Exclusivity Vs. Fandom, or Why it Sucks to be a Collector These Days *UPDATED*


By Shawn Robare

I’ve mentioned this in the past, but it bears repeating, I don’t like being negative here at Branded in the 80s.  First and foremost this site is about celebrating the nostalgia of the 80s and all of the cool stuff that goes along with loving that decade.  But I’m human and just like everyone else there is some stuff that just really grinds my gears.  Typically when there’s something that really gets on my nerves I’ll force my better half to listen to me gripe about it for a few days, then I’ll focus on something positive and just get over it.  But every once in awhile I just want to get all my thoughts out on paper (so to speak) and process the negativity in a slightly more productive manner.  Can I get a decent article or editorial out of it?  Well, let’s see.

This past week one of my favorite movies of all time, the Monster Squad, was suddenly trending in the news due to the announcement that Mondo would be releasing the film’s soundtrack on vinyl this October.  To get people excited for that release the company decided to also release a vinyl single this May featuring the two pop songs from the film, Michael Sembello’s “Rock Until You Drop” and the end credits “Monster Squad Rap”.  Frankly, this is outstanding news as I’ve been dying for the soundtrack and score on vinyl for years.  La-La Land Records had just recently released the Bruce Broughton score on CD (and it sounds amazing), but I was really hoping for a nice piece of artistic vinyl, something that I could put out and display.

La-La_Records_MonsterSquad

So, considering this awesome news, why am I so bummed?  Well, the Mondo single release is going to be made available in four variant editions, each featuring beautiful sleeve artwork by some really swell artists and different colored vinyl pressings.  The releases include artwork by Gary Pullin, Randy Ortiz, Jason Edmiston, and the folks at Phantom City Creative (the latter two I featured during my Month of the Monster Squad a couple years ago.)  Here’s a look at the four release variants…

Dracula cover with art by Phantom City Creative

Dracula cover with art by Phantom City Creative

Wolfman cover with art by Gary Pullin

Wolfman cover with art by Gary Pullin

Frankenstein cover with art by Jason Edmiston

Frankenstein cover with art by Jason Edmiston

Gillman cover with art by Randy Ortiz

Gillman cover with art by Randy Ortiz

Alright, amazing cover at and super cool colored vinyl, so far so good.  While I’m not crazy about variants and the thought of paying for the same two songs four times, that’s totally something I’m willing to do as a huge fan of the Monster Squad.  So what’s my problem?  Well, two of these variants are going to be exclusives.  Actually technically three of these are exclusives, I just happen to live in an area where one of them will be readily available.  The Gary Pullin Wolfman variant will be exclusively available at Texas Frightmare starting this weekend and the Ortiz Gillman edition will only be available in record stores in the UK in May.  The Edmiston Frankenstein edition is going to be exclusively sold in record stores in the US in May, and the PCC Dracula version will be sold online at the Mondo site also starting in May.  So, for Monster Squad fans like me living outside of Texas in the US the Wolfman and Gillman editions are going to be a bit tricky to get our hands on.

Though record stores in the UK will be offering copies of the Gillman pressing for sale online (for instance Transmission Records and Norman Records), I’ve been hearing that they will be refusing or refunding orders coming in from the US to keep the European exclusivity intact.  This is frankly (excuse my french), frustrating as shit.  On the one hand I applaud the convictions of these record store owners for sticking to their guns, but on the other I just want to give them my money in return for a product they are selling that I really want to buy.  Similarly, with the Pullin variant, from what I understand you have to attend Texas Frightmare in order to get a copy.  So, I live roughly 1,400 miles from Dallas, TX and had pretty much zero chance of making it out to the show this weekend.  If I want to snag a copy of that disc I have to crowd-source my shopping list and hope that I’ve made a contact on one of the social media channels I frequent who might be going to the show.  I also have to hope that they don’t mind standing in line for me, hauling the record around all day, and then taking the time to ship it to me after the show.  I’ve met a bunch of super gracious folks who have done similar “muleing” for me in the past, but I hate asking this of people every time there’s some exclusive I want at a show I just can’t get to.

