Toy collectors have found themselves at the center of a remarkable resurgence. Driven by the mainstream popularity of blockbuster films like Barbie and The LEGO Movie, lifelong enthusiasts and brand-new collectors are flocking to eBay in search of their childhood treasures.
In 2022, ‘Barbie’ was searched more than 6,000 times an hour globally on eBay, and the number of Barbie dolls sold on eBay globally more than doubled compared to 2021. Hannah Hudson, owner of Chicago Barbie Warehouse, has certainly seen a surge in interest for Barbie dolls and accessories since the announcement of the star-studded film.
A Barbie lover herself, she and her husband Ameer run her eBay store as a part-time business, visiting local antique malls, estate sales and garage sales in search of new dolls to add to their inventory. That includes purchasing entire collections from fellow Barbie lovers.
“It’s a really special experience because you get to see somebody’s whole lifetime of collecting, and they have all these special memories to share,” said Hannah. “Knowing that we’re going to pass them onto other collectors keeps it all alive because they know that the dolls are going to somebody who will love them as much as they did.”
Since the teaser trailer for the Barbie film dropped in December of 2022, Hannah has noticed a lot of new buyers making their first purchases at their eBay store. She suspects the excitement around the upcoming movie may have inspired people to start their own Barbie collections, in addition to reinvigorating existing collectors to find the special pieces they’ve been missing.
She’s also recently noticed Barbies from the ‘90s — when the accessories were particularly pink and hyperfeminine — have been very popular among her buyers, as have unique, one-of-a-kind items like handmade dresses made by other collectors.
“In the past, everyone was still very much interested in the truly vintage, traditional ‘60s Barbies because they held a lot of history as the first wave of dolls to come out,” Hannah said. “Now, fans don’t want one specific look anymore; they want something more exciting, more reflective of them.”
Hannah’s husband Ameer — an avid collector of LEGO sets — has seen a similar increase in interest emerge in LEGO collecting since the release of The LEGO Movie in 2014.
“I think the first LEGO movie definitely inspired people to start collecting again,” explained Ameer. ”And because of the movie, there was more attention on the value of LEGO collectibles as investment assets, since the resale price increases after a set retires.” The LEGO Star Wars Cloud City set, for example, originally retailed for $99.99 when it was released in 2003; today, a new and sealed set is worth around $8500, according to BrickEconomy.
Unlike Hannah, who is drawn to Barbies because of their emotional connection to her childhood, Ameer prefers LEGO sets for their rarity. His most prized sets are limited editions that can only be purchased secondhand on eBay, such as LEGO employee gifts, or sets that can only be purchased in Denmark, where the LEGO Group is headquartered.
“Train sets from the late ‘80s and early ‘90s are some of the most popular LEGO collectibles,” said Ameer. “And of course, there’s the Millenium Falcon set from the early 2000s that everyone recognizes. I think the reason why collectors want them is that as an adult, you finally have the means to buy the sets you loved but couldn’t get as a kid.”
In the meantime, both Hannah and Ameer are eagerly awaiting the release of the Barbie movie.
“They’re releasing a lot of new Barbie merchandise for the movie, which is exciting,” said Hannah. “But they’re not recreating every look from the movie, so I anticipate there will be a lot of people making their own outfits and selling those on eBay.”
Hannah expects many of the looks in the movie to be vintage dolls, so people will probably want to find the originals after they see the movie — “and they’ll be turning to eBay and collectors like us for the best finds.”