How to Get a Figurine Produced in China and Not Lose Your Shirt


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Thanks for this, really interesting and useful info!

(just realised that sounds exactly like a generic spam comment but I mean it :smiley: )


I agree - very good read. I’ve had only limited experience with this kind of thing, so I found the information about finding Chinese production resources particularly interesting. The one time I did pursue this (for game, not collectible production) I was able to find a rep local to NYC which helped somewhat, though I’m not sure it was necessarily the best price.

I’m wondering though; are there US-based options for productions, and are they easy to find? Especially for something like a plushie (my next project), I’d really love it if there were some distributed production and fulfillment platform where I could put an order in for 1000 pieces and have them done by 100 different people around the country. I think that model would work well for 3D printed “small run” type products as well. Does such a thing exist?

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Heh. There’s a paint color called Flesh. That’s so old-timey.


That sounds like the worlds biggest logistical nightmare. For the most part US and European companies don’t do stuff like this anymore, they were undercut by China years ago and closed up shop. Even if you wanted to open up a company in the US that did small batch novelty manufacturing, you wouldn’t have the local supply chain a company in China enjoys. It would be very hard to be competitive.

Yeah, but almost everyone who follows the process described in this piece is going to be what most here would call a sweatshop employer (which the article itself acknowledges). I don’t have a huge problem with the hours/wages aspect of “sweatshops,” but a lot of people here do (or claim to in other contexts where it is “corporations” who are getting stuff made in China and other low-wage factory nations).

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I’m not into golden age comics, nor action figures or resin collectables (I do have a modest Pez dispenser collection, though,) nor do I anticipate ever getting a product mass-produced in China or anywhere else. Yet, I was curious about the process, and I must say, this article exceeded my expectations in terms of both information and entertainment. I will happily read anything Jared Zichek writes here again :beers:


Sweatshop employers undercut living wage employers decades ago and drove them out of business. If you can’t stomach this, then you’ve gotta give up novelties and knick-knacks outside of homemade craft stuff at local fairs. Even then you have to be careful, because people will have stuff built in China and shipped over here and sold as their own handiwork. Etsy is really bad about this for instance. You also have to give up electronics of every kind.

The good news is that the Chinese public is starting to get fed up with this, and there is a growing possibility that they’ll enact some real labor reform at some point, but given the culture and government it won’t be anytime soon. The Chinese government still thinks it is “winning” global trade because it has maintained such a massive trade imbalance for so long. They have not realized that they’re as beholden to the world as the world is to them because they hold too much currency now, and that the environmental destruction they’re causing is going to be an enormous drain on their country going forward. The long term situation in China is dire, but in the short term they’re the manufacturing hub of the world and you either make it in China or you basically don’t make it, at least not for small batch injection molded novelties.


They’ve got a pretty firm understanding of both, which is why China is much more of a leader in Green technology than the US is, and why they’re diversifying their foreign currency holdings and increasingly turning towards the Euro. And it’s not like China isn’t “winning,” as being the factory to the world has successfully pulled hundreds of millions of people out of dire poverty.

I obviously don’t have a problem with sweatshops, and understand they’re the reason why we can have all sorts of cheap, small-batch goods. But it’s still true that lots of people claim to have problems with this kind of labour, and like to criticize foreign corporations who have their products made in these kinds of factories.


They’re manufacturing their solar cells in enormous quantities…and then dumping the manufacturing byproducts into the soil untreated. Many of those solar cells then get exported and China continues to burn cheap coal instead.

Communist governments love to make big gestures to show how they’re winning by some metric they think people care about without examining the underlying reason why people care. Diversifying the currency is another example, where they’re just trading one boss for another.

These kinds of problems are structural and very difficult to change because entrenched interests are tightly integrated into the government and the government has a relatively low level of accountability to the public. Worse, they don’t think there is a problem. They’re the world leader in Green technology, Beijing should have pristine air and there should be no trouble with heavy metal contamination in the rice, right?

Well, the guys who own the Solar Cell factories make a ton of money, and their government buddies get a cut, and that’s all that matters.


But how much does it cost? I’d like to know how much I’m not going to lose my shirt. Even a really vague power of ten estimate…

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China also continues to develop. I don’t know what you expect them to do: hold back their economy until all of their increasing energy needs can be met by clean energy? As it is, they have all sorts of green technology in everyday life that the US really doesn’t. Electric scooters are huge. So are solar water heaters. Hydroelectic is obviously a big thing. If you think the Chinese are unaware they have pollution problems, you’re fooling yourself.

The Chinese government may not be democratic, but despite them having a “low level of accountability to the public” they’ve done a remarkable job over the last 35 years in engineering the largest and most effective poverty-eradication campaign in history. And they’re acutely aware that they need to continue to deliver on the economy and standard-of-living scale in order to keep the people satisfied with the status quo (i.e., constrained freedom in exchange for rapid development). In a completely free market you would probably have green-tech investments and adoption like you see in the free-market USA (very little), as opposed to the prioritization the Chinese has given it.

And does horrible LA smog disprove that California is US leader in green technology? No? Huh.

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Maybe this helps, from the article:

I think it takes blind optimism, misplaced confidence, and the willingness to risk at least five grand to dip your toe in this market; prepare to commit a lot more if you want to make a serious go of it.

Reminds me of the classic New Yorker cartoon where a pharmacist is faced with a seven people from all over the world, and calls over his shoulder in a panic, “Joe, these people say they want flesh-colored Band-Aids!” It’s from 1963.


Very interesting article. How about if I want a soft fabric doll, that talks?

Jim, the cost is completely dependent on the size, complexity, and material of your project, AND how many you’d like to make. There’s no simple answer. If you can describe your project, then it would be possible to give you a nice back of the envelope estimate. Power of 10-wise, it’s going to be more than $1,000 and less than $10,000 for something that you can get to market.

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It is always interesting to watch the various Kickstarter/IndieGoGo projects that I have funded go through the China-production learning process…


cool. That’s kinda what I thought. Thanks. I have no immediate plans, but I’ve had a project in the back of my head that maybe one day I’ll do.

Back when I was a young’ un, if we wanted a collectible figure we had to whittle it ourselves, and if we had to grow our own tree first.

Feh, kids these days with their 3D printing and international supply chains and such.


Look’it little Lord Fauntleroy and his fancy trees and knives…
We just had our breakfast fruit – just look at them: