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Can you predict which toys will become collectors' items?


Collectors, hobbyists and families flocked to the opening of the 11th Philippine Toy Convention (ToyCon) in 2012.  The convention showcases new and classic toys, ranging from action figures to comic books and other collectibles.
Collectors, hobbyists and families flocked to the opening of the 11th Philippine Toy Convention (ToyCon) in 2012. The convention showcases new and classic toys, ranging from action figures to comic books and other collectibles.
© Ezra Acayan/Demotix/Corbis

"I'm getting a vision. In 30 years, all things Harry Potter-related are going to be worth a thousand times what I paid for them," said ... nobody. But you might think, given the enormous impact Potter has had around the world – akin to the impact "Star Wars" had on kids a generation or two ago – that the toys would become collectible, just as "Star Wars" toys have. They might. But, they might not. And therein lies the conundrum, which will take more than a magic spell from Harry's wand to solve.

People collect toys for a couple of different reasons, say the experts – as investments and because they like them. It's easy to browse the Internet and find toys that are currently collectible: antique toys, the aforementioned Star Wars-related items, early video game tie-ins. But predicting what will be the next big collectible toy is more difficult – and this is where the investment idea comes in.

As with any investment – stocks, bonds, real estate – you need to educate yourself. Look at what is collectible now and why. Toys in original packaging and mint condition are more valuable. Rare items retain their value more than mass-produced ones. But a problem with predicting what will be collectible is that the value of toys is based on the whim of collectors. So, a toy that's valuable today may go out of favor tomorrow.

EBay's guide to collecting gaming merchandise recommends looking at four factors: age, authenticity, rarity and condition [source: eBay]. But, the problem, again, is how to apply those factors to what will be collectible in the future.

Cool & Collected, a website for collectors, suggests that it's all about nostalgia. The toys that will be collectible in the future are the same ones that kids love and play with and collect today. That assumption is based on the fact that a lot of what is collectible now are the pop-culture icons of 25 to 30 years ago, because the people collecting now, grew up with and loved those toys and have the money to revisit their childhoods.

Some of the things the website suggests will become collectible in the future are Lego bricks (already collectible), items related to "The Simpsons" TV show and video game merchandise. And, despite the enormous popularity of Harry Potter, the future collectible status of Potter toys is in doubt because the toys just aren't that great [source: Cool].

But, as with all things collectible, that's just one opinion The bottom line, collect what you love and gives you enjoyment – don't count on a big payday in the future from toy collecting. If something becomes collectible or valuable in the future, great. But predicting what will be the next hot toy is about as easy as predicting the next hot anything. Remember, no one thought Harry Potter – or even "Star Wars" – would amount to much in the beginning.