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Thread: Just curious: when and why did production numbers become top secret?

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    grumpy old dragon scott metzger's Avatar
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    Just curious: when and why did production numbers become top secret?

    I guess I missed the industry wide memo, but just when did things like production numbers become so hush-hush? Back in the 90's, for example, I recall Playmates just throwing out their approximate production numbers for the Star Trek 9 inch figures, and I don't recall anyone really treating that info like something Wikileaks would want to get a hold of. What happened?
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    Door with dental plan. Jawbridge's Avatar
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    Fantastic question! What's the deal? Especially being sold as a semi collectable, knowing production runs go hand-in-hand with "rarity".

    I love the guys doing the DOS number trick. I hope that never goes away. Very cool to see.

    Wish there was a trick for the total run.

    Do we think Scott (or somebody with such knowledge) would be able to open this information up at a later date, or is it forever tied up in Mattel tape?

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    Heroic Warrior ninja man's Avatar
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    If it was known that a certain toy had a production run of say....3 million (extremely high number). A prospective buyer could sit back and say "I'll buy that when it goes on sale" and possibly never buy it. If there is an unknown on numbers, it creates an urgency to "buy now" before it goes out of stock.

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    grumpy old dragon scott metzger's Avatar
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    And it isn't just production numbers; sales numbers seem to fall under this, too. I can Google and come up with the number of Coca Cola cases sold in about a minute.

    Not trying to start a big conspiracy theory or anything, I'm just genuinely curious as to the reasons we can't see the man behind the curtain...
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    It is just Mattel's policy. Simple as that. Other companies may not have the same policy. I remember Playmates used to use the serial number gimmick on the bottom of their original STNG line so it looked like each figure was individually numbered. I would say judging by when Mattel did the MOTU reproduction figures 10 or so years ago 10,000 is a pretty accurate number.

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    Quester JonWes's Avatar
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    Because there is no advantage to revealing the numbers, but there are lot of disadvantages. The reason you know the number of cases Coca Cola sells in a minute is partly because the number is impressive. But, if you put all your sales and production figures out there, it gives your competitors a LOT of info they can use to their advantage, and if they seem unimpressive, it can cause investors and customers to perceive your company as weak.

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    grumpy old dragon scott metzger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonWes View Post
    Because there is no advantage to revealing the numbers, but there are lot of disadvantages. The reason you know the number of cases Coca Cola sells in a minute is partly because the number is impressive. But, if you put all your sales and production figures out there, it gives your competitors a LOT of info they can use to their advantage, and if they seem unimpressive, it can cause investors and customers to perceive your company as weak.
    Some logical reasoning. And I guess retail is a little different than this instance, as Mattel can't control retailers from saying, "Bratz is outselling Barbie." Coke doesn't have it's own website to sell collector's versions of its product (that I know of anyway).
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    Evil and Reads Everything Straight Edge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by scott metzger View Post
    I guess I missed the industry wide memo, but just when did things like production numbers become so hush-hush? Back in the 90's, for example, I recall Playmates just throwing out their approximate production numbers for the Star Trek 9 inch figures, and I don't recall anyone really treating that info like something Wikileaks would want to get a hold of. What happened?
    If, in a specific case, a company feels they can drum up interest and sales by releasing that information, they will do it. But it's a strategic move, make no mistake.

    No company will release sensitive information if they don't have to. Hasbro doesn't, as a direct corollary.

    There's no advantage to be gained here. So Mattel doesn't.
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    Heroic Warrior sirsniffy's Avatar
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    It's mostly due to legal issues, but also because of competition. Companies usually don't make this kind of information public because they can be sued for misrepresentation of fraud. Besides that, companies don't want their rivals knowing about their business affairs. Companies can tell how many they have sold after the fact, but they almost never reveal the amount of actual product made.

    I used to work for a company that made us sign a nondisclosure agreement basically saying that if we commented on things like number of units made or anything related to the product, we could be personally sued!