Exclusivity.  I’ll be honest, the whole concept just baffles and enrages me.  It’s not that I feel a sense of entitlement or that I should be able to get everything that I want.  Trust me, I learned at a very early age that not only do we not typically get what we want, but that it’s probably better for our moral character that we don’t.  If these records were simply limited editions (which they are, on top of being regionally exclusive), and they all sold out in a matter of minutes I could deal with that.  But being denied even the chance at getting them based purely on my geographic location is like kicking a wolfman in the nards when he’s down.

Hell, I’ve even been on the lucky end of this stick in the past having easy access to exclusives (like the Halloween Hot Wheels Ghostbusters Ecto-1 variants at my at-the-time local Kroger grocery stores) and I’ll be honest, it didn’t feel that great.  Being a collector I was acutely aware that there were a ton of people in other states that wanted those exclusives that didn’t have access to them.  I had to make the tough choice one year of either leaving these Hot Wheel toys on the store shelves, or buying them all up and sending them out to friends in other states for cost.  Sure, I got to feel good about making sure collectors that wanted the cars got them at an affordable price, but I also was put in the position of a scalper, keeping other local folks from being able to buy them. It just felt crummy all around.

Bottom line.  I’m a super fan of a cult film who already feels a little marginalized because there isn’t a whole of collectible merchandise available for said film.  I’m already scouring the internet for rare items to celebrate my love for the Monster Squad (from Japanese movie pamphlets to rare publicity photos from the film’s premier.)  So now, on top of that I have to basically be denied access to cool new collectibles, or choose to pay ridiculously inflated prices on eBay for those collectibles from the scalpers that will inevitably flood the market days after the release.  That is the environment that exclusivity breeds.  These records that sell for £12 at the UK shops will be bought up by bottom feeding scalpers that will turn around and sell them for upwards of £40 to £50 on eBay or the Amazon Marketplace.  The sad fact is that this is a trend that I do not see ending anytime soon.  The companies that release these exclusives are getting exactly what they want (which is selling through all of their product in a short window of time), so why would they change to a more fan-friendly model?

*UPDATE*

So, just as I figured two things happened.  First, the Wolfman Texas Frightmare variant was next to impossible to get for all the reasons stated above.  Not only was I unable to source a copy from the show by reaching out on social media, but the leftover copies were put online at Mondo and sold out in a few minutes.  I’m not saying I have a huge reach on social media mind you, but I have a decent number of contacts and I even had both the cover artist, Gary Pullin, and Andre Gower from Monster Squad retweeting my call for help to no avail.  Second, checking eBay only a week after these records started going on sale and we can already see scalpers reselling these Monster Squad releases for two to five times their suggested retail price!

IMG_5731

This is after just one week!  When folks start getting these records in hand I can almost guarantee that the Wolfman, Gillman, and Frankenstein variants are going to be selling for upwards of $100.  In fact…

IMG_5740     IMG_5742

For a two-song, 7-inch single.  I’ve heard arguments for both sides of this exclusivity game, and both have their merits, but I just can’t believe that this is the best way to go about marketing niche products aimed at fans, to fans.  Again, I am a huge Monster Squad fan who is willing to drop the $60 plus shipping for the four variants, and yet, with cash in hand I am barred access from the get-go.  I mean, I’m looking at the list of things required to pick up a release like this (money, awareness of the releases, checking availability the moment they go on sale, connections in areas where the exclusive releases are going on sale, etc.) and I check every box.  Well, every box except the one that reads: “Willing to pay upwards of 700% the price to douchebags who want to price gouge because the item is exclusive.”  Screw that check box.  Like I said, these days it really sucks to be a collector.

