I just can't feel bad for anyone that used AFA. I've always thought sending figures away to be graded was pretentious. I have a pretty large vintage collection, but I don't grades on them to show ...what? How great they are? How much nicer they are than someone else's? It's a worthless concept IMHO.
What you are about to read is very "rambling", mostly me typing my thoughts so read on at your own peril.
These percentages won't make sense, but I agree with you 80%, disagree 10% and am 10% offended.
For the most part what you say makes sense. That being said I have never used AFA, but the attraction to me to it is, using the huge assumption that has clearly been blown to pieces, that AFA is an AUTHORITY, then when someone buys something, especially online, you don't have to hope the picture and the seller's description are accurate. You have a (so called) Authority saying this is what shape the item is in. That has nothing to do with feeling pretentious about my toy being better than yours.
Having said that, my reason for liking the IDEA of AFA doesn't actually work because to me the reason AFA is ruining the vintage market, and thus I actually think this whole scam that started this conversation is bad for Palitoy/German collectors but good for the majority of us vintage carded collectors, is take Brianstoys for example:
Back in the day you could go to the website (or catalog then) and had many overpriced, but still manageable carded vintage figures to choose from. Now anything in decent condition has been sent to AFA, so you get charged the AFA cost plus now we decide the toy is worth 2, 3 times what it was when we just agreed it was in good condition. That is why AFA sucks to me and has poisoned the collecting community. It just makes the price unreasonable because AFA said it's in near mint condition. You end up paying for a number printed on a sticker.
Not that I don't think there are pretentious people who want to say "I have an AFA 90 Luke 12 back and your ungraded one that only looks like an 80 should bow down to mine" out there, but I don't think that is why AFA is bad.
I call myself a "loose collector who keeps his stuff in the package", because I like the packaging and the fact it keeps the stuff together, but am not that concerned about it's condition. That doesn't stop me from liking the idea of what AFA could have been.
Ok, I think my rambling is over.
P.S. My collection would bow down to your collection any day and feel honored Justin.