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    Heroic Warrior Stygian360's Avatar
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    My guess is that this ties directly into the sub business. If we knew DOS quotas then we'd have a better of idea of exactly how many subs Mattel needs to sell in order to hit 100%, which may limit the number of subs they get if we accurately guess the quota and strive to only hit that number. However, many seem to have put some serious brain power towards cracking that particular 'code', so I'm not sure why Mattel still feels the need for secrecy.
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    I find it interesting, too. Most collectible companies thrive on giving out numbers and touting sales. These number are readily found with books, movies, dvd/blu-ray sales, statues and busts, posters, and comics.
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    Evil and Reads Everything Straight Edge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stygian360 View Post
    My guess is that this ties directly into the sub business. If we knew DOS quotas then we'd have a better of idea of exactly how many subs Mattel needs to sell in order to hit 100%, which may limit the number of subs they get if we accurately guess the quota and strive to only hit that number. However, many seem to have put some serious brain power towards cracking that particular 'code', so I'm not sure why Mattel still feels the need for secrecy.
    Because that's a smaller part of their overall thinking. Even if it wasn't about subscriptions, Mattel *doesn't* release production numbers on any of their toylines, on Matty or in stores.

    Sure, it helps them keep the mystique of subscribing and not giving us a "safe" number to stop subbing once we've hit, but really, that's all secondary to the fact that it's a standard and widespread business practice that didn't "become" top secret, as Metzger's original post suggests - it's always been this way and it only becomes a topic when 30-40 year olds take a keen interest in such concepts. No on ever *asked* how many He-Man figures were produced in 1984, because we were all too busy going to kindergarten and not wetting the bed to care.
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    grumpy old dragon scott metzger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Straight Edge View Post
    Sure, it helps them keep the mystique of subscribing and not giving us a "safe" number to stop subbing once we've hit, but really, that's all secondary to the fact that it's a standard and widespread business practice that didn't "become" top secret, as Metzger's original post suggests - it's always been this way and it only becomes a topic when 30-40 year olds take a keen interest in such concepts. No on ever *asked* how many He-Man figures were produced in 1984, because we were all too busy going to kindergarten and not wetting the bed to care.
    Maybe that's part of it; I recall Playmates being free with their numbers, but not necessarily Mattel or Hasbro. Maybe it seemed to be something new just because we weren't really paying that much attention to such things when product was only at retail. It only became an issue when we made it one.

    What's been stated in this thread by numerous folks is basically what I wanted to know; there are some logical reasons for this stance I hadn't really considered.
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    Eternian Arashikage King Kahn's Avatar
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    One reason you can google how many cases of coke have been sold, which may not always be accurate, is that it can be a positive PR spin just like Mcdonald's use to say XXX million/billion sold and now they just say billions and billions.

    I can tell you from the corp. retail side of things sales numbers are usually VERY guarded. Touting something as limited edition and giving the specifc number is a PR stunt usually. For the commemorative line it said limited edition of 10,000. They def made WAAAAY more than 10,000 of the figures however because the figures are not individually numbers they could make 10k or 100k and you'd never know.


    As others have stated, if you know the qty made you can easily extrapolate numerous things all of which have extremely positive side effects for the competition and nearly no positive side effects for the company other than bragging rights ala coke and mcdonalds which are normally short lived.


    Example, I make a sprocket and let it slip that I made 10,157 of them. (Insert any company) could figure out from what my profit margins are from what price I am selling it at, produce something similar and price me right out of the game because they have the buying power to produce 10X the amount of units, get better profit margins and run me out of town. This is just one negative side effect of divulging information.

    Or they could figure out what factory you use since maybe only a few factors could actually handle that type of item and either buy the factory or clog it up with orders of their product effectively stopping you getting product to sell.
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    THEIR KILLIN TEH LIEN !! uaxuctum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by King Kahn View Post
    As others have stated, if you know the qty made you can easily extrapolate numerous things all of which have extremely positive side effects for the competition and nearly no positive side effects for the company other than bragging rights ala coke and mcdonalds which are normally short lived.
    But what exactly is the competition here? We're not talking about commodities, nor about different branded items that fulfill essentially the same need. Nobody can legally produce action figures of MotU characters except Mattel themselves (unless Mattel explicitly licenses them to do it). Because of copyright laws, they have an absolute monopoly of the Masters of the Universe action figure primary market, and any "competition" could only attempt to release illegal bootlegs of these figures.

