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TNI Guest Editorial: Cancel Culture in Action Figure Collector Communities: Necessary Evil or Cyberbullying? By Chip Carroll


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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by Chip Carroll in this editorial do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of TNI.

About the author: Chip Carroll holds a master’s degree in American history focused on contemporary pop culture. He has been collecting action figures most of his life. His favorite toy lines are G.I. Joe, Marvel Legends, and Star Wars. Also, loves to read comic books and has a file at two of his local comic book stores. He is a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), an educational medieval organization. He likes to spend his weekends with his friends doing full contact medieval fighting. Lastly, a beer connoisseur, his favorite beer is free and cold.

Cancel Culture in Action Figure Collector Communities: Necessary Evil or Cyberbullying? By Chip Carroll

As an action figure collector, I get joy from showing off my collection to friends and fellow collectors. Social media outlets such as Facebook and Instagram have given me opportunities to share pictures of my collection with fellow collectors all over the world. Over the past ten years, I have met good people that share the same interest in collecting action figures. For collectors, me included, action figure collections are points of pride.

It is a great feeling when I find that new wave of action figures on the shelf. I get excited and want to share photos with my friends on social media. I grab my phone and snap pictures of the new wave of action figures in my car and post the pictures on the action figure group that I frequent. I love that group because that is where I get news and updates about figures and see other collectors’ action figures collections. As I am driving home from the store, my phone dings with the sound of a notification from someone responding to my photo.

 

As I continue my drive home, I hear several more notifications sound on my phone. I think to myself, “Oh man, people are really liking my new photo.

I finally get home and I grab my new action figures and head inside. I look down at my phone and I began to check the responses on my photo. I stop right before I open the front door to my home. To my shock, no one is congratulating me on my new action figure purchase. Instead, I see a lot of negative responses about my photo such as, “Scalper!” “He is such a Scalper!” “You could have saved a few for the next collector.” “Greedy collector!” “You bought two of the same figure, so I bet you are a scalper.” Not only are there negative responses and shaming comments (which are hurtful), but also there are a few private messages calling me a scalper, threatening to tell everyone in the action figure community not to trade with me because I am a scalper.

 

A scalper is a negative term used in the toy community for someone that buys high demand actions figures and sells them for a profit. When someone is labeled a “scalper,” the term often “cancels out” that person’s status as a collector. The stigma of that label is then attached to the collector.

By being labeled a “scalper” in the comments and in private messages, I have just become a victim of the cancel culture movement that exists in the toy community. The toy community is not immune to cancel culture. Most of the toy community exists on the internet and the internet is where cancel culture thrives. According to Dictionary.com: “Cancel culture refers to the popular practice of withdrawing support for (canceling) public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive. Cancel culture is generally discussed as being performed on social media in the form of group shaming.

Over the past few years within the toy community two types of shaming have become very popular.

 

First is collector shaming. This is where a collector buys one or more of the same items for their private collection. The reason collectors do this is to open one figure, keep one in the box, and to put another away for trading later. This practice has been around for over thirty years. Also, some action figures are made solely to be army builders. An army builder is a generic army figure such as a Stormtrooper from Star Wars, Hand Ninjas from the Marvel Universe, and Cobra Troopers from G.I. Joe. Collectors will buy several of the “army builder” figures and display them on the shelf outnumbering the heroes in a battle scene or just standing in rank.

The next is price shaming. This is the practice of taking a brand-new figure and selling the figure on a social media outlet at fair market value. Even though the collector may have just purchased the figure at their local store for retail price (plus gas and time, of course), if the figure is really popular it can demand a higher price. A good example of this type of popularity is high demand toys that are released during the Christmas holidays. Many collectors have a sense of entitlement and think that fellow collectors should help the community by selling the figures for retail plus shipping.

Some collectors feel so entitled that they should also get a discount on shipping because many online outlets offer free or discounted shipping and expect the individual seller offer the same discount. In a few cases some collectors demand that taxes should not be included in the price because that is only something that retailers can collect. Because, “it is good for the good of the community.

As a result of selling the figure above retail price, the seller will be attacked, bullied, shamed, stigmatized, and labeled as a “Scalper,” even though it is an unfair label. Sometimes the collector will be ostracized from the toy community, and in extreme cases, the collector will be ousted. There is also a practice where many militant collectors will spend hours matching up other collectors’ names on online selling sites with their social media names and out them as scalpers within the toy community. The argument militant collectors give for this behavior is, “It is best for the toy community.” Consequently, the anti-scalper movement affects all the different toy groups.

