One Ohioan’s Opinion: A Vinylmation Editorial

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“Keith is one of the first people I remember meeting on twitter after starting Destination Vinylmation. We asked him to write a post if he ever had anything to say, and almost two years later we got this great opinion piece.”- M.C.


My name is Keith and I am a Vinylmation addict.

That seems to be an appropriate way to start this off don’t you think? Let’s first look at my dilemma. Vinylmation… They were a curious thing when I ran across them two years ago in the Art of Disney store in Epcot. I had seen them at the all-star sports gift shop before then but brushed them off seeing as I had no clue what the things were. My turning point was seeing the Muppet series. I have been a Disney and Muppet fanatic for my entire life. It has simply been engrained in me. Once I understood that these were artist pieces, and that they were themed to incorporate one of my other loves (Muppets) I was hooked.

I bought maybe four Muppet series 1 boxes and that was it for that trip. Little did I know two years later I’d be headed back to the same hotel under the same circumstances with about 40 doubles to trade. I’m pretty sure the first thing I did once I got my room key was pick up my carry on (where I had my traders) and head down to the gift shop. I had only traded once in Ohio at a local Disney store because mostly they were flooded with cutesters which I do not collect. I was excited at the prospect of mystery boxes, that is until I had to deal with getting around all of the challenges they present. But more on those later.

My hotel didn’t have a mystery box. They said it was broken. So instead they had a clear bin full of probably 24. I have to say I started off well. I had loads of Animation 1, Toy Story and Muppets 1 to trade. The woman at the trading box let me look through the figures and figure out what I wanted, then I asked “I can only trade once right?” She then looked around and replied… “I don’t see a manager so you can trade as much as you want.” Music to my ears! So I traded once more and decided to head to the parks.

The most common theme between locations was that there was no theme, no specific set of rules, no strict guidelines to follow and that was kind of fun. Vinylmation rules seem to resemble urban legends, they vary from place to place. In one place I was told I could pick once, only once, and that I absolutely must trade. Thank goodness that only happened once. Pretty sure it was at Once Upon a Toy. Needless to say I only traded there once. The boy working there acted as if those rules were ever broken that the world as we knew it would cease to exist. I’m fine with rules, even strict ones… But not when there is no guarantee to the quality or worth of what I’m getting back. Overall my experience with trading and the “rules” of the trade were pretty great though. That is really the only interaction that was less then fun.

I had a lot of “pick three numbers” and a lot of “you can trade twice” situations which are pretty wonderful when there is no clear box as a backup. I also had a number of “what are you looking for” interactions which help some but sometimes targeted cast members in on one series when I really just wanted anything I didn’t have. Once it worked out well and I basically helped refresh a box for a couple of figures I was looking for. It was like we were working together for the greater good.

I had a wish list of figures I wanted to find and I’m happy to say I found a number of them. Especially the Muppetvision 3D balloon. That particular figure was found completely by luck on my last day at the parks during a special interaction with a deaf cast member at the gallery store at Hollywood Studios. It absolutely made my trip. All in all trading at Walt Disney World was a fun and hectic experience. With about 40 figures I wanted to trade, I had my work cut out for me! It also made me very aware of the challenges of trading.

I’ll end this out with some suggestions to make the process more enjoyable and less stressful. Disney, I hope you are listening ;)
-Train cast members to look for flaws in figures. (I didn’t run across this a ton but there were some figures missing paint, or dirty… One even looked like it had snot on it)
-Have a simple guide for cast members to check for accessories before allowing figures to be traded. (Traded for a Blackbeard with no hat, had to put him back, I was pretty bummed. Same thing happened with an Epcot 2000 without a wand.)
-Once figures go “ON SALE” don’t allow them in trading boxes anymore. (The last few days I tried to trade I could not find anything other than Occupation series which I have no interest in whatsoever.)
-Only allow a certain number of one figure in each box. (I had one cast member turn a box around for me and the whole entire bottom row of the box was Big Al. If they still want to accept them that’s fine but they need to keep the boxes varied.)
-Re-purpose some of the figures that are trade box regulars. (Retire the Bearded Man… They just need to own the bad designs. There has to be something they can do with the more undesirable figures they have done. Melt them down and recycle them into new vinyl? I’m not positive what the answer is but those figures shouldn’t be forced on collectors.)
And finally… The rules. I actually like the differences in rules depending on where you go in the parks. I don’t think you should ever be forced to trade though. If you pick a number and it’s a clearance red create your own and you are trading a new park figure you just bought for full price you should not be forced to trade. There’s nothing “fun” about that and that’s what trading should be.

Hopefully, this helps newbies like me go into trading at the parks with a little more understanding of the challenges they might run into. Just like the guys say every week! Keep on collecting!

“If you have an opinion to share, email us!”

