Art Toy Metacubs

Beyond Play: The World of Art Toys Through a Collector's Eyes

Art toys, also known as designer toys, have emerged as a captivating niche within the world of collectibles, captivating enthusiasts and artists alike. In this collector's guide, we embark on a journey to explore the essence of art toys just like blind boxes, from understanding what they are to exploring the realm of renowned artists and how to start your own collection. 

Let's uncover the excitement behind these miniature masterpieces.

What are Art Toys? 

Art toys, at their core, are not merely playthings but rather manifestations of artistic expression in three-dimensional form. Unlike mass-produced toys, art toys are crafted with meticulous attention to detail, often in limited quantities, and are infused with the unique style and creativity of their creators. They serve as canvases for artists to showcase their imagination, personality, interests, blurring the lines between traditional art and contemporary culture.

The History of Art Toys

Art toys have a rich and fascinating history that intertwines with the evolution of contemporary art and pop culture. These unique creations emerged from the underground art scene as a rebellion against mass-produced toys, offering artists a canvas for expressing their creativity in three-dimensional form. From vinyl figures to plush toys and beyond, art toys have become highly coveted collectibles that blur the boundaries between art and play.

Exploring the Roots of Vinyl Toys

The history of art toys traces back to the mid-20th century, with the emergence of vinyl toys gaining momentum in the late 1950s and early 1960s in Japan. Japanese toy companies began manufacturing soft vinyl toys, also known as "sofubi," which primarily featured inexpensive figurines of popular characters from movies and TV shows. However, the true love for vinyl toys flourished in the 1990s and early 2000s, propelled by visionary artists from around the world.

Pioneers of Vinyl Toy Art

Artists like Michael Lau, Eric So, Paul Budnitz, and Tristan Eaton played pivotal roles in shaping the landscape of vinyl toy art. Michael Lau, often hailed as the "godfather of vinyl toys," revolutionized the industry with his figures inspired by Hong Kong street culture. Eric So's unique fusion of eastern and western pop culture resulted in iconic vinyl toys, while Paul Budnitz's founding of Kidrobot paved the way for limited edition art toys to reach a broader audience. Tristan Eaton's contributions, including the iconic Dunny and Munny figures, further solidified vinyl toys as a global phenomenon.

The Rise of Art Toys

In the late 1990s, a group of visionary artists rebelled against mass-produced toys, sparking the birth of designer toys. Inspired by the art toy movement originating in Japan and Hong Kong, these trailblazers sought to revolutionize the concept of play by infusing toys with intricate details, unconventional designs, and collaborations with emerging artists. Today, art toys have transcended mere collectibles, becoming a form of modern art history cherished by enthusiasts worldwide.

As we look into the history of art toys, we witness a journey marked by creativity, innovation, and cultural significance. From their humble beginnings to their current status as coveted collectibles, art toys continue to captivate audiences and push the boundaries of artistic expression.

In the words of Jose Man Lius, Art Director Metacubs:

“Artists reinvent themselves as they evolve on new creative media”

How to Start Your Art Toy Collection

Are you ready to get into the exciting world of art toys but not sure where to begin? Starting an art toy collection can be a thrilling journey filled with endless possibilities. Whether you're drawn to the whimsical characters of Takashi Murakami or the sleek designs of KAWS, building a collection that reflects your unique tastes is a rewarding experience. Here are some tips to help you get started on your art toy collecting journey:

Do Your Research: Take the time to explore different artists, styles, and themes within the art toy community. Research online, visit galleries, and attend toy conventions to familiarize yourself with the diverse range of offerings available.

Set a Budget: Art toys come in a wide range of prices, from affordable blind box figures to high-end collectibles. Determine how much you're willing to invest in your collection and set a budget accordingly. Remember to consider factors such as rarity, condition, and artist reputation when determining the value of a piece.

Start Small: Begin your collection with a few pieces that truly resonate with you. Whether it's a limited edition figure from your favorite artist or a classic character reimagined in vinyl form, choose pieces that speak to your personal aesthetic and interests.

Mix and Match: Don't be afraid to mix different styles and themes within your collection. Experiment with combining figures from different artists and series to create unique displays that reflect your individual taste and personality.

Stay Informed: Stay up-to-date with the latest releases, collaborations, and artist news within the art toy community. Follow artists and toy brands on social media, join online forums and discussion groups, and subscribe to newsletters to stay informed about upcoming releases and events.

Display with Care: Once you've started building your collection, invest in proper display cases or shelves to showcase your art toys. Keep your collection out of direct sunlight and away from moisture and dust to preserve its value and condition.

By following these tips, you'll be well on your way to building a curated art toy collection that brings joy and inspiration for years to come.

