2.4.09

BLIND BOXED: TOYSREVIL's Blind-Box Experience

>Jeremy Brautman from Toycyte asked me for an opinion on "Blind Boxes" - for an investigative series where he spoke to Toy Companies, Fans & Collectors, Toy Stores, Creators & Artists themselves, and rounding off with a buncha us Toy Bloggers :)

And before I realized it, I had spewed forth a ridiculously long (semi-incoherent-ish) entry. Now, I wasn't going to subject Jeremy to editing my mind-bile (I know first hand how painful these sorta affairs can be). So Toycyte had a summarized to-point version, while I attempted to edit my long-winded-version and yodeled on at my own leisure (with Jeremy's knowledge of it's existence, of coz) - with plans to post it to coincide with Toycyte's post - which has since gone "live" (linked-above via "Toy-Bloggers") last week.

If you so please, CLICK THRU for the full-'rollercoaster' Blind-Box-Experience ~ TRE-style!
FORREST-BOX
[Artoyz Originals ELEMENTS Alpha Series blind-boxed and blogged on TRE]

IN THE EARLY BEGINNING


Before toys became the ultimate obssession, both in culture and in consumeristic tendancies brought on by economy and evolution (ie: "spent all my hard-earned cash thru the years on toys til I busted my personal finances blindly and with wonton abandon") - I dabbled in trading cards - okay fine, I was singularly obssessed with Collectible Trading Cards - not just as a hobby, but as a source of income (as I had foolishly thought then). I wrote about them before, and aim to yak on like a old-codger around a campfire in it's last embers. heh.

SUNDAY-FLEAMARKET
[Sunday Flea Market stall @ Substation hawking hand-collated trading card-sets]

PACKED OR BOXED - THY LUCK IS STILL SEALED


BLINDBOX-01

The concept / premise of a Trading Card Pack and a Blind Boxed Toy is essentially the same. There is a fixed quantity of products within the sealed packs / boxes, which in turn makes up a finite series of a basic set of products. X-number of products in a pack / box, via a Y-number of packs / boxes from a carton, via a Z-number of cartons from a case etc. You won't know what the pack (or two or a dozen) held within it's mysterious package when you paw it and pay for it off the counter. Carton or pack / box ratios (aka chances of scoring or pulling a fixed set of products) may or may not be specified, and most times not promised.

TRADINGCARDS-04 VS BLINDBOX-03

Tangibly and traditionally for trading cards, each card of the set is numbered (be it sequentially, or for identification) and one of the "aims" is to complete the basic set of cards / toys you are collecting. So if you're missing any numbered in the set, the set will always be incomplete. The same goes for the finite about of toys in the series that relates to the blind-box. There is also the added "thrill" of a sub-set / series of products apart from the "Basic" set - what are termed as "Chase" (ie: you haveta go chasing around to hunt for them).

TRADINGCARDS-03
[Chase-cards generally are more kickass than the regulars =
Chrome-Treatment AND autographed by Artist, Joe Quesada!]

And while both products may seem to be totally different genres (and hobby categories) - one single thing remains true to both (besides the "lucky-draw" element), are the "Doubles" you may draw from the pack (or triples, quadruples etc)

TRADINGCARDS-02TRADINGCARDS-01

Whereas for blind-boxed toys - folks have exclaimed to me (and I myself have said on numerous occasions) - that you choose and buy whatever designs you like / enjoy /want. And you would enjoy whatever you have, without the need to get the entire set. But of coz, there are those who endeavour to own a complete set. Some may know them or label them as "Completists" - I say "Power To You" if you have the means and are able to :)

Besides the sense of achievement in completing a set, there perhaps is also the thrill of the "chase", the feeling of being "lucky", of having "The Golden Touch" ... is it?

HELLOKITTY-COINBANK-06
[Hello Kitty Coin-Bank multiples that defy the "golden touch" by replicating themselves]

GAMBLE OR LUCK? WHOSE GOT THE GOLDEN TOUCH?


Don't know what exactly it is in the box you're buying, and still you're plonking down coin to "try your luck"? Who shall the finger point to. Frankly, I point to myself freely, and I, along with every other collector who bitch about it, perhaps did not get what they had hoped for, or wanted in the first place, innit?

The perpensity to "try your luck" appeals to the curiousity of human nature. And while the economy is down, would people what to "try their lucky" in getting a blind box? In some ways of "turning their luck around"?