What about you, where do you stand on exclusivity?  Is there something awesome about this marketing concept that I’m missing?

  • Spotted Feather

    this is why I hate Twilight Time. They put out a lot of great movies….but only make 3000 copies and sell them for 30 dollars for a single disc. Just stupid…..Luckily I got the 70s style monster cereal boxes from Target before the moronity there…..

    • Yeah, it seems crazy to me that I was buying those monster cereal boxes for some collector friends of mine and then paying $50 to ship them to Canada because they were US exclusives. So. Goofy.

  • Definitely understand the regional thing. 2 years ago I waited in line on record store day to get the Ghostbusters glow-in-the-dark 10″ single. My store was only able to secure two copies when I asked the day before. I was the 9th person in line and was sure I wasnt gonna leave with one but I did get the one. I was pissed like a month or so later that I waited in line and pinned my hopes on being one of two people only to be able to snag one from the official store online.

    Another thing was my intro to Funko POP. Got a free ticket to the Force Awakens and decided to pay it forward to a local comic shop by getting my first Pop figure, Dr. Raymond Stanz. I bought him thinking I’d try to collect the entire Ghostbusters set. Little did I realize that Egon was a convention exclusive. Took me a long time to fork over $10 for one figure and at the current EBay and Amazon rates, I doubt I’ll ever invest enough to get Egon unless Funko decides to do another production run.

    Exclusives can be nice signature pieces for your collection but more times than not, they just seem overhyped.

    • Yeah, the Funko exclusives bug me. Especially the Ghostbusters ones. Who doesn’t want all 4 and why make it so hard to get them. I mean, dang, just take my money. Trying to manufacture rarity and exclusivity for marketing purposes just really leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

      Also, I have a similar story for that Ghostbusters record. My store also only had two and I was lucky to get one. Then later the next week at work a friend saw my social media post, wanted to get one himself and he ended up paying like $75 on ebay to get one. I felt so bad because I managed to get one for $15.

      Maybe sometimes ignorance is in fact bliss.

      • I paid $20 for mine and I was still trying to justify the purchase when I was standing in line.

        For my Batman collection, I’ve let most of it come to me. No agenda. There’s alot to be said about digging through a thrift store or antique mall for something rare or vintage and paying a reasonable amount for the effort. Much more gratifying than busting the bank on a convention exclusive.

        • Very true. It’s tomes like this that I also have to remind myself that maybe having mp3’s of the songs is good enough :)

          • Yeah, but their is something to be said about the tangibility. Being able to have a physical music collection or when someone asks you what type of music you like, they can sift through your albums. So glad that vinyl is making a comeback. I’ve never been one to prefer it because it sounds better (you should hear my stereo) but there will always be that fun feeling of sorting through albums and putting that needle down.

          • There is, and albums are way more fun to display and flip through than CDs for sure. There is some music that ends up being so expensive though. With these Monster Squad vinyl albums, they might end up costing $50 for two songs. Again, this is the internal battle of every collector. Collection vs. cost.

  • Raven Johnson

    I didn’t even read that far into the original article….that is lame!

    • Yeah, I only found out this afternoon when I attempted to order the Gillman record and had my order rejected. Sigh.

  • Never been a fan of exclusivity. I try to put it from my mind when it happens — an item I can never obtain may as well not exist anyway — but it still grates some.

    I sometimes think the worst thing that ever happened to collectors was creators deciding to actually turn their products into collectibles.

    • Yeah, I think you’re right. A big part of the problem is this idea of manufactured collectibles.

  • Paxton Holley

    I really dislike exclusivity. Seeing all the awesome products that get released through San Diego Comic Con is heart wrenching since I’m not paying a mortgage payment on eBay to obtain those things. And not only exclusivity, but manufactured LIMITED AVAILABLE quantities.

    Two words. Pepsi Perfect.

    Two more words. Crystal Pepsi.

