Collector's Corner: Controversial Toys
By Michele Alice
Many factors influence the value of a collectible - age, rarity, condition - but adverse publicity often has the most immediate impact. This is evidenced by the recent furor over two disparate items, the "Crazy for You" bear and "Roadkill" gummy candy.
Were you a purchaser or recipient of the 15-inch "Crazy for You" bear at its original issue price of $69.95? Marketed as a Valentine's Day gift, it is, unknown just how many of the straightjacketed bruins were sold by The Vermont Teddy Bear Company before vocal disapproval by mental health groups forced the company to curtail production. A spokesperson for Vermont Teddy Bear has stated that the figure will be disclosed "once the company issues its end-of-quarter statement" on March 31, 2005 (http://digbig.com/4ctwb), but general estimates indicate that the bear is quite limited. (The company sells over 100 different bears for a total of approximately 425,000 bears annually.)
Immediately upon selling out the initial production run on February 3, 2005, online auction prices for the bear soared to $500+. At the time this article is being written in early March, prices for the bear seem to have stabilized in the $150 to $400 range, depending on condition.
The other item that has generated a lot of controversy of late is "Kraft's Trolli Roadkill Gummi Candy," consisting of flattened snake, chicken, and squirrel-shaped pieces complete with tire treads. In response to comments by animal-protection societies that the candy encouraged cruelty to animals, Kraft ceased production on February 25, 2005. (This article is not concerned with debating the merits of the objections to this or any other mentioned product, but only with the effects of such controversies on the collectibles market.)
One enterprising individual gathered no moss by listing one lot of 2 bags on February 25, the day of Kraft's announcement, and was rewarded with $27.71 for his efforts. And I don't know what each 5oz. bag of Kraft's "Roadkill" candy originally sold for, but I'll bet it was nowhere near the $61 paid at an online auction February 27th for a case of 12 bags. Unlike the "Crazy for You" bear, however, bags of "Roadkill" candy have flooded online auction sites, and prices have generally dropped off to an average $1 to $3 per bag.
A brief glance at other products proves that only time will determine how the controversies surrounding the aforementioned items will affect their long-term desirability. Old toy guns in general remain in strong demand, as do racial and ethnic memorabilia of a derogatory nature, like the "Little Black Sambo" Little Golden Books. Mattel's 2002 PREGNANT(!) Happy Family Midge and Baby, on the other hand, has seen lackluster action, as has Tyco's 1992 "Mommy's Having a Baby." (I guess mainstream acceptance of the subject matter killed the controversy and, hence, their "collectibility".)
It is almost a certainty that somewhere out there is another product that is a public-relations disaster in the making.
Just keep your eyes on the news.
The Big Red Toybox/ToyNfo.com
Information on controversial dolls, from Ideal's 1976 "anatomically correct" Joey Stivic doll to McFarlane Toys' 1999 Austin Powers Talking Doll.
"Crazy for You" or just plain crazy?
By David Gram, Associated Press, February 17, 2005
"Crazy" Teddy Bear Won't Be Sold Anymore
By David Gram, Associated Press, February 3, 2005
Kraft Halts Production of Roadkill Candy
By Chris Newmarker, Associated Press, February 26, 2005
The Vermont Teddy Bear Company Information Sites:
Company announcement concerning controversial bear.
"Crazy for You" bear page
About the author:
Michele Alice is EcommerceBytes Update Contributing Editor. Michele is a freelance writer in the Berkshire mountains of Massachusetts. She collects books, science fiction memorabilia and more! Email her at makalice @ adelphia.net eBay ID: Malice9
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