Blind box toys are small figurines wrapped inside uniform packaging to keep their identities secret until they are opened. These little toys are often pop culture characters borrowed from television, comics, movies, and more–and they’re terribly addictive once you start collecting them. They’re also known as “mystery minis”, toy manufacturer FunKo’s trademarked brand of blind boxes.
Sets often vary in size, from 8 unique characters to over 25. Common and rare characters keep collectors guessing just which they will find. And it’s not cheap to catch them all: each toy averages $8 per item, and diligently collecting a full set could be as little as $100 (if you’re lucky) – but get ready to spend a grip of cash if you hope to collect a full set.
Now that you’re caught up on the magic and science of these little creatures, let’s talk about how to snag what you want without busting your budget or breaking the rules. Retailers and toy companies hope you will rely on chance to find the mystery mini your heart is set on. But with a little ingenuity and cleverness, you just might find the toy you’re looking for on the first try.
Disclaimer: the success of these methods is not guaranteed. Use at your own discretion, and respect retailers’ rules if they have specifically requested you do not engage in any of the tactics below. And remember that half the fun is the mystery of the find. Only try these if you’re deadly intent on locating specific characters.
Now on to the good stuff!
Weigh blind boxes
This is the closest you’ll get to seeing inside the box without visiting an x-ray machine (though you might look a little dorky doing it). Be warned: the method is controversial among blind box toy collectors, and weighing blind boxes is rife with caveats such as requiring access to the box before buying it. That means no online purchases where a retailer selects the box for you.
If you do choose to buy online, you can try returning the box after it arrived on your doorstep. Note that many retailers have special restrictions with blind box purchases that prevent returns, even if the packaging is intact.
Your luck is improved if you can handle the boxes before purchase. Carry an electronic pocket scale into your friendly local geek boutique selling blind boxes. Book stores, comic shops, novelty shops, and game stores will often carry them. You can purchase a sensitive scale that measures to a high degree of accuracy for less than $10 on Amazon. I highly recommend that you also buy a calibration weight for additional accuracy.
Image: Lauren Hall-Stigerts
Common sense and good judgment can combat the risk of measurable differences. Get a feel for what might throw off the weight: paint, extra packaging, duplicate character shapes, and more. Be shrewd and search out dramatic weight differences to minimize risk of duplicates.
For example, if one box weighs 5 grams less than your current character and another weighs 22 grams more, take the box with the greatest difference – in this case, the one that weighs more. My Game of Thrones Arya figurine (pictured above) weighed a full 25% lighter than the next-heavier character in my Game of Thrones collection. It was a sure bet when I selected her box that I was going to get a new character.
You will have a higher rate of success if the character set comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. For example, this Living Dead Dolls collection has uniquely-shaped characters that are sure to be very different in weight.
Custom box codes
Most blind box toy manufacturers emphasize in their marketing that there are NO codes that give away what is inside. Most. Some still have hidden codes that help the manufacturer track inventory of specific characters.
Some collectors complain that using codes to locate characters give them an unfair advantage over the serendipitous enthusiast. Snatching up all the rare toys the first time around leaves the duplicates for unsuspecting fans. Also, some code hunters have left chaos in their wake by damaging boxes to locate codes: be courteous of the retailer and others who are interested.
Buy more blind boxes at lower cost
Feeling entrepreneurial? Driven collectors might want to consider buying unopened cases at a discount and reselling duplicates.
Many online retailers sell unopened cases of blind box toys at a discount. For example, you would save roughly 15% – 25% per figurine if you purchased the Game of Thrones Mystery Minis case of 24 boxes.
Offset astronomical costs by reselling boxes on eBay, Craigslist, and more. Consider combining the weighing methodology with this case-purchase tactic to improve your chances of making your money back. Unopened boxes are more likely to fetch a higher price ($6 – $8) than common revealed characters ($2 – $5).
Find retailers and collectors who will exchange blind box toys
The least exciting but most practical option of getting the blind box toy you want: simply buy or exchange the character.
Blind box toys are rife with duplicates. Depending on the series, it’s not uncommon to have 3-6 duplicates of the same toy before you score a rare.
Some retailers will allow open exchanges: a clear case might be placed in the store containing one or two characters from a series at a time. They will allow you to exchange your figure for one in the case. The good news is that you know exactly what you’re getting. The bad news is that you’re likely going to be exchanging a very common character for another very common character. This strategy is not recommended for collectors looking for rares only.
Rares may still be difficult to acquire using this method, but keep your eyes open for avid collectors with duplicate rares. Be ready to bring more to the table than just your duplicates – perhaps a blind box from another series could entice them to give up a sought-after collectible.
When all else fails for the hardcore collector…
So you’ve tried weighing. You bought a case or two. You’ve exchanged your duplicates. Now you’re just missing those super-rare toys to top off your collection.
Grab your allowance: it’s time to buy previously opened rares. These can go anywhere from $20 to well over $100 for a vinyl figure on the second-hand market. And they still fly off the shelves at that price, if you can believe it. Check sites like Amazon and eBay for individual sellers looking to part with a character for a fetching price.
Now you have a few creative tools to building out your blind box toy collection! There are still others not discussed here, such as calculating the probability of box placement in a case.