Was it the picture on a wooden jigsaw puzzle? Was it a battered old box containing a Lotto game? Or a Matchbox car? We all have moments of being transported back in time, right into the recesses of our childhood memories. Those memories are so comforting, and the modern world so different, that a huge enthusiasm for retro toys has now sprung up amongst the Baby Boomer generation. Retro toy collecting is popular, and as generations pass on, and attics are cleared, the number of toys on the retro market increases. Here are six top retro toys that you might consider, if you want to begin your own retro toy collection. You can buy reproductions, buy originals, or have a rummage in your own attic to see if your own toys are still there!
Matchbox, Dinky, Hot Wheels – do these names ring a bell? Of course they do – they are the most famous brands of metal toy cars, and Matchbox cars in particular can fetch huge sums at auction. The retro toy trend almost certainly began with cars, and for those who kept their Matchbox cars in the original boxes, profits could be large. The Matchbox Collectors Club warn against forgeries of rare cars, so read up on the subject if you want to start a toy car collection. Inexpensive reproductions of popular toy models are widely available, and are a good place for a child to begin a collecting passion.
Ah, long wet weekends, with nothing to do but play board games…where did they go? You can recreate these often boisterously competitive inter-sibling afternoons by buying new reproduction or old board games. Really old games are not robust enough for most modern children, but for the adult collector they are an absolute joy to play with. Look out for Monopoly, with the original player pieces; Snakes & Ladders – with the slightly sinister 1954 Milton Bradley original design; Tiddywinks and Ludo. Always, when you are buying older board games, check that all the pieces are there, or you won’t be able to play!
Our favourites! Old retro bears from the seventies and eighties are hugely popular still, and you can find them at relatively low cost on ebay, or through vintage toy sellers. Older bears in mohair, with moveable limbs, can fetch many hundreds of pounds, with makes such as Steiff and Gund the most desirable. A Steiff Teddy sold at Christies for £46,850.00 in 2010. It is possible to pick up a vintage teddy bear for much less than this at an antique market, on ebay or at a car boot sale.
Retro Pelham puppets began life in 1947, and as they are made of wood, many survive in immaculate condition. There are modern Pelham puppets still available, if you want to buy new. Puppets have always been a great favourite with children’s programme makers. The Wooden Tops, Andy Pandy, Bill and Ben, and Muffin the Mule are well-loved early BBC puppet characters. Thunderbirds and Stingray were entirely based around puppet characters and models. Thunderbirds enjoyed a recent resurgence of popularity. Puppets of the character are no longer made, but Thunderbirds dolls and toys are.
Retro dolls are big business, particularly at the antiques end of the market. Exquisite bisque and porcelain Victorian dolls, with beautiful lace dresses fetch thousands of pounds. But, those who want to collect dolls that they owned in the sixties and seventies can do so at a much lower cost. Every decade brought new fashions in doll, making them one of the most common items in a retro toy collection. If you simply want a doll you had as a child, you can do no better than to look at online auction sites for availability. Sasha dolls are a current favourite with collectors. They are beautifully made, with no shortage of clothes makers offering accessories from hats and shoes to coats and dresses. As with most retro items, expect to pay more for those in their original box, and in top condition. So, if you still miss your Tiny Tears, or Disco Sindy, start looking today.
For sheer nostalgia, you just cannot beat a vintage tin toy. Original wind up tin cars, animals and robots are great to collect, and some are available for a just few pounds. Such is the popularity of tin toys that they are currently being reproduced by manufacturers using original designs, with a great many now available a low cost. Originally produced from the beginning of the mid-19th century, many of the older toys were made in Germany, with the major manufacturer Ernst Paul Lehmann, who exported thousands of toys. Production in Germany wound down during the war, because of the need for raw materials, but post war, Japan took up production again in earnest. Particularly popular in the 50’s were candle propelled pop pop tin boats, which seven and eight year old children enjoy even today, given the chance. Tin toys make wonderful gifts, and delight children of the current generation too. A definite must in any retro toy collection.