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.

Dinky ‘Hovis’ Delivery Van

When Covid is a little more under control and we can once again have great big family gatherings and one family decides to play guess the advert, how quickly would they guess from the words “a cobbled hill” and “a boy with a bike”? Pretty quickly I would say. Now I can take or leave the Hovis bread loaf, to me it tastes much the same as the next loaf, but the Hovis Boy with a Bike advert is one of my all time favourites.

Those days between the wars are perfectly remembered in forty seconds of commercial television and during the time the advert is portraying, Dinky were producing a series of delivery vans for the delivery boy to dream of driving.

The series I refer to is Series 28 and it was produced between 1935 and 1936 with letters after the number corresponding to the advertising logo on the van side. One such van had a Hovis logo on its side. That was van 28x.

The problem with cars and vans produced by Dinky between the wars is not only that they have had over eighty years of sticky fingers and sandpits, but also that a great many of them suffered from metal fatigue. Briefly this is the inclusion in the metal mixture of impure alloys and it led to corrosion, cracking and crumbling of the vehicles. This was particularly common between 1938 and 1941, but for some reason also badly affected Series 28.

Taking all that into account it is no wonder, therefore, that our toy specialist John Morgan was very excited at the prospect of selling a series 28 ‘Hovis’ delivery van, with only slight fatigue. John is very easily excited, as I expect most toy specialists are, but when it exceeded the top estimate of £250 to sell for £806, including buyers premium, he was, as the dictionary defines, in a heightened state of energy. Collectors just love rarity and nostalgia, even with a bit of crumbling.

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.

Pelham Puppets

My mother was a lovely lady, but she was also a very strict disciplinarian, especially in my early years. It was therefore somewhat out of character for her when on my sister’s eighth birthday she bought me a present to unwrap. I learned years later that it was to keep me quiet. I must have been a very naughty boy.

That year I was six and it was the only time I ever received a present when it wasn’t my birthday. Perhaps six was my rebel year and it was kept in check with a Pelham puppet. That was my present. I still have the puppet, but a rebel child would never keep the box, which was bright yellow as were all the boxes after 1955. The puppet was the Clown, one of the more common examples produced by Bob Pelham and his happy band. It’s a good job I didn’t realise at the time that it was a common puppet or I may have had a little tantrum, defeating the object of the gift.

The Pelham Puppet story is a lovely one and to put it into just a few paragraphs is impossible. It began as Wonky Toys in 1947. Called Wonky because during the war Bob Pelham made donkey models from strung wooden beads which led to his nickname ‘Wonky Donkey Officer’. Originally the firm made simply strung wooden toys. However, a threatened court case from another toy manufacturer claiming the manufacturing rights to the toys Bob was producing led to a change of name and direction and Pelham Puppets was born. The company began with just four employees and ended with a factory full of loyal passionate workers, until it closed in 1986.

Collectors today categorise the puppets by the type of head that sits on it’s boney wooden body. Some of the puppets are very common like the clown I received on my sister’s eighth birthday and these are relatively cheap to buy. Others which are much rarer like the Bookworm family, can be worth many hundreds of pounds each.

As always condition and boxes play a vital role in determining the value of a puppet along with rarity. Nothing is ever more exciting to an auctioneer than two determined collectors perusing one rare puppet that neither of them currently own. Pure joy.

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

Babie

I have a wife, who is female, three out of my four children are female and four out of my many grandchildren are female. It is fair to say therefore that I am familiar with the doll as a toy. There is one doll all my females, including my wife in her oh so distant childhood, all loved; enter Barbie.

Barbie was developed by the toy company Mattel, run by Harold Mattson and Elliot Handler. Elliot’s wife Ruth created the idea and made Barbie a success.

By the 1950s Mattel was enjoying great success. Ruth’s idea to produce a plastic doll which would aid imaginary play, having watched her daughter playing make believe with paper dolls, did not go down well with her male colleagues. The costs and scepticism at producing a doll with explicit adult features also met with resistance, despite that Ruth had observed her daughter recreating adult like situations with her paper dolls.

It was in Switzerland on holiday that Ruth noticed in a shop window a doll similar to her own idea. However this doll was targeting a purely adult market. Eventually Mattel acquired the patent for this doll and after an analysis of every technical detail of the body design, the doll we know today was born, named after Ruth’s daughter Barbara, finally arriving on the American toy market in 1959.

