Toy Soldiers

Last weekend, while Christmas shopping for our many grandchildren, I treated myself to an Airfix (other manufacturers are available) Supermarine Spitfire kit. This came complete with paints, brush, Poly cement and (hopefully) detailed instructions on construction. It is suitable for ages in excess of 8 years, which amply covers me, so I thought why should the grandchildren have all the fun.

As a boy I built many of these delightful models. I felt the glorious pull of nostalgia when I bought the model, which is exactly what our mature toy collecting customers feel when they attend our toy auctions. One thing that really pushes the nostalgia button is a toy soldier.

The first commercial toy soldiers were produced in the mid 18th century on the continent, especially in Germany. They were small, solid, flat and made of lead. By the beginning of the 19th century the lead soldier was becoming more rounded in figure and production was centred on France and Germany.

Throughout the 19th century demand increased and production spread, although still mainly in Europe. But all was soon to change. A very clever Englishman called William Britain developed the hollow cast lead soldier in the 1890s. This sparked what can only be described as a toy soldier revolution as all the continental models lost favour.

The battle of the toy soldier continued however up to World War Two, with Germany, France and Italy still producing this solid model and William Britain and his fellow British manufacturers producing their hollow cast version.

Production stopped during World War Two and when the War was over experiments began with plastic. Production of the lead models ceased in 1966, with legislation regarding the lead paint and strangely enough that is when collecting hollow cast lead soldiers started to become fashionable.

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

Dinky Trojan Van

On Friday morning last week my first appointment of the day was close to Endcliffe Park and 8.30am saw me park close by and jump out to watch possibly the most publicised fly past in recent years. The story touched the hearts of millions, mine included and on a gorgeous February morning Endcliffe Park was bursting with people and emotion.

The whole experience got me delving into my boyhood memories and a strong picture I have of my mother giving me a Dinky Trojan Van as a present, to keep me quiet, on my elder sisters birthday. As the only boy both my sisters talk animatedly of me being spoilt as a child…..what can I say, it happens.

The interesting thing is though that another part of that memory has me throwing away the box to my model. This cannot be true, because the Trojan Van I was given was the one bearing the Oxo logo. Now, Oxo was taken over by Brooke Bond so the logo was short lived and up until the time of the take over all the Trojan vans came in trade boxes.

A trade box is a box in which all the models, usually about six, arrived at the toy shop. They were sold individually out of that box and never had one of their own. By the time of the Brooke Bond takeover all vans were individually boxed. So, the box I thought I threw away must have been the special wrapping my mother put on the model for me, which was only to be expected because I was spoilt after all.

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

Flying home for Christmas

Forgetting this week’s escapades and traumas at Gatwick Airport which unfortunately affected hundreds of thousands of people, this Christmas many families will board many aeroplanes all over the world and fly all over the world to spend time with relatives. How lucky we all are to have such easy access to air travel.

Back in the 1950s foreign travel was much more exotic and dare it be said much more exclusive and from that very time came one of the lots in our last ‘Floats, Flies and Drives’ specialist model auction held in December. It was an aluminium Travel Agent’s display aircraft. What a wonderful thing it was too, with a 77cm wing span the model depicted a Douglas DC-7C Seven Seas Airliner bearing the ‘Viking’ logo of Scandinavian Airline Systems or SAS as it is more commonly known. Our model would have graced a Travel Agent’s window in the late 1950s.

SAS was formed in 1946 following an agreement between airlines in Sweden, Denmark and Norway. The DC-7C under the SAS livery holds a unique place in civilian aviation history because in 1957 it was used to launch a regular service from Copenhagen to Tokyo. The difference with this service was that it flew over the North Pole and saved over 18 hours of flying time and 2000 miles, compared to the traditional route.

With relatively few Travel Agents at the time, original display aircraft are rare and highly sought after. This particular model was in good condition and attracted a great deal of interest finally selling for £1200 including premium.

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

Marklin Trains

Early trains by the German toy manufacturer Marklin, like those of other makers, were simple and solid, but unrealistic. However, in 1891 at the Leipzig Toy Fair Marklin introduced standardised gauges, which was a major development in the manufacture of trains and was to change how they were produced in the future.

The early 1900s were the first ‘golden age’ of Marklin trains. The simple early designs were superseded by a range of realistic, detailed trains with a superb, thickly lacquered finish. The larger lll gauge was particularly popular in this early period, but by 1910 the demand for the smaller l and 0 gauge models was growing too. It was at this time that Marklin introduced a range of rolling stock and accessories.

1895 Marklin 0 gauge clockwork train set SOLD £3400

After World War One the heavy, thickly painted trains began to look old fashioned and by 1930 the I gauge was obsolete. All this led to the company, in the 1930s, investing in new tooling and launching a brand new range of trains.

In 1948 yet more changes, which included the launching of the smaller and instantly popular HO gauge. The die cast bodies were narrower with more accurate proportions, a slightly matt finish and a new type of coupling. By the late1950s the solidarity and quality of Marklin trains had firmly re-established the company’s reputation world wide.

Marklin trains are extremely popular and collectable today and many of the very early examples can realise impressive prices at auction.

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

Schuco Miniatures

Salerooms across the country are developing more and more specialist departments and our own saleroom is no exception. With more than most, one of ours which is particularly popular is the toy department. Within that department, tin plate in general and Schuco in particular always creates tremendous interest.

