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Craze-turned collectibles: 5 trends from the past that resurfaced as valuable collectibles

The infectiousness of the act of collecting means that it can take root anywhere. This week we look at 5 trends from the past that prove that impressive collections can stem from all sorts of passions. 

1) Pokémon cards 

Charizard premium collection

Pokémon Trading Card Game launched in Japan in 1996, and its success propelled its release in the United States in 1999. Illustrated with vibrant, eye-catching artwork featuring all of the most popular Pokémon characters, the cards were collectible and tradable, allowing players to build unique decks and battle against each other. In addition to standard trading cards, there were also rare "promo" cards that could only be obtained by attending events-or with special promotions. The cards’ popularity was boosted by tournaments held both locally and nationally, as well as by the release and success of the Pokémon anime, which aired in 1998. Today, original cards from the late 1990s and early 2000s, once commonly owned by children, have become rare and are considered highly valuable. In November 2020, a copy of the Wonder Platinum trophy card, one of only 36 to exist, sold for over $25,000 (approximately £20,857) at auction.


2) Tamagotchis  

Tamagotchi released in 2004

Another famous Japanese invention, Tamagotchis, were introduced in the same year as Pokémon cards and quickly became a worldwide phenomenon. These small, egg-shaped devices carried virtual pets and required players to care for them and attend to their various needs. With a wide range of designs and colours, Tamagotchis quickly gained favour with collectors of all ages. The demand for Tamagotchis was so high that they were often sold out in stores, leading to a thriving market for secondhand and rare versions of the devices. While different types of Tamagotchis fetch different prices, they have increased in value by about $42 since 1997, when they were officially released for only $18. Today, vintage Tamagotchis from the 1990s represent the early gaming era, and make for valuable collectibles. 


3) Vinyls 

Famous vinyl record

Vinyl records started gaining popularity as a collectible in the early 2000s, after a period of decline in the 1990s when CDs had become the dominant music format. Vinyls are popular nostalgic collectibles among people who grew up listening to their favourite music on records in the 1970s and 1980s. Another factor contributing to the popularity of vinyls is the perceived superiority of the sound quality of vinyl; many enjoy that vinyl records are said to produce a warmer, more natural sound than CDs and other formats. Additionally, the recent use of turntables in the music industry has influenced and created a substantial market for vinyls with the younger generation. The celebration of vinyl culture through events such as Record Store Day also helps bring together collectors, fans, and musicians, pushing the value of vinyl records as collectibles. A rare 80s record of the American band Nirvana’s famous tracks ‘Love Buzz’ and ‘Big Cheese’ sold for £2600 at auction last year. 


4) Beanie babies 

Princess Diana Beanie Baby

Plushies have been around since the early 20th century, but they gained popularity as collectibles in the 1990s with the rise of Japanese "kawaii" culture, which emphasises a childlike aesthetic. This led to the creation of a wide range of collectible plushies, from brands like Beanie Babies and Hello Kitty to characters from popular franchises like Pokémon and Disney. Beanie Babies, introduced in the 1990s by Ty Inc., came in various animal shapes and colours. As the types of characters and designs expanded, so did the market for these plushies, with collectors looking to get their hands on unique pieces. Some limited edition and rare Beanie Babies are popular auction pieces even today; a Princess Diana bear sold for £20,482 in October 2020.


5) Marbles

Valuable swirl marbles

While marbles slowly lost their status as some of the most popular children’s toys over time, their value has increased over the years.  Specific features such as size, colour, manufacturer, rarity and condition of old marbles can motivate significant sale prices for them at auction. For example, a single handmade Christensen Agate swirl marble sold for $27,730 (roughly £23,135 at current exchange rates) at auction in 2011. Another highly sought-after example is the Akro Agate ‘Popeye’ marble; as the only corkscrew marble to be mass-produced, it often attracts significant interest and can sell for hundreds of pounds. 


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