Food For Thought: Do Boxes Matter?

[ed: Clay C. sent us this piece on a subject I’m sure we’ve all thought about and have varying opinions on — the importance of keeping toy boxes.  Give it a read and please let us know what you think.

I’m wondering, as I look over the pile of toy boxes … 
Five times the volume of the toys they once contained …
Do Boxes Matter?
Obviously, some boxes are intrinsically cool works of art.  Whether or
not to keep those boxes is purely a matter of enjoyment.  Some
people seem to prefer the look of displays in boxes (or if not prefer
it, tolerate it in order to preserve the boxes), and we can see from diorama
interiors and the like becoming more common that manufacturers are
aware of this trend. 
Some people’s toys will pass to their heirs, and then to further heirs, and
it will never matter whether there’s a box or its condition, because they’ll
never be sold.  But the rest, the other 90% of these toys, will
eventually be sold — to someone, sometime.  I’m not referring to flippers
here – people’s tastes change, they focus or specialize their collections, they
need cash – there are lots of good reasons things get sold.  And, we’d all
rather make a little than lose a little, when we sell.
As a general matter in antique toys, the boxes matter very much.  But,
the reason for that is primarily scarcity.  When toys were only for
children to play with, very few toys survived in even good condition and vastly
fewer survived with their box likewise.  If there are 500 surviving
extant 1900 Tin Fezzelwippits, and only a dozen of those are mint with mint
boxes, then the box is often worth far more than the toy itself.

However, it can never be the same when there are, for example, 500
extant Black KAWS Dissecteds, and 478 of them still have their boxes, and 211 of
those are still mint/mint.  10 years from now, assuming that any of these
toys will then be worth even their original retail price (a massive assumption,
but bear with me), is the presence or condition of a box going to matter
much?  At all?  When the ‘standard’ condition is MIMB, a toy with no
box might take a relatively small hit in the future, but it seems unlikely that
we’ll ever see a situation remotely like the current antique toy market,
where a box can geometrically increase value.  There is another possibility
of course, that art toys and boxes could go the route of baseball cards, with
elaborate grading systems for nearly invisible flaws.
I’m just thinking … already, common items do not lose much value without
a box, and that trend seems likely to continue.  If the absence of a box,
in a market where the vast majority have boxes, means that the price only takes
a 10 or 15% hit, I could see deciding that the hassle of keeping and storing and
moving all of the empty boxes indefinitely is just … not worth it.  It
may be that a lot of our labor in maintaining all of the boxes is now
nothing more than a hangover, a misplaced vestige of an act that once made
financial sense in other circumstances.
I am guessing that something near 90% of all art toys out there still have
their original boxes safely stowed away.  (Excepting small platforms and
other toys where the boxes are fungible – though even there it’s probably
60%.)  If that number is even approaching right, boxes may not matter very
much at all to prices down the road.  This logic could also apply to
toys sold with a bag and header card, although storage of those is rarely a
problem.  Even there, I’d bet that a quarter or more of bagged toys are
still living and even displayed in their original sealed bag, so not even those
will ever be truly scarce.

I intend no denigration to the artistic efforts that go into the boxes –
much of it is great.  But, most package design out in the rest of the
commercial world is intended to create shelf appeal, to inspire someone to buy
the product in the first place.  I believe that most art toys are sold to
buyers who are already aware of what’s inside the box – they have seen it on the
Web or at a friend’s house, and the package design plays little or no part in
their buying decision.  If indeed we were all to collectively decide that
boxes do not matter for the most part, that boxes were intended solely to
generate shelf interest and to safely transport the products, it could be that
the toy world would divide.  These are artists, so it is hard to imagine
them selling in ‘plain brown wrappers,’ but that is certainly how one buys a
limited edition print or fine-art sculpture.  If boxes were acknowledged as
not contributing substantially to the long-term value of the toy, likely some
manufacturers would make simpler packaging.  We do see more ‘kaiju’
packaging with bags and headers, which is nice for both the use of resources and
storage at home.  In Japan, packaging is revered in many circumstances
(some bento boxes are ten times more beautifully wrapped than any Christmas
present from Saks)  It may be that some manufacturers and artists would
feel that beautiful packaging is an important part of the experience of buying
and opening the item, and continue to make elaborate packaging even if it were
not considered the norm to retain it.

-Clay C.

