Brian Donnelly, known professionally as KAWS the artist, is a contemporary artist based in Brooklyn most famously known for his KAWS Companion figures and toys. While his art is renowned for being affordable, some of his more limited, highly sought-after pieces have made the news for selling at very steep prices. The fact that his earlier figures now sell for way more than the original retail price also serves to cement Donnelly’s impact in the industry. But why exactly are KAWS toys so expensive? Read on to learn more.
Who Is KAWS?
KAWS was born in Jersey City and studied Visual Arts in New York. He is known for his KAWS figurines which are a huge hit on Instagram but can also be found in auctions and museums. While his KAWS Companion figures are the stars of his game, KAWS also creates limited edition prints. He made quite a name for himself in the industry by collaborating with big names like Uniqlo, Medicom, and Disney. Currently, KAWS’ toy line consists of 11-inch vinyl figurines. They are produced by Medicom, the Japanese company, and have been all the rage in several markets, including in Asia. The KAWS line was launched in 2007, followed by a 2010 collection of Boba Fett Stormtrooper versions and 2011 with the Star Wars: The Force Awakens figurines. KAWS’s work has been crucial in growing the vinyl toys and art market, and most of his pieces are considered collectibles. They usually fetch impressive sums in art auctions.
Value of KAWS Companion Art
Art toys, also called designer toys, are collectibles usually made in limited quantities by designers and artists. They can also be produced in collaboration with toy companies. Many toy artists and designers are self-taught and need to work with toy companies to produce their designs. In most cases, the pieces are made of a wide range of materials, including vinyl, metal, acrylic, resin, plastic, or wood. KAWS is one of the most popular contemporary artists today known for his art toys. He has a heavy social media presence, with thousands of followers interested in his designer figurines. According to his bio, KAWS graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in illustration and started designing his pieces in 1990, and his style has remained consistent, garnering him a horde of loyal followers and fans. KAWS’ consistency, artistic genius, and huge following have contributed to the high value of his art. According to Christies, the famous auction house, KAWS toys can sell for varying amounts, ranging from as little as $15 to an astonishing $2.4 million in art auctions.
Where Can You Buy KAWS Companions?
Having understood KAWS’ impact on the art toy market, it should come as no surprise that his pieces are some of the most replicated designer toys. This means that there are as many, if not more, fakes out there as there are authentic KAWS Companion toys. It also means that you should avoid purchasing the toys from online platforms like eBay or Instagram, where you cannot authenticate the piece. While it is possible to get authentic KAWS Companions from sellers on these and other online platforms, you will need to be very cautious and keen. Your best bet is to buy through a reputable dealer or auction house like Christies. Some sellers that offer authentic KAWS Companion figures include:
KAWS Star Wars Darth Vader Companion
The KAWS Darth Vader Figure is one of KAWS’ most popular companion lines. KAWS infused the ultimate movie villain with his artistry to produce the most expensive KAWS toy in StockX history. Designed and released in 2007, this line marked KAWS’ entry into the mainstream market. At an average StockX cost of $26,481, a Star Wars Darth Vader will set you back some dollars. This is to be expected as the piece is considered an iconic piece of art, ranked alongside other works from renowned contemporary artists.
Why Are KAWS Toys So Expensive?
Manufactured products usually have a fixed or average price because their usage is defined. Like many items without a fixed value – think bitcoin and gold – art is typically valued at what the buyer is willing to pay for it. Since there is a large market for KAWS toys and figures, more people are willing to pay very high prices to get them, which explains the high prices. KAWS figures are also very popular in pop culture, with many celebrities buying or posting about them on social media. This also drives up the price considerably. Additionally, you will notice that the most expensive pieces from KAWS are limited editions from collaborations with big names like Disney. This is because the availability of fewer pieces creates an air of exclusivity and urgency around the pieces. KAWS toys usually sell out very fast so, when they are released, customers are more concerned about whether they can get their hands on one and not how much it costs. In fact, Companion Pass, KAWS structural works, immediately sold out upon their release in 2018. The scarcity, artistry, and their popularity in pop culture make KAWS toys very expensive.
Are They Worth the Investment?
There are many reasons to buy a KAWS Companion, and collectors have been doing so for years. Heritage Auctions says that the most expensive piece they have ever sold from KAWS went for a whopping $375,000. It was a Companion-Bus Stop and did not even come close to a painting from the artist that sold for $14.7 million in Hong Kong, which is a record-breaking price tag. All in all, whether or not you buy a KAWS figure and how much you choose to invest in it will depend on your interests. If you are a collector or like designer toys, KAWS is a notable name in the industry, and you should definitely get a piece of the action. The investment will likely pay off, considering that KAWS art pieces have continued to appreciate in value over the years.
KAWS is known for making his art pieces accessible to everyone, including the common enthusiast and collector. Over the years, KAWS has released many figurines, including puzzles that sold for less than $40 and items with Uniqlo that cost $20 or less. Still, some of his KAWS Companion pieces are highly sought after, selling for astrological prices in auctions and art sales. Their high value can be attributed to their excellent quality and artistry, as well as the name KAWS has made for himself in the industry.
Written by Dana Hanson
Read more posts by Dana Hanson