Courtesy of Hake’s Auctions (Star Wars toy); VDWI Automotive/Alamy Stock Photo (car); iStock/Getty Images (money pile, money flying)


Which is Worth More?

The answer will take you into the fascinating world of toy collecting.

You’ve just torn the wrapping paper off a new toy. There it is—the Captain America action figure or L.O.L. Surprise doll you’ve been hoping for. But you may not want to open that package—ever.

In 40 years or so, your unopened toy might be worth a lot of money. That was the case with an Obi-Wan Kenobi action figure. It was made in 1978, shortly after the first Star Wars movie came out. Back then, that toy cost about $2.50.

But in November of last year, someone paid $76,700 for the same action figure. That’s right: A small plastic toy is more valuable than a new sports car.

And this is just one tale from the wild world of toy collecting.

You tear the wrapping paper off a new toy. There it is. It’s the Captain America action figure or L.O.L. Surprise doll you’ve been hoping for. But you may not want to open that package—ever.

In about 40 years, your unopened toy might be worth a lot of money. That was the case with an Obi-Wan Kenobi action figure. It was made in 1978 after the first Star Wars movie came out. Back then, that toy cost about $2.50.

But in November of last year, someone paid $76,700 for the same action figure. That’s right. A small plastic toy is more valuable than a new sports car.

And this is just one tale from the wild world of toy collecting.

A Love of Toys

Most people buy toys to play with them. They toss Frisbees. They dress up American Girl dolls or spend hours building with LEGO sets. Eventually, most people tire of playing with their toys, which may end up piled into bins or sold for a dollar or two at a garage sale.

But toy collectors treat their toys like treasures. They safely store them in boxes or display them neatly on a shelf, often for years. Why do they do this?

For some collectors, it’s all about a love of toys.

“I collect because it brings me back to childhood and afternoons spent playing with toys,” says toy collector Mark Bellomo.

He started his collection as a boy in the late 1970s, with Star Wars and superhero action figures. As he got older, Bellomo continued collecting. Today, he owns more than 90,000 action figures and has turned that love of toys into a career. He has written dozens of books about toy collecting.

Though many of his items are valuable, Bellomo has no plans to sell them. For him, they are about nostalgia, not money.

Other people, however, collect toys so they can later sell them and make money. Russell Branton is one of those people. He is the former owner of the prized Obi-Wan figure.   

Branton didn’t become a serious collector until he was an adult, when he could afford to buy the rarest Star Wars figures, vehicles, and playsets. He knew he would sell his collection one day.

Over the past year, Branton has been selling off his Star Wars toys through an online auction site. Many have sold for tens of thousands of dollars more than he paid for them.

Most people buy toys to play with them. They toss Frisbees. They dress up American Girl dolls. They spend hours building with LEGO sets. Eventually, most people tire of playing with their toys. The toys may end up piled into bins or sold for a dollar or two at a garage sale.

But toy collectors treat their toys like treasures. They safely store them in boxes or display them neatly on a shelf, often for years. Why do they do this?

For some collectors, it’s all about a love of toys.

“I collect because it brings me back to childhood and afternoons spent playing with toys,” says toy collector Mark Bellomo.

He started his collection as a boy in the late 1970s, with Star Wars and superhero action figures. As he got older, Bellomo continued collecting. Today, he owns more than 90,000 action figures. He has turned that love of toys into a career. He has written dozens of books about toy collecting.

Many of his items are valuable. But Bellomo has no plans to sell them. For him, they are about nostalgia, not money.

Other people, however, collect toys so they can later sell them and make money. Russell Branton is one of those people. He is the former owner of the prized Obi-Wan figure.  

Branton didn’t become a serious collector until he was an adult. That’s when he could afford to buy the rarest Star Wars figures, vehicles, and playsets. He knew he would sell his collection one day.

For the past year, Branton has been selling off his Star Wars toys through an online auction site. Many have sold for tens of thousands of dollars more than he paid for them.

Yvonne Hemsey/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

This is one of the original 1959 Barbie dolls. A collector paid almost $11,000 for one in its original box.

Hard to Find

So what makes a toy worth that much money? Sometimes, it is one of the first in a line that is still very popular. For example, the first Barbie dolls were released in 1959. A doll made that year is much more valuable than one you’d find on a store shelf today. The same is true of the original Transformers figures from 1984.

Not many of these early toys have survived over the years, so the ones that are still around are special. A toy’s value can shoot up even more if it’s still in the original package and is in mint, or nearly perfect, condition.

Some of the biggest treasures are toys that were made in small numbers to begin with. The Obi-Wan Kenobi figure is so valuable because it’s extremely rare. It came with a version of a lightsaber that was made only for a short time.

So what makes a toy worth that much money? Sometimes, it is one of the first in a line that is still very popular. For example, the first Barbie dolls were released in 1959. A doll made that year is much more valuable than one you’d find on a store shelf today. The same is true of the original Transformers figures from 1984.

Not many of these early toys have survived over the years. The ones that are still around are special. A toy’s value can shoot up even more if it’s still in the original package and is in mint condition. That means it’s in nearly perfect shape.

Some of the biggest treasures are toys that were made in small numbers to begin with. The Obi-Wan Kenobi figure is so valuable because it’s extremely rare. It came with a version of a lightsaber that was made only for a short time.

Andrew Schwartz/Splash News/Newscom

One of the most valuable toys of all time was never even sold in stores. In 1969, the toy company Mattel created prototypes for a van called the Volkswagen Beach Bomb. There was just one problem: The car kept tipping over and falling off the Hot Wheels racetrack.

After Mattel redesigned it, the Beach Bomb became a big seller. But the prototypes are where the real money is. Only a handful were ever made. Experts say they may be worth up to $150,000 each.

One of the most valuable toys of all time was never even sold in stores. In 1969, the toy company Mattel created prototypes for a van. It was called the Volkswagen Beach Bomb. There was just one problem. The car kept tipping over and falling off the Hot Wheels racetrack.

Mattel redesigned the Beach Bomb. It became a big seller. But the prototypes are where the real money is. Only a handful were ever made. Experts say they may be worth up to $150,000 each.

Time to Play

So how does this help you decide whether or not to open that L.O.L. Surprise doll? Unfortunately, it doesn’t. It’s nearly impossible to predict which toys will become worth more money one day. That doesn’t stop people from trying, though. Plenty of collectors hang on to toys they think will be valuable in years to come. Often, that plan doesn’t work out (see “From Treasures to Trash”).

That’s why Bellomo says people who love toys shouldn’t worry about what they might be worth in the future.

“Collect what you love and don’t put it away,” Bellomo says. “Play with it because
you like it.”

So how does this help you decide whether or not to open that L.O.L. Surprise doll? Unfortunately, it doesn’t.

It’s nearly impossible to predict which toys will become worth more money one day. That doesn’t stop people from trying, though. Plenty of collectors hang on to toys they think will become valuable in years to come. Often, that plan doesn’t work out (see “From Treasures to Trash”).

That’s why Bellomo says people who love toys shouldn’t worry about what they might be worth in the future.

“Collect what you love and don’t put it away,” Bellomo says. “Play with it because you like it.”    

1. What is the purpose of the first three paragraphs of the article?

2. How are toy collectors Mark Bellomo and Russell Branton different?

3. What can make a toy valuable? Give at least one example.

4. How does the paired text “From Treasures to Trash” connect to the cover story?

1. What is the purpose of the first three paragraphs of the article?

2. How are toy collectors Mark Bellomo and Russell Branton different?

3. What can make a toy valuable? Give at least one example.

4. How does the paired text “From Treasures to Trash” connect to the cover story?

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