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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
A lot of you may remember a time when Spirit halloween had props that pushed the boundaries of consumer-grade and professional-grade items. Leatherface, Freddy Kreuger, Jason Voorhees, to name a few. Many of you also remember a time when you could walk into a Big Lots or a K-mart and buy a prop that not only was scary, but just plain cool. Things like Spirit Balls and many other extremely interesting novelties were commonplace. Why aren't things the way that they used to be???

Well, the short answer is... many things.

Here's the long answer...

First off, we have to account for the value of the US Dollar. Using a website called Inflation Calculator | Find US Dollar's Value from 1913-2021, you can learn how the economy has changed. A prop that cost $40 in 2006? You would have to pay $52.40 in today's money for it. A top of the line Spirit Halloween prop in 2007 for $279.99? You would pay $357.68 in today's money. Retailer's price points in stores (Including Spirit Halloween) have not really changed, so manufacturers of these props have less and less head room for design and cost, so they have to cut corners. This results in less ideas and crappier props. Why is this happening, you may ask? Well, that's an entirely different rabbit hole. One big reason to consider is the housing market crash in 2008 which carried over into 2009. This is around the time where things started to change, for those who know Halloween props well.

Next, we have to look at online shopping. Those who collect animated items of all genres, not just Halloween, may recall a time where stores like Sharper Image, The Discovery Store, and countless other "Specialized" stores filled your local mall/ shopping center. For nearly every nationally recognized holiday, there would be various products that would sell, especially during Halloween and Christmas. Then came Amazon. Stores and retailers got hit hard, even in the early 2010s and late 2000s, and many of these wonderful stores with personality and charm closed for good. All of the product line depth that used to sell no longer had a market, not only because there was nowhere to sell these things, but because online shopping had changed the interests of the general public. This hurt companies like Tekky, Gemmy, Morbid, and many others. Stores like Halloween City, Halloween USA, Halloween Bazaar, and more are now all but memories of what used to be.

On top of all this, the cultural shift from "Buy something that's expensive but good quality" to "Oh I'll just buy another one next year" affected the style of Halloween Props. Sure, they could be faulty back then, but compared to what we have now, they were indestructible. For the first time ever, I would argue that brands like Sunstar are doing BETTER than Gemmy (I know Sunstar is owned by Gemmy). Sunstar is known for it's very cheap, very crappy props, and Gemmy was once the king of consumer Halloween. This alone shows what the general public is looking for. Cheapness is preferred over quality.

Adding on, what is socially acceptable has changed drastically over the past 10 or 15 years. Gory scenes you used to find all over Halloween stores are now completely missing. Gory props are really non-existent in today's market, as the sight of blood apparently is too much for the general public who decides to walk into a Halloween store (sheesh). Spirit Halloween is really a lot more kid-friendly than it used to be. This limits the scope of what would be possible to sell without either extremely low sales or harsh feedback/ badmouthing.

So what does this all mean? Will things ever be as good as they were?

The answer is bittersweet. Things change, companies evolve, and interests swing back and forth. Companies also die out.

With the recent occurrence of Morbid filing for bankruptcy (Which occured in May 2020, before the 2020 Halloween Season and before COVID could change Halloween sales), I fear that Gemmy might be facing a similar fate in the next couple of years.

That is a bold statement, but if things keep going the way they're going, it is a very real possibility.

However, new companies are always forming and will continue to do so. A completely new company could come and blow the current market out of the water. If you want to see props like Jason, Freddy Kreuger, Michael Myers, Dead Eye Drake, Doctor Shivers, Demonica, Spirit Balls, Donna the Dead, Bone Collector, Grave Digger, and many many others, they might be from a company completely separate from Gemmy, Tekky, etc.

With a new company, it is very possible! However, you must expect prices to be not what you're used to seeing.

Doctor Shivers, Dead Eye Drake, Unlicensed lifesize props? Expect to pay around $450 for something equivalent.

Licensed characters like Pinhead, Jason, etc? Expect even more than $450.

Good, superior quality tabletop items with many movements will cost you anywhere from $50 - $150.

So, while this many not be the answer that a lot of you (Including myself) would like to hear, it is most likely. I wanted to explain this more because many haunters, collectors, and enthusiasts wonder why things have changed, and assume that companies are just being greedy or not trying.
 

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Thank you for this very detailed explanation!

Are there any stores or brands currently you know of that make QUALITY props that are built to last? Where should we be shopping? What should we be doing?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thank you for this very detailed explanation!

