Great age is not important for a toy. Condition is the true master, coupled with demand, especially if it tickles the nostalgia factor in the collector. According to toy collectors, toys made before World War II are considered antique, while toys made after the war are modern. The toys that seem to be the most desirable are only a few decades old, such as Robbie the Robot, the Transformers, He-Man, vintage Walt Disney characters, mechanical banks, metal cars and trains.
Most of the toys we see are very commonplace, such as the ones often seen in dealers’ shops.
For example, in the movie A Christmas Story, the plot highlights the Daisy Manufacturing Company’s official “Red Ryder, carbine action, 200-shot, range model air rifle, with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time” as the force that drives Ralphie’s desire to own what he considered to be his destiny. In the company’s history, more than 9 million have been sold, which makes them common and therefore without much value. Somehow the infamous leg lamp commands more attention than the BB gun.
Another common toy we see is the mechanical bank. Most are iron reproductions and are worth under $30. If you want to do your own inspection of your bank, here is some advice: an original bank normally has a high sheen and does not look grainy, its pieces fit tightly together, and it does not have circular indentations on the bottom that are common on a reproduction.
The most important factor in evaluating any toy is condition. Toys can be a challenge as there are a number of factors that come into play, such as identifying the manufacturer, the date and the country of origin, especially if the toy is in “play-worn” condition. If it is in mint condition with the original box, it could have exceptional value. If you have a complex toy with no repairs, all of its parts and with the original labeling and accompanying printed material, then you might have a toy worth several thousand dollars.
Here are some of the toys that might fit in with the “highly desirable and most valuable” category: large-size toys, blocks decorated with lithographed colored paper, painted tinplate toys, a toy with an original box, large ships by Marklin, toy soldiers fabricated by Britain’s Ltd. of London in their original boxes, J. & E. Stevens Company cannons, old glass and ceramic banks are just some of toys at the tip of the iceberg of what collectors are looking to add to their collections. Also popular with collectors is American games such as the early yachting and football games of the McLaughlin firm.
For those of you with young children, it might be only a toy at this time, but remember… Mickey Mouse was once Steamboat Willie, and his worth is plenty today. If you think you may have a rare or scarce toy in mint condition and is on a collector’s want list, you might have a real winner that could be worth a great deal of money.
— Email me at email@example.com or write Ask the Appraisers, c/o Jeffrey Pearson; 5525 North 12th St., Phoenix, AZ 85014.