14 Replies to “Food For Thought: Do Boxes Matter?”

  1. I think this is a question that is decades old. What is worth more? A GI Joe that’s open, posed, or played with; or a GI Joe that’s mint on card? For the most part, a sealed Joe is worth significantly more than a mint opened Joe. I think most of us have just been raised in a generation of bagged and backed comics and sealed toys. We have forgotten how to let our toys breathe or how to read comics without bending the spine. It’s kind of sad.
    Luckily, the vinyl toy world is a little more leniant with boxes that can actually be open and resealed. The biggest pain in the ass is the stupid twist ties. So what it comes down to is this. If you have the space, keep the box. If you don’t, toss it. It just seems silly to keep rent a storage facility just for boxes–and you know there are a few people out there doing it.
    Most importantly, display your toys, live with your toys, love your toys. If you don’t, then get out of the game. It’ll cut down on your credit card bills.

  2. I promised Clay I would go ahead and post my somewhat differing thoughts on the subject of boxes. While I do think storing boxes can be a hassle as one’s collection grows large, I can’t really bring myself to throw them away.
    Part of this hesistation is because many boxes are attractive either in terms of a unique shape (Baseman Dunces) or have nice art on them. And part of it is just my own collector’s obsession — the box goes with the toy IMO. Also in a twisted way, I view storing my toy boxes and unpacking and repacking my toys as dedication to my hobby of collecting designer vinyl.
    For me this comes down to whether you see added value in the boxes (I do for the most part) and also whether you are concerned with the value of your collection (I am but not in an active manner). If toys came in generic brown cardboard boxes as merely a means of protection, then this would be a very different discussion 😉

  3. Very interesting subject, I am now out of space in the cupboard that currently houses my boxes so I would be delighted if more toys came in destructible packaging like the Amos King Ken. You had to destroy the plastic carton to free him so the perceived value of the packaging wasn’t there. It is a tough choice sometimes whether to discard the box especially if it features purdy illos by the artist, TriclopsApeman tears the wrapper off his new toys and bins the packaging straight away whereas TriclopsTattooman often buys 2 versions of a toy, one to keep in box and one to play with. Space is at a premium after a while and if you’re never going to sell your toys, maybe you don’t need to keep the pack? Hmmmmm, difficult….

  4. The vinyl toy scene is a bit different from ‘normal’ toys as every part of the product is an element of the art that we as consumers are buying into. Also for toys such as Kii Arens’ La-La, the box it comes in actually adds a context to the toy and never even needs to be opened to get it’s benefits.

  5. I can sum this up in one sentence. Would you buy a Kozik White Anarchy Nade for in excess of $100 if there was no box? I certainly would not!!!

  6. Toy boxes should be opened and thrown away. If they have any plastic content… they need to be sent to the landfill even faster. This is a no-brainer. Keep toys; throw out packaging. Let the little vinyl guys breathe. Unclutter your homes.

  7. Box art is usally as nice as the toy itself.I keep all the boxes for the larger peices i have. I like the wey they look stacked up together. All of my mini fig boxes get trashed, no room for all of them.

  8. I usually don´t keep boxes of anything, but with this things the boxes have nice art too, or sometimes it has bigger images than the ones in the toys.
    And I dont plan to sell them, so the money thing to me is out of the question. And if my heirs plan to sell them, I wish them good luck.

  9. Colour me the black sheep of the responding masses but I keep the boxes for the simple reason that doing so let’s me move my toys from one place to another without worrying too much about what to put them in.
    My living situation has been fairly transient and I’ve only been in my current flat for about 6 months now. In another 6 months I’ll have to look at living somewhere else and that means taking my collection with me.
    Sure the empty boxes take up half my walk-in closet and sure the boxes look pretty enough to display in themselves but my needs with the boxes ensure they remain stored away but kept all the same.
    Regards from the ass-end of the South Pacific ocean (otherwise known as New Zealand)

  10. The King Ken comment above is a perfect illustration, I wish I’d thought of it! Not only was there no artsy box, but the [ackaging actually prevented you from seeing what you were getting! Aside from the ‘chase’ issue of concealing the figure, it would be hard to argue that KK’s absence of artsy packaging hurt either its new sales or its secondary-market value. As to the White Nade … if it came new in a bag with header card, instead of a box, I would have been MORE likely to buy it! Glad to see this generated some discussion, there’s a pretty clear split. Maybe I’ll ask Jack to run a poll and we’ll see what the numbers are?

Comments are closed.