A look at the historic rise of the FunKo Pop! brand

In 1998, Mike Becker was just your average toy collector like you or me. He spent his free time browsing through endless websites looking for something new to add to his collection (Is this what being a collector was like before CompleteSet?). It was during one of these hunts that Mike encountered a few high-priced Big Boy branded bobbleheads featuring their iconic mascot. Suddenly it hit him, why would he pay such an exorbitant price for one when he could probably get a whole box of them made in China for the same price? So that’s exactly what Mike Becker did.

After a few phone calls, he acquired the rights to a couple classic properties like Big Boy, Count Chocula, and Popeye. Soon after, he started what would become FunKo out of his house in Snohomish, Washington.

As the brand grew, though, Becker’s interest in the company waned and in 2005, he sold the company to Brian Mariotti (a toy collector himself). Under Mariotti, the company has expanded its licenses with bobbleheads from Marvel, DC, and Star Wars. Though these products sold well, it wasn’t until 2010 that the company introduced what would become its flagship product — THE FUNKO POP.

Originally called “Funko Force” the first Pop-like figures included Batman, Green Lantern, and Batgirl.

After a few tweaks to the packaging, and of course the name, the FunKo Pop was born. Since then, nearly 1,000 different figures have been released. At this point it’s safe to say: if you’re a fan of it, FunKo makes a figure of it. It’s easy to see why they keep acquiring new licenses. In 2014, FunKo generated nearly $28 million in sales from Pop figures alone, making them easily the most successful of the designer toy brands. Sure, they still have a while to go before they reach Hasbro’s level (in 2014 Hasbro had $1.4 billion in revenue across all product lines), but FunKo certainly captured the hearts (and wallets) of the collecting world. Just head to a comic con and count how many booths are selling Pops.

But what makes them so appealing? Is it the price range? $9.99 USD for most figures is hard to beat and perfect for impulse buying. I know I ended up with my first Pop figure after seeing a Wolverine at a local comic book store and dropping 10 bucks on it. Who knows what makes these little figures so appealing and addicting to collect, but until someone figures it out those big square-headed figures look to tighten their grip on the crown of the collectibles market.

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