A beginner's guide to Shopkins: the tiny toys littering homes around Australia.

There’s a shopping underbelly in Australia.

A black market of items, where shifty dealers do deals right under our noses.

They’re trading tiny plastic toys.

They’re called Shopkins. And they’ve just made their inventor – Moose Toys – millions of real cash money and awards for what’s essentially tiny pieces of plastic with cute faces on them.

Listen to Dee Madigan explain the power of Shopkins to a baffled Andrew Daddo and a weary Holly Wainwright, here:

Every parent with a 4-10 year old will be nodding along, knowing full well this game of trickery.  But if you’re like everyone else, shaking your head, baffled at this entire thing, wondering how you too can make a toy and sell 600 million of them, read on.

Because the struggle is real.

What exactly are these things?

Teenie TV, Mary Wishes, and Dippy Avocado. Via Wikipedia. Because of course they have a Wikipedia.

Shopkins are teeny-tiny figures that are mini shopping items. Yep. Kids are losing their minds over groceries.

With cute names like "Frank Furter" and "Kooky Cookie", they are adorable and addictive. The idea is to collect them, and fill up your mini plastic fridge, or kitchen, then swap them with your school mates, until you are the rightful owner of an entire tiny supermarket of your own.

It's not a joke. They're in over 20 countries. They're all over your house. They're under your feet, they're in your vacuum cleaner tube, and now, counterfeit ones are springing up in China which means there is now a black market for a tiny toy supermarket.

What do they do?


But sit there in their plastic cherub rubberyness, and stare at you with their cute eyes.


How does it work?

You buy them, d'uh.

Then you buy more.

Because ever-lurking is the promise of finding the rare and ultra-rare shopkins, at which point your five year old can navigate an ebay auction, take the toy they bought for $5 and sell it for almost $400.

Maybe, just maybe the next packet will house the Gemma Stone, a piece of plastic sold on eBay for over $29,000 last year.

So keep buying, mum and dad.

Because, at the end of the day, no parent wants to send their kid into the playground with Aspara-Gus. The REAL playground cred lies in Mandy Candy and anything with a glitter finish.

Why the smeg do they work?

Dee Madigan a marketing expert and Gruen Transfer panellist says the real game here is strategy.

They're bright, they're fun sized, they're adorably named, and there is a youtube channel, app and games connected to them so you can't escape. There is a competition element with peers and the lure of the rare and ultra rare ones. But mostly, the reason they're successful is because Shopkins are tied to adult behavior: and kids LOVE imitating adults.

Think back to when you were a kid and you loved playing with a toy vacuum cleaner/lawnmower/kitchen.  Not knowing what lie ahead of you. Ugh.

Can I invent a toy and make millions too?

Well, you can try, but Dee Madigan says 90% of children's toys fail.  But she DOES have some good tricks for what to look for in kids toys and how you can talk to your kids when their eyes glaze over watching toy ads.

Best to just listen to the podcast and commiserate with  other baffled parents.

This Glorious Mess is the weekly podcast with stories from the frontline of family life. Subscribe in itunes or listen here:

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