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MEDICOM TOY (BE@RBRICK)

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Since its humble beginnings in 1996, when it shared a space with tonkatsu-spot in Tokyo’s Ebisu area, Japan’s Medicom Toy has grown into a global sensation. The toy company’s crazily sought-after collectibles and design items are inspired by art, music, movies, pop culture, influential figures and are usually only available in extremely limited quantities. The Kubrick and BE@RBRICK series of toys, the latter of which is a bear-shaped figure in various sizes that has become a cultural symbol in its own right and attracted a devoted fanbase, including high-profile celebrities like Pharrell Williams, Grace Coddington, and DJ Khaled. KAWS, BAPE, Star Wars, Undercover, Disney, Chanel, Supreme, Fendi, Futura, fragment design, and Comme des Garçons are just a few of the brands Medicom Toy (and its beloved BE@RBRICK) has collaborated, and the list is expanding, especially in the streetwear and fashion realms.

 

Medicom Toy’s Bearbrick series are certainly a recognisable face to streetwear lovers. The collector toys are essentially an adult’s version of going to Toys “R” Us when they were a kid. The big difference now is that, unlike when you were a kid, these Bearbrick figures have quickly become collectable art. Bearbricks are available in a variety of sizes; the most popular variants are the 1000% Bearbricks, which stand around 2.3 feet tall and are popular among celebrities such as Ben Baller. With the first BE@RBRICK dubbed the 100%, all following sizes also follow the same system. Generally, Bearbricks range between 50% to 1000%. 100% Bearbricks stand 7cm tall, 400% Bearbricks come in at 28cm and 1000% Bearbricks reach 70cm tall. The form of a bearbrick does not alter much and aside from these standard sizes, there have been some collections that featured Bearbricks of different shapes and sizes, these fall under the “OTHER” category. Collectors are motivated to trade, purchase, and sell figures in order to complete their collections using the blind box packaging strategy. Medicom Toy has traditionally been tight-lipped on its new releases. With the exception of a handful of releases, quantity has been kept a secret for years as well. The mystery surrounding its releases and supply makes it attractive to collectors, who are constantly second-guessing Medicom’s next move. The suspense creates anticipation and excitement to say the least.

 

The commemorative and limited editions made by high-end fashion designers or well-known pop artists are what make these toys so desirable. Bearbricks by Chanel or artists like KAWS have a reputation among art dealers and toy collectors for being not only must-haves, but also for commanding high prices on auction blocks and resale sites. The most difficult Bearbricks to collect are those that were never intended for public purchase, such as giveaways, promotional items and one-of-a-kind figures. Karl Lagerfeld, the former creative director of Chanel, designed Bearbrick Coco Chanel 1000% in 2006. Only 1,000 of these Bearbricks were made and most of them were specially displayed inside Chanel boutiques. Only a handful have ever surfaced on the market. The piece is modelled to look like Chanel’s founder Coco Chanel, dressed in her classic outfit: a Chanel jacket and pearls. You won’t find one of these for sale under $40,000. Along with this, the 1000% dissected KAWS Bearbrick from 2010 is one of the most popular Bearbrick models designed by KAWS. The design of this dissected Bearbrick is familiar to anyone who is a fan of KAWS’ art. It’s been seen in music videos like Drake’s “Toosie Slide” and G-Dragon’s “Crayon” and can easily fetch up to $100,000 at auction.

 

Over the past 21 years, Bearbricks has exploded in popularity and gained public affection. We witnessed a steady rise in demand for the toy and a surge especially in the past year when Covid-19 hit the world, making the Bearbrick collection an increasingly expensive hobby. Bearbricks have achieved the near-impossible feat of putting itself at the crossroads of art, fashion, culture, and fun. Its basic and familiar style has appealed to people of all ages and genders. Medicom Toy has ushered in a new era of collectibles by pioneering a new approach to promote and sell products with hype.  While the limited-edition process assures long-term interest, Bearbricks’ numerous collaborations are what truly distinguish these works of art.

 

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