Ah, it's the great Toyfare Scandal of 2001 - and you thought Condit had problems.
Everyone knows - or at least most folks who care, know - that Gareb Shamus,
master mind behind the Wizard Entertainment Group, has a comic shop in the
family. It's located in New York, and ran by Ken Shamus.
In the past Gareb has had to field accusations of conflict of interest,
since his magazine sets values on comics, and his family sells comics. He
has spoken about this publicly in the past, and denied that there is any
sort of conflict.
Now, however, comes a much more striking example. Last week, Toywiz.com (the
web site of Ken Shamus' shop) started selling the Toyfare Exclusive Pin Pal
This is an opinion column, not hard news. But I thought I'd break this
into two clear sections, just to keep everything clear. So first, just
- on the 18th, Toywiz.com started selling Pin Pal Burns on their site for
$90, and had 10 ebay auctions on line.
- there were 33 ebay auctions for Pin Pal Burns on July 19th, 10 of which
were from Toywiz. They were the only ones that had them on hand.
- I have received no other documented reports of people receiving their
Pin Pal Burns.
- Toyfare magazine set the production number for the Pin Pal Burns and
Boxing Homer, not Playmates.
- Toyfare magazine is considered an authority on the value of action
figures, and publishes a price guide used by buyers and sellers to determine
- Toyfare set the 'value' of Pin Pal Burns in
issue #49, on stands
on July 11th, weeks before the figure was even released. They set this value
at $100, $10 more than Toywiz's asking price.
- Toywiz magazine is taking pre-orders for the Boxing Homer Toyfare
Exclusive. These figures were to be limited to 3 for each
person. Toywiz is selling them for $50 each currently.
Those are the facts. Those facts have generated much speculation
- Did Toyfare show preferential treatment and send Pin Pal Burns figures
to Toywiz in advance of others? If so, that gives Toywiz a tremendous
advantage over other people who had planned on selling theirs.
- Is Toyfare setting extremely low production numbers on these
exclusives, knowing it will create extreme secondary prices and drive up the
price that Toywiz can charge?
- Is Toyfare using their price guide to set prices for Toywiz's
- Is Toywiz given preferential treatment when it comes to order limits?
- If Toywiz is being given these types of preferential treatment, are
there others in terms of advertising costs, ad placement, etc?
I have sent emails to the Public Relations group at Wizard, Ken Shamus at
Toywiz, and Jeff Trojan at Playmates Toys. I have received no
I also called Ken Shamus on the phone, and tried to get his take on the
situation. His only comment was that the figures were shipping from
Wizard, he didn't get any special treatment, and that people should
take it up with Wizard, not him.
So much for the speculation - now we come to the final section, my
opinion. This is purely my opinion based on the above facts.
I believe that Toywiz is getting preferential treatment. I also
believe, that even if they aren't, Gareb Shamus should be smart enough to
avoid this type of appearance of impropriety at all costs. Creating
this air of wrong doing will mean that Simpsons collectors won't trust WEG,
and it also brings tarnish to Playmates Toys through their
relationship. I don't think Playmates has anything to do with this,
but it can't help their image and the bad feelings over exclusives.
I simply don't understand how WEG can treat their subscribers and
magazine buyers so poorly. How do they think the folks that have had
their checks returned because these figures were 'sold out' are going to
feel, knowing that they were shipped over to another Shamus instead?
It's a slap in the face for these collectors, and an extreme black eye for
If I were Playmates, I'd end my relationship with Toyfare immediately
and publicly. I already suggested bringing the exclusive deals to an
end in a previous column, but now it's imperative for their reputation.
And if I were a subscriber of Toyfare magazine, I'd cancel immediately
and tell them why. I know I won't buy another issue. If you read
the facts and come to the same conclusion, I'd suggest complaining to
Playmates and walking away from the WEG magazines.
But what the hell do I know.
I would like to hear from you on this, especially if you've received your
Pin Pal Burns - drop me an email
and let me know your opinion!
If you'd like to be heard in a more unified
way, there is a petition set up on this subject at:
This petition will be sent to Playmates.
And there is a poll over at the Simpsons
If you feel strongly about the subject, get the
word out to your fellow Simpsons collectors!
