5 Online Hobby Stores You Must Know

1. Mandarake
Without wasting any time, here is a list of the "5 Online Hobby Stores You Must Know". Whether you are just starting your collection or already years into the hobby, these few stores are indispensable sources of figures. These 5 are by no means an exhaustive list as there are many other hobby stores online from regional to international. That being said, I am choosing these 5 solely on the merits of the value they offer to us as customers.

The first store on my list needs no introduction as I am both a loyal and repeat customer. Mandarake is one of the largest hobby stores, not just in Japan but, the whole world. With multi-lingual support and rock-bottom prices, it is no surprise many people shop from them. But, it still comes as a surprise how many collectors either do not know of them or do not utilize them. One primary reason would be that Mandarake is categorized as a re-seller. As such, very few of their products are actually first-hand with a majority of them either being used or defective (damaged boxes/packaging). This matter turns many collectors away and I do not blame them. On top of that, there is also the matter that the money does not actually go to the company which made the figures but, instead, to Mandarake. Still, if cost is the most important factor for you and you are willing to put aside all the aforementioned pitfalls then, Mandarake is the ideal store for you. 

Personal Opinion: Mandarake pretty much helped me jump start my figure collection hobby. I use them much less these days but, they are still an indispensable resource for sourcing older, rarer figures. Besides that, I also get my fix of prize figures (lowest prices here) and trinkets (clear files, rubber straps, charms) from Mandarake because of their handy online shopping system.

2. AmiAmi
Store Number 2 is one which is another staple among many figure collectors, AmiAmi. With both an online store and physical store (in Akiba), AmiAmi offers a wide selection of all things hobby related from figures to miscellaneous merchandise such as bags, rubber straps and accessories. AmiAmi does not carry much excess stock instead, relying on pre-orders when it comes to figure sales. As such, a newly released figure is often marked as "Sold Out" days after  its release. Nevertheless, AmiAmi has one of the better pre-order systems with a pre-order window open up to the day before release and, often, significant discounts. These pre-order discounts can sometimes go up to 30% which clearly justify my recommendation of this store.

Personal Opinion: AmiAmi is the place to go for pre-orders. While their discounts may vary, few other online stores come close to the prices they offer.

3. Good Smile Online Shop
Number 3 on the list, Good Smile Online Shop is here only because it has to be. Being one of the most popular and largest figure manufacturers coming from Japan, Good Smile Company is influential enough to have its own online shop. There are no pre-order discounts and every product is often sold at retail prices making it one of the more expensive online shops. That being said, customers constantly come back because of smart business sense by GSC where exclusive parts are often offered on more popular figures when pre-ordering from Good Smile's Online Shop. There is no workaround to it and the only way these exclusives can be collected is via pre-ordering from GSC directly. Then, there is also the matter of the fixed 2000 Yen shipping rate which can be a good or bad thing. Good because you can order as many figures as you like with no impact on shipping rates and this is EMS no less. Bad because if you only decide to order one figure, the shipping rate becomes a little too high. Either way, Good Smile wins. In the end, I would in no say discourage collectors from buying from Good Smile's Online Shop because, fundamentally, the service is still excellent.

Personal Opinion: Do it for the exclusive and try to make a bulk-order whenever possible.

4. Yahoo! Japan Auctions
The fourth store on the list is one I have very little experience using but, deserves mention nonetheless. Even cheaper than Mandarake, Yahoo! Auctions strives to cut out the middle man offering sales directly from sellers in Japan to collectors all around the world. Besides low prices, this is also the go-to-place for hunting the rarest of figures where savvy collectors looking to sell aim to get the highest possible prices rather than selling to re-sellers. While everything is primarily in Japanese, Yahoo has taken steps to make it easier for customers from all around the world to use the services.

Personal Opinion: I have never personally used it as most of my search results often yield better prices in Mandarake. But, it does indeed have many rare finds at reasonable prices.
5. HobbyLink Japan
Number 5 on the list is possibly one of the pioneer in bringing Japanese hobby and figures to the rest of the world. Well, the English speaking world that is. HobbyLink Japan is an entirely English online hobby store run from Japan with competitive prices and offerings. Aside from figures, they offer model kits too which make them a popular choice among collectors of all sorts. Not to mention, they often have seasonal sales to move older stock of their shelves. 

Personal Opinion: Their prices may not be the best but, their sales are one of the better ones not seen anywhere else, unless you are on the ground in Akiba.

With that, comes a close to my personal recommendation of the 5 online hobby stores that you ought to know. Did miss anything out? Feel free to let me know in the comments section below. Until the next time, thank you so much for reading and have yourself a fantastic day ahead!


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