Toy Story : A Guide To Collectables

words and designs by tsaqif

Toys have made its way into the streetwear culture, proving that it is no longer just ‘an object for a child to play with.’ The intertwining of the two has introduced a whole new dimension to the hobby of toy collecting. We’ve got KAWS helming the designer end of things while the blokes at Medicom are creating new BE@RBRICK characters every other day. It’s hard to keep up with all the different toys out there and we can’t help but get lost in it all. So, we decided to come up with a guide to all the different toys out there. Let the games begin.

Art Toys 

Art Toys, also called designer toys are toys that have been created by artists and designers (thanks for pointing out the obvious). Toys such as BE@RBRICKs and KAWS Companions are classified as art toys. They usually come in very limited quantities and are highly sought after by art collectors and laymen alike. Art toys have fallen under the category of collectables as people understand the scarcity of these objects and are always on the lookout for the next release. It’s no longer just about owning a ‘piece of plastic that looks cool’ and more often than not, individuals who own art toys have don’t just stop at one.

One of the main reasons why this new category of toys has garnered a huge following can be attributed to the growing relationship between pop culture and art. For instance, BE@RBRICK designs are not limited to just the interpretations of renowned artists but have also included licensed cartoons such as SpongeBob Squarepants or  The Simpsons, just to name a few. Similarly, KAWS did his interpretation of Star Wars characters giving them his signature touch under his now-defunct OriginalFake label. The more recognised art toys ultimately draw attention to the category as a whole, raising the profile of the hobby. Art toys are treated like pieces of art and while it does not exactly fall under the category of toys due to its high prices and delicate nature, it stays in line with the child-like and playful nature closely associated with toys.

Action Figures

If you’re wondering how the term ‘action figures’ came about, it all stemmed from the television series ‘G.I. Joe’ – instead of calling them dolls, Hasbro decided to come up with a new term out of fear that boys of that era wouldn’t play with dolls. They simply wouldn’t exist as they do today if not for Hasbro’s influence through the creation of G.I. Joe in the 1960s.  Action figures are plastic characters created for children to reenact scenes from their favourite movies or television shows. While, there is no exact definition to action figures they do have distinctive features that set them apart from dolls. For the most part, action figures have a certain amount of posing ability, often referred to as ‘points of articulation’ according to the Spruce Crafts. These figures can be manipulated into different poses. Figurines, on the other hand, have no moving parts and are made for the sole purpose of ‘just being there’.

To the fervent collector, the condition of the action figures matters and with that being said, comes the terms ‘mint’ and ‘loose’. When an action figure is said to be in mint condition, the action figure is still in excellent condition, in its original packaging or more commonly known as ‘brand new in box’ (BNIB). Loose, however, refers to an action figure that has been taken out of their packages for display, playing, etc. The purpose is irrelevant but the moment the action figure leaves the original box setting, it is deemed to be ‘loose’. These conditions are taken into account and action figures are given a grade of between C1 and C10 with C1 being the worst and C10 being the perfect action figure. Minimates, the Marvel Universal and DC Universe Classics are just some of the few action figure lines that are highly recognised.


So what distinguishes dolls from action figures? Dolls do share some characteristics with action figures in terms of posing ability, however, the ability to accessorize the figure is the key distinguishing factor. The ability to strike poses is less important than having the capability to wear different outfits. There is an emphasis on realism as you can remove the clothing from dolls, only revealing its ‘skin’. Dolls usually come with accessories such as dresses, bags, weapons, etc. Dolls have come a long way since ‘Barbies’ and there is more variety in category than ever.


It has become socially acceptable for someone above the age of 4 to carry a cute fuzzy little soft toy around and a baby to own a cute fuzzy little soft toy. As the name suggests, plush or plush toys are toys stuffed with soft fabric. The word plushie comes from the word plush which means extravagant or luxurious.Takashi Murakami, who is well-known for his soft toy creations, is proving that ‘streetwear’ toys are not limited to just the realms of vinyl.

The demographics of toy collectors have expanded and changed over the years. It’s no longer just a thing nerds do and is an incredibly fun and rewarding hobby regardless of the coterie you belong to. If you’re just doing it for the flex or have an actual passion for the craftsmanship put into the figures, we can all agree that it can make you feel like a kid again. As Marvin Davis perfectly puts it, “As men get older, the toys get more expensive.” (although it may not be in the same context).