Lit­tel trea­sures

Col­lect­ing toys

EADT Suffolk - - INSIDE - WORDS: Amy No­ton

From tra­di­tional teddy bears to match­box ve­hi­cles and model rail­ways, the vin­tage toys of yes­ter­year are ev­ery bit as en­chant­ing to­day as they were when we were young.

The nos­tal­gia sur­round­ing toys is so strong that al­most two out of five adults still own their child­hood toys, ac­cord­ing to re­search from TSB Home In­sur­ance. As well as a sen­ti­men­tal at­tach­ment there can be a fi­nan­cial at­trac­tion too, with sought-after pieces reg­u­larly fetch­ing high prices at auc­tion, espe­cially items in mint con­di­tion and in their orig­i­nal pack­ag­ing.

Fre­quently col­lec­tors will sim­ply seek out the toys they loved as a child and tra­di­tional die-cast Bri­tish model ve­hi­cles – such as Corgi and Dinky toys – reg­u­larly at­tract in­ter­na­tional in­ter­est: a Dinky No.934 Ley­land Oc­to­pus Diesel Wagon re­cently sold for £2,200. Sim­i­larly, model rail­way maker Hornby has been a favourite among col­lec­tors ever since the first model was pro­duced in 1920, with some ex­am­ples from the 1930s fetch­ing over £3,000.

In an era dom­i­nated by tech­nol­ogy, it would be rea­son­able to ex­pect that dig­i­tally-driven toys have af­fected the pop­u­lar­ity of tra­di­tional items, but the death knell isn’t tolling for vin­tage toys just yet – espe­cially in the world of teddy bears. “De­spite a world of more com­plex toys and video games, the teddy bear is still around,” says Mar­i­lyn Miller of The Old Bear Com­pany.

“Al­most ev­ery­one has owned a teddy bear at some time and they serve as a re­minder that qual­i­ties like com­pan­ion­ship and imag­i­na­tion truly are time­less.”

Ever since the first bear was pro­duced in the early 1900s, val­ues have fluc­tu­ated, espe­cially with the in­creas­ing pop­u­lar­ity of buy­ing off the in­ter­net. Mar­i­lyn says: “This means that the rarer bears have a big­ger mar­ket au­di­ence and the val­ues have risen, whereas the more preva­lent bears – such as 1950s/60s Bri­tish bears – have dropped greatly in value as they are more eas­ily sourced. Early ro­bust Steiff bears from Ger­many, orig­i­nat­ing from 1905, are the crème de la crème of the bear mar­ket to­day.”

Bear col­lect­ing took off as a hobby in the 1960s and there was a resur­gence of in­ter­est in the 1980s, Mar­i­lyn adds. “Many auc­tion houses de­voted sales en­tirely to these cud­dly bru­ins, mu­se­ums were es­tab­lished, teddy bear fes­ti­vals were – and still are – a reg­u­lar oc­cur­rence and ted­dies con­tinue in pop­u­lar­ity amongst col­lec­tors world­wide.”

As with all an­tiques, value is based on rar­ity, con­di­tion and prove­nance – such as a photo of an orig­i­nal owner hold­ing the bear or a let­ter doc­u­ment­ing the his­tory. “An early Steiff bear called Teddy Girl set a new world record when she sold for £110,000 at Christies in 1994. She was the life-long com­pan­ion of the late Colonel Bob Hen­der­son, who de­voted his life to col­lect­ing bears, and Teddy Girl’s richly doc­u­mented his­tory was re­spon­si­ble for such a price.”

Vin­tage toys don’t just have a sen­ti­men­tal value: re­cently there’s been a re­newed in­ter­est in tra­di­tional toys as ob­jets de art. Doll’s houses – par­tic­u­larly those crafted in the first half of the 19th cen­tury – are sought-after and a painted English wooden doll’s house and con­tents, circa 1848, sold for £9,375 at Bon­hams.

Whether you’re seek­ing in­vest­ment or sim­ply look­ing to con­jure up nos­tal­gic feel­ings, let­ting your in­ner-child run wild by re­dis­cov­er­ing child­hood trea­sures can be an ex­cit­ing – and re­ward­ing – ex­pe­ri­ence.

“The nos­tal­gia sur­round­ing toys is so strong that al­most two out of five adults still own their child­hood toys”

ABOVE:Model rail­way train sets can be worth a lot of moneyBE­LOW LEFT: Vin­tage find from The Old Bear Com­pany

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