UPDATE! 7/23/01 - I've gotten feedback from a number of sources on various
aspects of this whole situation. There are two updates I'd like to make - first, it appears that
Toyfare limited 3 per order, not per address. I find that bizarre, since it's really no limit, and I'm
not convinced that is the case. But I don't have the coupon in front of me - anyone else?
Second update - I've heard from an insider that should know that Playmates requires an order for 12,000
for any exclusive. That means they set the minimum, and then Toyfare decided how many to produce
UPDATE! 7/25/01 - Several further interesting events have occurred since
Monday. I do know that Playmates was unaware of this particular situation. I also know that the top brass
at Wizard were made aware of this article, and most likely the petition. The Toywiz.com front page isn't
working, but I suspect it's unrelated. However, if you use the www.pokemon-toywiz.com address, you'll be
able to get to the front page, where the Burns is still pictured. But all the Simpsons Toyfare exclusives
have been removed from the product page itself - no Pin Pal Burns, no Boxing Homer, and no Comic Book Guy.
All Toywiz ebay auctions for the Pin Pal Burns sale or the pre-sales of Boxing Homer and CBG have disappeared as
UPDATE! 7/27/01 - I received the following official annoucement today
from Rob Felton, Director of Business Development for Wizard
"ToyWiz.com is an entirely separate company from Wizard
Entertainment, publisher of ToyFare: The Toy Magazine. ToyWiz.com is
allocated Simpson's figures in the exact same way as every business and
consumer that attempts to order our exclusive figures in large
quantities. ToyWiz.com received no special treatment, and no more
figures than any other customer of either of the two currently
circulating Simpson's Exclusives: Glow in the Dark Radioactive Homer and
Pin Pal Mr. Burns. ToyFare has put into place several systems to
preclude anyone from getting large quantities of future exclusives,
including capping orders both online and via mail-in coupon to three per
order. These systems were put in place starting with Boxing Homer, and
will continue to be
refined to ensure an equal and level playing field for all consumers
wishing to purchase our exclusive figures."
Here are also some direct quotes from the newest Wizard magazine:
In their section on "Hot, Hot, Hot: Sizzling Swag to Scope out
at Cons." they write:
Pin Pal Burns:
"Because of the success of the glow-in-the-dark, Radioactive
Homer Simpson TOYFARE EXCLUSIVE, the folks over at TOYFARE decided to
soak up even more mon--er, grace fans with another lovingly made
Playmates exclusive Simpson figure."
"Anyway, despite the fact this figure was only recently
solicited for order, it's already fetching up to $60 and destined to
join its brethren in online auction lore."
"You don't want to be one of those schumucks paying hundreds
online because you thought a roof over your head was more important, do
Make of those comments what you will.
UPDATED 8/8/01 - several new developments have occurred in the last
week or so. First, the initial 500 signatures on the petition,
complete with all comments, were sent directly to Playmates.
There was also a report on the Simpsons Collector Sector message
boards of a discussion between one of the posters and Douglas Goldstein,
editor at Toyfare. I have no idea of the validity of this
conversation, but the poster is a regular in good standing there.
In it, Goldstein allegedly admits that Ken Shamus was allowed to come
pick up his figures in person from the offices, and that's why he had
them so much earlier than the rest of the world. He also allegedly
said that Toywiz ads would no longer run in Toyfare, and that they
wouldn't publish values for their own exclusives before the figures were
The link to check out the whole thread is: http://pub73.ezboard.com/fthesimpsonscommunity71818frm4.showMessage?topicID=1233.topic
The Toyfare Exclusive Comic Book Guy also went on sale on-line today
(and Toyfare shipped to comic shops with the coupon) for $17. The page
also makes new rules a little more clear - now orders of more than three
'are subject to allocation', and any multiple orders by the same
customer are 'subject to cancellation'. Since it says the limit is
3 per order, per customer, it sounds like there's still an out.
And finally, for those of you who have worked with Fern, customer
service rep at Toyfare, you'll be saddened to know she has quit.
Word is that she was so berated by angry calls over the entire handling
of the Pin Pal Burns situation, that she decided to leave.