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From sports cards to collectible figures, dolls to cosplay, board games to consoles, young adults are reconnecting with their childhood joy. Now with money in their pockets they can indulge in a large slice of nostalgia, collecting the things that they once loved but perhaps they were never able to afford at the time.
Collecting toys; a legitimate hobby or a childish pastime?
It’s sometimes a challenge to understand why people have the hobbies they do, especially if it’s something that you see no appeal in. But collecting toys and games has a massive following with websites, magazines, meets and exhibitions dedicated to the interest. After all, there are so many different types and ages of toys and games to spark interest; why wouldn’t they become an addiction? Many collectors say that they enjoy the accomplishment of acquiring the action figures or rare finds they’ve been searching for. Some like the fun of the quest and the excitement of the hunt, while others enjoy the thrill of their acquisitions.
A trend led by Millennials
We are living in strange times. Global pandemics, political upheaval, environmental pressures, all weigh heavy on our shoulders. Uncertain for the future, Millennials started looking back to their childhood for some familiar reassurance and joy. The characters, movies and toys of their youth were big, bold and colourful reflecting an all-together different time. They wanted to re-engage and re-discover what brought them happiness as a child – and now grown up they realised that they could have it all over again.
“I thought it was just me that liked this stuff.”
Social media has helped fuel the Kidult trend. Collectors can now share their passion with like-minded fans from all over the world. Communities exist for nearly every kidult theme out there, offering a platform to chat, share info and hang out. These communities develop their own unique identity and sense of belonging. Recently Warhammer received a boost in popularity when during lockdown Superman/Witcher actor Henry Cavill shared his love for the game, rekindling his passion for painting the tiny figures. Such is the popularity of Warhammer and Cavill’s passion for it, according to Warhammer Community, the unofficial ambassador is set to star and executive produce in a new Warhammer 40,000 Amazon show.
A Thriving Business
Of course, whenever a trend gains momentum, businesses will not be far behind and it’s now providing the toy and leisure industries with a rich new revenue stream.
Lego have successfully tapped into this trend. In their early days of creating licenced products, they noticed that more and more adults were buying their sets. The popularity of titles like Harry Potter and Star Wars now offered fans the chance to recreate iconic moments of these books and movies in a familiar childhood activity, never to be played with as a child would, but to be kept, treasured, admired and displayed.
Whatever you’re into there will be a Collectors Fair to suit. These fairs have become big business giving the chance for collectors to hunt down that elusive football card or that rare Major Matt Mason figure (Ask your dad, kids!). In the UK every week during 2023, somewhere, there’s a Toy Collectors Fair happening. Go along and see what it’s all about.
Many entrepreneur millennials have combined their passions of business and pleasure, seeing an opportunity to carve out a unique offering for this market. Svetlana & Benni from Kamui Cosplay have been inspiring cosplayers with their YouTube ‘how to’ guides for years. Combining their craft skills with their love of games, movies and anime to share their knowledge with the rest of their community through books, videos, blogs and tutorials.
Kidulting is great for our state of mind
According to psychologists playful nostalgia can help with our mental health.
Our kidult pastime can be an essential escape from the pressures of our day-to-day lives
“In practice, kidulting is a natural, simple return to known, feel-good childhood activities,” says clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly, PhD, author of Joy from Fear. “The familiarity of the activity is often the perfect backdrop for unwinding.”
The idea of kidulting has been around for some time, but it surged in popularity during the pandemic when we all had time to reflect and time to kill.
A 2021 US Toy Association survey of about 2,000 parents who purchased toys found that 58 percent had bought them for themselves.
Experts say kidulting delivers a welcome dose of joyful play and heart-warming nostalgia, ideal for lifting us out of any doldrums, pandemic or otherwise.
As an investment. Is it more promising than a pension plan?
The simple answer is maybe. If you spent £100 on Dinky toys in 1985, your investment would have likely quadrupled in value over 15 years, putting other investments in the shade. But experts warn that investing in toys is risky and never recommend collecting as an investment, as it has never proved 100% reliable.
The most valuable toys now are those which were bought to be played with, and just one or two survive in good condition. It’s still worth looking through the attic for that unwanted gift still in its box from three decades ago, which might make your fortune.
Some toys are worth a fortune. Early American cast iron money banks and good quality dolls and teddy bears can all fetch prices exceeding £50,000. Dinky cars and Hornby trains are often worth large sums: a rare pre-war Dinky H. G. Loose promotional delivery van fetched £4,600 at Christie’s. Even the Dinky toys you paid three shillings and six for 50 years ago could now be worth over £500.
But the collectors’ market is fickle, and something that seemed worthless a few decades ago may now be in actual demand. Experts say predicting which modern toys will fetch the best prices in a few decades is difficult.
Are “Modern” toys a better option and easier to find? The omnipresent Teletubbies may become collectors’ items in mint condition because people don’t think of them as collectables, and just a few will survive in good condition. Rarity and demand ultimately determine the value of a toy, as collectors pay high prices for a toy they simply must have.
Kidulting is here to stay. So, all you Teenage Ninja turtle fans, My Little Pony hoarders or if you have a Star Wars collection that’s out of this world, rest assured you are not alone. So the next time you reveal your collecting theme to someone, and they tell you it’s childish, just remind them that you are investing in your health, happiness and future.