Tips for Investing in Vintage Toys

“The only difference between men and boys is the price of their toys” . . .

Vintage toys are not only one of the most popular collectibles in the antique field but also have an excellent investment track record. As a rule of thumb, some say a vintage toy in excellent condition – with original box – has the potential to increase in value as much as 10-15% per year.

What makes a toy vintage?   We can define ‘vintage’ as being any toy that is pre-1965. There are some toys after this period that have significant collector value, but we’ll not be covering those in this post.

Some of the vintage toy categories that have the best chance to increase in value are:

  • Cast Iron (Arcade, Barclay)
  • Trains (Lionel)
  • Miniature Soldiers (Britains)
  • Robots (Japanese)
  • Marbles
  • Stamp Steel (Structo, Ives)
  • Tin Lithograph (Marx)
  • Wooden (Courtland)
  • Clock-work (German)
  • Steam Driven (Marklin)
  • Dolls

It should also be noted that there are also highly collectible vintage toys that fall into ‘character’ categories. Some are Mickey Mouse, Snoopy, Hop-Along Cassidy, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry to name a few.

Shopping Tips

When you are out shopping for any of these ‘investment’ vintage toys, the main consideration should always be condition of the toy (i.e., are all the parts there?).

Always buy the vintage toy in the best condition you can afford. If this means waiting to make a purchase – then you’ll have to make the call with regard as to scarcity, availability and budget.

You also want to buy toys that have the original box wherever possible. As stated above, having the original box in as good a condition as possible can add as much as 10-15% to the overall value of the toy.

Educate Yourself

Whether or not you make a good buy/investment will be based on how much you know about toys, with particular focus on the specific toy(s) or category.

Reference Books are a good start to educating yourself about various types of toys as well as being very helpful in identifying individual toys.

Another good way to educate yourself is to visit antique shops, antique malls, and antique shows. When you’re there, focus your attention on the toys that interest you. Check them over, inspect the construction, look for marks – find out where on the toy the marks are located, what do the marks look like, what colors are used for the marks. Become familiar with how big the toys are, how heavy the ‘feel’, how are they constructed, what kind of materials are used in the construction, etc.   Get familiar with every aspect of toy collecting.

Counterfeit Toys

With the interest in collector toys gaining momentum in the 1950’s, many reproductions started hitting the market. To avoid investing in replicas, you must know your field of interest  . . .  and it doesn’t hurt to personally  know and have confidence in your seller.

  • Some basic things to look for in a replica are:
  • Poor workmanship
  • Grind marks on cast iron toys
  • Pieces that don’t fit together well (check seams)
  • All of the paint is missing (even the most played with vintage toy will still have a little paint on it)
  • Phillips head screws (original vintage toys do not use Phillips head screws)

Getting familiar with vintage toys beforehand will help you navigate the reproductions and find that treasure that may be  hiding out there.


1 comment to Tips for Investing in Vintage Toys

  • I just bought 4 anique toys, so call, and they all have a philips head screw in them. Yes, on eBay. These people don’t show it on the pictures they take, either. I am sending them ALL back. I also complined to eBay about this.

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