Author Topic: Playmobil: a poor investment?  (Read 3312 times)

Offline Bolingbroke

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Playmobil: a poor investment?
« on: August 14, 2021, 12:47:25 »
As some of you may know, Playmobil is only a part (albeit a sizeable one!) of my extensive toy collection. I started collecting toys as an adult around 15 years ago, when I finished my studies and became gainfully employed. It started slowly at first - you all know how it goes.

Eventually I ended up collecting dozens of toy lines from different intellectual properties. I guess the idea was always that eventually I’d own a big enough house to display everything. But it didn’t turn out that way: long story short and fast forward 15 years later, I started culling my collection.

Locally, at first. Then on vinted. Many of my action figures went first: Dragon Ball, Star Wars. Many of them had appreciated nicely since I had bought them, some of them doubling or tripling in price. I rarely sold anything at a loss. Then my Lego sets, many of them still in their sealed boxes. Those too were sold for double the initial price and more.

Now it’s the turn of my PM collection. Although I’ve always been quite focused with my PM collecting, buying only ‘historical’ sets, I still find I have way too many doubles and triples, or sets from production periods I no longer have an interest in (I tend to favour the mid-90s ‘Golden Age’). And here’s the thing: I’m looking up listings on ebay and vinted (including sold listings, of course), and I’m finding that prices have kept incredibly stable for the past decade or so, when I first started collecting Playmobil. Essentially, if I were to sell it, it would be at almost the same price I had bought it for originally, and that includes many sets that were/are quite sought after.

Why do you think that is? I guess part of it must be the fact that the adult PM collector market is tiny compared to other toy lines, since it is usually adult buyers who drive up the prices. I doubt it could simply be dismissed as an overabundance of PM toys: not sure that many more PM toys were produced compared to Lego etc.

Of course, one silver lining is that for a new collector, it is quite cheap to get a good collection going … at least compared to other toy lines!
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Offline Macruran

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Re: Playmobil: a poor investment?
« Reply #1 on: August 14, 2021, 18:56:09 »
They're certainly not a goldmine here in the States. Occasionally I delude myself into getting copies since "they'll be worth more" but apart from a couple key sets that hasn't really happened. I'd've thought they'd be worth more in Europe, where there's a large and established collectors market, but I guess not  :'(
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Offline Bolingbroke

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Re: Playmobil: a poor investment?
« Reply #2 on: August 14, 2021, 20:57:54 »
You guess right. And as I said, I’m not sure what the reason is except that the adult market is tiny. It could also be that - thankfully - PM has re-released some very sought after sets like the Steck houses in recent years, which has helped with supply.

I mean with Lego sets it’s quite normal to buy a 150 euro-ish set and flip it for double the price a mere two years later if it has been discontinued in the meantime, but with PM I was looking at sets like the classic castles (3666 etc) and they’re still quite cheap compared to other toys.

As I said, it’s great for new collectors if nothing else.
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Offline Tiermann

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Re: Playmobil: a poor investment?
« Reply #3 on: August 15, 2021, 06:56:14 »
It does seem to still follow the rule that what you have extra of hasn't gone up much, but whatever you still want goes for crazy high prices. At the moment trains are really high, with people asking hundreds for incomplete unboxed sets. Victorian houses are up there too. Some sets used to be available for years before being retired. Now nothing lasts longer than 2 years and many sets go away in one year. So more recent sets can go for higher prices if you can even find them.

Offline Bolingbroke

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Re: Playmobil: a poor investment?
« Reply #4 on: August 15, 2021, 15:15:32 »
Were trains more expensive than normal sets originally? Such a pity they were never re-released, but then again I imagine train sets in general are extremely unfashionable among kids.

As for the Victorian theme, I agree. That one should be an evergreen!
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Offline Oliver

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Re: Playmobil: a poor investment?
« Reply #5 on: August 16, 2021, 16:27:26 »
Were trains more expensive than normal sets originally? Such a pity they were never re-released, but then again I imagine train sets in general are extremely unfashionable among kids.


I'm not sure about when they switched to plastic tracks, but the old trains were definitely the most expensive retail sets when they were released - I think when I got 4003 it was £130ish (and the Western Train was more), and 3666/5300 would be £100 then. I also suspect they didn't sell a lot first time around - besides the price, they took up a huge amount of space, and if you were into trains wouldn't you just get a smaller scale train set? I didn't know they were sought after, it does make me consider selling mine.

I think that compared to Lego, there are a couple of factors at work
- the size of the Adult market
- the unspoken agreement that Lego will never re-issue sets
- the belief among Lego collectors that sets will increase in value. It's sort of a tulip-fever thing.

I've only very slightly dabbled in AFOL community, but I wonder if it has a different demographic to Playmobil.


