Nintendo knew what they were doing when they created amiibo—these little action figures are selling out everywhere. Nintendo reports that over 3.5 million amiibo have been sold, and the Gold Mario amiibo sold out in 15 minutes online. Demand is high, and defective and discontinued amiibo have sold on eBay for astronomical prices.
Any buzz about a high-demand toy brings to mind the hysteria that once surrounded Beanie Babies, which rarely command more than $25 these days, despite some people buying the toys to sell for their kids’ college funds. Will those who decide to invest in discontinued amiibo ultimately feel the same buyer’s remorse as those who spent a fortune on Beanie Babies? What, in other words, distinguishes the trash from the treasure, or, a flash in the pan from a true collectible?
What Makes a Collectible?
In order to determine whether discontinued amiibo will attain collectible status, it’s important to understand why certain things become collectibles and why others don’t. Comic books are a great example. Because they were largely produced for children, they’re cheaply made; this also means they’re easy to destroy by accident. Also, because they were cheap, they were relatively worthless. So, when they were first produced, many comic books ended up in the trash along with the day’s newspaper.
The paper used to make comic books also plays an important role here. Many of our most familiar comics were just getting started around World War II. When paper became scarce, parents donated their children’s comic books to the war effort. The comics were recycled, further increasing their future scarcity.
Fast forward forty or fifty years, and you have more and more people clamoring to revisit the original appearances of their favorite characters like Batman or Captain America— but the original comic books are suddenly very difficult to get your hands on. With so many copies lost to the trash or recycled for the war effort, the few comic books left in existence sell for huge prices—and attain collectible status—thanks to high demand and low numbers.
So, Why Aren’t Beanie Babies Worth Much?
The difference between comic books and Beanie Babies is that, for the latter, the exclusivity was contrived. Some Beanie Babies were on sale for only a day at a time or only in certain locations, meaning that collectors snapped a ton of them up to resell later.
Because they were marketed as collectibles, people bought them with the intention of keeping them as collectibles. Beanie Babies were often sealed in protective cases to keep them intact. While some of them were inevitably lost to time, children, and garbage cans, many are still in good condition. Granted, Beanie Babies are not as old now as comic books were when they first came into high demand. However, marketing these toys as collectibles has largely ruined any potential they have to achieve collectible status.
What About Amiibo?
Unfortunately, amiibo—from where we stand right now—appear to be more like Beanie Babies than comic books. They’re unlikely to be recycled for a war effort, they’re being marketed as collectibles, and people are buying them up in droves with the intention of reselling later.
If you want to make money off of discontinued amiibo, now is probably the best time to do it. Getting your hands on them while demand is hot and reselling them isn’t a bad way of making money—many of them are going for roughly double their purchase price on eBay. While we can’t say exactly what’s going to happen in the future, judging from the way they’re marketed and by the way people are purchasing them, they’re more likely to be cute toys and decorations than a source of substantial revenue.
Of course, plenty of people are collecting them just because they like them, and there’s no reason not to. But maybe don’t drop tons of money on discontinued amiibo now, on the off-chance they’ll dramatically appreciate in value. Enjoy them all you want, use them to improve your Smash game, or just set them on a shelf to look at—but don’t count on them to fund your college experience anytime soon.