Dani Bunda, Tamagotchi

Dani Bunda collects Tamagotchi. In this edition of Collector Spotlight, Dani shares her thoughts on the impact Tamagotchi can have on mental health and why real-life pets don’t always make good housemates for digital pets.

How do you describe your collection?

I collect Tamagotchi, which is a pocket-sized electronic virtual pet.

I currently have 74 Tamagotchi in my collection and about 29 other digital pets that are not the Tamagotchi brand. In total, I have about 103 pets.

My oldest piece is an original Tamagotchi from 1997, the year it was released in North America. My newest piece is a Tamagotchi Nano — a line of small devices — that was done with Hatsune Miku, a virtual character by Sony who sings. It was a collaboration that I think people were expecting to see happen — it was still really exciting to see the different fandoms kind of collide.

It’s an interesting component of the Tamagotchi community is that a lot of us are adults. I was born in the ’90s and I grew up with Tamagotchi. A lot of virtual pets are still being released. They are geared toward kids, but we grew up with it. It’s just a part of us in a very interesting way.

When and why did you start your collection?

I got my first Tamagotchi when I was three or four.  I had a lot of different virtual pets as a kid.

I grew out of it as a teenager, but I’ve always had a love for it. There was a period of about 10 years where I wasn’t actively running or playing virtual pets. About five years ago — when I was in my mid-20s — I was browsing on Amazon and came across the Tamagotchi x m!x, which they did with Sanrio. I’ve always loved Japanese culture — I actually studied abroad in Japan for a semester in college — so when I saw this Tamagotchi on Amazon it really piqued my interest. I bought it for $60, which at that time in my early 20s was a lot of money to draw. I became obsessed with it.

The Tamagotchi x m!x line pets are exclusively in the Japanese language. I started a YouTube channel — not really having any intentions of going anywhere with it — and posted a video of me unboxing the m!x and translating some of the Japanese. A lot of people watched it. And, because I had some Japanese language skills, people started reaching out to me asking if I could help them understand what their Tamagotchi was saying and how to navigate the menu. I started making videos on those topics. It became the most enjoyable part of my life. I love connecting with people, I love making videos, I love being able to use my knowledge to help others.

Things kind of took on a life of their own. One thing led to another and suddenly, I was buying every new Tamagotchi that was coming out. It’s just been a ton of fun and really cool to be a part of and help build those connections for people. One of the things I hear most often from people is that want to buy Japanese Tamagotchis but don’t speak Japanese. They’re intimidated by the fact that they don’t speak the language. Being able to remove that barrier is just a good feeling. It’s so fun. And I’m really thankful to get to be a part of the community in that way.

How do you display and store your collection?

They’re definitely not all active; that’s a lot of maintenance.

Maybe this is a little off topic, but one thing I talk about in the community and on my YouTube channel is mental health, and how virtual pets can sometimes help your mental health. But, I also talk about how they can harm it. For me, I will only run two devices at a time. I keep batteries out of the rest. Some people some can run five. If someone’s running six or seven Tamagotchi — it kind of becomes a joke in the community — you’re a full-time mom. Running that many gets really, really difficult.

Right now, I hate to say this, all of my Tamagotchi are in boxes. I bought my first house a couple summers ago and it’s a total fixer-upper. We have the whole second floor completely gutted and unfortunately, there isn’t a place for them. I am starting to get to the point with the home remodel that I can claim a space of my own. I have some storage cabinets from my old apartment that I’m going to set up and I have a bunch of stands that I custom 3D-printed for each model. They hold each model perfectly.

I’m really particular about how I store them. I’m sure you’ve heard this from other collectors: the sun is a terrible, terrible thing. You know, the sun, water, all the elements. All my collection is very wrapped up to be completely away from the sun. I have them on the main floor, which is air conditioned and humidity controlled.

I use a Google spreadsheet to keep track of my collection. It’s handy because I can keep it on my phone. This is a really bad habit that I hate to admit, but sometimes I buy things and forget that I bought them. I collect other toys in addition to Tamagotchi and just have a habit that if I see a good deal, I’m going to buy something. It’s not my favourite habit, because I will run out of space for the things that really matter to me. Having this spreadsheet on my phone helps remind me of what I have.