    If a customer wants a figure of one of these characters, they have to get it from Mattel (or from someone who got it from Mattel). Buying instead a Playmates' ThunderCats figure, or a Hasbro's Star Wars figure, just wouldn't "cut" it, because, instead of an "equivalent" product (such as when deciding to buy a new TV set from Samsung or Sony or Toshiba or Panasonic), they would be getting a completely "different" product that fulfills another "need" (the need of a ThunderCats fan, or of a Star Wars fan, not the need of MotU fan). And this applies similarly to most other branded/licensed toys.

    So your above reasoning doesn't really apply to the toy industry, except for those producing public-domain, commodity toys (such as checker boards, generic toy guns, and the like).


    Quote Originally Posted by King Kahn View Post
    Example, I make a sprocket and let it slip that I made 10,157 of them. (Insert any company) could figure out from what my profit margins are from what price I am selling it at, produce something similar and price me right out of the game because they have the buying power to produce 10X the amount of units, get better profit margins and run me out of town. This is just one negative side effect of divulging information.
    Again, not applicable because no other company is legally allowed to produce figures based on Mattel's MotU property without first getting a licence and paying Mattel for it. Sprockets are commodities, MotUC figures aren't.

    Quote Originally Posted by King Kahn View Post
    Or they could figure out what factory you use since maybe only a few factors could actually handle that type of item and either buy the factory or clog it up with orders of their product effectively stopping you getting product to sell.
    This may be the only part of your argument that is applicable. But I doubt Hasbro or Playmates or NECA would attempt to "defeat" Mattel by trying to somehow sabotage the physical production of the toys.
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    Eternian Arashikage King Kahn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by uaxuctum View Post
    But what exactly is the competition here? We're not talking about commodities, nor about different branded items that fulfill essentially the same need. Nobody can legally produce action figures of MotU characters except Mattel themselves (unless Mattel explicitly licenses them to do it). Because of copyright laws, they have an absolute monopoly of the Masters of the Universe action figure primary market, and any "competition" could only attempt to release illegal bootlegs of these figures.

    If a customer wants a figure of one of these characters, they have to get it from Mattel (or from someone who got it from Mattel). Buying instead a Playmates' ThunderCats figure, or a Hasbro's Star Wars figure, just wouldn't "cut" it, because, instead of an "equivalent" product (such as when deciding to buy a new TV set from Samsung or Sony or Toshiba or Panasonic), they would be getting a completely "different" product that fulfills another "need" (the need of a ThunderCats fan, or of a Star Wars fan, not the need of MotU fan). And this applies similarly to most other branded/licensed toys.

    So your above reasoning doesn't really apply to the toy industry, except for those producing public-domain, commodity toys (such as checker boards, generic toy guns, and the like).



    Again, not applicable because no other company is legally allowed to produce figures based on Mattel's MotU property without first getting a licence and paying Mattel for it. Sprockets are commodities, MotUC figures aren't.


    This may be the only part of your argument that is applicable. But I doubt Hasbro or Playmates or NECA would attempt to "defeat" Mattel by trying to somehow sabotage the physical production of the toys.


    The original question was why and when did production numbers become so secret, not why are MOTUC numbers secret. I was giving reasons why numbers would be kept secret not arguing. I was never stating these were reasons related to MOTUC specifically.

    However, you would be surprised what one company will do to sabotage another company in the name of business.
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    Heroic Warrior Stygian360's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Straight Edge View Post
    No on ever *asked* how many He-Man figures were produced in 1984, because we were all too busy going to kindergarten and not wetting the bed to care.
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    Heroic Warrior wyldman11's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by uaxuctum View Post

    If a customer wants a figure of one of these characters, they have to get it from Mattel (or from someone who got it from Mattel). Buying instead a Playmates' ThunderCats figure, or a Hasbro's Star Wars figure, just wouldn't "cut" it, because, instead of an "equivalent" product (such as when deciding to buy a new TV set from Samsung or Sony or Toshiba or Panasonic), they would be getting a completely "different" product that fulfills another "need" (the need of a ThunderCats fan, or of a Star Wars fan, not the need of MotU fan). And this applies similarly to most other branded/licensed toys.

