SURVEY: CUSTOM GI JOES

Last modified: Saturday, January 6, 2001 6:20 PM
Total # of responses received to date (from 08/23/98-11/17/98): 57
Results are expressed as percentages; due to rounding, percentages may not add up to 100 (?!)

Yes No
Have you bought mail-order custom figures or accessories from a Customizer before? (excluding Cotswold Collectibles, and companies larger than them) 68 32
If so, have you been satisfied with what you've bought? Do you feel you've "gotten your money's worth"? 87 13


Realism Play Value
Which is more important to you: "realism" or "play value" (durability)? 72 28

Military Adventure Team Personalities SciFi/Fantasy
What 12" GI Joe items are you interested in, and what would you like to see produced? 41 16 19 24

Additional comments:


Important Don't Care
Is it important that components of a figure & outfit be original and produced in-house (vs. purchased from another source, like Cotswold)? 19 81


By the Piece Entire Uniform
Do you prefer to buy unfinished individual pieces of a figure/uniform set or buy the entire finished figure/uniform set? 59 41


Resin Tailored
Do you prefer tailored items over resin castings for things like caps and pouches? 26 74


Yes No
Are superdetailing, "hidden" or subtle detail features (like opening pouches, hinged parts) generally worth the added cost to you? 63 37


No more than $50 $51-$75 $76-$100 $101-$150 $151-$200 $201-$300 More than $300
What is your "comfortable" spending range for a custom figure? (figure with custom head, outfit & accessories) 29 9 20 17 6 1 0

no more than $50 no more than $75 no more than $100 no more than $150 no more than $200 no more than $300 no limit
What is the maximum amount you might consider spending on a custom figure? (figure with custom head, outfit & accessories) 4 14 23 26 21 7 5

more than 2 weeks more than 1 month more than 2 months more than 3 months more than 6 months
What do you consider to be an unreasonable amount of time to wait between placing your order and receiving it? 14 35 25 18 9


Jimbob's Epilogue: (I welcome and would be glad to append your commentary and insights. E-mail them to jimbob1@flash.net.)

First, some caveats about this survey-- take it with a grain of salt. As you can see, this is a very small, unscientific sample of opinions. The choice of questions was skewed by my own interests, as well as the way I've worded the questions. Some of the wording was open to different interpretations and lots of things were left out. Obviously, I do have some interest in the subject and it would be dishonest of me not to point out that I see things from the point of view of the Customizer. (From this survey, you might even get the impression that I was going to produce something! ;^)

Imagine that you're a customizer. You have all the stuff to produce figures, but you can't crank 'em out by the thousands without a workforce and a factory filled with automated machinery. Making 20 copies of a figure takes you only a little less than --wild guess: 15-20 times the amount of time, energy and money spent making a single uniform (but is a lot more tedious). If you're doing this on top of a job that pays the mortgage and keeps you in Rib Eyes, the time you spend doing this is time you can't spend with your family and devote to other things you enjoy doing (like eating Rib Eyes). If you were certain that demand for your work would generate tens of thousands of sales, and the lure of $$$ was strong, you might quit your job, hock your house and invest in the dream (and maybe lose your house & spouse as a result)-- That's the spirit of a true entrepreneur. An artisan and entrepreneur in one body is a truly special and very tired person.

But I don't think that those ambitions are the reality for most customizers, or even the goal of many. It requires a tremendous sacrifice, and unless faith and the lure of money is strong enough, it ain't gonna happen. The more adventurous may hire or collaborate with others, to better control supply. Doubtless, that aspect gobbles up an additional chunk of time. So production numbers are limited to whatever a customizer can handle and still maintain some semblance of a life. Production at this level probably doesn't generate a huge profit, so the motivation most likely comes from a genuine love of the hobby, and a desire to share.

I mention this because pricing is not necessarily a matter of greed, or a precise reflection of the time and material cost of production. It's also a way to control demand --as is the time between order and delivery. It's entirely possible that some customizers choose to employ these tools to make their own lives a saner place to live. Unfortunately, consumers may resent it when a product is priced out of their range, or a product isn't available on demand. It makes the customizer look arrogant for disregarding these basic rules of business; that the "customER is god", and that goods should be manufactured in great abundance so that they're affordable and immediately available to everyone who happens to want one. That's the philosophy adopted by Walmarts and Targets. Customizers live in a different world though, and play by different rules.

Although this wasn't targeted in the survey, there is an area in which I believe practices should be standardized on behalf of the customer. The practice of taking a full payment to be placed on a long waiting list of orders seems improper. In my opinion, a down payment would be more appropriate, payable in full when the order was complete. I don't know if this is a genuine problem for anyone, but I recall a particular instance where it was.

I commend the many customizers who struggle with this dilemma, and who manage to bring us all the cool stuff which the big boys don't produce because it's not feasible. I also greatly appreciate the feedback from those who took the time to participate in this survey. Hopefully, the information gathered here will be of some value to those who make it happen!

