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In 2015 he acquired his first funko pop, an imperial soldier from Star Wars that he gave to his father, a fan of the saga. The first one he bought for his own collection was the Cookie Monster, from Sesame Street. "As soon as you take the figure out of the box it loses value, but I'm not one of those, because I like to enjoy them," confesses Juan José López, one of the most surprising funko collectors in the world for his eagerness to photograph them in ideal places for each figure.
QUESTION.- Where does the hobby come from?
ANSWER.- I would say that it comes from my grandfather, who has always collected all kinds of things: coins, old souvenirs... He was also very creative, he painted... And that's where the photos come from, and collecting comes a little bit from that, from trying to buy figures to take different photos of them in the most correct location for me. In the end, one thing leads to another. New figures, new photos. And that's how you end up with about 1,200 figures, and counting.
Some funkos from the Star Wars family.
Q.- Tell me a little more in detail about photography and funkos, I don't know if that's something usual in this world. How old were you at the time, when you started photographing them?
A.- This started in 2015, when I bought the first figure. It wasn't for me, it was for my father. And from there it all started, with that first figure, a Star Wars figure, an imperial soldier. My father has always been a big Star Wars fan. Everything I tried at home—new TV, stereo, and so on—was with Return of the Jedi (1983), the first scene, where you see the ship in the foreground. We've always been big fans and we've gone to the movies to see the movies. My first funko was a birthday present for him and from there I started with this hobby, which in the end became taking the doll out of the box and taking it to an ideal location for him and photographing it, either because it can be similar to the film, or because it matches the colors... And then, when you start on Instagram you realize that behind all the funkos there are a tremendous amount of people. In fact, the company as such calls us funatics, which is the people who buy dolls and then also participate, because it is true that the company is very dynamic and aims to involve the fan. And that in the end is a very good way to advertise the product.
One of his funkos, that of M.A. Barracus, a character from the television series 'The A-Team'.
Q.- In what year did the company start?
A.- Funko as such began in 1998 and as in any American company, in the end it was three friends in a garage who decided to create the company. In the end, Funko is like Fun Company, which comes from Fun Company, and they started creating figures with the bobblehead, which is the head that moves and vibrates. They started with very few franchises. I think it was Austin Powers and a mascot from a burger chain, and from then on they started making more figurines. At first they were a little taller and then in 2010, I think it was at a San Diego Comic-Con, they went to what funko is like funko pop, because that's what this figure is officially called, with the characteristic format of the figure in a box of about ten centimeters. And until now.
Q.- Can you tell us what Comic-Con is for those who don't know?
A.- These are the comic book fairs that are held there, in the United States. There are two important ones, or there are two more important than others. One is San Diego and one is New York. They are fairs where all comic book fans come together. It's where people usually go in costume, and starting in 2010, Funko started putting out exclusive figures at these conventions.
Q.- In other words, figures that are only distributed at these fairs. There will be very few, I imagine.
A.- Exactly. Do you want to see an example? Look, here's some from San Diego...
Q.- Okay, but can you take them out of the box?
A.- First of all, there are purists and non-purists here. There are people who are dedicated to collecting and theoretically, as soon as you take the figure out of the box, it loses value. That's how it's usually understood in this world, but I'm not one of those. I take them out, because in the end I like to enjoy them, although there will be many that are devalued. As I said, this Harry Potter with a broom is from the San Diego Comic-Con, exclusive. Normally, when this is the case, it has a small sticker on the front of the box that tells you that it is from a Summer Convention and puts the year on it. Later, without the sticker, you can usually get them in their official stores, but logically those with that badge are more valued than those with the regular sticker. To go, you need to get an invite. And sometimes that's not easy. Then, stand in line at the convention itself to buy the exclusives. It's true that now they're making bigger and bigger runs, and it's a little easier than a few years ago, when the runs were more limited.
Photograph of Juan José López with the funko of La Monja, from the horror film with the same nombre.@Funkjitox
Q.- Where are funkos mainly bought?
