Plastic vs Diecast: The Evolution of Iron Man Hot Toys

My first Hot Toys figure was the original Iron Man release from the original film back in 2008. At the time, I bought the Hot Toys Iron Man Mark III MMS75 for $160 USD brand new. Fast forward to 2019 and the evolution of Hot Toys Iron Man figures has changed the look, feel and pricing of these figures exponentially. One of the biggest component to this change is the introduction of the use of diecast into the Iron Man figure. But is this new change a gimmick, or something crucial for every figure?

Side-by-side comparison of the Hot Toys Mark III original Plastic release vs the updated Diecast version

To make a decision, lets first understand the differences between the two materials and the production process associated with bringing that item to market. Diecast is a process in which liquid metal is forced under high pressure into a die or forms to a given shape. Traditionally, the material typically used in the production of old diecast models was a composite lead alloy. Now-a-days, the metal is a combination of zinc and aluminum, often referred to as “Zamac”. Diecast have the advantage of producing many parts at a low cost-per-part structure compared to other production methods, however, the forms (or moulds) can be complex and generally very expensive. The cost of producing these unique moulds for each individual part of a figure is often the largest cost associated with the production of a piece – not in the material cost itself.

Plastic toys like the original Hot Toys Iron Man figures are created using a process called plastic injection moulding. This process is very similar to the diecast figures production process but instead involving forcing molten plastic into a mould using high pressure. With the process for creating plastic Hot Toys figures and diecast ones seemingly quite similar, why is there such a cost difference between the two? A huge component of the cost difference is in the cost of materials itself. Plastic is plentiful and cheap in manufacturing regions like China whereas the metals used for the production of diecast figures is much more costly. Another factor to consider is that generally speaking the moulds where diecast is used have a shorter life span than the same plastic mould. Which means manufacturers have to create more moulds to produce the same number of figures when doing a production run for a diecast figure versus a plastic one.

A diagram to give you a closer look at the injection moulding process in visual form
Iron Man Mark V compared (diecast vs original)

The the cost of any item is a crucial element for collectors to consider when purchasing a figure. Ever since the introduction of diecast into the Hot Toys line, collectors have been witness to the price of new figures slowly creeping up in cost. Price increases were expected since the material itself is more expensive but it’s still a tough pill to swallow when the increases have been so dramatic. Remember that $160 that I spent on the original release of Iron Man MK III? Well the retail price for the upgraded Diecast MK III MMS256-D07 was $309.99 USD – a 94% increase in price! Nearly twice the price of the original figure.

With such a dramatic increase in cost, what are the benefits to purchasing a diecast Hot Toys figure over a standard release? There are several reasons that Hot Toys collectors tend to lean towards camp diecast with the first being the durability of the figure. For most diecast Hot Toys figures, a good portion of the internal components are also made of diecast versus a more fragile plastic. This durability comes in real handy if you are a sixth scale figure collector who prefers to pose your figures in non-museum poses and you like to change your poses more frequently, often including more “extreme” poses in your display. The diecast joints and internal parts mean that your figures points of articulation are less likely to wear out or become weak over time.

Many sixth scale figure collectors have mentioned that the weight of the diecast Hot Toys figures makes them feel more robust (or study) and as a result they can justify the added cost. While it is true that when you pick up a diecast Iron Man figure it has a significant weight over the plastic counterpart – is that something you are going to notice on a regular basis with this item on display on your shelf? Although the design and aesthetic of the diecast release may have been slightly tweaked or improved on with new technology or methods that’s not to say that the original plastic versions of these figures are any less accurate. If screen accuracy is what’s important to you and you are not caught up in the “feel” of the figure then maybe it’s a good idea to save some cash and opt for the original releases.

Iron Man Hot Toys collection photo courtesy of user @rocbolt on the SideshowFreaks forum

Another thing to note for diecast figures is that because they are a lot heavier in overall weight sometimes achieving certain action poses using the included dynamic figure stands that come packed with Hot Toys is quite difficult. For example, it might be tougher to achieve an “in-flight” pose for Iron Man because of the weight of the diecast figure where the plastic one is much lighter and therefore it’s a lot easier to distribute the weight in dynamic poses. With enough effort though you can achieve the same poses with both regular and diecast Iron Man Hot Toys figures.

At the end of the day the plastic vs diecast discussion is really a matter of budget and preference for the individual Hot Toys collector. Some people will always prefer the beefy, expensive diecast option and others will opt for the more affordable plastic option. That’s the beauty of the hobby: you can just collect what you love – who cares what other collectors are picking up. Collect what makes you happy. Sound off in the comments: let’s hear which one you guys and gals prefer: plastic or diecast Hot Toys figures?

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