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The Value of a Cardboard Box

We are often asked if collectible figurines are worth less without their original packaging and if so, by how much?

Unfortunately there is no simple answer. It depends very much on the figurine and its age and rarity. There is no doubt that if there are 2 identical figurines, one in the original packaging and one without, the one in the original packaging will be more sought-after and therefore have more perceived value. However, in most cases it is not so clear cut.

Why is Packaging Important?

There are three main advantages of having the original packaging:

  1. The original packaging adds to the authenticity of the figurine. (Authenticity Value)
  2. The figurine is being sought as a gift. (Gift Value)
  3. The original packaging usually provides the best protection when transporting the figurine. (Protective Value)
Many figurines are originally issued in special presentation boxes that may contain (sometimes unique) information about the figurine. Collectors appreciate their figurines having stories behind them or information that helps prove their authenticity as genuine articles. Any figurine issued with this type of packaging will certainly lose value in the eyes of most collectors if the packaging has been misplaced. However, many figurines are issued in plain boxes that are more functional than decorative, informational or collectible. In some cases, especially if the figurine is still in production, it may be possible to get replacement packaging from the original manufacturer. Clearly in these types of cases, the packaging has less value and adds little or nothing in authenticity value.

When purchasing a figurine as a gift, most people prefer that it be in original packaging and look as close to "original retail" as possible, even if it is a long retired piece. This desire creates more demand for items in their original boxes, which affects the value, but not by much. Most people are smart enough to realize that they can gift wrap an item for little cost and have it be at least as presentable as if it were in the original packaging, so unless there is additional "authenticity value" associated with the packaging, the "gift value" of the box is minimal.

If you purchase a figurine that needs to be mailed, the original packaging usually provides good protection. It may include molded Styrofoam, contour-hugging soft foam, special inserts to protect delicate areas, or other features that allow for the figurine to survive potential rough handling through the mailing system. Although it is perfectly possible to package any item for safe transport with materials that can be purchased at any mailing or office supplies outlet, many people do not understand how to safely package delicate items and unfortunately do not always take the time and effort to ensure they have sufficient protective packaging. Purchasing an item with the original packaging provides a level of comfort that there is less likelihood of the figurine being damaged in transit, especially if purchasing from a private individual.

When is the Packaging Irrelevant?

The short answer to this question is whenever you want it to be. The prior section focused on the advantages of the packaging but it is not difficult to see that if these advantages do not apply to you, the packaging has no real value. Here are some examples of situations when the packaging is irrelevant:

  • If you always throw out the packaging when you buy a new figurine; why pay more for something you do not personally value?
  • If you simply cannot find an example with original packaging; it is never worth letting a desirable piece pass you by simply because of a box that will only sit in storage out of sight.
  • If the original packaging is/was purely functional and without specific markings relating to the figurine; in these cases packaging is interchangeable and therefore replaceable.
  • If the figurine is old; this is a little harder to quantify but the logic is simply that there is an expectation that something made of porcelain will outlast something made of paper.
  • If the figurine is rare; to take an extreme example, Da Vinci's Mona Lisa has not lost any value because it didn't come in a presentation box! Rare items are by nature in short supply and will always have their value determined purely by the demand for the item.

What have we learned about the value of packaging?

The first thing you should take away is that the value of the packaging is a matter of individual perception. Some people perceive it has value and some don't.

If you don't mind the lack of original packaging, you can find some great bargains buying from people that perceive higher value in the packaging. You may even be able to get replacement 'original' packaging for less than the price difference between a boxed and unboxed figurine.

If you have plans to resell your figurines at some point in the future, keeping the original boxes always makes sense. Whether the original packaging adds real value to a figurine or not, having the packaging at the point of resale increases your likelihood of selling for a good price.

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