Penny Toys

As grandchildren continue to be born and so the Dowse dynasty continues to expand, the wallet of the Patriarch no longer has time to grow a moth, never mind a colony, like it used to. Birthdays and Christmas are bad enough, but then there are all those other things…… If only we still had the penny toy.

Cheaply made from pressed tin and very easy to break, these small toys, measuring no longer than five inches, were affordable to all as they really were sold for just a penny by many street pedlars and market stalls who still made a good profit on them.

Penny toys were in production from the 1860s but peaked in popularity around 1900, largely due to the process of transfer colour lithography that was widely available by 1890. It enabled fine detail and colour to be added to sheets of tinplate very quickly and economically making the toys very bright, exciting and desirable to children.

Many of the Penny toys were produced by well-known toy manufacturers and largely in Germany. German-based Distler, for example, started off as a penny tinplate toy manufacturer before expanding its range.

Penny toys were very small and that actually made them quite difficult for children to play with, especially where the toy involved a tiny detachable piece, like a0 driver, which was tricky to take in and out of a car. Vehicles were a dominant subject matter for Penny toys; they would all move, some needed pushing while the more sought after were fitted with a flywheel allowing them to propel themselves. Penny toys were quite often tiny replicas of larger, more expensive tinplate toys on sale at the time.

There is a good collectors’ market for Penny toys, with very good or mint condition being the most important element in value, closely followed by rarity. Early examples tend to be more popular as the quality of production did decline over time as demand grew. Fine lithography and interesting or intricate designs are also keenly collected.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering in auction, or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website.

Teddy Bears

Many years ago when, believe it or not, I was young, I recall early evening searches through the garden shrubbery in search of our eldest daughter’s small panda, as she would not sleep without him. I wonder how many parents, over the years, have done the self same thing. Many, I think and mostly I suspect in search of teddy bears.

America has always laid claim to being the birthplace of the “Teddy Bear”. Why is this? Well on a hunting trip in 1902 it is reputed that the then president Teddy Roosevelt, when having a perfect opportunity to shoot a bear, declined the shot refusing to kill the bear. It is then said that Morris Michtom made a small commemorative bear and gave it to the president in commemoration of the incident. This was Teddy’s bear.

It is though Germany who can lay claim to the most famous teddy bear maker of all; Margarete Steiff, who was producing jointed bears from 1902. A Steiff bear has the trademark “Steiff” embossed on a small white metal button in its ear. Classic Steiff bears have ears that are small, cupped and set wide apart, noses with horizontal stitching joining an upturned Y-shaped mouth and paws featuring four (or five on very early bears) stitched claws. An early Steiff bear in good and original condition can realise many thousands of pounds.

When teddy bear mania arrived in Britain, existing toy manufacturers began to produce their own teddies. The banning of German imports during the First World War led to an increase in the number of British makers including Chad Valley, Farnell and Deans.

By the Second World War British bears had become plumper with shorter legs and fatter faces. Synthetic fibres replaced the mohair plush. British bears always realise less than their German counterparts but still are and always have been very popular with collectors.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Tinplate Toys

When I watch our older grandchildren playing with their toys they just don’t seem to cherish them in the same way that I remember cherishing my childhood toys. Now maybe I was just a sad old toy cherisher or maybe attitudes have changed slightly. If attitudes are changing and us oldies cared more for our toys, just imagine then how much those late Victorian and Edwardian children must have cherished their exciting new tin plate toys.

The best tinplate toys combine fine detailing, period styling and renowned makers and it was in the early 19th century that they began to exceed the popularity and manufacture of their wooden counterparts. They are amongst the earliest mass produced toys available.

The toys were made from sheets of tinplated steel which was cut out, shaped and then decorated, making them cheaper and easier to produce than the wooden toys of the period. The late 19th and early 20th centuries are considered the ‘Golden Age’ of the tinplate toy.

Many of the important makers were German, with the most sought after including Marklin and Bing although the American makers Marx and Strauss are also keenly collected.

