Toys: the best and worst investments
30th Nov 2016
Looking at toys as financial investments can make play seriously profitable; invest in the right ones now and you might be cashing in on them in the future. But invest unwisely, and you could find your attic filled with once-loved (but now worthless) junk.
So rather than forking out on fair-weather playthings this Christmas, why not make your money go a little – maybe even a lot – further, with some tactical toy-buying.
Combining geeky toys and managing money is our number nerds’ idea of heaven. Using their nerdy know-how of bygone games and toys, they’ve put together a list of investment toys that can make money for their owner, as well as those best left in the attic.
Toys that turn a profit
1. Comic books
The right copy in your comic book collection could make you a major profit on your original purchase. Rare and vintage is the golden combination for comics, as one lucky owner of a 1938 copy of Action Comics #1 found out when it sold for almost £770,0001 at an auction in August this year.
The comic that launched Superman cost just 49p2 at the time of publication, which means, according to our number nerds’ calculations, its value increased by 157,000,000% – not bad for The Man of Steel.
2. Dolls and figurines
You probably have hordes of these tiny toy people cluttering up your closet, but remember - not just any doll will do. What’s important is rarity and it far outweighs the popularity of a character when it comes to the value of your doll or figurine. Recalled items are particularly rare, so despite being considered faulty at the time, they can fetch thousands at auction.
Last Christmas at a Star Wars auction at Sotheby’s, a mint condition multipack of seven valuable Star Wars figures from The Empire Strikes Back fetched £21,2423. The seven-piece set included miniatures of Han Solo, Boba Fett, Luke Skywalker, Lando Calrisson, and Lobot.
Vintage Barbie dolls can command a high price too. In 20064, a pristine, original Barbie was sold for £14,9185 at auction. Its price tag in 1959 was just £16. Approximately a 1,500,000%7 profit, according to our nerds.
But if your attic isn’t stacked with vintage toys, you might still be able to make an investment. Lego, technically classed as construction toys rather than figurines, surprisingly doesn’t play by the same rules as most investment toys. Older does not mean more valuable and, according to avclub.com, Lego sets from before the year 2000 aren’t worth all that much. However, between 2000 and 2015, pristine condition Lego sets increased in value each year by 12%8. Lego sets, particularly those tied to film promotions, are retired on a regular basis too, making them rarer and thus more valuable.
3. Board games
Pull your board game collection out of the attic to bring the family together at Christmas and you might stumble on a goldmine.
Forgotten games that never made it into the mainstream, or were discontinued due to a lack of popularity, can be real money-makers - more so than popular vintage games like Monopoly (a favourite among the number nerds), which was more widely distributed. And while it might seem a little sad, unopened (and thus un-played) games fetch the most, since it’s safe to say all the pieces will still be in the box.
Invented back in 1938, versions of the rolled-up scroll/board game Buccaneer last year sold for £2009.
While it’s not quite a board game, Dungeons and Dragons deserves an honourable mention for their renewed popularity, thanks to Netflix sensation, Stranger Things. A vintage white box set of Dungeons and Dragons role-playing storybooks is listed on eBay with an asking price of £55910, and that’s a fifth printing! No listings appear for first printings, but chances are they could be worth a lot more.
4. Trading cards
The Garbage Pail Kids – an ugly, snotty and altogether gruesome parody of the Cabbage Patch Kids – were a series of extremely popular trading cards released in the mid-eighties11. But most aren’t worth that much today. Rarer cards, however, can be worth £1000s. Listings on eBay include a Nasty Nick #1 card from 1985 at a price of £2,41512 and an unreleased Adam Bomb II card with an asking price of £2,01313.
Rare Pokémon trading cards can also bring in the big bucks. Holofoil, secret, promotional and first edition cards are among the most valuable Pokémon cards as are those with misprints on. A graded PSA 9 Pikachu Illustrator promo card sold on eBay in 2014 for a Snorlax-sized £54,54514.
5. Toy cars
Highly collectable toy cars can sometimes command prices that wouldn’t look out of place at a life-sized car showroom.
Original Matchbox cars, produced in the fifties, sixties and seventies, are just one example. One collection, made up of 2,281 cars, was auctioned off for £100,00015 and individual pieces are on offer for incredible sums too. Our number nerds found one tiny Morris Minor from Matchbox with a rare paintjob listed on eBay for £95016.
Rare colour schemes and designs can even bump up the price of popular Hot Wheels models from the sixties and seventies. A 1969 hot pink, rear-loading Volkswagen Beach Bomb, complete with surfboard accessory was bought for around £47,00017 in 200018 by distinguished Hot Wheels collector, Bruce Pascal. Estimates from this year suggest the car is now worth between £80,00019 and £121,00020, with the Washington Business Journal calling it ‘the most valuable Hot Wheels vehicle in the world’.
Collectables that are just collecting dust
It’s a sad story, but some people spend years amassing mountains of toys – that are often never played with - only to find they’re ultimately worthless years down the line. To help you avoid overloading your loft space with unwanted toys, our nerds have dug up some of the so-called collectables that turned out to be very bad investments.
1. Beanie Babies
Originally bought for around £321, most Beanie Babies barely make that much second hand. Clever production tactics fooled consumers into thinking the toys would be a commodity, but after a while the novelty wore off in a big way.
However, get your hands on one specific Beanie Baby, and you could be in luck. First edition Princess Diana memorial bears, produced following her death in 1997, are some of the most valuable Beanie Babies around. A few of these bears are listed on eBay with an asking price of hundreds and occasionally thousands of pounds22.
2. Hummel figurines23
These saccharine depictions of children in countryside scenes first appeared in 1935, based on drawings by German nun, Maria Innocentia Hummel. After soldiers returned home from World War II bearing them as gifts for their families, production shot up. By the sixties and seventies, Hummel’s figurines had entered airport gift shops, and continued intensive production shot a hole in their commodity status, causing their value to plummet.
3. Cabbage Patch kids
It was mass production again, and not the sickly-sweet visage of the cabbage patch kids, that ultimately caused the devaluation of these ‘one of a kind’ dolls. Rarer models, such as the African American doll or dolls with freckles, can fetch greater sums, but most barely make more than £2524.
Whether its cards, cars or cuddly toys that take your fancy, our number nerds warn that smart investment is crucial. And while there are no guarantees your purchase will make you a mint in years to come, if it’s rare, recalled or relatively unknown, it may just make you a profit.