figures on the market, but I think Funko can boast the widest selection and availability of variants of your favorite characters. I think every two years, Funko hosts Fun Days for its collectors, where they give away freebies. This makes collectors very happy as they can receive these characters. Every Christmas, they sponsor Christmas parties for the Funatics group, too. So I guess with Funko, it’s not just about the toys. The community of collectors also enjoy sharing their experiences and it’s a fairly large and fun group to be in,” Mel says of the company and the support they give to collectors of Funko Pops.

There are two Funko groups in the Philippines: Funko Funatics Philippines and Pop Til You Drop. Both groups host events like Fun Day parties, Christmas parties, quiz nights, get-togethers with Funatics from abroad and other informal meets. The venues vary, but the upcoming Christmas party for Funko Funatics Philippines will be held at Greenhills West Clubhouse this Nov. 27; the Christmas party for Pop Til You Drop will be held at the Valle Verde 2 Clubhouse this Dec. 3.

Surely Funko Pops are not just for kids, but for those who want to keep that kid in them alive forever. You can check out Mel’s Funko photos on Instagram at @melsia14.

 

 

 

 

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Email the author at nikkicoseteng2017@gmail.com or text her at +639974337154.

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