The other day I got really lucky, when I was in Wal-Mart I found a My Little Pony the Movie Storm King Fan Series statue on clearance. The Fan Series figures from Hasbro are pretty freaking sweet, and this one marks the third villain I own. I love these things, but I’m in a bit of a conundrum as to whether I should take it out of the box or not. I’m having this debate a lot recently. And I know a lot of collectors have the same dilemma, but the more I think about it, the more absurd it is. Why are we so obsessed with keeping things in their boxes?
The answer is simple, but not particularly satisfactory. Early on you’re trained as a collector that things mint in box, and preferably never removed from box at all with even the box being in good shape means the item will be more valuable. But do I plan to sell half the things I keep in boxes? I certainly don’t at the moment, but what if I change my mind? What if after twenty years of decorating my house with ponies, dolls and action figures I decide I’m going to go minimalism? I mean, it’s not likely I’d go that far, but a person’s tastes and changes fluctuate with time. And why does the box itself matter so much? Why wouldn’t the exact same toy with perfect paint and all its accessories not be worth the same amount just because of a lack of some cardboard and twist ties?
Boxes for historical purposes make sense. Often antique dolls and soldiers couldn’t be identified unless the original box was around, but the majority of the time the box was just that, plain cardboard with maybe the toy’s name and manufacturer stamped on the side, and this information was mostly for the toy seller’s benefit, not the customer. Toy stores would display most of their wares on shelves, and with the exception of things like blocks, people would buy it without the packaging. And when you would buy a toy in box you wouldn’t even see it until the 1970s, when packaging started to have plastic windows to show you how the doll or car actually looked like. The 1980s started taking it to the extreme by making more elaborate boxes and plastic windows to make the toy look more and more enticing, but this was also when MIB and NRFB (mint in box and never removed from box for non collectors) started affecting value, particularly on things like collector Barbies and special edition action figures where tampering would be more evident or completely ruin the packaging entirely.
I have a lot of Barbies mint, at least Mattel’s packaging looks good on a shelf. The dolls are nicely visible and the boxes have silver and gold foil, embossing, flaps and even pop-ups in some cases. But I also have a good deal of loose dolls I’ve gotten at places like garage sales, and you know what, they also look spectacular on a shelf because you can see the detail on their outfits. Most statues and figures don’t look as good in-box. If you would photograph a room with mint figures, it wouldn’t look like someone’s home, it’d look like a store, and you wouldn’t be able to see the majority of their stuff anyway.
Not to mention boxes aren’t always good for merchandise. Vinyl and plastic figures often react with the plastic in the packaging and off-gas, and deteriorate. Sure, the item will have never been removed, but it’s also decaying as you speak. And if the goal is preservation, keeping certain toys in the box is actually counter-productive. And often boxes and carded items will come apart on their own as time causes the stamping and glue to break down. I have loads of Disney Infinity figures I’ve bought new that the store had to tape closed because the packages were already coming apart. And you know what? It didn’t matter to me because I like using the figures, but I know there are still lots of people fighting that uphill battle with Amiibo boxes.
With video games it’s gotten even more ludicrous. People will keep games in their original plastic. I can understand keeping the box for its art, but paying extra for original shrink wrap and putting it on a shelf somewhere is baffling to me. It strikes me as being too easily schemed. How do you know that mint Suikoden II is really Suikoden II? How do you know it’s not just a generic CD case doctored up to look like the game and covered in new shrink wrap? Rewrapping items is criminally easy. But the only way to know is to open it and check, and then it’s not mint anymore. Your $300 dollar game now worth $90. It’s Shroedinger’s Collectible.
I’ve also seen this level of insanity in doll collecting as well. Some people will take a doll out of its box, strip not just the clothing, but sometimes the makeup and head as well, put it back in the box and sell the doll as Mint in Box—except for the clothing. And the worst part is this malarkey works! People seem more interested in the box than the toy! I once wanted to buy some Sailor Moon dolls advertised as mint in box, but when I examined the photo I saw the doll was missing one of her gloves. When I asked if it simply fell down in the box the seller said that no, the item was missing, but the doll was in the box so what was I complaining about? Obviously I did not complete that purchase.
It’s crazy. Completely crazy.
And yet I still take part in this insanity as I look at my Storm King and my other Fan Series statues and wonder if I should unbox them or not. I’ve decided against it for now, but that’s only because I’ve been packing quite a few things away and I don’t want stuff to get dusty before getting put in another box and moved. But I think we collectors need to stop being so obsessed with boxes. At the end of the day it’s the items we want, and not the packaging we collect, right?