The first Barbie ever produced measured 11.5” and was available in both blonde and brunette. She wore a black and white swim suit, black high heeled shoes, white sunglasses and gold earrings.

Barbie’s initial success and prevailing popularity is not in her adult features, but in her wardrobe, her ability to be transformed simply with a change of outfit. There are endless accessories on sale today and Barbie still has the ability to inspire children’s imagination, the essence of Ruth’s initial vision.

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

Marbles

In the Forsyte Saga I remember Soames arriving home from a stroll and bemoaning the fact that nobody wore the correct hat for walking in the park anymore. Standards are slipping he said. I wonder what Mr Soames Forsyte would feel about my baseball cap and more to the point what would he think about the fact that nobody plays marbles anymore.

As a schoolboy I loved playing marbles and I worry that today’s child is missing the breathtaking excitement of the roll. However marbles have now become a popular collectors item.

Collectors look for marbles displaying complex patterns, the more complex and colourful, the more valuable. Symmetrical patterns and size also add a premium. Sulphides, which are clear marbles with a figural insert, are amongst the most popular

Probably the most desirable marbles are handmade, mostly German, from circa 1850 until World War One. They were made from brightly coloured glass rods that created swirling patterns of colour. The different patterned marbles created are known by different names including swirls, onionskins and corkscrews.

The telltale sign of a handmade marble is the slightly rough area called a pontil mark. This is the mark left when the marble is removed from the glass rod. It is important to distinguish these from the machine made examples coming from America after World War Two.

Machine made marbles are still very popular today, partly due to the scarcity and expense of handmade examples but also because of childhood nostalgia; many of today’s collectors played with these American marbles when they were young.

Manufacturers to look out for include Akro Agate Company, M. F. Christensen & Son and the Peltier Glass Company, but the exact value of individual marbles can vary enormously. Collectors are also beginning to take an interest in the innovative marble makers of today, especially as the Internet auction market booms.

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

Marbles

Everyone loves a marble. They are lovely little artistic glass balls brimming with nostalgia. Marbles of the Victorian glass variety are very popular with collectors, particularly the German handmade ones produced from the 1860s until the outbreak of the First World War. The handmade marbles can be easily identified by their pontil mark; a slightly rough area where the marble was removed from the pontil rod.

The German swirls were the most common handmade marble but within this category there are five different types; the latticino core as the name suggests with a lattice core, the solid core which was either cylindrical or ridged, the divided core which had multiple strands in the middle, the ribbon core which was usually a single ribbon but could be two and finally the complex core so named because it used more than one technique within a single marble.

What makes the area of marble collecting so interesting is that within these five types of swirls there lie other categories and sub-types. For example, there are mists which are created by overlaying colours near the surface of the marble, mica which denotes marbles with designs incorporating silver flakes, or onionskin where the marble typically has a white opaque layer covered with panels of colour. One very desirable subcategory is Lutz marbles, those with goldstone decoration; flecks of gold within their designs made from ground copper. Marbles using this technique weren’t produced until the early 1900s.

Value often lies in complex, intricate and symmetrical designs as well as bright, multicoloured marbles, with certain colours such as blue and red more popular due to their rarity.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse
Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

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

Heubach Bisque Dolls

This year on Christmas morning thousands and thousands of children will wake to the joy of a baby doll, brought down the chimney or through the door with a special key, by an over worked and underpaid Santa Claus. For generations parents have loved buying these wonderful creations and for generations Santa has worked his magic.

The Edwardian Christmas would see many of these dolls being manufactured by the Heubach factory which was established in Lichte, Germany in 1843, after brothers Georg Christoph and Phillipp Jakob,bought an existing porcelain business. They initially made porcelain dolls’ heads and other figurines, but later as the fashion for using bisque spread to Germany from France where they had been experimenting with it from the late 1860s, Heubach began to use bisque as their main material from about 1910.

While the porcelain dolls were glazed and therefore shiny, the bisque allowed for a much more realistic skin tone as they remained unglazed; initially fired and then re-fired after layers of decoration had been applied. It was very uncommon to find a doll made completely of bisque as it was so delicate and breakable, most dolls had bodies made of cloth or leather and later composition, a substance made by mixing glue with sawdust or wood pulp.

As with all bisque dolls of the period, some had closed mouths and fixed eyes and some more expensive models had sleeping eyes and open mouths with teeth. Oddly, a doll found now with broken teeth is often not a sign of neglect, but a sign of care, as the loving ‘child parent’ has tried desperately to feed their infant.

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