Monday, April 20, 2015

Geek Subscription Boxes: List, Recommendations, and Thoughts

Everyone is very different, so what I consider a great subscription box could be way off for someone else. However, my husband's students asked him recently about Loot Crate, and he had plenty to say about why that would be a waste of the kids' money, but he couldn't remember which ones were the best. We get so many that it often becomes hard to track what comes from who and what's worth the expense. He asked me to make him a list for his students, but I was already thinking of doing that anyway. Recently, BuzzFeed had its own list and I was excited to see some of the great ones on there that don't get as much hype as the others. Instead of a best kind of list, I decided to do a pros and cons  overview - BASED ENTIRELY ON OUR EXPERIENCES AND PREFERENCES. I collect Funko POP figures and I love Harry Potter and Game of Thrones. My husband and I are gamers and he has read comics since he knew how to read. We don't really play Nintendo and we don't have kids. These are the kinds of things that do make a difference, because what we prefer may not be the same as someone who doesn't like the same things.

I'm going alphabetically and I'm also including a few that are geeky in their own right, although not technically fandom-based. I also included a link to a review for each so you can see the items included in the box.

1Up Box: 

  • Pros: Cheapest in the industry by a fair amount at around $15/month. Also exclusive designs for shirts and a guaranteed t-shirt each month.
  • Cons: Because it's the cheapest, it tends to have only a few items. So if you don't like the shirt, you hopefully will like the few other items.
  • Opinion: This is a good starter box if you're not sure what you think about geek boxes or if you're not an obsessive fan of anything in particular. Personally, I'd rather spend a bit more for items I like more, but if you're just looking for some cute collectibles, it's a good start. 

Arcade Block:

  • Pros: Guaranteed shirt every month and the items are all gamer-focused. 
  • Cons: VERY Nintendo and kid-focused. If you don't like Mario or Zelda, good luck. Also since it ships from Canada, it takes a while for shipping and it's closer to $30/month.
  • Opinion: I desperately want a gamer box, but this is not it for me. I am an adult who plays games now, and the only items I liked were nostalgic, not relevant to me today. 

  • Pros: Customized to you and your family (or just you if you're single). Truly awesome.
  • Cons: This is a game pack of tabletop games, ranging from kids' games if you have a family to adult games if you are playing with friends. It's not a collectible box, although you may receive collectibles as well, but it's not really a "geek" box in that way. 
  • Opinion: I honestly cannot think of any reason NOT to subscribe to Awesome Pack. It's not cheap, I admit, but you receive well over the value of what you pay and it's truly custom. 

  • Pros: A custom box of jewelry, makeup, and lifestyle products for your "dark side," usually the Goth culture. 
  • Cons: This is for a very specific kind of geek culture, but then again, it's customized, so if you're obsessed with fantasy or you're obsessed with steampunk, it will be geared towards you. However, it's definitely female-driven.
  • Opinion: I love this box, but I understand it is for a very specific customer. Still, if you're that customer, you really need to try this. It's well worth it at $20/month. 

Collectible Geek:

  • Pros: Awesome collection of truly collectible items, including Funko POPs, with very clear themes. POPs also come with protectors, which is a nice bonus. 
  • Cons: Far more expensive than the other boxes (although much higher quality to make up for it), so if you are not really a collector, this may not make sense.
  • Opinion: Again, quality is more important to me than price, within reason of course, so I would rather order from Collectible Geek when the themes appeal to me than get a random collection of stuff I may or may not like, and even may throw away. I haven't yet received an item I would throw away from Collectible Geek. 

Companion Tees/Once upon a Tee:

  • Pros: Awesome selection of t-shirts focused on either Doctor Who (Companion Tees) or The Legend of Zelda (Once upon a Tee).
  • Cons: This is exactly what it says - a shirt subscription. And it's limited to those two franchises (although check out We Heart Geeks if you are looking for shirts without a subscription or for other fandoms or even for things like phone covers and coasters). 
  • Opinion: I wear a lot of t-shirts since I don't have to dress up for work these days and I love Doctor Who. So for me, it's well worth it, but if you don't like those franchises or you don't wear t-shirts often, it doesn't necessarily make sense. 

