Less is More, More or Less

Toy collecting is often described as entry-level art collecting. And to a large extent, it is. Toys, like prints, are an affordable way to own limited edition pieces by artists whose work you’d otherwise never be able to afford. However, and I say this as an avid toy collector, the limited edition side of things has gained a bit too much credence as a defining element of what makes a toy desirable.

You see, whether it’s one of ten or one of a thousand, a bad toy is just a bad toy. Making it really limited doesn’t make it more of an art object. It just saves a few people from being ripped off. I guess what I’m trying to say is that you can’t polish a turd. But unfortunately a lot of collectors seem to be ignoring this fact. Don’t get me wrong — I’ve done it myself. The hype of a release gets to you. You get caught up in the moment. And before you know it, you’ve dropped far too much money on a rare edition that just isn’t that special. All because it was über-limited.

I totally understand the pleasure of low runs and owning something very few other people will have in their collection, but I think we let it cloud our judgment. Joe Ledbetter’s Mr Bunny is a prime example. The Lava Bunny was a release of 50, automatically making it the most sought-after and valuable edition. But should it be? To me, the regular yellow (run of 400) and snow blue (run of 104) editions look better and are far more representative of his paintings, and if these are meant to be an “art” toy, surely we should be all about the aesthetics?

Staying with the bunnies for a bit longer, some people will argue that fewer of the Lava edition makes it harder to get and thus the most desirable. But if exclusivity is our only reason for collecting then surely with the prices that a set of bunnies goes for on eBay, we should all be flogging them to get a Ledbetter original? A one of one. Surely that’s the ultimate prize? Or is it?

I get the feeling that a many collectors would be as happy collecting baseball cards as they are toys. For them the thrill is in the chase, and subsequent pleasure of ownership. The artistic merit of a toy, then, takes second place to its supposed rarity.

It’s funny, because if you visit any of the toy forums there will always be someone ranting about how certain companies’ edition sizes are too large now. Kidrobot being a prime example. People bitch on them all the time about how dunnies are now editions of 1000, not 250.

But think about it — were the initial low runs we remember so fondly simply due to the fact that these companies wanted to make sure they didn’t have leftover unsold stock? By bringing toy culture to the west, they took a gamble that’s paid off. Everyday more and more people are discovering designer toys, and Kidrobot et al are actively out there converting them, so they’re going to make a lot of certain figures that have the broadest appeal. That’s a fact of life.

So is it more realistic for us as collectors to demand more quality, not less quantity? New sculpts and interesting new mediums. If you saturate a market with anything, it loses its value and becomes disposable. Toys are no different. But I honestly think it’s stale and bland releases that are more likely to kill the toy scene than editions of 3000.

Let’s be honest, how many of us would really moan if KAWS decided to make 1500 of each colourway of the Dissected Companion? Larger editions – which are still obscenely small in the grand scheme of things – mean less secondary-market price hikes. And with KAWS putting out most of his stuff through his OF store, that’s got to be something most of our wallets can appreciate.

On a final note, the Kaiju Crusaders that are Super 7 have taken the decision not to announce the run sizes of their future releases. The thinking behind it being that you should buy a figure based on its aesthetic appeal, rather than it’s rarity. It’s a crazy idea, but it might just work. Imagine it, kids: buying toys because we like them, not because they’re from lower runs and therefore more eBayable. What a concept…

Drunken Master

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