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An Update On The Nintendo Amiibo Collecting Frenzy That Once Was

Antiques, Auctions & News

March 8, 2019

Back in 2013, Nintendo was in a very different position than they are now. Their flagship home video game system at the time, aptly named the Wii U, was a follow up to the 2006 highly successful and critically acclaimed video game system known as the Wii. Unfortunately, the Wii U failed to catch on and was fighting a disastrous marketing campaign against new and more powerful consoles from both Sony and Microsoft. Nintendo’s only bright spot at this time was the success of their line of handheld video game systems known as the 3DS. Nintendo needed a cash grab quick, as their next home video game console would not be ready until late 2016, at the earliest. This caused Nintendo to make a risky move by releasing interactive toys based on popular Nintendo characters that would interact, albeit limitedly, with some games. The result was the Nintendo Amiibo line. The first toy figurines created would interact with one of Nintendo’s hottest video game releases, “Super Smash Bros.” The game would be released simultaneously for the Wii U and 3DS handheld systems and allowed players to unlock hidden features and characters just by using the corresponding Nintendo Amiibo, which was sold separately at most retailers.

The first set of Amiibo figurines were available in the fall of 2014 for an estimated retail price of $12.99 each. Casual gamers were skeptical at first. It was the hardcore Nintendo collectors and speculators that adopted to the concept early on. Nintendo played every trick in their proverbial book to appeal to starry-eyed speculators. The first was limiting some popular and less popular characters by allocating the production on some figures. This caused the price of some of these so called “rare” (side note: I use the term “rare” loosely here) Amiibo figures to spike exponentially on the secondary market and by the all important 2015 holiday season, some figures that were sold at retail for $12.99 could be seen selling on the secondary market for over $50 each.

Not wanting to rest on their laurels, Nintendo did what any smart manufacturer of a highly-coveted speculator craze would do. They simply placed further figures into production while carefully allocating production to make some releases appear more hard to find and subsequently “rare.” Speculators, proving their own lack of emotional control, immediately responded in kind, and before you knew it, collectors didn’t just want one factory-sealed Amiibo, now they had to have several. “These are no longer collectibles, these are investments,” more than one Nintendo enthusiast lamented to me over and over again on an online collecting forum.

To be fair, and thanks to Nintendo’s incredible handling of the phenomenon, speculators had their day in the sun for several years. Nintendo kept releasing different lines of Amiibo figurines for different games. Some were retailer exclusives, others were simply gimmicks to celebrate anniversaries of certain popular Nintendo franchises like “Super Mario Bros.” or “The Legend of Zelda.” However, by the time Nintendo released its now extremely popular and best-selling console to date, the Nintendo Switch, which premiered in early 2017, most of the so-called hard-to-find Amiibo figures had all been re-released by Nintendo multiple times. This caused most speculators to blame Nintendo for doing what any manufacturer is supposed to do, have their inventory available for purchase on store shelves. Ironically, this would not be the last time that Nintendo would brilliantly “toy” (pun intended) with speculators of their own products. The releases of the NES Classic and Super NES Classic plug and play systems would see prices of these $59.99 and $79.99 units reach close to $200 each on the secondary market due to manufactured scarcity. Ironically, both items would be readily available on retailers’ shelves by Christmas 2018, with some retailers offering discounts below the manufacturer’s suggested retail prices in an effort to clear out any remaining stock.

Flash forward to Dec. 7, 2018, and the Nintendo Switch release of “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” would usher in even more re-releases of older and once sought-after Amiibo figurines. This time the figurines would be packaged in updated packaging to advertise that they are compatible with the new Nintendo Switch console. Nintendo also is releasing new figurines based on some new characters in the game, so the Amiibo line is still going strong. Unfortunately, speculators have yet to learn, as some are now convinced that the fact the packaging has changed means that their original figures are now worth a premium on the secondary market, especially if sealed. There is absolutely no indication that future collectors will even covet the Amiibo line or place a collectible premium on figures that were released in 2014 or 2015, as opposed to 2018 and 2019. Reviewing completed sold auction records on eBay provides no such guarantee, and some of the Amiibo figures, even when kept factory-sealed, have started to sell for well below their original retail price of $12.99 (note to speculators: don’t forget to factor in eBay/PayPal fees and the opportunity cost of tying up your money).

Today, Nintendo has upped the price of the Amiibo line to $15.99 per figure instead of the original price of $12.99. They also have released a lot of the figures that were limited in production the first time around. This has caused some hardcore collectors to buy multiple versions of the same figure due to the changes in the design of the packaging. As a collector and hardcore Nintendo enthusiast myself, I personally consider this ridiculous.

Nintendo has always toyed with speculators perfectly over the years, and to be fair, some speculators have made a little bit of money by following these trends. That said, in my personal opinion, I don’t think the Nintendo Amiibo line will ever become the hot collectible of the future. I personally find it quite amusing that some speculators think these will be on par with the original vintage “Star Wars” figures in one to two decades from now. The reason the first 12 near-mint factory-sealed carded vintage “Star Wars” figures can be seen selling for close to $1,000 each is because they were not manufactured in abundance, nor was their production intentionally cut. They were simply hard to find even when they were released and represented one of the most popular movie franchises ever conceived in the history of film. As a fellow hardcore Nintendo enthusiast, I can relate to the nostalgia and popularity of the Amiibo line. That said, emotionally invested enthusiasts should be careful to compare these overproduced toys with one of the greatest toy franchises in the history of pop culture. Nintendo Amiibo are not the second coming of anything. They are simply a fantastic representation of a Nintendo property that so many of us grew up with and continue to enjoy today, so why not just enjoy them for what they are? Speculators be warned.

Shawn Surmick has been an avid collector since the age of 12. He currently resides in his hometown of Boyertown, Pa., and is a passionate collector of antiques and collectibles. His articles focus on various topics affecting the marketplace.