Offline Adam16bit

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Re: Playmobil: a poor investment?
« Reply #6 on: August 16, 2021, 23:23:30 »
I'm not sure about when they switched to plastic tracks, but the old trains were definitely the most expensive retail sets when they were released - I think when I got 4003 it was £130ish (and the Western Train was more), and 3666/5300 would be £100 then. I also suspect they didn't sell a lot first time around - besides the price, they took up a huge amount of space, and if you were into trains wouldn't you just get a smaller scale train set? I didn't know they were sought after, it does make me consider selling mine.

I think that compared to Lego, there are a couple of factors at work
- the size of the Adult market
- the unspoken agreement that Lego will never re-issue sets
- the belief among Lego collectors that sets will increase in value. It's sort of a tulip-fever thing.

I've only very slightly dabbled in AFOL community, but I wonder if it has a different demographic to Playmobil.

I'd agree with you!  But I am unsure that LEGO is a fad.

A big part of the secondary market (and adult collector toy space) is people wanting to get what they had - or didn't have - when they were kids.  LEGO's US (and international) market penetration was huge in the 1980s so it makes sense that it's going to be something of a fixture on the collector market too, as every year new kids are seeing sets they want and for some reason or anther, won't get.  10-15 years later when they get their first jobs, they'll usually look around for a toy or two after college and start picking up stuff if they remember it.   Given that LEGO is a bunch of easily lost pieces, I figure that'll never stop unless the quantity of people leaving stuff boxed has increased, and I don't assume a ton of people buy $100+ sets to leave sealed for a decade or more.  People have always been willing to pay a premium for just the best LEGO figure in a set, so I assume that combined with run-of-the-mill inflation will keep LEGO sets at SRP or above for quite some time, minus the clearance blip. LEGO dads are a real thing and will likely keep this going for a long time, even if the secondary market surges die down (unlikely on licensed entertainment-based sets) the appetite for this kind of stuff is probably something that'll last until there's too much old supply in the marketplace in perfect condition.

I don't know that I've met any "Playmobil kids" in the toy collector world - usually everybody had a handful of sets, usually because their parents liked a theme, and that was that.  Playmobil also suffers from a lack of names (and entertainment) so it's basically gone from an unbranded to to a lot of people to something new - Ghostbusters' Ecto-1A shows just how fast things can shoot up if you skip it.   Generally speaking a lot of Playmobil goes to the markdown aisle if it hits US mass marketers, which keeps it depressed for a while.  (Also I don't know how many sets you can piece together from the direct service if you have the time and patience, too.)

It's basically all FOMO.  A lot of Star Wars kids wanted to buy the toys from the 1970s during the 1990s - and that went great.   In 1999 LEGO Star Wars benefited from that, plus all the kids that always wanted LEGO Star Wars.   Transformers continues to do well because most of the "collector" or "fan" targeted toys aren't benefiting from the current marketing so much as the comics and cartoons (and pack-in toy catalogs) of the 1980s.   Everybody got name-checked on screen constantly, or there was a torrent of ads naming them in between cartoons, or something - which Playmobil never got since they were mostly nameless sets with minimal marketing where most of the gonzo toy collecting happened, especially the USA and Japan in the 1990s.   (Also the Playmobil pack-in catalogs were so tiny, you couldn't make out what was in the set without squinting.  It's good so you can print one catalog globally, but bad for growing recognition.)

Other than some US sets in the early 2000s (and a few licensed ones lately) it seems Playmobil has been bad about giving sets actual names, and the new licenses ensure people know what to search for if they can't be expected   Despite being an awesome long-running toy line, it took Playmobil this long to genuinely start appealing to adult toy collector/fans with more licenses and higher price points that aren't for kids.  Ghostbusters and Scooby-Doo are kind of a "year zero" for the line in this sector, which is a mixed blessing.  I always dug Playmobil but what made it truly fun (compared to traditional boys toys line like Hot Wheels, action figures, etc.) was that most people ignored it here in the USA.  If you wanted something, you could take a couple of years to get it.  There was no real collector market, and it was actually possible to stumble on 6-10 year old sets at a mom & pop shop every now and then.

Now that there are licensed sets, people can look at more than "playmobil city" or "playmobil knights" on eBay and that's going to cause stuff to get expensive.  Ghostbusters is an expiring license, so that's going to be interesting to watch as supplies dwindle - but right now, most of it can be had cheap. ($10 for Sky-Bike Ray on Amazon? A bargain.)  I'm thrilled to see so many people looking at Playmobil as something to buy because they like it, rather than because they have to get some kid a gift and don't know what else to get, but it's probably got a ways to go until it cracks the "collectible" nut.   And I assume that's going to be a robust line covering multiple licenses, focused around entry-level price points of $5-$7 to get you a single figure of dang near everything.  (When they start licensing Twin Peaks or Batman or Universal Monsters or Golden Girls - if that ever happens - that's when you're going to see a seismic shift.  I assume it'll be several years given that LEGO did Star Wars as its first license in 1999 and Playmobil finally did Ghostbusters in 2017.)  Depending on how Playmobil positions Asterix and other sets, they could totally sell these things as $5-$10 figures - rather than $20-$50+ playsets - at a low price point that encourages massive collections.   Until Playmobil breaks out of "special occasion gift" price points, it's probably never going to be a big adult collector thing.  It needs entry-level, recognizable, cheap impulse-priced characters.  (I'm not saying I want or need this to happen - I like how it is.)
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Offline Klickteryx

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Re: Playmobil: a poor investment?
« Reply #7 on: August 17, 2021, 03:24:24 »
Playmobil is very much a lame duck in my country. We have two budget chains like Walmart, neither sells Playmobil, both have lots of Lego. Blind bags are only sold by a handful of toyshops, mostly online which is a pain and only the odd numbered series.