A collector can be a great asset within the toy community because of their early access to new figures in their local stores, offering these figures at a retail price plus shipping and helping many collectors get new figures for their collections.

However, due to the cancel culture present in the toy community, all it takes for the community to turn on that collector is one high price or a picture with a large army of figures. All the good deeds the collector did are instantly wiped away with comments and personal messages that unfairly label the collector as a “scalper” and ostracize them from the community.

Both collector shaming and price shaming are clear examples of what is called cancel culture, and this affects the toy community in a negative way. These two examples can cause collectors to be forced out of collecting action figures because they have been ostracized by the community. Many collectors can become reluctant to share pictures of their collections or even attempt to sell an item in the toy groups because of the fear of being ostracized from the toy community. Price shaming and collector shaming are two ways to perpetuate the cycle of cancel culture in the toy community. Is cancel culture in the toy community truly a necessary evil or is it a sad form of cyberbullying?

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So this guy does something he knows was wrong, then when he gets called on it, he screams "Cancel Culture" like a little b---h, so he can paint himself as the victim. Here's an idea. Listen to th

I've been a collector for over 30 years and a journalist for over 20 years. This is without a doubt one of the dumbest things I've ever read in my life.

I am, in fact, referring to the "substance" (or complete lack thereof). It reads like a fringe right-wing talking point.  If you don't want to be criticized, don't buy hoards of figures up at ret

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36 minutes ago, MarkL334 said:

I've been a collector for over 30 years and a journalist for over 20 years. This is without a doubt one of the dumbest things I've ever read in my life.

A "journalist" of 20 years should know that the facts and the substance of words and what is said are what matters. In a way you're somewhat making the author's point for him. Right or wrong, could you at least have contributed something productive like giving an actual counter-point or counter-argument instead of just "you're stupid" type comments?

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17 minutes ago, Archangelboy said:

A "journalist" of 20 years should know that the facts and the substance of words and what is said are what matters. In a way you're somewhat making the author's point for him. Right or wrong, could you at least have contributed something productive like giving an actual counter-point or counter-argument instead of just "you're stupid" type comments?

I am, in fact, referring to the "substance" (or complete lack thereof). It reads like a fringe right-wing talking point. 

If you don't want to be criticized, don't buy hoards of figures up at retail and jack the prices up in an effort to make a quick buck. It's pretty simple. Collectors aren't being "canceled" left and right for buying large lots for their own personal collections. 

Also, I very clearly never said he was stupid. I said the article was dumb. Because it is.

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I don't fully agree with your argument. Your comment's about collector shaming for buying more than one of the same item for a personal collection is valid, it's a practice that not all collectors will do but that doesn't mean it should be invalid. I will argue that collectors who want multiple copies of the same figure might be better off using online retailers when they're able to. Many of the online toy stores offer free shipping for more expensive orders (something those who order multiple of one item are more likely to qualify for). Online retailers become less viable for collectors who only buy one copy of one or two figures from a wave because those collectors are less likely to be able to take advantage of free shipping.

I completely disagree with your comment's about price shaming. I could be reading it wrong but don't think that people are balking at how much you're asking for a figure as much as they're frustrated that because of you they can no longer buy that figure at retail. By buying a figure at a retail store with the sole intention of immediately reselling it a collector has denied other collectors the opportunity to buy the figure at their local retailer. This artificial manipulation of supply is by definition scalping. Buying a figure and then selling it online is hurting rather than helping collectors get those figures because now those collectors need to pay a premium for a figure they otherwise could have purchased at retail. An argument that one person buying an extra figure to sell doesn't hurt the market at large is fooling yourself because it's just adding to the larger problem.

If you're tired of people shaming you on the internet, only buy what you need for your collection and if you're buying entire waves or multiples of a single character try taking advantage of online retailers whenever it's possible.

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So this guy does something he knows was wrong, then when he gets called on it, he screams "Cancel Culture" like a little b---h, so he can paint himself as the victim.

Here's an idea. Listen to that little voice in the back of your head, his name is conscience. He won't steer you wrong. Oh, and give the millennial catch-phrases a break.

Society's gotten weird enough without these douche-bags.

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42 minutes ago, mako said:

So this guy does something he knows was wrong, then when he gets called on it, he screams "Cancel Culture" like a little b---h, so he can paint himself as the victim.

Here's an idea. Listen to that little voice in the back of your head, his name is conscience. He won't steer you wrong. Oh, and give the millennial catch-phrases a break.

