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The Most Valuable and Expensive Funko Pops That Only Serious Collectors Can Afford

Funko Pop vinyl figures have become a pop culture phenomenon and one of the most popular collectibles in the world. Since their debut in 2010, Funko has released over 8,000 unique Pop figures covering everything from blockbuster movies and hit TV shows to sports stars and musical icons.

While most common Pops retail for a reasonable $10-15, on the high end, there exists an exclusive class of ultra-rare and expensive Pops that sell for staggering amounts on the resale market. These "grail" pieces, as they are known in collector circles, routinely sell for four, five or even six figures. What makes a Pop figure so valuable and sought-after? As a digital technology expert and Funko enthusiast, I‘ll break down the key factors.

The Funko Pop Collectors Market is Booming

First, let‘s look at some data on just how big the Funko Pop collecting scene has become. The global collectibles market is estimated to reach $692.4 billion by 2032, and Funko Pops make up a sizable chunk of that.

Funko‘s net sales have skyrocketed from $40 million in 2014 to over $1 billion in 2021, driven in large part by Pop sales. The company now holds over 250 licenses and has distribution in over 70 countries. High-end Pop collecting has emerged as an alternative investment asset class, not unlike rare coins, art, or sports memorabilia.

A 2021 survey by hobbyDB found that among Funko collectors:

  • 81% are interested in collecting rare and exclusive Pops
  • 43% have more than 100 Pops in their collection
  • 73% have been collecting for over 3 years
  • 33% spend $100-$500 per month on their Funko habit

So while casual Funko buyers still make up the majority of the market, there is a thriving niche of hardcore, high-end collectors driving the dizzying prices of the most coveted Pops. I spoke to some of these "whale" collectors to get their insights.

Why Rare Funko Pops Become So Valuable

"For me, it‘s about the thrill of the hunt and being able to own a piece of pop culture history," said Jason, a longtime collector with over 500 Pops, including several rare Freddy Funko pieces worth over $10K each. "I love tracking down those ‘holy grail‘ Pops that are really scarce and hard to find. The value is almost secondary to just the satisfaction of adding it to my collection."

That scarcity is key when it comes to Pop value. Funko regularly releases convention or store exclusive Pop figures in limited quantities that can only be acquired in person or sell out quickly online. This forced rarity drives up aftermarket prices as more collectors compete for a dwindling supply.

"Some of the San Diego Comic Con exclusives from 8-10 years ago that had 12, 24 or 48 piece runs will never be made again," noted Vanessa, a high-end Pop collector and investor. "So if you want one, you have to pay up big time. I‘ve seen SDCC Pops sell for 100 times their original price or more."

For example, the metallic Dumbo Pop released at the 2013 SDCC was limited to just 48 pieces. One sold in April 2020 for $10,400 on eBay. The flocked Tony the Tiger Pop from the 2011 SDCC, of which only 12 were made, sold for $7,480 in August 2019. Beyond convention exclusives, Funko also has special "Chase" variants that are inserted randomly into shipments at a 1/6 or lower ratio. So for some popular lines, you may have to buy six figures just for a chance at the more valuable Chase.

Perhaps the most coveted and valuable Pops of all are the Freddy Funko variants. Depicting the company‘s mascot cosplaying as famous pop culture characters, these Freddys were given out in ultra small numbers mostly to Funko employees or at Funko Fun Days events. Only serious, well-connected collectors have a prayer of getting their hands on these.

"I remember a guy turned down $25K in cash on the spot for his Freddy as Jaime Lannister a few years back," recalled Chris, a Funko employee turned high-end collector. "He said he wouldn‘t let it go for less than $40K at the time. Some of those one-off Freddys are like owning a vintage Ferrari in the Funko world."

Indeed, in recent years, the ceiling for high-end Pop prices has shattered. In 2022, a Willy Wonka "Golden Ticket" Pop signed by the late Gene Wilder sold for over $100,000 at auction. A Clockwork Orange glow-in-the-dark Pop from the 2021 Funko Virtual Con sold for $42,900 and a metallic gold Hopper from Stranger Things went for $27,000. Clearly high-end Pop collecting is big business.

How Technology is Fueling the Funko Boom

Of course, Funko‘s rise and the rabid collectors market would not be possible without digital technology. First, the design and production of Pops themselves relies heavily on tech.

Funko‘s design process often begins with digital sculpts created in computer modeling software like ZBrush. 3D modelers create the initial Pop design digitally before it gets prototyped and refined. The factory production uses an automated rotational molding process with computer-controlled machinery to manufacture the vinyl figures with speed and precision.

"Technology allows us to take the original 2D character design and reimagine it in the distinct Pop aesthetic with exaggerated features in 3D," shared one Funko designer. "Digital sculpting gives us a lot of freedom to get the details of the expression, outfit and accessories just right."

Once the Pops hit the market, it‘s online tools and communities that keep collector fandom thriving. Pop Price Guide and hobbyDB maintain extensive databases of every Pop ever made, along with current estimated values and market trends.

The Funko app allows fans to track their collection, wishlist and get notifications on new releases. There are numerous Funko collector groups on Facebook and Reddit along with a passionate community on Instagram showing off their latest pickups.

"Social media has been huge for connecting Funko collectors around the world," said Vanessa. "I‘ve made so many friends through Instagram, and we help each other track down grails or share news on upcoming drops. It builds that sense of a shared passion and community."

YouTube has also become a hub for Funko content creators, with popular channels doing unboxing videos, collection tours, and speculation on future releases. Seeing other fans score those highly coveted convention exclusives or hauls of rare vaulted figures only fuels the desire to collect.

The Future of Digital Funko Collecting

Looking ahead, Funko aims to further integrate digital technologies with the Pop collecting experience. The recent launch of Funko Digital Pop NFTs, starting with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, marks the brand‘s first foray into the Web3 space. By linking physical products to digital NFTs, Funko can engage tech savvy collectors and potentially drive even more value to rare releases.

The "Pop Yourself" program allows fans to create a digital Pop avatar of themselves, hinting at the future of personalized collectibles. Funko has also experimented with augmented reality unboxing experiences and digital-only Pop series.

As more collecting moves into the metaverse, we may see high-end digital Funko assets attracting the same sky high prices as their physical counterparts. Imagine a one-of-one digital Pop NFT designed by a famous artist, or an ultra rare skin in a Funko virtual world. The mind boggles at what those could be worth to the growing ranks of avid Funko collectors.

"I think we‘re just scratching the surface of what‘s possible with digital Funko collecting," said Chris. "With blockchain authentication, immersive virtual galleries, and expanding storytelling potential, digital and physical Pops could fuel each other to new heights. The key is scarcity and collectability."

Indeed, as long as Funko keeps offering fans ways to show their love of pop culture through these cute collectible figures – both physically and digitally – the Pop hype seems unstoppable. At the end of the day, the most expensive and valuable Funko Pops are the ones that give collectors a sense of joy, community and investment in the fandoms they love. That‘s something you can‘t put a price on.