Janet Horner talks to Janet Gleeson about her love of vintage tinplate toys
What is it that made you start collecting and why did you continue?
We were initially drawn to their visual appeal – they are so bright and colourful, and they do things. A !er we found the plane in the snow [read more on p106], we started to look for them wherever we went. We’d "nd them in unexpected places and buy them for Christmas and birthday presents.
Did you focus on their history when buying?
We discovered that tinplate toys began in the mid 19th century with famous German makers such as Bing, Märklin and Lehmann. But these were o!en beyond our budget and there was an element of chance to our collecting. We became interested in space toys a !er the Moon landings and bought robots, #ying saucers and astronauts. We also really liked animals. I had a wonderful tumbling monkey that terri "ed the children. He disappeared one day and I never found him again. I think one of them must have disposed of him!
Where did you buy them?
Mainly from junk shops and jumble sales. During the summer holidays we used to stay with the artist Fred Cuming at his house in Hythe, Kent and, while there, we always visited a junk shop in Folkestone that would invariably have one or two tinplate toys. One year we discovered that the owner had died and the shop was closing down. We asked if there were any toys le! and were told to go upstairs, where we found a huge collection. We bought the lot for about £50.
Do you have a favourite?
Yes – it’s a singing bird by German company Hohner, which is best known for making harmonicas. I bought it new from Habitat when I was very pregnant with my youngest son. It # aps its wings and turns its head and sings.
What advice would you give to a new collector?
Look a !er them. I keep mine dusted and oiled and I take care not to overwind them because if the spring goes that’s it. These days there are lots of reproductions around. If, like we did, you are buying for visual appeal, there’s nothing wrong with a new tinplate toy – so long as you recognise that’s what it is.
CLOCKWISE FROM THIS IMAGE Find similar tinplate toys at Art of the Tin Toy; Janet’s collection of clockwork toys includes vehicles of every kind, from cars and buses to aircraft and motorbikes; a 1909 bus by Bing; this scooter dates from the 1960s – find similar at Alfies Antique Market.