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Figure Scale Trends, Part 1: Early YearsFigure Scale Trends, Part 1: Early Years

vgadictvgadict1 month agoDiary
Background
Several months ago, I posted a series of articles that examined historical trends of cast off and nopan figures. While gathering the data for those articles, I noticed some interesting trends related to figure scales which seemed worthy of a closer look. Due to the amount of data to cover, this is being split into four parts. The first two parts cover all types of scale figures, with part one including some historical figures along with scale trends in the early years of figure collecting. Part two will look at scale trends for more recent years. Part 3 will examine the scale trends for cast off figures, and part 4 will focus on the scale trends for nopan figures.

Disclaimer
The data being used was collected between mid-October to early November. Any updates to the MFC database since then are not reflected in this analysis.

Although there are several other scales (1/20, 1/12, 1/3, etc), these articles are going to focus on 1/8 through 1/4 scales which comprise the majority of scale figures. There are also several entries in the MFC database that omit scale or release date, and as a result, those figures are not included.

Note: Figure photos in this article are from the MFC database. The chart image was created by me.

Oldest figures by scale
Based on the entries in the MFC database, these are the first figures that were produced for each of the following scales:

1/8 scale (1996) - ITEM #7106
Shoujo Kakumei Utena - Tenjou Utena - ChuChu - Real Model - 18 - 1/8 (SEGA)
https://static.myfigurecollection.net/pics/figure/big/7106.jpg


1/7 scale (1997) - ITEM #17662
The King of Fighters '97 - Shiranui Mai - 1/7 (Kotobukiya)
https://static.myfigurecollection.net/upload/pictures/2013/08/14/782080.jpeg


1/6 scale (1989) - ITEM #27429
Fushigi no Umi no Nadia - Nadia - 1/6 (Tsukuda Hobby)
https://static.myfigurecollection.net/pics/figure/big/27429.jpg


1/5 scale (1994) - ITEM #6368, ITEM #6369, ITEM #12112
Magic Knight Rayearth - Hououji Fuu - 1/5 (Tsukuda Hobby)
Magic Knight Rayearth - Ryuuzaki Umi - 1/5 (Tsukuda Hobby)
Magic Knight Rayearth - Shidou Hikaru - 1/5 (Tsukuda Hobby)
https://static.myfigurecollection.net/pics/figure/big/6368.jpghttps://static.myfigurecollection.net/pics/figure/big/6369.jpghttps://static.myfigurecollection.net/pics/figure/big/12112.jpg


1/4 scale (1997) - ITEM #26443, ITEM #91736, ITEM #31417
Shin Seiki Evangelion - Ayanami Rei - 1/4 - Bandaged ver. (SEGA)
Shin Seiki Evangelion - Ayanami Rei - 1/4 (Khara Max Factory SEGA Gainax)
Maison Ikkoku - Otonashi Kyouko - Jumbo Figure 45 - 1/4 (Tsukuda Hobby)
https://static.myfigurecollection.net/pics/figure/big/26443.jpghttps://static.myfigurecollection.net/pics/figure/large/91736.jpghttps://static.myfigurecollection.net/pics/figure/big/31417.jpg


When looking at the figures above, something that immediately jumps out is the fact that all but one of them were produced either by SEGA or Tsukuda Hobby. SEGA is still producing figures. However, Tsukuda Hobby is no longer in the market. They produced their last scale figure in 1999 (ITEM #16459). According to (this wiki article), Tsukuda Hobby filed for bankruptcy in 2003.

Note that some other scales didn't appear until later on (1/5.5 in 2004 and 1/4.5 in 2011), and that's why they are omitted from part one. Instead, those scales will be discussed in later parts.

Scale trends 1994 to 2003
To examine the trends in the early years of figure collecting, this article examines the figures released between 1994 to 2003, inclusive. Although this could begin further back, such as 1989 when the first 1/6 scale figure was released, per the MFC database there are no other scale figures released between then and 1994, so inclusion of those years doesn't reveal anything of interest. The end point could have been earlier or later, but 2003 was selected to make this a convenient 10 year span. Part two will examine the years 2004 to now.

https://static.myfigurecollection.net/upload/pictures/2019/11/03/2326676.png

From the data, we can see that after a slight drop in scale figures between 1994 to 1995, there was a steady growth between 1995 to 1997, and the number of unique released figures increased from 1 to 31. The largest contributor of that was 1/8 scale which comprised nearly half (15) of the figures in the 1/4 to 1/8 scale range that year. However, the popularity of 1/8 scale figures then saw a significant drop off in the next two years while the number of 1/6 scale figures grew.

Prior to 2000, there were very few figures released in 1/7 or 1/5 scale. In fact, there was only one 1/7 scale figure in 1997, and there weren't any further releases of that scale until a few years later. Meanwhile, there was a small surge of five 1/5 scale figures in 1997, but then only one in 1998 and none at all in 1999.

The next big jump in scale figures began in 2000, and by 2001 the number of unique figures released had grown to 110. 1/8 scale was the most popular size with 52 of the figures that year, closely followed by 1/6 scale with 47 figures. Around this time, 1/7 scale figures also began a slow but steady growth.

There was a significant decline in scale figures in 2002. It's not clear why there was such a drop-off, but 2001 through 2002 did include some significant economic events such as 9/11, Iraq War, the Dot-com bubble, Enron scandal, and a stock market crash. Any of these may have contributed to a reduction in the production of and discretionary spending for scale figures.

