“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!
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