    Pepsi knew there were going to be more people that wanted these items than they decided to make and sell via online. Hell, Pepsi Perfect IS JUST F**KING PEPSI IN A NEW BOTTLE. I’m still rather upset about how that was handled.

    So, I feel you, Shawn.

    Pax

    • Totally Pax. Again, how can Pepsi F-up selling Crystal Pepsi and Pepsi Perfect to a fan like you. You are the core audience for a release like that and they decided on a selling/marketing strategy that specifically alienates you. That just can’t be good business sense.

      • DUSTINDUSTRIES

        Good to see Branded up and running again, I randomly check in for any updates. I have a close friend working in London and was going to ask him to buy the Gillman Vinyl but the site links you sent are both Sold Out already. As for the Crystal Pepsi, I managed to make my own Custom can.

        • Thanks sir! Recently bought my first home and it’s been a very bumpy 6 month process (well, the buying part that is) and I’ve finally been able to get back to the site. I managed to snag a copy of the Gillman record, but only by chance. I had a very kind friend in the UK offer to check stores, but you’re right, looks like most are already sold out before it’s even released. Heck, I put out the feelers for a mule to pick up a copy of the Wolfman version at Texas Frightmare and nadda. I even had Andre Gower and the cover artist (Gary Pullin) of that version retweet me on twitter and I still couldn’t source one. Sigh, just not meant to be.

          I’d love to see a picture of your custom Crystal Pepsi can!

  • CalRob

    Article for you to look up and read, although you might need to visit a university library to get it: “Abundant rarity: The key to luxury growth” by Jean-Noël Kapferer.

    The companies don’t just need to sell through all the product – they need to sell it at a price point that’s profitable. Monster Squad – to be honest – is not in the “top-20 movies of the decade” list for most 1980s aficionados. Most Baby Boomers don’t care; the Millenials surely don’t. It’s only we Gen-Xers that might have an affinity for it, and even then only a fraction of us – like yourself.

    The mistake here may be in believing that we are still living in an era of mass-merchandising as we were in the 1980s. Exclusives weren’t too exclusive in that day and age – it really wasn’t too hard to get the mail-away action figure if you were somewhat loyal to the brand, and most objects were mass-produced. Today, however, is an age of mass-personalization and mass-customization. Limited runs of niche products. Mattel doing the “Masters of the Universe Classics” line, because while the other two icons of ’80s toys have survived and evolved (G.I.Joe and Transformers), MOTU has not, and now must subsist on demand from an aging and shrinking fan-base. The rise of the “limited edition” is here for everything.

    For many of these minor brands, this is probably the only way to serve the very small number of fans. A high price has to be charged, because the small quantities make the cost of the items very high. They are using the aura of luxury / exclusivity to make demand for the product high enough to justify that price point. Someone in the UK will buy that vinyl album not because they are a huge “Monster Squad” fan but simply because it is a rare vinyl album, and the rarity itself will make them want it. That is a buyer helping support a niche market that might not have enough fans to support it otherwise – it’s a way for the product to exist at all, whereas otherwise it just would never get made.

    • You bring up some very good and valid points Rob, and I’m definitely going to seek out that article. Thanks for pointing to it!
      I think the exclusivity aspect still works against the company’s goals though, as I really do believe the number of fans willing to pay higher prices for a niche luxury product that specifically speaks to their fandom far outweighs the impulse purchases made by collectors who are collecting for rarity alone. I’m totally fine with limited availability of stock and high prices, but cringe when I then have to jump over even more hurdles to just be presented with the opportunity to buy the product to begin with.
      To be perfectly honest, I have to admit that I’m feeling particularly ‘kicked in the nards’ here because I feel like I’m a pretty rabid Monster Squad fan. I am literally the perfect target audience for these records (if there ever was one), and if I’m having trouble getting my hands on them then they are doing something wrong in terms of reaching folks like me. I feel like they could have held back a hundred or so sets of the four records and sold them as a package at a premium price, first come first serve. If that were an option, the exclusivity of the individual releases would have bothered me much less. At least I would have had AN opportunity, even if it was slight. As it stands I feel like my only option for a couple of these is to wait and pay scalper’s prices on the secondary market. That can’t be the only way to stay solvent.
      I feel like kickstarter and go fund me have illustrated that there is a perfectly profitable market strategy in funding a project like this with the direct backing of the core fanbase as opposed to limiting what fans can and can’t participate with regional exclusives.