A.- You have approved stores, or the ones that get the exclusives. For example, you have stores like EMP, which usually have direct Funko exclusives. In general, there are more and more stores that sell funkos, and then there is a lot of resale market in places like eBay, Wallapop, Vinted and these types of sites. It is true that for a long time, the problem that has existed for collectors is that in the end there were a lot of people who speculated with Funko, because in the end certain exclusives were not so easy to get at the time, and as they were printed with few pieces they flew. So, maybe you were in a virtual queue waiting, and when it was your turn there was no more product. There were a lot of people who in the end, just bought the funko pop and then resold it for a higher value. Normally, a figure costs around 15 euros, but then there are figures that have been resold, for example on eBay, for $4,000. I think it was a Batman exclusive to an old San Diego Comic-Con.
Q.- Does Snoop Dogg have a funko store?
A.- There are now three stores. The first is in Everett, Washington, where the company, the Funko Headquarters, was founded. It's like an amusement park, because you go in and you see life-size figures, you can buy exclusives... A couple of years ago they opened another store in Hollywood, and a year ago Snoop Dogg, who is apparently a fan, has also launched another store in California, Tha Dogg House. Aside from being a fan, you can sell yourself.
Q.- You've released a book with the photos you take of the funkos, right?
A.- In the end, when you're taking so many photos, it's a shame that they're only on Instagram. Inside you have many of the photos that I'm taking, and it's also a way to have them on paper.
Juan José López shows us the book that collects some of his photographic compositions with funkos.
Q.- How do you make the sets?
A.- Well, in general, it's all locations. I don't think I'm a very normal collector. There are completist collectors, who are the ones who, when Funko releases a collection, dedicate themselves to getting all the pieces that are within that collection. My motivation, on the other hand, is that I'm walking down the street and suddenly you see a dot and you say, "This figure fits perfectly in this place." So, for example, this one right here is a railroad machine that's rusty... well, it fits with Batman. I'm a puddle and reflex specialist. I'm taking the figure to the place that hits it the most. I actually buy a lot based on the photo I can take of the doll.
Q.-How does the family manage its dedication to the collection? And his girlfriend?
A.- I first met her when I had four funkos in total. At first he started giving me a lot of them, which was appreciated. But hey, when you already have a certain amount it's difficult to get any for free, because people don't know which one you have and which one you don't. And indeed, I have part of the collection where I live, and part of the collection at my parents' house, because in the end space is a problem. You don't have anywhere to put everything, especially the empty boxes, which in the end is the big drawback, because when you take out the figure, the empty box you put it away and you have to put it somewhere. So far I haven't been disinherited. I have once suggested that I was going to move the part of the collection that I have at my parents' house, and now it is my father who does not want me to take everything Star Wars, since as I have told you he is a great fan of the saga. My parents have always supported me. They are my first critics on the subject of photos... where it could change or improve. They have always been supportive. Sometimes it's hard to understand that you have such a large collection, but hey, in the end they get used to it, and then the family is the first one to come here and show off to their friends.
Custom funkos of Juan José López and his girlfriend that they have created themselves. Juan José López
Q.- What do you do professionally?
A.- To the electronic components market. I work at Apnet, which is an international company. Would I like to dedicate myself only to funkos? Yes, but in what branch, because in the end it is true that the sale of funkos I don't know if it is a long-term market, especially selling it, with the problems that there have been, for example, of overstock and so on. The problem now is that, especially at the beginning of Funko, productions used to be a bit more limited. That also made them more valued figures. But now Funko has an overstock problem. I think from 2022 to 2023 they had increased by 40%. They have about 240 million euros in stored figures that they were unable to sell. It's like we're at the point where the company is going to have to decide where it's going, to keep going upwards or what nobody wants, to go down.
Q.- In this room we are in, how many do you have?
A.- In this one, more or less, there will be about 800: Harry Potter, Marvel, I also have Disney, among others. Here the main sub-collections would be the Avengers, Spiderman, Batman...
Q.- Earlier you told me that the brand has an emblematic phrase...
A.- The idea of the brand, in the beginning, was that everyone is a fan of something.Everybody is a fan of something. We all have our memory, our favorite movie... And there's a figure for every person.
Another of Juan José López's creations, many of which can be seen on his Instagram account.
Q.- I see that it really has a lot of Marvel...
