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Collecting and Collectibles – A Timeless Appeal


I used to love collecting things as a child from stamps, coins, stickers and Smurfs to marbles, Lego, erasers and Body Shop bath pearls! I love the fact that in today’s digital age, children still enjoy collecting physical items.

What did 80s and 90s kids collect?

  • Pokémon cardsThe 90s card trading game. The release of the augmented reality game Pokémon GO in 2016 reignited interest in the franchise and the trading cards got a new audience. Some are really valuable now
  • Care Bears – Multi-coloured plush stuffed bears that had their own TV show
  • Lego – My brother and I had a massive collection. As popular today as it’s always been

  • Beanie Babies – iconic plush, under-stuffed animals  
  • POGs – Err cardboard discs that you could stack and flip
  • Panini Stickers – My brother and I used to collect these in albums for major football tournaments. Part of the fun was doing swapsies with friends; I even recall a market stall where you could riffle through their extensive collection and do swaps for a few pence. I still collect Panini stickers for major football tournaments.

  • Marbles – the more colours they had the more ‘valuable’ they were. We used to play on drains at school
  • Warhammer – my husband used to collect and paint theses 3D miniatures then play the tabletop game with his older brother
  • Body Shop bath pearls – If you know, you know

  • Strawberry Shortcake dolls – a character originally developed by American Greetings to appear on its greeting cards, it became so popular it was quickly re-imagined as a doll
  • Polly Pocket – micro-figurines, which were less than an inch tall. She could be played with in miniature play sets (the original was based on a make-up compact)

Eraser Collection

As mentioned, I used to collect erasers. Sounds odd, but I wasn’t the only one. My friends and I used to have 100s of them between us. They were small, cheap, tactile, colourful and came in infinite designs, which often resembled other things (loved my post box one!). They’d often have special features such as a ‘display case’ or the crème de le crème be a ‘smelly!’   

Collecting Smurfs


My Smurf collection deserves a special mention. I loved watching the Smurfs cartoon series during the weekend in the 80s. It was something the whole family enjoyed. We even used to call my dad Papa Smurf! These little blue creatures were very much a part of popular culture at the time (there was even Smurf ice-cream in Italy!).

The collectible figures soon appeared in my local gift shop in Streatham. I wasn’t into dolls but enjoyed collecting things, so these little characters really appealed. Starting with basic ones, I then moved onto hunting out rarer ones. Then there were special edition ones tied to things like the Olympics. I built a massive collection, which was probably nearing 100. Sadly, by 14 I’d totally outgrown Smurfs, so sold them for a quick buck at a car boot sale. Someone bought them within minutes of us arriving so knew their value. I’m rather gutted as certain collections go for £1000s. I later found a few that had missed the chop (pictured above – not much of a collection).

The allure of collecting

I think the draw of collecting comes from having a connection with a particular subject be it a place, programme, game or brand or a type of object that captivates. I used to love looking through tickets I’d hoarded as they were a reminder of family trips and interesting places. Sometimes it’s just about the actual look and haptic quality of items.

It’s not only about accumulating items but also about engaging with ‘your tribe’ or entering an imaginary world. For grown-ups nostalgia plays a big part; collecting is also quite comforting. Then there’s rarity and treasure hunting. As a kid, if you found a super rare you were the talk of the playground. Don’t even get started on the rush to collect special editions!

What my children collect/ed

One of my twins is an avid shell and fossil collector. She loves shells simply because they’re pretty. However, it was Mary Anning prompted the fascination and collection of ammonites, belemnites and even coprolites 💩! My other twin has a collection of gemstones and crystals. All three enjoy collecting buttons.    

Panini stickers, marbles, stamps, Lego, coins and Pokemon cards have made the cut with my kids.

However, every generation has its new trends and below are what my Gen Zedders have collected/are collecting:

  • Lego Create The World Trading Cards – exclusive to Sainsbury’s, kids were going nuts for them
  • Beanie Boos – the successor to the Beanie Babies of the 80s; they have bigger eyes (!?)

  • Jellycats – These soft toys have been around since 1999, but have exploded in popularity in the last few years. The range has expanded significantly from the  original bunnies and includes everything from sushi and seafood to succulents and sausage dogs 

  • LOL dolls –  Billed as the ‘ultimate unboxing toy,’ LOL Surprise! Dolls landed in February 2017. Each layer reveals a surprise in the way of the doll itself, outfit, accessories and stickers – the perfect mix ‘n match collection with coveted rares 
  • Red Noses – Red noses for comic relief have been around for decades. However, in 2022 things got really serious with different ones to collect. Everyone was desperate to get hold of a super rare Cam the Chameleon

In search of the elusive Cam

What did you used to collect? What do your children love collecting now? Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to know!


About Author

I’m Fran: wife, mother-of-three and freelance publicist. My love for communicating and writing mirrors my passion for trying to be the best mum I can be. I love good food & wine, Italian culture and football and have a keen interest in personal finance. I also blog over on Epsom & Ewell Families and Habyts, and write sporadically for a number of other sites.


  1. I used to collect different shaped erasers and I made a scrapbook of newspaper cuttings of Formula one as I used to and still follow it.

    • The erasers was massive. I hadn’t realised how much so until I started writing about it for this blog. Love the F1 scrapbook, and that you still follow. Which team/driver?

  2. Erasers and those small Wade porcelaine animal figures eceryone used to have. Worth quite a bit of money now!! I used to love how the erasers smelt. I would get my shoebox out and sniff them one by one lol. Fizzy coke bottles, strawberry milkshakes, vanilla icecream cones with sauces and a flake. Just such a young teen thing to do. The Wade animals I think started off in christmas crackers and became a bit of a thing. I’m coming up for 53, so must have been one of the first to be collecting the erasers. It was such a huge deal to us all.

    • I hadn’t realised that erasers were such a big thing – I thought it was just me and a few friends – until I mentioned it to others. The smells of them were fantastic. I had a rainbow one in a case that was divine! I’m not so familiar with the Wade animals though.

  3. Love this!!! Rubbers (used to be an amazing little shop in Epsom called Rainbows End, heaven for any stationary lovers!) the little turtles that were in Kinder Eggs, sticker album (neighbours, home and away, my little pony, Care Bears) and oil bath pearls and animal soaps from the body shop ❤️❤️❤️. Pure nostalgia ❤️. Thanks Francesca xxx

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