How to Choose the Perfect Designer Toy for Your Collection

Embarking on a journey into the world of toy art collection is an exciting endeavor, but for beginners, it can also be a bit overwhelming. With different options available, from vinyl figures to resin sculptures, knowing how to choose the perfect designer toy for your collection is essential. 

Here are some tips to help you navigate through and find the pieces that resonate with you:

Explore Different Styles and Themes: Designer toys come in various styles, ranging from cute and whimsical to dark and edgy. Take some time to explore different themes and aesthetics to determine what speaks to your personal taste. Whether you're drawn to characters from pop culture, abstract designs, or intricate sculptures, there's something out there for every collector.

Consider Limited Edition Releases: Many designer toy brands release limited edition pieces that are highly sought after by collectors. These limited runs often feature exclusive colorways, collaborations with artists, or special packaging. While they may come with a higher price tag, investing in limited edition releases can add value to your collection and make it more unique.

Research Artists and Collaborations: Behind every designer toy is a talented artist or designer who brings it to life. Take the time to research different artists and their work to gain insight into their style and influences. You may discover new favorites or find that certain artists resonate with you on a deeper level. Additionally, keep an eye out for collaborations between artists and toy brands, as these often result in one-of-a-kind pieces that are highly collectible.

Quality Matters: When building your collection, prioritize quality over quantity. Look for toys made from high-quality materials, such as vinyl or resin, that are durable and well-crafted. Pay attention to details like paint application, sculpting, and overall finish to ensure that you're investing in pieces that will stand the test of time.

Trust Your Instincts: Ultimately, collecting designer toys is a personal journey, and there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to building your collection. Trust your instincts and choose pieces that resonate with you on an emotional or aesthetic level. Whether it's a nostalgic character from your childhood or a cutting-edge design that pushes the boundaries of art, the most important thing is to collect what brings you joy and inspires you creatively.

Top Art Toy Artists: Masters of Miniature Marvels

At the heart of the art toy movement are the visionary artists who breathe life into these diminutive creations. From trailblazers who pioneered the genre to rising stars pushing the boundaries of creativity, let's shine a spotlight on some of the top artists shaping the landscape of art toys:

  • Tara McPherson: A prominent figure in the art toy movement, McPherson's creations feature characters that exude innocence yet possess a hint of wisdom, exploring psychological realms and mythological themes with her distinct style.
  • Ron English: Known for his term "POPaganda" and his eclectic mix of high and low art, English's art toys reflect his Pop Surrealist style, often featuring iconic characters like Ronnnie Rabbbit and MC Supersized.
  • James Jean: Renowned for his intricate and ethereal artwork, Jean's art toys showcase his mastery of detail and storytelling, captivating audiences with their otherworldly beauty and symbolism.
  • Luke Chueh: Famed for his melancholic yet humorous bear characters, Chueh's art toys explore themes of isolation, identity, and society, offering a poignant commentary on the human condition.
  • Huck Gee: A pioneer in the designer toy scene, Gee's bold and dynamic creations often draw inspiration from urban culture and street art, pushing the boundaries of toy design with his distinctive aesthetic.
  • Amanda Visell: Celebrated for her whimsical and playful style, Visell's art toys feature charming characters and intricate designs, showcasing her talent for storytelling and craftsmanship.

Top Vinyl Toy Brands

When delving into the world of toy art collection, it's essential to familiarize yourself with some of the top vinyl toy brands that dominate the scene. These brands not only offer unique designs but also boast a rich history and a dedicated following within the collector community.

  1. Kidrobot

Kidrobot is synonymous with designer vinyl toys. Established in 2002, Kidrobot has collaborated with numerous artists to create limited edition and highly sought-after collectibles. Their diverse range of toys includes iconic characters from pop culture, as well as original creations that appeal to a wide audience.

  1. Funko

Funko has revolutionized the collectibles market with its Pop! Vinyl figures. These adorable, stylized figures feature characters from movies, TV shows, video games, and comic books. With an extensive catalog of licenses, Funko offers something for every collector, from mainstream favorites to niche interests.

  1. Medicom Toy

Medicom Toy is renowned for its high-quality craftsmanship and collaborations with artists and brands worldwide. Their Bearbrick series, featuring bear-shaped figures with various designs, has garnered a dedicated following among collectors. Additionally, Medicom Toy produces other lines of collectibles, including Kubrick and VCD (Vinyl Collectible Dolls).

  1. Mighty Jaxx

Mighty Jaxx specializes in producing limited edition art toys that push the boundaries of creativity. Collaborating with both emerging and established artists, they offer a diverse range of collectibles that cater to different tastes. From whimsical characters to thought-provoking sculptures, Mighty Jaxx consistently delivers innovative designs.