So I was happy to find a number of hobby related businesses that were selling the VW sets and cheaper than the toy stores. Money aside, having that VW licence meant that shops that otherwise wouldn't stock Playmobil now were, okay maybe they stocked the Porche and BMW stuff too but I wasn't looking for them. Point is, licencing is opening up new markets and might encourage more interest in the core brand. I know I've bought a few city life sets to go with the couple of Scooby Doo sets I've got recently and I'm not sure if I'd have got those VW sets if I hadn't bought those city life ones 8}.


Offline Junker Jörg

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Re: Playmobil: a poor investment?
« Reply #8 on: August 17, 2021, 11:00:44 »
Warum soll ich viel Geld für ein altes Playmobilset ausgeben?

(1) weil ich es als Sammler haben mag - aber das ist vermutlich dann nur für MIB interessant, wie viel gibt's davon? Vielleicht noch für einzelne, sehr schöne Sets, die zumindest komplett sind wie den alten Amtmann oder so. Aber das dürfte kaum für nennenswerte Preissteigerungen reichen.

(2) weil mich einzelne Teile interessieren; entweder weil sie selten sind (das große Weinfaß, der Schwarze Mönch...) oder weil ich sie zum Bauen brauche (Eisenbahn, Steck...). Die Werte einzelner Teile wie Faß und Mönch hat Playmobil durch die 1:1 Wiederauflage selbst zerstört (und damit vielen Sammlern völlig unnötig ein Brett gegeben). Steckteile werden nach wie vor angeboten. Bloß die Eisenbahn wird grad ziemlich teuer, denn hier ist eine Neuauflage nicht absehbar.

Von daher ist es für mich irgendwie naheliegend, daß Playmobil da keine große Steigerung hinlegen kann. Das könnte sich evtl. mit Modellen wie dem VW Käfer und Bulli oder Lizenzprodukten ändern - sofern Playmobil hier ein wenig auf die Bremse tritt, sie limitiert und vor allem nicht wieder Sammlerwerte vernichtet, indem sie 1:1 Nachbauten liefern. Aber ob sie das wollen? Es scheint manchmal, als sei Playmobil gar nicht dran interessiert, daß seine Produkte an Wert gewinnen, ohne daß Playmobil selbst was davon hat. Wobei in meinen Augen der Denkfehler an der Stelle liegt, wo man ein Produkt von Anfang an teurer verkaufen könnte, wenn die Kunden sich Limitierung und Wertsteigerung gewiß sein könnten...

Why spend much money on old Playmobil?

(1) I'm a collector and interested in certain stuff - but that's MIB quite likely, and how many MIB-collectors are there? Maybe some people are interested in certain nice sets as the old magistrate. But that's hardly enough ot make prices go up.

(2) 'cause I want certain parts or figurines - either for they're rare (as the big wine barrel or the black monk) or for scratchbuilding (railway, Steck). Prices of wanted parts have been pushed down effectively again and again by new issues copying the original 1:1 (Playmobil thereby offended collectors absolutely unnecessarily). Steck-parts are available. It's just railway stuff that's out of stock and unlikely to come back - and here prices are increasing.

So it's not a surprise to me old Playmobil isn't gaining much in price. Models like VW Käfer/Bulli oder other licensed stuff might change that - if Playmobil limits itself down. But I sometimes am under the impression, Playmobil isn't interested in increasing values that are out of their hands. Though I think that's a wee bit shortsighted as limitations and increases of value surely to be expected also might allow Playmobil to sell their products to better prices right from the start...


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Offline Oliver

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Re: Playmobil: a poor investment?
« Reply #9 on: August 17, 2021, 17:04:16 »
I'd agree with you!  But I am unsure that LEGO is a fad.

 I figure that'll never stop unless the quantity of people leaving stuff boxed has increased, and I don't assume a ton of people buy $100+ sets to leave sealed for a decade or more. 

I wouldn't say it's a fad as such - but the only part of Lego I even vaguely follow is the modular city sets, and people certainly do buy them explicitly as investments, but because of this it is a law of diminishing returns.

But even so - every one of those sets can be bought in knock off form - so the only possible reason to spend £600-1000 on an old set rather than £40-50 is the believe that it will increase in value (and the extraordinary brand loyalty Lego manages to exert).