Kelsey Waits is a Funko Pop figurine collector and customizer. She has filled her apartment with Pops from her favorite shows and makes her own and sells them for the television show The 100. Hear her stories of being a Pop enthusiast.


The hobby began innocently enough for Kelsey Waits.

She worked at the Hot Topic store at Merle Hay Mall. A shipment of figurines called Funko Pop Vinyl arrived.

Kelsey found herself smitten with the 3.75-inch-tall figures with large, cubed heads, big black dots for eyes and cartoonish bodies.

She bought three figures that vaguely resembled her favorite characters from the long-running CW TV series “Supernatural.”

The collection, ahem, grew from there.

“I have more than 250,” the 23-year-old East High School alumna said. “It started out as cute. Now, it’s a problem.”

But Kelsey, at least, is smart enough to figure a way to make money off this obsession.

She customizes Pop figures to resemble the characters from the CW series “The 100.” The show is about survivors of a nuclear holocaust who return to a post-apocalyptic Earth after generations spent living on a dying space station.

Kelsey has plenty of company in her fascination with the cube-headed figures. In the last five years, Funko Pop Vinyl figures have become omnipresent in popular culture.

The Lynnwood, Washington, company began in 1998 as a bobble-head maker. The founder sold it to its current owners in 2005, which went about expanding licensing rights.

Now Funko offers products for nearly 200 licenses, including movies, TV shows, pro wrestling, the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball.

Rolling Stone reported the privately held company sold $48 million in merchandise in 2014, about $20 million of which was Pop Vinyl figures.

And the cube-headed critters are everywhere, from major retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target and Walgreens to comic book and game stores.

In the Des Moines metro, Jay’s CD and Hobby and Mayhem Comics and Games have entire walls of Pops.

Kelsey pinpoints the Pop appeal to the company’s ability to create keepsakes for both big-budget blockbusters such as “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and the upcoming “Batman v. Superman” film and smaller cult favorites such as “Arrested Development” or “Sharknado.”

“It’s nice to get merchandise for your favorite show — especially when there isn’t a lot of merchandise for the things you like,” she said.

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In the interest of journalism ethics, I should disclose I collect these things. The Pop figures for the characters of “The Big Lebowski,” my favorite movie, hooked me, and the line from “Doctor Who," my favorite TV show, dragged me back in.

Then came figures for “The Breakfast Club” and “Godzilla” and “Voltron” and … well, Kelsey said it best: Now, it’s a problem.

But back to Kelsey, who turned a problem into opportunity.

It seems "The 100" is a show with limited merchandise, a void Kelsey fills by using hobby knives, sculpting putty and paint to create and sell characters from the series.

Kelsey sells the figures for between $30 and $60 online through the craft store Etsy. Her shop is called Harleypin, a play on the name of Batman villain Harley Quinn.

Her “The 100” figures are hot sellers and well-liked. Actors Devon Bostick and Chelsey Reist, who both play characters on the show, both tweeted praise for Kelsey’s craftsmanship on the customs bearing their likenesses.

@HarleyPinEtsy@The100writers DAMN! I love it! So cool. Tis an honour, thank you
whaaa! you made a #Harper! 😘 the braided hair, the eyelashes, the rifle! ERMAGH

And Peter Larkin, the father of actor Christopher Larkin, another “The 100” star, bought one of Kelsey’s customs and also tweeted a thumbs up.

@HarleyPinEtsy Always great to have #MontyGreen home! Thank you!

Kelsey also makes custom boxes for her figures, making the whole thing look like it was manufactured by Funko.

Funko, by the way, encourages this sort of thing. They sell generic, unpainted male and female bodies for creative types such as Kelsey to create their favorite pop culture figures as Pops.

Kelsey suspects this is a way for the company to let other people do research and development on potential future licenses.

“There’s a rumor that Funko is going to make their own ‘The 100’ figures,” she said. “I guess that will put me out of business. But I’ll find something else to make.”

Daniel P. Finney, the Register's Metro Voice columnist, is a Drake University alumnus who grew up in Winterset and east Des Moines. Reach him at 515-284-8144 or Twitter: @newsmanone.

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