Are there any stores or brands currently you know of that make QUALITY props that are built to last? Where should we be shopping? What should we be doing?
You're welcome! It really depends on your preference and how much you want to spend. If you want the kind of stuff that you can leave out in your yard for weeks on end and have it be perfectly fine, I would suggest sellers like poison props, distortions unlimited, and others like them. They have simple constant motion props, but they also have extremely complex stuff you'd see in a professional haunt. Those types of things are quite expensive.

Not to rag on Spirit Halloween all the time, but their stuff is rather...fragile. Despite this, and you're willing to be careful with your props, Spirit still has some things every once in a great while that are actually quite impressive. The nightcrawler and the ghoul that lifted a child to its mouth to suck the soul out of it were both very cool in my book, and those were both available last year.

If you're stuck in the middle like I am, then your best bet would be to keep your eyes peeled in the resale market and see if you can snag something that you really enjoy, even if you have to pay a little extra.

Showing companies what works and what doesn't is simple: don't waste your money on the bad stuff, and if there's nothing you like, then just skip Spirit all together. Companies will be put in a position where they are either forced to change what/how they sell or keep taking losses, and companies can't take losses forever.

Hope this helps!
 

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Personally, I never bought store bought props up until 3 years ago. I started doing my haunt in 2004 and nothing was unique enough to warrant a "store" purchase. I only dealt with Distrotion, Poison, Midnight, and Creepy. I also build pneumatics props with these static items to make them move the way I want.

Home Depot has done a fantastic job since 2017 and I have all their yearly flagship items. Spirit had the Harvestor which was a must buy. I think Seasonal Visions is a pretty solid company that is consistent.

If you like the licensed stuff then it will cost you but honestly I never saw the hype over the older props that just pivot for motion or raise there arm. It may have been fresh for the time but things have to go in another direction to keep people interested.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
If you like the licensed stuff then it will cost you but honestly I never saw the hype over the older props that just pivot for motion or raise there arm. It may have been fresh for the time but things have to go in another direction to keep people interested.
For sure, to be honest I'd say that Gemmy stopped innovating in their halloween department around 2010-2011, and they have either stayed the same or devolved ever since. I definitely agree with that statement about keeping with the times.

One thing i'd say is that while animation may have been sub-par on a few of their life sizes, the detail and quality was excellent. Seasonal Visions stuff is good, but it bothers me that most of their frames on their props are metal tubes that are no thicker than a No.2 pencil (Towering Clown, etc.). Older props tended to hame much more to their frames, including body shaping plastic, foam padding, and even full plastic busts under the latex masks to really shape the head and fill out the neck. The material of clothing on the props nowadays also bothers me a lot, it looks really cheap. I guess it's a battle between looks v. animation, but there were many props even back then that had 3, 4, even 5 points of movement. Classic example is the Cauldron Witch, from far away that thing looks like a real person.

I also agree that the licensed stuff definitely brought in a higher price tag just because of the licensing, animation was not always the strong suit.

Home Depot has definitely surprised me a few times the past couple of years, and Seasonal Visions has the animation part of their props down to a science.

I actually had the Harvester at one point! I sure do miss him, I sold him because I was saving for other things.
 

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...companies are just being greedy or not trying.
Well, to be fair, this is probably true of some companies.

I have said many times here & elsewhere that a store like Spirit is great & we love it because it's all we've got sometimes but I feel like this is a store for "the normals". The folks that have a party & want Freddy Krueger to attend or need a jumping spider to stick in the bathtub to LITERALLY scare the pee outta someone. They have a ton of cheaply made yet easily identifiable costumes & a few masks for the partygoers but this particular community isn't made up of "normals" & I mean that in a GOOD way!

Some of us have been into Halloween & doing Halloween longer than some here have been alive & we remember when all you had were blowmolds, Beistle cut outs & Motionettes to decorate with. You might have seen the occasional prop in Kmart & there were always a ton of masks around of all shapes, sizes of varying quality & price points, but overall there really wasn't a lot of Halloween stuff happening, at least not on the scale we have now.

So once the bigger retailers realized they could make money off Halloween they went big & of course the bigger something gets the more watered down it can get. Like making a copy of a copy of a copy, you lose some quality. So while we now have more choices they aren't always top level choices.

Eventually you learn after buying enough crap that falls apart in a day or 3 to either make your own stuff, buy the "crap" & alter it to your specs & needs, or spend the extra $$$ & buy higher quality stuff from smaller companies.

That's where this forum & the internet in general comes in to play, you do research, you learn new skills & info & eventually you think if a company like Spirit ceases to exist you'll still be OK.