Before the 1890s tinplate toys were hand painted which ensured a high level of detail. This detail included boats with portholes that opened and very realistic rigging and motor cars with lamps, doors that opened and rubber tyres. These examples, although inexpensive in their day, are amongst the most highly prized by collectors in the saleroom.

From the 1900s the painting was largely replaced by the printing technique of colour lithography which used a transfer. It was faster and more economical but it made the toys lighter and less complex. However the prices for such examples are still relatively high, depending of course on type size and condition.

As with most collectables the key to value is rarity, quality and condition and this coupled with the desire of ownership ensures that the tinplate market is always very buoyant.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

How ‘Big’ do you like your Model Railway?

It was once estimated there were around 50 different model railway gauges and standards throughout the world, how true this is uncertain. However here in the UK by far the most popular size is ‘OO’ being dominated by the ready to run manufacturers such as Bachmann and Hornby amongst many others. However for those with very little space how about Z gauge, developed by Marklin in Germany in 1972 a Z gauge layout where a single circuit of track will fit on top of a large cake tin! Then at the other extreme perhaps the choice is 7 ¼ inch gauge where large gardens and paddocks are required and motive power is provided by live steam and diesel engines.

5 Gauges of Model Railway
5 Gauges of Model Railway

As for the smallest gauge a trip to Japan is required – where else? – where in 2006 T gauge was developed with a track width of just 3mm which is half the size of Z gauge! Tweezers and eye glass compulsory with all purchases.

Whether you are looking to add to model railway or sell your collection, Sheffield Auction Gallery hold regular model railway auctions on all scales and gauges (next Specialist Auction on August 27th).

For more information please visit our Sheffield Auction Gallery website.

The “Greystones Collection”

Is that the largest you do?

An overwhelming theme when auctions talk of toys and models is a presumption that they are quite small. However with cabinets the size of small coffee tables housing single models, and models over one metre tall and over one metre in length, the norm has been broken with the latest single owner collection soon to be offered for sale by Sheffield Auction Gallery.

The late Raymond Housley
The late Raymond Housley

The “Greystones Collection” of models was the passion of Sheffield collector Raymond Housley; whose driving interest was Plant and Heavy Haulage models, amongst other items.

A local Sheffield man, Ray Housley spent all his working life in the Family recycling business. However, away from the work place he had two great passions, his family and collecting models. Starting with an original interest for Dinky toys Ray built up a collection in excess of 2,000 models based on Heavy Haulage, Plant, Steam outline, Cars (especially racing cars) and Model Railway. Along with his family, Ray would tour not only the United Kingdom’s model shops and fairs but the rest of the world looking for items to add to his collection. There is one memory often recalled of a holiday to Australia and from a search on the internet a model shop was identified for a visit. Taking them hundreds of miles out of their way the shop was found to only contain a dozen or so models!
Part of the Greystones Collection

Part of The "Greystones Collection"

Ray had an obvious eye for detail and how things worked, and often choose bespoke models from the like of ASAM, Sun Motor Company, DJH, Manitowoc amongst many others and would often redefine how many hours a man can spend with a reel of cotton, rigging up model cranes. And here is perhaps a difference between Ray and many collectors – his belief that all the models should be displayed regardless of their size, eventually taking up over three rooms in his family home.

Following Ray’s death the family sought guidance on what to do with the collection and approached Specialists Valuers, Sheffield Auction Gallery. On seeing the collection for the first time, Specialist Valuer and Auctioneer John Morgan said “After my initial excitement my thoughts turned to one of logistics, however a team of trained staff, large vans and two days saw the collection safely moved to the Gallery, with the largest crane being moved between a colleagues knees for stability!” He went on, “as we prepare the collection for sale I can only say that if you collect models connected with Pickfords, Wynns, BRS or anything that moves earth, you are in for a real treat.”

Specialist Valuer John Morgan with part of the collection
Specialist Valuer John Morgan with part of the collection

The collection is to be offered for sale at Sheffield Auction Gallery’s Specialist Collectable Toys & Models Auction on Thursday 27th August, which is also a live internet sale.

For more information please visit our Sheffield Auction Gallery website.