THE SPECIALISTS COLLECTIBLES REPORT: C.M. Punk's Year-Plus Title Reign Has Led to Extended Interest (w/Timeline)
Dec 21, 2012 - 12:49:28 PM
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By Michael Moore, PWTorch Collectibles specialist
In Brief: Wrestlers often get hot and cool off within a matter of months. But C.M. Punk's merchandise and collectibles have been going strong for more than a year.
When 2011 began, C.M. Punk was just another WWE Superstar. Sure, he was a multi-time World Champion, but he was stuck in an unnatural role as the leader of green Nexus rookies like David Otunga and Mason Ryan. Interest in his merchandise and collectibles was lukewarm at best.
And then it happened.
With one scathing anti-WWE promo, Punk became the hottest thing in wrestling. Since the summer of 2011 – the Summer of Punk – no wrestler’s t-shirts, action figures, trading cards, or other merchandise has been as consistently as hot as Punk’s. A heel turn in July 2012 didn’t slow Punk’s momentum; his merchandise is as popular as ever.
The graphic above illustrates the profound effect the development of Punk’s character has had on his collectibles. When Punk began 2011 as the leader of the New Nexus, it was easy to find a certified autograph for under $15, or an Elite-style action figure from Mattel for little more than the suggested retail price of $17.99.
That all changed after Punk’s now famous worked-shoot promo at the end of Raw on June 29, 2011. The buzz coming out of that episode of Raw caused interest in Punk’s trading cards to creep upward. That week, autographs that had been selling for $15-20 – such as a 2010 Topps WWE Platinum Autograph Relic Card – began selling for $35-40.
Interest in Punk’s collectibles remained hot over the next few weeks, and then absolutely boiled over following the Money in the Bank pay-per-view in July 2011. A five-star match with John Cena and a raucous hometown Chicago crowd created the type of excitement that many wrestling fans of this generation had never seen before.
Around the same time, Mattel released a new Elite figure of Punk, depicting him as the leader of the New Nexus. It was the first Punk to closely resemble his look at the time – no long hair – and kids and collectors alike snatched them up. The figure regularly sold for $50-65 at that time, and has held its value ever since.
But no Punk collectible was ever hotter than the “Best in the World” t-shirt sold exclusively at the pay-per-view event in Chicago. Within days after the pay-per-view, the t-shirts were fetching several hundred dollars on eBay – sometimes as much as $450. The t-shirt got so hot that eBay began monitoring auctions for fakes, and had to pull several down.
WWE mishandled Punk’s push after that title win, bringing him back immediately after “leaving” WWE and sticking him in senseless feuds with Kevin Nash and Triple H. But even through that, Punk’s merchandise stayed hot. In November, Punk reclaimed the belt from Alberto Del Rio and kicked off what would become a year-plus reign on top. Punk stayed hot in 2012, and even a heel turn in July didn’t cool interest in his merchandise.
As Punk’s popularity has grown, WWE has capitalized with more t-shirts, action figures, and trading cards. Punk now receives the type of attention from Mattel that for a while was only given to John Cena. Almost every new wave of toys includes a Punk figure. Two new Elite figures of Punk – Series 17 and a Best of Pay-Per-View Toys R Us exclusive – have been two of the most popular toys of the year, regularly selling for $40 and $65, respectively.
Topps marketed its 2012 WWE product around Punk, featuring him on the packaging and included a subset focused on highlights of Punk’s career. Punks autograph cards from 2012 WWE and 2012 WWE Heritage have been key cards, sometimes selling as high as $100 each.
Cena vs. Punk
While John Cena has been WWE’s undisputed merchandise king for years, Punk appeals to a different kind of audience. Go to any WWE house show and you’ll see thousands of kids in John Cena t-shirts, hats, and wristbands. Punk’s “Best in the World” t-shirts are favorites of fans who likely would have worn NWO and Austin 3:16 shirts in the 1990s. And rebellious preteens find it cooler to wear their big brother’s C.M. Punk shirt than their little brother’s Cena shirt.
The value of Punk’s and Cena’s trading cards are very similar. The cheapest Cena autographs typically sell for about $40-50, and Punk’s are right in that same range. Higher end Punk and Cena cards often top $100.
When it comes to action figures, Punk tops Cena. Much of that has to do with Mattel flooding the market with John Cena toys. Since 2010, Mattel has been cranking out one Cena toy after another. Because Cena’s look so rarely changes – big baggy jean shorts and tennis shoes – most of the figures are indistinguishable from one another.
Punk’s toys, on the other hand, have been very unique. Toys have been made of Punk as the leader of the Straight Edge Society (complete with shaved head and mask) and the New Nexus. Mattel has also captured very specific moments in Punk’s career, including the 2011 Money in the Bank main event, WrestleMania 28 and his tribute to Randy Savage shortly after the “Macho Man’s” death.
Wrestlers get hot all the time. At different points in 2012, Ryback and A.J. Lee garnered more interest from fans and collectors than Punk. But it’s unusual for one wrestler’s merchandise to maintain the same level of interest for such an extended period of time.
New wrestlers may catch collectors’s eyes in 2013, but there is a good chance that C.M. Punk will outlast them all.
PWTorch Collectibles Specialist Michael Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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