Anyone who's been into toy collecting remembers the whole toy grading scale that was in place for decades. Whether it was loose or in the package, there was a sliding scale from 1-10 called the “C” scale. The “C” scale started at C10 which usually stood for dead mint in package, like you had freshly pulled it from a factory case, and the scale slid down from there in increments of .5 to (for lack of better terms) accurately describe the condition of a figure. The same scale starting at C10 is used for loose toys. C10 is used for toys that have the appearance that they were just pulled off of a sealed card, complete with all weapons and free of any dirt or stray markings. The scale slides down in the same manner depending on loose joints, missing pieces or paint missing/stray marks.
(this would not be mint. and the accessory is missing)
This scale was literally useless since everyone has different ideas of mint on card or loose/complete or card fresh. From years of working in the toy field, from sales to stocking to eventually becoming a well trusted expert in the field; I've seen people who will sit with a box of 12 case fresh figures and look them over. Front and back, all five sides of the blister and even the edges of the card to find the mint-est figure there was and wouldn't touch anything that didn't pass the test. I've sold at comic book shows and had people meticulously inspect a loose toy to figure if the price marked was a fair price for the condition. Then you have the people who live by the code and will try to barter their way down trying to quote “C” scale to you, I unfortunately don't speak these folk's language because my product is always priced to sell (way below book price and so-called book price is something I will discuss later).
(I swear those bozos are just this bad if not worse)
Then came AFA, the Action Figure Authority. AFA took the “C” scale and made it something more understandable. They started the scale at AFA 100 (speaking of which, I've never seen anything get the AFA 100 seal of approval.) and go down in increments of 5 to describe a toy's mint condition. This of course is an exclusive right of passage only given out by the AFA. For a varying price (solely dependent of the scale of the figure) you can have any toy in your collection, loose or carded, “professionally graded” by the crew at AFA. Part of your price pays for an acrylic case and the certification sticker from AFA which for some reason makes your figure worth more. How is it worth more? Just because some 3rd party who deemed themselves the authority on professionally grading figures makes their word the same as God's word? This seems like an unnecessary hoop to jump through, and believe me people line up for the right. (Oh, by the way shipping is a separate charge.)
(better grade on a loose figure, but it's pretty clean)
A little show in Orlando called FX was my first experience with the AFA. This was back in the early part of the last decade. Not only was I shocked at the price per toy, but the line at the booth! Not just figures, vehicles, playsets and more. The largest thing I saw at the table was the Kenner Ghostbuster's firehouse playset and they'd “professionally grade” it as long as he paid whatever exorbitant price they quoted. Unfortunately they didn't have an acrylic case big enough but they'd ship it back to their home office (at his cost) and have it sealed in a new large case. Are these cases magical? Do rainbow spew from them? The answer is no, all they do is allegedly protect your figure from dust and UV damage. That's it, that and a sticker and your figure is worth up to 40% more than book price.
(that's a big fucking case for a big fucking toy)
Eventually, this crazy fell off like most and as far as I know no one uses either scale. And you know what kind of dealer you are dealing with if you ever hear AFA or “C” scale quoted in an auction, show or flea market. Nowadays most of us use mint, near mint, flawless, loose, played with, 3/$5 or dollar bin. All of which are very visual terms that significantly describe the condition of what you are buying.
(this is what a real price guide looked like, circa 1990's)
Book price was always the bane of most toy collector's existence. If you ran across something at a show and you thought the price was too much, the dealer would often claim “book price” is around (insert price here). First of all, book price doesn't exist in today's collecting world. I haven't seen an official price guide issued since 2006 and the days of toy collecting magazines (ToyFare, Lee's) are a thing of the past too. The toy field is a liquid market, which means the price is often dependent on current demand for the product. Someone may not think their Bucky O'Hare figures are worth anything but something as simple as a blog in high rotation, re-issue the cartoon series on DVD or even being mentioned in a movie/TV show can up desirability of any line in a matter of hours. Figures and vehicles that wouldn't sell for .99 cents and free shipping start closing out at five times over what they originally cost at retail. Even blogs, like the one you are reading, have had an effect on the desirability of a figure line.
(all extinct, circa 2011)
There is no book anymore and eBay is good to use as a barometer but it's not the book. Just because it's listed for BUY IT NOW (insert price here) doesn't mean it goes for that. That's just some poor fool with delusions of grandeur, thinking a closet full of toys is going to bring him into early retirement just that much sooner. That man hasn't quit his day job and neither should you.
(either still has a day job or my tax dollars are keeping them flush with Steel Reserve)