RTM is taking a look at the Collector-Actionfigures.com (DASH for short). DASH has been online since 2009 and the site offers tools to help manage your collection. There are also tools for buying, selling, valuation and trading as well as showing off your collection.
Full disclosure: RTM was asked to review the site by DASH and they are also an ad sponsor for RTM at this time. We were granted a premium membership free of charge to facilitate the review. The review itself was sent to Collector Dash for fact checking, but not editorial input.
Working with DASH, we have a redemption code that you can use to get a paid subscription at a discount. The code is listed at the end of the review and RTM does not receive a finder’s fee or any payment if you use that code.
DASH does some things very well, and some it does not. We’ll cover those areas and a little more in this look at both the free and premium (paid subscription) service.
This review was written in September 2012 and is based on features and functionality as of this date. There is also a Collector Dash site for model train collectors, but this is beyond the scope of this review.
DASH has a Spartan design and works within a ‘container’, so it will display similarly regardless of your screen resolution. From the main page you can access your collection (if you have registered for an account), the catalog and the marketplace. There is also a community page which is essentially a links page to a variety of sites (including RTM) that may enhance your collecting.
From the catalog you can drill down to a variety of lines, companies and figures. They have provided several standard ways to categorize the figures (genre, line, manufacturer, release year, etc) and you also have the option of using a search box. The listings cover nearly 50,000 items, which is impressive. It tends to cover more popular lines better (more entries and complete lines) than more obscure lines.
At present, DASH allows entries in line pages for sale lots of figures. This is due to the marketplace requiring a catalog link and to allow users to sell items in lots easier. They are listed with the same look and feel of regular items.
DASH uses a wiki based model for content, so it relies to some extent on the community to keep it up to date and to find and correct mistakes. This makes the listings feel less ‘curated’ and does result in errors and duplicate entries from time to time. They do have a staff that can make corrections or remove duplicate entries but they tend to be reactive rather than proactive.
The site is financed through optional premium features, and through commissions if you choose to sell items on the site.
The images on the individual figure pages are generally of good quality. However, the image quality varies a lot between images, due to numerous contributors. Many of the images appear to be pixelated, as if they were sized incorrectly. I believe this is due to the sizing tool used with browsers as this was consistent with Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome. Most of the images have a zoom function, but with only one step they start to be pixelated. I did have problems displaying images at all in Safari on the iPad. The images zoomed and looked better on the portable device app (see below).
One of the cooler features on certain figures is that the images are set up as 360 degree rotations, so you have a number of pictures are different angles of the same item. These still suffer from some image pixelation at larger sizes. They certainly do not cover all figures but are very nice where they appear.
Every item has a link to places to buy the item, either via other collectors on DASH or an eBay link. They all have eBay links, but these are more of a generic search, and can hit or miss, depending on the item.
The site does a great job when it comes to cataloging your collection. It also gives you options to fill in the missing figures or other toys that you might want via ‘add to collection’ and ‘add to wanted’ buttons. It is also easier to add an item than to remove it from a collection, so if you accidentally add 2 instead of 1 figure you will have to click a few times to correct it.
RTM did not buy or sell any items, and so cannot evaluate these features and related functions. DASH uses Paypal for all money transfers and dispute resolution.
The catalog items also serve as a central spot where you can submit and read reviews on the site or links to You Tube videos. A word of warning, the You Tube videos are external so they aren’t created by Collector Dash. The quality of them varies greatly. And many are bad. Very bad.
I did send in a request via their web contact form and received a non-automated answer within 24 hours to my issue.
There is a customer service staff and they were responsive by answering my e-mail. It took about seven days after my request to complete addressing it and it will vary based on what you need to have done.
A standard membership is free and gives you access to some benefits over being an anonymous browser. You will be able to enter in your own collection, update information in listings, add listings and upload photos. A word of information – when you upload your photos they will become property of DASH to be used as they see fit. This is pretty standard around the web, but it bears noting.
With the free plan you get basic functions and can track your collection as well as buying and selling items. It is pretty straight forward. A free account limits what you can do in the portable device apps (see below).
The premium membership is $24.95 per year, which works out to just over $2 a month. One benefit of this level is the ability to set up your own mini-site on DASH. It allows you to share your collection with other fans very easily, and can also serve as a store if your interest is more along that line.
Probably the best features you will get with the premium plan are being able to print out lists of your collection and the valuation report. Having a portable (it can be saved to pdf) copy of your collection can be handy. The valuation report is a nice feature that sums up your collection’s value and lists estimated values for items in the catalog. Per DASH, there are value ranges for approximately 90% of catalog items and it does account for loose/carded values.
In terms of accuracy, it is hard to tell just overall how accurate the values are. They give good ballpark numbers, but with nearly 50,000 items it is virtually impossible to verify them all. As with any valuation, it is just a guide and no guarantee that you will get that much if you sell, or pay that much if you buy.
