Fukubukuro (lucky bag) is a tradition among Japanese merchants of offering grab bags with random mystery items sold at a deep discount. Even stores as large as Apple will offer mystery bags and they can contain big items like laptops. Traditionally these bags are sold around New Year’s, but are sometimes available before and around Christmas.
Here in the US, we don’t have as much access to deals like this and many times there isn’t much hope for items that are useful or valuable. My theory is that if you really want a chance of getting something worthwhile, stick to a site that normally sells items of interest to you unless you are curious in some real randomness. For some mild entertainment check out the Meh Kickstarter campaign where they offered Fukubukuro bags as rewards. Then look up the forums where people post about the stuff they got.
When looking for parts or ideas for my projects I usually check out sites like Adafruit, SparkFun and SainSmart. They each offer various Arduino compatible hardware and a variety of their own specialities. For three years now, SainSmart has offered Fukubukuro bags in various price points for the last few years and I have enjoyed participating albeit at a smaller, low-risk level.
In 2015, I tried out the $60 bag and got the following items:
|Item||Approx. Value at the time|
|Nano v3 Starter Kit||$40|
|Raspberry Pi case (x2)||$6|
That is over $100 value based on the retail prices at the time and most of it is useful to me in some way (I like the idea of NFC, but I am still trying to find a really fun or useful application for NFC).
In 2016, I ordered a $40 bag and a couple 3D LED Christmas trees (I’ll write about that experience in a separate post). I don’t know why I spent less that time after being so successful the first time. I didn’t take notes like I did the first time so I am not certain of the value at the time and if this is everything, but here is what I know I got:
- The big item in there was a laser measuring meter (similar to this one but in red.)
- A scientific calculator
- An Arduino Pro Mini, but it does not appear to have marks to indicate what frequency or voltage it operates at.
There might have been something else in there, but I have since forgotten. The laser meter is quite handy (during those times I remember where I put it last.) I have no idea what I will do with the scientific calculator. The mini arduino will be useful at some point, although it has sat forgotten the past year in the box with the LED trees.
Last week, I got the notification that they were selling bags again this year. They are offered in three different sizes (Basic for $60, Advanced for $110 and Premium for $170) and this time they even provided some hints about items that could come in them.
The basic bag looks good but I have versions of almost all the tools mentioned so I wouldn’t get as much value. The premium bag has some really cool possible items, but they just don’t fit with what I have time for. The advanced bag on the other hand has several things of interest to me:
- The self balancing robot definitely looks cool
- I like the 8″ LCD screen for Raspberry Pi–I am sure I could put that to use
- I am curious about the smart soldering tool since my portable soldering iron is pretty old and very basic
- RetroPie game kit–I have one, but this includes the SNES controllers and I can use an extra Pi 3
- LCD touch display for Raspberry Pi. Maybe this would make a good addition to the 3D printer.
- 21 segment VU meter tower would be an interesting project
- A non-contact AC voltage detector (I could have used one a few times in the last couple years, but I haven’t brought myself to buy one yet)
With these interesting options in there, I decided to order multiple bags to increase my chances of getting the items I am hoping for. I expect there will be certain duplicates, but some of those items I can put duplicates to use or find someone who would like them.
I plan to do a write up of unboxing (or is it unbagging?) of these once they arrive which should be some time this week. The shipment made incredible time from China to Anchorage via Cincinnati and has been handed over to USPS to make it the rest of the way to Juneau.