I like to think everyone has a collection like this. This is The Zoo, and it takes up a corner on my desk. The first figure added was the Warthog (about midway back in the center). I got him when I was working in a reserve unit that flew A10s, aka Warthog. Aside from him being first, I can't tell you how or when most of the other members came to join my conglomeration.
The villagers with torches and pitchforks were a full set of figures I bought when I was in Kuwait to use as stand-ins when I was trying to keep track of characters in a story I was writing. I also used a set of plastic Roman warrior figures and some green army men, but they didn't make it into The Zoo.
I do have stories that go with some figures in the set, for example all astronaut figures and rockets came from the gift shop at Space Camp—yes, it is an actual place. The Templar Knight on the right, under the Dragon. I picked him up in Garmisch, Germany.
Other members of The Zoo include:
Saul, Jesse, Walter (Heisenberg) and Gus from Breaking Bad were picked up from a sale bin at a bookstore.
Among the heroes Capt America, Cyborg, Wonder Woman, Ironman, Star Lord, Spider-Man, Nick Fury, Rocket Raccoon. The Villans displayed include: Penguin, Thanos & Harley Quinn. Finally, those who claim not to be heroes: Dead Pool & Loki.
Another large category is SciFi in movies and on TV: Star Wars (BB8, Han, & Rey), Farscape (Crichton, Aeryn, Ciana & D'Argo), Star Trek (Worf, Spock), Firefly (Mal) and from Lost in Space (Robot Model B-9, also the largest figure in The Zoo).
Both iZombie and The Walking Dead are represented by Liv (best character name ever for a zombie) and Michonne. Game of Thrones Viserion guards The Zoo from overhead while Arya Stark uses Needle to defend Forbidden Planet's Robbie the Robot.
In the general animated realm, The Zoo features Bender from Futurama plus Homer and Bart from The Simpsons. Semianimated: The Mask guy from The Mask.
In The Zoo, for no other reason than I like Dan Aykroyd, is Ghostbuster Ray Stantz
The most out of the box figure? That's easy: Jeff Dunham's Achmed.
Only real-life human being and not a character: Stan The Man Lee
The Zoo has lighting provided by two classic and one bullet lava lamp and also features a chrome rocket.
Now you know the what, as for the why – – I really have no idea. Things like this come to you over time, sometimes through gifts sometimes two things you pick up because you have a particular interest at a particular time. Most people keep them around for a little while and then get rid of them.
For me, I'm still a fan of the shows, movies, and stories that these characters came from. Why would I not hold onto them? Better yet, why not put them in an unused corner of my desk where I see and enjoy them every single day along with a puppy paw print provided by MacBeth?
I guess the most revealing facet of The Zoo is that is not done yet. As long as there are good movies with excellent characters, someone will turn them into action figures. If they are worthy, they end up in The Zoo.
The Zoo Trivia: Only two characters are featured twice: Batman -- Classic and Armored and Nancy from Sin City (one color, one black and white). Neither duplicate was obtained by design, just by chance.