Cool New Box:

  • Pros: A more focused theme than the others and you can order by theme, rather than as a subscription, making it more like a gift than a subscription. 
  • Cons: I personally felt that the price was too high - actually costing the same or more as it would just to buy the items myself. 
  • Opinion: Because they're small, Cool New Box doesn't have the discounts available to them that others do and it makes their price point higher. However, there was nothing special about the service to justify the higher cost (like exceptional service or customization) and I don't really see the value in it. 

Custom Fan Box:

  • Pros: At nearly the same cost as many of the geek boxes ($30 in this case), you get a box of the same types of items common in geek boxes but ONLY those from fandoms you select. 
  • Cons: To be honest, the only con for me is that this was Custom Fan Box's first month. It can be tough with new subs since you never know if they will last, but they don't actually offer a subscription yet. They only allow you to purchase a box for the current month, which also allows you to change your fandom selections for each order. 
  • Opinion: This is positioned to be a definite favorite based on the first month, because I love that I am guaranteed only items from franchises I love. 

Fandom of the Month:

  • Pros: Easily worth the price at less than $15 a month and the items are high quality. Customer service is also very good.
  • Cons: This is a jewelry subscription, so it's probably more female-oriented. Also, if you really hate the fandom of the month that month, you're stuck. 
  • Opinion: I just find that the price point is worth it, even if you end up with a month you don't like, because the other months more than make up for it. 

Game Box Monthly:

  • Pros: This is the cheapest way to get a new and likely unheard of tabletop game each month. The variety is great and Brian, who runs the company, is truly interested in feedback, as well as ensuring that you get something that you don't already have.
  • Cons: If you're not a tabletop gamer, you won't get much from the subscription, and the games are generally more for adult gamers than for families or kids. 
  • Opinion: This is a great subscription that, for us, really meshes well with Awesome Pack, too, because we get four games a month now and the variety across both sets is great. Both subscriptions check in with you before shipment to verify that you don't have the games they're sending, and I feel like $25 a month is quite reasonable for a monthly game. 
Geek Fuel:

  • Pros: At under $20 a month, this is one of the best geek subscription boxes. It's not necessarily loaded, but the items are always quality items and they have consistently included Steam game codes, which is a huge bonus for us.
  • Cons: I haven't had any reason not love this box yet. The worst that I can say is you may get items you don't want or like, but that's basically true of almost any of the geek mystery boxes and the items here are of higher quality.
  • Opinion: I definitely think this is one that geeks should be signed up for, because the variety is great, it's affordable, and the items aren't junk.  

Geek Me Box:

  • Pros: The box doesn't have as much "filler" and the shirt designs are really great. They're also more figure-driven, which is good for collectors. 
  • Cons: Because they're smaller, they tend to have less items in the box and they're a bit more expensive than the others (around $25). 
  • Opinion: It's hard to stand out in this industry and right now, there are a ton of geeky subscription boxes. Geek Me Box hasn't really stood out yet, but then again, they haven't made a mistake, either. 

Hero Crate:

  • Pros: Because each box is focused on only one hero, you know what you are getting going in, and this is not a subscription so you don't get stuck with something you don't want. 
  • Cons: The boxes have been heavily superhero-focused, which is not something I care about and my husband loves comics, but we receive enough boxes for either of us to be excited about yet another Batman item. I'd like to see more variety beyond comic superheroes. 
  • Opinion: I love what Hero Crate has to offer and if you're a comics fan and like these sorts of collectibles, it's well worth it. For us, we are just waiting for heroes we like more to order again. 

Horror Block:

  • Pros: There really aren't a lot of horror-themed subscription boxes and this is the only subscription from Nerd Block that doesn't skew kiddish. 
  • Cons: I am not convinced that the people at Nerd Block know their audience well, since the Classic Block tends to be for kids, the Arcade Block is really Nintendo-focused, and they've included Twilight-like romance novels in Horror Block. They also have terrible customer service.
  • Opinion: If you are really a huge horror fan, this is the only horror subscription with any decent track record right now. I don't really recommend them, but then again, there aren't a great deal of options in this area.