      • CalRob

        As a fan of many things myself, I totally agree. I personally love board games, but can’t stand those promotional board game items (cards, chips, figures, whatever) that you have to go to a particular convention or event to acquire. A decade or so ago I got into the Pokemon games, but likewise became annoyed at how hard it was to get the “promo” characters without cheating. The time, effort, and money required of a fan for any pop culture brand should really be kept to a reasonable level…and the Monster Squad items really do seem to have been released in an irritatingly unreasonably way.

        • Yeah, I ended up buying two of the exclusive ones anyway (with help from friends in the UK and a cool store out in CA that was willing to ship the record to me), but it hurt. At least I paid regular price for them (like $10-$15) as opposed to the eBay prices which are hovering between $40-$100 per single. That’s just insane…

  • WishItWas1984

    Exclusivity makes sense on paper, in a board room where middle management and executives pat themselves on the back for their great idea. Honestly, it’s done to draw attention to, and increase the business of, these venues and establishments. However, as is the course of most things…the board room and main street are miles apart in their realities.

    The vast majority of people Do. Not. Care. I have never, ever magically become more loyal to a store because they had something cool I wanted one time. Nor have I heard anyone in real life or online have that same reaction. The ONLY thing you hear is people just wanting to know where they need to go, or what they need to go to get the thing.

    When you add in the aftermarket of eBay, the whole useless process becomes that much more pointless by an order of magnitude I’m not mathematically inclined enough to calculate.

    But get this…it’s not JUST exclusives. This touches on the poison that is greed that permeates eBay, and the complete disconnect companies have with the fan bases of the brands they own.

    I’m a toy collector and Star Wars is a huge part of that for me. I want a handful of figures from The Force Awakens. I can not go to Toys R Us. I just can’t. 90%+ of the new and/or desirable figures are on eBay already. Hasbro, if they were smart, would just cut Toys R Us out of the equation altogether, setup an online department and just create their own eBay page.

    To top of this stupidity sandwich, even the people SHOPPING for normal items have been somewhat infected. We could all throw a monkey wrench in the works buy refusing to buy jacked up items. To bid only what they are worth. See an auction w/ a bid, move to the next, let that guy have it. These are new, there will be more. But no, I’m constantly outbid past sanity on BRAND NEW items, where I bid again at a reasonable price on a new one, likely just repeating the process until such a time where no one cares anymore and these scalpers are stuck w/ product they have to sell for retail.

    I doubt anyone is reading this post as this article touched a nerve and it’s now turned into catharsis rather than response. lol … but yes, Exclusivity sucks. Scalpers Suck. Stupid Companies Suck. The whole process of collecting now is just tiresome and annoying when it doesn’t have to be if the people in control really gave an F

    • Yes, this, all day long: “The ONLY thing you hear is people just wanting to know where they need to go, or what they need to go to get the thing.” Also, I’m reading and appreciate it.
      I relate to your thoughts completely. I can’t count how many times I’ve used eBay to try and get new items (pop culture Hot Wheels anyone?) and put in reasonable bids only to be ridiculously outbid. Why is it so hard to just buy a freaking Hot Wheels toy directly from the company that manufactures and distributes it? Why do I have to check 20 different local retail chain stores, get disappointed at the lack of stock, turn to eBay and then end up paying three times the cost of the toy (if not more)? Sigh, it really does suck being a collector in this day and age.

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