    So your above reasoning doesn't really apply to the toy industry, except for those producing public-domain, commodity toys (such as checker boards, generic toy guns, and the like).
    You typically can't win over fans to something they don't like this is true. But head over to the general forum here and you many collectors don't just buy one toyline or one theme (in fact I would say most don't focus in on one property). The toy companies know you only have so much space and so much money to spend, and they would prefer you spend all your toy income on their product. Which is another problem to most of the suits at these places, they see dolls and boys dolls that's it. They don't make the distinction between fandoms that we do, partially because of what I said earlier those who are only going to buy He-man stuff they don't have to convince to only buy He-man stuff. But it's those like me, I buy he-man, Star Wars, Monster High, My Little Pony, Doctor Who, some LEGO, comic book figures specifically DC and Marvel, with things here and there from other lines. And based on what I read here, many purchase similarly but when we only have ~50-100 bucks a month to spend on toys, movies, video games, comics, etc then they care.

    Seriously most corporations if they could literally crap in a box and get money from you they would they only care about how good the product is as long as the government doesn't get involved, and people aren't disgusted enough to stop purchasing. This is like your grandma who still calls it playing Nintendo when it's a Playstation or X-box.
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  19. #19
    Ray of Sunshine Lookie's Avatar
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    Top secret because 1 out of every 2 Mattel employees is a lawyer. When they stop making toys, they will become a law firm.
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    Super Powered Mod! markatisu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by King Kahn View Post
    One reason you can google how many cases of coke have been sold, which may not always be accurate, is that it can be a positive PR spin just like Mcdonald's use to say XXX million/billion sold and now they just say billions and billions.

    I can tell you from the corp. retail side of things sales numbers are usually VERY guarded. Touting something as limited edition and giving the specifc number is a PR stunt usually. For the commemorative line it said limited edition of 10,000. They def made WAAAAY more than 10,000 of the figures however because the figures are not individually numbers they could make 10k or 100k and you'd never know.


    As others have stated, if you know the qty made you can easily extrapolate numerous things all of which have extremely positive side effects for the competition and nearly no positive side effects for the company other than bragging rights ala coke and mcdonalds which are normally short lived.


    Example, I make a sprocket and let it slip that I made 10,157 of them. (Insert any company) could figure out from what my profit margins are from what price I am selling it at, produce something similar and price me right out of the game because they have the buying power to produce 10X the amount of units, get better profit margins and run me out of town. This is just one negative side effect of divulging information.

    Or they could figure out what factory you use since maybe only a few factors could actually handle that type of item and either buy the factory or clog it up with orders of their product effectively stopping you getting product to sell.
    I cannot add anymore than what was said in this post. Having now had my toys produced in China I completely understand what Mattel is thinking and why they do what they do.

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    Quote Originally Posted by uaxuctum View Post
    But what exactly is the competition here? We're not talking about commodities, nor about different branded items that fulfill essentially the same need. Nobody can legally produce action figures of MotU characters except Mattel themselves (unless Mattel explicitly licenses them to do it). Because of copyright laws, they have an absolute monopoly of the Masters of the Universe action figure primary market, and any "competition" could only attempt to release illegal bootlegs of these figures.

    If a customer wants a figure of one of these characters, they have to get it from Mattel (or from someone who got it from Mattel). Buying instead a Playmates' ThunderCats figure, or a Hasbro's Star Wars figure, just wouldn't "cut" it, because, instead of an "equivalent" product (such as when deciding to buy a new TV set from Samsung or Sony or Toshiba or Panasonic), they would be getting a completely "different" product that fulfills another "need" (the need of a ThunderCats fan, or of a Star Wars fan, not the need of MotU fan). And this applies similarly to most other branded/licensed toys.

