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What are Art toys and how do newcomers choose, buy and care for them?

Before artists like KAWS and Michael Lau came along, KidRobot founder Paul Budnitz brought the Art toys collecting trend to the world at the turn of the millennium. At first, the Art toys collectibles market seemed difficult to navigate. The category encompassed a wide range of artwork, from 2-inch-tall dolls to functional household fixtures. But thanks to social media, the market for Art toys collectibles has become more transparent and the artists more visible and popular.

While artists such as KAWS sell for a lot of money, the wide range of sizes and editions means that there is something for every budget. Over the past five to ten years, Art toys have expanded from using plastic as their sole medium to include bronze, wood, or ceramics, and have exploded in popularity, penetrating the Contemporary art market, selling for millions of dollars at major auctions, and culminating in a surge of interest from collectors and casual enthusiasts alike.


How can new Art toys enthusiasts begin their collecting journey? We asked professionals in the art collecting field to discuss this topic. They offer advice on how to choose and where to buy, how to store and care for them, and which designers to look for in the near future.


01/ What are Art toys?

"A Designer Toy represents the creative style of an artist, and is often a derivative of that artist's artwork.

There is no standard definition of Art toys, but they have certain qualities, such as artistic sense, uniqueness, strong style, limited edition and so on. "Art toys represent the designer's personal thoughts, and they need to give people a feeling of surprise at first glance," says Max Fan, the director/painter of Dabomb Toys.

The themes of Art toys are also different from ordinary toys. "Some of the themes are inspired by popular culture such as hip-hop, graffiti, and Japanese manga. Early on, the creators were making them for fun and for the community, but in the middle of the process, they've become more of a fashion base, and even in recent years, they've moved into the art world," says Keith Fan, director of APPortfolio. Says Keith Wong, Director of APPortfolio. "Art toys generally have a strong style. It may come from an artist's painting, and a Designer Toy can represent that artist's creative style, and is often a derivative of that artist's art." Eddi, director of adFunture, adds.


"Some speculate that the Art toys market could be tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars in the future," he says.

Jason, who works in global trade and investment strategy, says: "It's different from ordinary toys in that it has the added value of art and luxury. It has gradually become popular from a niche audience, and there is speculation that the Art toys market could be tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars in the future," says Jason, who works in global trade and investment strategy. Joy Woo, director of IYOUTH STUDIO, agrees: "It's very close to art, and these toys, like all art, build a new universe.


02/ What do I need to know before collecting?

As the Art toys market grows and there are more and more choices, professionals in the field of collecting suggest that the first step is to start with your own preferences, learn more about the work of different artists/designers and discover your favourite artists and styles.

"It's also important to browse trendy websites, which provide comprehensive, fast and accurate information," he says.

"Follow an artist or designer IG or a few of your favourite galleries. It's also important to visit trend sites, which are comprehensive, fast and accurate," says Joy Woo. Joy Woo says.


"Most Art toys have a backstory that helps you understand the concept of the toy.

The second step is to do in-depth research from your favourite designers or styles, Max Fan suggests, "Learn more about the toy and the designer, most Art toys have a backstory that will help you understand the design concept of the toy. More importantly, find out if the toy or designer has any 'previous convictions', such as delaying the delivery date after receiving the deposit, or making the subsequent works insincere after making a wave of money," adds Sing. Sing adds, "Also find out what the designer is good at, what he or she has done, and whether he or she is still alive. Then find out about the company that produced it, what products they have produced before, etc. All of these will be the reason why you collect it," Sing added.

"Apart from ensuring the value and appreciation of the work, it is also a sign of respect to the producer and the creator".

The last thing you need to be aware of is the authenticity of the product, Keith Wong says, "If you are buying through the primary market, i.e. directly from the producer, you need to be aware of how to get the first hand information on the release of the product, as usually there is a specific date and time for the release, and you have to buy it through a rush, so you need to keep an eye on the release information from the producer. If you're buying second-hand, i.e. through a first-hand buyer, you need to go through a trustworthy and reliable channel to ensure the authenticity of the product. Authenticity not only ensures that the work retains its value and increases in value, but also shows respect for the producer and creator."


03/ How to choose and buy?

It's important for new collectors to be able to discern the characteristics of a piece and what it means to them when choosing Art toys from a variety of platforms. Joy Woo tells us, "I grew up interested in drawing and fashion so I chose Art toys in a broad way, but the most important factor was how they interacted with my life, how they could be a continuation of the aesthetics of the environment in which I grew up. The most important factor in choosing Art toys is their interaction with my life, and that they can be an aesthetic extension of the environment I grew up in.

"I will never consider designs that are too obviously 'homage' or intentionally rubbing off on IPs."