And especially in this day and age - Who wants to purchase uncertainty? And who can afford it? And if you could, why a need to convince yourselves otherwise?

SUPA_KITCH_DUNNY_01
[Supakitsch-Dunny bought from an opened-box at regular price / How much is the chase worth to YOU?]

GRADUATION / EVOLUTION


BACK to Trading cards:
I graduated from single pack trading cards, to boxes (but never cartons!). And I have had my share of joy of completing collections, and making a decent amount off online auctions, to feed off the hobby - but it came a time when the market was glutted with trading cards. Then whatever economic reasons became moot, and by then i had forgotten why it was when i started trading cards.

Are blind boxed toys going the same route?

IS THE FUTURE BLIND(ED)?


Blind Boxes will no doubt remain in the near future - at the very least for mini figures. It would be a matter of time where procuring your lucky with a blind-box - would be less important than what's inside of them. And the concept of "Blind Boxes" will not doubt - and already has - upsized into different scales, more recently in 3A Toys' 1/6th-scaled robots and action figures. The orange-clad "Tomorrow King" shown here is the "Regular" version, while the all-white "BLANCO" is a chase-variant randomly inserted into single figure-boxes - of which only 22 pieces were produced! How's that for a "blind-box-chase"?

BLANCO-02

Some may ask: "Why should Blind-Boxes Even Exist?"

DIP-IN-THE-POOL / SWIMMING IN TOY-CULTURE


Blind boxes are the one way to initiate a new collector into the market. No one is going to plonk down US$50 for dip in the toy-culture pool, when a US$10 blind box would do. And im not talking about those who can afford it. I personally feel that blind boxes affords the collector, both newbie and long-timer, an economically viable chance to have and to hold a single toy, regardless of "size".

In many ways, blind boxes (and certainly their equivalent in the East, Gashapon / capsule toys) are an entry point for folks who considering dipping their foot into the addictive (ignorance is bliss) world of collecting toys - in this instance, specifically vinyl toys.

It is a low(er) cost effective way of owning a piece of plastic without bursting the bank (an eventuality no one sees muahahahaha) and "upsizing" to larger proportions, and therefore "costs".

Although the irony for Gashapons are that they literally suck the $$$ out of collectors, becoz the "score" is as much quickened by the instantaneous transaction between the machine and buyer (sans Cashier at counter). And somehow, less likely to be "judged" - which opens up a free-for-all insertion of coins and blissful click-turning, innit? heh.

GASHAPON-SG-2006
[Gashapon machines in Singapore / taken circa 2006 / MORE]

SIZE MATTERS. AFFORDABILITY MATTERS EVEN MORE


I may blog and obsess to infinity about toys, but it doesn't mean I can afford anything and everything my greedy toy-lurvin' heart desires.

As blessed as I had been in the past to procure the vinyls that I want, in recent years and economic climate, blind boxes are all that I can afford, really. To be able to still hold on to the past, the feeling of owning a toy that you bought, good or bad design, something you want or not.

I want 8 inch Dunnys. I actually (and weirdly) find the shape and form of a Dunny, comfortable to the touch, to be held in my hands (I am a tactile-sensory person). I have one single one from 2006 when it was given as a gift from my sister. but I have not been able to afford an 8 incher. and the best and closest I can get to, are blind-boxed Dunnys. Which is a pretty sharp difference, granted - but somehow the naivety "works" - at the very least to "pacify" my desires.

domadunny02
[DOMA Dunny voted by TRE for Top 6 Vinyls of 2006 - but for "sentimental" reasons :p]

It's a compromise, as are most things in life are. Things you WANT versus things you NEED, versus what you can HAVE.

In crunch time, when you have a US$8 blind box in one hand, and a US$60 window-box-displayed larger vinyl figure in the other, which one can you afford? If indeed you'd like to walk away with a little (or big) treat for yourselves? I know I'd end up with a blind boxed toy, because - for me, when the addiction hits, I'd rather have something, than nothing at all. But as anything, the decision is up to me. (Then I go home and blog about what I want but cannot afford LOL).

In reality, Logical Economics may tell "us" that buying a toy, is a "luxury", as compared to say, putting food on the table - "survival" is a bitch (and to many, staking out online auctions as well ;p). As would any other "hobby", I suspect. And if blind boxes be the Devil's temptation, then well, we would have to decide individually what decisions we should make.


devilshoez

Alternatively - Save up and wait for the big prize? Toys of every shape size and color of the spectrum come out each and every week, will "we" be able to save enough, in time to score the mother-lode before it gets sold out? I think I need not go into the existence of secondary online markets, yeh?