    So your above reasoning doesn't really apply to the toy industry, except for those producing public-domain, commodity toys (such as checker boards, generic toy guns, and the like).

    Again, not applicable because no other company is legally allowed to produce figures based on Mattel's MotU property without first getting a licence and paying Mattel for it. Sprockets are commodities, MotUC figures aren't.
    Not trying to be disrespectful but your outlook on this is shortsided, Mattel is not as interested in protecting MOTUC as it is protecting its subscription service and how its run. What they are doing and the scale they are doing it on has never been attempted before, Hasbro has a sub program but it is not nearly as ambitious or as successful as what Mattel has done with MOTUC.

    Even going outside the subscription service, the system they use to produce MOTUC (figures, sales, etc) is unheard of in the toy industry. You would literally have to go to something like the Barbie Collectors Club to find a similar setup and for # of figures released you would need to go to the G1 Transformers, RAH Gi Joe, or possibly the original Star Trek TNG Playmates line to find the sheer number of figures.

    So there is a lot to protect in the system they use, not only for the health of the service but so that nobody else decides to try and outdo them by making a better one.

    This may be the only part of your argument that is applicable. But I doubt Hasbro or Playmates or NECA would attempt to "defeat" Mattel by trying to somehow sabotage the physical production of the toys.
    You should probably read up quite a bit on how competition works. Spend 5 min searching on google for Mattel and Bratz to see some fantastic revelations of the lengths things will go. Its not toys to them its products, the video game industry is the same way and the things that happened between Nintendo and other companies in the early 80's are just amazing to read.
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  21. #21
    grumpy old dragon scott metzger's Avatar
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    I'm definitely seeing some legitimate reasons behind it now; never even occurred to me that they'd want to keep even the factory where they are having it made for fear of diabolical sabotage.

    One thing I do have to take issue with, though, is a point about if they could sell poo in a box, they would, and that it's only regulations that control something like that. While Mattel has seemed to take that stance for a while now with all the QC problems they seem comfortable with, that's not really what I've heard from the industry as a whole. One of the reasons they dislike cheap knock-offs (like Walmart's "the Corps," for example) isn't just that it cuts into their market; they see things like that as de-valuing the whole category, as a lot of buyers don't really differentiate between, say, Hasbro and that famous company, "Made In China." A lot of successful companies do actually take pride in their work, and that's part of the reason they are successful. How many times have you heard of Lego having major QC problems or recalls and such? A big part of their success is that buyers know what they are getting and are rarely disappointed.

    All in all, though, some really enlightening insights from my perspective, which has changed. I really thought it was just paranoia and panicky lawyers, but there's a lot more to it than I considered...
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    Heroic Warrior SpiritOfTeela's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by scott metzger View Post
    All in all, though, some really enlightening insights from my perspective, which has changed. I really thought it was just paranoia and panicky lawyers, but there's a lot more to it than I considered...
    Yeah, it's a very complex topic. There are all sorts of reasons.

    You will find the toy industry particularly paranoid, and sometimes with good reason. Because they are all about licensed stuff now, as opposed to original ideas or home-grown franchises, you don't see it as much - but Mattel and Hasbro used to literally go through each others dumpsters looking for information (ask Hasbro about Mattel doing just that and suddenly coming out with Barbie and the Rockers as Jem was launching - it's documented fact).

    Besides that, there just is no good reason to - unless you are Sideshow and the very basis of your brand is the limited availability of products to make them investment collectables.

    At this point, though, I don't think it's as much about competition as it is about the stock market - which is why it's such a complex issue.

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    Heroic Master of Maturity SCB's Avatar
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    NECA also doesn't reveal production numbers and their brand manager answers questions daily on their twitter.

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    In the great days of Palisades toys, their big product guy would never give out numbers...he had lots of get info about toy production and factories and such...but never the numbers.

    Unless it is a "Limited Edition" and the company wants to sell it as such....limited to 3000 or 10,000...nobody really gives out that toy info.
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