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

Distler 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 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