A Brief Guide to Collecting Custom Toys In the Star Wars Universe

Custom A-Wing by Mike Smith
Custom A-Wing by Mike Smith

In 2015, I began watching toy reviews on YouTube, and one of the things that really fascinated me were customized toys. As I began collecting Star Wars toys again at the end of that year, I joined several social media groups where I saw custom ships that other collectors had up for sale.

I wanted to try customizing myself, but honestly I didn’t have any confidence in my ability to do so. I am not an artist, and it just seemed like a foreign concept to me, so I began reading every article that I could find online, and by early 2016, I had completed my first custom. I was hooked, and I’ve never looked back.

Since then I have had several dozen custom Star Wars items in my collection. Most were toys that I had customized, but a few were purchased from other collectors. An example that I owned was a custom action figure of Sha Koon, a female Jedi Knight, and niece of Jedi Master Plo Koon. I also owned a custom painted Partisan X-Wing from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Both of these represent a fraction of what’s available on the custom market. So where do we start? First, you need to have an idea of what you are looking for. Custom toys are not like the ones in your big box stores. Many hours are invested in the final product, and it requires dedication, effort, money, and time to complete a custom project.

As an example, let’s say you are searching for a customized A-Wing fighter from Star Wars: The Last Jedi. A great place to begin your search is eBay, however it isn’t the only source available. You could also search groups on Facebook dedicated to Star Wars collecting and toys. Once you know what you want, and where to look, then you need to actually find an item.

Custom A-Wing by Mike Smith
Custom A-Wing by Mike Smith

If you find a custom A-Wing fighter for sale, then it’s time to examine the item. I like to read the seller’s description, then enlarge every image in order to see minute details. It’s the only real way to determine what discrepancies or flaws may exist on the toy before buying it.

Many times custom items are sold “as is”, with no option for a refund or to return it. If it checks out, I then look at the asking price. Many times customized items on ebay are listed to allow a best offer to be made on it, and here’s where you really have to know what you’re doing.

First, you need to know what the retail cost of the toy was (if it’s discontinued) or is when it was released. Other factors to consider are if the item was an exclusive to a particular retailer, a limited release, or any other factor that would increase the value of the toy, thus increasing the cost of the auction.

Once you understand what the baseline value of the toy is, then it’s time to factor in the asking price. The difference in the baseline value and the asking price should be contingent upon two factors: cost of materials to customize the toys, and the profit margin. The cost of materials represents just that, and can be accurately estimated if it’s just a repaint. If there are other features like retractable landing skids and electronic lights, then obviously these will necessitate a greater cost.

Profit margin should be determined by the work done, and is the most difficult to factor, because in most cases a customizer does this for a hobby, or in worst cases, just to make money off of an unsuspecting customer. This is commonly referred to as scalping, and it is a rampant disease on eBay. In this case I can only suggest that you use your best judgement.

With our coveted A-Wing fighter, it’s still on store shelves, and readily available online for less than thirty dollars. If you are after a screen accurate repaint, then a fair cost would be $50 to $60 dollars, plus the shipping cost. Though twice the retail cost, this represents the effort, material, and time put into customizing this particular toy. Some sellers will also adjust the price based upon if the original packaging is included or not. I offer a cost adjustment for this as well.

The final factor that you want to examine is the seller and their feedback. Pay attention to exactly where they are located, and how many transactions they have had on eBay. For social media pages, you can often ask the group for seller feedback as well. If there are a number of consistent negative feedbacks listed, I would advise you to look for another listing, as it just isn’t worth the trouble. Lastly, if everything checks out, make certain that you ask the seller any questions that you may have before you make an offer or commit to buy their item.

If you go about it the right way, you can potentially add an awesome custom to your collection, and show it off to all of your friends. In so doing, give the seller credit for their work, and refer others to help boost their business. If you’re interested in an item on commission, or you just want to see examples of custom toys, then I invite you to check out my Facebook page, Dark Horizon Creations.

May the Force be with you all….