eBay’s Mixed Lots = Works of Art.

I’d like to introduce you to one of my private passions: The eBay action figure “mixed lot.”

1 Seller: “bigpicr1″ | Auction Link

There’s one example.

A “mixed lot” happens when a seller tosses random action figures into a pile, and offers them in one big batch. They’re amazing auctions, even when you have little reason to make a bid.

I started searching for mixed lots years ago, when it was still common to find good deals on eBay. Generally speaking, mixed lots go hand in hand with sellers who have no clue what they have. When you catch something desirable in the spread, it’s rarely mentioned in the auction title or description. This limits the competing bidders, and can make for great bargains.

1 Seller: “newday1609″ | Auction Link

At least, that’s how it used to be. These days, with eBay being such a constant in collectors’ lives, even the most ill-informed listings still have plenty of eyes on them. Pair that with increased shipping prices, and it’s no longer easy to find a lot worth bidding on.

1 Seller: “vintageeratoyz” | Auction Link

That hasn’t stopped me from searching through them, though. For me, they’re quiet works of art.

There’s something strangely beautiful about the crude photos. Some sellers take the time to make neat rows, where every figure is perfectly visible. Others literally dump them on the table and snap a photo as lazily as possible. In cases like that, the listing becomes a mutant game of Where’s Waldo.

The backgrounds, incidental as they may be, are also a treat. One seller might use his dining room table. Another the floor. Others like to arrange the figures over old blankets. When you look over these auctions, you get an impression of how the particular sellers live. You can kind of estimate what the rest of their houses look like.

Everyone who sells a mixed lot lives in a house that hasn’t been renovated since 1993.

I love that.

1 Seller: “sellingmishmash” | Auction Link

Of course, reviewing these listings is also a plain old nostalgia trip. I know of several hundred toy lines, but it’s not like they’re readily accessible by my brain. Looking over the mixed lots is like thumbing through a catalog featuring every toy that’s ever existed. Sure, some of the pages are missing, but it still sparks plenty of memories.

1 Seller: “69judgedriver” | Auction Link

I’m always intrigued by the variety. Some mixed lots include figures than span decades. Toys that couldn’t have possibly belonged to any single kid. I’ll sit there and wonder how “ebayguy21020” came to own such a disparate bunch of action figures. Were these the fruits of his many yard sale hunts? Were the toys bequeathed? Is he a collector-turned-seller with huge back taxes to pay?

“How did Norfin Trolls end up with Sectaurs?”

1 Seller: “millerdg100″ | Auction Link

And okay, on occasion, I might bid on a lot. When that happens, it’s usually because there’s one piece of gold hiding in a pile of junk. I might recognize a single action figure that’s worth more than the total cost of the lot. Then I’ll sit there and watch the auction, waiting for the right moment to bid, all while praying that nobody else noticed that same figure.

Protip: Somebody else always notices.

1 Seller: “woodkoff107″ | Auction Link

In other cases, there might not be a standout figure, but the lot still seems reasonably priced. Then comes the math, but it’s a fun kind of math. Even if I don’t know the value of each and every action figure, I can still make estimates.

“Hmmm, 20 action figures. Fourteen are junk, but the last six have gotta be worth five bucks a piece. Six times $5 equals $30. The seller only wants $20. HOLY MARY MOTHER OF GOD, I HAVE TO WIN THIS AUCTION.”

Protip: I usually don’t.

Protip #2: If I do, it means I forgot to factor in the shipping cost.

1 Seller: “countorlokcollectibles2003″ | Auction Link

But I’m rarely inclined to bid. Going back to my earlier point, I just like to look at them. Seeing a bunch of incongruous, incomplete action figures in a messy pile is an image that I’ll never tire of. I can’t really explain it, even though I’ve just spent 700 words trying to.

1 Seller: “xmaskid51″ | Auction Link

Poring over eBay’s mixed lots is one of my favorite ways to pass the time. And boy, you lose a LOT of time when you do this. Minutes become hours, hours become days, days become months. Days skip right over weeks. I can’t really explain that, either.

Whenever I’m doing this, I play games that exist only in my head. One involves mentally naming every figure I can. It’s sort of a “test your toy knowledge” deal.

The second game is more exciting. In that one, I imagine that I can take one – just one — of the pictured action figures. Which one thrills me the most? If none of them do, which is the most valuable?

(I should note that mixed lots aren’t limited to action figures. You can apply these same principles to virtually anything you collect, assuming it’s something typically sold on eBay.)

1 Seller: “bibliophile17360″ | Auction Link

Looking over the photos in this article, I’d be totally okay with having each one of them framed on my wall. It helps that I like old toys, sure, but I think it goes deeper than that.

I’m sharing this with you because I really do see something beautiful in these spreads. They look neat, and you feel like there are a zillion stories hiding under every pound of plastic.

I normally keep my nostalgia formulas close to my vest, believing them to be part of the secret recipe that’s allowed me to blog about this bullshit for so many years. In this rare case, I’ll pull back the curtain. If you’re into this stuff, you need to make “mixed lot” one of your go-to search terms.

I think I’m all out of commentary, but below are several thousand additional photos of eBay’s action figure mixed lots. Each is credited to the seller, with a link to the corresponding auction. Of course, by the time most of you read this, those auctions will be long over. This is why you need to check Dinosaur Dracula thirty times a day.

1 Seller: “615rmead” | Auction Link

1 Seller: “bullhead_7″ | Auction Link

1 Seller: “countorlokcollectibles2003″ | Auction Link

1 Seller: “jhusker24″ | Auction Link

1 Seller: “cjmcollectables” | Auction Link

1 Seller: “lilannie37″ | Auction Link

1 Seller: “antiquecouture” | Auction Link

1 Seller: “teako04″ | Auction Link

1 Seller: “boriquobill” | Auction Link

1 Seller: “cjmcollectables” | Auction Link

1 Seller: “dallasvintagetoys” | Auction Link

1 Seller: “dallasvintagetoys” | Auction Link

So yeah, mixed lots. They’re wonderful.