The bluffer’s guide to collecting on a budget


The cost of living makes indulging one’s fandom difficult and, often, downright prohibitive. The vast majority of my own pay check is spent on rent and bills with the rest going towards food, fuel and on a few indulgences every month. Star Wars Lego is my current weakness, but then there’s also action figures, comics and other collectibles.

How to balance the necessity of living with collecting is a constant source of frustration, as much for myself as I’m sure it is for others. So I decided to share my own experiences and tips as a seasoned collector, to show you can have a bit of what you fancy on a budget.

Find a focus

This was a great suggestion from Twitter, that basically suggests picking a character, scene or toy type to hone your collection. By only focussing on Princess Leia or Kylo Ren, for example, you’re able to take what you want and leave the rest. Recently, I’ve just been focussing on Lego as it’s fun to build and easier to display than action figures. This has made a difference, especially when used in conjuncture with some of the below tips.

Buy used

Being able to buy pre-owned Lego means I can snap up some classic sets without being crippled by the cost of mint condition still boxed. This does run the risk of missing parts, though most sellers are upfront about this. A seasoned builder will likely have their own stock of surplus parts, so this isn’t always a drawback. Often, it leads to a cheaper buy.

There’s myriad ways to buy pre-owned memorabilia and collectibles on the cheap, my favourite being car boot sales and charity shops. Both of which can be a treasure trove and, often, with an attractive price tag. Ebay is still a main source of my collectables and I’ve got dozens of watches on items at any one time. The danger here, though, is impulse buys. So tread with caution.

Look out for deals

Okay, this one might seem obvious, but it actually involves a lot of work. Getting the best deal means visiting multiple shops in the same day, often several times to compare the prices. You’d think each store’s respective website would prove enlightening, but alas, deals in one store might differ from another, while online stock can sport another price. The trick is getting in early, otherwise you’ll be staring broken-hearted at empty shelves. Oh, and be prepared to see cheaper prices on something you’d paid a lot more for previously. It happens.

It’s also worth keeping an eye out for store-specific deals. Take The Last Jedi, for example. Here in the UK, one supermarket was offering a free copy of the junior novelisation with the DVD or Blu-ray. So shop around, you don’t want to feel you missed out later.

Loyalty cards

These corporate spy cards are a fixture of the modern shopping environment. Though they’ve lost their significance somewhat with the rise of online shopping, many stores still offer them. I’d always advocate equipping yourself with an armoury of loyalty cards for the simple reason that if you’re making purchases anyway, you may as well earn money back for doing it.

I have the best success with supermarket loyalty cards, where some of the best offers on toys and collectibles are to be found. Saving up those points for a few months, or even a year, pretty much guarantees you can get a Lego set or a few figures for free.

Birthday and Christmas money

It doesn’t matter how old or jaded you get, there’s still an excitement surrounding birthdays and Christmas. Though my own family still buy me toys and collectibles on such occasions, for which I’m eternally grateful, not everyone is so lucky. Most of us are, however, treated to birthday money. This is a perfect opportunity to pool your collective funds and splash out on something special. What other occasions will you be gifted no-strings-attached cash?

Facebook marketplace

Who’d have thought that social media would reinvigorate local trade? But that’s what’s happened in Facebook’s selling groups and the marketplace, with people in a set area flogging their wares. A lot of people have migrated from eBay to escape seller fees and cut out the middle man. Often you can meet the seller face to face and get a better sense of what you’re buying.

Facebook isn’t unique in this and there’s plenty of apps and websites that offer a similar gimmick. People sell entire collections this way, so it’s always worth checking in a few times a week. You never know what you’re going to find.

Make your own

Other than being able to string sentences together, I’ve not got much else in the way of creative outlets. But for all those amazing people who craft, then what better way to build a collection than with your own work? Buying materials is affordable, and so crafting doesn’t have to break the bank. Best of all, these are pieces you won’t find anywhere else, because you made them yourself.

A lot of people make their living this way, so if you wanted something a bit different, be sure and check out Redbubble or Etsy for some cool stuff. I’ve got several unique handmade pieces that look great alongside all the mass-produced parts of my collection.

Plus, if you’ve got any relatives who like to knit, weave or sculpt, why not throw some Star Wars designs their way?

Do you have any tips for collecting whilst sticking to a budget? Let us know in the comments.

Categories: Opinion

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