I would say that only about half of my Tamagotchi have been taken out of their packages and played. When I first started my collection and making the videos, I was always unboxing things. It was probably around the time the pandemic hit — 2020 going into 2021 –that Tamagotchi prices started really going up. It made me sit back and reflect on what the collection mean to me. I want to enjoy things but also, to some extent, I’m making some investments.

What I typically do now is take an item out, play with it, then put it back into its packaging. For the Tamagotchi that I’m spending a lot of money on or that I’m expecting will go up in price, I don’t take them out of the house. I do have some Tamagotchi that I bought that are in rough shape or that I know won’t be difficult to replace in the future that I will take out of the house. I’ll take it with me to work or to a family get-together so I’ll have something with me to play or show to my nieces and nephews and such. But, for the most part,  I do unbox a good portion of my collection when I get them.

What do you consider to be the Holy Grail of your collection?

I was going to say the m!x, which was the first one I got as an adult, but I don’t really like that answer. It wasn’t something that I searched for, it just fell in my lap.

There’s the Tamagotchi Connection line — version 4.5 is something a lot of people consider to be their favorite. I was able to find one and somehow got a really good deal on it — it was only $10. I shared it on my YouTube channel and a lot of people were kind of jealous. To this day, I won’t share who I got it from; that’s my best kept secret kind of a thing. That version 4.5 line has always called to me and I’m always trying to find some more from it.

Maybe I consider that to be my holy grail because not only is it a cool sought after piece, but I also got a really good deal for it. And I mean, who doesn’t love a good deal? Especially when we’re talking about little pocket-sized devices that could cost over $100?

I think that’s one thing that has always drawn me to Tamagotchi — I like the little things that you can hold in your hand or keep in your pocket. But, that’s also kind of dangerous. My collection and its storage take up a very small part of my house, yet some of them are worth a couple of hundred dollars a piece. It’s the most valuable bookshelf in my house yet it’s a very easy thing for my dog to run off with bit of. He’s done that a couple times.

I like to take the Tamagotchi apart to fix or customize them. I bought a Tamagotchi On Wonder Garden a couple of years back and took it apart. My dog got a hold of the faceplate and chewed it up. It only cost $30 so I just thought, “Oh, well.” But now those devices are sought after and I think a lot of people are frustrated that they’ve gone up in price so much. I feel kind of guilty that I took apart this Tamagotchi and my dog chewed it. Someone could have been enjoying it. But you know, it happens.

There’s been a crazy amount of growth in the Tamagotchi community with the pandemic. There was a point before the pandemic when it seemed there were maybe only a couple of thousand people worldwide in the community. Now it feels like it’s at least tripled. We all have a story about how the pandemic was was interesting or how it changed our lives. Being on social media during that time was very special to me. I had my YouTube channel that gave me something to look forward to every day. I also made a lot of connections with the people that watched my videos, and we became friends off of YouTube. We would play games together, we would chat, we’d support each other. We keep each other positive throughout the day. That was a very special time and I will forever be thankful to the community for the support that we’ve given each other.

What advice would you give to someone interested in starting a Tamagotchi collection?

Don’t be afraid to start small.

As we just talked about, the prices have gone up. The community and number of people going after Tamagotchi has grown. The prices of some devices have doubled or tripled. A few years ago, you could have easily started a collection, you could have gotten a few pieces for a hundred bucks. Those same pieces now could be worth $500 or $600.

Tamagotchi collecting is not just about the devices. It’s also about the fun of having and connecting with a virtual pet, as silly as that sounds. You can have those virtual pet experiences for just a smartphone app for free. Or you can go to places such as Walmart to buy a Tamagotchi for $20. It doesn’t have to be anything super-fancy. As long as you are enjoying being a virtual pet caretaker, you’re well on your way to having a great collection.

I love to hear about the younger generation getting into Tamagotchi. With all the video games and smartphone technologies, you’d think it would be hard for kids to choose to look after a little dinky pet. But it’s so much more than that, it’s really a bond, as cheesy as it sounds.

See more of Dani’s collection on her YouTube channel.

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