--Jimbob, 8/26/98


Miscellaneous comments
  • "Lots of questions I wanted another choice. For example, I like a certain amount of realism, but I also like it playable, kind of a cross between the two. I also like to buy figures and individual accessories. It just depends on what I want to do. Sometimes I just need one piece, but if I'm not feeling especially creative I'll buy an entire figure. Waiting time is another one. I hate making anyone wait and try to have all orders out the door within 24 hours, but realize that is not realistic for everyone. It's a lot easier to keep an inventory of $8 shorts than it is to keep a bunch of $200 figures (or $100 tents) sitting around."
  • "Would like to see more accessories available instead of just the entire outfit which I may not buy because of expense or I am customizing with other pieces I have already"
  • "Realism, accuracy, detail and quality is what counts. I would maybe spend $250 for a A.Romero set but would not pay over $60 for most Cotswold sets. Also would prefer selecting weapon, pouches, rank&unit insignia when appropriate. Don't mind having some of the better Cotswold pieces included in sets. IF YOU'RE CONSIDERING DOING SOME CUSTOM SETS, YOU HAVE MY ENCOURAGEMENT. I KNOW THIS STUFF TAKES TIME AND EFFORT BUT MANY OF US DO NOT HAVE THE ABILITY/SKILL TO DO OUR OWN CUSTOM WORK. ALL WE CAN DO IS LOOK AT YOUR WEB PAGE AND ENVY."
  • "Yeah, You thinking of going full-time???"
  • "Components and do I like inhouse or exp.cots bepends on the pc. some of cotswolds stuff works for me where some don't.I like custom uniforms but a lot of the customizers are doing the same thing U.S. army and germans where are the british, french, Italians,Russians and naploeonics and WWI uniforms. I like cercle home studios and desert forces because they dare to be different than the norm and cotswold trys but caved into customer demand. I understand this and the need to stay in business. I do like cots there dependable and fair, I also like getting a catalog that I can read in a real chair{recliner or lawn chair eating ribs}the real world mail catalog cots has is there best weapon."
  • "Robert DeCastro and his old SpecOps Co. RULES! :)"
  • "I usually don't care how long it takes for an item to be finished or how much it cost (within reason) as long as it looks good and up to my standards."
  • "Adventure Gear makes the best looking modern backpacks and camping gear IMHO."
  • "As you can tell, I'm a Star Wars fan, and I collect most of the Star Wars dolls, but some I just pass up on because they look too damn ridiculous to be bought for $20. So far the best "12 figure in the line has been Han Solo and Taun Taun, but What I REALLY wish they would make was a fully articulated stormtrooper (I know they're making one in Japan, but I don't live there)"
  • "question 1, part 2: i ordered some custom heads & footwear from a customizer and was very satisfied with the quality of the products. i was also very dissatisfied because it took 13 months to fill my order.
    question 4, part 1: i prefer that the customizer only sell products that are part of their line ("don't throw in those cotswald goods, i can get them cheaper on th black market".)
    question four, part 2: this depends on the figure/peice. it's great to be able to offer both.
    question four, parts 3: whenever possible a component should be reproduced in whatever material was originaly used. cloth hats, metal buckles etc.
    question four part 4: superdetailing, yes!"
  • "all my "customs" are from Cotswold. mostly Germans. what I basically want is something that looks good and wont break easily while poseing it. the $ point is going to be your biggest hurdle, I suggest you buy in bulk Cots elite figures (headless) or maybe 21st's sams. been watching your posts in the sandbox for a while and on your website. Now I just have to convince you to make me one of those zaftig Redheads you keep showing ;-D "
  • "I like when I see a custom built figures which have specially made hands and also realistic features"
  • "Life seems pretty good for the 12" action figure enthusiast at this point. Lots of great stuff, and plenty more good stuff on the way."
  • "I am not a talented modeller and am willing to pay for a quality product and good service."
  • "on the question of play v. realism. they are both equally important. "for display only" seems pointless. it should be an ever changing diorama of backyard fun. to do otherwise, imprisons the soul of the figure."
  • "Fit of clothing(avoiding the "doll" look), lay flat pleats, etc...Correct colors & fabrics, CORRECTLY SCALED ACCESSORIES, Correct camouflage patterns & seam lines in the camo pattern as the 1:1s were cut & sewn together....................You do a fantastic job!, all your work that I have seen is tops ! I would buy personality heads from you at ~!8.50 each if they here (IN MY OPINION) representitive of the person being recreated in 1/6th scale and painted. My biggest problem with customizer's heads is SCALE, Coloring to match the neck base WHICH USUALLY SHOWS, and they would have to be painted at that price....A.H.Davis III"
  • "I play with and use my figures in stop motion scenes, so I like the poseability."
  • "Still unhappily waiting for my Action City gear I ordered over 4 months ago.... But I hear its worth the wait :-)"
  • "Not to be a suck-up, but I'd really like to see more figures akin to what you have on your site commercially available. I think the success of the larger format comic figures like FC and Spawn, ST, and SW amply demonstrate that the SF/Fantasy market is a horribly under-exploited market for 12" figures.
    Another facet of the industry that's starting to rub me the wrong way is the pricing within the customizer market. There are some great customizers out there, but there's also a growing body of talented amatuers producing substandard work and charging premium prices for it. I've been burned by these guys twice now and it's just turned me off on dealing with anyone but the most established names in the business or those that guarantee that what I get in the mail will actually be the same thing in the pictures I ordered from. When I'm spending almost the same amount of money for a 1/6 accessory as I would for the 1/1 original I want the product to absolutely blow me away when I get it in my hands."

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