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Movies, TV and yes, toys, draw fans to Comic-Con

For most collectors, though, adding exclusive items to a carefully cultivated collection is priceless.

“No collector is going to sell their collection,” said Scott Neitlich, a marketing manager at Mattel whose personal toy cache includes “roughly 5,000” figures. “It's not just about the physical price of the product, but the emotional connection each collector has about what figures they've decided to include.”

Most toy collectors are men ages 25 to 40, he said, though women are getting into the hobby in growing numbers. Mattel is aiming its limited DC Comics Vertigo Death statuette and Polly Pocket DC Comics Villains set at female collectors. Hasbro hopes to tap the market with a special-edition My Little Pony: a gray Pegasus with blonde hair.

“It's people who grew up in the `70s and `80s who now have disposable income to recapture their youth,” Neitlich said. “Toys are so important because it's the one pop-culture medium that traverses all licenses. Batman and He-Man can battle on your shelf. You're probably not going to see that movie or that comic book, but toys are that one medium that can coexist across all of pop culture. It allows your shelf to become a symbol of everything that you love. It's really about celebrating individuality and which characters speak to you.”

He's most excited about the exclusive new Vykron action figure, based on a 1982 He-Man prototype, which comes with military warrior, spaceman and barbarian outfits.

“Comic-Con has become the place, really the only place, where you can go to get these limited-edition, first-edition products,” said Rich Collins, chief of Big Tent Entertainment, which makes toys and products for Domo, Dark Horse Comics and other brands. “If you're a fan of this genre, this is THE show, not just in the U.S., but globally.”

As Stevenson of Huckleberry Toys puts it, “They have anything and everything for sale down there. If you can't find something you like ... you must not really be into pop culture.”

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In this July 5 photo, the Marvel Universe S.H.I.E.L.D. Super Helicarrier, at center with a Captain America figure on the foredeck, is seen with, from left background, a DC Comics Vertigo Death figurine, the Polly Pocket DC Comics Villain set, a Dana as Zuul “Ghostbusters” figure, and a golden Domo bobblehead figure and T-shirt (AP)

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