Depending on condition, rarity and market demand, I would say yes, they could do. A study published December 3, 2021 by HSE University economists states that “Unusual ways of investment, such as collecting toys, can generate high returns.” One of the study’s authors, Victoria Dobrynskaya, says:
“We are used to thinking that people buy such items as jewellery, antiques or artworks as an investment. However, there are other options, such as collectible toys. Tens of thousands of deals are made on the secondary LEGO market. Even taking into account the small prices of most sets, this is a huge market that is not well-known by traditional investors.”
Read the HSE article here
Time to break out your old Lego to see if you have anything of value to sell?
Hold on… to gain maximum profit you must first have something that is still in its original sealed box and in mint condition. Second, it needs to be an item that was popular and sought after (think Star Wars Lego sets) and produced as a limited run or as a special exclusive. Third, does the item have nostalgia and worldwide appeal value?
This is not to say that if you have a well-looked after complete Lego set which has been opened and played with, and with the original box and instructions still lying around somewhere, you won’t get a good return on what you originally paid. If you have just the complete Lego toy but no box and instructions however, then your return will be lower.
May The Toys Be With You
The same can be said for Star Wars toys and collectables made between 1978 to around 1985. Some items in mint and unopened condition can go for thousands+, but so too can certain items that are no longer packaged and perhaps not even in that good condition. Rarity is key. In 2010, I paid 100 USD for an all original 1978 Star Wars Display Stand including the ‘first twelve’ figures meant to be displayed. I’ve since updated some of the figures with better condition and rarer specimens (thus increasing its value). The figure accessories are all original and some are very hard to find. If I sold the set today I would make a mouth-watering profit on that original hundred bucks I spent.
As a former admin and editor of one of the internet’s most popular Star Wars collectables websites, and a collector of toys and archivist of toy adverts, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen rare toys hit the roof when sold – especially Star Wars toys.
The HSE University report also mentions “Barbie dolls, superhero minifigures, or model cars and trains” in their list of toys considered of value. My collection of Mattel’s first lady is slim compared to other toy lines I collect, but whenever I see 1980s Barbie for sale in original packaging (the 1980s being a key nostalgia button for me), I find myself wanting to buy it.
Toy collector vs toy investor?
It might be useful to make some (very) broad definitions here:
A collector – someone who buys toys purely for the love and nostalgia of a certain product. This person might not always be concerned with condition or original packaging, and will happily pay money for an item that has been previously opened and played with, usually with the intention of displaying the item along with other items in their collection.
A collector / investor – someone who meets the above criteria but who might wish to only buy the most pristine examples with perhaps an eye on making a later profit. This collector will mostly seek items that have never been opened, built or played with.
A scalper – someone who will purchase items in bulk to sell later and make a profit on a secondary market. This act denies the true collector the chance to purchase an item at store value and forces them to pay a premium. There is a dark and special place in toy hell for scalpers (only joking of course 🙂 but really there is).
A repro seller – someone who knowingly and willingly sells reproduction fake toys and accessories to fool a buyer into believing they are purchasing an original and authentic item. Some repro sellers are upfront about their activities due to certain collectors who happily buy repro toys for their collection. There is a darker and even more special place in toy hell for repro sellers (only joking of course 🙂 but really there is).
An investor in toys will do their homework and buy only what they believe will eventually make a good return in value. The toys they buy will be stored safely and securely in original packaging or displayed as a collection. As for the right time to sell… that will depend largely on market trends.
For some, it might be a case of selling sooner rather than later any toys that are prone to degradation caused by the types of plastic used in the process of manufacture (this seems to be largely confined to plastic action figures rather than Lego, for now). As time passes, some plastics will break down and can severely discolour a toy – even in some cases making it present mould patches. The packaging too – think of those once clear plastic bubbles / blisters attached to an action figure cardback… now yellow and brittle and falling away. Despite collectors doing their best to keep prized toys under climate control environments and protected from both natural and artificial light, some toys will eventually go the way of degradation.
Maybe better to invest in gold after all?
Happy collecting, whatever your pursuit or budget!
Ford, TVTA, 10 December, 2021.