11 July 2024

Think toys are just for kids? Think again. Social media is abuzz with a new trend: meticulously designed art toys that transcend age and plaything status, transforming into coveted collectibles.

Recognizing this burgeoning trend, Dataxet conducted social listening from April 29 to May 30. Their findings were staggering: a whopping 4,964 mentions of “art toys” within a month, generating over 2.2 million interactions.

Facebook emerged as the primary platform for this phenomenon, showcasing the widespread appeal of these unique collectibles.

Top Art Toys and the Allure of Design

These art toys are more than just eye candy; they are works of art. Each boasts a distinct design and narrative, reflecting the artist’s vision and creativity.

Labubu, a captivating elf with a mischievous grin, reigns supreme as the most popular art toy character, capturing over 50% of social media engagement.

Crybaby, a perpetually sad child designed by Thai artist Nisa Srikamdee, follows close behind at 30.4%.

International brands like Pop Mart are also making waves, with collaborations featuring singer Jackson Wang and the ever-popular SKULLPANDA character generating significant buzz. Limited edition characters add another layer of excitement for collectors, with some of the toys fetching hefty resale prices.

Pop Mart, a powerhouse company, has swiftly conquered the Thai market. Its success stems from diverse collaborations with artists, resulting in a vast array of styles that cater to various tastes.

The brand’s signature “blind box” sales strategy injects excitement and anticipation. The thrill of the unknown, not knowing which character you’ll get until purchase, triggers a dopamine rush, compelling customers to collect them all.

This ingenious marketing technique has propelled Pop Mart to the forefront of the art toy phenomenon.

Unveiling the Collector’s Passion

What drives people to delve into the world of art toys? The reasons are as diverse as the collectors themselves.

Belle Nuttida, a 23-year-old newly graduated collector, discovered art toys through short video clips on TikTok. “I watched the unboxing of blind boxes, and how people decorate their desks and rooms with art toys,” she says.

“That really piqued my interest.” Her collection boasts 11 art toys, with the tokidoki X Hello Kitty, obtained through a blind box purchase that revealed a special Chocolate figure signed by the creator, Simone, her most prized possession.

Methus Sathanapongwatcharee, a 29-year-old entrepreneur, was initially introduced to art toys by his girlfriend. “It all started with ‘Gachapon’ from toy vending machines before I learned about Pop Mart,” he explains.

His interest intensified when he discovered art toys featuring collaborations with his favorite characters, like Naruto and Marvel superheroes. “The excitement of unboxing the blind box is a big part of the charm for me,” he admits.

While he has 15 art toys, Methus doesn’t consider himself a hardcore collector. “I’ll buy one or two from a collection I like, but I won’t pay marked-up prices if they’re unavailable,” he clarifies.

Pookao Dao, a seasoned collector in her 50s, has a history of collecting various items like ceramic dolls, books, tableware, and handkerchiefs.

Her foray into art toys is more recent, focusing on mobile options like keychains for their portability.

“I don’t get too attached to them,” she says. “Sometimes, my niece or nephew will like them, and I’m happy to give them away.” She also tries to keep her individual collectible purchases under 10,000 baht.

Beyond Collectibles: A Booming Business

The popularity of art toys has transcended the realm of collecting, blossoming into lucrative business opportunities. Companies are leveraging the trend by incorporating popular characters into marketing campaigns to attract a wider audience and promote new products.

The Thai Red Cross Society’s recent “Pop Blood Giver Campaign” is a prime example, successfully merging philanthropy with the captivating allure of art toys.

Most recently, the Rama Foundation’s Ramathibodi x Crybaby Charity Collection, comprising coin purses and T-shirts, sold out shortly after the sales began on June 20, 2024.

Art Toys Help Artists Grow

The collaborations between creators, such as SKULLPANDA X Sailor Moon, and with businesses or charitable organizations, have further fueled the art toy market’s growth.

These collaborations attract a wider range of collectors across generations.

With social media abuzz and a dedicated collector base flourishing, the future of art toys in Thailand appears incredibly bright.

As artists and brands continue to push creative boundaries, this market is poised for sustained growth, blurring the lines between childhood nostalgia, artistic expression, and a savvy investment opportunity.

However, some caution is warranted, as any collectible market can be susceptible to bubbles and unscrupulous resellers.

By Veena Thoopkrajae