Can you imagine a bearbrick that might cost over ten thousand dollars? In addition, super stars such as Jay Chou, JJ Lin, Lee Chong Wei, Huang Zi Tao, and G-Dragon have them as collections?
That's right. It is possible that you have seen this cute little bear with a large belly, but you have not taken an interest in it. In fact, the cute little bear has emerged from the hype collectibles market, becoming a collectable, or even an alternative investment.
Why have these bearbricks gained such popularity?
The bearbricks have undoubtedly generated a trend in modern toy collections. It creates a delicate bridge between the worlds of toys and art. In 2001, the Japanese toy company launched the first limited edition of the bearbricks through collaborations with numerous artists, fashion designers and major retailers. Celebrity endorsement, limited supply, and collaboration with well-known designers have driven the growth of bearbricks into yet another new investment market after famous watches, sneakers, and bags.
In addition to its limited number, each bearbrick series is designed and themed differently, which adds to its collectible value.
Let's start with Tatsuhiko Akashi, the founder of Bearbricks. In 1996, he founded the famous Japanese toy company Medicom Toy. In those days, Tatsuhiko Akashi expressed the hope that people could heal their emotional wounds through his doll toys. A humanoid toy similar to Lego, Kubric, named after the legendary film producer Stanley Kubrick, was one of Medicom Toy's first creations.
Teddy Bear and Kubric launched a collaboration in 2001
In 2001, Tatsuhiko Akashi created a bearbrick at the "World Character Convention" held in Tokyo. At that time, the organiser asked him to design a gift for the participants. Since the organiser required hundreds of gifts in a short period of time, Tatsuhiko Akashi came up with the creative idea of putting the bear's head on Kubric, which celebrated the 100th anniversary of the bear's birth. The bearbrick was launched in 2001 as a result of its popularity among the participants.
Collector’s favourite sizes: 400% and 1000%
The bearbrick has a specific size. The normal bearbrick is 70 mm high, also known as the size ratio of 100%. 35mm or 50% of building block bears are usually used to make keychains. The larger size includes 280mm or 400%, and 700mm or 1000%. The latter is the largest available bearbrick size, and most collectors prefer 400% and 1000% sizes.
After that, Medicom Toy and HMV, a record chain in Tokyo, collaborated to design a unique bearbrick. As a result of this first collaboration, Medicom Toy has begun producing limited edition bearbricks, including Winnie the Pooh, the Avengers, and Star Wars characters.
Additionally, it collaborates with many world-renowned brands. For instance, collaborations with Chanel, Nike, X-Large, Hermès, Comme Des Garcons, and other famous fashion and street brands have been made with the launch of limited edition bearbricks.
“Kaiser Karl” “Coco Chanel” A popular choice among many
The late world-renowned designer Karl Lagerfeld also created a bearbrick of himself in 2007, with only 1,000 pieces produced worldwide. They are mainly displayed in the boutiques of Karl Lagerfeld's luxury fashion brands, and now this bearbrick is also sought after by collectors.
During his tenure as creative director of Chanel, "Kaiser Karl" also designed the Chanel bearbrick in 2006. Similarly, only 1000 pieces are produced worldwide. Most of them are displayed in Chanel boutiques, and only a few have appeared on the market.
This bearbrick is styled like Coco Chanel, the founder of Chanel. It is wearing her classic pearl-studded tweed suit. At a Christie's auction in November 2019, a Chanel bearbrick was sold for US330,000 (approximately SGD 40,100).
This bearbrick is styled like Coco Chanel, the founder of Chanel.
Which bearbricks are suitable for investment?
Recently, three Chanel bearbricks were listed on StockX. By deadline, its starting price was US 75,018. However, on another trading platform, TheRealReal, a Chanel bearbrick was recently traded for US 8,000.
Bearbricks and KAWS, a well-known American artist and designer, created the "Chomper" blue version of bearbrick, which is well-known to bearbrick enthusiasts.
According to StockX trading statistics, Chomper traded for US 7,500 in March 2020. After that, its price reached US 14,200 in November 2021. As of today, Chompers cost US 32,892, up from US 11,000 last year.
