A look at furry business with a $17,017 record fursuit auction price, July 2018

by Patch O'Furr

(There are many reasons to give this thoughtful discussion and avoid knee-jerk reaction about cost – it will happen, but please read on! – Patch)

MixedCandy gets fandom’s current highest auction price at The Dealer’s Den.

Congrats to MixedCandy for their successful auction. One of the fandom’s highest-powered creative stars has also raised attention for The Dealer’s Den, an online marketplace for this special niche.

This new record price was set 6 months after the previous one: $13,500 for a commission slot by Made Fur You, sold on The Dealer’s Den with 82 bids on 1/29/18. It was preceded by a record that stood for 3 years: $11,575 for Sniper Angeldragon by PhoenixWolf, sold on Furbuy with 187 bids on 2/14/15.

A few years ago, The Dealer’s Den looked like more or less a ghost town when I looked at its activity. Change of ownership to Vitai Slade brought healthy growth. It now roughly compares to the much longer established Furbuy, offering more options to the fandom. Both are free to use. At time of posting, both have around 350-500 active auctions and 1800 Twitter followers. The Dealer’s Den also has a Telegram group of 3,000 users advertising their goods, while Furbuy is doing in-person promotion with con panels and flyering. I’ve personally had good experiences with both.

A look at this auction and why it matters.

MixedCandy’s sale happened in 3 days time, shortly after the onslaught of mainstream media attention Anthrocon brings every year. I wouldn’t call that coincidental – timing an auction that way may be a great strategy! The bidding was most intense among 4 bidders who went way above usual market prices. I’d say $5000-6000 is still in a reasonable range of about double the usual cost of a full fursuit (it depends on features). Over that limit is where it really became a war.

I’m not surprised to see that happen with a character like Manuel Dog. I think he’s super handsome, with personality between fierce and cute. He seems made to make you run away in fear, but run up for a cuddle at the same time. He’s full of oodles of delicious fursuit crush power. I can’t wait to see him in action.

When there’s mainstream talk about movie box-office records, or Zootopia being a billion dollar blockbuster – the fandom equivalent is convention attendance or a fursuit price record. It may be just symbolic, but you can call this a marker for “furry industry”, fandom growth, and how its artists are valued.

If you liked Zootopia‘s success, this is the fandom’s. Fursuits (and massive gatherings of them) are where the subculture flexes creative muscle and visual showstopping power. A con’s group photo can be considered a money shot of the show. There’s a lot more going on with this subculture, and an outsider may only see the surface of it – but a picture is worth 1000 words. That’s part of Manuel’s appeal and price.

Paying that much for a suit is very subjective personal worth. Other hobbies can get way more expensive (like a flashy car nobody needs). This is skilled work, and a serious gallery piece by a painter, sculptor, or other professional can cost more. “You could have gotten something else” isn’t relevant to a unique piece (for pure cheapness, try Walmart.) But such sales aren’t an investment with “high culture” recognition. It’s also for using and participating for the love of it.

Perhaps fandom is catching a generational groove like in the 1980’s and 90’s, when comics crossed a line from disposable trash to massive collectibles. Superman #1 selling for a million didn’t mean you couldn’t enjoy comics. It did say a lot about adult geeks rediscovering nostalgia for things they loved but weren’t super free to enjoy as kids. Manuel is like a huggable toy and an adult inside too. Of course, you can’t print millions of Manuels; there’s just one of each.

A fursuit business isn’t a path to riches.

Does a high price mean success by itself?

From tips I’ve gotten, I’m not sure MixedCandy has had a smooth ride behind their high-demand customer queue. If that’s true, maybe this auction will help them breathe a little with relief. Cute art is Grown Up Business now, and sometimes that means Grown Up Problems.

My recent article: ArtworkTee issues and the heart of the furry economy looked at problems of indie business. For what seems like brilliant successes on the surface, there can be killer pressure from liabilities and debts or business backups. Look at Hollywood celebs or music stars saddled with massive tax debts, unpaid by bad contracts, or cheated by managers. I had a friend who took incoming calls for the IRS who helped counsel people on how to ease their burdens, who occasionally dealt with names you may know. One was a famous pop music singer whose finances were in shreds behind a long and lauded career. Creative business has had such issues forever.

Tips I was sent about MixedCandy came from an average fan looking into their business, who asked me to take it further. According to them in March 2018, they saw a Trello queue with a long backlog for commissions. It had to involve a lot of deposits. Turnaround time and outlook on catchup was questioned. But when I revisited the tip in July, they saw progress and counted the auction win as helpful for an upward trajectory. They commented that it could even inspire people with backlogs to overcome them, and wanted it to spread a hopeful message.

To research, I asked MixedCandy for their side, but didn’t get responses to share. Of course a potential customer of any business should do their own research.

MixedCandy clearly love what they do. No fursuit maker would be alone in having business issues. As long as fans want what they create, those issues will be balanced by fandom love over money. Rising from a hobby for the love of it to a reliable living and business is a real achievement.

Higher prices help risky business, and you don’t need “Name Brands” when a smaller maker is a great option.

I’ve casually tracked fursuit makers for years. They have a lot of turnover and full time ones work their tails off. Do you want them to stick around?

Furries put out so much trust to pay thousands, do the DTD thing, and wait years for a suit. On the other side, high labor goes in while some customers expect hobby prices for professional goods. It seems like a pincher.

Scaleup can hurt when a business takes on too many commitments, without charging enough to meet them. Another common problem is unforseen bills or runaway debt, like medical expense that can kneecap a business. A theft or illegitimate refund claim can compound problems. Burnout happens. At the small business level we’re discussing, going to court is unlikely. It just ends up being a mess for everyone. I think this is built in risk with fursuit making.

People who go to art school or come up the independent way may not be taught to plan for this like in business school. They just figure it out. It takes foresight to navigate the obstacles, and many don’t. This is why rising fursuit prices help.

There’s also no need to wait for years for a highly demanded maker… or complain about one auction beyond your budget. With new up-and-coming makers emerging all the time, don’t overlook a close relationship with a small, personal one hungry to get started. They’ll be grateful for support, and you may get a crazy deal with all the personal attention you could want. If you do, Tip Your Makers.

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