If any of you have ever had a collectible appraised, or you’ve watched that process on TV shows like Antiques Roadshow, you know that there’s greater value if the item is in its original packaging. And you also know that the condition of the packaging matters as much as the condition of the collectible. Actually, the greatest value occurs when the collectible remains in the package, even in the case of a toy. I can attest to that since I’m in the business of designing packaging for toy brands and licensed entertainment properties.
It’s hard to know which of the collectibles people enjoy owning will accrue the most value over time. Rarity plays a big part in that, but so does condition, as I said before. Given that, collectors often like to purchase two of their favorite limited edition action figures, for example. In 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.
Package design that delivers the wow factor
Well-conceived package design is essential to the success of any consumer product brand. You know, as a consumer, that you scan retail shelves and find your favorite brand due to 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 regular retail items for that brand, you’ll see the difference very quickly.
If you’re shopping for a Barbie doll for your daughter, 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 is a stand-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, haute couture and art meet 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 is packaging that is meant to be kept, displayed and savored as much as the collectibles contained within it.
Packaging pop cult keepsakes
Are there more dominant licensed entertainment properties 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 collectibles. 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. The only verbal communication other than that: 40 Star Wars tells us at a glance that these special figures commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Star Wars franchise.
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; an original 1984 Transformers Optimus Prime figure in “pristine packaging” sells for $2,000 and so on.
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!