Is It Cheaper To Buy Collectibles From Abroad?

Where to buy collectibles from

One of the most common questions we get is 'is it cheaper to buy collectibles from abroad?' Like many cases, if a deal looks too good to be true, it is. In this post, we're going to cover 3 common scenarios and explain them so you can make an informed decision.

I've seen a Hot Toys figure for sale for £50 on Ebay and they normally retail for £200 plus!

These are fake items. You'll see the account almost always originates in China and the seller sells hundreds of varying items. It's not a mistake listing, it's a fake. If you're lucky, you'll get a fake figure which is a crappy version of the real thing. If you're unlucky you get nothing and then the stress of going through Ebay's resolution centre to try and get your money back. 

I've looked at the US price and converted it to Pounds. It's a lot cheaper!

It's because your comparing ex VAT abroad prices with inc VAT UK prices. If you buy from the US and your item is worth more than £15 and not a gift worth more than £34, you'll get a VAT bill (currently 20%), plus customs duty of 2.5% or possibly more on anything worth over £135. You'll also get a fee from whichever courier processes the charge in the UK which is typically £12 to £15. Also, your card payment will get converted at a rate that isn't the flat exchange rate. It's normally +3% to 5%. This soon adds up and gives you a nasty surprise when your item arrives. 

One of the most common US suppliers is Sideshow Collectibles who we resell for. You should find all our prices are cheaper than Sideshow. 

For example, Sideshow's Arkham Asylum Joker Premium Format Figure currently has a price of  $449.99. Look a bit further and you'll see the shipping to the UK is $54.28. So let's do the maths and see how this pans out.

$449.99 + $54.28 = $504.27

Today's exchange rate puts that at: £373.05

Let's add on 3% for card fees: £384.24

When the item comes into the UK you'll also need to pay:

VAT of around:  £76.85

Customs duty of around: £9.61

Courier fee of around £12

Total price: £482.70

Our price on that one? It was £399.95 but it's now sold out. Feel free to compare any other item and if you notice us more expensive, please let us know and we'll be happy to take a look.

I've heard some non-EU places say I'll get no import fees even though the item is over the thresholds set by UK government.

The only way this can be done is if the shipper deliberately breaks the law and under declares the value of the item. Such practices of course affect our UK economy by avoiding paying taxes due. It also pulls business away from law-abiding sellers such as ourselves. Further, you are responsible for the import fees, so if the seller has lied to you and declares the true value, you are liable for it. Also, if the seller under declares the value and customs notice, you risk your item being seized and investigated.

Just like the example from the US above, the same rules apply to any other country outside of the EU.

If you've innocently purchased something from China over the thresholds stated previously, check the customs info paperwork and check it matches what you paid for the item. If it doesn't the seller has broken the law and they should be reported to HMRC.

At Movie Figures, illegal practices of course frustrate us greatly as it's unfair practice. If you notice any foreign reseller doing this, please take the time to report them to HMRC here or let us know and we'll do it on your behalf.

What are the benefits of buying from the UK?

Quite a few:

  • You're supporting the UK economy.
  • You're supporting a UK business as well as the manufacturer.
  • Goods can arrive next working day.
  • You have no stress or delays caused by import duty or tax.
  • The price you see is the total price you pay.
  • If there's a problem with your item, returning the goods is easy and fast.
  • You can pick up the phone and talk to us or contact us by email for fast response.
  • Buying from the UK means you're covered by UK customer laws and rights giving you more protection if anything happens to your item either in transit or over time.
  • So long as you buy from a reputable supplier, you can be certain your goods are genuine, official items.

Where can I find the latest information on taxes and import fees?

Gov.uk is the best source of official information. Here's the link to the page about tax and customs for goods sent from abroad.

Where Is A Good Place To Buy Collectibles From In The UK?

On this here very site :)

We sell Hot Toys, Kotobukiya, Sideshow and much more at great prices.

Visit our Movie Figures Home Page Here.

 If you can't find what you're looking for, please contact us as we can source way more than our site lists!

9 comments

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Parcelforce and royal mail also clobber you on a 35.00 pound change if an item costs over 28.00 pounds if you order a sideshow hot toys figure from China and Hong Kong.
so moral of the story is if you do not want to get conned or ripped off by people in China and Hong Kong then wait and support your local hobby collectors store.
simple really no!

Movie Figures

Just a public response to Adam about import tax and customs. The UK has charged VAT on most goods since 1973. Many countries charge VAT in one form or another, but not all. Hong Kong charges no tax on goods but looks to support its various public services in other ways. Income is largely generated from tax gained from the sale of very expensive property and land as well as from profits from business. The UK on the other hand taxes in multiple ways. Most goods sold are subject to 20% VAT and employees and businesses are also taxed on wage and profit. But, the UK has a lot of services to pay for such as the NHS, police, councils, state pensions, elderly care support, etc, etc. Property is also cheaper here compared to the likes of Hong Kong and Japan where space is at a premium. Of course you cannot have a scenario where imports come in tax free because this then puts a mass of products capable of being sold at least 20% cheaper than UK manufacturers who all have to charge 20% tax. A final way to look at it is to compare the benefits each economy brings to the table. A UK resident is privy to more state benefits than a Hong Kong resident is, property is cheaper but general goods are more expensive. Having the best of both worlds isn’t legally possible and both locations have their beliefs in the tax systems they have set up.

Adam

You had me until you banged on about supporting customs charges. Your views on this put me off straight away. Customs charges are incredibly unfair and we’re introduced many years ago to encourage people to buy foods at home that were made here. Not as a stealth tax for goods that aren’t made here. They are a tax. It’s got nothing to do with helping the country and all that BS. I understand you want to spin it to aid your own business, but come on! Look at your own figures. You think £100 added onto an item in tax is fair? They even tax you on the postage fees! That is BS.

Jon

The difficulty comes though with those hard to locate collectibles and the ability of UK sellers to get them. Bandai Star Wars model kits are a good example of this where buying direct from Japan is the only option to avoid stupid geo-locks. More recently I’ve had to order the Bandai Movie Realization Royal Guards from the US as they were impossible to source in the UK… For some things like SS figures your logic makes perfect sense, but as UK is such a small market, we often get overlooked on some of the more specialist and unique collectibles. Just look at the new High End Star Wars Prop collectibles which as US only… Our only option here is to buy from abroad or we have to miss out.

anyway, rant over! and your cost breakdown is good. I’ll be checking back with you again when I’m next in the market for another SS collectible, but it won’t stop me looking for those hard to source collectibles from abroad and hoping that I get them past HMRC without the additional charges!

Chris

I pretty much had this knowledge but i believe many will benefit from this information. Really useful and you should keep this pinned permanently on your site. Having recently gone through a 4 week ordeal with Ebay for a £50 book refund i can agree with how stressful that process is !

will

This was a great article..I havent bought from you Yet, but will be. thank you for the information.

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