Youthful hobby means big money, but collector won’t sell

By Chris Casper, NewsNetNebraska

As he gazed at the big red box with the green bow on top, Mark Finley was praying and hoping it was the toy he wanted so badly for Christmas. He tore through the wrapping paper to find his wish.

Holding the mighty Optimus Prime, leader of the Transformers’ Autobots, still in its box, Finley turned to his mother and said something he later said was “crazy.”

“Mommy, I want to collect action figures for the rest of my life,” Finley recalled.

Although it was 16 years ago, Finley remembers this as the exact moment that he began his collection of action figures.

A 24-year-old Lincoln native, Finley has been collecting action figures since he was 8-years-old.

“Collecting action figures isn’t just fun for me,” he said. “Each action figure serves as a memory.”

This affection, the nostalgia, is what makes Finley different from most action figure collectors.

“People collect action figure for money, mainly,” Finley said.

Although he was once offered $5,000 for his very rare and valuable original Optimus Prime Transformer, Finley never considered selling.

“It was ridiculous,” Finley remembered. “I have never even thought about selling my action figure collection.”

He considers these toys his “children” and they mean the world to him.

But how, on Christmas morning, did a young boy not rip that Optimus Prime right out of the box and start playing with it?

“It was the hardest thing to do for my 8-year-old self at the time,” Finley laughed. “All my friends wanted me to open it and said things like ‘Come on, it’s only a toy!’ but I didn’t want to break it and or let it get ruined.”

Finley attends big action-figure conventions in Chicago, Minnesota, New York and Seattle. He enjoys the atmosphere because everyone is friendly and interested in sharing the variety of ways people acquire action figures.

“One man went all the way to Scotland to buy a G.I Joe action figure—that’s insane!” Finley said. “Other people I have met tell me they have visited all five continents to sell their action figures.”

His toy collection is estimated to be worth $1 million, an action-figure store collector told Finley, but he doesn’t plan to part with it any time soon.

“I don’t want to sell it unless I have to. There are many good memories tied to each of my action figures, like the time I got (the Transformer) Starscream for my sixteenth birthday, and a car,” Finley said.

“How do you top that?”

Attached as he is to his action figures, Finley can see life changing. He wants to start a family soon. Parting with some of his collection might help with that.

“There’s a time in life when you have to let them go,” Finley admitted. “It will be sad, but I much rather would like to have a family to love.”

1 Response

  1. Anna Shaffer says:

    There is a new Action Figure Museum in Nebraska City for people to enjoy memories from childhood just like this collector talks about. The museum is in the back half of a downtown toy store. It just opened the end of January and had the ribbon cutting with the Chamber in March. There is a timeline section and about 40 shelves with small collection and large scenes set up. Everything is out of the package to be viewed better by the visitors. There are similar museums in Austin, Texas and Paul’s Valley, Oklahoma. Just another fun thing to do on a little day trip in Nebraska.

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