So no Halloween stuff isn't what it used to be but then what is?
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Very good point! The market for this stuff is always changing and morphing. There will probably be a post on this same forum in 2030 talking about how cool the 2020 props were. To be honest, many people (including myself, truthfully) romanticize the late 2000s props, and while a lot of people out there agree, there seems to be a new generation of people who much prefer the new stuff coming out today.

You're totally right about professional props too, if you're gonna be serious about making a haunt then it's probably best to get something from the professional market.
 

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As electronics were introduced into props we started seeing pricing going up. Cooler more interesting things could be done with them. Way better than static props that maybe had one kind of sensor to add audio. No doubt shipping increases a few years ago have also influenced what’s been produced. Here’s some of my early memories and how HF played into making them better props.

My first store bought prop was the Gemmy life-sized mummy. He was motion triggered to moan, say something like help me, and his eyes lit up at the same time like he was awakened from his sleep by you. Remember seeing him on a QVC halloween special. I bought him at HD who at the time had a very limited halloween selection (and for a few subsequent years afterwards carried basically nothing). I also that year bought a skeleton reaper(?) at around the same time from HD. He was one of those collapsable pop up life size guys. Not pop up like motion activated but for storage. He was motion or sound sensored too. Both very simple but life-sized props. Used as is. HD that year also carried Gemmy’s Dr. Shivers which I really wanted but recall he was more pricey and being we now had a house and I was starting out with decorating decided to go with two props instead of one. One of those decisions you kind of kick yourself for later when you can’t find him when you want him or at a good price any longer!

I found this forum, and another one now defunct, in maybe 2007, lurked until joining in 2008. Like wow. Changed my halloween world. Found great minded people and loved finding out about what was out there I wouldn’t have otherwise known about. For example hadn’t known Big Lots! had some cool things the prior year. Managed however to still find a kicking legs prop and a most desirable and discontinued Boris Talking Skull prop! there. Only one of each and high up on a shelf in their clearance area from the prior year. I was so excited with these finds. Recall Boris had a bone microphone that you talked into that would activate the skull to “talk” saying what you said. Altered your voice too as I remember. Now that was cool. Forum people here started posting hacks with him.

Then there was Gemmy’s talking Billy Bass fish wall plaque, that annoying Christmas time table top prop that would go off in Walgreens everytime someone walked past it, suddenly became a fascinating and desired prop for hacking for halloween with people on here posting about it. Eventually Gemmy caught on to the halloween interest and released the Boney skeleton fish plaque prop during Halloween time. He glowed in the dark too. Kind of far cry now from the way more sophisticated FurReal talking parrot child’s toy people have hacked more recently (thanks @J-Man for your great instructions and easy-to-use control board, bringing it to us less electronically inclined haunters!!).

Thanks to the forum I also found the ever annoying singing owl that someone hacked (“Hoo Can That Be Now”). Picked him up too, although still a “future project” LOL. He was carried by Lowes in their Summer Garden Section, not even a holiday thing, and never would have known about him otherwise. Believe he was a Gemmy prop as well.

One of my favorite hacked Gemmy props was the Spirit Balls. Saw them at Spirit and Walmart one halloween but didn’t have any appeal to me as is. That is until someone here posted a hack using the white-haired guy Spirit Ball (btw who coincidentally looked exactly like Dr. Shivers!). Thanks to the member here (sorry forgot user name but had Racer in it and was from southern California), I successfully hacked him. For the most part he was gone from the stores that had carried him but found in quantity that next Summer at Ross Dress for Less discount clothing of all places, like who would have known?! Thanks again to this forum.

It’s been a fun decade plus for me and yes seen a lot of changes to Halloween merchandise over it. I will say that Halloween merchandise good or bad has exploded from a decade or so before. Just need to be creative and make it your own.
 

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I’ll also add that as the economy changed and as builders and people downsized their homes (and on smaller lots), homeowners/renters simply don’t have a lot in the way of storage or yard/display space. I think that has lead more to having something for a year or two and replace with something new and exciting down the road. Why spend more on something that you’ll replace soon.

At one time halloween decorating was all about candle lit pumpkins, cardboard jointed skeletons you’d hang on your front door, and cheap, flimsy ever-sweaty, molded halloween masks with those elastic strings to hold onto your head. We’ve come a long way since then.

Now who ever thought Bonez Skeletons would be so successful as they have been?! Started out static and for most part still are with some with lit eyes and some with added sound. Huge, huge business! I have more skeleton props than I ever thought I would from 9ft T-Rex to little mice. Pretty realistic looking so that has appealed to people. Stocked everywhere — online and brick and mortars. And priced well, something for every kid and budget and versatile too.
 