By 2003, the number of scale figures being produced had begun to recover. Once again, 1/8 was the leading size with 47 figures, followed by 1/6 scale with 33. By this time, 1/7 scale had finally begun to assert itself as a significant scale with 11 releases.

The number of 1/4 scale figures released over these years was relatively low, but there was a small growth in this scale between 1999 through 2002. However, there were no 1/4 scale figures produced in 2003. It's possible that these larger scale figures may require a longer lead time for production, and thus whatever factors led to the decline in other scales in 2002 may not have affected the release of 1/4 scale figures until a year later.

Collector considerations
Since some collectors focus on specific scales, the historical implications of these early trends may have had an impact on the popularity of certain scales over subsequent years. For example, early figure collectors who got started in the late 1990s or early 2000s likely started with mostly 1/8 or 1/6 scale figures, and they may have continued to primarily obtain figures of those scales. Furthermore, any shelves they built or purchased back then may not have worked as well for larger scales, and this could have initially led to a reduced interest among those collectors for 1/5 and larger figures.

Coming next...
Part two will examine the scale trends for releases in 2004 through 2019, including a significant overall growth in figures, and some interesting transitions.
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Comments14

1pt
Moeromoero Chinese Dress Hunter
Thanks Vgadict,

It happened before I jump into this hobby.
I picked this up around 2006 when 1/7 and 1/8 were everywhere.


I guess collectors' preferences on scales are changing over time.

First, we get what are the most common stuff. From a hit anime or game,etc.

Then, realise that he/she truly love figs and wanna invest more. Consider more expensive choices.(larger scale for better details)

After that, collectors buy bigger and bigger until they find the "sweet spot".
For me, it's 1/6.
1 month ago
2pt
FlyingToNowhere (1 month ago) #69978776Fun article! Probably worth noting that a lot of older figures in the database don't have dates listed, too. For example, I used to own ITEM #19282, and I know that figure was released in 1993, so that would make it older than the Rei 1/4.
Yes, this is unfortunate. The article originally noted the missing scales in the disclaimers, but I've updated it to mention the dates too.

It's unlikely that this issue will be fixed anytime soon, since there are thousands of figures that appear to be missing date and scale info.
1 month ago
1pt
Fun article! Probably worth noting that a lot of older figures in the database don't have dates listed, too. For example, I used to own ITEM #19282, and I know that figure was released in 1993, so that would make it older than the Rei 1/4.
1 month ago
2pt
sgg_hobby (1 month ago) #69903579Am I right to assume that this covers pre-painted fixed-pose figures only and not garage kits and action figures? For some reason I have been blind to prepainted figures until recently and only noticed garage kits from the late 80s and trading figures form the mid 2000s.
As someone also pointed out, what was popular anime in any year and quanity of anime produced in a year may influence numbers.
Great analysis and very interesting. I look forward to Part 2.

This excludes garage kits and action figures.
1 month ago
1pt
Am I right to assume that this covers pre-painted fixed-pose figures only and not garage kits and action figures? For some reason I have been blind to prepainted figures until recently and only noticed garage kits from the late 80s and trading figures form the mid 2000s.

As someone also pointed out, what was popular anime in any year and quanity of anime produced in a year may influence numbers.

Great analysis and very interesting. I look forward to Part 2.
1 month ago
3pt
funwari (1 month ago) #69901681Some interesting information here. What we know about 90's figures is probably pretty incomplete but its clear there are ups and downs in figure output.
I wonder if there is a connection with related anime and game output?

Any figure data from the pre-internet timeframe (before the early 1990s) likely doesn't exist in a digitally searchable format. Thus, any viewable information regarding figures from that era tends to be quite limited. Also, the MFC site began in 2008, and the data for figures released before then may be somewhat impacted as well.

Over the years, new figure releases have coincided with releases of anime series and games. The manufacturers typically obtain licensing agreements from the owners of those franchises to produce those figures during a specific period of time. Thus, some of the increases in figure releases during certain years are likely related to this. On the other hand, some of the dips appear to closely align with worldwide economic market conditions, so there are likely multiple factors affecting the differences in the number of figures for various years.
1 month ago
1pt
Some interesting information here. What we know about 90's figures is probably pretty incomplete but its clear there are ups and downs in figure output.
I wonder if there is a connection with related anime and game output?
1 month ago
2pt
galablue (1 month ago) #69881840i love when you publish information articles like this. thank you!
Thanks! Knowing other collectors enjoy my articles helps motivate me to write more of them.

CaptainZ (1 month ago) #69881940Wow, very cool man
Thanks!

Sakura0055 (1 month ago) #69882085Thank you for the read, this is very iinteresting! Waiting for part two ^^
Thanks! I hope to have part two up in about a week.

midariikishima (1 month ago) #69883349That Utena figure has been on my wish list for a while now, but I never realized she was so old!
This is a very interesting article; thank you for putting it all together! I like seeing the varying qualities between the early figures. Some are quite decent looking for the time, while others (like the Rayearth ones) just look tragic.

Thanks! Before starting this, I wasn't familiar with that Utena figure, but I can see why it would be on some people's wish lists, especially due to it's historical significance. As for the quality, that did vary considerably with early figures. Some of the companies that had quality issues aren't in the market anymore.
1 month ago
1pt
I do my best to avoid 1/8 or 1/7 scale figures . I need 1/6 at least
1 month ago
5pt
That Utena figure has been on my wish list for a while now, but I never realized she was so old!

This is a very interesting article; thank you for putting it all together! I like seeing the varying qualities between the early figures. Some are quite decent looking for the time, while others (like the Rayearth ones) just look tragic.
1 month ago
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