Society's gotten weird enough without these douche-bags.

lol the world must be coming to an end, mako and i are in total agreement about something. 

you nailed it though, this man bought 13 of the same figure, took pictures bragging about it, and now hes mad that people call him a scalper. i mean if youre legit gonna army build, take your pics with all 13 out the box and displayed, nobody army builds carded figs.

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17 minutes ago, DrLava said:

lol the world must be coming to an end, mako and i are in total agreement about something. 

you nailed it though, this man bought 13 of the same figure, took pictures bragging about it, and now hes mad that people call him a scalper. i mean if youre legit gonna army build, take your pics with all 13 out the box and displayed, nobody army builds carded figs.

Hell, all three of us are in agreement on this. I would think most people on this board probably are. I would hope so, anyway.

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When you post something you won’t always get a like, thumbs up, pat on the back or a trophy. Just because someone disagrees, it’s not cancel culture. If you post a picture of thirteen hard to find figures that many people can’t find, you’ll probably not get a “good job”. You’re not a victim. If you’re selling them at a higher cost, then yeah, you are a scalper. If they’re for your personal collection, who cares what people say. People need to quit looking for validation on the internet.   

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I agree with everyone here, this sounds like a lot of bull. Also, Cancel Culture? Seriously? I'm part of 4 action figure groups  and I have never seen anyone get "cancelled" the way this guy describes. To me, sounds like persecution complex and this guy is mad that he didn't get the attention he wanted.

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14 minutes ago, Belmont13 said:

I agree with everyone here, this sounds like a lot of bull. Also, Cancel Culture? Seriously? I'm part of 4 action figure groups  and I have never seen anyone get "cancelled" the way this guy describes. To me, sounds like persecution complex and this guy is mad that he didn't get the attention he wanted.

Well, he's getting attention now. Surely not the type he'd like, but that's just tough $#!+.

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I dunno about this write-up... I've never been mad at another person/collector who was able to grab a bunch of hard-to-get figures when he/she saw them on a shelf - I've never even seen such a thing in person because finding figures is so impossible in the first place. But if anything, when I see random online pics of people holding multiples of rare figs, I get mad at the company who made them so impossible to find and not the guy who was lucky enough to get them *shrugs*

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Aside from the Roadblock which I did not want, I never found a single Target GI Joe Classified exclusive.  I did see a lot of guys like this scurrying to the check out with an armload of Cobra Troopers or Vipers.  To me the guys that post the pics in their car just seem like dicks.  I know we all want that typical endorphin rush pat-on-back everyone on social media wants, but it just seems like rubbing salt into the wounds.  When most are struggling to find one figure your post pics of your 13?!  What did you expect?

I do agree with the person that said this is a retail/production problem but as a collector who has become jaded with the hobby from constantly seeing the same 40-50-somethings running to the toy aisles first thing in the morning at Target and snatching up everything, this is just my gut reaction.

 

 

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Me, I just want the toys. I could care less what other people on social media thinks. The hate the author got is definitely from bragging about getting 13 figures when others can't even find one.

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This is so funny!!!!!!...From the story to some of the post...

Why not post.....

Kill the Scalper!!!!! Where does he live!!!!! We will find him!!!

It's my "RIGHT" to buy this fig at Retail!!!!

This is AMERICA and being Greedy is not allowed in AMERICA, son. Didn't you know???

Man.....It's so much Material here......Where do you start?=^)

Sorry....If I offended anyone out there....Please Don't Cancel Me!!!!

This is getting unreal.....

There must be other properties in covid, that Scientist have not found...

Like......"Crazy" =^)

We're still talking about a 4" plastic fig right? Just check'n  =^)

Can you even say "SCALPER" anymore???....

Not "WOKE" enough towards Native Americans???....No?

Your CANCELED!!!! =^)

Thanks for the post, JayC

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Buying two to open one and display the second? Army building? Picking up an extra for a buddy? Sure, that's fine. I do all that.

But the last point. Selling for a higher price than retail +shipping. It's the literal definition of scalping. Please don't do that. And if you do. Please stop. You're not helping anyone and just compounding onto the problem. 

If you volunteer to pick up extras to distribute to the community, the time and gas is on you. Volunteers don't get paid in anything other than the goodwill and thanks that they generate.

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8 hours ago, slugzilla said:

 

Its not random garbage and if you cant be bothered to listen to others points of views whats the point of bothering to comment? Chip isn't a scalper and actually helped me multiple times to get items at cost that I couldn't find near me. The point of an editorial is to facilitate debate which it seems this one has done.

