The BE@RBRICK may appear simple at first glance. Created by Japan’s Medicom Toy, it’s essentially just a plastic bear-shaped figurine that comes in various sizes and colors. And yet the toy has made its ways into art galleries, MTV Cribs and is beloved by everyone from Pharrell Williams to Grace Coddington and Ben Baller. It wouldn’t be too far of a stretch to say that these vinyl toys have become canvases for modern expression, playing a crucial role in the intersection of style, art and fashion.
BE@RBRICKs are a form of collectible toy that resemble a cross between LEGO and well, a bear. These block-style figurines boast teddy bear-style heads that have become an integral pillar of the collectible toy scene. In fact, it wouldn’t be so far-fetched to say that it almost single-handedly carved out the fad of toy collecting in modern times, treading the very fine line between toy and art. Since its inception, BE@RBRICKs have become one of the most recognizable characters in the world, and some of the most sought after.
While regular toy figurines are normally reserved for kids, these bear-like objects have spoken to a more sophisticated crowd. Having been known to sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars on resell markets (a 2008 Yue Minjun “Qiu Tu” 1000% model went for close to $200,000 USD at auction, making it the most expensive BE@RBRICK ever sold), BE@RBRICKs are anything but juvenile.
BE@RBRICKS are designed and produced by Japan’s Medicom Toy, a company that is best known for its plastic figurines. The company was founded in 1996 to make limited edition figures and licensed products. It has long created plastic figurines of popular culture.
The BE@RBRICK’S design and concept was loosely based on another line of Medicom Toy’s — the Kubrick, which pay homage to famed director Stanley Kubrick. The line of Kubricks are also represented by a logo that uses the same font as A Clockwork Orange‘s official poster, while the name also coincidentally includes the Japanese word for nine — “ku.” Both Kubricks and BE@RBRICKS are comprised of nine parts — a head, torso, hips, arms, hands, and legs with joints that can move. While the Kubrick toys bear resemblance to a human form, the BE@RBRICK, as mentioned, is an anthropomorphized bear.
Most BE@RBRICKS are comprised of hard plastic, but over time, different series have introduced different materials into the mix, including metal and wood. Regardless, the most common form of BE@RBRICKS are made of plastic, however, Medicom Toy has experimented with different plastics over time.
The first BE@RBRICK was released May 27, 2001 and given out as a free gift to attendees of the World Character Convention in Tokyo, Japan. This iteration was a simple white bear featuring the BE@RBRICK logo — a blue bear shape with a red “@” enclosed within. Measuring in at 70 mm, this marked the standard BE@RBRICK size — the 100%.
With the first BE@RBRICK dubbed the 100%, all following sizes also follow the same system. Generally, BE@RBRICKS range between 50% to 1000%. Aside from these standard sizes, there have been some collections that featured BE@RBRICKS of different shapes and sizes — these fall under the “OTHER” category.