Contrary to one popular belief, “standard” Beanie Babies or most modern Barbies generally aren’t very valuable – you are safe to go ahead and take that Princess bear out of the safe deposit box. The same goes for wide swaths of toys from the last thirty years, where large production runs and a thriving collector market hamper the accrual of value. There are, however, some diamonds in the rough out there. Let’s take a look!
Godzilla and Beatles Beanie Babies
While ostensibly plush toys for the children, the real big market for Beanie Babies back in the day was adults. They decorated cubicles, sewing rooms, and other boring-to-children places all over the country. Ty Inc. knew this and released special edition beanies accordingly. That led to a set of three based on the monsters of 60s-era Godzilla movies and a set of four inspired by the music of The Beatles.
Either will go for a bit over a hundred dollars as a set. The Beatles bears are only really notable as a group, with individual specimens selling for closer to ten bucks. The Godzilla monsters do a bit better, with each one able to pull in around thirty dollars solo. Obviously, neither of these are the bank-breaking numbers collectors were expecting at the turn of the century, but they blow the pennies on the dollar most Beanie Babies sell for out of the water.
Pink Label, Silver Label, Black Label, Famous Friends, Et Al Barbies
Most collector’s edition Barbie dolls of yesteryear wound up in the hands of grandmas. They sat beautifully displayed and meticulously dusted in the guest bedroom, eyed longingly by visiting grandchildren but never touched. And that kept them from accruing in value, because this happened in houses all over the country. But the nerdier ones? Those had a limited appeal.
That means the dolls based on Star Trek, DC Comics and Marvel Comics, classic horror movies – pop cultural properties that have always had niche fanbases but maybe not always served them. These dolls can go for $50-100 each. You’re not going to retire on that, but items like that create interesting anchor points for a larger collection. If someone hunting for Black Canary or Batman dolls show up to an auction, they might just spark some bidding wars on the “by-the-case” lots. The rising tide lifts all boats.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Mash-Ups
Playmates Toys was an action figure industry upstart in the early 90s and they had a simple strategy: make TONS OF TOYS. Their Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Star Trek, and Simpsons action figure lines were famous for their huge variety. Did Captain Picard where a slightly different uniform in a couple episodes? Playmates made a toy. Homer Simpson wore a different shirt in one scene back in season two? Playmates immortalized that. And with the Ninja Turtles, they let their imaginations run wild.
And it is that last category that produced some of the most unexpectedly valuable Turtles toys. Around 1995, when the initial TMNT craze was winding down, Playmates released several mini-ranges where the Heroes in a Half-Shell were mashed up with other worlds. That results in a Universal Monsters set, a Star Trek set, and a set of NASA TMNT inspired by the film Apollo 13 of all things. However, kids had moved on from TMNT and hadn’t grown up with these properties. Meanwhile mainstream adults hadn’t quite gotta on the turtle train. That combined to mean that these sets didn’t sell so great. That makes them pretty valuable, selling for over a hundred dollars individually for some figures – even loose out of the package!
Crossover Appeal Breeds Value
What do all these examples have in common? They have crossover appeal. They don’t just appeal to collector’s of the mothership brand but also what it’s adapting, widening the audience that might pick them up. Likewise, they were produced in limited quantities compared to the basic toys in their respective ranges. Larger audience plus smaller production run often results in better long term value. That’s exactly what’s happened here.
However, they’re very easy to miss if they’re part of a larger collection from the mothership brand. Someone who invested in Tabasco the Bull might not realize the Godzilla they bought on a lark is sought after. That’s why it pays, often literally, to have your collection evaluated by professionals like Back to the Past before deciding how to dispose of it! Be sure to drop us a line when the time comes. And until then, you can pose your collectibles questions below or on social media @b2pCollect!