Why do some adults continue to collect ‘children’s toys’

By Angelica Lara
May 13, 2021

large pile of Build-a-Bear collection
large pile of Build-a-Bear collection

As children, we all had a collection of different toys full of dolls, bears or Legos. But what happens when you are all grown-up and starting to collect these items that are usually labeled “children toys.” 

While some people get older and decide to search for something they really wanted as a child because they just want to relive some kind of childhood nostalgia, that’s not the only reason people collect these items. Other people may just buy these sorts of items for fun or because they’re cute and end up with a larger collection of items than they expected.

Or maybe they had a small collection from when they were children they continue picking up items and slowly they start calling themselves a collector or become one without even realizing it. 

While there are large collections of things such as vintage baseball cards or coins, why do others start or continue to collect things that are meant for children like Build-a-Bears, American Girl dolls or even Barbies? 

Beanie Babies
Beanie Babies, from left to right, include Hope the Tan Praying Bear, Mellow the Bear, Valentina Red Bear and Angel Bear. “Beanie Babies” by Dominique Godbout is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Maybe this all started because of the late 1990s’ Beanie Babies craze. While it might seem crazy to people now, children and adults alike were buying and keeping large amounts of Beanie Babies because they saw it as a future investment.

Beanie Babies were originally released in 1993 by Ty Warner as a collection of nine babies, slowly gaining popularity without TV or print advertisements. However, in 1999, during the height of the Beanie Baby collection craze, it was announced that all of them would be discontinued on December 31, 1999. 

There was a lot of speculation about what the prices were and what the toys were going to be worth a few years down the road. Unfortunately, most of the toys were too overproduced to be valuable later.

The craze got so big that there was a divorce proceeding that was arguing on which party should keep their Beanie Baby collection. The judge had them lay out all the babies and pick one by one until the whole pile was gone. 

Picture or American Girl catalog from 1999 desplaying Josefina, Kirsten and Addy. Photo by Angelica Lara

While many people did collect these bears because they enjoyed the look of them, they also collected them for their future value. Unfortunately for them, by the time people started collecting them seriously, all the rare or original babies were already gone and the rest were so common that they became basically worthless. 

In contrast, American Girl dolls are still pretty mainstream and desirable to collectors, and despite being more expensive, the dolls consistently skyrocket in value over time. Dolls that have been discontinued for some time now, like Kirsten Larson who was discontinued in 2010, could have cost around $85 to $100 originally, depending on the year you bought her.

Larson can now be seen on eBay selling for $300 if you have the original box, outfit and book. If you just so happen to have her full collection lightly used or brand new, you’re in luck because currently, the highest bid for the collection on eBay is $2,500.

However, the value of items like this can change very quickly because the value is set by the collectors, and most of the time these items’ prices and worth can rapidly change because of the demand at the time. 

Large collection of Build-a-bear in the Lara household. Photo by Angelica Lara

People tend to collect things based on the popularity of an item. This can be heightened by social media promotions and much-anticipated collaborations with certain companies. This includes the most recent Baby Yoda, Animal Crossing and seasonal collections releases from Build-a-Bear that might seem like limited-time releases. 

Even back in the ‘80s the biggest collectors’ items were Cabbage Patch Kids, and likewise Beanie Babies were widely popular in the ‘90s, and both grew in popularity from just word-of-mouth promotions. Both brands were contributors to the trend of releasing “rare” and limited-time releases, which were key words for collectors of those brands. 

Even though they can be high risk investments, or an odd collection to have to others, toys like this are still really attractive to consumers and people still collect them. 



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Angelica Lara

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