I grew up at the tail end of an age where most people bought toys with the intent of them being played with. As a small child, I had a neighborhood friend who would receive toys for his birthday or Christmas and never take them out of the packaging. His Star Wars and G.I. Joe figures remained on the blister cards. He carefully handled everything like a curator holding a rare artifact in a museum.
My friend was an anomaly and received ridicule from his parents and peers for not “using” his toys. His parents would threaten him and say they would not buy him more toys until he played with the ones he had. Despite their irritation, they continued to buy him toys and he continued to admire them within the confines of their packaging.
I harbored mixed feelings about my friend. On some level, I admired his self-control. Admittedly, it has always been bitter sweet whenever I took a toy out it’s packaging, or wore a brand new pair of sneakers. On another level, it irritated me that my friend would come over to my house and play with my toys while his stayed at home in pristine condition. I remember discussing with my parents how I wanted to own duplicates of my toys, so I could keep one of in the packaging and play with the other. They did not go for this idea at all and even considered it a sign of mental illness!
More than 20 years later, my childhood idea of owning two examples of a desired object is far from absurd. Popular television programs and the Internet have legitimized collecting and made it mainstream. All this exposure has given us permission to collect without the scrutiny of being pegged as a hoarder, or worse.
I cannot remember when I began to notice the overt efforts of companies to exploit the collector psyche, but now it seems that everywhere I go, I see packaging printed with “Limited Edition”, “Collector Series”, or “Numbered Edition of 2 million”. Everything from a fountain drink cup to a standing mixer has a limited edition series.
Limited edition is not synonymous with “rare” or even “collectible” most of the time. I like to joke that if people are buying all these limited edition items, and never removing the item from it’s packaging, then the real rarities are the collector series items that have actually been taken out of the packaging and handled!
I sincerely hope that demand doesn’t wane for all this collector series stuff people are buying off the shelves because when demand drops, the supply of “limited edition” items on the market will be unlimited.