Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from goo.gl/Ta4oAX.
Published August 28th 2013
Grow your collection weekly
Most people collect one thing or another. With my dad it is stamps, with my mum and I, it's teddy bears. A love of collecting often starts in childhood, but there is no denying that becoming a collector can prove an expensive hobby. Gone are the good old days when children could start collecting things for free. Once upon a time, you could collect lots of free stuff by just doing the grocery shopping. The most you'd have to spend is a few pennies of your pocket money on a stick of gum, and you could start collecting cards. There were also collectable tea and cigarette cards, for which children didn't have to spend a penny because these were products bought by parents.
As a child of the nineties, the free collectibles I was into were Tazos. With every packet of Walkers crisps, I looked forward to discovering which Looney Tunes Character was going to make it into my folder. A lot of the time I ended up with doubles, but that just made it all the more fun for trading.
But alas, these free gifts have long since left the scene. So what kind of things can kids collect nowadays that won't break their piggy bank? Here are a few ideas that can be bought at pocket money prices.
1. Beanie Babies
Beanie Babies are fun to collect because they are cute, cuddly, and can be played with. New Beanie Babies are generally on the market for around £4-£6, with some of the more special editions around the £10 mark.
For the best deal, however, you should look at the secondary market. Unlike most collectible items, which become more expensive once retired from production, Beanie Babies seem to have gone down in value. Not particularly good news for past collectors like me, who want to sell them, but very handy for new kids on the block.
Unless it is a rare toy or has a mint condition first generation tag, I have seen Beanie Babies sell between 99p to £3. They are not particularly hard to find either. eBay is plagued with them, but you'll probably get your best bargain at a car boot sale or at the charity shop.
2. Happy Meal Toys
If they aren't bothered about the quality or looking for any long term treasure, the one free collectible you can still get are the plastic toys that come from fast food kids' meal.
Happy Meal toys that came out with the release of 'The Lion King 2'.
At weekends I used to go on days out with my grandma. Sometimes this was a trip to the park, and other times it was just a simple drive down to McDonald's for burgers, fries, and the latest free toy. The toys are almost always, promotional, usually related to the latest film release (at the moment, I think the theme is The Smurfs. I collected everything from racing cars (had to ask for the boys' toys), My Little Pony, action hero figurines, and Disney toys. 3. Stones
Gemstones of different sizes.
While rubies and diamonds may be a little out of your kids' price range, you can buy semi-precious gemstones quite cheaply. Small tumbled stones such as quartz or agate can be found in specialist rock shops, gift shops, and even some toy stores. A single stone can cost about 50p to £3 depending on its rarity or size. You could also buy a bag of little bead-size gems, which can be used to make charm bracelets or displayed decoratively in a bowl. If your kids prefer to play with their collectibles, they they could buy glass marbles instead.
Badges are a great accessories for kids to customise their school bags, clothing, or whatever else they might want to pin them to. Badges are a way to show off their individual style and can relate to anything from TV shows to charities. An average size badge is about £1, with smaller badges usually at 50p, and bigger badges at £2.50. They can often be found with other related merchandise such as t-shirts and posters, or on offer by the till when you're at the checkout.
5. Activity Magazines
Activity magazines are great for several reasons: they get kids reading, can be educational, keep them occupied with puzzles or crafts, and stops them 'over buying'. What I mean by this is that magazines are issued out on specific dates - weekly, monthly, quarterly, bi-annual, etc - so they can't blow all their pocket money in one go. Instead they have to wait each week (or however long it is until the next issue is released), before they can spend again.
I used to collect Where's Wally? magazines that focussed on geography and history. They came with large binders and stickers to mark off each one in the collection. I think the closest equivalent today is the Horrible Histories magazines.
Activity magazines generally cost between £1.99 - £9.99. The more expensive magazines usually fit into the hobbyist genre, and include parts of a model set that you have to put together (e.g. a train with track). These types are released on a less frequent basis, so equates to about the same price as a cheap weekly mag. You can also save money by subscribing.