written by Errol Veloso
Photo by LaertesCTB
There’s a new craze hitting the scene that has got kids and adults alike emptying their pockets and waiting in line for hours. Known as Designer Toys or Urban Vinyl, this new trend can be described as a collision of art and toys; influenced by graffiti, Asian pop art, and skater and sneaker culture. Not to be confused as action figures, these vinyl sculptures act as a canvas for artists ranging from the formally trained to post-graffiti artists.
The origin of this new art genre and collecting craze can be traced to Michael Lau, an artist based in Hong Kong, who created the first vinyl figurines as a promotion for a band in the 90’s. Since then, the designer toy culture has steadily gained interest and grown into a multi-million dollar industry. Consumers consist of a wide variety of collectors including art, comic book, and sneaker enthusiasts. The reason to its success can be attributed to its eclectic blend of art styles, limited numbers, and collectability.
1. Limited Runs- These vinyl toys come in limited runs ranging anywhere from 200-1000 pieces. Several examples of these include the works of artist’s Tilt, Huck Gee, Kaws, and Joe Ledbetter
2. Blind Box/Chase- Blind Box Vinyl toys usually come 2-3 inches in height with a set of twelve or more figures randomly packaged; percentage rates for each figure (ex. 1/48) are shown on the packaging. Collectors are attracted to this type of designer toy because of the excitement involved with the random nature of this vinyl; and also the chance to land an ultra rare piece known as “chases.” The Dunny series is among the more popular pieces for this category.
3. Customs- Several urban vinyl companies provide blank vinyl pieces available for customization. One example is Kidrobot’s Munny, a blank figure boxed with accessories.
photo by merfam
Collectors are completely rabid for these vinyl toys; often joining online communities, arranging sales, and even hosting trading events at the local vinyl store. Seeking to complete their set, collectors will often pay highly inflated prices. In one instance I received an offer of $250 for a piece I originally paid $8 for.
The world of urban vinyl is an excellent platform in which youth and adults can appreciate art they can relate to, and perhaps encourage a transition into formal art.
For more information on Urban Vinyl, follow the links below.
http://www.millionaireplayboy.com (More info on Urban Vinyl)
http://www.kidrobot.com (A popular Vinyl retailer based in America)
http://vinylpulse.com/ (Community news, events, and upcoming releases)