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  • 03.10.09

Toys for Rich, Hip Grown-Ups

For the last few years, Phillips de Pury, a hoary auction house, has been running an auction series specifically dedicated to cultivating hip, young collectors with lower priced items, in the hopes that they’ll blossom into the next generation of mega buyers.

For the last few years, Phillips de Pury, a hoary auction house, has been running an auction series specifically dedicated to cultivating hip, young collectors with lower priced items, in the hopes that they’ll blossom into the next generation of mega buyers. This Saturday, it will feature a once-obscure niche: Collectible toys, ranging from rare Japanese items from the 1970s, to recent editions created by graffiti artists.

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The most mainstream expression of toy collecting culture is Kid Robot. But beyond that, just like sneaker-freaker culture, high-end toy collecting is a geeked-out obsession that can be hard to fathom from the outside: Very slight differences can make a toy’s price treble, and the entire enterprise has the whiff of a tulip craze writ small. Nonetheless, the toys are good-looking and charismatic; squint hard enough and imagine you’ve got $15,000 to burn from the single you just cut with Kanye and Pharrel, and you can understand why someone might get obsessed. Here are some of our personal favorites from this Saturday’s auction:

A Japanese toy from 1980, estimated at £300-400:

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One of the classics of the genre: A piece by it-boy graffiti artist KAWS, customizing the so-called BearBrick toy design, produced by Medicom. A slew of artists have done their renditions of the BearBrick, and for collectors, these are almost like a gateway drug to increasingly obscure finds.  £800-1,200:

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Another, earlier piece by KAWS. £800-1,200:

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A unique edition by the graffiti artist Scrappers.

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From an edition of eight, by pop-artist Carlos Enriquez Gonzalez. £1,200-1,800:

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A one-of a kind toy, designed by Frank Kozik, who’s mostly known for creating rock-concert posters. £1,500-2,000:

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These googly-eyed guys light up, with motion-sensing LED’s. £700-900, from an edition of 10:

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About the author

Cliff is director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.

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