Most 1000% size bearbricks are priced between 600 and 800 yuan depending on the model; however, limited edition models can cost tens of thousands of yuan; the price of the 400% size bearbrick is generally between 140 and 180 yuan, while the price of the surprise box series of 100% size bearbrick is about 200 yuan, and 50% and 70% of the size of the price is below 20 yuan.
An interview with Lianhe Zaobao quoted the founder of DrunkenBear, Koh Hui Keong: "Some bearbricks are very limited, and each series has a different theme and design. It has a real collectible value, but I personally don't think every model is suitable as an investment.”
Derived from the Japanese domestic market with greater appreciation potential
So how to choose a bearbrick suitable for investment? According to Koh Hui Keong, buyers should focus only on bearbricks launched in the Japanese domestic market. He said: "Medicom Toy will launch different bearbricks in different countries and regions. Buyers can only see bearbricks from their own country on the Medicom Toy website in their own country. The so-called 'What you own is also owned by others' principle applies when buyers only buy local bearbricks, so these kinds of bearbricks will take longer to appreciate. Based on past experience, facts have proved that bearbricks derived from the Japanese domestic market, known as Japan domestic market/Product (JDMP), have greater appreciation potential.”
Additionally, buyers should pay attention to the packaging when purchasing JDMP's bearbricks. For example: Can this package prove that it is JDMP? Koh said: “It's like you buy an expensive watch from a dealer. A certificate card inside will show the country in which the product was produced and other details that are beneficial to resale."
When discussing the price trend of bearbricks, Koh said: “Some bearbricks can indeed double or ten times their price. It all depends on supply and demand. My personal recommendation is not to purchase bearbricks from resellers that are overpriced and have no proof of manufacture. The reason for this is that you will have a harder time selling bearbricks that lack proof of origin and are priced high in the international market. It is imperative that you buy the right bear in order to reap a return on investment."
Koh said: "There are many styles of bearbricks in the market now. It is my investment strategy not to be greedy, which means aiming for a price increase of ten times or more before letting go. As long as you manage to get a price increase of 10% to 50% in the short term, you should be satisfied, and then happily go to the next bearbrick. This will be a very enjoyable investment game.”
The celebrity’s influence: Bearbricks as home decoration
Qiu Qikai, director of Trillion Gains, which is mainly engaged in the import, export and sale of bearbricks, talked about the celebrity influence of bearbricks in an interview with the Morning Post. He said: “In the ’Bearbrick Weibo Hot Topic', it has been read 120 million times and posted nearly 5000 times; on Douyin, the topic of bearbricks has also reached 110 million times; B station, Xiaohongshu and other video social platforms, there are also many bearbrick unboxing and collection videos.”
Qiu QI Kai mentioned “It was evident that young people recognized the unobstructed taste of home improvement after Mao Xiaotong posted a video of dancing at home some time ago. The celebrity effect has caused many young people to choose bearbricks as their home furnishings, highlighting their artistic nature among young people.”
The viral the bearbrick market goes, the chaotic the price gets
Taiwanese artist Show Lo also posted his own toy collection on a show, and also exposed himself to turn on 24-hour air conditioning for sky-high-priced toys.The bear in his arms that he can't put down is the Chanel bear designed by ‘Kaiser Karl’ himself in 2006.
Now there are even such sayings on the Internet: "A wall filled with bearbricks, is equivalent to a set of houses in second- and third-tier cities.” This has also become a necessary “bearbrick wall” for many people to take pictures on social platforms. This situation is inextricably linked to the celebrity effect. Qiu Qikai said: “People who really like bearbricks buy them for the pleasure of artistic appreciation.They don't care about the price fluctuating up and down, they just buy for their own collection. But now more and more people are involved in a state of following suit, increasing the demand for bearbricks, and the consumer motivation has also begun to become complicated, leading to the current ‘bear market’ price chaos.”
When Qiu Qikai discussed the overall bearbrick price trend, he said that during the epidemic, between 2020 and 2022, bearbrick prices were raised several times, or even dozens of times. As of now, bearbrick prices have begun to soften and adjust. It should, however, be possible for bearbricks to increase by 5% to 10% in the long run.
