Toys story: Who’s keeping the retro gachapon machines in Singapore alive?

“We also have customers complaining to us that the machine is not working even at 11 pm. Because of this low-profit business, we couldn’t keep this service crew on a 24/7 basis.”

So now, when a machine acts out, Khua notes the customer’s details, pays for a postage stamp and mails them the toy in an envelope.

“We just earn about 10 cents per toy. But we are still happy to do that because it makes the customer happy, and we are happy to keep them happy.”


With improved capacities and mechanisms, the M300s is more than capable of succeeding the Merdeka generation. But Khua is reluctant to retire the M200.

“We are always also in the dilemma that because we took over the business for the sentimental value of the machines, if we were to phase out the oldest generation of vending machines, it kind of defeats the purpose of us taking over the business.”

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As it turns out, the M200 does have its fan base that echoes his sentiments exactly.

“We appreciate it when we sometimes have phone calls from young parents saying that they still appreciate these old vending machines instead.”


Tan is not the only one to have ventured into the gachapon business this year. YLF, a confectionery distributor that sells childhood snacks like the Pikin candy and Yupi gummies, also entered the scene during the pandemic.

“During this COVID-19, we saw that there is a silver lining for us. So we started branching out to toys and even vending machines," said Jarene Lee, a marketing executive in the family-run business. "I think this silver lining came about because people cannot travel, so parents are purchasing more (capsule toys) to entertain and pacify their children at home.”

The capsule vending machine and its larger counterpart, the big ball machine, hold licensed collectables from franchises such as My Little Pony, Marvel and Transformers. At first glance, they look way too hip to be a throwback. But take a closer look and you will find that the toys still incorporate classic gachapon trends.

Artmotion Asia

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