7 Must-Do’s to Make a Brand Collectible & Keep It That Way

Musings By Joschik
Christian obsesses over collectibles, antiques and toys more than the average person, but (he believes) in a productive way. Documenting collectibles has been a passion since working on a book about his favorite childhood toys from Timpo 41 years ago.

A version of this article was first published a few days ago in Licensing International.


Beginning as far back as the Roman Emperor Octavian (collector of coins, many with his own face on them), history shows that there have always been collectors. Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor spent $3 million in today’s money for his grail, a seashell. Sir Walter Rothschild collected 800,000 specimens and employed spotters on different continents to buy more for him (the predecessor of the purchasing bot). However, back then it was mostly a passion of the very wealthy and it was about ancient artifacts and the natural kingdom.

Collecting became more widespread after World War I, but it was still based on more classical subjects like postcards or books. In 1965 collectors in the U.S. were still very much trained to focus on and collect coins that were or had been legal tender. This was when Joseph Segel invented the term Coin-medals, sold millions of them, and invented the world of modern collectibles – items made solely for the purpose of collecting.



The Franklin Mint was the first business of its kind but many have followed. Over the last 60 years patterns have been developed or just emerged to help catapult collectibles into popularity and also protect them from an early demise. Here are the seven Golden Rules we believe are key to making a brand collectible and keeping it so. Failing any of them, and particularly a combination of a few of them, risks a serious sales slump and/or the retirement of a particular brand.


Golden Rule No. 1 – Mind the Secondary Market

Buying a Hot Wheels Mainline for $1 is just consumption and does not need to be justified to anybody. But spending more than $10 for a “toy” like this limited edition model needs the consumer to be able to tell their better half that this is an “investment” and can always be sold again for that amount or more. This justification is not just for the spouse but also for the collector herself/himself, particularly if he/she buys a number of these every month or week. Thus collectible brands need to understand valuations in the secondary market and keep them in mind when making decisions (even if that costs sales today).


Golden Rule No. 2 – Tell them what they do not have

When someone purchases their first and second Starbucks Mugs they are just happy to have them. Yes, they would get more, but they are not yet a collector…yet. They make that metamorphosis once they know what they do not have. Make it easy for them to know what they are missing. Give them lists (hobbyDB now documents more than 4,000 Starbucks mugs), or even better, something to create physical spaces for their products.


Golden Rule No. 3 – Leave something on the Table

There are sooo many items out there for collectors these days and exclusives create excitement and momentum, in particular for FOMO (the Fear Of Losing Out). But if your Exclusives do not sell out your collectors will lose urgency. For the next one, they will think that they have time to make a decision and will end up buying something else that gives them more FOMO. Try to stay disciplined and run smaller quantities than you think you can sell (see Rule 1).


Golden Rule No. 4 – Build Lore

Create stories around some of your collectibles. This is where you can be the most creative. Say they have to guess where and when you drop the next amazing item. Make very small runs so that a lot of collectors talk about not having gotten one and now have a grail on their bucket list. Learn a lesson from Funko who during one of the famous Fun Days gave out chocolates and claimed that 10 of those would have a golden ticket. Only four did (causing never-ending rumors about what happened to the other 6). Those four then got the Golden Ticket. That item has since sold first for $15,000, then for $100,000 and recently for $210,000, creating an onslaught of publicity for Funko.


Golden Rule No. 5 – Give Thematic Options

Collectors are very often completists and as such they want everything that is available from that brand (remember that is why you give them what they are missing under Rule 2). With Collectible Brands being under pressure to grow year in and year out, it is not to be avoided that some of the brand’s collectors will not be able to afford to stay complete. That creates a dilemma for those collectors. Allowing them to change their collective theme to just collect part of your brand keeps them as happy customers. The Hard Rock Cafe has produced more than 100,000 different pins with not a single collector known that has all of them. HRC does that by allowing customers to collect by location or by various series or themes.


Golden Rule No. 6 – Stop Fakes

You know you have a Collectible Brand when the fakers arrive and try to benefit from your work. Consider how to make their life as hard as possible from the get-go. Fakes are mostly targeted at new collectors as they are less knowledgeable and that is bad as early Collectors who buy fakes face economic loss, embarrassment, and ridicule and often change the hobby. Invest in both – making it hard to create fakes of your products and educating your collectors early on.


Golden Rule No. 7 – Collaborations Work

Collaborations are great as they sell to your collector base but also add new consumers to your brand, as they buy your item as they collect the brand you collaborate with. Here you can be creative and come up with totally new products and double (or more) your audience by doing two, three, or four-way collabs.


Moral of the story, creating and managing a collectible brand is a little bit science and a little bit of art. And do not forget, keep close to your collectors (it helps enormously if you hire folks who love what you are doing and collect something).



Please let me know what you agree with this list or think something is missing or have good examples of any of these rules in play in the Comments!

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