Infinity Crates:

  • Pros: Infinity Crates will vary slightly each month, based on the theme and based on your interests. While the items are essentially the same, for example the shirts and POPs will vary for each subscriber so you're less likely to get something you don't like. Each month also includes a shirt, poster, and POP, which is a huge bonus. 
  • Cons: The rest of the items do tend to be filler (key chains, lanyards, stickers, etc.), although there are plenty of big items to make up for it. There is also some hit or miss in matching your interests to the theme, so it's not a perfect system, and because they're UK-based, shipping is almost double. 
  • Opinion: I actually really like Infinity Crates. I can't put my finger on it, but there's something about the subscription that feels more thoughtful than the others. I also love POPs, and I love that I know I will get one each month. I know it sounds weird, but I also find the postcards very nice and I want to make a collage from them. 


  • Pros: KarePax offers something very unique, which is hard in this industry. They provide indie comics AND snacks from all over the world each month - and the boxes are LOADED.
  • Cons: I have trouble thinking of one, because there are customization options, such as only comics, only snacks, comics for kids only, etc. Plus the customer service is awesome, so they will work with you to ensure that you get what you will like. 
  • Opinion: If you're a comics reader, KarePax is a great opportunity to find something a little different. And you get food, too, which is a definite perk!

Kawaii Box:

  • Pros: Another very unique subscription and a great box for anyone who's a fan of cute things like Sanrio products. 
  • Cons: I personally don't have much use for the items, although I would have as a kid and even through college. I think it's more for kids or younger people, since I don't really have a ton of Sanrio around the house these days. 
  • Opinion: Definitely worth the cost, which was under $20 a month last I checked, if you will use the items. 

Loot Crate:

  • Pros: They've been around a while. And lots of bloggers/YouTubers love them because they can make money off promoting them. 
  • Cons: Where to even start? The abominable customer service? The fact that this company mocks other geek subscription boxes publicly? Their inability to understand even the most basic things about geek culture? The commercialization of a culture that has always existed as something driven by passion, not greed? Or how about the fact that this month, for April, they promoted endlessly that they were including "EPIC fantasy collectibles," one of which was an inflatable crown? AN INFLATABLE CROWN. 
  • Opinion: Just no. You might as well take $20, throw it outside, and then gather all your junk flyers from the mailbox and a paper crown from Burger King, stick it in a box, and you'll get the same experience. Without the rude and snarky customer service. Although you won't get the "Loot Crate Exclusive" stamp on every piece of paper in the box, so I guess if you love stamps...

My Geeky Goodies:

  • Pros: At the same price (give or take a few dollars, as it's closer to $25) as Loot Crate, this is a far better subscription with consistent quality, a guaranteed shirt, and items that truly fit the themes/get into real fandoms.
  • Cons: I'm not sure. This is probably my favorite of the straight up mystery boxes - or at least tied with Geek Fuel. And they have the best customer service of those kinds of boxes as well. 
  • Opinion: You're getting a far better deal with this subscription. The items are more geeky, they're aligned better with the theme, and they offer shirts or POPs in each box - and sometimes both. 

  • Pros: Guaranteed shirt, decent curation, and they're popular, so if that matters to you...
  • Cons: Their customer service is nearly as bad as Loot Crate's (although not quite), the price is $30 or more, and they're slow about shipping. I also found they were very kid-oriented, which can be a little annoying, and they were big on sending filler. While I don't mind a few small items, they had boxes that were more than half filler items. 
  • Opinion: Not sure about the value, but this is better than Loot Crate if you care about choosing an industry leader. Personally, I recommend skipping both of these for Geek Fuel and My Geeky Goodies or one of the others, but that's just me. They also have a Junior box, which feels like it should be more for kids than the Classic, but they repeat items a lot. If you're ordering for a kid, though, that's $10 cheaper but there's no shirt. 