  1. Coarse

Coarse is known for its meticulously crafted and emotionally evocative sculptures. Their creations often explore themes of human nature, relationships, and societal issues. With a distinct visual style characterized by intricate detailing and surreal elements, Coarse's art toys stand out as unique additions to any collection.

Enriching the Experience: High-Value Platforms and Social Media Insights

In our quest to delve deeper into the realm of toy arts, it becomes imperative to tap into insights and perspectives offered by credible sources and influential voices. Below are some platforms that serve as valuable resources, enriching our comprehension of toy arts:

  • Metacubs, a visionary project by acclaimed artist collective Pleix, transforms the Metaverse through art. Powered by Coincub's cryptanalysis, it pioneers NFT art for eco-conscious collectors. With 44 unique NFTs on Polygon, it champions green investment, echoing the rebellion of today's youth against environmental neglect. 
  • New York Times (NYT): Navigate through in-depth articles and features shedding light on the evolving landscape of toy arts. With critical analysis and perspectives from industry insiders and cultural critics, NYT provides a comprehensive view of this burgeoning art form. 
  • BBC: Unveil the cultural significance of toy arts through compelling documentaries and interviews. BBC explores the intersection of art, commerce, and creativity, offering thought-provoking insights into this captivating niche.
  • Dior & LVMH: Gain a deeper understanding of the fusion between fashion and toy arts through collaborations with luxury brands like Dior and LVMH. Explore limited-edition collectibles that blur the lines between haute couture and pop culture, providing a unique perspective on this evolving art form. 
  • CryptoPunks & Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC): Explore the growing influence of digital art and NFTs (non-fungible tokens) on the art toy scene, as platforms like CryptoPunks and Bored Ape Yacht Club redefine notions of ownership and authenticity in the digital age.
  • Social Media Insights: Discover firsthand accounts and reactions from influencers, artists, and collectors on platforms like Twitter and Instagram, where hashtags like #arttoys and #designertoys offer a glimpse into the vibrant and dynamic art toy community. You can also check out Reddit channels dedicated to toy art shows for example the r/designercon on Reddit.

Must Attend Events for Toy Art Collectors.


DesignerCon is a convention in Anaheim dedicated to toy makers, collectors, and artists. Explore various booths and exhibits, including Pop Mart, Sweet Bean, Speculative Fiction, Toy Cube, and Tokidoki. Discover a wide range of toy arts and figures, such as Space Molly, Mega Space Molly, SpongeBob version of Space Molly, Burger Bill, crab pen holder, a Pokemon X Mr. Donut collaboration piece, Monster High dolls, Bumblebee Boy, and more. Meet favorite artists, support independent creators, and interact with fellow fans.

Here’s a comment from an artist who attended DesignerCon 2023:

“I had to comb through past experiences of people on Discord just to prepare my own expectations a little for the show, I don’t think making that information more accessible is harming anyone and makes it more fair.”

Museum of Toys

Experience a curated collection of designer toys from local and international artists. Witness how street culture, surrealism, street art, and comics blend into captivating toys inside the Museum of Toys.

POP Toy Show (PTS)

PTS is organized by POP MART and ActionCity, this highly anticipated event features a diverse array of pop culture-related toys, collectibles, and merchandise. Enjoy exciting art toy launches, engaging stage programs, and a star-studded artist lineup.

ArToys Platform

Explore the ArToys Platform, an all-in-one digital hub for art toy enthusiasts. Access art toy news, event calendars, blogs, and a gamified map. Engage with a community of collectors through profiles, messaging, and personalized notifications. Connect with fellow fans and explore the art toy world.


ToyConUK is the UK's premier designer toy convention, featuring a wide range of designer toys, art toys, and collectibles. The event hosts exhibitions, workshops, and opportunities to meet artists and creators.

Five Points Festival

Five Points Festival in New York City celebrates the intersection of toy design, street art, and counterculture. It features designer toys, art, indie comics, and food trucks, as well as live painting and panels.

Toy Art Gallery (TAG)

Toy Art Gallery in Los Angeles hosts frequent exhibitions and releases of limited edition designer toys. They collaborate with a wide range of artists and designers to showcase unique and innovative toy art.

Designer Toy Awards

The Designer Toy Awards recognize excellence in the designer toy industry, celebrating artists, designers, and producers who push the boundaries of toy art. The annual awards ceremony honors outstanding achievements in various categories.

In conclusion, the world of art toys is a rich tapestry of creativity, imagination, and cultural significance, offering collectors a unique opportunity to connect with artists, express their individuality,

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