February 5, 2013

The Value of a Sticker: Sticker Economics II

In my previous post I talked about my hang-ups and eventual embrace of stickers. Now it's time to get into the specifics. What makes some stickers more coveted than others? Why is a butterfly better than a dinosaur? I don't know the answer to that, but I've tried to determine what gives one sticker more value compared to its peers.

Make it raaaaaain!!
Click the jump for the sticker scoop.

Big stickers are the best right? WRONG! It turns out that my 80's/90's upbringing has left me with an assumption that kids want the biggest thing available, but when it comes to stickers they actually prefer small things. The biggest stickers are usually passed over in favor of other factors like colors, themes, and...well how cool it is. Giant American flag sticker: NOT COOL. Giant bug: ONLY COOL TO THE WEIRD KIDS. Giant Lisa Frank Easter egg? ONLY COOL TO ONE GIRL.

Kids understand basic supply and demand economics. They understand that if there aren't many of a certain sticker left than that particular choice is more valuable. Here's a typical conversation.

Student: "How many fuzzy pandas are there?"
Me: "Only 6 left"
S: "Who do I have to murder to get all of them?"
Me: "I don't want you to murder anyone."
S: "So...what do I have to do?"
Me: "Practice piano"
S: "That's going to be hard"

So do you have to go buy the really expensive stickers that only have 8 per sheet? NO! Do what the oil companies do and restrict the flow of product so the value goes sky high! When they see this:
No one except for my college students really wanted these anyway.
They don't realize that back home I have THIS:
Three inches deep. Hello Kitty on the right, dinosaurs and bugs on the left. And ALL MINE.

What is cool at this exact moment in time
I've learned a lot about what kids like these days. When I was a child, dinosaurs were the best. Dinosaurs still are the best. But for some reason I have to coerce kids into taking dinosaurs. Kids (boys and girls) seem to like things that they can relate to. Like butterflies, flowers, animals, smiling monkeys, pink alligators and other things that they see on a daily basis in the real world.
Not Popular. I took most of the missing ones.

Marginally more popular

Stars will always be popular. They are the classic sticker. Luckily for teachers they are also some of the cheapest stickers. A gold star still means that you did really well, silver stars still mean that you got the consolation prize, and green and pink stars are still confusing. There are also a number of other kinds of stars available for purchase that fall outside of the mainstream. Kids really like those as well, maybe because they're intimidated by the gravity that comes with a gold star. As they should be.
They're also really hard to remove.
Product Tie-ins
When I buy stickers I usually grab the Things That I Like, or the Things From the Dollar Store without thinking too much about what the kids will like. I don't know what they want, what they watch (they don't watch Adventure Time for some reason, probably because they don't know what's good for them), or what they do in their free time so sometimes I buy a sticker that is tied into a hot-selling product by accident. Like...if I accidentally bought tickle-me Elmo stickers in 1996. Turns out that the stickers that I had been calling "Giant Eye Animals" were actually something called Littlest Pet Shop.

I think Giant Eye Animals was better, just like I call Bratz dolls "Giant Head Girls" and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are "Giant Bicep Reptiles (and Bathrobe Rodent)"

Let me tell you a story. It's a story about panda stickers. Panda stickers that are fuzzy. My loving girlfriend dug up hundreds of stickers from her mother's house and gave them to me as a gift (in fact I'm still receiving these multiple decade-old stickers from her) and in this stellar collection was a sheet of textured panda stickers. They were so much in demand that kids would not only ask for them before the lesson started, but if they didn't get one that day, they begged for the privilege of just looking at them. These are the kinds of stickers that can start wars. There were also only 8 on a sheet meaning that there was a competition among the kids to see who could get them before they ran out (see Scarcity above). The most incredible (and depressing) thing was that these stickers singlehandedly improved the practice habits (for a short time at least) of one of my students better than I've been able to do since.
These are the exact stickers I had! From Etsy seller ACloverAndABee. GO BUY ALL OF THEM.

Beyond fuzzy textures, there are also your basic googly-eyes, raised stickers, and squishies. The stickers show below, happy faces and Hello Kitty, used to be the most coveted stickers after the Fuzzy Panda Crisis of 2011. These stickers may be small but they stick out slightly from the page. The three-dimensional quality of these stickers automatically sets them apart from the rest and increases their relative value immensely.

By far the most valuable stickers in the studio however are a new type of squishy Asian sticker technology. They're very small, smaller than the Hello Kitty ones from above, but depress slightly under touch and depict such things as bears, mice, pandas, and pigs. Also, their butts. And for some reason frying pans, apples, and small rectangular versions of the animals' faces...which all look the same.

There were also some were-wolf versions of these too....

These stickers were left in my studio by a teacher who had left the school so I adopted them after fuzzy-panda girl wouldn't stop taking them out of the desk and staring at them. I have lost minutes of lesson time to these things. As far as I can tell, these are the most important advancement in stickers ever.

I hope this guide is helpful to any other teachers out there when you're try to make a decision about which stickers to purchase. It can be difficult and at times stressful but you needn't fear. There are many types both mundane and bizarre, just like your students. Below are just some other crazy ones that I particularly enjoy (and many of which I keep for myself.)

L: We are the World Xtra Wide kids with flag shirts. R: Stoned animals (not really but look at that gorilla)

L to R: Groundhogs, Unicorn holograms, Beached Whales

L to R: Sports encouragements, Scratch and Sniff fruit playing sports, Stickers that say "dogs love you no matter what!" from my girlfriend who never owned a dog.

L: Super shiny whales, R: Various crosses

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