Feature

Buyers And Sellers Traffic In Gray Market Amiibos As Prices Continue To Rise

by Mike Futter on Jan 07, 2015 at 12:26 PM

Whether people are purchasing them to put on a shelf or use in game, Amiibo figures are in high demand. Retail locations can’t seem to keep the figures in stock, and there is even fear that some of the original characters are gone for good.

The plastic figures, which can be used in a variety of recent and upcoming Nintendo titles, carry a suggested retail price of $12.99. Secondary vendors are commanding two to three times that for many characters. 

Pit, Captain Falcon, Little Mac, and Fox McCloud all carry prices between $30 and $40 on fixed-price marketplaces like Amazon. Rates on eBay fluctuate, with these figures landing consistently in these ranges.

A young Amiibo fan by the name of Brennan tells us that he just wanted to have one rare Amiibo. "I was bidding on at least six different eBay auctions just to get it ," he says. He eventually won a Little Mac figure for $48.50.

Another Amiibo collector tells us that he's keeping his hard-won Captain Falcon figure in the package and may eventually choose to resell it. "I looked for about a week or so," Aaron Porter tells us. "I ended up going to Amazon and found one for about $45. I think they might end up being worth something some day."

He's considered opening the figure to use with his copy of Super Smash Bros., but is holding off for now. "I'd like to [open it]," he says, but he's waiting to see where prices go. "If it gets up to $100 or something. I don't know what would stop them from getting up to that. I guess it just depends on how rare they get."  

Some characters have already reached Porter's goal price. The three first-wave characters that are the hardest to find (Animal Crossing’s Villager, the Wii Fit Trainer, and Fire Emblem’s Marth) carry prices of $40 to $60 on Amazon’s marketplace, but tend to vary even more widely on eBay depending on the seller’s location.

Figures shipped and sold from within the United States have been purchased for prices topping out at over $120 (in package, with an example above). Japanese sellers seem to be having an easier time getting their hands on these characters, with prices between $30 and $40 (many listings with free shipping).

We spoke with two sellers who have very different reasons for getting into gray market Amiibo figures. Some people are, of course, looking to make a profit. Mike Gildea is a stay-at-home father who decided to try his hand at buying and selling the toys after listening to a Planet Money podcast episode about arbitrage (simultaneously buying and selling assets to create profit in the transaction).  

"I planned to collect a lot of them myself," Gildea says. "I opened a few of them and said, 'If that's all there is to them, I'm probably going to stop collecting them.' I just walked into local department stores to see what was on the shelf when all the stuff was starting to kick off with the rare Marths and Wii Fit Trainers."

He's sold eight figures so far, with most of them being from the second wave. "When the Pit Amiibos started showing up, that one seemed to be the rare one on eBay," he explains. "I picked up six of them. The first one I sold was $60 and then I noticed diminishing returns as we got closer to Christmas." Gildea sold the rest of the Pit figures for close to $50. He at least tripled his investment on each of his sales.

Gildea conducted all of his transactions on eBay, but he's done with Amiibos for now. "It was kind of a fun experiment, but after shipping up all the eight individual boxes, it was fun while it lasted," he says. Another seller came to sell figures for a different reason.

Whereas Gildea was experimenting with financial concepts, Terence Polk decided to pick up extra figures to assist other collectors. He's sold five toys, netting a total of approximately $5.

"With the exception of picking up a Falcon for a friend, all the Amiibo I've purchased at retail have been for my own personal (completed) collection," Polk tells us. "The majority of the Amiibo I've resold have been a result of having extras on hand due to pre-orders that were surprisingly honored."

Rather than abandon those pre-orders, Polk decided he was going to assist those who couldn't find figures they were looking for. "Maybe I'm a believer in karma, but I've never asked for more than face value plus sales tax plus shipping costs," he tells us. "With the way demand has been for certain characters, your options are to pre-order everywhere possible or resort to paying extreme markup from scalpers. In that case, I'll go with the former everytime."

Those pre-orders for future figures are already selling well on the secondary market. Specifically, retailer exclusive figures Lucario (Toys R Us), Meta Knight (Best Buy), Rosalina (Target), and Shulk (GameStop - Disclaimer: GameStop is Game Informer’s parent company) are all available for purchase in this manner from eBay sellers.

A majority of these are unreleased figures being sold before they are even in hand for over four times their retail price. Scalpers snapped up these pre-orders, and those that missed out are turning to them to complete their sets.

Nintendo’s plans for replenishing the stock haven’t been entirely hopeful, with the exception of a promise that some characters will be available for longer periods. We suspect that Mario, Peach, Link, Luigi, and other core mascots will see further shipments.

Lesser known characters, like the aforementioned trio from the first wave, may be gone for good. Whether Nintendo opts to answer fan demand with another printing or allow the earliest Amiibo figures to become true collector’s items is something the company has yet to decide and announce. Given the popularity so far though, giving fans another crack at owning these would be a smart amount of fan service that would also short-circuit scalpers.

For more on pricey toys to life figures, check out a 2014 story that looks the second-hand prices of rare Skylanders figures.