A.- In the end, you collect what you like. The era I've had to live in has been a bit like the rise of Marvel movies, the Avengers... And in the end, it's what appeals to me the most because it's what I've lived the most.
Q.- And what about the building?
A.- Funko pop town is one of the variants of Funko. They consist of a character next to a building or landmark, such as Doc and the Clock Tower, from the film Back to the Future (1985). Or this house with the Wesleys' mother, from the Harry Potter family. It's an edition that came out at a Comic-Con, and it may be one of the most valuable right now, since there are very few units. On the other hand, also within the funko pop are the so-called chase, which is a figure with some accessory or variation in the mold on the basic figure. For example, here's Frodo, the glow-in-the-dark chase edition. A part of this collecting, the so-called funko hunters, the funko pop hunters, go looking in stores for these funko chases. I'm about 70. They're hard to come by.
Q.- What are some of your favorites?
A.- For example, Funko's mascot, Freddy, which has been taken out in different costumes. They are usually very special editions. For example, here's this one that they only got 4,000 pieces of. This one is limited to 10,000. This one is only sold in Funko's Hollywood store... Since the company is from the US, at first they didn't have shipments to Spain, and at that time the easiest way to get them was to contact people in the United States, other fans who would send them to you. Now also, as something special, there are the Die Cast, which are like metal funkos that come to you as in a methacrylate covering, as if the box were made of methacrylate, and they are a little heavier, although their size is the usual. For a few years now, there have also been funko sodas, a can inside which the doll is contained. Also a badge with the print run that there is, which is limited and that revalues the figure, of course. When you're funatic of the month, Funko sends you what is the mold from which the figures are made. I have two, and those are more exclusive pieces.
Q.- How does the issue of licenses work?
A.- Funko buys licenses from different brands and then generates the dolls. If you look at this one, for example, which is the Cookie Monster, the first funko I bought for myself, inside the box is written the name Sesame Street. There are many families: the Energizer bunny, another branch that is commercial, movies like we have said Marvel or anime, such as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and as it buys licenses it generates dolls. One of the few that they haven't been able to get is Super Mario, because Nintendo has its own figures and I guess they won't be interested. It should also be noted that there are only two licenses that can have the bobblehead, that is, the head that moves with a spring inside, which are Marvel and Star Wars. They're the only ones you'll see like that. For example, Batman, as DC's, can't. His head turns, but he doesn't move.
Juan José López shows the Cookie Monster, the first funko in his collection.
Q.- Is piracy also present here?
A.- There's a lot of piracy, there's a lot of copying, especially that comes from China. It usually happens in funkos that are a little older and more valued. This is what is called the Vaulted, which are the ones that are no longer manufactured. And yes, you can find in China copies that are very realistic and that only change certain details, but instead of spending 300 euros on a doll you get it for ten. Look, I've got one over here. With this application you can see the catalog and estimated price of the funkos. Look,this King Leonidas is for $610. The price doesn't have to be real, it's an estimate. Well, this Chinese copy that I bought to see what it was like and out of curiosity costs 10 dollars. If you notice, the only difference is that the sword instead of being inwards is outwards. Funko tries to fight piracy by putting where it was made, the license plate number, so to speak, that the doll has, etc. But pirates also end up plagiarizing this kind of thing. It's an ongoing struggle.
Q.- How many funkos are there?
A.- At the end of 2022 there were about 18,000, and as a fact, the record for the person who has the most funkos is David Mebane, who has more than 7,000 different ones.
Q.- I see that you have killed two or three funkos to make yourself...
A.- You take a head that looks like you and put it in bodies that represent something to you. For example, in my case of Toy Story or with a ball, because I also like ball photography. We could put the typical message that no funko has been damaged in this interview, but yes, you take two different ones, break them down and assemble the one that looks like you. In the Funko store itself, a couple of years ago, they brought out the possibility that you can make your own funko, with a series of hairs, heads, bodies, accessories... A custom Funko Pop, but for the moment it's exclusive to the in-store store.
Q.- And what do you do when your nephews come?
A.- I've set certain rules so that they don't break them. Maximize one figure at a time and avoid fights between them. But of course, in the end for a child it's very complicated...