If you’ve never come across Bearbrick, also seen as Be@rbrick, then you’ve been missing out on one of the hottest collectibles of the moment. Popular among Sneakerheads and designer art toy collectors, the bears blend toy design with modern art and have become an icon in the fashion industry.
If you’ve been curious and looked them up, you might have been surprised to see that the market for them is lucrative and huge. Some are even valued at almost $115,000. So what are Bearbricks and why are they so expensive?
What are Bearbricks?
The simplest answer is that they are designer toys. Made out of vinyl and shaped like a bear, Bearbricks are just that. Their arms and legs can move and they have different designs covering their surfaces but they are, at their core, simple toys.
You can even get them in different sizes. The 70mm tall ones are the standard (or 100%) option, while 35mm (50%), 280mm (400%) and 700mm (1000%) are the other sizes available.
Despite their simplicity, Bearbricks have changed the toy industry since they came out in 2001. They’ve managed to inexplicably tie themselves to modern art, design and fashion in a way that has made them status symbols for many in those industries.
Who created Bearbricks?
In 2001, Tatsuhiko Akashi made the first Bearbrick, Kubrick, for the 2001 World Character Convention in Tokyo. The organisers needed something to hand out as gifts to the attendees and asked Akashi to create something that could be created in large numbers.
Akashi needed something simple that could be made quickly. Out came Kubrick – with a humanoid body with a bear’s head. It’s fair to say that Kubrick was inspired by two icons in the toy world: the popularity of stuffed teddy bears and Lego figurines. Akashi’s company, Medicom Toys, had no idea they were about to launch a phenomenon.
Since then, Medicom has been making Bearbricks in collaboration with just about everything. Pop culture, movie franchises, holidays, even design and beauty brands like Chanel or Levi’s as well as artists like Daft Punk.
What’s so special about Bearbricks?
Bearbricks are the culmination of high fashion and pop culture.
To some, the bears are just simple toys. But that simplicity is part of their strange success story. They are blank canvases that can be made into anything. Their common lines have sets resembling popular characters from media, animals, flags or simple patterns. No matter what your interests are, there’s likely a Bearbrick for you.
Had Bearbrick just made these for general consumption, they might not have risen to the status they now hold. Their true value comes from the designs that weren’t made for sale. The collaborations they made with other brands for promotions cemented their place in the hearts of collectors.
The basic sets can be purchased for anything between $15 and $1000, but you can buy as many as you want. Over the years, Bearbrick has released many limited releases and one-off collaborations. These are perhaps the true secret to their success.
Collectors look for anything rare. The rarer an item is, the higher it is valued. If you have a design that millions of other people have, then it will generally be less priced. However, if the design you have is the only one in the world, then suddenly it’s a highly valued commodity.
Over its lifetime, there have been so many collaborations and limited releases that the vinyl bears have become a collector’s dream.
Connecting fashion, design, art and toys
While limited releases have made sure that there are plenty of rare bears out there for collectors, there’s more to Bearbrick’s success. At its launch, Bearbrick made a special design with HMV, a popular record shop in Tokyo. This set the tone for a common part of the bear’s story: collaboration.
Since their first collaboration, they have made unique bears with brands all around the globe. Each special release solidified Bearbrick’s connection with popular brands and trends.
It’s not surprising then that they have become a part of many different industries as new fashion lines are launched, albums released and artist exhibitions opened. Each one with its own special release Bearbrick to add a little fun.
Being seen alongside major brands and leaders in the creative industries has made the bears a symbol of status.
What are the most famous Bearbrick Designs?
Bearbricks’ history is filled with exclusive designs that sell for mind-boggling amounts.
One of the most iconic Bearbrick sets is the KAWS Dissected 1000%. A collaboration with KAWS, an incredible character designer whose art has been turned into sculptures, art pieces and, now, bears. The signature half-and-half design is a classic in Bearbrick collector’s circles and usually goes for $10,000 or more.
Some Bearbricks are so exclusive that only a handful ever make it to market. One of these is the Coco Chanel 1000%. Specially made for display in Chanel stores, one of these made it to a charity auction where it sold for $30,000. The bear, designed with Chanel’s classic jacket and pearls, is now valued at almost $80,000.
Tom and Jerry
Medicom Toy’s popular Tom and Jerry set features the beloved characters in traditional Bearbrick form, making it an enticing collectible. Each figure has a distinctive look that is faithful to the original designs, so they are sure to delight fans of both Tom and Jerry, and Bearbrick. They are a must-have for any collector, who can find this toy for up to $3000.
Bearbricks are a phenomenon that has shaken up the toy industry and their exclusive special releases have created a keen collector’s market. Sneakerheads, fashion icons, brands and industry leaders all see the bears as a symbol of status with their own designs.
Don’t let the simple façade fool you, Bearbricks are a hot commodity ripe for high-end collectors and anyone who wants to jump on board an art, design and fashion icon.