Collecting Hello Kitty for Fun, and Occasionally, Profit

Hello Kitty

Hello Kitty, created by the Sanrio company in 1974, has become one of the most popular and recognizable icons in the world. Sanrio celebrated 40 years of Kittydom in 2014, and she shows no sign of slowing down or going out of favor. In fact, she is one of the most collectable items in the world. A vintage lunchbox set from the 70s can fetch hundreds of dollars, from fans and non-fan collectors alike.

From a decorative stationery item to a full fledged character with a back story and a TV series, the former Miss Kitty White has also become a symbol of wealth and bling. She has been cast in platinum, covered in Swarovski crystals and turned into a cute robot, all at tremendous expense. In fact, Hello Kitty is the epitome of cuteness, or Kawaii, as it is known in Japan.

But as most collectors’ budgets don’t run to thousands of dollars for that kind of bling, a more humble collection may start with the items still available in stationery stores. The erasers, pencils, notebooks and coin purses that first unleashed Kitty White upon the world can still be found in abundance wherever Sanrio products are sold. Children usually start with these products, putting together a collection solely for fun.

Older collectors can start with eBay, where there are often great bargains to be found. Investment collectors look for vintage items that were produced before Hello Kitty became a household name. As with most mass produced items of the 70s and 80s, these items were bought to be used, played with and thrown away. Few survive in mint condition, so when they turn up they can fetch worthwhile prices. Garage sales and charity shops can also be good sources of vintage items.

With so many different types of merchandise available, from dolls to pot holders, from cameras to computer accessories, collecting Hello Kitty can be bewildering. At some point, you may want to specialize by collecting Hello Kitty home wares, fine china or even pajamas. Just remember, if you are collecting for investment, to keep your acquisitions in the original packaging and never open or use them. If an item has been opened or used, it loses value.

In seeking out the most profitable items to collect, look for vintage items and newer items that are not likely to survive intact. For example, a vintage dollhouse with all its accessories, figurines and furniture can fetch upwards of $500, while even a simple toy like an art set can fetch a high price if it is still unopened and complete. Most of these items do not survive intact, so this is one area where your investment collecting can prove profitable.

However, most collectors amass Hello Kitty for the love of it, and end up spending thousands of dollars in pursuit of their happiness. In 2011, Japanese collector Asako Kanda made the Guinness Book of Records for having the biggest collection of more than 4000 items. In Britain, collector Natasha Goldsworth has amassed more than $76,000 worth of Hello Kitty. That’s a lot of Kawaii!