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When Should I Sell My ’80s Toys?

Greyskull CastleOn Sunday I posted Nostalgia Drives The Collectibles Market, to which dinocollector posted the following comment:

But my question is will generations of collectibles continue to increase in value or will they peak at some point? Obviously they will peak and decline when people of that generation start dying, but will they peak well before that? I still have most of my toys from the 1980s and I plan to sell them eventually, but when should I sell them? Most children of the 80s have jobs now so they can afford to buy back their toys. Should I continue to hold on to them or will there be a point when all of the 80s kids who want nostalgic toys acquire them so the demand goes down?

While I don’t pretend to know the precise answers (and I would be very skeptical of any who declared they held the answer), I have a few thoughts on the subject.

Retro 80's Smurf Puppet Book(Most of this is true of any area in collectible, so if you’ve been wondering when to sell off your collection to make a killing, read on and see just some of what the factors in the collectible market are.)

Not everyone who had these 80s toys will want them ‘back’ — or at least not yet. Those 80s kids are not even 30 years old yet, and, speaking as someone who has been-there-done-that, pre-30s means you may not have the desire to once-again pick-up your old childish things, and, even if you do, you may not have the place to put them. If you’re still in college, just starting your career or a family, you may not have the money to spend on collectibles either.

Zartan Face GI JoeAnother factor in considering when it will be a hot time to sell retro 80s toys is the matter of money. Most collectors do not have unlimited wealth; adding to collections is based upon the available discretionary income. So it’s not only the matter of the age of the collector as it pertains to employment status and career wages, but the economy as well. When times are tough, the purse-strings can tighten on collectibles purchases.

The appeal of these toys is not just limited to just those who were kids in the 80′s. For example, those who were too old to play with action figures but were fans of the films may covet Star Wars items. And there are also those too young to have seen the films when they were first released, but who deem the series to be a favorite. Or they assign other reasons to their collections. Each of these groups also has the same considerations noted above as well.

Rainbow BriteGuessing just who wants the toys from the 80′s, when they’ll want them, and when the income they’re making allows them to go hog-wild buying back their childhood, well, it’s just that — a guess. Sure, some marketing folks somewhere are busy trying to figure out these demographics, running the numbers on the percentages and comparing them to other market trends, but even if that’s a science, there’s more.

Other factors in the appeal of 80′s toys include, but are not limited to, changes in the life of the category.

Dart VadersSome things which will increase the value of 80′s toys are:

As most 80′s toys were media tie-ins, new films or works being released will revive interest in the older items too.

Losses in terms of deaths of creators, actors, writers, etc. as well as catastrophic losses such as fire destroying original items being stored.

The creation and success of related works, such as when new science fiction films are released which are credited to or inspired by the genius of Star Wars, Star Wars items will increase in popularity.

Cabbage Patch KidsSome things which will decrease the interest in this category are:

The popularity of any other pop culture phenomenon (people spending their money on tech gadgets, for example).

The rise in popularity of other collectible categories. How many of those children who grew up in the 80′s are busy collecting Harry Potter items with their own kids rather than buying back the toys from the 80′s? Or maybe you’ve grown from Cabbage Patch kids to Marie Osmond dolls — and are headed to antique dolls?

Remaking or remarketing classic 80s toys to new generations can both increase and decrease the interest in toys — they receive mixed reactions.

Many in the world of collecting have discussed the changes in collecting brought on by the Internet and online selling venues like eBay.

My Little PonyWith the ability to sell online & the ensuing press coverage given to stories of the wealth hidden in your closet, many people are not disposing of the junk in their closets like they once used to do. Those boxes which mom and dad have saved for you and told you to come pick up now that you have your first home (or your own place has more storage than theirs does), are less likely to be picked-up and driven directly to the local thrift shop as a donation. With all the extra toys saved, and many of them listed for sale, the number of toys available keeps the prices lower.

Ahh, but then the questions become… How long will ‘everybody’ hold onto this stuff before they decide to clear out the clutter before a move? How long until part-time sellers tire of this and dump the stuff?

Eventually there will be a point when the price peaks, at least in your lifetime. It’s sad to admit, but true, that many collectibles are tied to generations and so when their incomes become fixed or they pass away, the interest in these collectibles wanes and the prices drop.

He Man Birthday Party HatsBut in nearly every case, the interest will likely become reborn as younger folks remember ‘the classics’ or re-discover the genre again for some reason or another. Again, it could be a new film which sets-off a whole cultural reaction, or it could be individuals who remember those toys from old photos of grandpa, or a love of your childhood cars leads to a lifelong love of Matchbox collecting. It could even be that those lowered prices which ignites new interest. Who can tell?

Which just goes to prove that collecting is a lot like gambling. It’s not just about the money, it’s about loving the game.

The collectibles industry is huge and that will likely never change. But what drives the industry is buyers, and while their passions may change as far as what they’re collecting, they’ll likely always be collecting something.

Pinning down what they’ll buy and when? Well, that’s a guessing game.


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katy I was wondering if anybody could tell me about the 1980s potato head kids by hasbro. I couldn't find much online and I didn't know if anyone knew anything about them or cold direct me to somewhere I could find out. It would be greatly helpful. Thank you. August 25th, 2012 at 8:43 PM

stephanie Hi I have a 1986 Talking Big Bird I dont really want to sell him but Im in a bind and Im just curious how much he may be worth? Any Idea? Thanks October 1st, 2012 at 6:57 PM

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