PEZ Outlaws, Beanie Babies, and the Need for Insurance

There’s a group of collectibles that deserves to be in its own category. And because the right name for it doesn’t exist yet, we came up with an acronym of our own. We’re calling this group the CCC — short for “collectible cash cows.”

You may already know a bit about these high-value collectibles that have become internet sensations. For one, there’s the Beanie Babies: Patti the Platypus sells at a whopping $6,000. That’s right! This pellet-stuffed critter costs more than designer Jewelry! Before they became fad collectibles, these children’s Toys retailed for five dollars each in the early 1990s. 

Let’s not stop there. There’s another collectibles fad worth mentioning — PEZ dispensers. Steve Glew, the self-proclaimed “PEZ Outlaw” from Michigan, made about $4 million by selling PEZ dispensers in the U.S. The story has become so famous that there’s even a Netflix documentary about Glew’s adventures. The most coveted PEZ dispenser is currently valued at $12,000-$15,000. That’s definitely a candy dispenser worth keeping and insuring. 

So, how do items like these become crazes and cash cows? Is there a way to predict what will become valuable? The collectors of this world may want to hold on to some of their nostalgic pop culture items (and definitely look into a good collectibles insurance policy) just in case. 

Read on to find out how collections become so popular and so pricey:

  1. Collectibles Become More Valuable Due to Scarcity 
    There’s no doubt that supply and demand can affect price — and in the case of scarcity, the price can change by a lot. Special-edition and limited-edition items have an element of scarcity built into them. Using Comic Books as an example, publishers release special editions that will no longer be produced after a specific date. This is how a certain Spider-Man comic can sell for over $33,000

    Scarcity also plays a role when it comes to generational items — items manufactured during a given time period. Items produced during the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s are unlikely to be manufactured again because new trends take over each year. It’s the scarcity of available items that contributes to making these products more valuable as collectibles.

    Now, imagine what would happen if those items became damaged, such as in the case of a water leak in a garage, attic, or self-storage unit. That collectible value of a damaged item, and the owner’s financial investment, would go down the drain without the protection of a specialized collectibles insurance policy. Insurance coverage designed for collectibles provides coverage for the appraised value of the damaged or lost items. Typical homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policies provide replacement cost coverage, which may not come close to the full collectible value.

  2. Collectibles Become Fad Collections
    Beanie Babies didn’t start out as a hot collectible. So, what led to their popularity? The manufacturer’s decision to “retire” designs on a rotating basis, may have been the spark to light the fuse, but artificial scarcity alone can’t explain the explosive Beanie Babies Boom that followed. From treasure hunts to find specific models to camping out overnight outside of toy stores and more, consumers went to extremes to build their collections. 

    We have to admit, there’s a certain thrill that comes with chasing after that special edition, securing it, and adding it to a growing collection. The documentary Beanie Mania provides a look into the worldwide frenzy Beanie Babies caused in the 1990s. These stuffed toys made headline news as they broke sales records. It’s even widely accepted that the very first e-commerce store was launched by the manufacturer. Before the era of social media, enthusiasts participated in online forums to talk about prices, discuss special editions, share poems, and anything else that had to do with Beanie Babies.

    Collectibles represent more than simple financial transactions. Over time, fad collections start to gain their own lore. Imagine today’s parents and grandparents telling children stories such as, “Back in the day, I waited eight hours in line for a Beanie Baby.” Fad collections come with stories, and that’s part of the entertainment

  3. Collectibles Trigger Nostalgia
    When it comes to childhood toys (whether they’re plush Dolls, Action Figures, or board games), we’re all susceptible to those waves of nostalgia. Collectibles that produce sweet memories of childhood can entice people into collecting toys and other memorabilia.

    PEZ, one of the most iconic collectibles in the world, is considered a pop culture phenomenon because of the nostalgia that is attached to those cleverly designed candy dispensers. The brand is so rooted in the American history of business and culture that there is even a museum dedicated to PEZ.

    Tin lunch boxes are definitely a nostalgic collectible since most modern lunch boxes are made of canvas, plastic, or fabric. Add a superhero to the mix and you just found yourself a collectible. A mint-condition Superman lunch box made in 1953 sold for over $13,000. For that price, let’s hope it doesn’t smell like an old cheese sandwich!

    Who’s not a Disney fan nowadays? Most Disney classics are now available to stream online or watch on DVD. VHS copies in excellent condition are super rare, which may be why a VHS copy of Beauty and Beast sold for $9,000.

    The emotional attachment that certain collectibles can have is precisely the reason they become cult favorites for so many collectors and helps explain why they have such high price tags. These are the items that are worth protecting with a collectibles insurance policy. Because, c’mon! That lunchbox is now valued at $13K!

  4. Collectibles and the Perfect Storm 
    It’s not enough for a collectible to have just one of the aforementioned attributes in order to become a cultural phenomenon. It’s the combined effect of scarcity, entertainment, and nostalgia that transforms an item from a humble trinket to a collectible cash cow, aka the CCC.

Of course, some collections are worth more than others (remember that Beanie Baby with the $6,000 price tag?), and these are definitely the ones that can benefit from specialized insurance coverage.

Collectibles, especially high-value items, are susceptible to theft, loss, and damage – even something as mundane as humidity can cause damage that affects their value. A specialty insurance policy serves as the safety net that a collector needs. With a specialty collectibles insurance policy in place, collectors can display and enjoy their treasures with peace of mind. 

When it comes to insuring valuable collections, standard policies often fall short. MiniCo specializes in customized insurance solutions for fine art, unique collections, and other complex or niche collectible risks. Our Fine Art and Collectibles Insurance program offers an all-risk solution for insuring your collectibles or your clients’ valuable treasures. Need coverage for another unique risk? MiniCo’s exclusive programs have you covered. Contact us to learn more!

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