Distler Tinplate Toys

The German company, Distler is best known for producing small and affordable tinplate toys. Established c.1895 in Nuremberg by Johann Distler, it first produced Penny Toys. Penny Toys were tiny toys measuring no longer than five inches, made very cheaply from pressed tin. They were extremely popular around the turn of the century and their success allowed companies like Distler to expand into larger tinplate toys.

In the 1920s and 30s, Distler greatly expanded both in terms of workforce and products, making some excellent cars and beginning to expand into clockwork mechanisms. Tinplate toys with moving parts are particularly popular with collectors and Distler made some very good battery operated examples. The 1956 “Elektro Matic 7500 FS” Porsche is probably their finest with an ignition key, forward and reverse gears and remote control with spiral wire. The Porsche is now highly sought after with examples in rare colours and mint-boxed conditions attracting the most interest.

In 1928, Mickey Mouse made his first appearance on our screens and his success was a huge boost to companies like Distler, who were one of the first manufacturers to get a license to produce Disney toys. Many early Disney toys were actually designed from memory, after seeing the films, so do contain some inconsistencies from the original characters. Disney toys are a huge collecting
field in their own right and toys complete with boxes confirming that they were made with permission of Walt Disney, like the Distler toys, hold higher values and appeal.

By the 1960s, Distler could no longer keep up with competition from the more inexpensive toys and production stopped in 1962.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Penny Toys

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 peddlers 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 a 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, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Schuco Miniatures

The German toy manufacturer, Schuco, actually began life as Schreyer & Co. when formed in 1912 by Heinrich Müller and Heinrich Schreyer in Nuremberg, the name changed in 1921 when Schuco was officially registered as their trademark.

Schuco is well known for their beautifully made and mechanically clever tinplate toys. They managed to succeed in making mass produced toys that retained their quality of finish. They made cars, boats, animals, cowboys, clowns even Disney characters and a
Charlie Chaplin who walked along twisting his cane.

One of the popular ranges with collectors is their miniatures. First produced in 1924, these were tiny figures measuring from 2 to 4½ inches with metal-frame bodies covered in mohair completed with a tinplate face mask. Originally produced purely as a publicity
item they were soon being manufactured for many different uses. Some were made to contain lipsticks, manicure sets or perfume bottles, while others were marketed as mascots for bicycle bars or as lapel badges or simply as novelties in their own right with the acrobatic and tumbling bears particularly popular.

The most popular miniatures tend to be the bears and monkeys with the brightest colours being most desirable. Miniatures were commonly made in green, lavender, red, blue and pink, with rarer colours like purple and orange realising higher prices. Cartoon characters like Felix the Cat, were made as well as many animals from elephants to ladybirds and a particularly collectible ‘Noah’s Ark’.

Despite their tiny size, Schuco remained true to form and all their miniatures were incredibly well-made. Although not all are marked they can easily be recognized by the skill in production and the classic tinplate face over a mohair-covered jointed body.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Dinky

Dinky Toys were first referred to by this name in 1934; a year after they were first produced and marketed as ‘Modelled Miniatures’ – a set of trackside accessories for the famous Hornby trains. Dinky Toys was founded by Frank Hornby of Meccano and Hornby fame, who had decided to branch out into diecast vehicles after watching their success when sold by American company, Tootsie Toys who first made model cars in 1909.

A boxed Dinky No.184 – A Volvo 122S, Sold at Sheffield Auction Gallery for £620 in April 2014
A boxed Dinky No.184 – A Volvo 122S, Sold at Sheffield Auction Gallery for £620 in April 2014

The first early Dinky toys were made of lead. They were generally produced in sets or series with the first being the 22 series (a to f) which included a military tank, delivery van, a motor truck, sports car, sports coupe and a tractor. They were brightly coloured, perfect miniatures and are extremely rare and collectable today.

The early lead examples were quickly replaced by models made from the much safer magnesium-zinc alloy mazac. However, this came with its own difficulties as the alloy contained lead impurities which caused corrosion and cracking of the metal, sometimes even crumbling. Consequently the survival rate can be poor for pre-war examples and the condition affected of those still around today.

Boxed Dinky Aircraft
Boxed Dinky Aircraft

Dinky toys continued to be made in series and sold in trade packs of six vehicles with individual boxes not introduced en masse until 1952. Dinky toys manufactured post-war were of a better quality alloy but the paint on the vehicles was distinctly duller. Production and popularity of the toys continued to rise with the mid-1950s often referred to as the ‘Golden Age’ of Dinky Toys when every man and boy had a collection and Dinky had started to upgrade its range, particularly re-introducing their bright pre-war colours.

Boxed Dinky Commercial Vehicles
Boxed Dinky Commercial Vehicles

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company 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.