Toy collectors turn a hobby into an investment opportunity
Lau Teck Kheng from the past that can be collected
SINGAPORE – For Singapore-based Lau Teck Kheng, his love for toys has now turned into a thriving business.
Lau started selling vintage figurines with his friends on Sundays in 2005 while working full-time as a technician.
“For many of us born in the 1970s, we’re not rich enough to buy a lot of toys, but now, we’re around the 40s mark, and we’ve got a bit of money so we try to keep the memories buy back,” he said. CNBC reported.
“When the sale started gaining traction with customers, I decided why not, I’ll try to do this full time. “
Since opening a brick-and-mortar store in downtown Singapore 15 years ago, revenue has grown slowly but steadily.
His store, Past Time Collectable, sells collectibles from hit franchises such as Ultraman, Macross, Robotech, MASK and Power Rangers and prices range from as little as $4 to as much as $3,800.
While traditional investments such as stocks and real estate are more common, some see vintage toys as a unique, fun and potentially profitable asset class.
Toy investing for many is often, first and foremost, a hobby and a passion.
Figurine collector Dennis Pek has collected over 2,000 toys over the past two decades.
He has scoured flea markets, online websites and auctions, and shops around the world for cherished collectibles from his favorite shows.
Dennis Pek figurine collector
He told CNBC that he only resells to reorganize and update his collection.
“I’ve probably invested about $80,000 in my collection, but I do it mostly because I love it,” he told CNBC.
“But I think, the value of these items together, they’re worth a lot and they’re kind of an asset for the future.”
He believes that the value of second-hand toys comes from how well the figures are preserved, how unique the pieces are – especially sets that were originally produced in very small numbers.
Collectors often seek out items that are still in their original packaging, with some finding satisfaction in just having the box.
“Some people buy the toys, and they don’t even open it,” Lau explained. “They say they just feel happy to see the box and have the things inside.”
The founder and CEO of MINT Toys Museum, Chang Yang Fa, privately owns more than 50,000 pieces of collectibles, about 10% of which are on display at his museum in central Singapore.
Chang told CNBC about the generational changes in choice gathering he’s seen. “Different times collect different things but in general, most of the popular toys are character toys,” he said.
He said vintage toy collecting first started at the turn of the 20th century and loyal fans still seek out toys from big franchises like Marvel or Naruto, as well as more “niche” movies and shows.
Chang Yang Fa from the MINT Toy Museum
“Like Star Wars or Barbie, people want to buy back memorabilia and that creates demand in the resale market,” said Chang.
“Also, the [Covid-19] pandemic, where more people were working from home. I believe many wanted to make their workplaces a little more suitable so they would decorate and buy things like figurines and so on, creating a bit of a movement of children- a girl buys herself more toys.”
Adults, or “kids,” are behind the growth of new toy sales.
Data from consulting firm Circana, formerly NPD, found that people aged 18 and over accounted for 14% of US toy sales for the 12 months to September 2022 – that metric saw a 19% increase compared to 2021.
“There’s a synergy between old toys and modern remakes like GI Joe, Masters of the Universe, Strawberry Shortcake and so on,” said James Zahn, editor-in-chief of “The Toy Book” and senior editor at “The Toy Insider.”
Zahn said Mattel’s Masters of the Universe Eternia Playset, which sold for about $100 new in the 1980s, now commands an average of $5,000 in its original box. The product is in such high demand that Mattel launched a crowdfunding campaign last year to produce a new version of it that will be launched in 2024.
Correction: This story has been updated with the correct spelling of Lau Teck Kheng’s name.