PVC Figures 101
By Dino Ho - November 17, 2007
PVC Figures: The History
PVC figures were long considered the ugly cousin of garage kits in the early 1990s. While PVC figures were cheaper to produce en mass, quality was always an issue. For the most part, PVC are used to create miniature figures aimed for the trading figure market, and to most hardcore fans back in the early 1990s, garage kits still rules. However, limited production runs, high modeling skill requirements and high prices made owning garagle kits a luxury even for hardcore fans.
It all changed in 2003, when garage kit manufacturer Kotobukiya released several high quality figures based on original garage kits from their lineup, but made in PVC and priced at half of what garage kits would normally charged. Even though these figures are mass produced, the quality was good enough that fans started buying them. As demands for these affordable, completed figures soar, a new market for the anime/game industry is formed.
What kind of PVC Figures you can find?
Given the historical ties with garage kits, most PVC figures are heroines from popular anime / game series. In recent years more and more male characters are released, but predominantly female characters still takes up over 90% of the market share.
Why buy PVC Figures?
Nowadays PVC figures are mass produced by licensed factories in China, with rigorous quality control in place. However, PVC figures still share the same problem as garage kits, and as a result, each production run is limited to produce a set amount of units. Once the production ends, most likely the manufacturer will not order a new production run. In short, a PVC figure can still considered a " limited edition" item. Once the stock is sold out, it is gone forever. Of course, there is always eBay, but most likely you will end up paying for one at a huge premium.
Buying PVC Figures in North America, circa 2007
While the anime DVD and manga market in North American has matured enough, it is not the same for PVC Figures. Unless your local hobby shops have direct access to Japanese distributors, your options are limited. Even though some manufacturers like Kotobukiya and GOOD SMILE COMPANY have set up distribution network in North America since 2006, it still only covers no more than half of all available products in the market. While eBay might seem a good place to buy PVC figures, many eBay sellers, particularly those from Hong Kong, charge shipping fees that are double of what they really cost to ship to North America. Also, there is always the danger of getting rip off by fake products, which is becoming more common on eBay these days.
The only other option is to buy direct from online stores in Japan, but keep in mind of the Customs fees when you import your figures into USA or Canada. Also, there is no telling how careful the Customs officials will handle your precious figure after opening the package for inspections.
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Dino Ho is the Webmaster of Otaku HQ