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I think the decline in quality from late 2000's to today is pretty straightforward. For the prices that people are willing to pay for retail props, the costs to make them in China has increased greatly. As the prices are ceiling'd, the quality has to decline to make it work.
That being said people are more willing to spend on Halloween than they used to be, and, I think, have more disposable income, so retail price points have been increasing. And of course a large part of that is the general decrease in what a dollar can buy, what with the US essentially printing money.
 

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People choose a prop because of the animation. It's really all about that and it's why a prop will fly off shelves and be impossible to find for purchase. The competition for sales is all about that if you're talking specifically about animated props. People really don't consider what's under the hood. If that cool looking prop is animated in an amazing way, they're hooked. And it has to have the new realistic eyes. If your prop has red blinking eyes, you're yesterday's news. Between $150-200 is about the sweet spot. Any higher than that and the impulse buy fizzles. The big shots of the neighborhood will fill the void and buy up the $300 merchandise too. That's a typical holiday shopper, plain and simple. The guts of these props are still full of plastic gears that crack being over stressed and under spec'd. Hot glue for soldering wires and clips. Doesn't matter to the buyer. As long as it works now, who cares about tomorrow. Mommy or daddy will just get something else. Another peeve of mine- the kid you tuber rating the cost of a prop 'they' bought as if the money came out of their pockets. Please.

We live in a disposable world. Point of sale, the end. Once the dollar is spent, that's it. Quality? Lol, please. I buy spirit props knowing this. I take very good care of them. I repack and store them well- a large part of the trick to keeping them going year after year. My collection is large. I buy only unique props that are well animated.

But truth be told, the secret to saving the most money and the longest lasting trouble free props is buying static ones. No movement at all. Spend the money on cool lighting. Static props in a well lit scene, highly affective. But just beware - those bulbs will burn out too.
 

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You're welcome! It really depends on your preference and how much you want to spend. If you want the kind of stuff that you can leave out in your yard for weeks on end and have it be perfectly fine, I would suggest sellers like poison props, distortions unlimited, and others like them. They have simple constant motion props, but they also have extremely complex stuff you'd see in a professional haunt. Those types of things are quite expensive.
Personally, I never bought store bought props up until 3 years ago. I started doing my haunt in 2004 and nothing was unique enough to warrant a "store" purchase. I only dealt with Distrotion, Poison, Midnight, and Creepy. I also build pneumatics props with these static items to make them move the way I want.
Thank you both for the recommendations!
 

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I cant say enough good things about Poison Props. I have 4 of their props and while they are expensive, the operation and detail of the props are well worth the investment. I still use some of the Spirit props but they last maybe 3 seasons before they are done. The thing I like best about Poison Props is that their props have really good motion and unlike some of their competitors, their mouths move and their level of detail is great. Yes they are expensive, yes there is some additional setup involved after purchase and yes they require a fairly large air compressor. However, it will be one of the best long term investments you could make.
 

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I cant say enough good things about Poison Props. I have 4 of their props and while they are expensive, the operation and detail of the props are well worth the investment. I still use some of the Spirit props but they last maybe 3 seasons before they are done. The thing I like best about Poison Props is that their props have really good motion and unlike some of their competitors, their mouths move and their level of detail is great. Yes they are expensive, yes there is some additional setup involved after purchase and yes they require a fairly large air compressor. However, it will be done of the best long term investments you could make.
Poison Props does have some great stuff, I have 3 of them. They are actually skipping Transworld this year just because of high volume orders. I think getting one this year is very very slim. I ordered in the beginning of April and have an estimated Sept 1 ship date. The only issue with animated stand alone companies is the wait time. You are looking at at least two months to request a build.
 

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Poison Props does have some great stuff, I have 3 of them. They are actually skipping Transworld this year just because of high volume orders. I think getting one this year is very very slim. I ordered in the beginning of April and have an estimated Sept 1 ship date. The only issue with animated stand alone companies is the wait time. You are looking at at least two months to request a build.
This year I purchased and received Distortion Unlimited's Kiddy Kombo. I couldn't be more disappointed with the quality. Paint was poorly applied and still wet, missing or incorrect size hardware and the prop on the swing barely works. This isn't what I expected from what was suppose to be a higher quality manufacturer of props.
Never had one single problem from any four of the props from Poison Props. Each one exceeded my expectations and its great to see them busy and doing so well.
 
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