Rise of Vinyl Toys: A Guide for Unique Art Collectors
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 10 min read


  1. What are vinyl toys?
  2. History of vinyl toys
  3. Why collect vinyl toys?
  4. How to start your vinyl toy collection
  5. Top vinyl toy brands
  6. How to maintain and care for vinyl toys
  7. Where to buy vinyl toys
  8. How to spot fake vinyl toys
  9. How to value your vinyl toy collection
  10. Future of vinyl toy collecting

Are you always on the hunt for unique, eye-catching art pieces? Welcome to the fascinating world of vinyl toys. These aren't your typical run-of-the-mill playthings. Vinyl toys are pieces of art that reflect creativity, imagination, and a culture that's been growing steadily over the years. They're more than mere toys - they're collectibles, conversation starters, and for some, a passion. In this guide, we'll explore what vinyl toys are, their history, and why they're worth collecting. We'll also delve into how you can start your own collection, top brands to look out for, and how to maintain and care for your vinyl toys. Ready to dive into this captivating journey? Let's go!

What are vinyl toys?

When we talk about vinyl toys, we're not referring to the average action figures you might find in a kids' toy aisle. Vinyl toys are small, usually colorful, sculptures made from—you guessed it—vinyl. They're also called designer toys, urban vinyl, or art toys. Here's why:

  • Vinyl: Most vinyl toys are made of soft vinyl. The material is perfect for molding into a variety of shapes and designs. It's also durable, which makes it great for displaying.
  • Designer: These toys are often created by artists or designers, rather than major toy companies. The designs can range from cute and whimsical to edgy and abstract. The creativity behind each piece is what makes vinyl toys unique.
  • Art: Vinyl toys are a form of contemporary art. They're often used to make a statement or express an idea. Some artists use vinyl toys to bring their 2D artwork to life.

So, if you're looking for a unique way to express your personal style, or if you're an art lover who wants to add a modern touch to your collection, vinyl toys might be just the thing for you. They're not just toys—they're art pieces that can spark conversation and reflect your personality.

History of vinyl toys

Now that we've defined what vinyl toys are, let's take a trip back in time to explore their roots. While the trend of collecting vinyl toys might seem fairly new, the history of these fascinating art pieces dates back to the mid-20th century.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Japanese toy companies started manufacturing soft vinyl toys, also known as "sofubi". These were mainly inexpensive figurines of popular characters from movies and TV shows. But the love for vinyl toys reached new heights in the 1990s and early 2000s, thanks to artists like Michael Lau and Eric So from Hong Kong, and Paul Budnitz and Tristan Eaton from the United States.

  • Michael Lau: Often called the "godfather of vinyl toys," Lau started creating figures based on Hong Kong street culture. His exhibition in 1999, titled "Gardener," was a game-changer, introducing the world to the potential of vinyl toys as a form of artistic expression.
  • Eric So: Known for his unique style combining eastern and western pop culture, So's vinyl toys are iconic in the toy art industry.
  • Paul Budnitz: The founder of Kidrobot, a premier creator and retailer of limited edition art toys, apparel, and accessories. Budnitz's contribution to the vinyl toy industry has been immense.
  • Tristan Eaton: Co-founder of Kidrobot, Eaton has created some of the most iconic vinyl toys, including the famous Dunny and Munny figures.

From then on, vinyl toys have evolved into a global phenomenon, with artists and collectors from all over the world appreciating and contributing to this unique art form. So, as you can see, collecting vinyl toys isn't merely a hobby—it's a way to own a piece of modern art history.

Why collect vinyl toys?

You may be wondering, "Why would someone collect vinyl toys?" It's a fair question. After all, aren't toys meant for kids? Well, that's where you'd be surprised. Vinyl toys are much more than simple playthings. They're pieces of art, rich in creativity and culture. Let's explore why they've become such coveted items for collectors.

  • Artistic appreciation: Each vinyl toy is a unique piece of art. Its design reflects the personal style and creativity of the artist who created it. So, when you collect vinyl toys, you're not just amassing objects, you're gathering a gallery of contemporary art!
  • Cultural representation: Many vinyl toys embody elements of popular culture, from movies and music to fashion and street art. As a collector, these toys give you a fun, tangible way to connect with the cultures you love.
  • Investment: Believe it or not, some vinyl toys can be a sound financial investment. Limited-edition releases and rare toys can increase in value over time, especially if they're well-maintained.
  • Community: Collecting vinyl toys can introduce you to a vibrant community of fellow collectors and enthusiasts. You'll have the chance to share your passion, exchange ideas, and even trade toys with individuals who share your interest.

