If you told a stranger that you had some statues in your house, they probably wouldn’t assume you meant statues of superheroes or video game characters (like the ones coming to auction this weekend). Those strangers are missing out because pop culture statues have a history going back more than sixty years! And it all starts with old school model kits…
The Model Kit Era
Aurora, Polar Lights, and other model kit makers of the 1960s courted the nascent weird kid market with snap-together kits based on Universal Horror Movies, sci-fi TV shows, comic books, and other works of art we’d call “nerd culture” today. These kits were relatively simple, usually vacuum-molded plastic pieces that fit together into a figurine. While their sculpts were fairly detailed, they were usually uncolored plastic. It was up to the end user to snap them together, glue them, sand off rough edges, and paint them however they felt best.
This leads to even assembled kits from this era having some value. Skillfully painted specimens can go for over a hundred dollars. These hand-painted versions of mass-produced model kits are the forebears of the modern collectible statue market. They created a love of the form, but their “mainstream” producers weren’t willing or able to get as offbeat as fans eventually wanted to go.
The Garage Kit Era
Since model makers’ primary audience were children, they didn’t see much need to update their offerings over the years. Fans who’d grown up making their kits needed something new and took matters into their own hands. Enter the Garage Kit! These kits were so named because they were typically made in somebody’s garage rather than a mass-production facility.
It worked like this: fans with a talent for sculpture would mold the characters too obscure for big name companies and cast them in resin. They’d make a run of these, usually by hand, and sell them in . These kits were generally less involved than mass production kits when it came to assembly, allowing them to have even more detail. They were, however, still unpainted.
Bootlegs Go Legit
Seventeen-year-old Randy Bowen launched Bowen Designs in 1978. He started off making garage kit statuettes of superheroes and other pop culture characters. As the collectibles industry grew in popularity and professionalism in the 80s, Bowen saw the chance to go legit. He incorporated his company in 1991 and quickly became the defining sculptor of the emerging industry. Legitimacy brought in more money, greater ability to advertise, and higher standards for quality. His statues would, unlike Garage Kits, ship fully assembled and hand painted.
One of his most famous statues is the 1993 Graphitti Designs Superman statue. One of the 6,100 produced statues graced the shelves of Jerry Seinfeld’s fictional apartment on Seinfeld starting with the fifth season episode “The Wife”. Fully-painted, limited edition statues steadily gained an audience throughout the 90s, eventually becoming a respectable and indispensable part of the collectibles landscape.
Collectible Statues in the Present
The 00s brought a new player into the statue market: Weta Workshop. What set Weta apart from Bowen, DC Direct, and others in the marketplace is that collectibles weren’t their main mission. No, they are the special effects studio behind The Lord of the Rings, District 9, Mad Max: Fury Road, and many more classic genre films. They got into the collectibles game with ultra-high-quality statues, dioramas, and displays based on The Lord of the Rings. Hard to beat a statue sculpted by the folks who built the original props and costumes. They really brought the market to a new level and their pieces are some of the most valuable out there!
We love handling collectible statues, especially if you’ve still go the original boxes! If you’ve got a collection of coldcast statues you’d rather turn into cold, hard, cash, drop us a line. We specialize in helping our consignors get the best return-on-investment for their collections, with as little extra effort on their part as possible.
Do you have any favorite collector’s edition statues? Let us know in the comments below or on social media @b2pcollect!