Toy story: Thailand art toys boom with adult collectors’ creativity


The local art toys sector in Thailand is experiencing significant growth, primarily driven by the purchasing power of mainly adult collectors, compounded by the creativity of small toy manufacturers.

According to the Director-General of the Business Development Department, Auramon Supthaweethum, the art toy business is set for continued expansion due to rising consumer demand, presenting promising opportunities for Thai entrepreneurs.

In 2023, the art toy segment generated a total revenue of 19.7 billion baht, with profits amounting to 468 million baht. The sector’s growth has been inconsistent over the past five years, largely due to the pandemic’s impact.

Art toys are gaining popularity, attracting both collectors and a diverse range of artists and small toy manufacturers who view them as a legitimate form of art.

In Thailand, demand for these toys has outstripped supply, leading to a resale market where popular items are pre-ordered at significantly higher prices. This trend encouraged Thai artists to create art toys that embody Thai culture.

The surge in art toy popularity over the past year is partly due to the rise of blind boxes. These are affordably priced and sold through physical stores and vending machines. A blind box conceals the identity of the collectable toy until it is opened, adding an element of surprise. Typically, blind boxes are released in series containing multiple figurines, with rarer items termed “secret figures.”

High demand

These toys are crafted by artists, designers, and illustrators, usually in limited editions, which can drive up their prices. They are made from various materials, including wood, steel, resin, plastic, vinyl, and velvet.

Globally, the commercial value of the art toy industry is rising, fueled by a consumer group referred to as kidults, a group which possesses significant purchasing power. This group comprises teenagers and adults who buy games and collectables for themselves, often seeking items that evoke childhood memories of cartoons, superhero figures, and other merchandise.

In the past year, small businesses dominated the Thai art toy market. Investors from Hong Kong, China, and Japan have been hiring Thai artists, contributing to this growth. Out of 1,024 companies in the sector, small businesses accounted for 220 manufacturers and 804 vendors, representing 93.7% of the industry. The total value of business registrations in the sector stands at 5.7 billion baht.

Thai artists have created several popular characters, with Cry Baby, a teary-eyed girl with short hair, being one of the most well-known. This character has gained significant popularity across Southeast Asia.

In 2023, Thai toy exports, including art toys, reached 8.78 billion baht. The top three export markets were the United States, Japan, and the United Kingdom. In the first four months of 2024, Thai toy exports grew by 51.4% year-on-year, with China leading the market, followed by the United States and Japan.

The art toy sector’s continued growth reflects the increasing global interest in unique and culturally significant collectables, highlighting the potential for Thai artists and manufacturers to expand their presence in international markets, reported Bangkok Post.

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Ryan Turner

Ryan is a journalism student from Mahidol University with a passion for history, writing and delivering news content with a rich storytelling narrative.

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