Subscription boxes have been taking the world by storm. Everyone seems to love these mystery boxes that arrive on your doorstep each month, and it's easy to see why. They're a great present idea too, as they're the gift that keeps on giving throughout the entire year, with some companies even do special editions of their boxes for the holiday season.
You'll find subscription boxes centred around everything from food or beer to stationery or clothes. One particularly popular type of subscription box is the nerdy sort, so naturally we couldn't wait to try some out.
We've taken a look at some of the most popular nerdy subscription boxes available, from general geeky merch selections through to boxes tailored to specific fandoms, like Harry Potter or anime. Read on to take a look inside each box and find out what we thought. Or alternatively, if you're looking for something more one-off, then check out our best gifts for kids of all ages.
Loot Crate is one of the biggest names in the nerdy subscription box selection right now, and was one of the first too.
We had roughly a year's worth of Loot Crates, each with a unique theme and a wide variety of items. You'll get a T-shirt every month, as well as a figure, a pin, something useful and some other bonus items.
One of the boxes we received had the theme 'Build,' and included an exclusive Power Rangers T-shirt, Batman food container, a Lego Dimensions Fun Pack, Tetris magnets, a pin and the magazine that comes with each box, for example.
If you're not certain that you want to commit to Loot Crate, you can get it on a rolling monthly contract and cancel any time. That'll cost you £27 with shipping included. It's the same amount per month on the 3, 6 and 12 subscriptions - however you'll get one bonus item on the 6 month option, and two bonus items on the 12.
Overall, we think that Loot Crate is very reasonably priced considering the amount you get in each box and that shipping and handling is included, but there's not much in the way of personalisation so it's likely you'll sometimes get items you're not so keen on.
Loot Crate DX
If you want to take things one step further and if you've got a bit more cash to splash, you can't beat the Loot Crate DX. It's Loot Crate's luxury offering, but that is reflected in its price tag.
It'll cost you £59/$49 per month (excl. shipping) for the DX for one month, £58/$47 per month for 3 and 6 month subscriptions and £57/$46 if you sign up for 12 months. That's no small sum considering the fact that you don't know what you're going to get.
We have been pretty impressed by the contents of the Loot Crate DX boxes we've received, though. Each is huge, for a start – the biggest subscription box we've seen yet. And there's no doubt that the quality of the items was above and beyond anything we'd seen in a mystery box before.
Loot Crate DX tends to stick to the same theme as the corresponding month's Loot Crate, so here's an example of what we got in the 'Build' theme to give you an idea of how it compares to the cheaper box.
As with Loot Crate you'll always get something useful or practical, a pin, and an item of clothing as well as other items.
In this particular crate we got Tetris salt and pepper shakers, a Robotech Veritech Fighter Figure, a Game of Thrones Construction Set and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Incredibuild book.
Plus, we also got a Marvel pair of socks (there's actually an entire box called Loot Wear Socks if you want two new pairs every month!).
The original Loot Crate includes a wide variety of different themed items, but if you're thinking you'd like to drop the superheroes, movies and TV shows and focus solely on gaming, you're in luck.
Loot Crate has a Gaming box too, and just like Loot Crate, it will arrive on your doorstep once a month with lots of awesome goodies inside.
It's a slight more pricey, but we really liked that it's a bit more niche and have been even more pleased with the contents of this box than we have been with the Loot Crate box.
Most recently, we received the 'Battleground' themed Gaming Crate, which included the usual pin, in addition to a Fallout Vault Boy T-Shirt, a Dead Rising multi-tool, Battlezone shot glasses, a Gears of War Classic Lancer replica and a Dark Souls comic.
Loot Crate is no doubt the most famous of the bunch, but there are lots of great alternatives, and some of them are UK-based which makes shipping times and costs lower for Brits - though obviously much higher if you're in the US or elsewhere!
One of those UK-based boxes is GeekGear. GeekGear offers its original box, but also a box just for Harry Potter fans, which is pretty awesome.
We tried the original, which was a box full of gear themed around Dragons and Thrones for April.
First things first, the box itself is awesome. We couldn't wait to see what was the treasure chest contained.
Inside was a set of Game of Thrones magnets, a Dark Souls III poster, a Harry Potter Print, a Dragon Ball Z Nano Block figure, an Atomic Fireball sweet.
We were lucky enough to get a Game of Thrones bag along with 100 other subscribers, while the alternative was a Game of Thrones Jon Snow Mug or Game of Thrones Coasters. There was also an exclusive Game of Thrones T-Shirt.
For the price we were pleased with the items – the quality of the t-shirt design and the poster was a bit disappointing but the other items certainly made up for it.
You can get GeekGear boxes starting from £14.99, which is just for wizardry wands. The classic and Harry Potter boxes (similar to what we reviewed) start from £24.99.
J.K Rowling's Wizarding World
Designed exclusively for fans of Harry Potter and friends, Loot Crate's J.K. Rowling's Wizarding World box offers five to seven items in each crate worth approximately double the cost of the crate. You'll also find exclusive and officially licensed items within the box, meaning you won't be able to get hold of those items anywhere else.
In our box, we got a Sirius Black Pop Funko figure, a necklace, a gorgeous pin, a pocket watch, a pair of socks and a Snape T-shirt, all of which left us very impressed in terms of quantiy and quality too.
Subscribe to J.K Rowling's Wizarding World on Loot Crate's website here.
Next is a box that is a bit different from those we've seen so far, but definitely one of our favourites. Comic Boxer is a Canada-based box that is filled to the brim with comics. We like that it's a mystery in that you don't know which comics you'll get, but not so much that you might receive an item that you'd never use.
