Graffiti and Street Art Toys
Alongside antique furniture, comic books, stamps and coins, toys are probably among the most popular collectible items of all times. Any collector knows that toys will always be valuable and even more so if they are unique pieces of art customized by an artist. These unique support for creation have long been part of the Urban Art movement, first in a very community way and then by reaching the general public through limited pieces that can reach several thousands of euros.
Keith Haring was the first street artist to hint at the possibility of limited art collectibles. In 1986, he opened his iconic Pop Shop in New York and then Tokyo to make his art accessible to everyone by selling art toys and other products adorned with his style and motifs. And just as Keith Haring envisioned, affordable collectibles like fine art toys has offered an accessible entry point to the art market for new art collectors worldwide and has since never ceased to develop. Nowadays, whether they are made in vinyl, wood, resin, metal, plastic… and called designer toys, urban vinyl or vinyl toys, collectors can find art toys with many different types of visuals and inspiration, as well as find limited editions or unique art toys entirely hand-painted by authentic graffiti and street artists on Urbaneez.
But the first vinyl toys to collect really appeared in the 1990s in Japan, where the phenomenon was so widespread that it gave birth to several collector niches, including the “urban vinyl” niche which is composed by action figures whose subject is Graffiti, Hip-Hop culture, and the urban environment. More precisely, this urban art trend was initiated in Hong Kong when artists Michael Lau and Eric So started using vinyl to create limited versions of collectible toys targeted to an adult audience. They produced limited editions created by designers, graphic designers, cartoonists, illustrators, graffiti and street artists such as Ron English who was one of the early designer toy creators. However, and if everyone has heard about art toys now, it is also thanks to the former graffiti artist KAWS who introduced his iconic characters as art objects in the toy industry. Created in 1999, the iconic art toy figurine “Companion” from KAWS quickly made fine art toys a popular trend in the art world and has influenced a whole generation of artists specializing in art collectibles, while becoming at the same time its greatest ambassador.
One of the characteristics of art toys is also that they are either self-produced or made by small, independent art toy companies such as Medicom Toy, Toy2R, Kidrobot or even ArtToyz Originals which all provide limited editions. The main materials used to produce them can vary and their forms and styles can come from many different inspirations. As an example, graffiti artists JonOne has built 3D art toy versions of his original letters done in the streets, while other artists like Zenoy, Cren, Graffmatt, Le Cyklop, Gum, Jay Kaes, Zurik and Jo Di Bona have customized Bearbricks by hand painting them with acrylics and markers. On Urbaneez, you can buy limited and even graffiti and street art Toys created by world-renowned artists, and more to come.