"TOYSREVIL" is thus named, in some ways because of that. heh.

Although having a local retailer who sells their blind boxes opened (no re-sealing or any other such nonsense) negates any further form of apprehension - hey, the "playing field", or rather "buying field" is wide open, in this instance. heh.

*BLIND-BOXES ARE A MARKETING STRATEGY AT THE EXPENSE OF THE CONSUMER


[*The above was a question posed by Jeremy for the article]

Of course it is! There should be no doubt about that, but perhaps it isn't as insidious as folks think it to be, because at the end, it is still first and foremost, a BUSINESS. And not something manufactured to cause the downfall of collector-dom. Anybody thinking otherwise, or claim otherwise may not be sharing the whole truth.

A "culture" isn't built on passion alone, as commerce plays a hand, most times heavy.

And business, naturally translates to "Job" and "Survival". For every mass toy-manufacturer products that toy-snobs may sneer at whilst perusing down the air-conditioned aisles, there are boutique toy-makers that are struggling to stay alive and active in the community, and trying to make their mark in the toy and pop culture we so easily live and wallow in.

And let's face it folks (barring a few select brand-juggernauts), "Designer Art Toys" (inclusive of urban vinyls, plush - anything that requires a production-line set-up to be made) aren't exactly the mass sellers that everyone hopes or think it to be, IMHO. How much profit and a mark-up can a less than 1000-piece toy can make? I don't have a single statistic to back this up, but for a simple (and naive) question: Are fast food / kiddie meal-toys out-selling designer toys?

I'm not talking "quality", folks. I'm talking about being "out-bulked". And you wonder why folks still think of "toys", as well, "toys".

And if "Blind Boxes" factor into the profit margin - are they to be vivified? Are they really the industry's biggest "scam"? Who am I to say, when I've only been on the side of the "buyer", and not the "seller" (or "manufacturer").

A GOOD VINYL-EDUCATION & THE COLLECTOR'S PERSONAL-EVOLUTION


I believe in a good "Vinyl Education" (blanket-term for all designer art toys, for me). You start off school with the basic ABCs, then progress to Maths (urgh) and eventually Quantum Mechanics, so on, so forth. So it's feasible to begin with say, a BE@RBRICK, or a Dunny, then work your way up. Then collectors grow in numbers, manufacturers increase their output to satisfy demand, and a semblance of a "toy culture" grows, IMHO. Good or bad, at least there has to be "growth".

I have heard folks talk about starting collecting toys, becoz some bloke mentions that the secondary market for a toy would be good. Then next thing you know, there are speculators instead of collectors, then demand feeds production, and next thing you know, the market is glutted once again. And flippers will continue to exist, becoz it is simply profitable, innit?

But in time, folks would begin to pick and choose their addictions, and based on their own opinions, brought on by "vinyl education" (or in essence, "How To Collect Toys").

The collectors (both old-timers and newly minted) and even retailers (that I know of personally) may deride the existence of blind boxes, as perhaps cheating money out of collectors' pockets, but in the end game, no one is forcing anyone - outright - to buy them.

SIMPLE RULE: Fugly toys? Bad production standards? Do. Not. Buy. Simple.

Can the same be said for "blind boxed toys"? How would you know for fact, until you've opened the box yourselves? Or maybe it is the "education" and research needed, that toy hobby forum-boards and toy-blogs (like TRE *cough*) exist as informational nexus, for getting your feets wet in the toy-pool, IMHO.

TOYSREVIL-CONCLUSION


Is there even an end to this debate? Will there be one? And need there be one? The (continued) survival of both the manufacturer and the collector - depend on "personal choice", IMHO.

"Blind-Box" does not mean you have to "Buy Blindly". There is always a choice, with different avenues of procurement at your finger-tips, and perhaps even at the expense of your patience. And I myself admit that there (still) is a sense of "adventure" and excitement in picking out boxes, and opening them up subsequently - be it the disappointment of a toy you didn't want (or like), or the sense of fist-pumping victory of that toy you were hoping for - is and will be a part of the "Toy Experience" - for both long-timers and newbies alike, IMHO.

At the end of the day - imagine a culture without blind boxes, where everything sold and are made available on the shelves - are as you see it. How mundane would that be (eventually)?

If Forrest Gump bought blind-boxes (instead of eating chocolates) - what do you think he would say? :)

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