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.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse
Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

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 collectable ‘Noah’s Ark’.

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

Early Wooden Dolls

Many doll collectors tend to concentrate on the late Victorian and Edwardian bisque dolls, but wooden dolls from the 18th and early 19th centuries can be much more exciting to acquire. Dolls made before c.1780 had a very distinctive body shape and this helps with identification. The head and torso were made in one piece and peg jointed legs and arms were attached separately. The face was round and the neck long and thin.

The heads of these early dolls were covered in gesso and painted with pink cheeks, herringbone eyebrows and a thin mouth. The eyes were black glass, without pupils and the hair was attached to a cap and nailed to the head. Unrestored examples with original clothes are very rare and create a big stir in the auction room.

Dolls made after c.1780 were generally of inferior quality and crudely shaped and carved. Although the head and torso were still carved from a single piece of wood, the torso was more skittle shaped with a high bust, very small waist and sloping shoulders. Facial features became increasingly crude and hair coverage was sparse. Eyes were generally close set and with pupils. Excellent condition in these wooden dolls can often mean restoration and this can reduce value. A
doll with a history is always a more appealing and valuable find. A doll from an important collection for example will realise more than an undocumented doll and original clothing will always make a doll more valuable.

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

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

Toy Soldiers

Toy soldiers, I had them as a boy, my friends had them and now some of my friends are acquiring them all over again.

The first commercial toy soldiers were produced in the mid 18th century on the continent, especially in Germany. They were small, solid, flat and made of lead.

By the beginning of the 19th century the lead soldier was becoming more rounded in figure (not unlike many of its present day collectors) and production was centering on France and Germany.

Throughout the 19th century demand increased and production spread, although still mainly in Europe. But all was soon to change. A very clever Englishman called William Britain developed the
hollow cast lead soldier in the 1890s. This sparked what can only be described as a toy soldier revolution as all the continental models lost favour.

The battle of the toy soldier continued however up to World War Two, with Germany, France and Italy still producing this solid model and William Britain and his fellow British manufacturers
producing their hollow cast version.

Production stopped during World War Two and when the War was over experiments began with plastic.

Production of the lead models ceased in 1966, with legislation regarding the lead paint and strangely enough that is when collecting hollow cast lead soldiers started to become fashionable.

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

Steam Powered Toys & Live Steam Models

Steam was used to power toys as an alternative to clockwork from the 19th century. By the mid 20th century it was largely replaced by electric or battery power. Steam powered toys are a keen collecting area for enthusiasts and some still build new models from scratch.

There are three main areas of interest. Firstly stationary toys made for children. Secondly moving steam powered models like trains and boats. However probably the most popular are the
demonstration models showing how different machines work. Larger models will always fetch a premium especially, if they are well engineered, particularly large demonstration models or trains
that could actually be ridden on.

Specialist Valuer Mr John Morgan with a 3 inch Scale Live Steam Model of An W.M. Allchin Traction Engine 'Mary'. Sold - £4,200
Specialist Valuer Mr John Morgan with a 3 inch Scale Live Steam Model of An W.M. Allchin Traction Engine ‘Mary’. Sold – £4,200

Generally the more sophisticated the mechanics the more desirable and hence the more valuable the model. The mechanics of the steam power was often very simple in the toys made for children.
This was usually with steam driving a flywheel that is attached to other parts with a belt, thus producing movement. Examples could be people working, playing or dancing, windmills, wells and
other novelty items. Far more complicated and true to life were the steam engines in the demonstration models, with some highly intricate and detailed designs.

A pair of 3.5 inch Gauge Live Steam Gresley A4 & A3 Locomotives
A pair of 3.5 inch Gauge Live Steam Gresley A4 & A3 Locomotives

Examples still containing original burners and other components are more desirable to collectors, but damage from both water and oil can be very common and will reduce value. Steam power was used by most of the main tinplate toy manufacturers, such as German makers Bing, Marklin and Wilesco, English manufacturer Mamod and American maker Jenson.

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

Automata Dolls

The height of interest in automata was from the 1880’s to the 1920’s. One of the key forms of automata from this time was the figures dancing on French music boxes. They were largely made for an adult audience by makers including Gaston Decamps, Fernard Martin and Leopold Lambert with designs such as flower sellers, acrobats and musicians being popular.

Clockwork dolls with moving parts and sound were also made for children. In fact the first walking doll was made as early as the 1820s while talking dolls took longer to perfect. Early examples produced sound due to the action of turning the doll’s arms or indeed the whole body with this exertion of pressure producing sound. Later from the 1880s, the pulling of a string became very common. However, these early talkers merely squeaked and it wasn’t until Edison’s invention of the miniaturized phonograph that the dolls finally spoke or sang. Dolls made in the 1890s containing the original tiny wax cylinder phonograph in their torsos are very rare today.

During this time, many new automata functions were being patented, not just the phonograph; one patent of particular interest was that of the ‘Mama Doll’ produced by Madame Hendren, the trademark of Averill Manufacturing Company. The ‘Mama Doll’ was a soft-bodied doll with composition head and composition lower arms and hands. What made her so unique was her voice box; when her body was tilted she cried out ‘Ma-ma’, hence the name. She is typically marked “Genuine Madame Hendren Doll”. These dolls became incredibly popular in America in the early 1920s, stealing the market from the previously desirable German bisque doll.

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