Early in 2012 the toy company 3A offered a pre-order of figures in a blind-box assortment. Blind boxed toys are a sort of lucky dip where buyers know roughly what they are going to get for their money but not exactly what. This is an established and particularly popular distribution method for many toy makers and artists, with the prospect of pulling a rare (& therefore valuable) variant acting as an incentive for buyers to gamble on a product, often buying multiples to increase the odds of getting something a little special.
In this particular instance 3A fans would receive a random selection of Zombie toys (or “Zombs” Ashley Wood’s name for zombies) from a range of about twelve variants all in the company’s 1/12th scale – referred to as Action Portable or AP. All that was clearly known, based on some rough sketches posted online in advance was that there would be three categories of zombies available – standard, war and robot zombs.
In addition there were two releases where buyers knew exactly what they were getting in advance. A three-pack of Zombs with three different head/hair variations each wearing a different coloured boiler suit and also a single Shadow Zomb all in black available exclusively to 3A Associates (aka ‘members’).
Now an admission. Until this release I just didn’t “get” the 3A Zomb design. In fact in general I’m not a big Zombie fan despite their increasing popularity across many media.
Additionally I made an assumption that like traditional blindbox toys these would be truly random, so ordering say three toys from a range of twelve didn’t guarantee three different variations, the odds make it pretty easy to end up with two or worse three toys all of the same design. In fact it turns out 3A’s fullfillment wasn’t blind at all. It appears that for anyone ordering between two and twelve figures 3A sorted out what was sent in order to guarantee no doubles – a fact it would have been much better for the customers to have known in advance!
Anyway, as a result of my assumption and general “meh” regarding zombies I was pretty happy to pass on this drop and not pre-order anything.
What. A. Fool.
It took the usual number of months after the pre-order date for the Zombs to make it out of production and begin to ship, and when they did and people started posting up pictures of what they had received I realised I had made a big mistake.
These were awesome! A truly cool combination of good design and playability in a perfect pocket size.
So began the hunt to make up for my short-sighted error and chase down some of these Zombs on the secondary market. But of course there was a problem, some of these figures were rarer and therefore always going to be hard (or worse, expensive) to find.
The initial excitement seemed to be about the War Zombs of which there were three variants released. But it soon became clear that two variants with high-top sneakers and slogan’d shirts were possibly rarer – the NYCC Zombs (based on a design previously released in 1/6th scale at the New York Comic Convention).
Then there were the Zombots, human bodies with robot heads only two colourways of these were made. Then the commons, the Boiler Zombs (an umbrella label because of their variety of coloured boiler suits being their most distinguishing feature) with some differences in faces or hair styles.
Finally the non-blind box figures, whilst popular seemed to be significantly less sought after almost certainly because buyers had known much more about what they would be like – only sketches of these had similarly ever been shown but the colourways were at least named ahead of time and the was no random element to what you received.
The other big factor in what made the blind boxed Zombs more sought after was a mistake or possibly some misinformation which happened during the pre-order. It seems many buyers thought they were limited to ordering a maximum of three figures. Why or how this misunderstanding arose I don’t know as I wasn’t ordering any, but later when they shipped it became apparent that many had limited their order to three pieces, but others had ordered more, some as many as ten or twelve figures. The net result come delivery time was a shortage of doubles and worse, even more people trying to get hold of some of the figures they didn’t get within their allocation but now desperately wanted.
The secondary market in the wake of this toy drop was madness, some Zombs were changing hands for three to five times their original cost. Many people were doing straightforward swaps, but because of the perceived rarity of some of the variants trades were not always going to work. The only way to succeed in this situation is patience. Wait for the excitement and feeding frenzy to die down and then pick off bargains or trades when sanity has returned.
So my Zomb collection grew, slowly. Now it is of just enough size for me to name it a hoard (a very modest hoard).
But those NYCC Zombs are still eluding me. I’d be happy with just one of the pair, but for now it’s a waiting game.