CEO Chad Thompson tells us all about AFA's invaluable service...
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The age-old debate of whether to open up or keep an action figure mint-on-card may never be solved in our lifetime. However, there is one thing I am sure both sides can agree on: If you own a rare collectible, it's best left in pack to retain its full value. But what exactly is that full value? That's where Action Figure Authority (AFA) steps in.
Most collectors that have been in the hobby for awhile have heard about graded action figures by AFA. I've heard of the service, but like many, quickly dismissed the thought of having a toy graded due to a lack of information and forum-fueled rumors: It's too expensive. It's only used to jack up the toy's value on the secondary market. Only really old, rare toys qualify.
To learn more about Action Figure Authority and the process of grading a collectible, we went to CEO Chad Thompson to get some concrete answers. Why was AFA started? What exactly does AFA do? When is AFA right for you? Read on, the answers may surprise you...
FIGURES.COM: Action Figure Authority is synonymous today with professionally graded action figures and collectibles. How long has AFA been providing this invaluable service and what was your motivation to start it?
FIGS: I am sure years of careful study and planning went into AFA's grading system. Can you give us a brief idea on how this system was developed?CHAD THOMPSON: AFA was founded in the year 2000 in order to provide toy collectors throughout the world with added peace of mind when making purchases sight unseen. Until the formation of AFA, dealers, collectors and investors had no universal standard by which to judge an items condition. Because each individual has a different opinion of condition and because sellers have a tendency towards bias when viewing their own items, AFA levels the playing field and allows purchases which are made sight unseen, such as those over the internet, to be safer thereby increasing the chances that a buyer will be satisfied with their purchases of collectible action figures and toys.
AFA also serves as an added assurance to toy collectors that an item is both authentic and in the condition advertised. AFA also greatly reduces the chances that a buyer will be scammed or receive a resealed or otherwise tampered with example of an item.
CT: AFA has worked diligently for years to develop the standard we use to accurately convey the condition of original and un-tampered with collectibles, thereby creating a safer collecting environment and helping to ensure that your investment is protected for years to come. When you can be certain that an item was carefully examined by well-trained, unbiased professionals, you can relax and better enjoy your collecting experience.
FIGS: What are some key features you look for when grading an action figure?
FIGS: How long does an action figure grade last? Do I have to have it re-graded at a later date?CT: Our skilled grading professionals carefully examine your item to verify that it is original and untampered with. They are looking for blister reseals, touch ups as well as any other restoration that could be present. The grading is based on condition so the graders are looking for any flaws that might be present on the card or box, blister or window, and the figure.
CT: Typically the grade should last forever however if the condition changes to the item at a later date than it would need to be re-graded.
FIGS: 1:6th scale collectibles from companies such as Hot Toys and Enterbay have surged in popularity in recent years. Given their already high-dollar starting price, they've also become quite valuable. Does AFA offer a service for figures of this size?
FIGS: Speaking of size, is there a size limit to what you will grade? Can I get my 1981 Star Wars AT-AT graded?CT: Yes, we offer the same service and have graded some of these collectibles whether they are loose or packaged. Those are some of the nicer items and our favorites that we like to grade. Once graded our guys and can custom make a beautiful display for them.
FIGS: In addition to a professionally graded collectible, collectors also receive from AFA excellent protection in the form of an acrylic display case. This is ideal for clearly visible blister carded figures, but I'm curious to how this process works for figures packaged in a box, such as fifth panel window boxes. Is the figure encased next to the packaging?CT: We have graded many AT-AT's vintage and modern. There is really no size limit to what we can grade (at least not yet ). Our fabrication department can pretty much make a case for anything... like the GI Joe Flagg, for instance, which we have also graded and cased.
CT: Once an item has been graded, it is carefully secured inside one of our durable acrylic cases for protection and display. On the figures that are in a box, it is up to you as you have options. We can just grade the box and seal it in the case. We can open up the box and grade it loose or we open up the box and grade it loose and put the figure next to the box.
FIGS: Does AFA grade loose figures? How much does this impact the figure's value?
FIGS: Have you seen a change in the way action figures are sold on the secondary market because of what you do? Do you think this is good or bad?CT: Yes, we grade loose figures. The value of course is going to be dependent on the grade and the figure but a graded AFA loose figure could greatly increase the value.
CT: Many people feel that the existence of a grading company will raise the prices they have to pay to collect items they like. The truth of the matter is that rare and high grade items will always demand a premium whether a grading company exists or not. We are here to provide a service and make trading over the internet much safer than it has ever been in the past. We have nothing to do with what prices people will pay for items. We simply rate them based on our expertise so that collectors can feel comfortable both making purchases and that items in their collections are genuine.
There are many people who cannot afford to buy the top quality items they would like to and they may blame AFA for this. The truth of the matter is that demand greatly exceeds supply and prices therefore continue to climb whether AFA exists or not. We simply want to provide an honest service to help promote action figure and toy collecting as a hobby. We believe that items should be preserved and that the main service we provide is piece of mind. The majority of bad press out there includes completely false assertions about AFA which are based solely on negative emotions of a few individuals who choose to completely ignore actual facts about our company.
FIGS: Trivia time - What is currently the oldest/most valuable/rarest action figure graded by AFA?
FIGS: Thank you so much for enlightening us on AFA's service. I'll close with probably one of the most burning questions on our reader's minds: When is AFA right for them?CT: I would say the AFA graded 1978 carded Darth Vader with Telescoping Saber which is worth around $30,000. (NOTE: No photos of the Vader were available, but the AFA graded Megatron vs. Optimus pictured above is worth around $15,000.)
CT: I would say the right time is just dependent on the person. Whether it is for the peace of mind as a buyer, higher resale value for a seller, improved display quality or just to preserve the condition of your items the right time is now.
Interested in having a collectible professionally graded by Action Figure Authority? Visit their website at www.toygrader.com. Everything you need to know about having your collectible graded is answered: From what's eligible for grading and the grading scales used, to pricing and detailed submission instructions.
Heading to San Diego Comic-Con later this month? Be sure and stop by Action Figure Authority's booth #2045 where the company will be accepting all submissions for grading. All submissions received at Comic-Con will receive FREE shipping back to AFA for grading! AFA will also have sliding bottom cases available for purchase at the booth that fit many size items, including SDCC exclusives.
A huge "Thank You" to Chad Thompson for this interview opportunity and for offering his service to collectors.
Interview by Jeff Salyor
Photos Courtesy of AFA