You can find knock-offs almost anywhere these days. Clothes, shoes, bags, electronics – all replicas of name brands – flood the market. Even toys are no longer exempt. There are fake Barbie dolls sold for less than ten percent of the price of the original, fake Transformers robots which look amazingly close to the originals, Hello Kitty stuffed dolls that are no less pretty as the authentic ones ripped off from Sanrio- you name it, there’s probably an imitation of it being sold anywhere at any time in the world. Apparently, even Sylvanian Families are not exempt, with the appearance of “Sylvanian-like” figures, buildings, and accessories in online market places like eBay.
Theratpack360 of Sylvanian Haven has a very good review on a particular set of knock-offs manufactured by SanJin Toys (China). You can find the review here. Not only does she describe the products in clear detail in terms of figure quality (flocking, joints, clothing, coloring) and packaging, she also makes a very prophetic statement on the effect of these knock-offs on the market as far as Sylvanians as concerned.
“The down side is that as companies try to compete with a name brand and customers keep buying the alternative, it has the potential to drive quality of the main brand down to keep within competition.”~ Sylvanian Haven
True enough, we see that happening already. In a recent visit to the toy store that owns the distribution rights of Sylvanian Families in the Philippines (Toy Town Eastwood), I came across these items- three-figured families, matching babies, and some furniture.
I wasn’t at all surprised to see these, having heard about their existence in the forum beforehand. But seeing them up close and personal, I could not help but notice the marked differences in quality, packaging, and costs from figures previously released. For example, comparing the three-figured sheep family side by side with the original four-figured sheep family, it is clear that SF has cut corners with coloring (single colors as opposed to multiple colors and variations), clothing (single items of clothing without much structure or design), and packaging to diminish production costs. The dogs and mice aren’t so bad looking, though. They are, in fact, rather cute.
The new sheep family comes in a single color and has lost the pink noses and ears of the original. Clothes are simpler, less detailed single pieces. These are also packaged in clear plastic with only cardboard backing.
The introduction of these new families seems to be the response we were expecting to cheap copies that threaten SF’s market share. Sylvanian Families toys, as we all know, have a reputation for being expensive (and they are, really) and while this affords the brand a certain prestige, it also tends to discourage a large segment of the market from trying out the toy line. By meeting market needs with simpler toys that require less to produce, Epoch may be effectively heading off competition from knock-offs.
But figures are not all that these new releases have modified. If original Sylvanian Families designs are genteel, refined, and elegant in nature, these new releases can be considered a simpler, working man’s line, or what my husband likes to call “the farmer’s line.” (No offense meant to farmers, though. Even the salesman kidded and called these new critters as “ipinanganak sa bukid” or literally “born in a field,” in reference to their simpler, less sophisticated aesthetics.) Not that there’s anything wrong with them, but collectors can definitely see the differences in quality and attention to detail. For the first time,we have Epoch Euro furniture sold as single items, much like the singly-boxed Epoch JP furniture sold in Japan, Hong Kong, or Singapore. Beyond that, the similarities end.
While still made of sturdy, smooth plastic, not much else was added to its appeal. The sofa, for example, is no longer upholstered with foam and fabric; what passes as cushioned seats are strips of cloth pasted directly on the plastic molding. The television lacks a clear screen, which used to be thick acetate in older versions. Pictures provided for the telly are no longer laminated plastic, just simple cardboard. Moreover, the packaging seems fuzzy and unclear, making it look like knock-offs when they really are not.
What these lack in aesthetics, they more than make up in affordability. These three-figured families are pegged at PHP649.75 as compared to PhP1000-1200 for the regular four-figured families, a savings of 13-28% per figure off of the original. The babies are sold at PhP179.75 each compared to the PhP250 of the baby carry cases. And single furniture go as low as PhP149.75, making it easier and lighter on the pocket as one can choose specific items without having to buy complete sets. This makes these perfect for little kids or for parents who want sturdy, safe toys for less price.
I don’t know if this is the ultimate future of this toyline, and if it is, this is a development many diehard collectors will one day rue. Side by side with the original designs, I can learn to live with these new releases, no big deal. Choices are always good for the consumer. By themselves, however, I feel that these are but a sorry excuse for Sylvanians.