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Cornering the Market… for He-Man?

One of the fundamental principles of economics is that scarcity creates value. The rarer something is, the more valuable it becomes. History is loaded with examples of investors (speculators?) cornering the market in all kinds of things in order to set the price and make a killing. From Cornelius Vanderbilt buying up shares of the Harlem railroad in the 1860s, to the Hunt brothers acquiring roughly half the world’s silver in 1979, to the Sumitomo copper affair of the mid-1990s, to Porsche’s 2008 attempt to corner the market in Volkswagen shares.

Now, from the UK comes a strange and highly obscure attempt to corner the market for a good whose value is much less obvious. A performance artist named Jamie Moakes has decided to see if the principle of scarcity applies to 1980s action figures; specifically, a character from the old He-Man cartoon, Ram Man. Moakes has now collected 136 Ram Man figures, an exercise he’s dubbed “You Will be Rare” and is documenting on Youtube.
Moakes has been at it for well over a year. Judging by the prices he’s paid, which appear to be fairly inconsistent, it’s unclear whether his plan to raise the value is working. Last summer he posted a video documenting his 80th Ram-Man, for which he paid £2.66, though he mentions that he’d recently paid up to £11 for a non-mint Ram Man. A quick scan of the prices Moakes has posted on his videos shows no real discernible pattern. Ten months ago he paid £6.99 for his 83rd figure, but only £2.00 for his 88th. For his latest purchase last week, Moakes bought in bulk, paying £21.97 for six Ram Man figures, or £3.66 per figure.
A lot of market-cornering schemes end in disaster, when the buyer begins to sell in hopes of cashing in. The price invariably falls, often steeply, and the original investor usually ends up broke, or worse, in jail. Doubtful that the price of a Ram Man figure will have any global consequences. But it will be interesting to see how this little economic experiment ends.