Collector crazes and the internet

Internet collecting crazes are nothing new, in the 90s people began to compulsively buy Beanie Babies in anticipation of reselling them. In 1997, eBay had auctioned off 500 million dollars’ worth of the plush toys. Growing alongside the internet, this helped the craze spread even further. But at the end of the decade, people were becoming less interested in Beanie Babies in favor of other collecting items like Pokémon cards and Furby. These crazes died down a little, but recently came back in full force.

Like with more phenomenons discussed on this website, the Covid-19 pandemic gave a boost to multiple collector frenzies. The initial effects of lockdowns helped people rediscover their past hobbies or start a new one like collecting Pokémon cards. A report published by the website Sports Collectors Daily outlines data released by eBay on trading card sales for 2020, where it showed significant increases compared to the prior year. Sales of Pokemon cards jumped 578 per cent. Besides eBay, Youtube has also fuelled collector crazes in the last years, with popular youtubers and creators on other platforms giving more exposure to this phenomenon. Logan Paul comes to mind, as he bought a pokémon card for $150,000. The ‘one-of-a-kind’ items are only adding fuel to the fire when it comes to collector crazes, this can be a special Pokémon card or a special eddition of a Beanie Baby or Squishmallow.

The more recent hype are Squishmallows, beanbag-like stuffed animals that are selling out in stores across the United States. There are also special Squishmallows produced for specific holidays or franchises. People go ‘hunting’ for their favourite or exclusive Squishmallow. Videos about this are popular on Youtube and TikTok. In some cases, stores have set a limit on how many items a customer can buy. For Pokémon cards and Squishmallows alike, there are entire groups on Facebook or Reddit that track restocks of stores, show off personal collections or sell cards or toys between members of the group.

“Pokemon cards” by robertdebock is licensed under CC BY 2.0

There is also a lot of nostalgia mixed in. Rediscovering old Pokémon cards or Furbies brings back memories, which hopefully makes up for the fact that a lot of our old belongings are not going to be worth hundreds of dollars. Most original Furbys have very little value, says toy expert Mark Bellomo, author of “Toys & Prices” and several other books on toy collecting and valuation. Take my old furbies, they don’t have their boxes anymore and are not in the best condition, so one is worth around $40 and the other is worth around $60 on eBay. I’d rather keep them for nostalgia’s sake.

I have to admit that is very easy to fall into collector craze’s, due to the constant exposure on Youtube, Instagram or TikTok. I myself am especially vulnerable when it comes to cute stuffed animals like the Squishmallows or Furbies, I recently caved in and bought two Squishmallows. Watching videos about people hunting for special items has somewhat become a guilty pleasure for me. Have you participated in collecter crazes or do you like content surrounding it?