The likelihood is you'll read all of the comics in the box, even if not all of them are comics you'd have normally picked up. And who knows, some comics might surprise you and become one of your new all-time favourites.
We received a signed edition of Joyride #1 by Jackson Lanzing, Rough Riders #1 by Adam Glass & Patt Olliffe, Marvel's Black Panther #1 by Ta-Nehisi Coates & Brian Stelfreeze, Empress #1 by Mark Millar & Stuart Immonen and Star Wars: Poe Dameron #1 by Charles Soule & Phil Noto.
For one month, you'll pay $19.99 plus shipping, but if you sign up for 6 months that price is reduced to $17.99 per month. The good news is that the box is thin enough to fit through most letter boxes, too.
Creation Crate is another one of our favourites. Every month, you'll get all of the components you'll need to build something awesome. Our project was a colour-changing mood light, with all of the wires, buttons and hardware you'll need included.
This is a brilliant option for parents and teachers, as it's designed to be educational and fun, but we think even those without kids will enjoy creating a piece of tech from a bunch of components too (we sure did).
Creation Create is available for $29.99 per month on all of their subscriptions, but the longer you subscribe, the more bonus gifts you get.
Back to Loot Crate, which has yet more crates including Loot Anime, which wasn't one of our favourites but we're sure will appeal to lots of you.
We received the 'Galaxy' themed box. We are into anime, but we weren't sure what the target market was here because it seemed to be aiming for young fans, older fans, females and males all at ones and it was a bit confused.
Inside was a Cowboy Bebob Ein plush, a Robotech LED lamp, a Space Patrol Luluco keychain, a Sailor Moon bottle opener, a poster and a Yume Galaxy phone charm.
The Bam! Box
The next box we tried is called The Bam! Box, a monthly mystery box that prides itself on offering signed merchandise, limited editions and rare collectibles.
It's important to point out that The Bam! Box is sent from outside of the UK and we incurred a customs charge on this occasion, which meant that our total price was more than £40. The price of a one month plan is actually $26.99 plus shipping, so you'll need to REALLY want this one if you're in the UK, as it'll soon add up.
Inside the box we received, which was themed RIP, we found an Ari Lehman Signed Jason Mask, an exclusive Live Long and Prosper Leonard Nimoy Tribute Sign, a Zombuckz coin, a Gwen Stacy Empire State University ID Card Prop Replica, and an exclusive signed Nurse Joker print by Chris Uminga.
The quality of the items was very high, so we almost felt like it justified that high price tag.
We really like the 1-Up system used by The Bam! Box. You'll probably find a 1-Up card in your box, which means you've got an upgraded version of a product.
For example, some customers received a gold variant of the Jason Mask, and others a gold variant of the Leonard Nimoy tribute. We got the Zombucks coin as our 1-Up, rather than the Biohazard Zombie Knuckle Punch we'd have received otherwise.
Brick Loot is an (unofficial) Lego subscription crate with a pretty unique backstory: it was founded by a 9-year-old.
Parker Krex came up with the idea after being disappointed with competing loot boxes, deciding that there must be an audience out there looking for custom Lego sets each month. Now he (and his family) run the business, selecting designs, sets, and accessories for the Brick Loot boxes.
Each month is themed - our sample was arcade-based, from the Pac-Man baseball cap to small sets to build arcade machines - including a USB-powered LED.
Everything in our set was 'Lego-compatible' - meaning it wasn't made by Lego itself, but the blocks are all the same sizes and will work with other sets - but official Lego kits and merch sometimes make it into the deliveries too.
Brick Loot is based in the US, so UK readers might incur customs charges on deliveries.
'Kawaii' is the Japanese word for 'cute', and that's the order of the day in this unusual delivery box from Japan.
Each month you'll get a different selection of all things cute and cuddly - from giant plushies and keychains to stranger inclusions like the Disney Cinderella nail clippers in our box.
Plenty of big brands are represented, from Disney and Hello Kitty to Sailor Moon and Studio Ghibli, and the guiding principle throughout is simply that things be absolutely adorable.
If the Kawaii Box has piqued your interest, you may also want to know that the same company offers two other subscription boxes: Tokyo Treat for Japanese sweets and chocolate; and No Make No Life for Japanese beauty products and cosmetics.
Wootbox is another fairly typical loot subscription, but since it's based in Europe it can offer a slightly different selection of products, and saves on customs charges for anyone in Europe fed up of ordering from US services.
Our sample here was just as good as many of Wootbox's biggest rivals, with a Pokemon cap, Jurassic Park T-shirt, Tardis figurine from Doctor Who, an Assassin's Creed necklace, and a BioShock pin.
As usual you can save money by committing to a longer subscription, and you also have a chance to win a monthly MegaWootbox with even more loot.
Retro Monthly Gaming Club
Here's another service that's a little different. Glasgow's Retro Store offers a few monthly subscriptions - for vinyl records, cassettes, and comic books - but our pick is the retro game bundle.
Each month you get a selection of three different retro games for various platforms - you can tell the company which old consoles you own, along with which genres you prefer so that they can tailor the picks to your taste.
As you can see, our selection covered the NES, GBA, and PS2, though as you can see, packaging varied - the PS2 game came basically as sold, the NES came with a modern sleeve rather than original packaging, and our GBA Pokemon came with no packaging at all.
Best of all though? You get a few retro sweets each month to sweeten the deal. We got a Vimto, a Wham bar, and a Drumstick - which sadly didn't make it intact to the photo shoot, as our editor got to it first.