Why Leaving Collectibles In Their Original Packaging Matters

by Ted Mininni, president and creative director, Design Force Inc.

If you’ve ever had a collectible appraised, or watched the process on TV shows such as Antiques Roadshow, you know that every item has a greater value if it’s still in its original packaging. And you also know that the condition of the packaging matters as much as the condition of the collectible. The greatest value occurs when a collectible remains in its package, especially in the case of a toy.

It’s hard to know which of the collectibles will accrue the most value over time. Rarity plays a big part in that, but so does condition. Given that, collectors often like to purchase two of their favorite limited-edition action figures. That way, one can be kept in its package for display purposes and to maintain maximum value, and the second one can be played with.

Why Does the Box Matter?

Well-conceived package design matters. You can scan retail shelves and find your favorite brand by looking for package color, structure, imagery, and logo. And if you’re not sure which brand to purchase, you usually make a choice solely based on the appeal of its packaging. Because packaging sells product and adds value to brands.

Since collectibles command premium prices, the packaging that is designed for them reflects the item’s desirability. If you compare the packaging of items that are limited-edition collectibles versus that of the mass-produced items for that brand, you’ll see the difference very quickly.

If you’re shopping for a Barbie doll for your kid, for example, you can easily pick her out from among a sea of dolls in a store because of Mattel’s distinctive packaging for its classic fashion maven. The signature logo in its famous custom script likely attracts your eye first. Character artwork depicting Barbie and her friends confirm that this is the doll you’re looking for. When you get close to the shelf, you can see most of the doll thanks to a die-cut window. Background art behind Barbie tells you that she’s an empowered career woman or that she’s a pop cult fashion diva.

But you’ll also note that limited-edition collectible Barbie dolls are packaged differently than the basic dolls. High-end packaging stands out from everything around it. Matte finishes, special inks, and limited text on this packaging subliminally tell you that there is a collectible item inside. Unique package structure and high end design allows collectibles to be showcased and displayed in a striking manner.

Pop culture meets haute couture in Mattel’s Barbie and Ken Moschino Gift Set. Boldly colored, urban-inspired street art meets high fashion in an inspired look from Moschino creative director, Jeremy Scott. The dolls are wonderful, but the packaging steals the show. Minimalist, black matte packaging is punctuated by bold, multi-colored acrylic lettering that spells out Moschino, the brand known for its exuberant take on high fashion. The packaging opens to reveal Barbie and Ken on a silver stage within an acrylic case that gives us a 360º view of their spectacular outfits. The Barbie logo appears at center bottom of the acrylic cover. And the words “Barbie Collector Gold Label” are inscribed on the front of the silver staging. This packaging that is meant to be kept, displayed, and savored as much as the collectibles contained within it.

Pop Cult Keepsakes

Is there a more dominant licensed entertainment property in our culture than the Star Wars franchise? Very few. The impact of Star Wars continues to reverberate around the world. Here, too, we see stark differences between the packaging of basic Star Wars toys and high-end collectibles. Basic Star Wars action figures appear in blister carded packaging that hangs on peg walls in retail stores. Background artwork depicts the character in action, as you’d expect. Although this packaging is meant to be opened so that the action figures can be played with, these basic product lines are often kept intact and cherished as collectibles by avid Star Wars fans.

On the other hand, The Black Series Star Wars figures are clearly designed to be collector’s items. They are actually staged within boxed packaging against backdrops of striking artwork. A black matte finish on pack tells us that this is a premium product. Additional artwork of the character appears on the lower right-hand side of the package in shades of gray and black. Touches of red appear around each character and red is also used for the name of each on the lower left-hand side of the package.

In a Good Housekeeping magazine article titled “The 40 Most Valuable Toys from Your Childhood,” the point is made over and over again: Vintage collectibles fetch the most money when sold in mint, original packaging. For example, a Sotheby’s auction in 2015 brought its owner $25,000 for a rare 1978 Luke Skywalker Action Figure in its original packaging. An original Furby in an unopened box can fetch $900, while an original 1984 Transformers Optimus Prime figure in “pristine packaging” sells for $2,000.

Every aspect of package design plays a role in adding value, which, in turn, adds value to the product. So, please, don’t open that package.

Ted Mininni is president and creative director of Design Force, Inc., the leading package and licensing program design consultancy to the consumer product and entertainment industries. The consultancy constantly evolves in its research and design processes, updates its knowledge of the industries serviced as well as new technologies and methodologies to help to provide its clients with the expertise and the results that they’ve come to expect from Design Force.

Ted blogs about package and licensing program design on his web site. www.designforceinc.com. Follow Ted on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. You can also reach him at 856-810-2277 or tmininni@designforceinc.com.

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