So, are you ready to jump into the world of vinyl toys? It's not just about having a shelf full of cool toys (although that's a pretty great perk, if you ask me). It's about embracing a form of modern art, connecting with diverse cultures, and becoming part of a thriving community. Plus, who knows? You might even nab a toy today that'll be worth a small fortune in the future!

How to start your vinyl toy collection

Alright, you've decided you'd like to explore the world of vinyl toys. But where do you begin? Starting a new collection can seem daunting, but don't worry. Here are some steps to get you started on your vinyl toy collecting journey:

  1. Determine your interest: What draws you to vinyl toys? Is it the artistry, a specific artist, a franchise, or the thrill of owning something unique? Identifying your interests will guide your collecting journey.
  2. Set a budget: As with any passion, it's easy to get carried away. Before you start, set a budget for your vinyl toys collection. This not only keeps your finances in check but also adds an element of challenge to the hunt.
  3. Research, research, research: Knowledge is power in the world of collecting. Learn about different artists, brands, and releases. Familiarize yourself with what makes a vinyl toy valuable, and stay up-to-date with upcoming releases. This will help you make informed decisions and spot great deals.
  4. Buy your first toy: Now comes the fun part! Purchase your first vinyl toy. Remember, your first toy doesn't have to be expensive or rare. It should be something you love and are excited to own.
  5. Display and care: Once you have your toy, display it proudly! But also remember to take care of it. Proper maintenance can help preserve its value and keep it looking great.

Starting a vinyl toy collection is an exciting adventure into the world of art and pop culture. Remember, the most important rule of collecting is to enjoy the process. After all, these toys are meant to bring joy. So have fun, and happy collecting!

Top vinyl toy brands

Just like car enthusiasts have their favorite brands, so do vinyl toy collectors. And in the ever-growing world of vinyl toys, a few names stand out. These brands have earned their stripes through consistent quality, unique designs, and a strong connection with their fan bases. Here's a rundown of some top brands you should know:

  1. Funko: Known for their Pop! Vinyl series, Funko is a brand that has quickly become a household name. With a vast range of pop culture figures, Funko is a great place to start for new collectors.
  2. Kidrobot: If your taste leans more towards the artistic, Kidrobot might be your brand. They collaborate with world-renowned artists to create unique and limited edition pieces. Their Munny and Dunny series are particularly well-loved.
  3. Bearbrick: A sub-brand of the Japanese company Medicom, Bearbrick toys have a distinct bear-shaped design and often feature collaborations with popular artists and brands.
  4. Superplastic: A newcomer to the scene, Superplastic has made waves with their Janky and Guggimon series. Their focus on artist collaborations and limited editions has made them a hit with collectors.

These brands represent just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to vinyl toys. There are countless other companies, artists, and independent creators making amazing vinyl toys. So don't limit yourself—explore and discover the endless possibilities in vinyl toy collecting!

How to maintain and care for vinyl toys

Now that you've got your hands on some sought-after vinyl toys, you want to make sure they stay in top condition. Here are some tips to help you keep your vinyl toys looking their best:

  1. Handling: Always handle your vinyl toys with clean, dry hands. This helps prevent the transfer of oils and dirt that could harm the toy's surface.
  2. Cleaning: If your vinyl toy gets dirty, a soft cloth and lukewarm water should do the trick. Stay away from harsh cleaning products—these could damage the paint or material of your toy.
  3. Storage: Store your vinyl toys in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. Excessive heat, moisture, and sunlight can cause discoloration and other damage.
  4. Display: If displaying your toys, consider using a display case or shelf. This can protect them from dust, accidental knocks, and overly curious pets.

Remember, vinyl toys aren't just toys—they're pieces of art. Treat them with the same care you would a valuable painting or sculpture. With the right care, your vinyl toys can remain in great condition, ready to be enjoyed for many years to come.

Where to buy vinyl toys

Ready to add some vinyl toys to your collection? You're probably wondering where to start. Well, you're in luck. There are numerous outlets to find the perfect vinyl toy for your collection:

  1. Online Marketplaces: Websites like eBay and Amazon are good places to start. They offer a wide variety of vinyl toys from various brands and artists. But remember, always check the seller's reviews and ratings before making a purchase.
  2. Brand Websites: Many vinyl toy brands have their own websites where they sell their products directly. Kidrobot and Funko are two examples of popular vinyl toy brands with online stores.
  3. Designer Toy Stores: These specialty stores usually carry a curated selection of vinyl toys from a variety of artists and brands. MyPlasticHeart and Rotofugi are well-known stores that also have online shops.
  4. Toy Fairs and Conventions: Events like the Designer Con in California, or the International Tokyo Toy Show, are fantastic places to find rare and exclusive vinyl toys. Plus, these events offer the added bonus of mingling with other vinyl toy enthusiasts.

