11 Toy-Collecting Terms Defined

11 vocabulary words that every toy collector should know

Whether you’re young or old, your toy collection can start anywhere. You might have a childhood cubby of vintage figures, or maybe you follow all the latest indie artists and the cutting edge of designer-toy Instagram. Whatever your niche, here are 11 vocabulary terms for very collector.

1. Action Figure

A poseable figurine most often based on a franchise character. Probably what your mom calls everything in your collection. These encompass the mass-manufactured classics like Power Rangers, TMNT, and G.I. Joe, but also include designer pieces such as Sank ToysObe Alone, or Ashley Wood‘s now-retired ThreeA universe. Action figures tend to come with an assortment of accessories.

product image for ThreeA Barguest de Plume action figure
Ashley Wood’s Barguest de Plume

2. Articulation

Standard toy articulation comes in hinges or ball joints. Ball-and-socket joints are like the head of a femur, whereas hinge joints are like knees. which can only swings one direction.

Schematic of three synovial joints: a ball and socket joint, a hinge joint, and a pivot joint

Articulation is what photographers like our very own TJ Collects use to get the right shots. The more points of articulation, the more possibility to recreate whatever scene you want.

3. ‘Art Toys’ and ‘Designer Toys’

MoeDouble’s Octopus Pink YaYa

Art toys are unique characters made by independent artists. There are plenty of other names for this expansive idea in toy vocabulary. Designer-toys are often handmade or produced in small batches, and they are a higher caliber than your traditional action figure. These sculpts bring a very distinct aesthetics to your table. Check out the Invasion Toys store for designer figures like MoeDouble‘s Octopus Pink YaYa

4. Urban Vinyl

Urban vinyl has swept the underground toy-collecting scene since the early 2000s. These figures borrow elements from graffiti, rap, and hip-hop. This is definitely a must-know toy term!

Michael Lau and Eric So

The start of urban vinyl is credited to artists like Eric So, Michael Lau, Frank Kozik, and Takashi Murakami to name a few. The New York Times has an amazing in-depth look at Lau and So’s rise to fame as industry-defining toy designers.

5. ‘Wave’ or ‘Series’

A ‘wave’ or ‘series’ is simply a group of toys produced and shipped at the same time. Generally, a wave of toys will consist of several different variants of a specific toy line or platform. Later waves can bring new colorways, sculpts, or accessories. Read about the new Janky Series 3 from Superplastic.

Guggimon holding new janky series 3 figurines
‘Janky’ Series 3 is here to cure 2020.

6. ‘Custom’ and ‘Kitbash’

These toy vocabulary terms define anything uniquely yours! Custom could mean altered paint, part reuse, or even added modifications. If it’s official from the manufacturer, it’s a “retool.” Otherwise, it’s from independent designers who handmake their figures. Collectors seek out both of these kinds of toys!

Kitbashing is when a toy is frankensteined with various different toy parts to make something entirely new. Digibashing is the same concept but done digitally. These processes make something more than the sum of their parts. Carolinacoolcat brought together pieces for their custom Pilgrim-1 piece.

7. ‘Bootlegs’ and ‘Knock-Offs’

According to pop artist The Sucklord, bootlegs and knock-offs are not the same thing. Bootlegs are the intentional subversion of toys and ideas, whereas knock-offs are those weird, often melty-looking copies of popular toys as seen in the neighborhood grocery store.

sucklord gay empire stormtrooper in packaging
Gay Empire, one of The Sucklord’s first bootleg toys

The Sucklord explained his inspiration for bootleg toys to MTV in 2018:

“I set about stealing famous properties and repurposing them to my own ends. Because they were stolen items and poorly made (due to amateurism) I chose to make the bad quality a feature rather than something to hide, so I called them bootlegs. I wanted people to feel like they were committing a crime by purchasing them.”


Bootlegs don’t always need to be ripe with meaning. Sometimes, they just fill and extremely punk toy-collecting niche that we didn’t know we even had. Just look at Berserk Puff from mestizaje.taller.

8. ‘OG’ or ‘Variant’

OG started as “Original Gangster” but now we use it as a toy vocabulary term to just mean original. In a world of variants, editions, and colorways, OG almost always refers to the first ever version of a specific toy line or toy concept.

Little Oddy “Red” InvasionToys Exclusive by Iky

After an artist releases an OG , they might choose to make variants of that design. One example is changing a toy’s colorway. The colorway a toy is released in refers to the whole range of color combinations that make up a design. You can find an Invasion-exclusive red variant of Iky‘s Little Oddy on our site right now!

9. Chase

Chase figures are the rare ones that people, well, chase after. A simple but important toy-collector word to help you scan eBay!


Usually a variant (wow we’re already using that) from a more popular line, these figures have some sort of unique colorway (that’s a two-fer!) or accessory that makes them so desirable.

What happens is large manufacturers will make the standard toy one way and widely release. Later on, they’ll release a very limited chase figure redesign that drives interest for collectors.

10. ‘Blindbox’ or ‘Blindbag’

The loot boxes of real life! Blindboxed or blindbagged toys are concealed so that it’s a mystery what you’ll get inside! Notable examples include Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh, and other trading card boosters, where their contents are a mystery until they’re opened. Like Pokémon TCG’s fabled holographic Charizard, many blindboxed toy lines include a rare and valuable chase variant.

Pokemon – Burning Shadows – Sleeved Booster Pack

11. ‘Sofubi/Sofvi,’ ‘Soft vinyl,’ ‘Resin,’ and ‘PVC’

Sofubi: Plastic Fantastic

These are only a few of the various materials of which collectibles are made. The material of a toy is what gives its density, weight, shine, and longevity. Sofubi and sofvi are a kind of Japanese soft vinyl (soft + vinyl = sofvi). Resin and PVC are harder plastics used everywhere! Stay tuned later for an in-depth history dive into the evolution of plastics and toys.

That is (more than) 11 toy-collecting terms defined! What words did we miss? What words would you add? Leave your comment and let us know!

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Jacques here and I, for one, can't wait for the solarpunk mecha future 🤖 I love comics, Pokémon, and collectibles!

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