"I'm more interested in the uniqueness of the toy, so I won't consider any obvious 'homages' or designs that intentionally rub off on IP. Then there's the number of releases to look out for, everyone will want to collect a toy with a small number of copies," says Max Fan. Max Fan said.

In terms of purchasing, Eddi suggests, "It's best to buy from an official distributor, such as Babotoys, to avoid counterfeits. In terms of price, you should do what you can and research the market value of the piece. Prices in the market nowadays are a bit exaggerated, so be careful.

"Pay attention to shipping costs and taxes in different countries, as they can vary greatly and sometimes add up to more than the product itself."

As a collector, if you can afford it, you should consider the systematic and complete nature of your collection, which needs to be purchased and perfected through both the primary and secondary markets," suggested Keith Wong, "Apart from considering both primary and secondary channels, you should also pay attention to the shipping costs and taxes in different countries, as the differences can be very significant and sometimes add up to more than the product itself. In addition to the reputation of the second-hand channel, the condition of the work, such as whether there is any damage or fading, is a very important factor to consider. The closer the work is to its original colour and condition, the better it will be able to guarantee its value, so careful inspection before purchase is a must.



04/ Storage and Care Tips

Whether you buy Art toys for collection or investment, caring for them is also an important step, Art toys are made of PVC plastic, vinyl, wood, plush fabric, ceramic, polished stone, metal, etc. Depending on the material, professionals have different tips to take care of them. Depending on the material, professionals have different maintenance techniques.There is another article dedicated to how to care for art toys: Tips to Prolong the Life of Collectibles.

Avoiding light, dusting and dehumidifying are the most basic maintenance methods for Art toys made of plastic and vinyl, etc. Sing said, "Plastic and vinyl can't be exposed to sunlight for a long period of time, and I try to avoid scrubbing with a wet cloth. I will turn on the air conditioner regularly to keep the humidity away. Don't scrub them with a wet cloth, and use a soft brush to remove dust. In addition, for toys that touch the floor and table tops, I usually put a 3M mat on the table legs to reduce direct hard friction."


"For toys made of PVC powder like Twister or Sofubi, it's better to leave them in the cupboard, and if you're not using LEDs but ordinary spotlights, you should also keep an eye on the temperature inside the cupboard, as too high a temperature may deform the toys and fade the colours. Personally, I suggest not to clean the surface recklessly, but to put a layer of protective paint or varnish on it, so that it doesn't stick to your hands," Max Fan added. Max Fan added.

Keith Wong tells us, "Wood is also a very popular and expensive material in recent years, and its maintenance is even more complicated, especially in areas with extreme humidity, which can lead to cracks or mould, which can be gradually restored by replenishing humidity and removing mould.

For metal or plush fabric Art toys, Joy Woo's advice is: "Customise acrylic covers in different shapes or buy usm storage cabinets for storage, and try to avoid touching them with your hands, especially if they are made of metal, as they are prone to scratches. Velvet Art toys can be cleaned with a hairdryer if they get dusty."


05/ Which artists/designers to look out for?

Beginner Art toys collectors can explore potential artists/designers through galleries representing the artists, secondary market conditions, auctions, international exhibitions, media buzz, websites, (e.g.,, and more. Although collecting Art toys is a matter of personal preference, for newbies who do not have a specific direction yet, the artists/designers that professionals have shared their recent interest in may be a clearer guide.

Keith Wong: "There have been many successful examples of illustrators turning into artists recently, including Jemes Jean, and several new artists under Kaikaikiki Gallery, so you can pay attention to this area.

Joy Woo: "Art toys with secondary and sci-fi themes are the core of my collection for the next ten years. At present, MR and Javier Calleja are two artists that I have been following for a long time, and will be one of the main artists that I want to collect, but it is almost impossible for me to buy them if I am not a professional collector. Parallel European and American artists, Jerkface, Hebru and Kim Simonsson, are also artists that I pay special attention to. Compared to Japanese artists, these artists are not so hot in the Chinese circle, so it's relatively easy to get my hands on them".

Max Fan: "I'm fascinated by a Japanese painter called Blobpus, and inspired by him I've been learning to paint toys. His works belong to the old-school style of monster painting, which looks simple but extremely durable, and has a unique aesthetic system. He has a unique aesthetic system. Besides, the old man has recently become a food critic and his toy production has been greatly reduced, so he's going to retire if he doesn't get his hands on some.

Jason: "Prodip Leung, Plants of God's mastermind, bassist, illustrator, graphic designer and toy designer, is an interesting creative to me at the moment, especially in the not-so-common year of 2020, and it's fun to learn about tuberous plants, toys, space, and aliens through his lens and work, with Zack and Reiki Star as his most personal icons. Zack and Reiki Star are his most personal Design Toys."

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