When shopping for vinyl toys, be patient and stay vigilant. Some figures sell out quickly and others may be tough to find. But finding that perfect addition to your collection makes all the effort worthwhile!

How to spot fake vinyl toys

As your vinyl toy collection grows, you'll want to ensure every piece you add is genuine. Unfortunately, the market isn't immune to counterfeits. But don't fret! Here are a few tips to help you spot a fake vinyl toy:

  1. Pricing: Does the price seem too good to be true? It probably is. Genuine vinyl toys, especially limited editions or rare pieces, are usually priced accordingly. An unusually low price is often a red flag.
  2. Quality of Material: Authentic vinyl toys have a certain feel to them. They're smooth and solid, with a consistent color. Counterfeit vinyl toys might feel lighter, have a rough texture or show inconsistent coloring.
  3. Details: Pay close attention to the details. Authentic vinyl toys have well-crafted and accurate details. On the other hand, counterfeit toys often lack precision in their details, with smudged paint or misaligned parts.
  4. Packaging: Original vinyl toys usually come in well-designed and sturdy packaging with the brand name clearly displayed. Counterfeit toys often come in low-quality packaging or even without any packaging at all.

Remember, while it's exciting to add a new piece to your collection, it's always wise to do your research before buying. By being aware and cautious, you can keep your collection 100% genuine and enjoy your vinyl toys to the fullest!

How to value your vinyl toy collection

Valuing a vinyl toy collection isn't as tricky as you might think. It's a blend of art, science, and a dash of detective work. Here's how you can put a price tag on your precious collection:

  1. Check the Market: Just like real estate, the value of vinyl toys is largely determined by the market. Check online marketplaces, collector forums, and auction sites to see what similar toys are selling for. Remember, the value of a toy is ultimately what someone is willing to pay for it.
  2. Consider Rarity: The harder a vinyl toy is to find, the more valuable it usually is. Limited editions, first runs, and discontinued models often fetch higher prices. If you own any of these, you're sitting on a gold mine!
  3. Condition Matters: A vinyl toy in mint condition is worth more than one that's been well-loved. Keep your toys in the best possible condition to retain their value. Never underestimate the power of a good clean!
  4. Original Packaging: If you've got the original packaging, bonus points for you! Collectors pay top dollar for toys that come in their original boxes, especially if they're in good condition.

Putting a value on your vinyl toys can be an exciting process. It's like a treasure hunt, where you might uncover a rare gem that's been hiding in your collection. So, roll up your sleeves and start valuing your toys—it's time to find out what your collection is really worth!

Future of vinyl toy collecting

The future of vinyl toy collecting looks bright and exciting. In fact, vinyl toys are becoming more popular every day. Why? Well, they're not just toys: they're art, they're culture, and they're a way for people to express their individuality. But let's not get too philosophical—let's look at what the future might hold:

  1. More Artists: Artists from all over the world are getting into the vinyl toy game. This means we'll be seeing more unique, creative, and downright cool designs. So, if you thought vinyl toys were interesting now, just wait and see what's coming.
  2. New Materials: Vinyl is great, but who knows what materials we'll see in the future? Maybe toys made from recycled materials, or toys that change color with heat. The possibilities are endless!
  3. Technology Integration: Imagine vinyl toys with built-in AI, or toys that can interact with your smartphone. It might sound like science fiction, but it could become a reality sooner than you think.
  4. Increased Value: As more people start collecting vinyl toys, their value is likely to go up. So, if you've been thinking about starting a collection, now is a great time to get started!

The future of vinyl toy collecting is a journey that's just beginning. It's an exciting time to be a collector, with new developments and trends just around the corner. So, what are you waiting for? Dive into the world of vinyl toys and start your collection today. Who knows, you might even find a toy that becomes the next big thing!

If you're excited about the rise of vinyl toys and want to create your own unique collectibles, check out the workshop 'Sculpt 3D Objects in VR!' by Tabitha Swanson. This workshop will teach you how to design and sculpt your own vinyl toys using virtual reality, giving you the skills to create truly one-of-a-kind art pieces for your collection.