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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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  • Once figures go “ON SALE” don’t allow them in trading boxes anymore. (The last few days I tried to trade I could not find anything other than Occupation series which I have no interest in whatsoever.)

    Rather unfair on those who brought the figures when they weren’t on sale. Not many people get to visit the parks frequently.
    But I agree with you on your other points.

    Also find it rather annoying that some people complain about the variety and the lack of “decent” vinylmations, when they themselves are trading in Big eyes and AK that they stocked up on via the sales.

    • @Penguin

      I don’t see how that is unfair. Especially when something like the occupation series is open window. Same with the Create Your Own. So your assuming that people were buying open window figures just so they could trade them, which seems strange.

      Either way, I’m one of those people who don’t get to visit parks frequently and having the boxes flooded with less popular figures isn’t exactly great for the hobby. The cast members even know when people aren’t going to be particularly excited about what in their boxes, thats when you know theres a problem.

      We don’t have to agree on it though ;) just an idea. :)

      • It’s unfair when people have brought Park 8 at retail, when now they’re on sale. Same goes with the majority of Urban series.
        Yes unfortunately people do buy vinylmations in bulk when they’re on sale for trading purposes, even if they are window boxes.However the more annoying thing is when they complain about the lack of variety when they are partly to blame.

        And people aren’t meant to be using CYO’s in trading boxes. Another thing CMs need to be told about.

          • I haven’t seen one in a trading box myself. Just refering to what Keith had written. Although I may have misinterpreted.

        • I think open window series seemed to be the problem more than anything else. The group of park 3 that I got didn’t bother me so much. But when there are figures that are open box(window box) popping up its for one sole reason and that is to get around the system. You shouldn’t buy something you don’t want purposefully just to trade and have it get pawned off on someone else. Blind box makes sense because it’s the same risk as there was originally. I should have used the term “clearance” instead of on sale too because its different. So anyway, maybe the solution is to not accept open window series?

  • Keith, I agree the boxes need to be dumped of all the sale price items. It’s one thing for extra Big Babies, Bearded Man or other filler vinyls to fill the boxes, but Big Eyes, Occupations, Celebrations, etc just need to be pulled by Disney once they go on sale. The fun in trading is TOTALLY gone when you have to trade 6 times to get a chance at a vinyl from one of the other 25-30 series that have been released to date.

    That being said, For future releases, I don’t really see that happening considering Disney is not letting much of anything sit on the shelves very long. They are a little more careful on ordering quantities of open box series. I think they learned their lesson there.

    If I couldn’t trade my Vinylmation when I first went to Disneyland a few summers ago, I probably would not have purchased another. But I did and now the rest is history. Come on Disney, make Vinylmation trading fun again at the parks. Don’t let it burn collectors out like you let lanyard pin trading.

  • Regarding the sale items/unfavorables, I’ve never had that severe of a problem at the parks, mainly Disney store and some resorts. Not too close to a DS but when I do take the train to NYC I pop in to see and generally it’s a Bearded Man, Cutester, or from my last trip a Minnie from the half price (or so) Spooky Series. The resorts generally have some less sought after ones as well, but once I go the parks my luck changes. If you really want variety try Frontierland Trading Post, Mousegears, Dinosaur gift shop, ToT gift shop, D-Street and, the place where I have had the most success, the airport Disney store at MCO haha.

  • I do like the idea of repurposing all those clearance vinyls for new series. I’m sure it can’t be a lot of work to bundle them ALL up in several cardboard packages to some manufacturing plant in the Midwest. Including CYOs who actually do find their ways in both mystery and open trade boxes. And speaking of open boxes, wasn’t one of the original rules of mystery trading NO open box vinyls accepted?

    Well, with P8 reportedly $5 per blox, hopefully this will mean more variety in trade boxes. It is damn frustrating when you paid retail for them however. It makes me wonder if one should patiently wait until 3 months after P9 is release to see them at outlets – with P10 this late fall, this is going to be a hellish year for Park series.

    • P8 is already $5? With P9 announced for July I sure hope there’s a park series for sale at WDW when I go there in 2 weeks…

  • Im new to trading and just have a question, I received a trade with no hat, but didn’t notice till later. I’m kind of sad I traded a perfectly good vinyl for an incomplete one, is there no rule for this, like the disney store not accepting an incomplete character?

    • There is technically a rule for that. It says on Vinylmation’s own FAQ page that a figure must be “complete.” However, that means the Cast Member has to notice when taking the trade from a customer. If you as a guest receive a trade and it is missing something or damaged, you can hand it back to them and pick again and they are supposed to remove it from circulation. The unfortunate thing now is you don’t want to keep it, so you will have to trade it into a trade box. I would just mention it to the CM when you go to trade it and tell them they should keep it out of the box.

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