From Hornby and Dinky to Ladybird and Beano, there's treasure in the toy chest
Those relics of childhood gathering dust in your loft could fetch a good price from nostalgic collectors, finds Alessia Horwich
Sunday 22 March 2009
Wish your old toy trunk was stuffed with cash? It could be. Many attics, lofts and garages in Britain are full of neglected relics of our youth – dusty books, comics, classic toys – that collectors would just love to possess. And they'll pay for the privilege. So maybe it's time for a credit- crunch clear-out.
Items like these go hand in hand with nostalgia and most of today's collectors are people who grew up between the 1940s and 1970s – the golden age of classic toys. They dominate the market simply because they now have money to spend, and it is for this reason that old miniatures of trains and cars sell so well.
When you have a rummage around in your store room, your loft or garage, look out for well-known brands. Hornby is the crème de la crème of toy trains. The company started making them in the early 1920s and the hand-painted models have come to represent the heyday of the steam locomotive. Leigh Gotch, the head of toys at Bonhams, the auctioneer, says: "Trains are hot at the moment. They are a good investment and we can sell them easily."
Dinky and Corgi, two of the biggest manufacturers of toy cars and trucks, are also revered names for diecast lovers. The simplicity of the designs is the charm. Rarer pieces can sell for thousands.
Lead toy soldiers, manufactured up to the 1960s, are also popular, preferably as part of a complete set. They often represent armies and regiments that no longer exist and are snapped up by serious collectors.
Children's books can also be big sellers. First editions, mostly from 20th-century authors, usually bring in the most money, though any titles that were popular in their day may also have a market, from Ladybird classics to Roald Dahl's early work. Marvel, DC, Beano and Eagle comic books can fetch a good price too.
As you'd expect, the better the condition of the collectible, the higher the price you should be able to get; most classic toys will have little value if they're in a bad state of repair. However, that rule may not apply if you own a piece that is very hard to find. "A damaged rare toy is still going to have a value," says Mr Gotch. "Whether it be 70, 50 or 30 per cent of the full value is another thing. We can estimate a price but sometimes we don't even know until we get into the auction. A lot of the time, when you've only got minimal damage, I would say leave it alone. That's part of history, it's part of the item. Don't try to touch it up – you'll lose value."
For more modern toys, it has to be "mint in box". Danie Ware from cult megastore Forbidden Planet says: "These sell for massive multiplications of the value of a toy that has been taken out of the packaging. If collectors want statuettes and action figures, they want them in the box."
The first stop before you sell is a toy-swap fair (regional ones can be found in your local paper). Here you can look at similar items and get a good idea of how much your old toys or books might be worth.
When it comes to the sale itself, you have three main options. If you've got a real gem, a dealer will know where to find a buyer and will usually pay you a good price straight away. Dealers are also more likely to buy damaged items to fix up and sell on.
Selling via a specialist auction gives you direct access to buyers who are specifically interested in your kind of item. Toy specialist Daniel Agnew says: "Auctions are much better. They have the contacts to attract the right people, and because the auctioneers are knowledgeable, patrons trust their judgement. So you're likely to get a stronger price."
But selling at auction may not come cheaply. At Bonhams, the only large auction house that still deals in toys, you have to pay 15 per cent commission, plus a 1.5 per cent insurance fee and VAT on the sales charge.
Selling online costs less, although many auction sites do charge for listing and take a commission on the final sale price. But you can sell whenever you feel like it and you can do so from the comfort of your own living room. Hilary Kay, the toy expert on the Antiques Roadshow, says, "The internet is a great option. Objects that are really easy to describe accurately [most of the information for classic toys is written on the outside of the box] are perfect for selling online. You may find that the best of both worlds is to go to an auction house with the facility for people to bid live online as well."
So what kind of profit can be made? Really, it depends on what you've got to sell. An individual boxed Hornby, Dinky or Corgi toy in mint condition can sell for between £40 and £200. But if it's a rare model, you can get in excess of £2,000.
Meanwhile, a classic Ladybird book could fetch £200 or £300, two or three hundred pounds. though in 2003 Sotheby's sold a first edition (you can tell because it's hardback, published in 1997 and has a number sequence of 10 down to one) of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone for £12,000.
