What Makes A Good Mystery Box?

We talked about some of the best Mystery Boxes before and highlighted some of our favourites. But what are those all-important factors that elevate one from being average to being a really good mystery box?

Price And Value For Money

I’ve seen prices for boxes vary immensely. At the bottom of the range, you can get them for as low as £10. But for the more exclusive, lavish ones you can expect to pay a three-figure sum. Truthfully, the sweet spot seems to be in the region of £25-£30 and this seems to keep most buyers happy.

But that’s only half of it. What also matters is the perceived “value” of the mystery box. We can generally gauge the price of many items we receive in boxes. However, as not everything will be to our liking we need that sense of satisfaction from it so there has to be some feeling that we’ve had our money’s worth so we need to believe that the box is worth substantially more than it cost.

We all know that older items (usually the content of these boxes) can be picked up cheaply, especially wholesale. But a graphic novel with a £10 RRP is still a £10 value in a £25 box, even if it cost the supplier £2!

Keep It Official

For themed boxes – such as the Doctor Who one from the Amazing Mystery Box or the Star Wars boxes from Smuggler’s Crate, we all love a good mix of licensed merchandise. Generally as long as it’s interesting, what it is doesn’t matter too much. What ARE a problem are the unofficial or bootleg items that are appearing in cheaper boxes.

While some collectors don’t mind these items, they can cheapen the overall impression given by a Mystery Box. Not only that but the quality of these often leaves a lot to be desired. Whether it’s fake LEGO minifigures to fan-made artwork or other products, it gives the impression that boxes are put together “on the cheap”.

DIY… Or Not

I’ve seen a number of boxes that have attempted to pad out the quantity of items offered by providing goods produced by themselves. These have ranged from art prints, novelty gifts, to store branded goods and many more besides. Truthfully these add little or no value to a mystery box.

If anything they detract from the overall experience of what you might get in a package. Regardless of whether they are well made or not, no-one wants something with a store’s branding on it. They want official merchandise and something they are likely to have seen on sale elsewhere.

Collectibles Not Collections

One thing I abhor in mystery boxes are items that belong in sets or collections. Now, don’t get me wrong – some items I don’t mind like graphic novels that can be read independently or figurines that look good on display on their own. What are useless are packets of stickers from collector’s albums, expansion packs for games or other items dependent on something else.

These are generally low value and many see them as extras. Regardless, they feel like unwanted leftovers that stores just wanted to offload on customers and if anything, detract from the mystery box experience.

Food

I’ve only encountered this from one Mystery Box company so far, but I don’t think there’s a place for food or snacks of any kind in boxes. Obviously if it’s a specific food related box that’s fine, but if not then the inclusion of random food items make no attempt to consider dietary requirements of collectors.

Truthfully, I’ve even seen food related boxes that don’t ask questions to find out whether customers are vegetarian, vegan, or have food intolerances. So if that’s a key problem for the mystery box industry, is it really a surprise that none check when they include snacks in their boxes as bonus items?

Quantity

Boxes don’t have to contain hundreds of items. We’re all fairly realistic depending on promises made and the price we pay. If shipping is charged separately to the price of the box, then I’d expect to see a minimum of 2+ items for every £10 in price of the box.

That would allow for a fair profit margin and hopefully some good value items as well. I genuinely don’t mind only getting four items in a £20 box, as long as it feels as if I’m getting value for that £20.

Age Sensitive

What I mean here isn’t about producing boxes either with 18+ rated items or ensuring that they avoid them. It’s more being sensitive to what collectors would actually be interested in. Most mystery boxes are bought by adult collectors or for collectors of all ages, so this should be reflected in the contents.

I’ve had boxes on numerous occasions with toys that are obviously aimed at younger fans, or stationery sets. I don’t know of any collectors that would want an Avengers stationery set so why include one? Something like that would be better suited for a child’s box and should be reserved solely for those.

Reading The Room

There are products and those in the creative industry who have fallen out of favour in recent years. It’s not easy to keep up with all of the controversial issues going on, especially for companies who produce a more diverse range of boxes, but some sensitivity should be applied.

I’m not talking about taking an approach of cancel culture to boxes. But not everyone would appreciate Harry Potter merchandise in pop culture boxes at the moment. Many do feel able to separate creators from their work, but some compassion should be present for those that understandably can’t.

Who To Trust For A Good Mystery Box?

The reality is that none of the companies I have bought boxes from have been perfect. Even some of my personal favourites such as Wrestle Crate and the Amazing Mystery Box have fallen foul of some of the problems I’ve mentioned here.

While many have delivered some really good mystery box surprises for customers, there have still been some items that have left me scratching my head. In-ear headphones in a wrestling box is amongst the most bizarre I’ve seen to-date but there have been other oddities along the way too.

Closing

So, all that being said, while it’s easy to say what should and shouldn’t be a part of a good mystery box there’s no actual way to tell until you open them up and take a look inside. We’ve opened dozens of different boxes over the last year from a host of companies and you can see these on our YouTube channel. Generally we’ve loved what we’ve found, but there have been some awful items as well, but that’s the chance you take with them!

All you can really do is take a chance and hope for the best. If you find a box that you’re happy with then stick with it (or the company making them) and you should have plenty of really good mystery boxes to look forward to for months to come.

About Simon Plumbe 209 Articles
Husband, father and lifelong geek. Originally from the West Midlands, now spending my days in South Wales with my family and a house full of animals. Passionate about video games, especially retro gaming, the Commodore 64 and PlayStation Vita. Love pro wrestling, sci-fi and I'm an animal lover and vegetarian. Enjoyed this and my other articles? Why not buy me a coffee: http://ko-fi.com/simonplumbe

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