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Tamagotchi collector finds comfort in virtual pets

For Ms Rachel Liew, it was a sense of community that drove her collecting journey.

The 34-year-old’s assortment of Tamagotchi is one of eight collections on loan to the National Museum of Singapore for the Play:Date showcase featuring iconic toys.

The small devices were made by Japanese toy company Bandai. Each containing a digital pet, they were all the rage in the 1990s.

Over a Zoom call from Tokyo, where she is enrolled in a Japanese language school, Ms Liew says: “I’ve always liked Tamagotchi. In secondary school and university, I’d use my pocket money to buy them.

“Back then, there wasn’t a community, so I felt alone in my passion for Tamagotchi since no one else around me collected or played with it.”

After she graduated from university, she rediscovered her passion for the toy when she found an international Tamagotchi collector group on Facebook around 2015. She says: “I was so happy to have finally found my community and joined them, which is when my collection started growing as well.”

Since then, she has amassed about 170 Tamagotchis, with the rarest one being a Suntec Tamagotchi that few collectors even know exist.

According to Ms Liew, the Suntec Tamagotchi is even rarer than the 2010 Detective Conan Tamagotchi iD, considered to be among the rarest limited-edition releases, as it was given only to subscribers in issue 3000 of the Shounen Sunday Manga Magazine.

She found the Suntec Tamagotchi on Carousell for $50 in 2020. She says: “Two years later, I was kind of bored, so I sold it to another collector for US$50 (S$67).”

Frowning at the memory, she adds: “A few months later, I started to regret it because it’s such a rare Tamagotchi that nobody knows about it. The only photos you can find of it online are mine.

“So I went back to the same Carousell seller to ask if he had another one, and he said yes, but that he was selling this one for $200. I was like ‘What?’. But I got it, and as far as I know, the collector I sold to and I are the only two who own this Tamagotchi.”

Besides her day job as a systems trainer for people in human resources, she also makes and sells Tamagotchi covers, ranging from crocheted slips to stuffed animal covers to zippered pouches.

She has also recently begun making some money through her Instagram account @fuzzynchic_rachel, where she shows off her collection, uploads unboxing videos, and films herself at Tamagotchi-related events and locations.

To her, the toy is more than just a gadget. “Tamagotchis were kind of companions for me. I wanted a dog or cat when I was younger, but my parents said I was too young to know how to care for one,” she says.

“One day, I saw some older kids playing with this thing and my mum explained that it was a Tamagotchi, so I figured that if my parents wouldn’t get me a real pet, this would work.

“Since then, it’s been kind of an emotional support for me. Even as an adult, I feel a sense of comfort and confidence knowing that I have one with me on my first day of work or during important meetings.”