Aside from the celebrity effect, even bearbricks will seem desirable if there are related movies or activities. Taking Garfield's new movie as an example, the film will be released in theatres in February 2024. It has been 18 years since the last Garfield movie was released on the big screen. Apparently, Garfield and the bearbrick have been receiving more attention recently. The old version of the Garfield bearbrick, especially if well preserved, will be more popular.
Whether it is a bearbrick lover or not, I really have to admire Medicom Toy's marketing model. It is really a consumer psychology that pursues excitement for young consumers, and makes collecting toys a symbol of “hype”. As long as the market continues to have trendy people, the “bear market” of bearbrick will continue to be popular.
How to tell if you're getting the real thing?
With Bearbricks becoming increasingly popular, there have also been a lot of fakes in the market. The last thing you want is to be duped into adding a fake into your beloved bearbrick collection. In an interview with Lianhe Zaobao, Koh Hui Keong, the founder of DrunkenBear, provided the following tips to teach novices how to identify fake and authentic bearbricks.
- 400% + 100% vs 400% Box Set
Most authentic 400% bearbricks will come in a set of 400% (28cm) with a mini 100% (7cm) bearbrick.
A genuine bearbrick is made of hard, good quality material. While most of them are vinyl, they also come in other finishings as well such as wood, felt, metal and plastic. However, when compared side by side with a fake, one can tell the difference by touch.
- Frosted Plastic Packaging
Your bearbrick should come in a frosted plastic packaging rather than a transparent casing.
If the prices are too good to be true, they probably are. Low prices might seem like a bargain but after weeks of anticipation you could end up with a low quality imitation.
- Hidden Tag QR Code
End of 2021 to early 2022, MCT began placing hidden tags on authentic products. Authentic BE@RBRICKS have a QR code that can be verified using the Hidden Tag App (download from the App Store/Play Store).
Koh suggested that people who are interested in collecting or investing in bearbricks should read more relevant information, and do their research before starting to buy bearbricks. If the bearbricks you bought does not have a QR code, the buyer can also check the box, serial number, bear shape, pattern, font, etc. to ensure that the bearbrick is authentic. It is best for buyers to buy from a reputable company, which is even more foolproof.
我们先从积木熊的创办人赤司竜彦（Tatsuhiko Akashi）讲起。赤司竜彦是在1996年创办日本著名玩具公司Medicom Toy。赤司竜彦当时说过，他希望人们能够通过他的公仔玩具，治疗心灵的创伤。Medicom Toy最早的作品之一是Kubric，这是一个以著名电影制作人库布里克（Stanley Kubrick）的名字命名，一个类似乐高的人形模型玩具。
之后，Medicom Toy与东京的唱片行HMV携手打造了一款独一无二的积木熊。自这第一次合作后，Medicom Toy就开始生产限量版的积木熊，例如：小熊维尼、复仇者联盟和星球大战等卡通人物的积木熊。
不仅如此，它还与多个全球知名品牌合作。例如与香奈儿（Chanel）、耐克（Nike）、X-Large、爱马仕（Hermès）、Comme Des Garcons等几个著名的时尚和街头品牌合作推出限量版积木熊。
已故世界知名设计大师“老佛爷”卡尔·拉格斐（Karl Lagerfeld）在2007年也以自己的样子，设计了一款积木熊，全球仅生产1000只。它们主要是陈列在Karl Lagerfeld的奢侈时尚品牌的精品店中，现在这款积木熊也是收藏家的追捧的。
那么要如何选择适合投资的积木熊呢？许惠强建议买家只集中购买日本国内市场推出的积木熊。他说：“Medicom Toy在不同的国家与地区会推出不同的积木熊。买家在自己国家的Medicom Toy网站也只能看到属于自己国度的积木熊。如果买家跟着大潮流走，只购买自己本地的积木熊的话，正所谓‘你有人家也有’，所以这类积木熊会需要更长的时间才能看到升值。根据过往的经验，事实证明源自日本国内市场的积木熊，也就是所谓的Japan Domestic market／Product（简称：JDMP）具有更大的升值潜能。”
从2021年底至2022年初开始，Medicom Toy开始在正品上放置标签。从这个年份开始的正品积木熊都会有一个二维码。人们可以使用Hidden Tag App（可以从App Store或Play Store下载）进行验证。