Antique toy collection

Antique toys can be found at most estate, garage and tag sales. This article provides the basics to begin your collection this weekend!

Antique toy collections account for the majority of collections in the United States. Toys are collected by all ages: seniors who buy items they could never afford in their youth, boomers who are buying themselves items they never had as youth (or had and lost) and even children who are encouraged to collect toys by the way today's toys are marketed.

Shopping for Toys

The philosophy of toy collecting varies with the individual collector. Some collectors focus only on the best antique toys in top-of-the-market condition. This type of collector requires plenty of capital and a large network of contacts to locate mint toys. For most collectors, collecting is a hobby that can be done in a more relaxed atmosphere. The hunt is just as enjoyable as the collection itself.

Before heading out to begin purchasing antique toys, organize the toys you have and determine where your focus might be. What kind of toys do you enjoy the most? What kinds of toys are available? Are the toys available in your market price range? If you can answer that each category is true, then you are ready to begin your collection.

Most antique toy collectors begin by purchasing items rather quickly, before they have a feel for the market. This "excited mode" buying usually results in items that will be sold or traded later. As hard as it may be, spend the first six months simply window-shopping. This will provide a feel of what your geographic region offers. Window shop online sources. Read reproduction toy catalogues. Purchase or check your local library for price guides. Make notes from each of these sources and bring them with you when you shop. Develop your own organization system so that your notes will be easy to transport and easy to use when you are at shows or conventions.

Building the Collection

While some collectors find it entertaining to amass numerous examples of the same antique toys, most collectors are interested in completing a set or collecting one of each item produced in any given year or line. For this group, it is critical to find original sales catalogues to determine what was offered for resale. This group usually is interested in also adding any promotional materials or freebies given to toy stores or handed out at toy markets. Determine where the toy markets were located for your collectable. This is where you'll find these choice items.

If you have done your homework in researching, your antique toy collection has a direction and focus. You'll know when you find an item if it is market value or a steal! One caution in antique toy collecting is to avoid reproductions. Many original companies have reissued antique toys. Some companies are devoted to reproducing old toys. These are quite easy to identify due to the maker marks. Manufacturers frequently label boxes or the item with a new mark or a trademark date. Lionel trains, Stieff stuffed toys, and Madame Alexander dolls have all issued reproductions of earlier toys.



It is sometimes difficult to identify reproductions designed specifically for the collector market. These toys will be reproductions of sought after toys that are difficult or impossible to find. If you shop the shows, it will quickly become apparent which toys are reproductions. If a toy is rare, and you have spotted it for sale at two or three vendors, you can be assured that it has been reproduced. Often it is impossible to tell the fake from the original toys. Unscrupulous vendors may "age" a reproduction. While the manufacturer produced the toy in "as new" condition without intent to fool any buyer, some vendors manipulate the toy to appear to be vintage. This includes elaborate chemical processes, or sometimes simply allowing a toy to sit outside for a week or two in harsh weather. The easiest way to avoid such reproductions is to know your seller.

Some commonly reproduced toys include mechanical banks and robots, glass banks, plastic cars and trucks, including Tootsietoys and Auburn Rubber manufactured transportation toys.

What's Hot and What's Not

If you are entering the vintage toy field intent on building collections and reselling them, you'll need to move quickly with market trends. Last years hot antique collectible may not carry over to the next year. Tried and true toys that can be counted on to maintain value with little variation include: Vintage Barbie dolls, early larger gauge electric trains, tinplate mechanical toys, antique diecast cars, and vintage child-sized peddle cars have a steady market of collectors. Vintage character lunch boxes, children's jewelry, doll clothing, and antique children's books have periods of hot trading between cooler markets. The key to collecting and reselling antique toys is to move your collection when the market is at its peak. If you miss the peak, sell as soon as you can. Avoid waiting until the market comes around again, unless you are a fan of the items in the collection. You may be holding it an extremely long time.

To Restore or Not to Restore

As a rule of thumb for resale, avoid collecting antique toys that have been restored. If you enjoy the toy and want to include it in your collection, then restoration is not an important factor. Prices for restored antique toys are usually lower, than for items in vintage condition. Backing cloth items, acid-free mounting, and acid-free holders for collectibles do not lower value. These restoration procedures improve the value of toys, if done by experts using professional standards. As you would with any service provider, check the credentials of your restorer and ask for recommendations of satisfied customers.

Storage of Your Collection

Equally as important as acquiring your antique toy collection, the storage of your toys is critical to maintaining your collection. Humidity and moisture damage boxes and moving parts. Dry environments remove flexibility from plastics and paper. Do not store anything in attics and basements. A small temperature gauge can be placed in a closet or bookcase to ensure the collection is kept within an acceptable humidity range. These can be purchased at any hardware store for fewer than ten dollars.

Meeting Other Collectors

The easiest way to determine the market value, rarities, and the history of your toy collection is to meet with other collectors. Check toy collector newsletters and price guides to determine the organizations for your specific collection. While dolls might be an overall category for your collection, the Barbie association might provide greater conversation and information, if your focus of your collection is fashion dolls. Don't forget to check regional or state associations and local clubs if you live in a large metropolitan area. Many of the online services have chat rooms devoted to toys, as do online websites. Introduce yourself and don't be afraid to tell everyone that you are a newbie; you'll find that the seasoned collectors will be happy to help you get started.

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