Figure Friday is back with another Holiday Gift Guide! If I’m being honest, I feel that every Figure Friday column is somewhat of a gift guide, so I thought I’d try something a little different. My wife tells me that I’m impossible to buy for. As a collector, I tend to buy just about everything on my list before she has a chance to. In a world of distribution issues and retail exclusives, if you don’t grab an item when you first see it, there’s a good chance you’ll never see it again. With that in mind, I decided to put together a list of items that aren’t tied to preorders and shouldn’t be too difficult to track down this time of year. If you have a collector in your life, there’s something on this list that they will appreciate regardless of what they collect or how they collect.
The Ikea Detolf is one of the most collector friendly display solutions on the market. It’s relatively inexpensive at $60, has glass panels all around and the top and bottom come in either white or black/brown to compliment your existing space. The Detolf has a small footprint so if real estate is a concern, it’s a great option. On the flipside, if real estate isn’t a concern, they look great grouped together creating your own personal museum. If your collector doesn’t already have a dedicated space to display their collection, find a corner of your home that you can live without, give them a Detolf and tell them to go crazy. Best. Gift. EVER.
While Ikea does offer some lighting options for your Detolfs, they’re usually not as bright as what most collectors are looking for. If you really want to make your prized collectibles pop, let me introduce you to the Luke Light. Designed specifically with the Detolf in mind, this kit comes cut to size and prewired, so no soldering is necessary. The wires and included zip ties are gray and seamlessly blend in with the existing metal shelf rack to provide a clean look. You can enhance your Luke Lights even further by adding on the metal V-Shaped Brackets which will pitch your lights inward at a 45-degree angle. The brackets also include a diffuser providing you an additional option if you want a slightly softer look. As someone who went through the struggle of wiring and soldering all 14 of my Detolfs, I wish I would have found the Luke Lights first.
Growing up a mint on card collector, I had an entire wall full of Power of the Force Star Wars figures. Beautifully organized and meticulously hung with the finest thumbtacks money could buy. Cheap and effective, thumbtacks were the way to go. It wasn’t until I was out on my own when I realized how much damage I was doing to my walls. If you want the same look without having to patch and paint the next time you want to switch things up, Command Hooks are the way to go. Yes, they’re not as cheap as thumbtacks, but most big box retail stores frequently run deals to make them a bit more affordable. I take advantage and stock up whenever possible. These make great stocking stuffers!
There comes a time in most people’s lives when they stop playing with their toys. That is of course, unless you double down and start enhancing your collection with custom backdrops and dioramas. These can be elaborate prebuilt systems (FEXT has some excellent offerings) or DIY projects that you can tailor to your specific needs. The best thing about the DIY option is the fact that many of the materials can be found at big box retailers for relatively low cost or even upcycled from things that you might have around your own home. If your collector was the type of kid that took empty cardboard boxes and made their own Cobra Terror Drome, diorama making will take their imagination to new heights.
Dan Denny has been making dioramas for years. His work has been featured on many different YouTube creators’ channels, including his own. He put together a few items that everyone looking to make their own dioramas will need to get started.
- XPS Foam (insulation foam) is made by a few different major brands and can be found at most big box hardware stores
- Foam Board. Yes, the cheap foam board you can get at the dollar store. It can make a great surface once you expose the foam or remove the paper.
- Packaging! Every time I get something that comes with foam packaging, I check to see if something about its size or shape can be repurposed into a diorama. Even when my friends get new stuff that is packed in foam, they will send me a pic of it to see if I can use it. Not all foams will work for this, some are too light, but many will. The only limit is your imagination!
- Paints. Acrylic water based is just fine and a budget friendly option.
- Utility Knife. When I started out, I used the best, sharpest blades I could find. It took me a long time to figure out that if you just score the piece and keep the blade fresh you don’t need to spend a lot of money. A simple extendable box cutter blade (snap off is ideal), will work just fine.
- Hot Glue Gun (not required, but highly recommended)
- Anything else. Look around! Toothpicks, cloth, cardboard, sticks and rocks from your yard. Simple accents that can help breathe life into the environment you’re creating.
Once you’ve gathered your tools and are ready to get creative, watch some YouTube videos for inspiration. I’m constantly amazed at the level of detail that people put into their projects. With just a little bit of effort, you can transport your figure from a dusty shelf, to an alien world or a sold-out arena. Whether you use the diorama to display your figures or you dabble in figure photography, “playing” with your toys is just as fun as it was when you were a kid.
The most enduring traditions of the season are best enjoyed in the warm embrace of kith and kin.
Regardless of what you get for your collector this year, there’s one thing that you can do for them that doesn’t cost a thing. Ask them to teach you about their collection. Why do they collect? What’s their favorite piece in their collection? Did anyone else in the family collect? As a collector, there’s nothing more satisfying than sharing my collection with others and getting to see it through their eyes for the first time. I’ve spent my whole life collecting these things that hold a special place in my heart, but nothing is more special than sharing them with the people I love.