There are many more, and I didn't include things like The Music Box or Sports Crate, which are geeky in their own ways. I also haven't tried My Geek Box, since they just opened up US subscriptions, and I haven't signed up for Marvel's Collector Corps, since they're apparently incapable of not only fixing a typo (sneak peak... sigh) but also of acknowledging customers on any social media or via email. Even if you're not one to care much about customer service, subscription boxes have lots of room for error and it's nice to know that a company is available to help. Some of the companies make canceling very difficult, too, so it's good to know going in what you're dealing with, when you're charged, and so on. This is an overview of the items and quality of what they offer, but again, each person will have a different experience. Some of these, like Companion Tees and Black Box, are just really great for me personally. For gamers, I recommend Awesome Pack and Game Box Monthly wholeheartedly. For geek boxes, I love Custom Fan Box, since it's customized. If you are okay with a bit of mystery, I love Geek Fuel, Infinity Crates, and My Geeky Goodies. Finally, if you're willing to splurge and you collect these items, Collectible Geek is definitely where it's at. 


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Loot Crate has the worst curation of the industry by far. I am sorry you don't agree. I was initially positive, because I was inexperienced. Having now spent my money on several other boxes, I can say that they have a terrible box. I would never recommend them to someone with real passion for geekdom. After the first two boxes, I can't think of one item of value. For me. I am a Game of Thrones fan and I received dragon glass from Geek Fuel. That is far more thoughtful than magnets. Loot Crate capitalizes on what's popular. Their entire focus is money, and it feels like they are mocking geek culture by treating customers poorly, acting as if geeks are all children, and sending generic items with no thought. Perhaps that's less vindictive but it's still true. I am not vindictive. I just feel it's a waste of money and no one will say it. Everyone gets paid to say positive things about them, but this is my income I spend on these boxes. I don't think it's fair to say to someone - and this started because a teenager with limited income asked - that they should throw away $20 on a company who does not respect them or really know a thing about their interests. I have not seen much evidence that Loot Crate's curators or developers actually have any real fandom in them, which is clearly not the case in the others. I would be never buy a friend a USB or playing cards for a gift. Filler is fine in other boxes, but Loot Crate is entirely filler. And their obsessive need to stamp their name on every single item is way too corporate for my taste. If you like that, fine, but again, I made it very clear from the beginning that this is my opinion. I am entitled to that.

    2. I've deleted my comment based on the fact that I've clearly upset you, which was not the intent. Also, you seem to have updated the intro to the piece. The fact still remains, though, that your reviews in the piece always begin with an honest list of pros, then an honest list of cons, followed by your opinions. Which I have already stated is valid and should be included. That was never my issue. There is just a distinct disconnect in this honest review pattern with that specific selection.

    3. No, I didn't change the post at all. And I'm more upset with the policies and business model of a company like Loot Crate (which is why I grew to see them in such a different light) than your comment. I just don't have a positive for them. I can't in good conscience recommend them. I stayed as positive as I could about Nerd Block and I canceled Horror Block because they sent a book with a graphic erotic rape scene, something that makes me physically ill. Just for context so you can understand how bad the issue with Loot Crate really was. I just don't see the point in dumping their personal attacks and insults on my blog. However, any company that ridicules customers personally and also mocks other companies just isn't for me.

    4. Fair enough. But as a person who just stumbled upon the blog while looking for a new sub service, the way it was addressed hurts the whole thing, in my opinion. Maybe somebody with more history on your blog gets it. Even now, it feels like it's just there to make an aggressive point. Could have simply left it out, or just said that due to personal experiences you have nothing good to say about the company. Were that the case I would have been interested to find out just what happened. "Wow, what did they do to her", as opposed to, "jeez, why is this woman so hostile". As it stands, as an outsider, it simply looks like you are doing whatever you can to make sure people won't subscribe. Knowing what they actually offer, it even comes off as dishonest for that purpose. There is strength in your opinions on the customer service, corporate leanings of the company, even not liking the contents of the box. It's just lost for me here due to the tone. (I would have cancelled Horror Block as well. To assume enough people would be okay with that to include it is kind of sick.)

  2. Super helpful post - thank you!!! Definitely going to try Awesome Pack and Game Box Monthly!