I don't 100% agree with every point Chip makes here, but I think at the crux of his article were some will jump to a conclusion that one is a scalper or somehow bad because they buy multiples of something is a legit one. I've seen it happen to folks on a number of occasions.

As to your final question, if you were to write a well thought out point of view on the hobby for submission then yes I would certainly take a look at for posting  as I would for anyone. The question is would you really take the time to write such an article?

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1 hour ago, SleeplessKnight said:

But the last point. Selling for a higher price than retail +shipping. It's the literal definition of scalping. Please don't do that. And if you do. Please stop. You're not helping anyone and just compounding onto the problem. 

If you volunteer to pick up extras to distribute to the community, the time and gas is on you. Volunteers don't get paid in anything other than the goodwill and thanks that they generate.

See I would disagree. I view a scalper at least for our purpose here as someone who buys something at retail and then sells it with the specific intent of making a profit. That is different than if you asked a person to maybe help with something like gas. Some of this depends on the individual circumstance. If you just happen to pick up something for someone at random, asking for a little extra for gas might be extreme. But I see where some folks who live in areas that are much easier to find stuff get swamped with requests from people who live in areas where the stuff never shows up at constantly being asked if they can get some help. If your regularly going out and finding stuff for people, adding a little extra for gas and time I don't think is unreasonable. Now again a "little extra" is the key term there. If you get a $20 figure and want double or triple the price that is not the same thing as asking for a couple extra bucks for gas or such. If you jump one soneone's case and start labeling them scalper for a few extra bucks for gas, well I think that's not to cool, which I believe is the point Chip is making.

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As for army building, If as an example someone walks into Target and say comes upon a case of 6 of the Cobra Island Cobra Viper and no one else is around wanting one, is it uncool for them to buy all 6 for their own collection???

IDK. This happened to me with the Cobra Trooper when it first came out. I got the Target employee to bring me out the case and there was no one else around wanting one at that time. I could have bought all 6 but I opted to buy 1 and leave the rest. Now I dont generally army build beyond 2 figures, but even if I did I probably would have still at most only bought two at that time. In fact I came back to the store a few days later and one was on the shelf so I went on and picked up a second one. However if someone choose to buy all six under those circumstances I certainly wouldn't condemn them or call them scum or scalper.

Now it was different when the Viper came out. For that one there was a group of people waiting when they brought out the case. We all agreed we each would only take 1 and the 6 went to the first 6 people who arrived at the store and waited for them to bring it out. If someone under those circumstances had tried to grab more than one or someone tried to jump in line then that would be a totally different thing.

 

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39 minutes ago, JayC said:

Its not random garbage and if you cant be bothered to listen to others points of views whats the point of bothering to comment? Chip isn't a scalper and actually helped me multiple times to get items at cost that I couldn't find near me. The point of an editorial is to facilitate debate which it seems this one has done.

I don't 100% agree with every point Chip makes here, but I think at the crux of his article were some will jump to a conclusion that one is a scalper or somehow bad because they buy multiples of something is a legit one. I've seen it happen to folks on a number of occasions.

As to your final question, if you were to write a well thought out point of view on the hobby for submission then yes I would certainly take a look at for posting  as I would for anyone. The question is would you really take the time to write such an article?

I really don't see how this editorial is facilitating debate. I mean seriously, If anything it would appear to be facilitating nothing more than mass condemnation of your buddy, "The Genius" Chip Carroll.

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1 hour ago, JayC said:

As for army building, If as an example someone walks into Target and say comes upon a case of 6 of the Cobra Island Cobra Viper and no one else is around wanting one, is it uncool for them to buy all 6 for their own collection???

IDK. This happened to me with the Cobra Trooper when it first came out. I got the Target employee to bring me out the case and there was no one else around wanting one at that time. I could have bought all 6 but I opted to buy 1 and leave the rest. Now I dont generally army build beyond 2 figures, but even if I did I probably would have still at most only bought two at that time. In fact I came back to the store a few days later and one was on the shelf so I went on and picked up a second one. However if someone choose to buy all six under those circumstances I certainly wouldn't condemn them or call them scum or scalper.

Now it was different when the Viper came out. For that one there was a group of people waiting when they brought out the case. We all agreed we each would only take 1 and the 6 went to the first 6 people who arrived at the store and waited for them to bring it out. If someone under those circumstances had tried to grab more than one or someone tried to jump in line then that would be a totally different thing.

 

except it wasnt just 6 that he bought, it was 13. if youre really army building to that degree its for display to do something beyond epic and thats what you would take pics of. this man bought 13 vipers, took pictures of them all still carded, and wrote in the article that he did this solely to brag.

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