Philip Erington, the deputy director of Books at Sotheby's, says: "The one important factor where condition of books is concerned is the dust jacket. Where it is present, there is considerably more value added on."
Rare comic books are harder to find, but a first edition of Beano recently sold for £7,500 and the world's most valuable comic, Action Comics No.1, which introduced Superman, sold in an auction in February for $470,000 (£335,000).
For future investors, the hottest collector toys right now are Urban Vinyl art toys. These three-dimensional figurines are a natural progression from record album covers and the graffiti street art that started in Japan in the early 1990s and are now appearing in the West.
"Urban Vinyl are extremely limited editions, extremely collectible and have very high price points," Ms Ware says. "They can sell new from £2 right the way up to hundreds. I bought one last year for £50 and it's already going on eBay for £400."
Hooray, you're going to live longer! But what should you do to celebrate?
Debt in Britain: Numbers seeking help on how to cope with mounting bills goes up by more than half in three years
Bargain Hunter: BT improves its mobile reception with 'incredibly competitive' deals
Questions of Cash: Why was my case ignored by My Civil Service Pension?
Offset your mortgage and save thousands
- 1 Finland schools: Subjects scrapped and replaced with 'topics' as country reforms its education system
- 2 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 3 Watch: Man takes selfie every mile of 2,600 mile hike, creates amazing timelapse video
- 4 The day I starred in Only Fools and Horses
- 5 Scientists have discovered a simple way to cook rice that dramatically cuts the calories
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Revealed: Putin's army of pro-Kremlin bloggers
Germanwings plane crash: Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz wanted to 'do something people would remember him for'
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
iJobs Money & Business
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: To provide a prompt, friendly and efficient se...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will be the first point of contact for all...
£18000 - £24000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Of...
£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...
Day In a Page
A four-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a stunning period property in North Yorkshire, with two kitchens and a large south-west facing garden.
This high-spec two-bedroom home is part of a smart collection of new flats at Beaufort Park and has a large decked balcony that's perfect for summer drinks.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Overlooking a golf course, this six-bedroom Edwardian detached home spans four storeys and retains many period features including the original, operational servants' bells...
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
In a Grade II-listed manor just outside of Bath, this three-bedroom home is arranged on two floors with a skylight in a vaulted roof line.
Open the living room's bi-fold wooden doors to reveal a retro-style kitchen, and a conservatory leading to a paved garden at this three-bedroom home.
A Grade II-listed, four-bedroom home, in a charming Somerset village, with a two-storey studio that could be converted into a holiday cottage
A modern four-bedroom Victorian home, within walking distance to the high street
A luxury apartment in the Gothic mansion of Wyfold Court in Kingwood, offers six bedrooms spread over three floors and a turret
This school conversion, near Stockwell Tube, oozes New York loft style. The one-bedroom flat features double height ceilings and exposed brick work
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
A boutique mews house, set around a central courtyard, with three bedrooms and a private roof terrace
A four-bedroom farm-conversion with three bathrooms and two reception rooms
A two-bedroom detached house with ensuite bathrooms and a sun-drenched decked terrace, £750,000
A modern and spacious two-bedroom, penthouse flat with two bathrooms in a prestigious development
A beautifully renovated five-bedroom terrace with three reception rooms and a courtyard garden, £700,000
A four-bedroom period house which has been extended to provide almost 2,500sq ft of living space, £675,000
A pretty three-bedroom Georgian home with a 22ft drawing room and a master suite with a balcony, £525,000
A substanstial family home with five bedrooms and landscaped gardens in the much sought-after Branksome Park area
A well-presented three-bedroom house with front and rear gardens, close to White City station, £475,000
A handsome five-bedroom house in a sought-after location close to the city centre
A five-bedroom country home with valley views, equestrian stables and 27 acres of land, £725,000
A six-bedroom farm house with separate, detached cottages and 371 acres of land
A two-bedroom cottage with parquet floors, chunky beams and an open fireplace
A three-bedrrom flat with 2,733sq feet of living space, a beautiful private garden and 15 acres of communal grounds
A four-bedroom chalet bungalow with three bathrooms and a spacious garden, £525,000
A two-bedroom flat with an open plan kitchen and two balconies, close to Arsenal station