My love for buying secondhand items for my daughter started with cloth diapers. Making babies wear cloth diapers was all the rage in 2016 and seamstresses made the best ones.
I learned a lot through our cloth diaper journey. One of them was to take care of the ones we had since they can be reused by up to three more kids, or they can be resold. It also taught me how to clean and sanitize items good enough for my own child to use.
When my daughter outgrew her diapers, we moved on to toys. It was a natural progression. I recycled poop catchers, why can’t I do the same for toys?
I realized early on that most toy prices depended on packaging. I once bought a brand-new Disney Minnie Mouse cash register for P700 because of its banged-up box. The toy itself was in pristine condition. Its regular price was P2,300.
The crazy thing about it is that expensive packaging ends up as waste later on—waste that our children will have to deal with when they become adults.
Blind-box or blind-bag toys, or those packed in such a way that you don’t see what’s inside, cost a lot more. Companies have cleverly made the unboxing experience part of the price. Toy lines such as Hatchimals rarely go on sale, at least locally, because watching and helping a toy “hatch” is very popular among children.
The same strategy is employed by the newest toy craze Magic Mixies Magical Misting Cauldron. You put potions into a cauldron, mix it with your wand, watch smoke rise and then you end up with a plush toy—a tiny unicorn plush toy worth P3,000.
I am not discouraging parents to buy said toys for their children especially if they can afford it. They’re fun. The joy kids experience when they do the mixing and watch the hatching is something they will probably remember for a very long time. They can be a great gift on special occasions for children who really want them. They make for nice social media content, too.
But these toys show how much the prices are really about their packaging. And this is what drove me to look into secondhand toys.
There are plenty of pages and groups that sell ukay-ukay toys for a fraction of their original prices. The usual diligence must be practiced when buying something online.
Some of the common secondhand dolls found online are the Cabbage Patch Kids (CPK). Brand new, their prices range from P2,500-P3,000. Secondhand, they can go for as low as P300 each, with complete accessories but without their birth certificates and adoption papers. Conditions vary and this is something you can ask from the seller.
All CPK dolls have the year of their production imprinted on the back of their heads. It will also say if it was produced for a CPK milestone. The dolls are signed by the artist who designed them.
Some come with tags which tell you that they have never been washed by their original owners. It can also mean that the dolls were used for display. Or it could really just be because they were never played with at all.
Huffington Post reported in 2019 that 28 percent of parents in the United Kingdom discard toys that were never played with. According to the British Heart Foundation in the same report, unused toys number up to 162 million pieces.
Clean them up
I wash and sanitize all my purchases despite their great condition because I buy them for playing and not for display. Dolls like CPK, American Girls, Baby Alive and Lalaloopsy are easy to clean. There is no need for special detergent to wash them. Regular soap powder and water can remove dirt and dust from their bodies.
I do admit that I like buying used toys for the challenge they pose. It feels very rewarding to wash them and return them to their almost brand-new glory.
Pen marks on their vinyl surfaces can be removed with toothpaste. But for really tough stains, acetone is used, though it should be the last option because it can also remove paint that’s supposed to be there, like details on the doll’s face.
A lot of patience is needed for synthetic doll hair. You must detangle it first by brushing from the ends and working your way to the top of the head. Use your favorite conditioner and wash the hair well.
Things that you should ask the seller about are the flaws. They include pen marks, stitches and stains. Ask for pictures of these flaws and have them include a pen or a coin in the picture for size comparison. I avoid anything with stitches and marks longer than half an inch.
The sheer volume of what’s available online means I can be picky with what I buy, too.
Secondhand doesn’t always mean cheaper. Lego sets and bricks are common in surplus shops and pages. Some are sold per kilo. However, it is sometimes more economical to wait for flash sales from Lego and toy stores than to buy Lego secondhand. The best buys from these pages are from collectors because they let go of their pieces and common mini figures for a quarter of the original price. Their reasons for selling are usually because they need the space or they’ve grown tired of them.
It’s also smart to regularly check toy stores to keep yourself updated with the prices. I found a used Vampirina doll that made sounds and had wings being sold for P500. The same doll was being sold boxed in Toy Kingdom and Toys “R” Us for P300. Its regular price is P1,500.
We still buy toys at regular prices for our child, especially toys she has to ride, for safety reasons. We take her to toy stores and make her choose toys that she likes as a reward for her hard work or when it’s Christmas or her birthday.
But we also don’t say no when relatives and friends offer their children’s old clothes and toys. We also don’t hesitate buying and using secondhand items because some toys are not meant to be used by just one child. When the time comes, we will let go of them so that other kids can enjoy them.