On May 5, a man in Glendale, California met up with another man to buy from him a sealed two-pack of ultra-rare Funko Pops for $US100k (A$141k) cash. This deal, the first six-digit Funko Pop sale ever recorded, is believed to be the largest in Funko Pop collecting history, and it might just be the start of bigger deals to come.
What are Funko Pops? Well, you likely already know what they are. But for those who have been living under a rock or who have never walked into a store that sells comics, books, or video games, let me help. Funko Pops (often just called Pops) are small vinyl figures with big heads. Most of the figures are designed to look like various characters from pop culture, like Batman, Freddy Kreuger, Darth Vader, etc. Some folks love ‘em, others hate ‘em, and plenty of people just don’t think about them at all because my god the world is a mess these days and I don’t really have the energy in me anymore to judge people who like silly pop culture collectibles.
Anyway, one of the rarest Pops out there is a Willy Wonka-themed pack that contains two golden figures. In 2016, only 10 of these figures were ever given out, and only four of those were given to people who also had golden tickets they’d found inside candy bars at a San Diego Comic-Con event. (The other six sets are believed to have been given to friends or employees of Funko.) Since then, most of the sets have been locked up in private collections, so only two that also include tickets are known about.
After trying and failing to track down the other Willy Wonka golden ticket Pops package that is known to exist, Frank — better known as Grailmonster online — decided to reach out to the one person he knew for sure had one. So last month, Grailmonster reached out to the collector who had one of these very rare golden ticket figures and asked if they were interested in selling it.
“I had heard for a while that he wasn’t going to sell it,” Grailmonster told Kotaku via email, “Our mutual friends kinda put it in my ear that he might let it go if I offered him $US100 ($139),000.”
It took some convincing, but eventually, the two agreed on a deal, with the collector selling his rare figures for $US100k in cash. Still, even after the deal was agreed upon, Grailmonster wasn’t sure the collector would really part with such a rare figure.
“I didn’t actually think he would sell until he walked through the door on the morning of the transaction.”
The two Funko Pop lovers met up at a collectibles store in Glendale, California on May 5 to complete the transaction. The entire thing was recorded and then uploaded to Grailmonster’s YouTube channel. According to him and other members of the Pop collecting community, this is the biggest and most expensive such deal ever.
Grailmonster is very aware that many people, probably a lot of you reading this right now, will call him an idiot or stupid. He explained to me that as he and others were counting all the cash in the store and preparing for the exchange, he joked that he would be “the village idiot” online after this. But there is also a feeling among him and many other Pop collectors that the community will soon experience a Pokémon-like explosion of money and popularity.
“I’m sure the first $US100k Pokémon card purchase looked really stupid,” Grailmonster explained. “And the first $US10k comic book buy, etc. It’s all relative.”
He hopes that this transaction will help bring in new collectors while also shining a light on how “insane” the world of private collectors around Funko Pops has gotten in recent years, where folks will drop $US20k on Pops based solely on rumours and blurry photos.
“The private [Funko Pop] community is truly like the Wild West,” said Grailmonster. “There really isn’t a resource for secondary market sales, so everyone relies on each other to complete large transactions. There is serious money flying around.”
As for what he plans to do now after spending so much money on these two rare figures, Grailmonster joked with Kotaku that he’s going to “stare at it” for a long time.
“I have it sitting in the middle of my dining room table like a giddy bitch,” admitted Grailmonster. “I’m going to hold it for as long as I can.”
Of course, I asked him what he would say to folks who, understandably, find it very odd or even idiotic to spend this much cash on plastic toys. To him, the hobby is more than just toys, and while he understands some folks won’t get it, to him, that’s a normal part of collecting anything.
“No one is supposed to understand it. I truly enjoy it more than any hobby I’ve ever had,” he explained. “I love the lore around the rare pieces. Pieces like Clockwork Orange, Freddy Venom, Beatles reject set, etc. have such fascinating stories behind them. There are pieces out there that are so rare that there’s no accounts of them being seen and only a handful of photos exist (Pope, Woody & Buzz 2-pack, etc).”
“As far as I’m concerned, I’m not buying toys, I’m chasing stories.”