When you were young, you may have collected Hot Wheels, Pez dispensers, and Lionel trains. You may have also bought all of the accessories you could find and kept them in excellent condition. But are your vintage toys worth money now – or is their only value sentimental? Let’s take a look at some tips which may help you determine whether it’s an old toy or a collectible that is worth insuring.
Generally speaking, vintage toys that were made in small quantities often bring a higher value than those that were mass produced. That means, if you own one of the 2,000 “Peanuts” royal blue beanie baby elephants that were manufactured with a darker blue coat than originally intended, you might have something valuable on your hands. In fact, due to a manufacturer error, this is the most collectible beanie baby around – and worth about $5,000.
Just because you own an old toy, doesn’t necessarily make it valuable. However, older models of toys and games are often made with materials or technology that are not used today.
To date an antique toy, check the patent, maker’s mark, or country of origin mark on the toy. Or, look for an embossed, stenciled, or printed patent number on the toy or box, and send it to the U.S. Patent Office; for a fee, they will give you information about the original patent application, the name of the inventor or maker, and a date range in which the toy was made.
In the world of antiques, mint condition means that the original toy is still in its original box with the instructions – and has never been opened. Mint condition toys are typically worth much more than those that have been opened, played with, and show wear and tear.
Think metal, diecast Hot Wheels, made back in the 1970s, instead of the plastic versions made today. Or, the original hand-drawn, oil cloth version of Monopoly, made in 1933 (which sold at Sotheby’s in 2011 for $146,500).
While normal wear and tear is generally acceptable to most toy collectors, if something needs fixing (a spring mechanism or mechanical part), you are smart to have a professional do the work. That’s because, if you ever want to sell the toy, the restorations must be done well to maintain its value.
Vintage toy collecting may be one of the most fun hobbies there is – especially if you can play with them – and one of the fastest growing fields in collecting. However, not every toy you cherish may actually be of value to others. Your best bet is to collect what you enjoy – and if it becomes an investment-worthy purchase, great. If not, you’ll still be able to enjoy your collection yourself!
If you have a large collection of antique toys or a few valuable pieces, consider getting them appraised and purchasing an accidental damage insurance policy, to help insure them against damage, loss or theft. Look for a worldwide policy so your collection is protected at your home, in transit, and in storage.
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