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If Only I Kept the Box…

29 May 2016
toy car collection

I wonder how many people had toy cars as a kid and threw away the boxes? As 40 somethings they now palm slap their forehead, as they realise they somehow devalued their most precious of collections by chucking away the bit of cardboard.

I happened upon a forum not long ago, where collectors of sci-fi figures debated why they kept the box and why it increased the value of the collection. There really is nothing like the fury of debate from a forum, and not only a forum but a forum for people who harbour minor OCD issues. The passion and the fury that was vented on the poor soul who admitted that they couldn’t see the point behind the box – incredible.

So, here is a summary of the collectable communities’ justification of the obsession with packaging. Sit comfortably, this is complex psychology at work. Firstly, they claim, it is because it is easier to transport the collectable between houses when you move if you still have the box. OK, you say, actually quite practical really. But, no, this is not good enough to explain why the box can add value. Surely, any box and a bit of bubble wrap would be equally effective. Then, someone makes the equally sensible claim that when you buy collectables you want the impression that you are the only one that has ever owned it. You want it as close to perfect as it possibly can be. Again, perfectly sensible and added to this you can begin to see why people would pay more for the illusion of it being almost completely new.

However, then comes the mysterious explanation that is beyond reason: it is because it is a part of the collectable. It is another component, intrinsic to the wholeness of the item. One commentator asked the original writer to imagine being in the toy shop and seeing the line of boxed toys and feeling that sense of excitement and anticipation that comes from wanting to see inside… and this is where the complex psychology of the collector is revealed. They are all chasing that first moment as a child when they craved ownership of some rare collectable – similar, I suggest, to the desperation of wanting a sticker of John Barnes to complete your football sticker album.

So, even if we still wonder at the sheer waste of space when keeping the box, never underestimate the monetary value future buyers will place on purchasing the complete item.

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