Clearing Up the Mystery: What I’d Change About Trading Vinylmation

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By DV Contributor RMThompson

First, let me preface this entire article by telling you that I love trading in the parks. I really don’t ever want to see Vinylmation trading disappear, and if we HAD to keep it in its current form (flaws included) or not have it at all, I’d take the flawed version any day. Still, it’s not a perfect system and one that is often met with disdain and looks of confusion among newer Vinylmation collectors and up to and including loathing among those more serious collectors. So, with that in mind, this article will discuss what things might possibly be fixed, and hopefully we can “clear” things up. You’ll get why that’s a pun later, but for now let’s start with:

1. Create a small set of rules that can be posted ON or NEAR the box, and make sure everyone sticks to it.
Part of the confusion in the current Vinylmation world comes from the lack of knowledge of the Cast Members in charge of selling or trading this product. This is not only a problem with trading, but with general knowledge. Some cast members can’t answer basic questions regarding Vinylmation, let alone trading. Then, there are those that follow the rules TOO rigidly. For example, recently I saw a young man go up to a box that others were trading from, the cast member asked him what number he wanted and took out a random Have-A-Laugh figure. The young man looked down at his trader, and then back towards the Have-A-Laugh, and told the cast member he didn’t want to trade. The cast member insisted that he MUST complete the transaction because “those were the rules”, even though there was no signage indicating so, and he didn’t tell this person the rules. He repeated to the guest that he “needed to complete the transaction” until the guest simply walked out of the store; after all, it WAS his Vinylmation, rules or not.

Nick trades at D-Street Orlando

To clarify, the rules do state that you have to give your figure in before being given the figure you’ve selected. They also state that you can only trade once out of the mystery box and once out of the clear box. There are cast members who, thankfully, break these rules as well. Why cherry picking boxes for possible chasers is not a good thing, some cast members know that pulling ANOTHER Toy Story Big Baby after trading one in is more than frustrating, and will let you chose again. Others have been known to let people pick up to three or more choices, (or even flip the entire box around) while others stick to the once-and-your-done rule.

If nothing else was to change in the Vinylmation trading world, I would allow two chances from the mystery box… and perhaps another if they get the same item they turned in. Remember that these experiences are supposed to invite the customer in, and excite them about Vinylmation, not turn them off to collecting. Disney, and  collectors, all benefit when new collectors start buying Vinylmation.

2. Expand the number of locations that allow trading, including location-specific trading.
Ever notice where all the trading boxes are in Disney theme parks? Yes, right near the largest Vinylmation displays. This makes sense, you want people to be able to trade right after they buy, but why limit the trading to those high-profile locations? It would seem that it might make sense to add some locations that aren’t already selling a high number of Vinylmation. There are some stores that could even have limited “themed” trading; where certain locations only allowed trading of a specific series, limiting the number of repeats in the trade box, but also adding another layer of experience for the customer.

Disney has tried different types of trading like this in the Emporium.

Imagine a box somewhere near Pixar Place that only allows trading of “Toy Story” figures, or trading of the new “Pirates of the Caribbean” series only in the large store near the ride’s exit. Even if they weren’t location specific, adding new locations to lower-trafficked stores would not only push collectors into these locations, but perhaps even allow for a longer guest/cast member experience and allow the cast members a longer time to spend trading and communicating with the guest.

Another idea would to have a cart in each park that travels around and trades, making finding it a random occurrence, and more akin to the pin trading that collectors have enjoyed for years. These carts could have a blend of clear and mystery trading, and people love trading with cast members while walking around the parks! Speaking of that…

3. Create lanyards or hip-holsters that hold 3 figures for mystery trading with cast members.
Rumor has it that the original idea for trading within the parks would’ve meant a lanyard holster, with 8 to 10 figures held on it, but the weight of it led them to the store based boxes instead. Well, why not have both? While carrying 8/10 figures might get hard, especially in the Florida heat, 3 figures would not be that difficult to carry around, especially if they were somehow held on the hip. If you’re familiar with the hip-based pin holders, you can imagine the same thing for Vinylmation, only with 3 spots (covered up with the Vinylmation ? chaser logo of course) that would allow for mystery trading.

Jr Trading

This, again, increases the randomness of finding a figure, something pin traders have enjoyed for years, and could lead to a greater guest and cast member experience. Imagine waiting in line for Space Mountain (whose store no longer has trading) and seeing a cast member with the mystery pouch. You trade with them for a figure you’re missing, and now waiting in line has become a positive experience! Also, this would be a better place to have cast chasers be launched, instead of the mystery boxes they are in now that allow cherry picking…. Which leads me to:

4. Replace the mystery boxes with clear boxes of the same design.
This is the biggest change I would make, and one that I think could really decrease the number of repeated figures found in boxes, while increasing the number of new figures collectors could find? How? By adopting the same rules found in Pin Trading; you cannot trade in a figure if the box already holds the same figure.

The current 3 figure clear trading boxes

Imagine the mystery boxes were all replaced with clear versions of the same. When you walk into the store, you can see the box behind the counter. Without bothering a cast member, you can see if there are any figures you are looking for. If you DO spot one, you can then get in line and trade with the cast member. However, if all you have to trade is a figure already in the box, you aren’t allowed. This solves a number of issues, and while it seems to counter the “fun” in the mystery, would actually make people much happier, as they see what they are going to get. It eliminates having several of the same figure in the boxes, which is an epidemic at certain trade boxes in the parks, and means that the most of any one figure scattered around the park would be at maximum one-per-box.

Also, if there is a figure you need and you don’t have an appropriate trader, you could buy a figure, located close to the trading of course, thus increasing sales for Vinylmation. It’s really a win-win for everyone.

I can see how some people would be discouraged by this change, after all Vinylmation collectors are notoriously bad at handing change. The greedy will maintain that the figures hiding in the mystery boxes increase the chances of finding a rare or out of print figure, after all I myself found an Urban 1 Oopsy in a mystery box less than 6 months ago, but if the number of chasers found in the clear boxes is any indication, some traders either don’t know the value of certain figures, or don’t care, and I am sure hard to find figures would make their way to the boxes.  Also, if #3 on this list was also instated, it would be able to satisfy those with the urge to blind trade, without tying up cast members at a retail location.

So that’s it. Again, I love the trading, and really don’t want it to go away, but if the new mold is any indication, the team at Vinylmation is ALWAYS looking at new ways to increase the quality of the product and experience. Here’s hoping trading is including in those discussions.

Also, what do you, the reader and collector, think of these changes? Are there OTHER changes you would create if you were in charge?

Until next time, make mine Vinylmation!

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About the author

Nick LoCicero

Nick LoCicero has almost 20 years experience in the media industry. He has worked on numerous Disney related media projects, most know at WDWNT for WDW News Tonight. He has been visiting Walt Disney World since 1982. After moving to Orlando in the late 90's he became a passholder, developed a fascination with the history of the vacation kingdom and has spent way too much money on park merchandise.

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