The premium account also grants additional functionality on the portable device apps (see below).
Portable Device App
Yep, all the kids are doing it today – using phone (or tablet) apps. The DASH app (available for Android and Apple devices) is a slimmed down version of the site. The app is free on both platforms. You have to log in and you get access to the site catalog, which is very handy if you are out shopping and come across a deal.
The Android app on a smartphone and the Apple one on a generation 1 iPad were used in this review. The Apple app is written for the iPhone and there isn’t an iPad specific version (so you will have to 2x it to use the whole screen). The Android version wasn’t tested on an Android tablet.
The app has less information than the full website. The iOS app doesn’t include or link to the reviews that can be found in a web browser, but the Android version does let you view the video reviews. There are limits to the uses of the app depending on your DASH account. With a free account you can browse the catalog only.
A very cool feature for the Android app is the ability to use the camera in your phone or device to scan the UPC barcode, and if it is in the system it will bring up the entry if it is in the catalog. With this feature you are limited to what is in the database. After scanning a variety of newer and older items and probably hit 50% of the time, with more popular lines getting more hits.
With a premium account, you can add items to and browse your collection with your portable device.
In many cases the app is easier to use when adding items because it runs faster when you have a wifi connection than the website loading. The images tend to look better in the app than they do on the site via a browser (Internet Explorer). This may be due to the sizing tool used on the site for browsers.
There are three other websites that have a similar set-up and features – Brickset, Mint Condition Collection and SHMax. Brickset is designed for Lego collectors, Mint Condition Collection is for general collectibles and SHMax is for Transformers.
Brickset offers the same ability to track your collection and does a rough valuation (based only on retail value and secondary market) and shows population reports. There are buying links (affiliate links to the LegoShop and ebay) but no member-to-member buying and selling. Brickset does offer up a little news (mostly sale related) and they have a user forum and a cleaner site design. And the obvious – Brickset is for Lego sets only.
SHMax has a focus on Transformers, though it is trying to branch off into other lines. They have some information on each item and a parts breakdown on some of the figures to include the accessories. The parts breakdowns are probably one of the best features but this will only appeal to people who collect primarily Transformers. They have a simple and sleek interface, though it can take some drilling down to get to what you are looking for without search. They do have a user discussion forum.
Mint Condition Collection offers the ability to track your collection and additionally shows other members who have that item in their collection. The database includes statues, playsets and vehicles as well as action figures. The database is not quite as large as the DASH action figure database and doesn’t have as much information or users as DASH. The overall site doesn’t look as professional, design-wise. They do not have news or a forum either.
DASH is very good at giving you a way to track your collection. They have options for buying, selling and trading and even an estimated value for your collection. As a tool to aid in collecting the site has lots of plusses.
There are some errors and duplicate entries, and you can add in sale lots with regular entries, which can be confusing. I would like to see population reports for figures to see what is popular instead of general terms for the collecting activity on items.
The community aspect of the site is lacking though. If you are going there to make friends it won’t be easy. The primary interactions between collectors involve the things the site does well – tracking, buying, selling and trading. The overall site is more mercenary than community, with emphasis on buy/sell/trade rather than social interaction. That is by no means a value judgment, but an observation.
As a handy tool to help your collecting this site has real value. It may not be the end-all, be-all of action figure collecting but has a lot of useful and valuable features even with the standard account. They have recently hired a community manager to bolster that area, so we will have to see if they add to the feature set.
Is it worth it?
To try it out with the free membership it is an unqualified yes. You have nothing to lose and you will have a chance to check out the basic features and tools. I would highly recommend starting with a free account and then you can see if you like the service.
For the premium membership it is not as simple. The overall price is not prohibitive (about what 2-3 action figures cost at big box retailers), though the value of $25 does vary from person to person.
It will really depend on the features that are part of this package and your need for them. Do you want to be able to get value ranges for figures in your collection? Do you need to be able to generate printed lists or access your database via your phone? If so, it might be a good move for you.
The overall size of your collection may help decide as well. If you are new and only have a small number of items, the advantages of premium membership are hard to justify. If you have a huge collection and have trouble remembering what you have, there is a benefit in being able to access that list and know on the spot.
One reason that you should definitely consider an upgrade would be if you have collectibles insurance for your collection. This could give you a complete list and estimated value that would be very easy to submit to your insurer. Having a third party estimate would go a long way to getting fair compensation if you had a situation where you needed to replace part or all of your collection. For the price, this is a no-brainer to go with collectibles insurance and it would be worth considering for homeowner’s or renter’s insurance.
Sorry there isn’t a simple answer. You’ll have to decide if the features are worth the money on your own.
If you are interested in using the premium membership we have a promotional code you can use when signing up. The code is ‘toymania’ and you will receive a $10 discount for an annual premium subscription. This would put it at $14.95 for the first year. RTM does not receive a finder’s fee or any payment for using that code.